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Kendall Graveman, stamina, and pitching through the order

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Keeping an eye on a potential issue for the A's young starter.

The stamina is questionable but the socks are undeniable.
The stamina is questionable but the socks are undeniable.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest story lines for the A's in 2015 in the pitching staff. The staff is undeniably talented but due to age, a few of the A's starters have yet to put it together on the field.

I've made it clear I have a baseball crush on Graveman. I think his stuff is underrated and can and will lead to a few seasons of over-performing his supposed ceiling. Should Graveman hope to do this, he'll have to overcome a major obstacle: like many young men, Graveman has had difficulty pitching for extended periods of time, often growing tired and being pulled out before we were all ready. Let's look at what happened!

Date Opp IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP Pit BF
4/9/2016 TEX 3.1 7 8 7 1 1 2 2 57 20
4/14/2016 HOU 5.1 4 0 0 4 3 0 1 96 24
4/20/2016 LAA 3 4 3 2 3 2 0 0 73 16
4/25/2016 HOU 4.2 9 6 6 1 1 1 0 71 23
5/23/2016 TBR 6 3 0 0 2 6 0 1 93 24
5/28/2016 NYY 5.2 7 3 3 2 4 1 0 99 26
6/2/2016 DET 6 8 3 3 2 1 0 0 99 28
6/7/2016 BOS 7 6 1 1 2 6 1 0 101 27
6/13/2016 LAA 8 8 1 1 0 7 1 0 111 30
6/18/2016 SDP 7 5 2 2 1 6 2 0 96 27
6/24/2016 TEX 7 8 2 2 2 4 0 0 94 30
6/29/2016 COL 7 5 0 0 3 3 0 0 111 27
7/4/2016 SEA 7 5 0 0 1 1 0 0 109 25
7/10/2016 CLE 5.2 7 4 4 3 6 0 0 106 27
7/21/2016 TOR 5.1 6 6 6 3 4 3 0 99 24
7/26/2016 SFG 1.1 7 4 4 2 2 1 0 50 13
7/31/2016 CLE 6.2 5 1 0 2 6 0 0 97 26
8/5/2016 BAL 5.2 6 3 3 1 3 0 1 79 24
8/11/2016 TOR 4.2 5 4 2 1 4 1 0 103 22
8/16/2016 BAL 3.1 8 6 6 1 4 2 0 70 18
8/23/2016 TBR 6 3 0 0 1 3 0 0 84 21
115.2 126 57 52 38 77 15 5 1898 502

Eclipsing 100 pitches only 6 times, Graveman wasn't exactly a workhorse which is an issue for a guy some see as an innings eater. It was his first season in the bigs and Graveman's arm isn't stretched out like most veteran pitchers, so it's not time to panic yet. The question is, did Graveman have difficulty going deep into games because he got tired or because other teams figured his stuff out?

Split G PA AB R H HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Pitch 1-25 21 123 110 13 27 5 12 22 0.245 0.317 0.445 0.763
Pitch 26-50 21 157 146 20 43 3 8 19 0.295 0.340 0.397 0.737
Pitch 51-75 20 118 108 10 31 3 7 21 0.287 0.347 0.426 0.773
Pitch 76-100 16 93 82 8 22 3 10 13 0.268 0.344 0.415 0.759
Pitch 101+ 6 11 10 1 3 1 1 2 0.3 0.364 0.600 0.964
Split G PA AB R H HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st PA 21 189 170 19 40 5 16 33 0.235 0.303 0.388 0.691
2nd PA 21 182 166 18 48 4 12 26 0.289 0.352 0.404 0.755
3rd PA 18 124 114 15 37 6 9 17 0.325 0.371 0.509 0.880
4th+ PA 3 7 6 0 1 0 1 1 0.167 0.286 0.333 0.619

From the numbers above, it seems that Graveman's issues aren't as simple as him getting tired. His numbers don't jump as his pitch count does (save a tiny sample) but they do the more times he faces an opponent. The obvious caveat here is the non-specificity of the pitch numbers: it's possible Graveman does get worse from say, pitches 90-100 that isn't reflected in the table above.

Assuming it is a time through the order problem, it's not necessarily the worst thing: Graveman's stamina might not be as bad as previously thought. Rather it's a stuff or pitch selection issue.

Why does Graveman struggle going through the order the third time? Let's look at how he approaches hitters the first and second go around:

1st at bat 4seam Sinker Cutter Curve Change 2nd at bat 4seam Sinker Cutter Slider Curve Change
Against LHH Against LHH
All Counts 4% 51% 23% 5% 17% All Counts 6% 40% 24% 0% 11% 18%
First Pitch 2% 72% 12% 6% 8% First Pitch 7% 43% 19% 1% 13% 16%
Batter Ahead 4% 54% 22% 3% 18% Batter Ahead 2% 49% 27% 0% 8% 13%
Even 2% 61% 20% 4% 13% Even 6% 35% 23% 1% 13% 23%
Pitcher Ahead 5% 31% 30% 10% 24% Pitcher Ahead 10% 38% 23% 0% 12% 16%
Two Strikes 6% 37% 34% 4% 18% Two Strikes 6% 34% 25% 0% 16% 19%
Against RHH Against RHH
All Counts 3% 63% 23% 10% 2% All Counts 4% 58% 26% 0% 7% 5%
First Pitch 3% 80% 11% 5% 1% First Pitch 5% 68% 15% 0% 5% 7%
Batter Ahead 1% 75% 17% 2% 4% Batter Ahead 3% 62% 29% 0% 3% 4%
Even 3% 69% 19% 8% 2% Even 4% 61% 23% 0% 6% 7%
Pitcher Ahead 4% 45% 33% 18% 1% Pitcher Ahead 4% 49% 31% 0% 13% 4%
Two Strikes 3% 42% 33% 18% 3% Two Strikes 3% 41% 38% 0% 18% 1%

compared to the third:

3rd at bat + 4seam Sinker Cutter Curve Change
Against LHH
All Counts 3% 35% 27% 9% 26%
First Pitch 2% 40% 29% 5% 25%
Batter Ahead 1% 47% 25% 6% 20%
Even 2% 32% 30% 8% 28%
Pitcher Ahead 6% 24% 24% 16% 31%
Two Strikes 4% 24% 37% 16% 20%
Against RHH
All Counts 6% 55% 26% 10% 3%
First Pitch 7% 67% 19% 7% 0%
Batter Ahead 6% 71% 16% 2% 4%
Even 6% 56% 25% 14% 0%
Pitcher Ahead 6% 42% 36% 10% 6%
Two Strikes 3% 46% 33% 15% 3%

So there aren't any gigantic changes from one time through the order to the next but the most noticeable difference is definitely the decrease in sinkers and subsequent increase in changeups. I wouldn't expect this to be a negative change as Graveman's changeup has been one of his more effective pitches. It garners whiffs at an 11.2% rate, second highest among all his pitches. It also results in groundballs at a nearly 14% rate, best among his pitches.

It's hard to say why he struggles the third go around based on the numbers alone but it's certainly an issue to keep an eye on in 2016. Pitchers who get "figured out" as the game wears on typically don't have the diverse arsenal that Graveman does; his profile as a 4 pitch pitcher should play in his favor in beating a team multiple times through the lineup. Thus far, it hasn't panned out.

So as we get to Spring Training and eventually the regular season, keep an eye on Graveman's longevity on the hill. Much is riding on it.