It is inexcusable to release Jon Rauch

I understand that the Marlins don’t have a lot to fight for this season. The rest of the year will be dedicated to (1) developing core players like Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Fernandez and Justin Ruggiano and (2) trying to hold on to whatever fan base they have left. But given that righty reliever Jon Rauch is already owed $1 million for the rest of the season (which is actually about 2.5 percent of the Marlins’ entire payroll for 2013), all Miami is doing by releasing him is allowing another team to get a quality reliever for next to nothing, as well as decreasing the quality of its own bullpen (which is currently 10th in the NL in ERA).

Before even looking at the quality of Rauch’s performance this season, let’s look to the quantity: He’s had 16.2 innings, which is a really, really small sample size to decide to let a player go during a historically poor season. You would think he’d get a little more time to straighten the ship given that Miami isn’t exactly in a rush to do anything, but apparently the front office has seen enough.

Now to the quality. Rauch has a 7.56 ERA, which is obviously awful. However, even a cursory look at his peripheral statistics will show you that he has simply gotten unlucky and is actually not pitching too poorly. Rauch is walking 3.78 batters per nine innings, which is significantly above his career and recent season average and is likely to drop. But he’s also striking out 8.10 per nine, which is also above his career trend but not likely to drop by much. That gives him a 4.22 xFIP, and a low home run per fly ball ratio puts him at a perfectly respectable 3.45 FIP.

So why the high ERA? His BABIP is at an absurdly high .393 (for his career it’s at .277), which is completely unsustainable and is probably compounded by Miam’s below-average defense. He also has a left on base percentage of just 57.4, a number far below league average that will almost certainly regress. Rauch is having a career high season in his groundball rate, which is absolutely fantastic for a pitcher, but grounders also have higher BABIPs than fly balls, which also helps explain his lack of luck.

ZiPS thins he’s good for a 3.91 ERA for the rest of the season, and Steamer is even more bullish with a 3.56 mark. Miami’s mistake will be some other team’s gain, and there’s one team in particular who makes a lot of sense for Rauch. He’ll find a major league spot somewhere.

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  1. Jim G. said...

    The problem is, it’s not that small a sample size. Rauch has averaged 54 IP/season for his career. 16.2 is almost a third of his average season (which lines up about right with the schedule).
    Say he has 38 more IP’s this year. His career average ERA is 3.90. He’d have to have a 2.13 ERA over those last 38 IP to match. His worst ERA in any season was 2011 with Toronto (4.85 over 52 IP). To get down to that he’ll need a 3.31 ERA over the rest of the season. That mark is lower than both of the projected remainders.  Granted, my point could be “the worst is over”, but I’m skeptical that Rauch is throwing well enough to get excited about, regardless of his peripherals. Also, if he ends up on a team like the Mets, the defense won’t be any better.

  2. SrMeowMeow said...

    Jim, his season-total numbers are irrelevant though. The only thing any team should be interested in his his rest-of-season projection, which is what the article discusses.

  3. Jim said...

    Convinced my, by golly.  Let’s see, he’s 1/25th of the team and has 1/40th of the payroll.  I don’t understand the relevance of that statement.  Oh well.

  4. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    I understand your point, and nice analysis, but the Marlins probably had no choice. 

    Sure, the numbers and history suggests that Rauch still has something in the tank.  That does not mean that another team is going to give much more than an organizational player to the Marlins for him. 

    Maybe they already shopped him around and nobody offered anyone that they wanted.  And why take on someone else’s low level nothing prospect?

    And just because his historic numbers suggests improvement, scouts see the here and now on how well he is throwing.  Just because he was good before does not necessarily mean he will be again, though that is a good argument.  That is why teams have scouts checking out many teams and give their expert opinion on how that pitcher is doing.

    That is why a BP author recently apologized to Joe Morgan after he worked with a team for a while.  As an insider, he saw what scouts can do for a team.  The ideal is to compile the analytics with the scouting to get a fuller picture than before, when it was just mostly scouting and simpler metrics like batting average.

    Another saber, Mike Fast I believe, is still working for a team (Astros I think), and he was interviewed and said that he now realizes that BABIP, while not controllable for most pitchers in the majors, is a skill that is developed as pitchers rise, and that there are pitchers whose BABIP would be very high if ever allowed to pitch in the majors. 

    Eventually a player is going to hit his decline year.  At 34 YO, it is not outrageous that he might have finally reached that point.  That’s where scouts come in (and coaches and managers) and made their best judgement on whether that player has anything left in his tank.  As nicely as he pitched in 2012, he wasn’t that good in 2011.  And his walk rate is high like it was when he was a young player, he could be regressing.

    All scenarios and speculation, yes, that is why teams rely on their scouts and experts to make a decision like this.  Your analysis would have been stronger if you could have brought in Fangraphs stats showing that other pitching metrics were also similar, particularly all the pitch related stats, as since he is a reliever, small sample bias is very strong and you can’t just rely on the stats you used to make such a strong statement, I believe. 

    And for relievers, I’m not sure that even the most advanced stats would strong say, yes or no, whether he’s still good or not.  But at least you would have throw everything out on the table, sabermetrically.

  5. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    (cut off)

    That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if another team might pick him up.  At the cost of taking on a question mark player and his $1M remaining contract plus a prospect, most teams probably balk at that for a big question mark, but for the league minimum (prorated if they dump him soon after they figure out that he’s lost it all) and no lost of prospects, that’s like finding free money if he actually has anything in the tank.  Much like the Giants picking up Burrell in 2010.

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