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Braves 2010 Season in Review: Peter Moylan

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It was simply impossible, to not use this picture.
It was simply impossible, to not use this picture.

Peter Moylan is a good example of how deceiving numbers can be.  Furthermore, he’s a good example of how unforgiving of a mistress the role of relief pitching can get. 

Statistically, 2010 was not that kind to Peter Moylan as a whole, which saw his strikeouts go down, walks go up, and for a guy that didn’t allow a single home run in all of 2009, allowed five.  Across the board, pretty much everything else was down or worse than years prior.  However, when I look back at 2010 from just a fan perspective, Peter Moylan’s name doesn’t exactly jump out at me as a problematic, so there has to be some redeeming numbers to his credit.  Digging deeper, I look at outs generated versus batters faced, and it turns out that 2010, too was worse than 2009, with 65% of batters faced being retired, versus 70% in ’09.  Maybe Peter Moylan really just had a down year, or maybe the years of being Bobby Cox’s favorite mule from the bullpen are catching up to him.

Or maybe just, being a relief pitcher stinks.  Give up a run or two, and your ERA skyrockets.  Induce ground balls instead of strike outs, and your K/9 drops.  Walk one batter, and your BB/9 shoots to the sky.

64 out of 85 appearances (~77%), Peter Moylan hung a zero on the opponent.  Now maybe it’s just me, but I feel fairly good in the stands, when I have a 77% chance of seeing a guy come in and hold the score.  Out of the 18 times in which Peter Moylan had any runs scored on him, eight times, he entered the game with runner(s) in scoring position, and one time the bases loaded (with one out, of course).  So if you’re keeping count, Peter Moylan had only 10 appearances out of 85 (~12%) where the bases were clear, and he gave up any sort of runs.  He never forfeited more than two runs in an appearance all year.  On the flip side, six times Peter Moylan entered the game with the bases loaded, and left the game with no damage done.  On the season as a whole, 80% of base-runners ended up being stranded, largely in part to a career-best 68% ground ball percentage, which induced 13 double plays in the process.

What the numbers also will never show is the mechanical adjustment that Peter Moylan made, midway through the season that practically re-invented the Aussie side-armer.  He still had the big leg kick before his pitches, but mixed in the sequence, was a new, quick, almost slide-step, low, delivery to the plate, combined with sliders and change-ups yielded positive results, baffling hitters occasionally.  Two poor outings in August tarnish his reputation, but it’s safe to say that Moylan finished out the year fairly well, with the final month(s) yielding a .154 batting average and a 1.46 ERA.

Next year:

Moylan is entering his second arbitration year, so he is not guaranteed for 2011.  The overall degradation in performance will likely be used as justification for not a gigantic raise, if Moylan were to actually go through with arbitration, but given the Braves’ current financial restraints, there is a possibility that Moylan could be released.  If he is retained however, it couldn’t hurt, because he is durable, generates ground balls, and handles right-handed batters very well still, and if the Braves wish to continue to have an "elite" bullpen, it’s difficult to see it without Peter Moylan in it.