OK, so Sean Marshall has pitched three innings since last giving up a run. And it’s still mid-May. But to a city that lost its closer before a single game was played and had to turn to an “unproven” setup man, Marshall’s 4.91 ERA as of last week didn’t sit well.
He’s now down to a more palatable 3.86, which again, tells you how early it is, considering it’s been 3 innings. But I’m here to tell you that the situation is even more encouraging.
Consider that Marshall was one of the best relievers in baseball over the past two years. If you ignore the save statistic, that is. And you should.
Consider still that in 2012, his K rate is higher (12.9 versus 9.4 in 2011 and 10.9 in 2010), his walk rate is lower (1.9 versus 2.0 and 3.0), and his BABiP (batting average on balls in play) is through the roof (.432 versus .313 and .294).
That last one is perhaps most telling. BABiP is something a pitcher presumably has very little control over. It’s generally accepted that over the long haul, pitchers will allow an average of around .290 to .300 on balls hit in play. Those who allow a higher average are often considered unlucky, and will generally perform worse than their underlying numbers would indicate. Put another way, given average luck, you should expect better results than what you’ve seen so far.
Marshall is in this category. In fact, he’s so far in this category, he’s probably gone beyond the category’s limits and into a new realm of BABiP unluckiness.
Well maybe not. But the good news is, he’s weathered the storm well. Even further proof: his line drive % is 12.8, down from 18.0 last year and 23.1 the year before, meaning he’s allowing fewer hard hit balls. And he’s inducing more grounders, which makes the fact that he’s already given up twice as many homeruns this year than he did ALL of last year even more surprising.
Bottom line is, if anyone found themselves wondering why Aroldis Chapman isn’t closing, I’d urge you to exercise some restraint, and restore your faith in our new closer. There’s much to be encouraged about. Besides, we don’t want anything else standing in the way of Aroldis’ ascent into starterhood.
Follow Aaron on Twitter at @aaronjlehr