Sunday, December 23, 2007

Juan Feliciano in Japan, again

Another followup to this and this.

Coach Scott Perlman has explained why one might have expected Japan's dirt infields to be especially rough on Juan Feliciano. In short, the superfast infields make ground balls more likely to be base hits, so a groundball pitcher would be less successful in Japan than he might be in, say, Gezer, where the concern is giving up fly balls which can become easy home runs.

Unfortunately, the stats don't support the claim that Feliciano's problems in Japan were caused by giving up too many ground balls. While I don't have groundball/flyball stats for Japan, I think I can safely refute that claim.

First, as I pointed out in my latest post, he was one of the worst in the league in Japan in strikeout rate.

Second, it turns out he was also one of the worst in home run rate. He gave up a home run in 5.7% of at bats, ranking 53 out of the 54 qualifying relievers. League average was 2.7%. (Average in the MLB in 2007 was 2.95%, contrary to the claim that power hitting is far less important in Japan.)

In fact the FIP stat I cited in my last post incorporates only homers, strikeouts and walks - nothing that would be affected by hits on balls in play. And Juan ranked lowest among the Japanese relievers.

So whatever it was that failed him in Japan, it wasn't the fault of dirt infields. At least not primarily.

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