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Monday, September 5, 2011

What has happened to the Hawk?

On november 30 of 2010, the Dodgers traded the useless Ryan Theriot for young up and coming pitcher Blake Hawksworth.
at first this was a welcome trade. it rid us of ever having to watch the uselessness of Ryan Theriot, and in return we got a good young pitcher. Hawk traded from the Cardinals, came up with St.Louis in 2009.

the 28 year old right hander is 6'3 and 195. Hawk born in british colombia, and is originally from the pacific northwest, he was drafted in the 28th round out of eastlake side high school by the Cardinals in the 2001 draft. during his early minor league career, he was considered one of the Cardinals top pitching prospects, but injuries limited his playing time during 2004-2005.
once returned in 2006, he went 11-4 with a sub 3.00 ERA for Palm Beach, and Springfield.
Hawk also has a hot sister named Erin, who is totally babe-alicious. but she's a post for another day ;)

known for his command of his pitches, Hawk was called up to the bigs, and made his major league debut on june 6 2009, allowing three runs off four hits in 2 innings of work.

last september Hawksworth was hit in the mouth, by a Sam Fuld line drive. the injury required several stitches to his face, and ended his season.
Hawksworth who was once a starting pitcher with the Cardinals, was put in the Dodgers bullpen and has been used primarily by Don Mattingly as a setup or middle innings guy.

at first Hawk was reliable. during the first half of the season Hawk put up a 2-2 record and a 3.00 ERA. his BABIP was .207, and his BAA was a stingy .194.
his BAA never rose above .222 during the first four months of the season, and even though his BABIP rose to .300 in July, he still was solid, posting a BAA of .219, and his highest SO per 9 of 11.4 in july.

Hawk had to battle a hip injury in early may that landed him on the disabled list for several weeks. he injured his hip in a game in Pittsburgh, and didn't return until June 6th. after which he had several scoreless outings.
Hawskworth allowed only 4 earned runs in april, 2 in may, 4 in June, and 4 in July. but ever since pitching two scoreless innings against Arizona on july 31,  he has faded down the stretch, allowed 12 earned runs in almost 19 innings of work, and has had five straight appearances where he's allowed at least 1 run since august 20th.

this trend is disconcerting. so what has gotten into Hawk? looking into his stats, it seemed that he was defiantly a better relief pitcher than a starter. he had only started 8 games for the Cardinals anyways, and we knew that Mattingly would only use him in relief. this seemed right, as I thought maybe the Cards had misused him a bit since he was better suited for relief than as a starter, so whats up with him then? lets take a look at his external stats to find out.

Hawk has pitched in a little over 48 innings this year with a strikeout to walk line of 39/15. which is pretty good, nearly 3 to 1. hawk isn't known for walking many guys.
his K/9 has risen in the last few years from 4.5 in 2009 to 7.26 this year with the Dodgers. his walks per 9 have also declined over the last few years, his BB/9 has dropped from 3.38 in 2009 to 2.79 this year. these are all encouraging stats of a young pitcher who has been steadily improving. his K% has increased also, going from 12.5% in 09 to 19.5% this year. his BB% went down from 9.4% to 7.5%. so his strikeouts are increasing while his walks have been going down. this fits with his MO of having good command.

now his FIP is 3.95 which is lower than his ERA of 4.47. his percentage of swinging strikes has gone up as well from 6.3% to 11.3%, and his first pitch strike percentage has gone up from 53.8 to 65.8% so generally he gets the first pitch over for a strike and batters are swinging and missing more. more good news.

however Hawk throws a fastball, cutter, Change and Curveball. he's been throwing more of his fastballs, and curve, and less of his cutter and change up. his fastball % has risen to 66% while his change up has dropped from 22 to 19%. he's also not using his cutter anymore which he seems to have abandoned. his curveball % is way up from 11 to 14% perhaps more hanging curveballs?

from looking at other stats it seems the real problem is Hawk is getting less ground balls, more line drives, and he struggles in high leverage situations. heres more proof.

Hawk's groundball% has steadily dropped over the last three seasons. in 2009 it was 53.8%, this year, its only 40.9%. thats a big drop off. more fastballs and curves and less of his change up or breaking pitches may possibly be a reason for his.
his fly ball % has slightly risen from 31% to 35%, as Hawk has allowed 6 home runs this year I believe.
but more concerning is his Line Drive % allowed is going up each year. from 14.9% in 2009, to 23.9% this year.

his performance with men on base is very poor. a .358 BAA and .364 BABIP is pretty bad, but his .425 BAA , .471 BABIP, and over 1000 OPS with runners in scoring position is atrocious.

his line with nobody on base is a BAA of .155 BABIP .193 and a .449 OPS allowed.

its hard to say whether Hawk's recent struggles have been because of a hip injury that never healed, but is seems that his primary issues are that he's getting less ground ball outs, more line drives, and more fly ball outs. his struggles with men on base are documented, so I would advise Mattingly to only bring him in to start an inning and only in low-leverage situations.

also note that Hawksworth has been much better against lefties than righties. a split of .198 BAA against lefties and .255 against righties.
also not Hawk has been equal at home and on the road, but pitching slightly better on the road this year.

so if Hawk can decrease his line drives, increase his ground ball outs, and only be used in low leverage situations in the beginning of innings, we might get better results from him.

yesterday Hawksworth was responsible for blowing the tie against Atlanta in the bottom of the 9th inning, leading to the end of the Dodgers 6 game win streak. he did get the last out of the 8th inning with runners on base, but was unable to hold the tie in the 9th inning. while he did begin the 9th inning, it was still a high leverage situation. bringing Hawk into those situations with a 1 or two run lead is not advisable.

I had high hopes for Hawk to become one of the main cogs in the Dodger bullpen for years to come, but Im afraid if he doesn't turn his season around, he may be non-tendered this off season. I would be sad to see him go, but I would understand the decision. I hope Hawk can turn it around before its too late, but if not we shouldn't worry too much we have a plethora of young fireballers ready to fill in. lets see how Hawk does the last month of the season, heres hoping he turns it around so we can also see more of his hot sister.

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