Monday, July 25, 2016

Adam Warren's Back, Baby!

As excited as I am over the Yankees adding top prospect Gleyber Torres to their already nice farm system, not to mention another good outfield prospect in Billy McKinney, I'm more intrigued by Adam Warren.

"He's back, baby!"

I guess this is because in the past I've been more about what a player can do for the Yankees now, rather than what they might be able to do down the road. Sure, I've come around to rooting for the team to keep improving their minor league system, but I can't help but put more focus on the guys that are a factor to the team's success right now than in two to three years.

That's why I ran right over to Warren's Baseball Reference page to see how he's been doing this season. Mind you, I knew it wasn't anything special, but I was in for a bigger disappointment.

Up to this point of 2016, Adam has been pitching quite poorly. In 35 innings this season, all but five of which have come as a reliever, Warren's ERA is 5.91. For comparison, in 287 innings spanning three seasons for the Yankees, Adam had an ERA of 3.23. I'm betting that Cubs fans were extremely disappointed with that performance, as most people thought he'd be a very solid contributor to any team's bullpen.

So what has gone wrong? I mean, there must be some explanation for why Adam Warren's pitching has fallen so far. Heck, we're not talking about a guy in his late 30s, whose career has been on the decline for years. Warren is just 28 years old, and a healthy 28 year-old at that.

Well, here's what I found...

For starters, Adam Warren is walking more batters. During his 2014 and 2015 seasons, Adam walked 2.75 and 2.67 batters per nine innings. However, that rate has nearly doubled to 4.89 batters per nine innings this season. That alone could be a big factor in Adam's declining performance, but there's more.

As bad as walks can be for pitchers, at least there's a chance they won't come around to score. That's not the case when it comes to giving up home runs, something that Adam has done a ton this season. In 2014 Warren gave up .46 home runs every nine innings pitched, and that number was a low .69 again in 2015. So how bad is Adam's homer rate this season? 1.8 per nine innings!

Another way to look at Adam Warren's homer issues this season is this... Between 2014 and 2015 he gave up 14 home runs, which spans 210 innings. However, in just 35 innings this season, Adam has given up 7 long balls

I had to keep looking at his stats to try and figure out just why in the World Warren is giving up so many homers this season. What I found was a nice jump in his fly ball rate. See, in the two years before going to Chicago, batters hit the ball in the air 31.5% of the time. However, nowadays opposing hitters are lifting the ball into the air 40.4% of the time. That's a significant jump, and it indicates to me that he's changed how he's pitching to batters.

Warren's pitch selection backs me up on that thought...

As a matter of fact, little about Adam Warren's pitch selection has remained the same with the Cubs. He's not throwing as many sliders (25.5%, as opposed to 31% between '14 and '15), not as many curveballs (7.5%, as opposed to 10.2% the previous two seasons), and more changeups (22.1% instead of 15.7%). And while Adam is throwing more fastballs than before (34.2% in '16, 28.6% between '14 and '15), a much smaller portion of them are of the cutter variety (.6% in '16, next to 2.95% in '14 and '15).

This has led to batters changing their approaches against Adam Warren, too. Batters from 2014 to 2015 swung at 30.3% of pitches outside of the strike zone (harder pitches to hit), but are only doing that 25.8% of the time this season. Furthermore, they are swinging at more pitches in the zone (better pitches to hit), 73.8% in 2016 instead of 65.9% in his previous two years.

I'm not a pitching coach, so I can't say what Adam Warren needs to do to get back to his pre-2016 self. Although it doesn't seem to hard to figure out... More sliders, less curveballs, a lot less changeups, and more cutters (hey, Mariano, get back here and straighten this kid out!). All the while keeping the ball down, so opposing batters can't get the ball into the air as often.

In conclusion, Adam Warren does not seem like a lost cause. Fans' opinion of Larry Rothschild would go way up if he can get Mr. Warren back to being the guy Yankees fans thought he could be for the team coming into this season. And to be honest, the trio of Warren-Betances-Miller could very well keep teams from scoring nearly as much as No Runs DMC did.

Time to get working on a new t-shirt design.

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