Player (P)Review: Joe Savery


Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

NOTE: The initial posting of this article referred to Savery as being shut down after his July DL stint, and to having persistent injury issues. This is my fault; Savery returned to pitch in September, and it was his first DL-stint of his career. There’s no excuse for that kind of inaccuracy. This has been changed in the article.

Joe Savery

Key 2013 Stats:

In 20.0 IP: 3.15 ERA/3.95 FIP – .607 OppOPS – .237 BAbip – 6.3 SO/9 – 5.0 BB/9 – Con%: 82% – aLi: .434

A word about the above stats: I like trying to do something interesting with these Player (P)Reviews, so I thought I’d take an opportunity with Joe Savery‘s entry to add a few slightly more advanced stats in the evaluations.

Ideally, these kinds of figures will see more prominent use while less relevant statistics (Wins, ERA, RBIs; the usual suspects) fade a little bit, as it feels more natural. I’ll throw in some explanations along the way.

What Happened in 2013:

In 2013, Joe Savery was an EZ-Pass ad campaign. Failing to earn a job out of Spring Training, Savery traveled up and down the turnpike from AAA five times before July.

Savery was placed on the 15-Day DL retroactive to July 15 with elbow stiffness, after only 13 MLB innings pitched. He returned to pitch 7 more innings in September.

In the time he spent on the field, Savery was slightly below average. Opposing batters did only hit a cumulative .607 OPS against him, and he only earned a 3.15 ERA (slightly above average for a reliever).

However, when the OPS is viewed through the context of a low strikeout rate (only 6.3/9), and also low .237 BAbip, it indicates relatively large amount of luck for Savery in a small sample size (20 IP).

Batting Average on balls in play (BAbip) is a metric that measures the total number of times a batter reaches base out of every time they hit a field-able ball in play (H – HR/ABs – HR – SO + Sac Flies).

Given that neither the batter or pitcher have a control over the defense’s fielding ability, it’s widely considered an indicator of luck for both sides. However, there are conclusions that can be drawn from the number.

Generally, a low BAbip (< .300) is considered more sustainable for a pitcher with high strike out rates; the logic being that hard-throwing strike out pitchers produce weaker (more easily fielded) contact when batters DO hit the ball.

When a pitcher DOESN’T create a lot of strikeouts, and particularly in a smaller sample size, (AKA Savery) it’s generally considered mostly luck (which would correct itself over a longer period of time). 

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), is a metric evaluating a pitcher on solely HRs, BBs, and SOs; in essence, strictly the things they can control.

It’s on the ERA scale (a good ERA would also be a good FIP), and is generally a much better predictor of pitching performance than traditional metrics.

Savery’s FIP, taking into consideration his unsustainable, high 5.0 BB/9, and mediocre 6.3 SO/9, comes to a much more representative 3.95, compared to the relatively lucky 3.15 ERA.

In addition, batters made contact when swinging on his pitches an above-average 82% of the time.

Savery was generally used in low-leverage situations, according to his aLi of .434 (“average leverage index”; an aLi of 1.000 is an average situation). He was generally given the mop-up innings during games.

What to Expect in 2014:

There’s currently a bullpen log-jam on the Phillies’ 40-man roster (surprising, given the lack of success last season), with Phillippe Aumont, Brad Lincoln, Justin De Fratus, Luis Garcia, Jeremy Horst, Kevin Munson, B.J. Rosenberg, Savery, and Michael Stutes all fighting for two bullpen spots (not to mention the Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez wild-card).

Given Savery’s age, and the disappointment of his past performance (relative to his first-round pick pedigree), it’s doubtful that he makes a big impact on the major league team this season.

Honestly, given the large number of total relievers currently on the roster (14), one or two of those names could be designated for assignment, and if Savery’s name was among them, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

In fact, it has yet to be announced who is removed from the roster to make room for Roberto Hernandez; it could very well be him.

Presuming he remains on the 40-man roster, however, I’d say Savery is behind Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, and Horst on the LHP depth chart.

I think he’ll spend the majority of the season in Lehigh Valley, but depending on how sad a state of affairs the major league level becomes, I could see him being added to the active roster towards the end of the year as added depth.

In this situation, he’d likely receive around 15-25 IP in low leverage environments, and in a sample size that small, it’s hard to accurately predict outcomes. A generally safe bet would be an ERA hovering around where his 2013 FIP indicates it should be (~4.00). Additionally, BB/9 and SO/9 rates around 4.5 and 7.0, respectively, would be reasonable expectations.

Without marked improvement this year as a late bloomer, I could see 2014 being his last season in red pinstripes.