Who or What is a Roenis Elias?
SSI personal record: Gallons Soup / 1 Oyster


Wish we could help yer on Roenis Elias, boys.  Trouble is, you're really supposed to watch somebody pitch first.  ... :- /  But since he's, um, in the Seattle Mariners rotation whilst simultaneously being nothing but a rumor, we better give you whatever we gots.

Dr. D could find one (1) glimpse of him on YouTube, that being about 4 pitches two years ago ... in a 21-10 loss.  HEH!  ... the video made no sense at all, because Roenis was coming down by Laredo, sidearm - while keeping the ball high in the zone.  (His delivery alone tells you that we are not exactly talking Javier Lopez or Sid Fernandez here.)

That does not jell with the fact that he is a groundball pitcher, as Jim pointed out exactly one year ago.


Loch Ness Sea Monsters, Interdimensional Yeti and Groundballing Southpaws

A groundballing lefty?  Sound a little funky to start with?  It is.  Start with the understanding that the league average is 1.1 ground balls per fly ball:


Starting Pitchers 2011-13, Groundball Ratio over 1.4  (n= 60)
No. Pitcher GB/FB
1 Charlie Morton RHP 3.1
2 Derek Lowe RHP 2.7
3 Jake Westbrook RHP 2.6
4-5 Two righties 2.4 to 2.5
6 Another righty (H. Alvarez) 2.2
7 Justin Masterson RHP 2.2
8 Tim Hudson RHP 2.2

1.9 to 2.2

17 Ricky Romero: at long last, a LHP


18-32 FIFTEEN MORE RIGHTIES!! incl. Fister, Felix, & Iwakuma

1.5 to 1.9

33 Wade Miley, LHP 1.5
34-60 The only lefties:  Matt Harrison, CJ Wilson, Francisco Liriano, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, David Price, Chris Sale, and Gio Gonzalez 1.4 to 1.5

You can see that groundballing lefties are (1) as rare as hen's teeth, and (2) as a group, generally synonymous with "The Pitching Staff of the American League All-Stars." 

:: insert Gratuitous James Paxton Hype here ::

In the minors, Roenis' groundball rate has been fully 1.8, 1.9.  So right there you've got an "interesting" pitcher, as McClendon put it.


Sooooo ... WHY does he get grounders?!

Nowhere, and we mean no where, on the internet does it even tell you what pitches the man throws.  It gives you the 26 names of the people on the life raft, but never does it tell you whether he throws a slider or a curve.  (Actually, his grounder rate does tell you that he throws a yellow hammer.)

Finally, there was a teensy bit of video on Roenis rat cheer.  Today's highlight reel.  Sure enough, a deeeep fastball and a power 12-6 curve.  (Go to the :32 mark to see Elias twirl in an Erikkkk Bedard hook.)


As Dan Lependorf corroborates in this superb article, batters top the ball in two situations:

  • It's a slow offspeed pitch (note Bedard's grounder rate)
  • It's a fastball that bores hard in on a RH batter's knees (cf. Derek Lowe and Felix ... cf. Iwakuma's Shuuto)

Note that sliders and cutters, if they are RHP on RHB, count as fastballs -- batters swing under those.


As a LHP with a very high grounder rate, it stood to reason that Elias had a smoking hot fastball with CUTTING action (Elias is a lefty, so must CUT the ball to get in on the handle to the vast population of RH baters), as well as a roll-off-the-table curve ball.

Yep, that's what the video shows.  He's got a nice hook, and he comes sidearm so that the fastball tends to get in on RHB's a lot.  (Elias has a James Paxton lower half, but then suddenly transmogrifies into a sidearmer at the very last moment.)

Paxton is a LHP who gets grounders because of his ridiculous downhill plane.  But sidearm?  I doubt there are ANY major league pitchers who throw the ball much like Elias does - sidearming into groundballs.   Jon Lester?  No, he is three quarters delivery ... Price?  Well, he is a bit sidearm at release, despite the high lower body; that's kind of similar ...

Oh!  Chris Sale.  Of course.  Sale approaches the game of baseball somewhat like Roenis Elias does.


Give the Cake Another 20 Minutes In the Oven?

Elias' strikeout-to-walk ratio, last year and the year before, was:

  • Perfectly acceptable
  • Not at ALL indicative that he's ready for the big leagues

Now, here in 2014, he's got 6 walks and 4 strikeouts in spring training.  Too raw?  Well, the little highlight video from the game today tells us (for what it's worth) exactly the same thing -- that he has CONTROL but not COMMAND.  Probably he can throw a strike, such as it is, but not to either side of the plate, and certainly not so as to set hitters up.


If we'd actually seen him pitch a game or two, we could give you our usual 4,000 words worth of shtick.  Going off a groundball ratio and seven pitches on highlight, you'll have to settle for 20% of that.  They're both worthless either way, so pick your poison :- )

Wars, and rumors of wars?  Best guess as of right now:  he's not ready for the bigs, but does have an "interesting" and very distinctive approach to the game.  The beautiful thing here is that his groundballs would/should contain right hand batters -- and then his sidearming hook and 92 fastball naturally tear lefties to shreds, no problem.  That's why the chart above contains only All-Stars.

So, a high-upside approach, but K:BB suggest he isn't ready.  Then again, Gio Gonzalez wasn't ready for the bigs when he came up.  Most lefties aren't.  Hey, they say Elias throws as hard as K-Pax, and Elias doesn't battle his curve ball.

It's all guesswork,

Dr D





Try these for some more:
http://mariners.scout.com/2/1349161.html -- he's #38
I don't think he's 100% ready for a continuing rotation spot - but I think he'd be worth giving starts to until 'Kuma and Taijuan are ready. He's tough and he has enough to get guys out. Is Beaven or Noesi really any better? Right, we know they aren't quite there and we don't know (yet) on Elias. But his performance says it might not be a bad idea to give him a try for, what? - three or four starts?


Nice to know that Erikkkk curve ball (today) isn't a fluke.
... if I don't believe you about -- what, exactly?  :- )  Did I miss something in the Shout Box?  Oh, about his makeup, after the travails in Cuba.  Right, I don't doubt that at all.


I'm aware that the information I have on guys, even ones I follow closely, is second-hand and second-rate. I've followed Roenis since he signed, finding his story interesting. I also have him as an adopt-a-player at MC. Having followed and analyzed each of his starts at HD and Jackson via gameday and newspaper recaps, I have found that his pitchability is exceptional. Like Jason Vargas, he may not dominate, but he never lets things get out of hand, either.
Perhaps saying he is a *legit* #5 starter is premature, but I will contend that if given the 3-4 starts that Iwakuma or Walker will miss, that he would do as good a job as Beaven or Noesi in keeping us in games, and would offer a better chance of avoiding blowouts. If Wolf comes around to form, he may be better, but he isn't there yet.
This guy is a good pitcher who has shown a real ability to continually improve and constantly adjust. He's not going to be in Paxton's class, or Walker's. But it sure looks to me like he's in Beaven's and Maurer's, and tougher and steadier than either, even while possibly lacking their pure stuff. I think Chris Harris is right when he praises him as possibly the best *pitcher* at Jackson last year. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he went, say, 1-1 in 4 starts for the Ms, but kept them in every game - and then went to Tacoma and was the best pitcher on that staff through the rest of the season. The guy just knows how.


That's it for me. Who is going to get the (4?) starts until Iwakuma or Walker is ready?

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