The Boston Red Sox may have gotten some legitimate bullpen help. Trevor Kelley is being called up from Triple-A but this pessimism about him needs to stop.
Trevor Kelley is a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher. He isn’t going to completely gas hitters but he’s effective with what he has using a sidearm delivery. This season, he has a 0.96 ERA in 37 2/3 innings with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. Opponents are hitting just .204 against him, as he’s posted a 1.06 WHIP. Kelley’s struck out 34 batters, walking just 12 and allowing only two home runs.
For some reason, way too many Red Sox fans are not excited about him. I understand being cautious. I even understand being pessimistic at this point. However, why does the optimism for prospects end at Kelley?
People love to point out a few things – so let’s discredit them.
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“He’s not a strikeout pitcher!” No, he’s not, but 199 Ks in 219 1/3 career innings isn’t bad at all – and not every effective pitcher racks up strikeouts at insane rates. A name that comes to mind is the great Kyle Hendricks. A fantastic pitcher who has a career ERA of 3.10 in 877 1/3 MLB innings. He also has just 743 strikeouts in that time – a 7.6 K/9. Kelley’s 199 strikeouts in 219 1/3 career MiLB innings gives him a K/9 of 8.2.
Before you try to argue that MLB is different than the minors so the numbers will only decrease – Hendricks has 391 strikeouts in 460 2/3 innings in the minors – a 7.6 K/9, the same as his number in the Majors.
“He has a high fly ball rate and xFIP!” Okay, not to be preachy, but if you’re only looking at the stats and don’t watch the games, please don’t bring this up. A fly ball could be an extremely lazy fly to short outfield – or it could be a ball that went over the fence. Not all fly balls are created equal.
Meanwhile, xFIP is a weird stat. Here’s the full explanation by Steve Slowinski of FanGraphs. The short story is, part of it adjusts to the home run rate. xFIP basically takes the league average of homers per fly ball rate and applies it to the pitcher. However, this brings me back to my earlier point – not all fly balls are created equal. Just because Kelley’s giving up a lot of fly balls doesn’t mean they’re destined to be homers. It’s a hypothetical stat.
Kelley has given up two home runs in 37 2/3 innings in Triple-A this year. They’re using the same baseballs as the Major Leagues – the ones everyone believes are being juiced. Shouldn’t that give you some hope?
Finally, the Red Sox have had major bullpen issues all year. Are people really in a position to complain about them trying something new? Or would you prefer they continue giving the same guys chances they don’t deserve?
I’m not saying everyone needs to believe Trevor Kelley’s going to be a superstar (although I do believe he’s going to be very good). I just think it’s unfair to bury him before he even gets a chance.