Among the unheralded, and somewhat rightfully so, are the middle relief men. The pitchers that don’t get flashy save totals and thus are ignored when it comes to highlights and fantasy talk, but nonetheless provide the backbone for the relief corps. The reason they might rightfully be ignored is due their fungible nature, but that’s a whole ‘nother series of posts.
For now, in my continued fascination with bizarre in-season splits, I want to point out Sean Green of the Seattle Mariners. A somewhat sidearmer, Sean Green started building a reputation as a ROOGY with Seattle in 2006 and cemented it in 2007 with his development of a truly wicked slider. Along side groundball rates that hover around the 60% mark, Green notched enough strikeouts to minimize the damage of his high walk rate.
On the surface that’s not very interesting unless you have a fetish for undervalued relief pitchers, which I do but I’m not going to rely on everyone else sharing in order to sustain an entire post. No, what is slightly more interesting is Sean Green‘s dramatic fall off come August for the second consecutive season when it comes to BABIP.
In 2007, Green began the year in Triple-A (where he’s allowed but a single home run over his 91 innings pitched at that level) and appeared in ten games through about the first month before making the move up to Seattle in early May. Over the first 81 games the Mariners played with Green on the roster, he would appear in 37 of them and tossed 44.1 innings with 35 strikeouts, 19 walks and just one home run allowed. For the last third of the season (54 games), Green appeared 27 times but managed just 23.2 innings with just an 18-15 strikeout to walk rate. His home runs allowed stayed at the meager one, but 36 other hits were attained, suggesting some rampant bad luck combined with perhaps a bit of fatigue contributing to the worsening walk rate.
Come 2008 and Green was firmly entrenched in the Mariners bullpen. Once again, his use was heavy as he appeared in half of the Mariners first 106 games and again performed admirably with a 50 to 23 strikeout to walk rate over 57.1 innings. Though his home run rate a skosh higher (he allowed three), it was still a solid overall line for Green. Yet again, the calendar turned to August and since then Green’s appeared in 16 games, had 15.1 innings pitched and once again saw his control abandon him falling to 11 walks against just 10 strikeouts in that period. But again the main culprit was Green’s BABIP as though he’s managed to avoid any home runs during this period, the defense behind him have yielded 24 hits, an eerily similar rate to that of last season.
Hopefully, the Mariners realize this for what it is, minor runs of poor control heightened by bad luck on balls in play as fluky as it is frightening.