Why Joe Biagini Deserves Another Chance in the Rotation

In early May, Joe Biagini made his long-anticipated switch from the bullpen to the rotation. The early results were positive. From May 7th to June 9th, he posted a 3.38 earned run average over seven starts and 37 1/3 innings.

It all went downhill from there for the twenty-seven-year-old right-hander.

Over his next (and last) four starts, he allowed 20 earned runs over 17 1/3 innings, good for a whopping 10.38 ERA. The Blue Jays promptly and understandably removed him from the rotation, placing him back into the bullpen.

Upon his return to the bullpen, he posted a 5.54 ERA over 13 innings. The Blue Jays sent him to AAA Buffalo on August 4th after his struggles out of the bullpen, with the intention of stretching him out to make a possible return to the rotation this year or next.

Rumor is Biagini will be re-joining the Blue Jays rotation soon. Deservingly so despite his ugly earned run average.

Despite posting a 5.60 ERA as a starter this year, Biagini had a 3.81 fielding independent pitching. His 12 percent K/BB rate he posted as a starter would be 38th-best in the league if it held up. He walked less batters as a starter than he did as a reliever, a 7 percent walk rate as a starter versus 9.5 percent as a reliever.

Biagini’s problems stem from an elevated batting average on balls in play and struggles with men on base.

First off, the Blue Jays defense hasn’t done Biagini any favors as far as his balls in play goes. The Blue Jays defense has the seventh-worst defensive efficiency in the league and the Blue Jays as a team have also allowed the seventh-worst BABIP in the league at .306. Biagini has allowed a .312 BABIP as a starter this season.

While the high batting average on balls in play isn’t doing Biagini any good, most of his struggles can be tied to his issues when pitching with men on base. He has allowed a .938 OPS in 2017 with men on base, compared to a .561 OPS with the bases empty.

As a result, Biagini’s left on base rate has been terrible. Among those with over 60 innings pitched, Biagini has the worst LOB% at 60 percent. His earned run average with runners on, 12.18, is twelfth-worst in the league.

Although it is too small of a sample size to conclude that Biagini has a problem pitching with runners on, it should be noted he ran curiously low left on base rates throughout his minor-league career.

His four starts since going down to AAA Buffalo have been encouraging. He has a 3.12 ERA over 17 1/3 innings pitched. He’s getting a ground balls about 60 percent of the time and is striking out and walking batters at a very similar rate to what he did in the major leagues this season. The only real difference is his success with runners on base. His 80.3% left on base rate would be the best of his professional career, albeit in only 17 1/3 innings.

Biagini is getting his second chance. The Blue Jays brain trust were smart enough to realize he is much more than the results he put up earlier this season. If he has made any improvements at all to his output with men on base, expect Biagini to fill-in the back end of the Blue Jays rotation behind Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Sanchez.

Lead Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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