clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Joaquin Benoit and the Dipoto Plan

New, 68 comments

What does Statcast have to say about the Mariners' newest reliever?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Dipoto has wasted no time as he begins to revamp the Mariners’ roster. We’re just a week and a half into the offseason and he’s already made two trades. As he settles into his new position, his plan for the Mariners and the philosophies that back it are becoming clearer. Acquiring Joaquin Benoit from the Padres yesterday is a perfect example of these values Dipoto has subscribed to.

Yesterday, David Laurila from FanGraphs posted an interview with Jerry Dipoto from the GM meetings that took place this week. It was a very candid look at the vision he’s bringing to the Mariners and there were a number of interesting nuggets to pour over and analyze. We’ve heard Dipoto stress the importance of a strong defense and a pitching staff built to maximize the environment in Seattle. Here’s the key quote I’d like to dive into today:

"Ground balls aren’t as critical to us as they would be to a normal team, because our ballpark absorbs fly balls a little better. I do place high value on a sinkerball-strikeout guy – what we internally call a quadrant-four guy – but that’s maybe less critical to us."

Note: if you haven’t read the whole interview yet, go read it. Now.

Throughout the interview, Dipoto shows an acute awareness of the limitations and strengths of Safeco Field. Dipoto also stresses the importance of Statcast to the evolution of analytics—specifically on the defensive side of things. That defensive data is proprietary to major league organizations for now, but the publically available Statcast data has given us new toys to play with when it comes to player analysis.

I’ve already played with some of the batted ball data on the offensive side of things, now I’d like to use it to help analyze the Mariners’ newest reliever. Again, this data is known to be incomplete and few concrete conclusions can be made using it. I do believe the Statcast data can be useful when used in conjunction with other, more solid data.

Joaquin Benoit is a 38-year-old, right-handed reliever who has spent time with the Padres, Tigers, Rays, and Rangers during his 14-year major league career. He’s enjoyed a career renaissance since his time in Tampa. Beginning in 2010, his average fastball velocity jumped up two miles per hour over his previously established career norms. It hasn’t fallen since and he’s enjoyed great success as a high-leverage bullpen arm.

Jeff Sullivan had a great write up on Benoit yesterday after the trade was completed. In his analysis, he focuses on Benoit’s ability to limit hard contact on balls in play against him. Since 2010, he’s allowed the second-lowest BABIP in baseball. Using the Statcast data available to us, we can reinforce this evidence using average batted ball velocity against his pitches. Last year, Benoit led the league in limiting hard contact, with an average batted ball velocity against him of just 83.2 mph.

Benoit relies on three different pitches in his arsenal, a fastball, a split-change, and a slider:

Four-seam

Splitter

Slider

95.3 mph;

45.5%

85.1 mph;

34.9%

88.4 mph;

19.6%

Last year, he relied on his splitter more often than ever before. That may be one of the reasons why his groundball rate jumped up ten points to the highest point of his career. More groundball certainly can’t hurt, and even if it was just a one year blip (like a similar spike in 2013), Safeco Field should mitigate the damage off of fly balls.

I wanted to see if we could discern exactly how his pitch arsenal helps him manage the contact against him. Using the available Statcast data, I calculated the average batted ball velocity for each of his pitches:

Pitch

Average Batted Ball Velocity

Sample Size

Four-seam

88.2 mph

35

Splitter

79.8 mph

39

Slider

81.5 mph

27

Both of his secondary pitches are deadly weapons when it comes to limiting hard contact. Remember the donut hole we use when analyzing batted ball velocity? The batted ball velocity Benoit is inducing off his fastball sits right in the middle of that donut hole, the land of weak fly outs. All three of these marks are well above league average and are a prime example of how Benoit mitigates potential mistakes.

If Dipoto is truly committed to building a team that is able to maximize their home environment, it follows that the players he acquires will have skills that are in turn maximized by Safeco Field. Joaquin Benoit is a perfect example of this symbiotic relationship. His ability to limit hard contact will play directly into the strengths of his new home park.

Jerry Dipoto has a plan and he’s sticking to it. Whether or not the plan leads to success, the fact that he’s been able to articulate it so clearly has been refreshing. To follow through with acquisitions that match the stated plan gives me more confidence in him than I ever felt with Jack Zduriencik. That alone is a victory for the Mariners.