Alfredo Simon took the hill last night against Colorado Rockies for his seventh start since the All-Star Break. Since posting an amazing first half, going 12-3 and making the All Star Game, Simon has struggled since the midsummer classic. During those seven starts, Simon is on the wrong side of his career averages in K/9, FIP, xFIP, HR/FB (barely), and LOB%. Is this just a rough stretch of games or a sign thats its finally time to shut him down?
Since the All-Star Break, Simon is 0-5 and has pitched 31.1 innings over six games. That clocks in at just over five innings a start. His ERA in the first half was 2.70. After the All-Star Break, his ERA is 5.46. Not surprisingly, the Luck Dragons finally came out: Simon’s BABIP first half second/half split is .232/.324 (although going into last night’s game against the Rockies, his second half BABIP was at .307).
Simon’s recent struggles have created three possibilities about his performance this year:
- His first half ERA was driven by an unsustainably high BABIP and strand rate. Second half Simon is the real Simon.
- Simon is better in Cincinnati than he was in Baltimore, but his arm is wearing out due to exhaustion.
- Simon learned how to maximize his talents under Bryan Price and is an All Star pitcher. He will bounce back to pre-ASB form as the season goes on.
This has created not shortage of debate on RLN, and when Simon took his sparkling 12-3 record to the All Star Game, some major baseball news outlets began asking about Simon’s performance.
Here are his full stats broken down by first half and second half compared to his career numbers and his time in Baltimore:
From the table you can see his strikesouts are down, walks are up, and his strand rate is coming back into the normal MLB range.
As I’ve written before, regression can be mean.
But the big question is this: which is the real Afredo Simon? Admittedly, he has only thrown 31.1 innings since the All Star break, however he was able to sustain a very high level of performance for the first half of the season.
Theory 1: Simon is better, he’s just tired.
Simon’s time with the Reds has been the best of his career. His ERA in 2012 (2.66) and 2013 (2.87) were both below his career average, and they were sustained despite two very different BABIP’s (.337 / .236). His FIP during those years was 3.19 and 3.96, respectively. It is hard to ignore off the fact that his three best years are all under Bryan Price.
Theory 1 argues that Simon has just worn down, his IP this year (148) is getting close to double his workload last year (87.2) and almost three times his workload in 2012 (61.0). Although his arm only has 481.1 innings on it, he is 33 years old.
Theory 2: The real Alfredo Simon showed up after the All Star Break.
In 2011, Alfredo Simon was striking out hitters more than the most recent Alfredo Simon while walking fewer. This does not bode well for the theory that Simon learned to pitch better in Cincinnati.
Furthermore, Simon’s recent skid has not been due to facing superior competition. Since the All Star Break, Simons has pitched against (offensive WAR next to team):
In his six starts, he has pitched against one top-ten team in offensive WAR. Four of out his six starts have come against teams in the bottom half of the league.
Simon on the wrong side of his his career averages in strikeouts, strand percentage, ERA, FIP, and xFIP. Despite his recent struggles, Simon’s 2012 and 2013 seasons provide about 140 innings of evidence that he is a different pitcher today than he was in Baltimore. His first half was inflated by an unsustainable BABIP and strand rate, but his career averages show that he is not as bad as his recent starts indicate.
Fatigue, no doubt, plays a large part in his sudden decline. Going back to 2006, he has never eclipsed 119 innings in a season, and now he is almost at 150. If the Reds keep him in the rotation for the rest of the season, which they might have to due to Homer Bailey’s injury, then we are looking at about six or seven more starts. At 5 innings an outing, that puts him at 180 innings, something he has never done as a professional baseball player. Im sure the Reds medical staff has been consulted about this, but at some point you have to wonder if the Reds are endangering Simon’s ability to pitch in the future due to their demands in 2014 (or, Carlos Fisher’ing him).
So has this rough patch of games “evened out” his luck from the first half? Not even close. Even if we assume that Simon’s career line is where he should be as a starter (which is ambitious, to say the least), then his BABIP will need to increase by almost thirty points for the luck the “even out” as he regresses. If you prefer old school stats, his ERA is almost half a run better than his career line. If luck is starting to pull Simon back to his career line, then we have a lot more second half Simon ahead of us.
All of these variables make it hard to figure out Simon’s true undying talent. His 4.90 ERA in Baltimore was inflated by an unlucky .317 BABIP, and his two years of relief with the Reds show improvement over his time as a reliever with Baltimore. His second half is worse than his career line, and his time starting in Baltimore. So while I think we can conclude that Simon has improved due to his time in the Queen City, his ability as a starting pitcher is somewhere in the 4.40 ERA range, not the 5+ or sub 3- one. This makes for a suitable fourth or fifth option for next season, but not the budding #2 that some might have seen earlier this year.
Despite his improvement over the past few years, its clear Simon has run out of gas in 2014 and the Reds need to look for someone else to take the ball every five days. Maybe we can down two birds with one stone and land Adam Dunn.