After 3 strong starts (especially FIP and SIERA wise) in his return to the big leagues, Blake Beavan has somewhat regressed over his last 3. In his start against the Blue Jays, his SIERA was 4.22 and his FIP was 5.44. In his start against Baltimore, his SIERA was 5.32 with a 7.26 FIP. His start in Safeco against Tampa Bay on Monday was actually better according to the advanced metrics (3.93 FIP and 2.74 xFIP), even though the results weren’t all that good.
In watching his start on Monday, I was very interested and somewhat confused by Beavan’s pitch selection. Beavan has always been known as a guy who isn’t afraid to work backwards despite okay velocity on his fastball. However, in the 6 innings against the Rays, he started batters with 5 sliders, 13 fastballs, and 6 curveballs.
The slider has 11-12 inch break while the curveball has 16 inch break. It is certainly a different pitch (I only mention this because of a conversation I had with another writer about Beavan. The curveball is a few miles slower than the slider). Weirdly, he threw both of those pitches in the same at-bat just 4 times. There were many at-bats where he would throw several curveballs or several sliders, but he hardly mixed the two. What does this mean? I have no idea. I just find it extremely curious.
The problem with Beavan has always been him staying too much in the middle of the plate, as in this at-bat
Even worse was the slider in the at-bat against B.J. Upton (the at-bat before the Joyce at-bat). It was basically an 80 MPH batting practice fastball and it was treated as one, as Upton hit it into the upper deck.
Here are Beavan’s movement charts from his last home start before being demoted (5.52 FIP) and then his last 2 home starts, including Monday’s start (it is probably not a good idea to compare movement charts from home and road, as things like camera positioning cause fake differences in data. Beavan’s is quite a bit different on the road, and a quick glance at Felix Hernandez’ and Hisashi Iwakuma’s reveal similar findings).
There appears to be some kind of regression on Monday. However, his pre-demotion chart doesn’t look a whole lot different than his start against Toronto on August 1st (5.44 FIP). So it seems that the change of movement we thought we saw when he came back up was a data fluke.
So perhaps a lack of stuff and movement could be a reason for the regression. It also maybe helpful to look at his locations (as we did above). Here is Beavan’s strike zone against the Rays in Tampa when he was brought back up (1.84 FIP):
As you can see, there is a lot of fastballs (the green) in the middle of the plate on pitch 1 or 2 of the at-bat. Beavan was getting ahead with the fastball, but was also pretty predictable. Here is the same chart using results instead of type of pitch:
He wasn’t actually hit too hard on those fastballs on the first couple of pitches. However, his fastball wasn’t very good overall, as he had negative “linear weights” on both his 2-seamer and 4-seamer. Especially once you consider his movement charts as shown above, this start looks more and more fluky (even when neutralizing for luck by using defensive independent metrics). For whatever reason, the Rays were not hitting pitches they should have hit.
Back to Beavan’s start on Monday. According to linear weights, his fastball was better, his 4-seamer rated closer to 0 while his 2-seamer was giving a positive rating. Here are his pitches from Monday:
Here are the results of those pitches
Really only one fastball down the middle early in the count was turned into a hit. It actually didn’t seem like fastballs down the middle early in counts was what hurt him. This is a little surprising as it averaged just 91.43 MPH, about league average for starters (probably slightly below average for right-handers). The curveball was actually the worst pitch of the night if you believe linear weights. So how about the 6 curveballs Beavan started at-bats with?
The first curve to start an at-bat with was to Jose Molina in the 3rd. He actually threw it high-middle and it barely caught the plate for a called strike.
Later in the inning, he threw one to Matt Joyce to start an at-bat. He caught a lot of the plate, and was low in the zone but not on the edge. It was taken as well.
Later in the bad inning, he started the count to Carlos Pena with a low curveball just out of the zone for a ball.
In the 5th, Beavan threw a high inside curve to Desmond Jennings for a ball.
Later in the inning, he hitter was Matt Joyce, and Beavan started the count by throwing a low curveball that was taken for a strike.
He started the 6th by throwing a curve in the bottom part of the strike zone to Ben Zobrist. It was taken as well for a strike. So all 6 curveballs were taken, 3 for strikes, 3 balls. So Beavan can start the count with it, throw it for strikes, and not have it hit hard. However, when he throws it out of the zone early in the count, it is not something that makes hitters chase and miss.
So while Blake Beavan has been solid in his last two starts against the Rays, there are some reasons for concern. Beavan has shown in the past that he can’t live with that fastball down the middle consistently, even if he has against the Rays. The breaking stuff, especially the curveball, do not seem to be good enough to make up for this. This season, he has thrown his change half as much, and according to runs values, it is even worse this year than it was last year. He will continue to get a shot in the rotation for the rest of the year, but I still don’t think Beavan is really a part of the Mariners future.
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Favorite general sports moment: The Texas versus USC college football national championship comes to mind, as does Gary Matthews Jr. catch on July 1st 2006.
Favorite Seattle Sports Moment: King Felix throwing a perfect game against the Rays
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