Hector Noesi in May: A Look at Results, Pitch-Type, and Handedness

I’ve made no secret that I consider Hector Noesi the hidden gem of the Pineda-Montero trade. I think he’s got potentially-dominant stuff, and has a minor league resume that indicates he’s got control. That said, I am not afraid to admit I’m wrong. I made a projection that Noesi would be very good this year, and for the first month of the year he wasn’t very good. He’s been much better in May than he was in April—at least as results go—and that has made me feel warm and fuzzy.

But this blog shouldn’t exist if only to say “Hector Noesi had an 8.83 ERA in March/April and he’s got a 3.43 ERA in May! Fixed!” The reason this blog exists, apart from being a hobby of mine that doesn’t include barley malt and hops (at least in the morning) is to occasionally be a voice in the nodding crowd asking “Why?”

And that’s where we are with Noesi. It serves my agenda as a guy making projections to just assume that Noesi has solved any and all of his problems, and commence with the self-back-patting. But to not be that douchebag, I’d like to dig into Noesi’s peripherals and see if they may explain some sustainable reason for his recent success.

Hector Noesi is doing a lot to make me look like less of an idiot. That's very nice of him. I hope he can keep it up.

  March/April May
xFIP 5.33 4.74
K/9 6.23 4.71
BB/9 3.63 2.79
HR/9 2.08 1.29
ISO .241 .190
GB% 28.3 40.5
LD% 20.0 15.1
FB% 51.7 44.4
BABIP .316 .165
Starts 4 6
IP 17.1 42.0
IP/GS 4.1 7.0

Most of this is pretty good news. The only metric with any weight that has not improved is his K/9. He’s walking less batters and giving up less homeruns. He’s still giving up too many homeruns, but he’s giving up less, and at this point incremental improvement isn’t anything to sneeze at. The elephant in the room though is the enormous gap between his ERA and his xFIP. I love xFIP, because it helps to normalize park factors, and displays process rather than results. It’s not perfect though, and sometimes there can be contributing factors to a guy’s success that xFIP—especially in a two month sample—doesn’t capture.

Namely, just watching Noesi it seems like he’s executing his pitches better than he did at the beginning of the season. That’s not to say he’s flawless, for example, last night Mark Trumbo sent a Hector Noesi offspeed pitch into orbit. But generally he has executed his pitches better.

One of Noesi’s strengths, by my estimation before the season, was that he used his pitches in way they maximized their effectiveness in platoon splits. He doesn’t throw his slider much to lefties, is basically what that boils down to. But his best pitch is his changeup. He’s got a really nasty changeup. And that’s why I thought he’d be able to make the transition from swingman to full-time starter.

Here’s how his pitch selection has changed so far, the effectiveness of those pitches, and how they relate to batter handedness.

March/April

Pitch Use% SwSt% Use%vR SwSt%vR Use%vL SwSt%vL
FT 42.2 5.1 32.3 5.7 52.2 4.8
FF 20.6 3.0 26.8 2.3 14.3 4.3
CH 20.6 16.4 22.6 13.5 18.6 20.0
SL 10.8 8.6 14.6 8.3 6.8 9.1
CU 5.8 5.3 3.7 0.0 8.1 7.7

May 

Pitch Use% SwSt% Use%vR SwSt%vR Use%vL SwSt%vL
FT 39.9 4.2 37.6 4.4 41.5 4.1
FF 19.0 5.4 17.8 4.7 19.8 5.8
CH 13.9 8.5 3.3 0.0 21.2 9.5
SL 19.0 16.1 34.7 16.7 8.0 14.3
CU 8.1 20.8 6.6 37.5 9.2 12.5

Data courtesy of the pitch F/X system at Texas Leaguers.

Noesi nearly tripled his use of his slider against righties. He’s basically ditched all of his other offspeed pitches, and reduced the use of his four-seam fastball to throw his slider all the time. One of every three pitches to righties is a slider. He’s even upped the ante on his changeup and curveball against lefties, throwing them at an increased rate, and has successfully mixed his slider in a little bit more (hopefully that trend halts and retreats).

While the three percent difference in Noesi’s overall fastball use is pretty negligible, the enormous change against righties, and the smaller, but still significant change against lefties is a promising sign that Noesi is growing as a pitcher, and should continue to improve. Throwing handedness-effective off speed pitches is a great way to induce ground balls without a heavy sinker. Noesi is doing that in droves.

Basically since Miguel Olivo went down, Hector Noesi has started throwing different pitches in different situations. He’s been much more effective too. Coincidence?

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