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The WAR Room: 2014 Akron pitchers season in review

Power relievers like Armstrong, Soto headline the RubberDucks pitching

The WAR Room: 2014 Akron pitchers season in review
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
October 5, 2014
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The WAR Room is back again, bringing you the 2014 advanced stats for every Cleveland minor leaguer. With the minor league seasons at an end, we continue bringing you seasons in review, with today's featuring the 2014 Akron RubberDucks pitchers.

The list of previous season in reviews are below:

Of course, it is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.

But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.

For reference on how I computed WAR, a reminder on the problems inherent in the stats, and everything else you need to know, click here. For a refresher on WAR and what it is, click here.

As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.

Also note that pitchers have FIP-based WAR -- which is based on peripherals like strikeouts, walks, home runs, etc. -- and RA-based WAR -- which is based on runs allowed.

One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.

Today we begin our look at the Akron RubberDucks with the pitchers before moving to the hitters next week. For the full stats, go ahead and click here.

Will Roberts Indians (AA) 23 161.0 2.2 2.2
Joe Colon Indians (AA) 24 138.0 1.8 3.3
Shawn Morimando Indians (AA) 21 56.1 1.2 0.5
Gabriel Arias Indians (AA) 24 69.0 1.0 1.8
Duke von Schamann Indians (AA) 23 135.0 0.6 1.8
Toru Murata Indians (AA) 29 54.2 0.3 0.3
Cody Anderson Indians (AA) 23 125.2 0.3 0.2
Matt Packer Indians (AA) 26 9.1 0.1 -0.3
Cole Sulser Indians (AA) 24 11.0 0.0 0.1
Nick Maronde Indians (AA) 24 8.0 0.0 -0.5
Kyle Davies Indians (AA) 30 29.2 -0.3 0.1


Shawn Armstrong Indians (AA) 23 51.0 1.0 1.6
Giovanni Soto Indians (AA) 23 53.0 1.0 0.5
Enosil Tejeda Indians (AA) 25 55.2 0.7 0.8
Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AA) 28 31.0 0.6 1.3
Kyle Crockett Indians (AA) 22 15.2 0.4 0.8
Louis Head Indians (AA) 24 36.1 0.3 0.6
Josh Martin Indians (AA) 24 2.0 0.1 0.1
Bryan Price Indians (AA) 27 10.0 0.1 0.3
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AA) 25 13.0 0.0 0.4
Adam Miller Indians (AA) 29 41.1 0.0 -0.6
Grant Sides Indians (AA) 25 1.0 -0.1 0.1
Elvis Araujo Indians (AA) 22 21.0 -0.1 0.5
Robert Nixon Indians (AA) 25 1.1 -0.1 -0.1
Francisco Valera Indians (AA) 24 12.2 -0.4 -0.3
Trey Haley Indians (AA) 24 16.2 -0.5 -0.4
Jordan Cooper Indians (AA) 25 78.0 -0.8 -0.2

Notable Starters

Joe Colon (Photo: MiLB)Though some shoulder soreness took some of the helium out of right-hander Joe Colon’s season, the end result is still a positive one for the 24-year-old. In addition to putting up 1.8 FIP-based WAR and 3.3 RA-based WAR in 138.0 innings, Colon also set a career high in innings pitched. Injuries have held Colon back in the past, but despite a bit of a flare-up in 2014, jumping from 92.0 to 138.0 innings is a big 50 percent jump. Colon will need to keep improving his peripherals (16.6 percent strikeout rate, 87 K%+; 9.5 percent walk rate, 116 BB%+), but the right-hander’s health is the most important thing.

Colon’s performance may have been tops among RubberDucks pitchers, but in terms of FIP-based WAR, right-hander Will Roberts had him beat. With a solid 2.2 FIP-based WAR and 2.2 RA-based WAR in 161.0 innings, Roberts continued to establish himself as an innings-eating back-of-the-rotation starter who could be major league ready as soon as the 2015 season. Roberts is another guy who does not strike out many batters (14.6 percent strikeout rate, 77 BB%+), but the 24-year-old is really good at avoiding walks (5.4 percent walk rate, 66 BB%+) to make up for it. It may not be a #1 starter profile, but Roberts looks like he should log major league innings in the near future.

