Jake McGee and the 0-2 count

Can Jake McGee put batters away? - J. Meric

Does Jake McGee have a problem putting batters away in an 0-2 count?

A strange and frustrating thing happened on Tuesday. Jake McGee blew the game in the seventh inning when he allowed two singles, a double, an intentional walk, and a home run. The strange part was that both singles and the double (as well as his lone strikeout of the afternoon) came after he got the batter down into an 0-2 count.

McGee is an imperfect pitcher. While he can throw a slider, it's not a very good one, and he he doesn't command it well. And while his fastball is electric (easily top-5 in the game), his command of it can be iffy as well at times. These failings combine to mean that he doesn't quite measure up to his often used comparison, Billy Wagner (boo-hoo). But, much as I would urge everyone to look at results over process in McGee's case, Tuesday's game made me wonder if there was a special weakness in McGee's approach. I seemed to remember seeing McGee get ahead of batters but be unable to put them away before. Maybe his one pitch, bulldog style is good at getting up on batters but bad at taking advantage of the count?

Way back in 2006, Tom Tango calculated the wOBA when a batter passes through each count. The environment has changed some since then, but I doubt it's enough to matter for a quick check.

Through Count wOBA
3-0 0.570
3-1 0.490
2-0 0.443
3-2 0.403
2-1 0.372
1-0 0.371
0-0 0.332
1-1 0.314
2-2 0.290
0-1 0.283
1-2 0.237
0-2 0.212

In 2006, pitchers got into a 0-2 count roughly 24% of the time, and when they did they performed 36% better than they would have been expected to overall. What about Jake McGee? In 2013, according to FanGraphs, he got ahead in an 0-2 count 34% of the time (58 batters), and then only allowed four singles, one double, and one hit by pitch for a 0.095 wOBA, 51% better than his overall performance.

So no, Jake McGee does not have a problem putting batters away after getting to two strikes. He's a far better than average pitcher overall, but he's actually even further above average in his ability to put people away. This is why we look at stats and don't just trust our eyes, memory. and hunches.

Here are how some other Rays pitchers did in 2012:

Pitcher Frequency of 0-2 Count wOBA Thereafter
David Price 33% 0.166
Jeremy Hellickson 24% 0.211
Matt Moore 30% 0.202
Alex Cobb 30% 0.197
Jeff Niemann* 17% 0.160
Jamey Wright* 26% 0.181
Cesar Ramos* 30% 0.104
Kyle Farnsworth* 29% 0.181
Joel Peralta* 27% 0.118
Fernando Rodney* 31% 0.164

*Much smaller sample sizes (relievers and injuries).

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