Under The Knife 5/8/23
Clay Davenport Checks In on Dylan Crews
Dylan Crews has been flat busting up Division 1 this year, leaping to the top of almost every draft list. His slash line looks like a typo, putting him in line to be the prize that the Pirates win in the lottery. While I’ve long thought that Max Clark was the best talent in the draft - he’s still a lottery pick - it’s hard to go against an historic run like Crews is having at a higher level.
It got to the point where I’ve been asking if Crews should go straight to the Pirates - assuming they draft him and that they remain in the playoff chase if not still on top of the NL Central. Joe Sheehan and I had an email conversation about it, but it was another of the original BP crew that I emailed for the data.
Clay Davenport originated the Davenport Translations, which normalize statistics across levels and make real comparisons possible. Putting up a big line in Single-A — or the SEC — is nice, but how would it be in the bigs? Clay’s Translations can do that and were the heart of BP statistics for years. He continues to do them at his own web site, but I asked him about Crews. His response bears printing, with some edits and unfortunately without the full charts, which I couldn’t make work on Substack:
“Short answer - highly doubtful on immediate play.
Longer answer - The SEC playing environment is insane. The combined SEC league hitting is at 290/405/504. The "average" SEC player has a .300 EqA, compared to normal expectations.”
Here's how Crews' Davenport Translations look —
First, real stats, no adjustments. Here, Crews’ “real” line is 490/620/860, with an EqA of 406.
There’s a 1.077 imputed Park factor at LSU, so that is a Fenway-level park on top of the insane hitting level. That is why a 1.500 OPS "only" produces a .406 EqA (in Philadelphia, that would be .488. Even in Reno - a hitters park in the hit-heavy PCL - it would give a .452).
The "no-diff" DT is what Davenport uses to adjust for the league offensive levels, without adjusting for any league quality. That’s a slash of 406/505/681, for an EqA of 392. That’s still impressive by any standard.
Which brings it to the standard Davenport Translation. This is the most neutralized stat line That’s a slash of 355/443/560 and an EqA of 340. It’s hard to compare these levels, so again, here’s Clay:
“A .340 Eqa is the best I have seen in the SEC, so there could certainly be a possibility of going straight up. However -
First, a +26 BIP is unsustainable. Ichiro could hit that in his best years, but averaged about 20. Bring it down to a +10, and you take another 20 points off that EQA.
Second, looking at what the top hitter in the SEC did over the last 10 years, most fall quite short of their college levels. An exception is Pete Alonso (.295 in college 2016, .300 major league EqA). More typical is Brent Rooker (.313 in 2017, .278 major league career). Andrew Benintendi (.318 college, .282 majors) is also notable.
Finally, the number of players called up from high-A to the majors in the same year is low. I found 8 players with 100 highA PA and major league time in the same year:
2014 Dalton Pompey 296/260
2015 Michael Conforto 280/296
2016 Yoan Moncada 288/241
2016 Andrew Benintendi 293/308
2017 Austin Hays 280/196
2017 Victor Robles 268/246
2018 Meibrys Viloria 220/246
2022 Vaughn Grissom 269/292
Benintendi and Conforto both had great college seasons the prior year (Conforto had a .309 eqa at Oregon State n 2014). Moncada was a high-level Cuban player.
I think the Benintendi/Conforto pattern is the most likely. Given that Crews is hitting 10-30 points ahead of them, I could see that accelerated into this season - draft, send him to AA, and if he busts up Altoona then make the call.”
It’s hard to argue with the data. Thanks to Clay for that answer and please note that the statistics were from our conversation last week and don’t include Crews’ games from this weekend. Now, on to the injuries:
RYAN YARBROUGH, SP KCR (bruised head)
GRAHAM ASHCRAFT, SP CIN (bruised leg)
The data says that there’s not more balls up the middle, but that data doesn’t help Ryan Yarbrough, Graham Ashcroft, or any of the other pitchers that have been hit with comebacks this year. It’s not a new problem, but it does seem more pronounced and while most have come away with minor injuries, I can’t help but think of this as playing the odds. At some point, someone will be severely injured, or worse.
Yarbrough had a scary looking drive that hit off his face. He walked off under his own power and initial tests are good. It’s not clear if he ever lost consciousness, but the concussion protocol is in effect here, I’m sure. He’ll be monitored and I’d be surprised if he avoided all the ILs, but the 7-day gives more flexibility. With the Royals having lost Kris Bubic, they’re going to need to figure out who’s next up with most of their pitching prospects not fully baked yet.
Ashcroft was hit in the leg and came out of the game. Like most, the question will be how bad the bruise is and how he heals over the next few days. We’ve seen many pitchers hit like this come back without missing time and others having to miss a turn or be pushed back. Legs and arms are more about the short term pain and healing response than anything else.
One medical staffer I spoke to about this wondered aloud why arms, legs, and head are where pitchers get hit. “Why not body shots? Why never in the back?” I think body shots are covered by reaction, either gloves or arms getting in the way. The back, I believe, is because pitchers aren’t taught to spin like that. Reactions are to get the glove up or to fall, but it happens so fast, I’m not sure that a spin could be generated quickly enough if the momentum from the delivery has slowed.
As for protective equipment, it exists. It could be better, lighter, less obtrusive, but the near-universal lack of usage makes it a tough sell to a company’s development budget. It wasn’t that long ago that Evoshield made padding cool. Someone needs to do that for pitchers. And soon.
CARLOS RODON, SP NYY (inflamed back)
Carlos Rodon has what he described as a chronic back issue, though he’s been very non-specific about it. Given the cortisone injection won’t fix the issue, this has become one of management for the Yankees medical staff.
There’s also an issue of what kind of cortisone injection. It’s not uncommon to have it as more of a guided, almost surgical procedure when used as a nerve block. Epidural steroid injections - not that kind of steroid, pal - take about a week to really take hold and they can wear off or even not give much relief. That means that Rodon could need a couple more injections to get through the season, assuming they work at all for him. While a doctor I spoke with said that it’s possible he could have the injection just after a start and be ready by the time of his next start, he admitted that would be pushing it.
The biggest issue for the Yankees is not that they have a pitcher on the shelf, but that they acquired a pitcher with a chronic back condition and either missed it or dismissed it as non-problematic. Rodon came out of college with funky mechanics and injury history on his arm that he only added to in the bigs, but there’s no indication that the back has been an issue for him. Still, that’s why we have entrance physicals and it’s something that the Yankees have to take a hard look at, right now.
VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR, 1B TOR (inflamed wrist)