Second Thoughts Game #154: Indians 7, Minnesota 3
It's not entirely true to say that T.J. House received zero press before the season, and it's also not entirely true that IBI was thesole provider of that press, but given how long House had been in the Indians' system and his distance from his original prospect hype, the renewed 2014 attention surrounding House came as something of a surprise for folks like myself, whose emphasis is far more on major-league examinations than the minor-league goings-on. Whatever the reason, however, it is completely fair to say that my original skepticism about House was incorrect; T.J. House has demonstrated legitimate major-league performance through complete orthodoxy.
Frequently, I find myself stirred by various players' statistical profiles because they achieve results in peculiar and unorthodox ways. Chris Young of the Mariners, for instance, has made a career of his ERA beating his Fielding Independent Pitching. Indians catcher Yan Gomes's offensive profile is fueled in large part by his BABIP; this is peculiar not only because he has sustained that BABIP at a solid .340+ clip throughout his career, but also because of his extreme ground-ball pull tendencies as well as playing a position where speed and hence BABIP are relatively scarce.
House's statistical profile is unique and hence interesting because it appears to be the golden standard that coaches describe: the ideal of the pitcher who keeps the ball low and issues precious few free passes, strikeouts be whatever they will. House is the lefty that embodies that ideal.
Saturday's performance was a microcosm of House's season. The Twins did get hits, yes; of the six hits House surrendered in his five innings of work, only one was an extra-base hit. He struck out five while walking one, a good single game for both stats, indicative of the fact that, on the season, House's walk rate has been notably better than league average and his strikeout rate only marginally worse; on the whole, House has been a completely serviceable middle-of-the-rotation arm were one judging based solely on his strikeout-and-walk outcomes.
What has separated House has been his exceedingly peculiar home run and ground ball tendencies. House's 0.84 HR/9, given that House pitches in the homer-suppressing Progressive Field, effectively equivalent to the major-league average of 0.88 HR/9. This, in turn, suggests that House has been an entirely league-average starter in controlling the Three True Outcomes - again, an extremely valuable middle-of-the-rotation arm.
Deeper, however, one finds reasons to believe that his 3.43 ERA and 3.59 FIP are not all there is to House. In a previous edition of Second Thoughts, a reminder that home run prevention can itself be unpredictable arose. In short, House surrendered a pulled home run on a pitch that was low and on the outside corner of the plate - to Alexei Ramirez. Home run rates are unpredictable and finicky - what is predictive, however, is the rate at which ground balls and fly balls are induced.
In that regard, House is textbook to the point of anomaly. Of those pitchers who have thrown 200 or more sinkers in 2014, House's sinker has induced the fifth-highest Ground Ball-to-Fly Ball ratio in the game.* Among those pitchers with 80+ IP, House's groundball rate - 60.8% - is second only to fellow southpaw Dallas Keuchel. His fly-ball rate, on the other hand, is the lowest in the majors at 17.9%.
Ultimately, the most shocking part of House's Saturday performance was the following: batters put sixteen balls in play against House. Zero of those sixteen batted balls were fly balls. House's sinker has had few parallels in ensuring that batters do not loft the ball, and a performance as extreme as Saturday's testifies to that fact.
Between his good walk rate, league-average strikeout rate, and near-elite groundball induction, House appears capable of sustaining a performance similar to the 2014 he has authored to date. If Cleveland's infield defense can return to merely below-average and if House's apparently fluky home run-per-fly ball ratio can return from its anomalous .167 to a more reasonable .100, then it's possible that he may help make this Indians rotation a carrying strength of the team.
*Note: the table requires sorting. Click GB/FB to see rankings. Numbers not updated to include Saturday's game. Presumably, given that House allowed zero fly balls, that number will not have decreased.
John can be reached on Twitter at @JHGrimm. He can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my opinion, the same principal could be successfully applied to several other spots on the field, most notably 2B, 3B, RF, CF, and DH.
I doubt it will happen, but this off season I'm looking for "addition by subtraction" which has been so successful for the rotation and the SS position, to date.
As for McAllister, I'm starting to think the move to the pen could be his long term role. If he continues to pitch like he has the last few outings he could be another setup man option to couple with Allen and Shaw. That could be a very destructive threesome the way McAllister has been pitching.
With the addition of another qlty bat or two, I think this club could contend for the AL Penant.
Seth: As for the Laffey comp, that's certainly possible. Noting the difference in strikeouts, as you have, there are certainly similarities in the major-league rate numbers, but the fact that House has thrown nearly twice the innings as Laffey lends some increased credibility to House's performance. How much greater is that increased credibility is an open question, of course.
Not totally unusual for a guy to pick up 2-3 mph on his fastball when moving to the bullpen.
I think it's telling that Tito went to McAllister in high leverage spots 2 nights in a row. He has no options remaining, House has more or less locked down the 5th starter spot, and it appears the Indians are going to take this opportunity to see what ZMac has out of the bullpen. Last night, 5 K's in 7 batters faced. So far, so good.
I think the Indians are going to get alot of play from teams about some of the players. House, Perez, Gonzalez, Ramirez and others are going to come up in trade talks. I don't think the Indians will be inclined to deal any on of them but teams will ask
Indians need to get more pitching into the system with big time upside. I do know that Lovegrove, Brown, Lugo, Baker, Sheffield, Hockin, Miniard are some but they need one more draft of good pitching and continue to develop the guys they do have. I think the SP depth is lacking and the development is one year behind the position players. One more year of development and a draft focused on pitching should do the trick though
Jim you may be correct with the Roberts statement, but my pick is Maronde if he returns to starting. Colon is also on the very edge of breaking through too, and nobody should write off Anderson just yet. I think Mitch Brown has figured something out and Dylan Baker is a pure power pitcher. From the leftside, Morimando, Merritt, and Brady look to have some potential along the same lines as House. Needless to say, there is some talented depth piling up behind the current rotation.
We credit the coaching staff for the development and performance of this rotation. While that is farely accurate, not enough credit is given to Yan Gomes. His demeanor and performance make him one of the very best in my eyes. The Jays have to be scratching their eyes out over him.