Jered Weaver Revisited Yet Again

Over the last few years, Rich Lederer and I have exchanged our thoughts on the skills of Jered Weaver. Rich, an unabashed Weaver believer since his days at Long Beach State, saw Weaver as a legitimate frontline starter, while I saw more of a middle of the rotation guy who lived on keeping his fly balls in the park. Our disagreements mostly centered around whether to evaluate a pitcher on how many runs he prevents or his underlying components, as Weaver’s career ERA was nearly a run lower than his xFIP.

This year, Weaver has decided to make that argument obsolete, turning into a pitcher that both of us can agree on – a dominating, legitimate ace.

The last four years, Weaver had posted strikeout rates of 7.68, 6.43, 7.74, and 7.42, putting him just above average but certainly nothing special. This year, Weaver’s K/9 has jumped to 10.45, and he leads the majors in strikeouts by one, inching out strikeout machine (and National League pitcher) Tim Lincecum. In chart form, the leap looks like this.

In addition to increasing his strikeouts by 40 percent, he’s also posting a career low 2.12 BB/9 and a career high 36.6 percent groundball rate. He’s simply pitching better than he ever has before, and by a huge margin.

It’s hard to pinpoint any one reason why Weaver has been so much better this year than in prior years. His velocity hasn’t jumped. He didn’t add a new pitch or change the mix of pitches he’s using. His first strike rate isn’t any different than it was last year. Perhaps the most notable change is the frequency of 0-2 counts, which is up from 22 percent a year ago to 28 percent this year – since he’s getting ahead more often, he can get hitters to chase pitches out of the zone, so even if his stuff hasn’t changed, it’s made more effective by pitching in situations where the hitters have to be aggressive.

Whether he can keep pitching this way remains to be seen. Generally, it’s wiser to lean on four years of data rather than half a season’s worth, but for 2010 at least, Rich and I can agree on Jered Weaver, who has been tremendous, no matter how you evaluate a pitcher.




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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


18 Responses to “Jered Weaver Revisited Yet Again”

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  1. Baron Samedi says:

    “and National League pitcher”

    burn!

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  2. ball says:

    Getting ahead of the count? Better location of his pitches? Knowing how to set hitters up better? Knowing the weaknesses of who he’s facing (scouting reports, advanced data, etc.)

    To his credit, he is missing more bats than ever before…but a lot of pitchers can maintain a really high K rate without missing many bats (see Beckett as a quick example). Maybe he’s just a smarter pitcher nowadays who is becoming more aware of where a hitter is weak, allowing him to exploit that to his advantage.

    Also, Weaver’s career FIP is 3.85…which isn’t that different than his ERA. FIP is a lot more telling and useful over larger sample sizes. xFIP is more useful for a smaller sample size.

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    • Ben says:

      +1

      The presumption that keeping the ball in the park isn’t a skill is an insult to one’s intelligence. It’s based on an ill-advised theory. It’s 2010, not 2004. We can do better than that.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        And you have some kind of evidence refuting the idea that a decent number of pitchers (not just outliers) can control their HR/FB, refuting the ‘2004’ theory that you control home runs by keeping it on the ground?

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      • DT says:

        actually i’m not 100% sold on pitcher controlling hrs…the best example this year is with Chan Ho park. Last year as a reliever he gave up 0 hrs…which is amazing since he was playing in citizen’s park. This year tho he already have given up 6 of them in 23 innings…and it’s not the Yankees stadium effect since Citizens bank park is as much as a hitter’s park as Yankees stadium. And strangely Chop’s other numbers have been in line with his stats from last year in terms of K’s and actually improved his BB/9. His hr/Fb% has jumped to an insane 19% from 6.3% of last year (he was a starter for a while) and his career numbers of 12%. While his pitch usage changed in terms of his fastball and change up, He’s using his change up more BUT that’s not the cause of his HR problems b/c its actually his best pitch while his fastball has been his worst. so i’m not 100% convinced..i do feel pitchers might has some affect but not that big one

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  3. malicevoyager says:

    I think he worked on his Two Seem fastball this year in the spring. I read and article somewhere describing how he learned a method from Pinero and then tweaked it to get what he needs, a weapon against lefties.

