Player Profile: Zach Britton

Evolution is a process of constant branching and expansion.Stephen Jay Gould britton
If you are into Darwinism this may be true, but when a starting pitcher moves to the bullpen sometimes simplifying their repertoire is the key to success. As an example, I am going to look at Zach Britton who quite possibly has been Baltimore’s most effective reliever. With Tommy Hunter’s struggles with putting people on base and his propensity to the long ball, Britton may seize this job for near term and keep it the rest of the year. It was not too long ago that Glen Perkins was a struggling starting pitcher who when moved to the bullpen flourished. First, here is a chart of Britton’s career statistics with his full arsenal of pitches:

Zach Britton BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Fourseam FB

.384

.616

.232

.380

Sinker

.260

.360

.100

.291

Change

.259

.371

.112

.282

Slider

.110

.121

.011

.238

Curve

.087

.087

.000

.143

Just looking at the data above it is easy to see that Britton’s fastball was much too hittable as a starting pitcher. However, his sinker, slider and curve ball all were effective pitches for him but as the batting order turned over he struggled using all of pitches. It is a different mindset coming in as a reliever as opposed to being a starter and establishing the fast ball. In fact, as a reliever Britton has not used his four seam fastball at all. Here are the same numbers as above in 2014 strictly as a reliever:

Zach Britton BAA SLG ISO BABIP K
Sinker

.159

.188

.029

.186

10

Slider

.000

.000

.000

.000

4

Curve

.000

.000

.000

.000

1

It is crazy to think there will not be some regression on the numbers above and there will be. But it does illustrate how using less pitches has helped make Britton a better relief pitcher. In his save conversion last night he strictly used his sinker for three outs. In fact the most sliders he has thrown in 2014 was four against the Yankees on April 7th and only two curveballs against Tampa Bay on the sixth of this month. As much as the scouting reports say to sit on his sinker, the fact that he can go to his slider and curveball will help him stay ahead of hitters the second time he faces them. And to the opposite of Tommy Hunter who has a career GB% of 41 and GB/FB ratio of 1.27, Britton’s numbers sparkle as his GB% is 57.5 for his career and his numbers for 2014 are off the charts. In his 22.1 IP for 2014 Britton has posted a 83.9% GB percentage and his GB/FB ratio is 13. Let that sink in for a minute, 13 ground balls to each fly ball. Since this situation in Baltimore may be fluid, Britton is a speculative pickup for any fantasy team. But if he gets the next few chances, he may take hold of the job for the season. Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com here are Britton’s numbers as a reliever and a starter:

  • Zach Britton (Starter) – 46 G, 1.49 K/BB, 279/353/407, 4.86 ERA, 1.52 WHIP
  • Zach Britton (Reliever) – 19 G, 2.57 K/BB, 181/245/234, 0.67 ERA, 0.89 WHIP

Since I compared Britton’s assent in the bullpen to Glen Perkins, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at not only his statistics but what pitches he uses as a closer also. Like Britton, Perkins featured the same five pitches that Britton did as a starter. But Perkins is a bit different as a reliever as he uses his four seam fastball, a sinker and his slider. Perkins game logs shows a variance of which of the three pitches he relies on in each appearance which enhances his effectiveness. For comparison, here is Perkins career statistics as a starter and reliever:

  • Glen Perkins (Starter) – 44 G, 1.92 K/BB, 302/344/483, 5.06 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
  • Glen Perkins (Reliever) – 250 G, 4.03 K/BB, 231/289/346, 2.78 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

Until Britton uses more sliders his strikeout rate will not match Perkins but I think he can follow a similar career path going forward. It will be interesting to see if Buck Showalter will rely on Britton as the closer but if he can keep the ball on the ground and use his new three pitch arsenal to his advantage, he may be a steal of the waiver wire this weekend.

Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow us on Twitter @RotoAnalysis and @gjewett9

Zach Britton picture credit: https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSARgX6JzWhF-

Statistical Credits:

Fangraphs.com

Baseball-Reference.com

BrooksBaseball.net

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Flirting with the Waiver Wire: Week 7 | Roto Analysis - May 18, 2014

    [...] latest failed save, the next chance for Baltimore went to unheralded Zach Britton. I profiled him here and his sinker has been filthy this year for the Orioles. I compared him to Glen Perkins and if he [...]

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