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What to Make of Guillermo Moscoso?

July 7, 2011

Guillermo Moscoso is a series of contradictions – even to those who don’t like advanced stats his 2.16 ERA doesn’t meld well with his 3-4 record. To those who love advanced metrics he has a 2.16 ERA yet a 5.14 xFIP. He continues to reduce his already unsustainable BABIP which is now down to .190. He still is struggling with getting guys out via the strikeout (4.9 K/9) and still is an extreme fly ball pitcher (only 25.0% of contact are on the ground) yet despite the fly ball tendency only 5.5% of those fly balls get over the outfield fence.

I don’t know what to make of all these numbers. To me when numbers are this out of whack something must give and that means this guy has to come back down to earth. That BABIP will creep upwards (especially given all these balls not on the ground, so you can’t use some Trevor Cahill groundball defense here) which means more hits, more hits equal more runs, more runs means that ERA starts to look less like 2.16 and more like the FIP at 4.31. Furthermore, there’s that HR/FB ratio. Moscoso currently as said is at 5.5%, typically the league average is around 10.6% last year it was 9.5% so regardless, 5.5% is way below where normal is. This guy puts a lot of balls in the air, if they start going over that fence that 2.16 ERA jumps quickly, especially if he is allowing a whole series of bloop singles he hasn’t been thus far. Yet, in his great piece that you can see I largely agree with, Jason at Beaneball.org highlights that while he is inducing all these fly balls, many are weak fly balls. While his stats come from before yesterday’s game, the numbers on his infield fly balls have only increased to 16.5% now. Could he actually be somehow pitching to induce weak contact on these flys?

To me it is obvious Moscoso is up for a serious fall. I think many others share my view – however one must always wonder in the back of their mind is there some way to explain this bizarre set of numbers and say, maybe this is this guy’s normal? Much like many believe that Cahill will have consistent low BABIP’s, or like many believe that Matt Cain is able to influence his HR/FB ratio. I don’t see how it is the case for Moscoso, but currently he keeps getting better every start with the same middling peripheral output. Once Tyson Ross returns from the disabled list to me it is a no-brainer to have him in the rotation, and I still would prefer Josh Outman over Moscoso right now, but he is an interesting pitcher and it will be interesting to see how these numbers develop over the course of a season because of all the moving parts and all the things that make no sense. Things like the fact that currently Moscoso is hurt by a very poor K/9 rate, yet historically his K/9 rate has been much higher (granted in the minors many players have much higher K/9 rates and this might just be the correction in his) and as we saw versus Florida he is capable of inducing a strikeout or two. He’s been fun to watch, and I love that the results have helped out the A’s – only time will tell who the real Guillermo Moscoso is.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan Lependorf permalink
    July 7, 2011 10:16 am

    This is really well said, David.

    • July 7, 2011 10:17 am

      Thank you Dan! Means a lot coming from you as I really respect your work.

  2. July 7, 2011 11:45 am

    I agree with you that he is going to have to come back down to earth. I like the Matt Cain HR/FB% example but I just don’t think he is Matt Cain. None-the-less he has to stay in the rotation until he does come back down to earth and his ERA adjusts. Outman may be the better long-term solution, but right now Moscoso is pitching better and has earned the spot in the rotation even if he has earned it with a heavy bit of luck sprinkled in there. But in reality the A’s have nothing to lose here, except maybe NOT figuring out who the real Moscoso is. They need to find out what they can expect from him next year, when it might (God I hope so) really matter and the only way to do that is to keep pitching him.

    • July 7, 2011 12:51 pm

      Yeah I too do not think he is Matt Cain – but somehow he has pieced together a reasonably sized body of work with these bizarre peripherals – so there is potentially something unexplained about how he pulls it off.

      I think the decision on Moscoso vs. Outman centers on where you view the A’s today. If you are building for the future or if you are playing to compete in 2011. If you play to compete this year, one can argue ride the hot horse in Moscoso. If you are playing for the future, then you can make the argument sort of either way, see what you have in Moscoso as you said, or get Outman more exposure to getting out big league hitters. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out regardless – though I think Moscoso’s time in the rotation will be short-lived with Ross’ return.

  3. July 7, 2011 1:16 pm

    not a lot to add- i think you’ve covered it beautifully, as always, and given lots of food for thought, but one point to note is Moscoso has faced some pretty low offense teams this year: Seattle, the Marlins, Philadelphia (you could argue, but their offense is way down from last year- i listen to every game), the Giants, and Baltimore (who got him one of the time he faced them). the team that got him pretty good was a higher hitting team, the White Sox.

    Also, he is an old rookie at 27. Outman is too, of course, due to missing 2 years, at 26. this speaks to your point- playing for today, Moscoso’s probably your guy. on the other hand, “playing for today” rings a little false this year- the a’s have made some moves to keep us happy, i think, and to pretend that they haven’t totally given up on the club, and i think moscoso is one of those moves. (kouz, barton, weeks/ellis, etc)

    thanks for the great post!

    • July 7, 2011 2:18 pm

      That is a good point that Moscoso hasn’t faced great offenses this year but then one could argue shouldn’t his strikeout numbers be even higher? Has he really “excelled” facing these poor offenses if he is K’ing under five a game? Also they are MLBers so it doesn’t explain the low BABIP, and while these teams aren’t great hitting teams overall they all have mashers who could hit out a few bombs. Interesting point, and it just sort of even more muddies the waters on him in the sense that he has pitched very well by traditional metrics, and very poorly via advanced metrics with a mixed show of success – so if he’s had an easy go of it it explains the traditional metrics but even sort of further convolutes the advanced metrics being so bad.

      Yeah the A’s unfortunately are sort of in a no mans land. Texas has stalled far longer than I thought they would, the Angels could in fact be the team to beat really and no one seems to want to win the West. If in any other division we are an obvious sell team, the lack of success throughout the division makes it a tougher sell on more fairweather fans for Oakland to start trading away key pieces right now. Even though he is an older rookie, I wonder if he does have long term utility. I just wish we had a better indication of what type of pitcher he really is – because everything we’ve seen, despite being a decent sampling has told us next to nothing!

      Thanks for the comment and the compliments. Appreciate your regularly stopping by and adding to the conversation.

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