Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Projecting Alexi Ogando

Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers has been one of the nicest stories of the season. Just a couple of years removed from his involvement in a human smuggling operation, Ogando has followed C. J. Wilson's example of moving from the bullpen to the rotation. Like Wilson's conversion last year, you can't ask much more than what Ogando has done this season. He has erased all lingering concern about the loss of Cliff Lee before the season started. All that said, what can we expect from Ogando the rest of the season? If the Rangers make the playoffs (which seems to be good odds at the moment), will he have anything left? Let's take a look.

First, one of the smartest things to do is to look at what other experts are saying. After all, they are experts, right? Baseball Prospectus projects Ogando to go 5-4 in 63 more innings with an ERA in that span of 2.66, a WHIP of 1.09 and a WAR of 2.1. Hey, any Rangers' fan and fantasy player would be more than happy with that. ZIPS(U) figures he'll go 3-1 the rest of the way with an ERA similar to the 2.72 he has now. Again, that's a pretty happy projection.

Those projections make this writer nervous. It's not that there is cynicism about the pitcher's abilities. The nervousness comes from Ogando being in totally uncharted waters. He has no track record. He's never pitched this many innings. All of that makes this writer want to dig much deeper.

The first thing that comes to mind is the kind of opponents Ogando has faced so far this year. He did beat the Tigers twice and very convincingly. He beat the Indians convincingly and he beat the White Sox. And he pitched brilliantly against the Angels last night. But his team lost both games to the Yankees he pitched, he lost to the Mets when they were hot and he lost to the Braves in a game he pitched well. All of his other outings have been against weak opponents.

Looking at the schedule ahead, if we go every fifth game, it looks like he'll have two more starts against the Angels, two against the Blue Jays (a team he has a no-decision against so far this season), two against the Tampa Bay Rays, one against the Mariners and one against the Indians. If things get juggled around a bit, he could end up facing the Red Sox once or twice or miss them both times. That's not an easy schedule and to win half of those games would seem the best of possible outcomes.

Alexi Ogando's batted ball statistics are kind of freaky. He gives up a somewhat high number of line drives at 21 percent, and, of course, when batters hit line drives off of him, they get on base 73 percent of the time. But his BABIP against on ground balls and fly balls is miniscule. On ground balls, that figure is .160 with an OPS of .364! On fly balls, the BABIP is .107 with an OPS of .556. His home run to fly ball ratio is very good at 7.2 percent and he seems to induce an amazingly high percentage of pop ups to the infield at 15.9 percent.

Just for the sake of comparison, C. C. Sabathia's BABIP on ground balls is .254 and Sabathia's infield pop up rate is just 5.9 percent. Overall, Ogando's overall BABIP is a good forty points lower than Sabathia's and because of that, his FIP is +75 in comparison to his ERA and his xFIP is +102. Of course, it must be stated that the Rangers have excellent infield defense and that certainly contributes to Ogando's numbers.

Just from looking this deep into his numbers, this writer's projections on Ogando would be that it would be a successful rest of the season if he won half of his games and had an ERA under four in those remaining contests.

Alexi Ogando has been a worthy replacement for Cliff Lee. The Rangers found lightening in a bottle and have pretty much replaced what Cliff Lee would have given them to this point. The difference is that Cliff Lee has a track record at the end of the season and in the post season. Ogando is a complete wild card in both situations. It's probably fortunate for the Rangers that Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are coming on so strong because relying on the continued success of Alexi Ogando makes this writer very nervous.

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