President Trump recently asked if we could nuke hurricanes. That question is normally reserved for: Sharknado 10 script meetings or when one is high as a kite watching the Weather Channel. But did you know that the idea was first mentioned back in 1959 at the Second Plowshare Symposium? By actual, well-respected scientists? Hey, I’m not a Trump guy, but I respect the out-of-the-box thinking, and I kind of get it. I mental masturbate about what I’d do if I won the lottery. Thank goodness, though, that we live in an anayltical world, in which scenarios can be debunked with numbers. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration states that the energy needed to modify a hurricane “doesn’t seem promising.” “A fully developed hurrican releases the equivalent of a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes.” For perspective, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was over 600 times smaller, so around 2,000 of those would need to be dropped every hour. As Science Alert stated, “we would need to add more than half a billion tons of air….A nuke couldn’t do that.” Which brings me to Brock Burke of the Texas Rangers. Burke has been a hurricane since being called up on August 20th, annihilating both the Angels and White Sox. As a result, he’s been the most added player in ESPN leagues over the past week (30.2% – increase of 29.9%). Since we know that nukes cannot stop a hurricane, let’s see if the numbers illuminate anything.
Burke is 23 years old, 6′ 2″ 170 pounds, and throws from the left side. The arsenal consists of a 92 mph fastball, slider, and changeup. The Rays selected him in the third round of the 2014 MLB draft, where he pitched for five seasons. In December of 2018, Burke was traded to the Rangers. Since then, the rise has been meteoric. He pitched 82 innings in Class-A-Advanced, then 55 innings in Double-A. For the 2019 season, he pitched 4 innings in Rookie, 5 innings in Single-A, 45 innings in Double-A, 8 innings in Triple-A, and now 12 innings in the majors.
Throughout his minor league career, the K/9 has been all over the map, from a low of 5.98 to a high of 11.55. I’m just looking at stints in which he pitched 40+ innings. The walk rate has had a wide range as well, from 1.88 to 4.28. The one consistent quality has been the ability to induce ground balls and not allow home runs.
Let’s focus on the torrid start to his major league career.
In 12 innings, he’s allowed 1 earned run, given up 6 hits, walked 5, and struck out 9. The K/9 is only 6.75, while the BB/9 is 3.75. The ground ball rate is 64.5%, but the strand rate is 92.3% and BABIP is .188. That 0.75 ERA you see? Hmmph, as the xFIP is 4.62.
Perusing the batted ball data, the GB/FB rate is 2.86 and the hard hit rate is only 31.3%. I told y’all he was good at getting ground balls.
Going over to the plate discipline numbers, the swinging strike rate is a paltry 7.3%, but the chase rate is 35.3%. The contact rates are high at 89.8% in the zone and 84.4% in general.
As for splits, he’s been much more effective against lefties, boasting a 25% strikeout rate, compared to 17.5% against righties. The xFIP against lefties is 6.20 and 4.43 against righties. Of course, the sample sizes are small, as he’s faced 40 righties and ony 8 lefties. We do the best with what we have.
I like that Burke doesn’t give up hard contact and limits the long ball, but he doesn’t miss bats. As a result, regression is coming once the BABIP normalizes. The strand rate will decrease. Correspondingly, so will the ERA.
Now, the schedule lines up in his favor, as the next two starts will likely come against the Mariners and Orioles. Both teams are in the top 5 when it comes to striking out against left-handed pitching. With that said, there are now two games worth of tape on Burke and he doesn’t miss bats. This hurricane has been devastating for his first two major league starts, but once it hits landfall, the system should dissipate and return to normalcy. TRASH