Sean Rodriguez has been designated for assignment in order to make room for the right handed reliever Ernesto Frieri, who was acquired Tuesday afternoon. The designation of Rodriguez isn’t surprising to us at X-Rays Spex HQ — the longtime bench stalwart has been targeted as a potential trade candidate since the end of the 2014 season.
Ernesto Frieri is the reason for the designation, on a major league contract with an $800K base salary, which allows him to earn a total of $3.15 million through performance incentives.
Two questions that I’ve attempted to answer below:
- What do we know about Frieri?
- Can Jim Hickey work his magic with him?
To sum Frieri up in a few words, he’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher who strikes out a lot of batters — but also offers a lot of free passes.
Frieri ended 2013 with 37 saves, yet managed only 11 for the Angels last season before he was traded to the Pirates. In that excellent 2013 season, Frieri struck out 33.6% of batters faced. Unfortunately that rate plummeted to 26%, while his 19.3% HR/FB jacked his ERA to an obscene 7.34.
According to FanGraphs’ leaderboards page, the league average HR/FB rate has hovered somewhere around 9.5% — 9.7% since 2011. Below is a table of Frieri’s career HR/FB rates, extending back to 2009.
While his overall HR/FB rating finds Frieri as an average-to-below average pitcher (as it relates to HR/FB), his 2014 numbers are capital U UGLY to say the least. What should be noted however, extreme home run rate variations in either direction are likely unsustainable. Since there was a major leap from 2013 to 2014, the Rays probably think that the 2014 mark is a correctable problem.
Something that bodes in Frieri’s favor, his 31.4% career K%. He, unfortunately, also possesses a career 10.9% BB%. While he strikes out a lot of batters, he also walks his fair share. Those walks aren’t a desirable attribute from someone who may find himself in high leverage situations.
Ian Malinowski was quick to remind us of something, in his latest piece for DRaysBay,
Pitchers who strike out an extreme percentage of batters are also better at creating weak contact, so they often enjoy a better BABIP and a better HR/FB. This makes intuitive sense because the same skills that allow a pitcher to fool hitters into striking out allow him to fool them into not making solid contact.
Frieri is somewhat of an anomaly, in that he falls into the extreme fly-ball category of pitchers. Over his career, he’s posted a 54.9% fly-ball rate. Last season, his average was 47.5% — still well above the league average of 36%.
Malinowski did something interesting in the above mentioned piece; he limited the FanGraphs leaderboards to pitchers with only 30 innings pitched last season. In doing so, there were only three pitchers who had a higher FB% mark: Sean Dolittle, Chris Young, and the former Ray Juan Carlos Oviedo. He then did away with the small sample size and looked at players who have thrown at least 250 innings since 2009, we get the same result. There are only two players on the list ahead of Frieri — Chris Young and Tyler Clippard.
Pitchers, like Frieri, who produce an extreme number of fly balls tend to induce more weak contact overall. They also tend to allow fewer total hits — though, those they do allow go for extra base hits more often than not. One last thing to ponder, pitchers with a high fly-ball rate will have a lower Home Run/Fly Ball rate than other pitchers.
With all of this in mind, Frieri’s K% fell significantly from 2013 to 2014, while his HR% increased significantly in the same span of time. If the propensity to give up the long-ball can be corrected — especially since his BB% fell significantly from 2013 to 2014 (13.3% to 7.6%) — the acquisition of Frieri could pan out. Furthermore, when you consider that he’ll be throwing in a pitchers park that suppresses home runs, in front of an outfield that includes both Desmond Jennings and Kevin Kiermaier, Frieri could be destined for a rebound.
- Your quote if the day, courtesy of Sean Rodriguez,
I was definitely surprised. I thought with the Rays I was wanted and going to stay for a while. It’s just the nature of the business, I guess.
- Per Marc Topkin, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said on Chicago radio they will talk with new manager Joe Maddon about possibly hiring former Rays bench coach Dave Martinez. The Cubs could move quickly on hiring Dave Martinez if they want to, permission from Tampa Bay shouldn’t be an issue.
- Ian Malinowski writes, “I think we’re all glad there’s someone actually joining the team worth writing about,” in another piece about Ernesto Frieri.
- Per Marc Topkin, the Rays have outrighted RHP Michael Kohn to AAA Durham Bulls, and are waiting to hear whether he will accept assignment or become free agent. Kohn was acquired from the Angels in the Cesar Ramos trade, then designated for assignment (along with Cole Figueroa and Jośe Molina) at the 40-man roster deadline. Both Molina and Figueroa were granted release waivers earlier this week.