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    • Rally says:

      That is correct. Weaver now has 5 pitches that we can throw strikes with pretty much whenever we wants to. The BIS data shows them all as fastballs, but the Pitch f/x data shows 2 different types, plus change, curve, and slider.

      He continues to blow hitters away with a 90 MPH fastball in the zone. He’s been doing this since he came up, and I was skeptical for awhile that he could continue to do so. My theory is it has something do do with his unconventional delivery, which makes it tough for hitters to pick up his release, and makes his FB look faster than it actually is.

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      • Alireza says:

        Weaver is able to pull out 94 when he needs to. Also, his best pitch is his change, and hitters know that. Hence he can sneak fastballs by them.

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  4. Erik F says:

    How is FIP better than xFIP?!?! xFIP is FIP except that is takes into consideration HR/FB which can skew ERA and FIP if it’s high or low.

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  5. baseball says:

    xFIP is based on the presumption that a pitcher has no control (or skill) when it comes to preventing HRs, and that HRs are just a function of FBs allowed. That thinking needs to be seriously revised.

    MANY pitchers (starters and relievers) have shown time after time again that they can maintain a really low HR/FB rate. MANY pitchers have a really low career HR/FB rate. We’re talking pitchers with 5+ full seasons in the majors. Why should these pitchers be punished because of this experimental metric? Why should they be “given” a league average HR/FB rate? They shouldn’t.

    Also, pitchers who do give up many HRs (have an extremely high HR/FB rate) don’t last long enough in the majors. In other words, we never get a big enough sample size from those pitchers….which gives anyone the opportunity to dismiss it as bad luck. You probably have to give up a certain amount of HRs per FB just to survive in the majors. And if you don’t, you won’t. We will never get a large enough sample size for that reason alone. Good thing is we have large enough sample size from pitchers who have a really low HR/FB rate.

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  6. Jamie Moyer says:

    I agree with everything you’re saying in the first 2 paragraphs. The last one however? I’m not buying.

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    • baseball says:

      There are many pitchers who didn’t make it because of a high HR/FB rate in the majors. Whether it was due to bad luck or lack of skill is unknown…and we will never know because of the small sample size issue.

      Brandon League is really interesting because he has an extremely high HR/FB every season (career 18%)…but he does other things really well which means he can survive (and do well) even if he continues to put up such a ridiculous % every season.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Its a surviver bias. Pitchers that give up a lot of home runs don’t make major league rosters.

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      • Yoloslim says:

        That doesn’t really make sense though. If you are saying HR/FB is a controllable skill, everyone still in the majors can’t all be “good.” There should be a normal distribution with presumably barely hanging on MLB guys with a worse ratio than regulars and then even worse than aces.

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  7. schlomsd says:

    “whether to evaluate a pitcher on how many runs he prevents or his underlying components, as Weaver’s career ERA was nearly a run lower than his xFIP.”

    Doesn’t that statement perfectly sum up the reason there is so much backlash toward the proponents of “advanced stats”?

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  8. marshen says:

    At the beginning of the season, in an interview, Weaver was asked about what he was going to try to do differently to strike batters out. He said he was going to vary the types of pitches he threw more often than before and that he had placed a great emphasis on studying opposing batters so that he could tailor his pitches to the individual batter. This could partially explain why he is getting ahead in the counts more than he did previously.

    Besides what can be measured by statistics, Weaver has taken very seriously the responsibility of staff ace. With the departure of Lackey, Weaver has stepped it up considerably to meet the challenge of the role. His presence on the mound is different, his attitude is very different, and his lack of tolerance of fellow players if they appear to be slacking shows he has taken command as ace and a team leader this season.

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  9. Dr.Rockso says:

    When do we get #6org revisited?

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  10. amaar says:

    I have only seen this drastic increase in strikeouts with Erik Bedard. Its quite eerie how similar they are in that respect.

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