Nick Hagadone Must Become More Reliable
Nick Hagadone has pitched for the Indians in parts of the last three seasons, yet he has accumulated fewer innings in that time than Cody Allen or Brian Shaw did in 2013 alone. That’s not because there weren’t enough jobs available — the Tribe actively tried to find reliable left-handed relievers during each of those seasons.
Despite being a talented pitcher with an above-average fastball, Hagadone has yet to find success at the major league level for any lengthy amount of time. This spring, Hagadone continued his pattern of being consistently inconsistent, and as a result, he was optioned to the Triple-A roster early last week.
It appears that 2014 will be another season where the 28-year-old alternates between Columbus and Cleveland, while the organization is left to wonder whether he’ll ever be able to put it all together.
Over 67.2 career innings, Hagadone has a 4.65 xFIP and a 5.59 ERA. Last season, he had a BB/9 rate of 6.03, with a HR/9 rate of 1.15. These were both well-above league average, while his 8.62 K/9 rate was only slightly higher than average.
In article for Indians.com by Jordan Bastian, Francona talked about the lefty’s spring outings and offered an explanation for his reassignment.
“Some, really good. Some inconsistencies. I think the biggest thing we’re trying to get Nick to do is make adjustments quicker. I think the thing he showed this camp is, if he came in and he had a walk, then he’d go back out and have a good inning. Now, we’re trying to, ‘OK, if you throw ball one up, let’s reel it in right now,’ as opposed to after one hitter.”
Hagadone has been critiqued often for his inability to throw strikes on a regular basis. With good reason — when a pitcher’s walk rate in nearly twice that of the league’s average, it’s a major problem. Last year, he walked 15.8 percent of batters, and struck out 22.6 percent.
As a situational lefty reliever, it’s important that Hagadone have the ability to enter the game and get tough left-handed hitters out – not give them a free pass and be forced to deal with a right-hander instead. In his career, right-handed batters hit .260 with a .374 OBP against him, compared to left-handers who hit .183 with a .291 OBP.
And it’s not just walks that concern the Tribe’s staff. Preparedness is also an issue for Hagadone. Earlier this spring, he was called upon in the first inning after Travis Banwart struggled to make it through even three outs, despite being scheduled to pitch later in the game. Afterwards, he blamed the poor outing on being unprepared to take the mound that early in the day.
In another article for Indians.com, Jordan Bastian detailed Francona’s reaction to Hagadone’s difficult outing and subsequent confession.
“You want your guys to be prepared all the time,” Francona said. “That’s the hope [that Hagadone learned something]. I guess we had already hoped he was there. It’s not perfect, but if he learns from that on March 5, we can live with that. I’d rather it be March 5 than April 5.”
With so much competition for the few open jobs in the bullpen, it’s no surprise that Francona chose to stick with more reliable left-handed arms like Marc Rzepczynski.
But Hagadone brought this situation upon himself. When the Indians turned to him after Rich Hill struggled last season, he didn’t perform well. They were left with no choice but to go out and acquire Rzepczynski at the trade deadline, and the former Cardinal pitched so well that he locked up a job for 2014 as well.
The Indians and Hagadone did settle their off-the-field differences this winter, after the MLBPA won the grievance filed on his behalf against the organization. The grievance stemmed from a July 6, 2012 incident, when Hagadone slammed a door in frustration after one of his many tough outing that season. In the process, he accidentally broke his left forearm, which required surgery and time on the disabled list. The Indians optioned him to Columbus and placed him on the disqualified list, meaning he did not receive pay or service time while he was injured. Based on the ruling, the team will have to pay him the compensation he is owed from that time. They also get back the option they used to send him to the minors.
If the Indians need help due to injuries or other unforeseen circumstances, Hagadone will get the call-up. Otherwise, it looks like he’ll be spending the majority of the season at Triple-A yet again.