February 29, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Eric O

Eric O'Flaherty's sinker and 2011

2011 was undoubtedly Eric O’Flaherty’s best year of his career. A .98 ERA, 2.54 FIP, 3.05 xFIP, and 1.6 WAR were all career bests. He also had the best K/9 and BB/9 rates he has ever had at the Major League level with 8.19 and 2.57 respectively. The stat the sticks out of all of these however is his absolutely ridiculous 92.3% left on base percentage. That had a lot to do with his miniscule ERA and should drop back down a bit next year.

But what happened in 2011? Did EOF do something different with his pitches? Did he gain some velocity? Was he just a lot luckier than he should have been? Brooks Baseball and I are going to try and find out for you.

First I’m going to pull up his pitch frequencies from 2010 and 2011 so we can see if he changed his approach on the mound at all.

2010 (44 innings)

Pitch Count Frequency MPH
FA 190 29% 92.48
SI 221 34% 92.54
SL 178 27% 85.52
CH 62 10% 85.49

2011 (73 innings)

Pitch Count Frequency MPH
FA 229 21% 92.56
SI 538 48% 92.49
SL 309 28% 85.83
CH 38 3% 86.08

There was definitely a different approach from EOF in 2011 and it probably has a lot to do with his increased success. He virtually abandoned the changeup and threw his sinker almost half of the time. I would expect his GB% to increase as he threw more sinkers but surprisingly that number actually decreased, going from 57.4% in 2010 to 55.5% in 2011.

The increase in sinkers did seem to affect the homeruns he allowed in a good way though. In 2010 his HR/FB rate was 7.1% and in 2011 it dropped down to 3.9%. Because of the difference in innings pitched, that number didn’t make a difference. In 2010 and 2011 EOF gave up only 2 homeruns.

So if his increased sinker usage didn’t help him induce groundballs at a higher rate he must have simply missed more bats with it.

Swings Whiffs V Mvt. H Mvt.
2010 47.51% 7.69% -19.37 12.98
2011 48.14% 10.04% -20.62 12.44

He did get more whiffs on the pitch in 2011 but the movement and speed of the pitch was the same as 2010. The increase in whiffs might have to do with his usage of other pitches, especially the change up.

I will take another look at EOF tomorrow, discuss his worst pitch, and make my case for simply getting rid of it.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Eric O'flaherty PitchFX

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