A simple question today, should the Giants sign Will Ohman to a 1-year $2M-ish deal to replace the struggling Jack Taschner?
After avoiding arbitration with Taschner — he was signed to a 1-year 830K deal — the Giants can’t be pleased with how the Special Agent has performed thus far in Spring Traninig. Taschner’s 12 free passes in 8.2 innings pitched must have the Giants scratching their heads and saying: “I paid $830K for this?”. The loss of Sergio Romo already dings a bullpen that needs all the stability that it can get. The Giants, most likely, aren’t going to give Taschner the time to find himself. Which, really, isn’t a bad idea since if you could use one word to describe the 31-year-old reliever, it would be inconsistent.
First, let’s take a look a how Jack Tashner and Will Ohman have pitched over the last two seasons. Then, we’ll use some PITCHf/x to analyze Ohman.
At first glance, it’s easy to see what Taschner’s main problem has always been — throwing strikes. In ’07 he posted a BB% of 13.51 which is just horrific. He cut the walks some last year but at the expense of his K% which fell to below-average. Still, a 10% BB reliever is nothing to brag about. Taschner is only one part of the problem that saw the Giants bullpen issue 227 walks last season. If you ranked NL bullpens by BB/9, the Giants had the third highest BB/9 rate.
Will Ohman has sported similar K%’s but he’s walking hitters less. Ohman’s control isn’t great but it’s tended to play around average. Ohman’s 2008 season was stellar, he posted a 3.17 FIP while appearing in 83 games with the Braves. He worked as a LOOGY at times. Which brings us to another advantage that Ohman would have over Taschner — he gets left-handed batters out. For his career, Ohman has held lefties to a line of: .197/.285/.318. By comparison, Taschner has held lefties to: .279/.339/.394.
Will Ohman FX
Let’s examine the averages on what Ohman throws. Included is: pitch-type, number thrown, percentage thrown, velocity, horizontal movement (in inches), and vertical movement (also in inches).
Ohman looks like your typical lefty reliever. He relies primarily on a combination of his fastball and slider. The fastball was clocked at an average of 89.7 mph. He threw his fastball 2/3 of the time when pitching. He supplements his fastball with a 80 mph slider. You can see the movement on a few scattered changeups. I didn’t plot the average for the changeups because only 26 of them were tracked and I’m not sure how much Ohman throws it anyways. Because of his handedness, Ohman’s fastball will work it’s way in on left-handed batters and his slider will cut away from them.
(Thanks to Harry Pavlidis of Cubs f/x and Beyond the Boxscore for the flightpath spreadsheet)
This is a flightpath plot from the vantage point of 1st base. You can see that Ohman’s slider starts to separate itself from the fastball about 20 feet away from homeplate. Both pitches are coming out of the same arm angle and it’ll be up to the batter over those remaining 20 feet to make the adjustment to one pitch or the other.
Even though Ohman excels against getting left-handed batters out, the Braves also used him a bit against right-handed batters. RBH’s actually accrued more PA’s against Ohman than LHB’s did — 134 PA’s to 114 PA’s. But, even though righties only hit: .256/.341/.359 against Ohman, it would be in his best interest to get the bulk of his work against lefties. But, it’s nice to know that he’s not totally useless against a right-handed batter.
CHONE projects Ohman to put up a 3.82 FIP in 2009. Taschner is projected to put up a 4.20 FIP by CHONE. If they both hit their respective FIPS and pitched 60 innings of baseball next season at the same leverage-index, the difference between Ohman and Taschner would be in the neighborhood of .3-.5 wins. That’s not huge but for a team that had so much bullpen trouble last season, the added stability would be nice to have. Especially with Romo out for the time being.
When you consider the cost of signing Ohman — around $2M — I think he makes some sense. You upgrade the bullpen, even it’s marginal, and you get some flexibility because Ohman is so tough on LHB’s. As each season passes, I sour a little more on Taschner and I think it’s his time to go. If he could ever improve his control he might be serviceable, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen any time soon.
Put me down for Will Ohman.