• Deduno Defies Convention

    I've been bullish on Samuel Deduno, and it's been a point of disagreement between myself and some other generally like-minded Twins writers. Aaron Gleeman has repeatedly warned against buying into the right-hander's small-sample success and the Geek recently lamented the idea of a long-term contract.

    It's easy to see why any stat-savvy observer would hold reservations. Deduno has performed poorly in a number of key peripheral categories, namely strikeout-to-walk ratio, which many -- myself included -- view as one of the most important indicators of pitcher success.

    But, as I've often said, Deduno is a unique and unconventional case, so in assessing his value going forward, I think it is wise to set aside the statistics we tend to lean on, and look at him through a different lens.

    The metric that largely causes skepticism with regards to Deduno, as mentioned above, is his K/BB ratio. Last year, in 79 innings with the Twins, the righty totaled nearly as many walks (53) as strikeouts (57), which is almost always a sign that disaster is on the horizon. This year he's cut down the walks, lowering his BB/9 rate from 6.0 to 3.3*, but he's lost a bunch of strikeouts in the process, with his K/9 dropping from 6.5 to 5.0. While improved, his 42/28 K/BB is not close to the 2-to-1 ratio you like to see as a minimum.

    (*By the way, this probably deserves a post of its own, but I'm thinking Rick Anderson might deserve a TON of credit for Deduno's unprecedented improvements with control. I remember hearing that the pitching coach was working very closely with the hurler, running two bullpen sessions between each start. The extra attention appears to be paying off because Deduno has never maintained a BB/9 rate below four... anywhere, even in the minors. For all the criticism aimed at his failures with Francisco Liriano -- another maddeningly erratic Latin pitcher who is now succeeding elsewhere -- Anderson is really redeeming himself with Deduno.)

    But, is K/BB ratio the vitally important indicator for Deduno that it is for most other pitchers? His game is based more on inducing weak contact than missing bats, and I've always felt that he can get away with handing out more walks because he's so tough to square up. After all, a free pass only costs one base at a time. Even with a heightened number of base runners, it's tricky for an opposing offense to push guys across the plate without big hits doing the damage. Deduno is holding opposing hitters to a .245 average and a .351 slugging percentage.

    This dynamic isn't captured well by popular sabermetric measures. The prevailing wisdom behind fielding independent metrics assumes that any pitcher should be expected to allow a BABIP around .300, but Deduno registered a .267 mark last year and is at .272 this year. He appears to have a sustainable skill for limiting damage on balls in play, thanks in large part to his extreme ground ball tendencies (he is the only pitcher in the majors with 60-plus innings and a GB rate above 60 percent, and I'd wager that nobody induces more weakly hit nubbers).

    Many reasonable observers are still waiting for the other shoe to drop for Deduno, but he has by and large been a very effective starter in the majors over the last two years. Last season his ERA sat at 3.55 before a rough patch in his final three outings shot that mark up above four. This year he owns a 3.18 ERA through 12 turns, and he's pitched into the seventh in all but three starts.

    There's no guarantee that this will keep up, but I'm through looking for reasons to expect a drop-off. Between his outstanding numbers at Triple-A, his dominance in the World Baseball Classic and his continuing improvement at the major-league level, I'm a believer in Deduno, even if that means moving out my comfort zone analytically.

    Once you've come around to the idea of Deduno being an ongoing fixture, you'll feel a lot better about the short-term future of this rotation. Despite being 30 years old, Deduno won't even be arbitration eligible until 2015 at the earliest, and he'll remain under team control for several years beyond.

    Late bloomers can have their advantages. And unlike with R.A. Dickey, it looks like the Twins might have opened the door for this one at the right time.
    This article was originally published in blog: Deduno Defies Conventions started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Still a hater. He has been on thin ice all year and I highly doubt he will sustain this going forward. Fun story, but.... I'm a hater.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      "Deduno is a unique and unconventional case."

