Baseball is the greatest sport for small sample sizes. It’s the most data-driven sport in the world, and with so many numbers spread across a 162-game season, things can get really weird really fast when there isn’t enough data to work with.
That’s where we find Roenis Elias.
Elias was one of Boston’s roster expansion call-ups this past September, and he made his season debut on September 4 against Toronto — a game the Red Sox lost, 10-4. He faced two batters, striking out one and walking the other.
And… that’s it. That was the end of Roenis Elias’ MLB season. Two batters faced, 11 pitches thrown, one third of an inning completed. It hasn’t even been added to his Wikipedia page. So what does one third of an inning like this do for a player’s stats? Let’s take a look. Elias had…
- 27 strikouts per nine innings
- 27 walks per nine innings
- a left-on-base percentage of 100 percent
- an ERA of 0.00
- a FIP of 6.16
- a DRA of 0.00
- no batted ball data whatsoever (because none of his pitches were put in play)
- 0.0 fWAR
- 0.0 bWAR
- 0.0 WARP
Those last two numbers are particularly poignant to me, because they’re saying that the single out Elias recorded had no bearing whatsoever on the Red Sox season. Roenis Elias struck out a major league hitter, something you or I could almost certainly never accomplish, and it had the same effect on the team as him sneezing in the clubhouse would have. Maybe even less than that, if he got somebody sick as a result. That’s one of the most nihilist baseball facts I can imagine. (ed. note: Eat Arby’s.)
Of course, those 11 pitches weren’t the only ones Elias threw in 2017. He only appeared in 10 minor league games due to injury, but managed to make a stop at just about every minor league location the Red Sox have — one game for Lowell, one game for Salem, one game for Portland, and seven games for Pawtucket. It wasn’t a great season for him in most regards; his strikeouts were down, he walked too many batters, and he gave up 11 home runs in 42.2 minor league innings. Elias has been a decent major league contributor in the past and was good, if unremarkable, in Pawtucket last year, so his true talent level when healthy is likely above what we saw from him this season.
He got that one fleeting taste of Major League Baseball, though, and at least we got some fun facts out of it.
What Went Right:
Roenis Elias struck out 50 percent of the batters he faced in the MLB last season.
What Went Wrong:
Roenis Elias walked 50 percent of the batters he faced in the MLB last season.
What To Expect:
Honestly? Roenis Elias could actually be interesting this season. For real!
The Boston Globe has reported that he’ll compete for a bullpen spot in Spring Training, and if he can stay healthy, he offers some mildly intriguing depth. He threw 163.2 decent innings for the Mariners in 2014 and 115.1 more the following year, so we know he can be stretched out as a starter. With that in mind, there’s room for him to contribute in a long relief or spot starter role this season. Plus, he’s a lefty.
(This is the most recent Elias highlight in the majors — over 18 months ago.)
The back end of the Red Sox rotation has a decent few options, but just as many questions. The top four is written in stone: Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello. The fifth spot is still in question, however. Eduardo Rodriguez is probably the favorite, but he’s struggled to stay healthy thus far in his career. After him, we’re looking at Steven Wright, whose domestic assault case is still under investigation by the MLB and could result in disciplinary action. Keeping in mind that even the best pitching rotations never stay healthy across a full MLB season, the value in a guy who can provide some decent innings in a pinch becomes more apparent.
Elias’ biggest competition this spring is probably someone like 27-year-old Brian Johnson, who is also getting a bullpen audition this Spring Training. You could probably call Johnson a post-hype prospect, at least if you define “hype” as “Well, his floor looks pretty high!” I don’t mind him, but it’s also not the toughest bar for Elias to clear, considering he’s a player with a few hundred decent major league innings under his belt. He had a great Winter League showing this offseason, now he needs to stay healthy and carry that momentum into the spring.
And hey, repeating that 50 percent MLB strikeout rate from 2017 couldn’t hurt, either.
Photo by Kim Klement — USA TODAY Sports