Many Red Sox fans roared in celebration after the acquisition of Adam Ottavino, but others questioned the liability of Ottavino after posting a 5.89 ERA in 2020. But advanced stats prove that Ottavino was much better than his 5.59 ERA indicates he was, and show that Ottavino got very unlucky throughout the 2020 season.
Ottavino’s 2020 season was not good by any means, but the 5.89 ERA makes people too quick to judge. First off, before we even get into his advanced stats, if you take away a poor 6 run outing against Toronto, you’re looking at a guy with a 2.95 ERA in 2020.
Ottavino’s 2020 repertoire consisted really only the sinker and slider, with those pitches being thrown 93.7% of the time. He only threw the changeup and cutter 7.3% of the time.
Ottavino did however do poorly in a few statistics. Exactly 50.0% of balls put in play by batters while facing Ottavino were hardly hit, which is determined by Statcast. He’s in the bottom 2% (2nd Percentile) in the league in that category, according to Baseball Savant. He was also in the bottom 13% in Exit Velocity, and in the bottom 29% in Walk Rate, which is also poor.
Now let’s take a look at some of his stats that Ottavino did well in:
Compared to his 5.89 ERA, his 3.75 expected ERA (xERA) proves that Ottavino was incredibly unlucky, compared to last year in 2019 where he actually got really lucky. He had a 1.90 ERA in 2019, but his expected ERA was at 3.06. Proving Ottavino to be extremely lucky, although he was in the 90th percentile or above in a lot of categories. Ottavino was in the 65th percentile in 2020 in xERA.
To sum up what xERA is, it basically takes the ERA that is expected of a pitcher, through balls hit by batters that are tracked by Statcast. If a team is great defensively, the pitchers xERA will probably be higher than his actual ERA. That’s because he probably got lucky through great defensive plays. If a team is poor defensively, his xERA will probably be lower than his actual ERA, because there was probably some plays that the defense didn’t make, that they could have made.
Hitters Expected Stats:
Hitters expected stats against Ottavino were also not great. Ottavino held batters to a .218 xBA (Expected batting average), and just a .355 xSLG (Expected Slugging%). Compared to hitters actual batting average against Ottavino, which is .267, and hitters Slugging % against Ottavino, which is .419. Hitters also had a .322 wOBA (Weighted on Base Average) against Ottavino, compared to a .288 xWOBA. All of which proving that he was very unlucky.
Ottavino also had a 3.62 SIERA, (Link to explanation of SIERA), SIERA stands for Skill-Interactive ERA. The stat is similar to FIP, but actually considers balls in play, unlike FIP. FIP is another stat that Ottavino did well in too, at 3.52. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. The stat only considers home runs, walks, and strikeouts, things that the only the pitcher can “control”. Basically discluding all balls hit in play. (Link to Explanation of FIP) All of which in a way are used to mainly compare against ERA, and in that case, they prove yet again that Ottavino got extremely unlucky. Hitters expected stats take the expected outcome of every ball hit.
Comparing Ottavino’s 2020 season to the season prior, he was amazing in 2019. He was in the 90th percentile or higher in Exit Velocity, Hart Hit%, xWOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG, and Barrel%. He also was in the 88th percentile in K%, and the 81st percentile in Whiff Rate. Considering how good he was in 2019, 2020 definitely was a down year for him by all means, but wasn’t all that bad.
To conclude, many fans will look at Ottavino’s 5.89 ERA in 2020 and think he didn’t do so well. Which in ways is true. But as stated, advanced stats clearly show that he got extremely unlucky, and a 6 run meltdown against the Blue Jays jolted his ERA up.
All the info for this article can be found on Baseball Savant and Fangraphs.