"The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." -Mark Twain
My eyebrows raised in a skeptical nature when I'd read that the Twins had promoted Anthony Swarzak to triple-A Rochester in late July. Because for most of the season in New Britain, whoever was taking the mound on most of Swarzak's starts certainly didn't look like Swarzak. Rather, the results didn't look like Swarzak's. When I voiced my confusion to the promotion, Dianna was quick to point out something I was more or less unaware of, which was the sad state of the Rock Cats' defense. But after 20 starts and more than 100 innings, the 5.67 ERA and .304 opponent average couldn't all be pinned on the defense. Could it?
According to fangraphs, Swarzak's FIP (which we actually think is xFIP thanks to how they calculated Perkins' "FIP" increasing after his start against the Angels last week) was 4.42; a full run shorter than that 5.67 ERA we mentioned a second ago. FirstInning.com lists his double-A FIP as 4.46. This tells me that Swarzak was actually pitching better than his numbers indicate, and also that he likely would have seen his numbers sway back toward the mean...which in his case was a good thing. Also, he was still striking out two batters for every one he walked, so while the strikeout rates weren't as high as we've been used to seeing over the last four years he wasn't putting himself in dire jeopardy with the additional free passes. Indeed, with his spiked home run rate combined with a weak defense behind him, I'm ready to buy the fact that I may have under-estimated how good Swarzak had been in New Britain.
Last night in Syracuse, Swarzak made his sixth start for the Rochester Red Wings. It was his best night yet, as he logged eight strong innings, striking out six and walking a pair en route to another win. He's now 5-0, and proving my skeptical ass dead wrong.
Strangely enough, some of those same peripherals we've been discussing, the ones that insisted he was better than his numbers in double-A, are hinting at cracks beneath the surface of his mind-numbing start with in triple-A. His strikeout rates (5.69 K/9), down. Walk rates (3.31 BB/9), holding steady. Additionally, while fangraphs hasn't updated their stats from yesterday, going into his eight-inning stomp on Syracuse his (x)FIP was an incredible 5.23. Firstinning.com HAS updated their stats, and their FIP for Swarzak sits at 4.77. But he's still getting amazing results.
But one thing I've come to realize...okay, two things I've come to realize...is that first, I'm wrong about a lot of stuff, partially due to the fact that my knowledge of advanced metrics is relatively limited in some aspects. And also because sometimes I'm just wrong. Second, while there's nothing better than stats to predict future performance, when you're talking about how good or how effective someone has already been, it's okay to throw some things out the window.
Swarzak is one of those cases. No matter what's to come, he's been remarkably effective in his six starts for the Red Wings, and he's put himself back on the radar. He's earned his promotion.
Oh yeah, and he doesn't turn 23 for two weeks.