One starter who did not perform well was right-hander Cody Anderson, who saw some of the shine from his top prospect stock wear off with a 0.3 FIP-based WAR and 0.2 RA-based WAR in 125.2 innings. Pitching around replacement level while making the hardest jump in the minor leagues (from High-A to Double-A) does not look good, but it is also possible for Anderson to bounce back in 2015. The 24-year-old is not very experienced on the mound and this is the first time he has experienced failure as a professional. The 2014 season may have been a lost cause, but it be the best thing to help Anderson grow in the long run.

Based on his 4.20 ERA (105 ERA-) in 135.0 Double-A innings, right-hander Duke von Schamann’s debut in the Cleveland organization when pretty well. But despite that 1.8 RA-based WAR, von Schamann’s 4.79 FIP (120 FIP-) and 0.6 FIP-based WAR put a level of caution on the 23-year-old’s season. The right-hander is an extreme pitch-to-contact type, putting up a 12.0 percent strikeout rate (63 K%+), but he makes it work to some extent with a 6.0 percent walk rate (74 BB%+). It is hard to maintain any success with such a low strikeout rate, but even a little uptick in von Schamann’s swing and miss ability would do wonders given his already strong command-control profile.

Notable Relievers

Shawn Armstrong (Photo: MiLB)Following a disappointing 2013 season, right-hander Shawn Armstrong came on strong this past season with 1.0 FIP-based WAR and 1.6 RA-based WAR in 51.0 innings. The recently-turned 24-year-old struck out nearly one-third of the batters he faced (32.9 percent strikeout rate, 173 K%+), the kind of rate that does more than balance out his 9.2 percent walk rate (113 BB%+). Armstrong will still need to work on throwing a few more strikes in order to maximize his profile, but that kind of strikeout rate will definitely play as the right-hander moves up the minor league ladder toward Cleveland.

Another RubberDucks reliever who had a comeback 2014 season was left-hander Giovanni Soto. The 23-year-old’s 1.0 FIP-based WAR matched Armstrong’s, though Soto’s 0.5 RA-based WAR was not as good. Still, Soto’s 23.1 percent strikeout rate (121 K%+) and 5.7 percent walk rate (70 BB%+), as well as his strong LOOGY profile, paint him as someone who could be in Cleveland shortly. A bit of injury trouble sidelined Soto midseason, but assuming he can sustain his health, Soto looks like another legitimate left-hander relief option for Terry Francona.

Right-hander Enosil Tejeda may not blow anyone away with his raw ability like Armstrong and Soto, but the 25-year-old continues to put up impressive results wherever he goes. Tejeda finally started allowing home runs in 2014 after allowing two in his entire professional career before this season (0.81 HR/9, 106 HR/9+), but the right-hander still posted 0.7 FIP-based WAR and 0.8 RA-based WAR in 55.2 innings. The right-hander gets strikeouts though (26.3 percent strikeout rate, 138 K%+) and throws the ball over the plate (5.7 percent walk rate, 70 BB%+), an approach that simply works for Tejeda.

A promotion kept right-hander Tyler Sturdevant from fully keeping up with Armstrong, Soto, and Tejeda, but with 0.6 FIP-based WAR and 1.3 RA-based WAR in just 31.0 innings, the 28-year-old more than earned his trip to Triple-A. Unlike their starting rotation, the RubberDucks bullpen was full of strikeout pitchers, with Sturdevant adding to that reputation with a 25.6 percent strikeout rate (134 K%) in 2014. The right-hander walked a fair share of batters (7.7 percent walk rate, 94 BB%+), but after missing all of 2013, just pitching again was huge for Sturdevant; pitching as well as he did was icing on the cake.

