Esmil Rogers: Still Worth Keeping Around?
by Brandon Jopko | Posted on Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Last year, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Esmil Rogers provided value to the team as a good long reliever and spot starter that spanned 20 starts. He amassed 137.2 IP in 2013, and in his five wins, he was completely dominate (.153/.186/.204 batting line against) versus his nine loses (.410/.476/.701), so clearly when he’s on, he’s lights out.
For 2014 however, thoughts of a possible designated for assignment have jumped into my head since the Blue Jays have a cramped and at times, largely ineffective bullpen of which Rogers has a 1.57 WHIP. That’s too many base runners for him, which 11.1 H/9 so far this season clearly shows.
However, it hasn’t been all bad. When Rogers faces his former team for instance, the Cleveland Indians, he’s pitched four quality innings allowing 1 H, 2BB, and 6 K. Again, the same adage applies here; when he’s on, he’s good, and when he’s not, things get ugly. Rogers’ has had four terrible outings out of fifteen appearances so far and two others where he’s allowed a run.
In looking at his previous career numbers, his 44 game stint with Cleveland has still been his best stretch of games where he’s had his lowest WHIP and H/9 yet (1.11 and 8.0 H/9 respectively). The problem this year is that he’s giving up more hits (11.1 H/9) and home runs (2.2 HR/9 due to a higher HR/FB ratio that's nearly double his career rate) than he’s used to if you discount the part of his career spent at Coors Field where he was young and ineffectual. On the plus side, Rogers is besting his career SO/9 rate in 2014 (9.3 vs. 7.6 SO/9 over his career).
It’s also interesting to note that during the 2012 season with Colorado and Cleveland, lefties hit Rogers at a .248/.347/.329 clip for an OPS of .676 compared to an OPS of .854 in 2013 with the Jays and a 1.104 OPS so far in 2014. So this begs the question of what has changed versus lefties. For comparison sake, Rogers is handling righties at a .238/.273/.381 clip this year which is measurably better.
Now Rogers is mostly a fastball, sinker, slider pitcher with the occasional cutter, changeup, and curveball. With the Blue Jays, you’ll see below that he's mixed in these other pitches in large doses at times largely due to necessity. His fourseamer has just been hit so hard, which you can see in the accompanying chart.
As you can see, Rogers' batting average against (BAA) is extremely high with his fastball. The SLG against his fastball and cutter too have been downright awful (small sample size alert with the use of his cutter). It's possible that of the 35 cutters he's thrown, most have been good (.273 BAA) and some have been hit hard (.636 SLG), however if you look at the the development of this pitch, it's probably the most devastating pitch he has.
Here are some charts that show Rogers' trajectory and movement while he posted good numbers with Cleveland in the second half of 2012, then in 2013 with the Jays and again, 2014 with Toronto.
You can tell by looking at the above that Rogers' changeup is exhibiting more movement in 2014 than 2013; it's actually closer to the changeup he had in Cleveland when he posted good numbers. Even his current sinker shows less crispness than in Cleveland, although he rarely threw that pitch in 2012 (5 times as an Indian). Definitely the biggest noticeable difference in the above is the movement he's generating from his cutter this year, which is better than 2013 and way better than in 2012.
You'd think that with better movement from his changeup and cutter, Rogers would be more successful, but he isn't. Perhaps one reason why is that he just isn't throwing those pitches enough. Rogers has thrown his cutter 16 times so far this month, which is only 14% of the time out of his total pitches thrown. His changeup is thrown even less.
Clearly, he's getting hammered with his fastball, and for some reason on a few cutters too. Without doubt, Rogers and the Blue Jays realize this, hence the mix of his slider and sinker which are more effective pitches. The below chart also shows just how much Rogers can't locate his fastball, and the overall trouble he has locating his other offerings. Granted, his other pitches I'm sure are designed to get swing and misses or to generate weak contact, but truth be told, only his slider generates enough whiffs to be considered a strikeout pitch as batters whiff 18.31 percent of the time.
The above chart also outlines the percentage of ground balls and whiffs that can be generated through the use of his slider, cutter and curveball. Indeed, Rogers could use more of those and less fly balls as they seem to be leaving the yard.
As for left-handed batters, check out the below chart of the pitches he's using when facing them.
It seems clear to me that Rogers has to use a better mix of pitches against lefties, and throw less fastballs, which he's getting killed on. Just maybe, if he wants to be successful, he could throw a few more cutters perhaps. Then it's a no-brainer, he would be valuable to have around the Blue Jays bullpen.
All stats and tables are from Baseball-Reference.com and BrooksBaseball.net.