A quick look at Blaine Boyer - our newest addition

Hey folks.  Have to say that I'm a little bit disappointed that we dumped Barton (a guy I think should've been with the big league team all year instead of Ryan, given his ability to hit LHP, his OBP/lead-off skills, and the fact he still offers some upside/trade-value if he's given a chance to play at the MLB level) for what appears to be a middle reliever that Atlanta didn't have any place for today, but I thought I'd take a bit more of a closer look at what we got back in the deal.  Here goes...


First of all, we probably know what we've given up in Barton - a no-power LF with a slightly noodley arm, who has great range in a corner OF spot but will probably never be a good enough defender to play CF.  UZR last year had him a +15 run LF (in a very small sample size, only 200 innings or so; he's also +ve for ARM rating, which I find a bit suspect).  He's probably, however, at least a +10 run leftfielder, given his speed and the fact he's already had defensive success there.

His main value offensively comes from his OBP - he got on at a .354 clip last year (albeit with an unsustainably lucky year on balls in play) and has enjoyed an OBP close to .400 in the minors (albeit hovering around .350 in his stints at AAA).  He has limited power (ISO of .124 last year isn't too out-of-sync with his minor league numbers) and, despite suggestions he might develop some power, he's 27 and is realistically probably never going to exceed 10HR in a major league season.  He was a 0.8 win player last year (per FanGraphs) in only 179 PA, which makes him probably at the very least an average LF, and potentially a solid RH part of a platoon in that position, or a good 4th or 5th OF for a contending team.  It should be said, however, that a lot of his value derives from his fielding (small sample size alert, although it has to be said that corner outfielders don't generally field well as a group) and his OBP (bolstered by a .348 BABIP last year).  In a full season, he might be just about an average major league outfielder.


Now, Blaine Boyer - he's a 27 year-old middle reliever/set-up type who throws from the right side.  He's been generally said to have above-average stuff throughout his career, and (as has been mentioned in the other thread) John Smoltz has said some good things about him.  Is he better than anyone currently in our bullpen?

Boyer pitched in 76 games and threw 72 innings last year.  To put that in perspective, Kyle McClellan only pitched in 68 games (albeit with 75 IP).  He finished with an ugly ERA of 5.88, however, his FIP was somewhat better, at 4.20.  He had a very similar year to KMac, pitching solidly in the first half then falling away badly after the all-star break, perhaps due to over-use.

Breaking down Boyer's pitching, he is a reasonably high strikeout guy, recording just over 8K/9IP in his major league career since breaking into the Braves' pen in 2005.  Walks have never been a major problem but, like KMac, his problems will come when he starts issuing the free passes.  He's recorded about 3.6BB/9IP, which means his K/BB ratio is 2.2 for his career, 2.6 in his solid 2008 campaign.  That's not bullpen ace material, but it compares well with KMac (2.36 career), Franklin (1.8 career), Springer (2.17 career, albeit much higher in his 2 year Cards' stint, at a little over 3).

Boyer's a slightly groundball-inclined pitcher, but not excessively so.  For his career, he's got a 1.35 GB/FB rate, which is somewhere in the ballpark of average I think.  He produces a GB just under 50% of the time, which is something that might've caught Dave Duncan's eye, despite the fact his repertoire (which I'll go onto) is a bit more "power"-orientated than your archetypal Duncan project....

Boyer throws a fastball (4-seam I think) which averages around 93mph for his career, but he can touch the mid-90s.  I don't have any pitchFx stuff (presumably someone else can chip in with that) but given his reasonably decent GB rate he probably throws some sinking/bottom-of-the-zone stuff, rather than trying to overpower at the letters.  He also relies heavily on a curveball sitting in the mid-70s, which he throws about 20% of the time.  However, in 2009 in his 3 appearances (when he's been shelled) his breaking ball has perplexingly been coming out a LOT faster, recording as a slider in the mid-80s.  He hasn't thrown his curve once, which is odd.  Not sure if this is something he's been working on in spring, but presumably the sooner he goes back to being a FB/CB pitcher, the better, and I'm sure that's something he'll be working on in St Louis.  He also has an occasional changeup which seemingly isn't very good, but I guess he might toss it in now and again vs LHB.