Quick Hits

Shawn Morimando (Photo: MiLB)The Double-A debut of left-hander Shawn Morimando went well, as the left-hander put up 1.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.5 RA-based WAR in 56.1 innings. The question is if Morimando can keep this up over the long haul, but the first taste of Akron certainly went well for the 21-year-old.

The same goes for 24-year-old Gabriel Arias, who posted 1.0 FIP-based WAR and 1.8 RA-based WAR in 69.0 innings during his first action in Double-A. Much like the rest of the Akron rotation, Arias did not strike many batters out (14.9 percent strikeout rate, 78 K%+), but some solid control went a long way for the right-hander.

Though he only threw 15.2 innings, left-hander Kyle Crockett still put up 0.4 FIP-based WAR and 0.8 RA-based WAR on his way to the majors. Previewing the dominance he showed in Cleveland, Crockett posted an 0.57 ERA (14 ERA-), a 1.95 FIP (49 FIP-), and mowed down Eastern League competition.

During his time in High-A, right-hander Louis Head dominated the competition. That changed a bit once Head was promoted to Akron, however, as the 24-year-old posted 0.3 FIP-based WAR and 0.6 RA-based WAR in 36.1 innings. Head’s adjustment period involved throwing more strikes (10.1 percent walk rate, 124 BB%+), but with a 24.5 percent strikeout rate (129 K%+), the right-hander is another quality power bullpen arm coming up through the system.

The comeback story of right-hander Adam Miller did not quite go as planned, with the 29-year-old putting up 0.0 FIP-based WAR and -0.6 RA-based WAR in 41.1 innings. The same went for right-hander Trey Haley, who returned from injury to post -0.5 FIP-based WAR and -0.4 RA-based WAR in 16.2 innings. Both still tantalize to some extent, but their lack of performance in 2014 obviously hurts them.

Right-hander Toru Murata kept doing his thing in 2014, with the 29-year-old eating innings in the upper levels of the minors. The results were not great for Murata (0.3 FIP-based WAR, 0.3 RA-based WAR in 54.2 Double-A innings), but the right-hander did his job of bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen and keeping things going for the RubberDucks.

The transition to the bullpen did not go perfectly for right-hander Jordan Cooper, as the 25-year-old put up -0.8 FIP-based WAR and -0.2 RA-based WAR in 78.0 innings. A home run problem really hurt Cooper (1.38 HR/9, 181 HR/9+), though if he can control that in the future, his peripherals are not terrible (18.2 percent strikeout rate, 96 K%+; 9.3 percent walk rate, 114 BB%+).

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

October 8, 2014 - 4:12 PM EDT
Thank you very much for your explanation Jim. I am not sure you can answer all of my questions about the variables but I believe I understand what you are trying to do. You had me questioning a bit when you went to heavy into fangraphs on the ranking post. I have probably spent too many years trying to quantify and eliminate variables in statistical evaluations to be a true believer in this but it has set me to thinking that there might be ways to utilize set theory to reduce the unexplained variables. That has to be much easier with the majors than the minors. I will give it more thought.
October 6, 2014 - 11:04 AM EDT
Exactly. It's another tool.

We know from scouting that Morimando is a young, projectable lefty. We know from the stats and breakdowns like this what happened on the field and thus what improvements need to be made.

Thus why even though Morimando's WAR totals from last year were fairly pedestrian, I didn't say he was toast. I wrote:

"The performance itself [in 2013] was not groundbreaking, nor were Morimando's peripherals (90 K%+, 139 BB%+). But more importantly for Morimando, doing that at 20 years old bodes well for the left-hander's future. Morimando is limiting his walks so far in 2014, and provided the left-hander keeps it up, he should find his way to Akron at some point over the summer."

This piece does not mention the scouting reports explicitly, much like how Tony's scouting reports won't have these exact stats in them. But they are all influenced by each other. When I write these, I'm presenting the stats and evaluating them already knowing the scouting behind each player.
October 6, 2014 - 10:32 AM EDT
FIP WAR, WARP, rWAR, fWAR.. blah, blah, blah.. If you rely solely on statistics, you'll become one.. No one is saying that sabermetrics is the only means of evaluating a player or their worth.. it's just another tool used to evaluate players based on other players and the best information, although never perfect, available..

