Defending the Undefendable

What I’m about to say is heresy to Braves fans. And it’s even more outrageous given the timing of my defense. But, I have a confession to make: I think Adam Bernero isn’t that bad a pitcher and he should continue to pitch for the Atlanta Braves. Now, before I get into it, I want to keep something straight. I’m not campaigning to get the guy in the Hall of Fame or even on the All-Star team. My point is that Adam Bernero has been a decent major league pitcher this year.

Let’s look at Bernero over the 2005 season compared three other benchmarks.

 Name/ Group	ERA	WHIP	K/9	BB/9	HR/9	K/BB	FIP

Adam	Bernero	6.49	1.56	7.12	2.51	1.05	2.83	3.97
Braves	Bullpen	4.75	1.59	6.58	4.16	0.93	1.58	4.47
NL	Mean	4.41	1.41	6.50	3.38	1.07	1.92	4.42
Jorge	Sosa	2.78	1.46	6.39	5.19	1.00	1.23	4.95

As you can see, except for ERA, Bernero has performed better or about the same compared to the rest of the Braves bullpen, the mean of the NL, and even Jorge Sosa. Why do I put in Sosa? Well, because Braves fans everywhere our heaping praise on this guy, with some people suggesting he should keep a permanent spot in the rotation. The thing is, though Adam Bernero hasn’t pitched so well over his career, he’s doing things this year that prevent runs much better than in the past. His failures this season have been from being bad in high leverage situations, which are very visible. The runs he’s given up the past two games have been on dinky hits. ERA is a terribly variable stat to judge pitchers, and especially relief pitchers. And concentrating on a few bad outcomes, diverts attention from good performance, on which we should be making our judgments. Adam’s enemy has been bad luck more than himself.

It’s important to remember the advice of Paul DePodesta:

I christened the new model in the front office: “be the house.” Every season we play 162 games. Individual players amass over 600 plate appearances. Starting pitchers face 1,000 hitters. We have plenty of sample size. I encouraged everyone to think of the house advantage in everything we did. We may not always be right but we’d be right a lot more often than we’d be wrong. In baseball, if you win about 60% of your games, you’re probably in the playoffs.

I would advise the Braves to stick with Bernero if he keeps pitching like he has been. Always remember, be the house.

6 Responses “Defending the Undefendable”

  1. creynolds says:

    I respect your analysis, and I understand what you’re getting at. But if you look at his career, I believe the only significant positive comparison is between his BB/9 and the current Braves pen/Jorge Sosa (although I could not find a career FIP). And I think that if you exclude April, you will see a pitcher who is quickly sliding back toward his established past performance. I agree that Sosa is getting far more generous treatment from us fans, and that his career preformance and 2005 peripherals are poor. But he is still relatively new to pitching (at least at a pro level), and it’s hard not to be impressed with is stuff (for what it’s worth) and therefore mroe optimistic.

    It’s probably not fair, but I don’t think it’s as bad as all that either.

  2. JC says:

    There’s no doubt that Bernero has not been as good as of late, but he hasn’t been that bad, especially when you consider the small sample size.

    Month IP BAA K9 BB9 HR9 FIP K/BB
    April 13 0.204 8.31 1.38 0.69 2.82 6.00
    May 16 0.303 6.75 3.94 0.00 3.01 1.71
    June 14 0.391 6.43 1.93 2.57 6.13 3.33

    He pitched about the same in April and May.
    The big jump is Bernero’s FIP in June comes from the four bombs he gave up. But he only gave up one in the previous two months. HRs are a bit fluky, especially in the short-run. If he had walked guys and gave up homers in the past two games, I would be more worried. But he didn’t. He “allowed” dinky hits on balls in play.

    You’re right to point out that he has not pitched as well recently. But, I think it would be a mistake to throw out the previous two months of good pitching on the basis of a not-so-good month.

  3. John says:

    You hit it right on the nose about being bad in high-leverage situations. Bernero is trailing only Kolb for worst WPA among Braves relievers this year (-1.920 to -.962). His WPA has also been -.543 in his four high-leverage outings (P greater than .1).

    That said, I think you’re right on the money in saying that he’ll get better. He’s been the victim of some bad luck and has allowed some untimely hits. Cox still seems to have faith, though, because Bernero’s average initial P is still climbing (.047 on the year, .066 in his last 10 games). Hopefully he’ll continue to get more chances to prove he’s a solid reliever.

  4. chris says:

    he also has an OPS of 2.000 so maybe id keep him around

  5. Mac Thomason says:

    Coming into tonight’s atrocity, Bernero was allowing a .277/.320/.394 line with nobody on base, a .337/.386/.483 line with runners on, and a .408/.474/.612 line with runners in scoring position. There are a variety of ways of looking at this, but without looking at a cause the fact is that when he’s had runners on base those runners are scoring, and that his ERA is like it is because of this. Maybe he can’t pitch from the stretch. But he should be outrighted.

  6. Grant says:

    The pro’s and con’s regarding Bernero’s performance point to the obvious conclusion that he is a middle of the road reliever who has been struggling since the last week of May to record quality middle and late inning relief. It hasn’t been that one bad game, its been 10 appearances that he has surrended 2 or more runs. While I will agree that ERA is not the most telling statistic for a pitcher, you can start making a case against him with the very unspectacular… let’s be honest, horrendous, 11.57 mark since May 28th. To be fair, his K/BB ratio is very solid but that statistic tells only a small portion of the story but points to the clear fact that opposing batters are hitting their way on base (.313 BAA). You can get lost in the other situational stats that may point out that Bernero is putting the ball over the plate, but the bottom -line is that Major League hitters are fooling him more than he is fooling them. A pitcher can record every out via strikeout and it still not matter if they give up an average of 1.29 runs every inning. That’s just my opinion. Bobby Cox has alot more faith in this guy than I do. Bottomline is, at the end of the day, a hit is a hit no matter how far it travels.