Esmil Rogers: Starting Pitcher

It's been a while since Esmil Rogers toed the rubber in the first inning - Harry How

Esmil Rogers will be the 10th pitcher to start for the Blue Jays this year and if you saw this coming before the season started feel free to pat yourself on the back.

With injuries to Josh Johnson, J.A Happ and now Brandon Morrow, the Blue Jays have found themselves in a bit of a bind as far as starting pitching is concerned. Fans have been subjected to starts from an ancient Russ Ortiz, a not-ready Sean Nolin and a mediocre-at-best Chad Jenkins over the past few weeks and the carousel continues to spin. In a fairly surprising move the Blue Jays have decided to go with Esmil Rogers as their starting pitcher tonight. When Rogers came over from Cleveland there was absolutely no expectation that he would get an opportunity to start in Toronto. He has 22 career starts so we know that he is capable of starting but what should we be expecting exactly? That's the question I look to answer today.

When I first examined this data my first thought was "wow Esmil Rogers is a bad starting pitcher", and in his 22 starts he has had almost unbelievably bad results. When Rogers is starting, opponents hit .312/.393/.490. To provide a frame of reference I compared this slash line to the career stats of some of the greatest players in the game today.

Player

Batting Average

On Base Percentage

Slugging Percentage

Weighted On Base Average

Players Facing Esmil Rogers as a Starting Pitcher

.312

.393

.490

.385

Buster Posey

.314

.383

.506

.381

David Wright

.300

.382

.505

.380

Evan Longoria

.280

.362

.519

.375

Robinson Cano

.308

.351

.505

.366

Dustin Pedroia

.304

.372

.460

.364

Basically you could say that Rogers has been something of a kingmaker, a man capable of turning the everyman into a superstar. That is a pretty cool ability, but it's not what you are looking for in your starting pitchers. If you want to end the analysis there I wouldn't blame you. It cannot be disputed that Esmil Rogers has been a very, very poor starting pitcher in the past so writing him off now is completely logical. However, as with many things, the situation is a little bit more complicated than it appears.

The first issue has to do with poor luck. In his 22 starts Rogers has accumulated an abysmal 6.24 ERA yet his FIP sits at 4.87 and his xFIP at 4.53. These numbers still aren't fantastic but they show how Esmil is being shortchanged in the luck department. The first issue is how he's been disproportionately hurt by balls in play. BABIP against fluctuates wildly for pitchers and is something over which they tend not to have a great deal of control. Usually a pitcher's BABIP hovers around .300 overall with big swings from year to year. Since 2000 only one pitcher has had a career BABIP over .340, that's Manny Parra with a .341 mark. Esmil Rogers's career BABIP is .354. I have a hard time believing Rogers is the most hittable pitcher of this era; especially given how hard he throws (His fastball velocity remained at 94 mph on average even in 2011 when 13 of his 18 appearances were starts). In all likelihood he's had some horrid luck that is bound to correct itself at some point. Another cause of this abnormally high BABIP is how he has made many of his starts in the hitter's paradise of Coors Field which has had a park BABIP of .312 or higher every year since 2002.

This brings me to my next point: the Coors Field factor. The chart below show Rogers starts at Coors compared to those on the road:

Park

Starts

Innings

Hits

Earned Runs

HR

K

BB

BABIP

ERA

FIP

Coors Field

7

24.1

57

39

9

12.8%

8.6%

.403

14.56

8.01

Elsewhere

15

83

92

40

6

16.4%

10.4%

.320

4.34

4.06

This is a small sample but if you look at the numbers that Rogers has put up starting on the road he looks like a serviceable back of the rotation starter. He walks a couple too many batters and strikes out a couple fewer than you'd like, but the 4.34 ERA and 4.06 FIP are respectable. His problem was that he just continually got rocked at Coors Field. At a certain point you have to imagine it was affecting him mentally because he literally could not get anyone out at home. The Rogers Centre isn't the easiest park to pitch in, but it's no Coors.

It appears that there is more to Esmil Rogers than meets the eye. It's not as if there is a future ace in our midst but he is an intriguing arm and I look forward to seeing what he can do tonight. He may well get shelled but he's probably a better option than an Ortiz or a Jenkins. Although this initially seemed like a spot start, with the injury to Morrow the picture is hazy. If he does well the Blue Jays might consider him for a few more starts and maybe a Carlos Villaneuva like role in the future. Considering the desperate straits the Jays are in with starting pitching maybe giving Rogers a shot isn't such a strange move after all.

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