Lancaster’s game story today (obviously) focuses on Eric Milton, and raises some interesting points.
Since his first start off the disabled list, a rough outing May 20 in Detroit that saw him allow 13 baserunners and five runs in five innings, Milton has been nearly untouchable.
“He’s never walked a lot of people, he’s always made guys put the ball in play,” said Reds manager Jerry Narron. “What hurt him last year, I thought, more than anything, was he threw a lot of fastballs in fastball counts in poor locations. So far, he has been mixing his pitches real well, he has been changing speeds real well. He is just not going to throw somebody a cookie just to keep from walking them.
They made plenty of contact and got the ball in the air more often than not, as only three of the 18 outs he recorded on balls in play came on the ground, but nothing had any oomph coming off the bat. It was like shooting popcorn out of a cannon.
“He jammed a lot of guys, I thought, with some fly balls,” said catcher David Ross. “Some blooper hits, too. The ones he gave up weren’t really hard-hit.
Milton attributes his success to the Mario Soto-taught changeup.
The nine million dollar question is whether Milton can sustain these results. I’m always worried when a pitcher’s success is tied directly to “better results on balls put in play.” I’m not going to re-open the whole Voros McCracken debate, but Milton is having remarkable luck in that regard.
Batting Average on balls put into play. A pitcher’s average on batted balls ending a plate appearance, excluding home runs. Based on the research of Voros McCracken and others, BABIP is mostly a function of a pitcher’s defense and luck, rather than persistent skill. Thus, pitchers with abnormally high or low BABIPs are good bets to see their performances regress to the mean. A typical BABIP is about .290.
Miltion’s strikeout rate in that stretch is around 5.1, which is okay, if not good. (Though if we’re going to parse an already tiny sample, he’s only struck out 4 in his last 2 starts (14.2 IP).