Former Pitt-Johnstown athlete ready for season

Cory Geer, Sports Editor

Former Pitt-Johnstown baseball player Kaleb Fleck is getting ready again for spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Kaleb was an excellent student athlete, a great young man, and is blessed with a golden arm,” said Pitt-Johnstown baseball coach Todd Williams.

Fleck was signed as a free agent by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012. He is in his fifth year in their minor-league system.

In 2016, Fleck played for Arizona Diamondbacks AAA-affiliate, the Reno Aces.

Fleck, a relief pitcher, posted a 5.81 ERA, pitching 31 innings and striking out 37 batters.

Statistically, 2016 was Fleck’s worst year as a professional baseball player. In five years, he has pitched 235.1 innings and has a 3.25 ERA.

Sabermetrics are being introduced to baseball fans, one of them being fielding independent pitching.

Fielding independent pitching measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average defense.

Back in the early 2000s, research by Voros McCracken revealed that the amount of balls that fall in for hits against pitchers do not correlate well across seasons.

In other words, pitchers have little control over balls in play, and assuming short-term fluctuations in batting average of balls in play are attributable to the pitcher is likely incorrect.

McCracken suggested a better way to assess a pitcher’s talent level is by looking at results a pitcher can control directly: strikeouts, walks and home runs.

The formula to determine fielding independent pitching is to multiply the number of homeruns given up by 13, then add the number of walks the pitcher gave up by three and then subtract the number of strikeouts multiplied by two.

The number is then divided by the number of innings pitched.

Fangraphs, a sabermetric website where Major League Baseball organizations routinely hire writers to work in their analytics department; an excellent fielding independent pitching is 2.90 and under.

Fleck’s fielding independent pitching in the year of 2016 was 0.702.

“Looking at it in a way of strikeouts, walks and homeruns makes sense. A pitcher can’t control if the defense is making good or bad plays, Walker said.”

Sabermetrics are being used at Penn State, said Penn State University catcher Ryan Sloniger.

“We’re starting to focus less on the batting average and more on advanced statistics such as line drive rates and quality of contact.”

Line drive rates are the percent of at bats when a batter hits a line drive. Quality of contact is just whether the batters at bat resulted in soft, medium or hard contact.

Sloniger said he agrees with using these statistics.

“Baseball is a funny game: you can hit the ball hard right at someone and get out, or you can hit something soft that goes for a hit…. Sabermetrics are good for the game of baseball.”