Since 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers have had 17 pitchers throw at least 60 innings — Wily Peralta, Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers, Jim Henderson, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Kintzler, Francisco Rodriguez, Rob Wooten, Tom Gorzelanny, Alfredo Figaro, Jimmy Nelson, Burke Badenhop, Will Smith, Donovan Hand.
Now that you have just read a long list of people who throw baseballs for a living, I want you to guess which one has the lowest Fielding Independent Pitching over that time span. Hint: Look at the title of this post.
That’s right. Rob Wooten owns a 2.87 FIP and is the only Brewers member with a FIP under three. Still, while his FIP has been excellent, his earned run average has been less than stellar (4.35), meaning Wooten has had poor defense behind him, bad luck, or is just a pitcher that will always outperform his ERA. It also could be a combination of all three. For example, if Wooten forces a ground ball that an average defensive third baseman could grab (Aramis Ramirez is not an average third baseman), the blame can’t and shouldn’t lie with Wooten, despite what the box score may say. The fact of the matter remains that Wooten has pitched better than the story his ERA tells.
Because of that, I think Wooten will be an effective reliever and maybe one of the best out of the Brewers ‘pen in 2015. I have three reasons to back up my hypothesis.
Pitches Per Plate Appearance
In 2014, pitchers threw an average of 3.80 pitches per plate appearance. Wooten, meanwhile, threw an average of 4.03 pitches. He spent too much time on each hitter and was well above league average in terms of Pit/PA. Now, strikeout pitchers — something Wooten is not — usually throw more pitches than non-strikeout pitchers, so where are Wooten’s extra pitches coming from? Walks? Nope. Wooten walked just five percent of batters and had a K-BB% of 14.3%.
As long as Wooten keeps his walks to a limit, his Pit/PA should go down and end up closer to league average. And if that happens, more favorable results will follow.
Wooten doesn’t give up home runs, has an excellent groundball rate, and rarely issues free passes, and that’s because of his pin-point accuracy. He hits the bottom of the zone more often than the New York media criticizes Alex Rodriguez. Just take a look at his zone profile.
Wooten has thrown 1003 pitches in his career and exactly 134 of them have landed in the bottom right corner of the strike zone (catcher’s POV). There’s very little chance a hitter can do much of anything with that. More than likely, they’ll hit it into the dirt.
Batting Average on Balls in Play
Batters hit .239 when they hit a grounder in 2014. But against Wooten, they hit .293 (17 for 58). That’s a fairly high average for ground balls, which is why you can expect some regression toward the mean in ’15. The same can be said for line drives, as league average BABIP on liners was .683 while Wooten allowed a .778 average.
Overall, Wooten allowed a .380 BABIP, which was the highest average among every reliever with at least 30 innings under their belt last season. Don’t expect that to happen again.