Speier Regresses Right Out Of Anaheim

Nearly three years ago, the Angels decided that Justin Speier was worth a 4 year, $18 million contract. Yesterday, they decided that he wasn’t worth keeping on the roster, as they chose to eat the remainder of the deal by giving him his unconditional release. The weird thing about those two decisions – he’s basically the exact same pitcher he was at the time of the deal.

His fastball averages 90 MPH, just like it always has. He throws it up in the zone, which serves to make him a guy who gets some strikeouts but also gives up a ton of fly balls. He throws his slider nearly as often as his fastball, which makes him a guy who is going to run an extreme platoon split – he’s death to RHBs but torched by LHBs. None of this is really new.

Nearly the entirety of the issues Speier has faced involve balls flying over the wall with increased frequency. In 2006, he allowed 0.88 home runs per nine innings, while this year he’s at 1.58 HR/9 after posting an awful 1.99 HR/9 last year. However, his balls in air rate is basically unchanged – he allowed more flyballs + line drives (69.9%) in 2006 than he has this year (65.0%). The difference – his HR/FB rate in 2006 was 6.9%, while this year it’s at 13.2%.

HR/FB rate, as you may know, is not particularly predictive, especially among relief pitchers (due to sample size issues). Just like Speier’s low-ish HR/FB rate in 2006 didn’t mean he had a special skill that allowed him to rack up 380 foot outs, neither does his 2009 performance mean that he’s missing the ingredient that allows major league pitchers to keep the ball in the park. It’s likely just noise, and certainly shouldn’t be the kind of thing that would make the Angels take such a dramatic turn in their evaluation of his value.

None of this is to say that Speier is particularly valuable – flyballing right-handed specialists with okay command are ridiculously easy to find in the minors, and that kind of limited skillset doesn’t provide a big boost to a bullpen. But Speier is basically the same guy he was in 2006, only a bit less lucky. Perhaps the Angels just figured out that he was never that great to begin with, but more likely, they’re just overreacting to a few bad performances that don’t really mean much.

Speier was never worth $18 million, but an outright release is a bit over the top. He’s still a decent enough bullpen arm, and if the Angels need to get a tough right-hander out in a late game situation this October, they might wish they still had him around.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

21 Responses to “Speier Regresses Right Out Of Anaheim”

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  1. Joe R says:

    Another guy I’d like to see the Red Sox make a play for if he’s available when rosters expand to 40. It’s been maddening to watch the Sox play since the ASB and all the backup we can get is good.

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  2. big baby says:

    do you have any idea who justin speier is?

    2005:

    vs. lhb: .81 WHIP, .167 BAA,
    vs. rhb: 1.03 WHIP, .219

    2006:
    vs. lhb: .97 WHIP, .183 BAA
    vs. rhb: 1.55 WHIP, .264 BAA

    career:

    vs. lhb: 1.28 WHIP, .240 BAA
    vs. rhb: 1.23 WHIP, .240 BAA

    ….what?

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    • Dave Allen says:

      BAA? There are these things called walks.
      WHIP? HRs are worse than singles.

      vLHB wOBA 0.335
      vRHB wOBA 0.321

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      • big baby says:

        2005:
        22:6 K:BB ratio vs. lefties in 27 IP

        2006:
        23:6 in 19.1 IP

        .014 difference in WOBA is hardly a sizable platoon split

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      • BobbyMac says:

        I’m with big baby here.

        This borderline-trivial difference in wOBA is probably less than the norm (I don’t have composite wOBA splits handy), and if you remove the IBB – which all RH relievers will have in more quantity against LHB – it goes even closer to non-existent.

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    • P says:

      Yeah, the platoon split is there (Career .718 vs RHB, .752 vs LHB) but it’s not particularly extreme for his career. The last three years he’s had a pretty large split though.

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      • BobbyMac says:

        The average RH pitcher has over 50 points of platoon split, if you want to use OPS. Saying he has a “platoon split” when he’s below the average pitcher is somewhat misleading.

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    • Steve C says:

      You picked the two seasons where he showed a reverse platoon split.

      2007:
      vs LHB 1.2 WHIP
      vs RHB 0.8 WHIP

      2008
      1.7
      1.2

      2009
      2.2
      1.1

      It also looks like he added a change up when he got to LAA. May have something to do with his odd lines.

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      • big baby says:

        he also missed all of 2007 with injury.

        and i posted his career numbers, which indicate almost no platoon split.

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      • BIP says:

        Career numbers aren’t so useful when we’ve got a sizeable stretch of recent performance to give us a better picture of a guy’s talent level.

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      • big baby says:

        …no

        from 2005-2007, he was a very good reliever who was in no way, shape, or form a right handed specialist. calling him a right handed specialist who has always been destroyed by lefties is factually inaccurate.

        now, he’s a ROOGY. to say that this is nothing new to him is wrong.

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  3. big baby says:

    apologies, yahoo doesn’t have his 07 stats, assumed he was injured.

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  4. chuckb says:

    He needs to a Cardinal today. The Cards have made big moves to win this year and their current weakness in right handed relief could be the thing that keeps them from winning the division or a playoff series. He’s probably better than Motte and McClellan right now.

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  5. rizzo says:

    Detroit? Big ballpark to reign in some of those flyballs, their bullpen is a little short….

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  6. jw says:

    Speier turned into Brett Cecil and Eric Eiland for the Jays in compensation. Eiland has been slow starting out, but getting Cecil for Speier? Yes please! Type A compensation for relievers is just ridiculous.

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  7. ineedanap says:

    I guess what I’m missing is the reason why he is giving up so many more HRs the past 2 years? Noise?

    I mean all of a sudden the guy is giving up HRs at a higher rate than at anytime in his career.

    Anyway, methinks the Angels have better options in their BP, than a guy who gives up 3 HRs in a matter of pitches.

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