Boyer's splits are a tiny bit concerning - he's much better (as you might expect, given his pitching repertoire) against right-handed batters than southpaws.  Righties are held to a respectable 0.701 OPS against him in 317 PA, and he gets them out about 70% of the time when he faces them.  He also has a K/BB ratio close to 3 against them.  Against lefties, however, in his (limited) 198 PA, he gives up an .835 OPS, and only gets them out a little over 60% of the time.  To put that in perspective, he's worse against left-handed batters (small-ish sample size alert!) than Trever Miller is against righties, and he has a (slightly) bigger platoon split.  He probably shouldn't be facing LHB in high-leverage situations.  If he's to face lefties, it'd be nice to see if the organisation can develop his occasional changeup into a pitch he can reliably use against them.  Otherwise he'll probably walk too many and get hit reasonably hard.

Going back to 2008, his only full season of MLB pitching, and there's good reason to suspect he was a little unlucky.  Although it's worth noting BABIP doesn't influence FIP, he did have an unusually high one for a hard-throwing reliever (3.17) and he was either unlucky or (if you like) bad at holding runners - a LOB (left-on-base) percentage of 57% is astoundingly low, which is likely why his ERA looked so bad.  Despite his solid K/BB ratio I alluded to earlier, he was a bit unlucky on homeruns - he gave up 1.25 dingers per 9 innings, but 12.5% of his flyballs went long, which is a tiny bit more than you might expect, especially for a groundball-inclined pitcher.  Looking at where his 10 dingers landed, most of them were pretty cheap shots (falling in the first 5-10 yards of the HR area) so with a bit more luck (and moving to a slightly more pitcher friendly park) he might suppress that a bit.

Boyer's reasonably high K totals, decent stuff (mid-90s FB, decent breaking ball) suggests that, with a bit of the Duncan magic, he can be a useful reliever for us if a) his struggles this year in his 3IP aren't due to any injury, mental implosion or other possible long-term trend and b) he's used responsibly in a Springer stylee and brought on to face mostly right-handed hitters.  He's a guy who's always had an "upside" tag and so probably represents a bit of a "low baseline, reasonably high upside" pickup than merely being a solid middle-reliever.  Best case, he becomes a second K-Mac, albeit one who can't really pitch very well to lefties.  Worst case, he's had his struggles at times at the major league level so could sink or potentially merely be a so-so middle reliever who can eat innings.  It's hard to see anything in his stats that mark him out as being better than, say, Josh Kinney, and he doesn't have the raw stuff of Perez or Motte, but, given our RP collywobbles lately, he might be a decent addition.  For the moment, minus Brad Thompson, we have the imperfect solution of Mitchell Boggs in the major league pen (he should be making starts in Memphis, ideally) so it could be that Boyer starts (either in AAA or StL) with the intention of having him cover some of the long-man innings, with the potential of him taking Kinney's projected 7th inning spot while Josh works things out in AAA.  Another right-handed arm in the pen can't hurt and, if used primarily against right-handed hitters, he looks like he *might* stick.

Overally, I think the Braves got the best player in this deal but there's a decent argument that we've dealt an average-ish OF (albeit one who fulfills an immediate organisational need - RHB who can lead-off) from a position of depth for someone who might be able to help us now or at least pretty soon in a position we suddenly look a little shallow at (RHP in the pen).  I reckon we might've been able to do better but, given the organisation's view of Barton, I dunno if I'd be too disappointed, except that one of my favourite fringe players has been dealt.  Let's wait and see what we get from Boyer before judging this trade too harshly.

In a related point - now that Barton's gone, Craig NEEDS to come up, probably for Freese.  He can be plugged into LF against LHP once Duncan stops hitting them, and he can play some 3B otherwise.  Barden and Thurston aren't going to keep knocking the cover off the ball indefinitely and Craig looks ready.

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