Carson on Colby Lewis

Over the past couple weeks — and spanning multiple forms of media — Prospect Maven Marc Hulet and I have made clear our differences in re the imminent success (or lack thereof) of current Texas Ranger and citizen of the world Colby Lewis.

Put briefly, while Hulet regards Lewis as roughly the same sort of Quad-A player that he was before dominating the Japanese league these past two years, I’ve been seduced by the righty’s optimistic CHONE projection and have heralded him — on this site, to my mother, wherever — as a Person of Interest for this here season.

As such, this past Friday night’s contest between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners was of interest to the both of us. Exactly one hour ago, Mr. Hulet gave his reading of Lewis’s performance. Here’s mine.

Results are where Lewis fared best. First and foremost, he got the win. If nothing else, that should allow for optimism, however unfounded. Moreover, Lewis allowed only nine baserunners in seven innings of work (a 1.29 WHIP for the game). If he’s on your fantasy team (as he is on mine), you’re probably pretty satisfied with his debut.

Win Probablity Added (WPA) liked Lewis’s performance, too. He led all players with a .298 WPA, barely edging out teammate Nelson Cruz, who posted a .271 on the strength of a 3-for-4 night (which included a well-struck donger). In this case, things could have gone much worse for Lewis. He loaded the bases with only one out in the seventh inning, creating the highest Leverage Index state of the night (a 2.63 mark) despite the fact that Texas held a 5-1 lead at the time.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, the batter for said base-out state was Jack Wilson, whom Lewis quickly dispatched on three pitches (called strike, foul, called strike). Ichiro followed, grounded out to second baseman Joaquin Arias (and his well-groomed moustache), and the threat was over.

It’s always an interesting exercise to assess even a single pitching performance by means of at-bat results and their corresponding run values. If nothing else, it can give us a sense as to whether the pitcher in question was lucky or unlucky with regard to his batted balls, etc.

The following table includes all the possible at-bat outcomes with the corresponding Run Expectancy (RE) of each outcome. Additionally, I’ve added the number of such events conceded by Lewis and the corresponding runs allowed (or prevented, as the case my be). (Run Expectancies courtesy of StatCorner.)

Type	RE	Lewis	Lewis RE
K	-0.105	3	(0.32)
BB	0.329	4	1.32
HBP	0.345	0	0.00
LD	0.384	3	1.15
GB	0.053	7	0.37
OFB	0.046	6	0.28
IFB	-0.096	4	(0.38)
HR	1.394	0	0.00
TOTAL			2.42

What we see plainly here is something that I, unfortunately, intuited during the game — namely, that Lewis got somewhat lucky. Given a normal distribution of the above outcomes, we could expect Lewis to surrender somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three runs. And if we were being truly diligent, we might even consider accounting for “partial” home runs by removing the home run RE and adding one-ninth of a home run (so, approximately .15 runs) to each outfield fly ball, as homers occur on roughly 11% of fly balls. To do so would further push Lewis’s RE for his seven innings toward the three-run mark.

Lewis’s greatest weakness is made clear by this table: the walk-to-strikeout ratio. Last year in Japan, Lewis recorded 186 strikeouts against only 19 walks in 176.1 innings. His 2008 season was pretty similar. Lewis is now already 20% of the way to his 2009 walk total after just seven innings.

Unfortunately for me — and for everyone else who’s hopped aboard the Colby Lewis bandwagon — Lewis’s K:BB from this first game much more resembles the 1.25 mark he posted through his first 217.1 Major League innings.

I’m far from what you’d call an expert of the ol’ Pitch/f/x, but I also recognize the importance of the information it can provide to us. Anyway, so long as the Pitchf/x Tool over at Brooks Baseball isn’t lying, Lewis only recorded a grand total of nine whiffs in his seven innings of work. That total includes only two whiffs from a total of 33 sliders/curves, at least one of which will have to serve as a reliable out-pitch if Lewis hopes to stay in the rotation.

All in all, while Lewis showed things like pluck and want-to in his seven-inning return to American baseball, he showed less in the way of groundball- and/or strikeout-inducing stuff. Yes, it’s one start, and, yes, the infield flies are nice, but Hulet could be righter than I’d care to admit if Lewis’s next couple of starts resemble this one.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

13 Responses to “Carson on Colby Lewis”

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  1. Frank Kim says:

    I’m hoping it was just jitters for pitching his first game in the majors in a few years. The walks just seemed uncharacteristic. Hopefully he’ll prove you are right. :-)

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  2. t ball says:

    Kudos to both of you for resisting confirmation bias, both of you actually came towards each other in your attitudes — which I suspect is correct. Lewis will be a great signing for the Rangers, but not because he tears up the league. His contract is cheap and I think it’s very likely that he’s more than worth it as a decent innings eater.

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    • jaw says:

      Carson — nice job, excellent summary. Although I prefer “tater” to “donger” when referring to the home-run, I suppose different strokes for different folks is good.

      As I asked over at Mr. Hulet’s post: do you have any insight on how the Japanese game differs from MLB? Specifically, is the baseball itself any different in size or mass?

      I’ve got my last draft of the year — a 9-team AL-only auction draft on Tuesday night — would you go over $10 for Lewis?

      And T-Ball, I agree — Lewis will likely eat innings and keep the Rangers in the game over well over half the time — not bad for a cheap contract at the back end of your rotation. He won’t contend for a Cy Young, but he doesn’t need to do that well to justify his spot on the roster.

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      • 198d says:

        Patrick Newman, the NPB Guru, covered your question in his “Questions and Answers,” series on this very site. Below, find the relevent “copy and paste”-iness!

        “The main issue with baseballs in Japan is that there is no uniform ball at all. In fact 4 different types of manufacturers are used to produce balls within specified parameters. Also, certain balls are made to be more “live” than others. Big instance being the ones used for the Yomiuri Giants which are one of the liveliest out there.”

        “My (unofficial) translation of the official rule is “the strike zone’s upper limit is the point mid-way between the batter’s shoulders and the top of his pants, the lower limit is the bottom of the batter’s knees, and covers the area over homeplate”. So that’s not too far off the MLB strike zone. In practice, I have noticed that the umpires can get a little generous at times.”

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      • jaw says:

        Thanks 198d; I did not realize that this site had already addressed these questions. I thank you for the courtesy of the C&P and I’ll peruse the whole article myself a bit later.

        All best!

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  3. vivaelpujols says:

    One start is too little a sample size to make any conclusions off of his stats, including his strikeouts and walks. BTW, 9 swinging strikes in a game for a starter is very good. The league average 6-7 per 100 pitches for a starter.

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    • I think we have between 8.0% and 8.5% for average SwStrk% for starters. In any case, point taken. Fact is, I was probably expecting something much closer to 100% swinging strikes for Lewis. To learn otherwise is kinda like finding out that my mother is the Tooth Fairy.

      Which reminds me: Hey, everyone. Sorry to break it to you, but my mother is the Tooth Fairy.

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  4. oPlaiD says:

    So he walks 2 guys and hits a guy in his first inning, but has only allowed a single hit and is striking everyone out.

    Anyone watching the game to get an idea of how he’s doing all this?

    It seems weird that his control hasn’t been the best, but maybe it was just a momentary lapse to start this game.

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  5. verd14 says:


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