      This also serves to break up the "look" of a rotation, creating adjustments from game to game for opposing hitters. Thanks for the article, Nick.
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      Love watching Deduno. Forget the stats - watch him make the other teams best hitters look bad consistently. Twins best pitcher by far.
    1. SgtSchmidt11's Avatar
      SgtSchmidt11 -
      I can't imagine it would take much to lock him up for a couple of years and isn't he really much more interesting than somebody like Correia? I really wouldn't mind if the Twins signed him.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by SgtSchmidt11 View Post
      I can't imagine it would take much to lock him up for a couple of years and isn't he really much more interesting than somebody like Correia? I really wouldn't mind if the Twins signed him.
      He is under Twins control until 2019. At that point he will be 35.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      I bought into Deduno when he started performing well this season. He's definitely not a bad back end pitcher and he has the stuff to stay. Keep him at under 5 million/year and I'm satisified with an extension. The Twins really found a gem with him. I hope Albers gets a chance to become another one.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      DeDuno pitches like the theory of pitch to contact works.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Deduno has earned the Diamond spot in the rotation for next season, and hopefully he fares better than Diamond did this season. That seems fairly optimistic at this point. I'm sure he's helped by improved middle infield defense since he seems to be a bit of a worm killer.

      That said, if he can sustain this, he's a very nice back of the rotation option. If he can figure out how to dial it back up and get those extra Ks he's given up this season, he could become a very good pitcher in general, and given his control would fit in quite well with the next wave of guys.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      By the way, this probably deserves a post of its own, but I'm thinking Rick Anderson might deserve a TON of credit for Deduno's unprecedented improvements with control.
      This could potentially be true, if the turnaround did not happen during the WBC before Andy had time to work his "magic" with him.

      Even DickNBert credited his WBC coaches for the turnaround...
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      This could potentially be true, if the turnaround did not happen during the WBC before Andy had time to work his "magic" with him.

      Even DickNBert credited his WBC coaches for the turnaround...
      This was my initial reaction, but Nick points to the end of May as the turnaround. So he has already had a "cycle" this season.

      I would compare him to Liriano but he doesn't have 3 plus pitches. Just that fastball that looks like Felix's changeup at 89 mph and the curveball which is a pretty good pitch.

      Like just about everyone else on the staff, he hasn't been able to lean on his third pitch in his third trip through the order. If he can make that changeup an equalizer against LHBs then we may have something. Until then I won't hold my breath that he'll be able to get through a lineup 3 times a night consistently.
    1. blindeke's Avatar
      blindeke -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      He is under Twins control until 2019. At that point he will be 35.
      It's like nobody remembers the Blackburn deal...
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      This could potentially be true, if the turnaround did not happen during the WBC before Andy had time to work his "magic" with him.

      Even DickNBert credited his WBC coaches for the turnaround...
      He was with his WBC team for a matter of weeks and pitched a total of 13 innings in that tourney. Pretty huge stretch to suggest that his short time there was entirely responsible for a sustained turnaround that has lasted through 12 starts against major-league competition.

      You have a consistent tendency to oversimplify the adjustments made by players and their coaches. It's a complicated and ongoing process. I'm sure his time in the WBC contributed to his improved results (in no small part because of the confidence he gained) but come on.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      I don't know if I'm sold on him completely, but I do know I'd rather watch him pitch than any of our other starters by a good margin.

      Deduno's in a huge list of players on this year's team that you can look at and go, "maybe he's gonna be really good, if..." We've seen flashes from so many guys this year, but so few have really shown any consistency (barring maybe some bullpen folks and Mauer). He still has a couple months to the year though, if he keeps this up I'll look at him as a potential part of the future as opposed to just a stopgap.
    1. hansob's Avatar
      hansob -
      still not buying as anything more than a 4th or 5th starter. His BABIP with men on base is .226, and with men in scoring position, it's .206. The ground ball % is encouraging, but ground ball pitchers actually tend to have higher BABIPs, since ground balls end up as hits more than fly balls.

      Another BABIP red flag. He's 136th out of 137 pitchers (70 innings min) for infield fly balls, which is a pretty key component of predicting future BABIP.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      I think some pitchers are pretty good at inducing weak contact, but the ones who have prolonged success tend to give themselves more room for error (or bad luck) by keeping walks down AND maintaing a decent K/9. But nobody is a weak-grounder machine. Eventually, probably before too long, Deduno will lose a little something--speed, some movement, or control--off his pitches; and maybe his BB/9 goes up again, or his K/9 keeps falling, and he won't have any margin for error when hitters pounce on his mistakes. It will be like Mays, Silva and Blackburn all over again.

