When evaluating baseball players using statistics there are usually two main trains of thought; the old school driven evaluators, where win-loss records, ERA, Batting Average, RBI and Home Runs rule the day, and new age analysts that dive into FIP, Spin Rates, OPS+, wRC+, Launch Angles and Exit Velocities dominate the conversation.
I, myself, fall somewhere in the grey area that exists somewhere in between; except when it comes to wins and losses for pitchers. Until it gets to somewhere around 20 or above, I pretty much check out.
To me, some old school statistics; such as ERA and batting average still have their place, when used intermittently in discussions; or at the very least utilized within the correct context. And while advanced analytics like FIP, or xFIP and maybe even SIERA, can all be great predictive stats to a certain degree, they are not full proof projections. So, until that positive or negative regression comes, good old ERA is king concerning how a pitcher actually performed. Or, if you are akin to my train of thought, WHIP often holds more value; because if you don’t let many guys on the base paths, there is less of a chance that you will runs.
It’s actually pretty simple.
That’s why, when I look at a relief pitcher like Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Emmanuel Mejia, I often try not to fall directly into the trap/argument concerning his unusually high FIP in comparison to his impressive ERA, or his consistent-yet not ideal-WHIP. In the end the results are what will ultimately matter, and thus far the results have been pretty darn good.
Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates for an undisclosed amount-players that receive a bonus of $10,000 or less do not count against the allotted pool-on February 20th, 2019 at the ripe out age of 20 from the Dominican Republic, Mejia was promptly assigned to the DSL Pirates 2 to begin his professional career. In 18 games and 20.2 innings the 5’11 185 pound, less than projectable right-handed reliever posted a 1.74 ERA and a .823 WHIP with 37 strikeouts for one of the most dominant DSL teams I have ever followed.
As 2020 began the plan was to get Mejia stateside, but obviously this didn’t happen; as he would have to wait until 2021-this year-to put on the Bradenton Marauders’ black and gold, but he barely had time to get his uniform dirty. After 18 appearances and 26.1 scoreless innings, with 37 strikeouts, he was on his way north to Greensboro.
However, this was also when the analytical evaluation of Mejia truly began.
In spite of having a 0.00 ERA, questions arose concerning his actual ability to maintain success due to his 3.08 FIP and his even higher 3.78 xFIP; albeit my prevailing apprehension came directly from his 1.215 WHIP, with the Walks playing into the FIP to a certain degree.
As his time in Greensboro began these inquires only got louder as his FIP and xFIP climbed even higher, to 5.37 and 4.87 respectively; mostly because two of the nine hits he allowed went for homers. Still, his ERA still sits at 1.10 and his WHIP has remained constant at 1.29. So, I can’t help but wonder if his 93-95 mph fastball, accompanied by a solid curve just plays.
Based on this purely amateur evaluation, and barring any implosions and/or injuries over the final few playoff games, it seems to reason that Altoona in 2022 could be the next on the docket, with a potential stop in the Dominican Winter League in between as he was selected by the Cibao Giants in the 13th round of their draft.