Ever since he arrived from Seattle for Cliff Lee in winter of 2009, Aumont has been a disappointment. In 2010, the Phillies tried to make him a starter, to the tune of a disastrous 5.68 ERA fueled by a 5.9 BB/9. He returned to relieving in 2011 and was dominant across AA and AAA (2.68 ERA 13.1 K/9). The stuff has always been electric for Aumont, but his control has been a big problem. After 3 up and down years, Aumont entered camp in 2015 out of minor league options and without a clear path to a job. However, at only 26 years old, the giant RHP bring electric stuff that can
Where are we now:
Over 3 years of up and down trips to the majors, Aumont owns a 6.13 ERA over 39.2 IP with 6.1 BB/9 and 8.8 K/9. In his first two years, he didn’t allow a home run, but in 5.2 IP last year he allowed 14 hits, 3 of which were home runs. In the minors Aumont has a 4.16 ERA over 417.1 IP with a 5.6 BB/9 and 10.1 K/9 with 29 games started over that time. He bounced back slightly in 2014 as he had a 3.93 ERA over 55 IP with 39 BB and 65 K. Overall, it is hard to make a case that Aumont has been statistically good.
What is Going on with the home runs?
From 2011 to 2013, across the minors and major leagues Aumont allowed 5 home runs in 167.2 innings, and if you include his 2014 minor league season, it will be 7 home runs in 222.2 innings (0.28 HR/9). This home run rate would have been good enough for 13th among qualified relievers in 2014, and would have been second among major league starting pitchers. In 2014, he allowed 3 home runs in 5.2 major league innings and then this spring he has allowed 3 home runs over 7.2 innings pitched. This would seem like small sample size, but it is a large number in a very short time.
The first instinct is to look at the batted ball data and to see if Aumont has fly ball tendencies and has been lucky up this point. However, given that in the majors in 2014, 3 of 8 fly balls left the park, it is fair to think this might be small sample size, so lets expand it to all of 2013 and 2014 (majors and minors) courtesy of numbers from MLBFarm.
|2013||73 (49.0%)||33 (22.2%)||39 (26.2%)||4 (2.7%)|
|2014||88 (53.7%)||36 (22.0%)||34 (20.7%)||6 (3.7%)|
As we can see not only has his fly ball rate not gotten up, he is actually causing hitters to pound the ball more frequently than ever before. At least one home run this year was on a fastball that ran over and caught too much of the plate. As we can see here in the first home run here, the ball at 96 breaks right into the path of the bat. So it is not entirely out of Aumont’s control, but it does look like he is not home run prone in general, and I would expect a higher than average HR/FB rate because of his velocity and command problems, but I would expect the total numbers to remain low because of his low fly ball numbers.
The Stuff is Nasty:
The stuff has been and continues to be overwhelming for Aumont. His fastball averages about 94.5 mph, but will reach up to 97. The velocity, while excellent, is not what makes the pitch special for Aumont, rather it is the sharp armside run that makes the pitch particularly good.
In the past this late break has led to high percentages of ground balls as hitters hit right into the top of it.
In terms of secondary stuff, Aumont brings a curveball, that is most famous for cutting Dan Uggla’s height in half.
That nasty pitch is still there, watch is it just disappears from the strike zone against Dalton Pompey.
Then when you think it is safe to come outside he unleashes his splitter. The splitter sits comfortably between the fastball and curveball in the upper 80s, it is straight, unlike the fastball, only its bottom drops out.
Why Doesn’t It Work:
After looking at Aumont pitch, you have to ask the question of, “Why isn’t he dominant?”. The answer is that while he has become mostly proficient at throwing it towards home plate, getting it in the strike zone has been a problem over his career.
This isn’t limited to missing by an inch, but he is prone to throw pitches anywhere within about 6 feet to either side of the plate. This isn’t common, but it does happen. The other problem is how much Aumont’s pitches move. They will break in and out of the strike zone, this causes a lot of balls and missed calls by umpires. This leads to the biggest problem, if Aumont’s control is poor, his command is non-existent. There is rarely a pitch that looks placed in the zone, and almost never a pitch that hits the catcher’s glove. This means no pitch really “sets up” a batter, but there is an element of randomness. On top of the physical inability to throw strikes, Aumont’s mound presence is poor. He is visibly upset by every missed call strike, and more often than not the next pitch will be a ball. This has gotten somewhat better in recent years, but it still is a severe limitation on his consistency over the years.
Can He Be Fixed:
Not really. This spring was Aumont at his best (outside the HR/FB rate). His stuff has never looked better, he has generated a lot of ground balls (of which quite a few have been misplayed). He may have hot streaks that give the impression that he is fixed, but he is always teetering on the edge of disaster. He is out of minor league options, so if he doesn’t make the majors, he will be waived and likely claimed by a team that thinks they can fix him. That will likely be the story for the next 5 years and pitching coaches each take their turn at fixing Aumont. To this point it looks like it is more about accepting who Aumont is, than changing him.