      I'm fine with the Twins sending him out there until that happens. He's earned a job next spring. And, really, kudos to him and Anderson for getting his walks under control this season. I just hope they never, ever give him a Mays/Blackburn multi-year deal.
    1. LimestoneBaggy's Avatar
      LimestoneBaggy -
      Quote Originally Posted by hansob View Post
      still not buying as anything more than a 4th or 5th starter. His BABIP with men on base is .226, and with men in scoring position, it's .206. The ground ball % is encouraging, but ground ball pitchers actually tend to have higher BABIPs, since ground balls end up as hits more than fly balls.

      Another BABIP red flag. He's 136th out of 137 pitchers (70 innings min) for infield fly balls, which is a pretty key component of predicting future BABIP.
      Deduno as a fifth starter. I'm buying into that team. Even with some regression to the mean.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by hansob View Post
      still not buying as anything more than a 4th or 5th starter. His BABIP with men on base is .226, and with men in scoring position, it's .206. The ground ball % is encouraging, but ground ball pitchers actually tend to have higher BABIPs, since ground balls end up as hits more than fly balls.

      Another BABIP red flag. He's 136th out of 137 pitchers (70 innings min) for infield fly balls, which is a pretty key component of predicting future BABIP.
      That's some excellent info - great first post!
    1. DedunoTheMuffinMan?'s Avatar
      DedunoTheMuffinMan? -
      Quote Originally Posted by hansob View Post
      still not buying as anything more than a 4th or 5th starter. His BABIP with men on base is .226, and with men in scoring position, it's .206. The ground ball % is encouraging, but ground ball pitchers actually tend to have higher BABIPs, since ground balls end up as hits more than fly balls.

      Another BABIP red flag. He's 136th out of 137 pitchers (70 innings min) for infield fly balls, which is a pretty key component of predicting future BABIP.
      As a GB% increases, BABIP goes up and then back down, according to this: http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/inde...ut_baseball/#1. This can be seen by how weak the groundballs Deduno typically gives up are. Those aren't going for hits. It also helps him to have Florimon and Dozier behind him.

      Deduno also ranks 7th lowest in LD% among pitchers with 70+ innings, and LD% is a huge factor in BABIP. Batters can't squarely hit the ball against him. I think it's reasonable to expect Deduno to keep a low BABIP, but he probably won't continue to be so lucky with men on base.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      This was my initial reaction, but Nick points to the end of May as the turnaround. So he has already had a "cycle" this season.

      I would compare him to Liriano but he doesn't have 3 plus pitches. Just that fastball that looks like Felix's changeup at 89 mph and the curveball which is a pretty good pitch.

      Like just about everyone else on the staff, he hasn't been able to lean on his third pitch in his third trip through the order. If he can make that changeup an equalizer against LHBs then we may have something. Until then I won't hold my breath that he'll be able to get through a lineup 3 times a night consistently.
      A lot of Deduno's effectiveness comes from his pitching motion, where he cocks his hand right behind his ear, a la Bartolo Colon. From that spot, like Colon, Deduno gets extra spin, as well as good deception. Another factor, overlooked by many, is Deduno's athleticism. He fields his position as well as any pitcher I've seen, and when he fires the ball to a base, it comes like a rocket, with no bend. That helps when you induce such a high percentage of grounders.

      With his deception, his movement and his defense, I see no reason that Samuel Deduno 2.0 can't continue to be a good major league starter.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by hansob View Post
      still not buying as anything more than a 4th or 5th starter. His BABIP with men on base is .226, and with men in scoring position, it's .206. The ground ball % is encouraging, but ground ball pitchers actually tend to have higher BABIPs, since ground balls end up as hits more than fly balls.

      Another BABIP red flag. He's 136th out of 137 pitchers (70 innings min) for infield fly balls, which is a pretty key component of predicting future BABIP.
      Isn't that just another manifestation of his being a ground ball pitcher?
      If batters seldom get under his pitches they would hit very few infield fly balls.
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