Son of Yhency

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The truth about 2005

A little intro to this post -- just about everything written here was done so last week, before Yhency went down for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery. While what I've written isn't nearly as relevant now that he's done for 2006, it nonetheless is an interesting look into a misunderstood 2005 season.


In my post the other day, I alluded to what I believe is an inaccurate but widely-held negative perception of Yhency's performance last year. People look at that ugly 5.33 ERA and automatically assume he was bad. However, it isn't nearly that cut and dry. Because as Catbird in the Nosebleed Seats has already discovered, if you dig a little at all, you'll quickly learn that the high ERA and several blown saves don't tell nearly the whole story.

If we split Yhency's 2005 season into four quarters, all of which coincide with his change in roles in the bullpen, we find that two were very good, one was deceptively good and one was downright awful.

Why the inconsistency? I think the explanation lies in two areas, each of which worked hand in hand with one another. The first, and most obvious one, was his inexperience. Going into the year, Yhency had only pitched 32.2 innings over one year in the majors. Second, the Dodgers coaching staff simply mishandled the kid, and his youth only accentuated his inconsistency. Let me explain.

Quarter 1
With Gagne beginning last year on the DL, Yhency was thrust into the closer role. And in the 15 games he appeared in his first time as closer, he was actually very good: 14.1 innings pitched, 1.88 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a strikeout rate of 10.05 K/9. If you throw out his first three games, which we could very understandably characterize as an adjustment period, he finished this first quarter with 11 IP over 12 appearances, 0 runs allowed, five hits and three walks. That's not just good -- that's dominant.

Quarter 2
This quarter corresponded with Gagne's one-month return as closer and Yhency's demotion to eighth inning setup man. In this new role, Yhency suffered, kind of: 14 IP, a ghastly 5.14 ERA and a considerably lower strikeout rate of 7.07 K/9. However, the WHIP actually improved to 1.07, which indicates that the inflated ERA was due in part to bad luck. (This 2002 article reports that the average ERA for someone with a WHIP of 1.07 is 2.46. Yhency's was more than twice that.) And as before, if we take a three-game adjustment period into account and throw them out, his second quarter numbers were actually very impressive: 11.1 IP, a significantly-improved 1.59 ERA and an even better WHIP of 0.71.

Quarter 3
You know what wasn't impressive? Yhency's third quarter performance, which is what really skewed his numbers on the year. Upon becoming the closer after Gagne was shut down for good, things got ugly: 17.2 IP, 11.21 ERA, 2.09 WHIP and a horrid strikeout rate of 4.58 K/9. (That WHIP was so bad that the chart in the article linked in the section above doesn't even get close to that high.) There's no sugar-coating what happened here. Yhency simply wasn't good.

Quarter 4
There's good news to end this story -- the fourth quarter got much better. Upon again being demoted to the eighth inning, this time in deference of Duaner Sanchez who took over as closer, Yhency again flourished: 26.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a much healthier K rate of 8.44. Not brilliant numbers, like the first quarter, but quite serviceable.

What do these four very different sets of stats tell us? More than anything, I think they show how important stability is for Yhency, or at least during last year. Look, the guy was a rookie. The last thing you can do to him is throw him around the bullpen and expect consistency. But each time, after a three-game adjustment period, Brazoban proved that he could still flourish. In fact, here are his aggregate numbers from his first three appearances in each of the four quarters: 12 IP, 9.75 ERA and a WHIP of 2.33. Yhency's numbers from the fourth appearance onward in all quarters? In 60.2 IP, he had a respectable 4.45 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Here's the section where I was going to argue that this year, things were going to be different. First, Yhency would have had a buffer in the form of Danys Baez between him and Gagne, who would have created an extra layer of stability. Grady could throw Baez around the bullpen and you know he'd still be good. Barring any injury to Baez -- and frankly, for the Dodgers, that would be the least surprising thing in the world -- Yhency would have had a consistent setup role in the seventh or eighth innings.

The second thing working in Yhency's favor is that he would have had an additional year of experience to his credit, and for a 25-year old, that would have paid huge dividends.

But you know what? It's not all for naught. These two factors -- a deeper bullpen and simple life experience -- will still be around in 2007. And with both of them working hand in hand, I'm very hopeful that Yhency will significantly improve upon his 2005 numbers.


A tale of four quarters
Yhency showed last year that his several moves to and from the closer and setup roles ruined his consistency. However, these four quarters not only illustrate his potential, but that he wasn't nearly as bad as his overall numbers appear on a cursory glance.