Dominic Leone: Bullpen MVP? (Part 2: Leone’s Last Month = Very Good)

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== He’s been “Dominant Dominic” ==

In part 1 we fielded a question about the value of Dominic Leone.  The commenter felt that Leone wasn’t getting much credit.

We don’t really know his general reputation out in the whole blog-o-sphere, but we agree that his value deserves to be shouted from the rooftops a bit.

But first, to lay the foundation, we set out the somewhat amazing value of the entire bullpen.  Then we raised the question of whether Leone might be its MVP.

Now, being fair, we point out that Logan Davis wrote for Lookout Landing a couple of weeks ago, and the landscape has, in fact, changed somewhat.  First off, in terms of traditional stats, we can see significant change in Leone’s first month (April 6 to May 6) and his appearances since (May 11 and later).

Note how the walks drop a bunch and the strikeouts go up.  And the OPS-against, obviously, plummets.

BF AB H 2b 3b HR BB K BA OBP SLG OPS
First Month 61 52 12 2 0 2 8 14 0.231 0.333 0.385 0.718
Since 1st Mo. 57 53 9 2 1 0 3 18 0.170 0.211 0.245 0.456

===

And now our designer Brainstorm stats.  From this, we see that Logan had a point.  For that first month, Leone had a sharp-looking ERA (1.93), but his underlying stats weren’t all that special.  Indeed, his 87 composite score indicates below-average performance.

But since then …

HR%+ BB%+ K%+ XBH%+ PSA+ Conv+ Comp
First Month 63 30 112 108 81 105 87
Since 1st Mo. 200 132 154 126 181 154 234

Well, you can’t do a whole lot better than that.  Of course, it’s a small amount of data, but the shift is dramatic.

===

OK, so what happened?

Well, for one thing, his velocity went up — on both his regular fastball and his cutter.  Again, not a ton of data, but a pretty big difference.

[Note that the scale changes a bit (Brooks sets the scale automatically), so you have to adjust a bit.]

Leone2

Clearly, his fastball has moved up from around 95 to above 95.  And the cutter has gone from below 90 to above 90.

Obviously, that’s a pretty devastating combination on its face, but is it working?

Logan was worried about Leone’s swinging strike rate.  Well, we can see that the supercharged Leone is winning that battle, too.

  • April 6 – May 6: 9.4%
  • May 11 – June 17: 14.7%

In other words, he’s gone from below-average to a level that only guys like Koji Uehara and Aroldis Chapman beat.

In fact, here’s your list of guys (per fangraphs.com) who pitched at least 50.0 IP in 2013 and had whiff rates of 14.7% or higher:

Name Team SwStr%
Koji Uehara Red Sox 18.50%
Greg Holland Royals 16.60%
Aroldis Chapman Reds 16.30%
Paco Rodriguez Dodgers 15.80%
Ernesto Frieri Angels 15.80%
Al Alburquerque Tigers 15.50%
Will Smith Royals 15.10%
Trevor Rosenthal Cardinals 14.70%
Gonzalez Germen Mets 14.70%

So maybe we stop worrying too much about Leone’s swing-and-miss rate being too low.  He might not keep it up for the full season, but clearly when he’s got things working, he’s going to miss bats.

===

Is Leone the bullpen MVP then?  I think in the last month he is.  He and Furbush have both been valuable, but Leone has pitched more innings, and in the last month he’s been harder to hit.  Actually, in the last month he’s been almost impossible to hit.

Will he keep it up, or this just a temporary spike of un-hittable-ness?  We’ll have to watch the velocity and the whiff rate. (Maybe he’s a slow starter who likes warmer weather?  He went to college at Clemson, but he’s from Connecticut, so that doesn’t really prove anything.)

But we also know how devastating Leone was in the minors when he had his stuff working, which is why we were touting him as a top prospect last year, when no one else was.  So we’re optimistic.

 

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One thought on “Dominic Leone: Bullpen MVP? (Part 2: Leone’s Last Month = Very Good)

  1. Pouring over the season charts in part 1, I could see a case for 5 non closers as BPMVP. Even Wilhelmsen cleaning up so many undesirable innings much better than most pitchers who fill that role. Many were afraid that this collection of arms would have trouble keeping the team competitive and they’ve been a big part of the team competing. I was surprised they’ve been that good so far.

    Looking at Leone s last month’s stats, I see what you’re saying though. MVP of the last month and if he keeps it up probably the year.

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