A Case For Wei-Yin Chen Ownership

I’m not going to tell you anything you can’t find out for yourself.  This is just a little research on Mr. Chen.  Alternative title would’ve been Chen Music, but I couldn’t find proof of an increase in high and inside fastballs.  Anyways:

Wei-Yin Chen’s surface level numbers have been great this year:

18 GS,   2.86 ERA,   1.12 WHIP,   93 K/116.1 IP

The thing is, he’s been just as good dating back to Jul 1st of 2014:

33 GS,   2.88 ERA,   1.14 WHIP,   164 K/209.2 IP

His peripherals over that time have declared him lucky and say that this success in unsustainable.  His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA for each half have been quite different from the ERAs he’s put up.

 

FIP xFIP SIERA ERA
JUL – SEPT 2014 3.37 3.68 3.79 2.89
APR – JUL 2015 4.09 3.85 3.78 2.86

 

Look, I get it, he doesn’t strike out even 20% of the batters he faces and he can struggle with the long ball.  But the Orioles’ defense is ranked 3rd in the league by UZR, and 3rd by UZR/150.  Ahead of the Orioles are the Rays and the Royals.  Each of these teams are outperforming their ERA indicators by a decent amount.

FIP xFIP SIERA ERA
Royals 3.80 4.09 4.03 3.54
Rays 3.86 3.81 3.66 3.59
Orioles 4.01 3.91 3.76 3.73

 

This does not mean that every pitcher on each of these teams is outperforming their peripherals but it’s obvious (and not because of that table) that defense helps pitchers’ numbers.  I also understand that Camden Yards is a little bit more of a hitters’ park than Kauffman and Tropicana, but that shows up in Chen’s numbers as he has surrendered HR at the rate of 1.29/9 IP at home and 0.89/9 IP on the road (July 3rd 2014 – present).  To be fair, I don’t know if 112 IP and 97.2 IP (home and away, respectively) are large enough sample sizes compared to his full body of work to be worth anything, but let’s say they are, and let’s see what Chen has done differently over his last 209.2 IP compared to his first 422 big league innings.

 

K% BB% K-BB% GB FB LD PU HF/FB SOFT MED HARD
209.2 19.2 5.2 14.1 40.3 39.5 20.2 10.5 10.1 20.6 53.0 26.5
422 18.2 6.3 11.9 37.2 40.7 22.1 11.1 11.5 14.9 54.2 30.9
DIFF 1.0 -1.1 2.2 3.1 -1.2 -1.9 -0.6 -1.4 5.7 -1.2 -4.4

(209.2 denotes the last 209.2. IP by Chen, spanning from July 3rd, 2014 to his last start against the Yankees, and the 422 is the 422 IP prior to July 3rd of last season, which encompasses the rest of his career)

Even though his ground ball rate doesn’t lead to much confidence in terms of sustainability in that soft contact management, he still is inducing pop-ups at an above-average rate.  So whether it’s a change in sequencing or it’s just as easy as working ahead in more counts, there has been some variation in his pitch usage…another table.

FB SL CB CH
203.1 66.4 17.5 6.2 9.9
422 65.8 13.6 7.4 13.1
DIFF 0.6 3.9 -1.2 -3.2

 

Obviously he’s traded some curveballs and change-ups for sliders.  His fastball has become increasingly more valuable in 2015 at 8.9 runs above average, compared to 3.3 runs above average from 2014 which was his previous high.

The last thing he’s done better is pound the zone early in counts which has led to a slight decrease in batters’ plate discipline against him.

F-STRK SWING OSWING ZSWING CONTACT SWSTRK
203.1 65.1 50.8 33.3 69.4 82.2 8.9
422 59.0 49.1 30.3 68.8 82.9 8.3
DIFF 6.1 1.7 3.0 0.6 -0.7 0.6

 

(Almost) Everywhere you want to see improvement there is improvement even if you have to look through a magnifying glass.  Granted, this could be Chen adjusting to the league and now the league will adjust to him.  It would be perfect for him to just cleanly split from the success he’s been having after the all star break and after this piece.

In conclusion, it’s hard to know what to make of Chen as a fantasy option in the long term because he is experiencing a deflated BABIP and a higher LOB% than he has in the past.  Is it all about the luck??  I’m not too bullish on him; the tweaks he has made, while they have led to some slightly positive results, do not warrant picking him up in a dynasty league, but if you’re behind in starts or innings Chen seems to be a solid option for QS/ERA/WHIP this season if he can thwart off the regression monster.  After all that, I did not recommend him in his start against the Yankees and their .325 wOBA (results on that game were meh – it was a QS, but he gave up 10 H in 6.1 IP, 3 ER, and struck out 3) but he’s at Tampa (94 wRC+) after that.  Projecting ahead, he’d face the Tigers (113 wRC+ which is best in the majors, but they could be selling some pieces and they will still be without Miguel Cabrera), and the Athletics (99 wRC+)who are also sellers.  After that it’s likely the Mariners and their 92 wRC+; I’d take that 4 start stretch.  Something to scratch your Chen about.



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Mark also writes for Beyond the Box Score Send him bat flip gifs and follow him @NtflixnRichHill Instagram Markd1414

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