Perhaps this discussion might be better illustrated with a specific player.. Take the example of young Mr Morimando.. a sub-six footer and less than 200 lb's.. Gives the impression that if he was anything but a left hander, he'd be toast.. done.. finished in baseball. Not much future.. ahh..but what about this guy says.. keep looking???.. He went to High A ball in 2013, back then it was Kinston, North Carolina, and pitched well enough against guys who are bad enough that he achieved above average results.. He returned to Carolina to start the 2014 season.. and lo and behold, he walked batters at the same rate he struck them out, he pitched about as many innings per outing, hit as many batters. started as many games. etc etc.. but what isn't shown is that he had a small albeit devastatingly important rise in his 2 seam fast ball velocity. This resulted in poorer contact and, nearly a full run drop in his ERA.. Maybe the defense was better?. maybe he had a lucky streak.. maybe the measuring stick used to determine his value, be it WAR or velocity or pitch selection or something else, clicked and he went from being an okay prospect to one.. that needs to be looked at much more closely..

Lefties that throw fastballs in the mid low 90's are a commodity in scarce supply. If young Mr Morimando can't start.. he may be a fine choice as a reliever at the next level.. Perhaps that's what WAR misses more than it finds when evaluating a player's future role.. That is, the direction the player's career takes opposed to the path already tread upon..
October 6, 2014 - 9:10 AM EDT
It's the same calculations that go into major league WAR, except done for the minor league side since that does not exist anywhere. The attribution for that is in the article above where it says "For reference on how I computed WAR, a reminder on the problems inherent in the stats, and everything else you need to know, click here. For a refresher on WAR and what it is, click here" (The links are active in the article; they don't work in the comments).

Those links have how I calculate it and where it comes from.

With the defense, since we don't have accurate minor league data, I give you the range for each player from poor defense to great defense (that's also explained more in the links above and in the articles that have position players as opposed to pitchers). That way you can see the range a player falls in and make a determination yourself (i.e. evaluate Lindor or Urshela based on the great-defense WAR as opposed to the average-defense mark).

As for the parks, that is something I keep in mind mentally. Canal Park (Akron) is pitcher-friendly. Huntington Park (Columbus) is hitter-friendly. I treat it the same as I treat a player's age; it does not show up in their stat line or WAR total, but I mentally upgrade or downgrade a player depending on their age relative to their level or what park they're playing in. A pitcher succeeding in Columbus or a hitter succeeding in Akron gets a bump. And so on.

So not quite boom roasted as Rabinowitz says. It's all aboveboard and there. These stats will never be the be-all and end-all, but they are another tool for us to use. Sometimes it shows something enlightening, like just how good players like Giovanny Urshela and Clint Frazier were this year. But I personally always pair it with the scouting. Same with these stats at the major league level.
October 6, 2014 - 8:38 AM EDT
Actually, this is an original piece from Jim. The numbers from what I know mostly come from his calculation or from using some of the base stuff that is already computed and adjusting based on his method. But I am sure Jim can elaborate.
October 6, 2014 - 1:12 AM EDT
boom roasted
October 5, 2014 - 11:24 PM EDT
It seems I have been missing something with all this WAR stuff you have been posting. None of this appears to be original thought Jim except for a few short blurbs you add whether it be be this "analysis" or ranking of the players yet I see no attribution. Personally, I do not value WAR as meaningful in the minor leagues but might change my mind if I could see where the numbers come from and the formula used for analysis. Have you posted that somewhere on site that I am unaware of? Out of curiosity, how do you reconcile the inaccuracy and random nature of defense on WAR? I noticed that particular issue in your rankings. I also noticed that the concept that all fields are the same which is not true and playing a position if not differed by park which makes a huge difference in the minors and significant difference in ML ball as well. I am not convinced based on what I have seen.

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