Monday, August 2, 2010

Who says there's no "#1"?

Long weekend is upon us, and that can mean only one thing - bonus Ack coverage! So, yeah....apologies in advance for that. And if I'm mowin' the Tao's lawn with this additional post, you'll know by my sudden disappearance from the interweb. He's brutal like that, man.

Truth be told, I was happy to rest on my laurels and call it a weekend, until I was spurred on by a comment over at DJF : to paraphrase, Kyle Drabek hasn't lived up to the hype and won't amount to much as a big leaguer. Mix in ongoing commentary in the media & beyond about how the system lacks that true #1, that hammer, that Ace that all contenders have....and boom - inspiration.

So, has Drabek been as good as the advance press clippings indicated he should be? Consider the following statistics:

Wins (yeah, I know...): 11 (1st in AA Eastern League)

ERA: 3.04 (6th)

Innings Pitched: 136.0 (2nd - vs 108 hits allowed)

K's: 103 (3rd, and while well below K/IP, note that not one pitcher in the top-20 exceeds 9 K/9)

WHIP: 1.18 (5th - walks allowed could use some work)

Oh, and there was this line on July 4th: 9 IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 3K

...and he's still just 22. Far from old for the league he's pitching in. So given those statistics....does that look like disappointment to you? And given the mid-90's fastball, hammer curve, and developing change (it's the Blue Jays - you know it'll get there....), does it not seem like this could be the type of pitcher who can be The Guy? And if it doesn't, I'll ask you to tell yourself the following:

He'll never be Roy Halladay. OK?

Some point to his lack of promotion to AAA Vegas as a sign of disappointment, but if it's me, I never let the kid see one inning pitched in that league. New Hampshire is likely the best place for his development, and it's where he should stay until Jays' brass determine he's ready for his debut.

And about that is possible the Jays give Drabek a taste of major league life before he reaches his innings limit and is shut down for the season. What better way to prepare for a run at the 2011 rotation than to give the future ace a quick tour of life in the bigs?

Wild conspiracy theories: Latin America
So, I was thinking, as I tend to do only it possible that Alex Anthopoulos was further inclined to not trade Jose Bautista as part of his master plan to strengthen the Jays' foothold in Latin America?

Yes, I know - take off the tinfoil hat, etc. But think about it: the Jays have been making all kinds of noise about becoming the "preferred destination" for these players - a notion stated publicly by the front office (if not indirectly), and further strengthened by the recent aggressive signings these past few months of 16 year old phenoms along with the acquisition of "misunderstood" SS genius Escobar.

And who was tapped to be Esco's mentor? Jose Bautista. And who would make the perfect figurehead to point towards and say "look at how this player thrived in our organization"? Jose Bautista.

Perhaps there's nothing at all to this rambling, but perhaps the lack of appetite to move The Player has deeper roots than previously thought. And with the way Bautista continues to play for this club....that's a good thing.


eyebleaf said...

Thanks to the DJF Monkey Army, and your yeomen's work, I'm now more excited about Kyle Drabek than I've ever been. While I love the idea of him getting a start in The Show this season, I'm not going to get my hopes up. But it would be a nice bone for Alex Anthopoulos to throw our way. If he doesn't, I won't be mad, but, well, still. I hope he's thinking about it.

Re: Bautista, you make some interesting points. Perhaps giving Roberto Alomar more clout within the organization, something he's been vocal about recently, is another part of this plan you speak of. Anyway: the more Cuban rafts that end up on Toronto soil, the better.



The Ack said...

Just felt like Drabek wasn't getting enough play. Seriously, his numbers are good, even if he isn't racking up Morrow-esque strikeout totals. That'll come with refinement and the Patented Blue Jay Change-Up.

Watching the game today, I see Escobar nad JoBau have come up with a sweet little handshake/high-five deal. In a word, Yes.

Steve G. said...

I agree mostly with KLaw's take on Drabek - With those strikeout numbers, he projects more as a solid rotation regular than a star to me. The fact that other Eastern League pitchers don't have high strikeout total just seems to suggest that there are a bunch of other pitchers with mid-rotation stuff in AA.

I do agree with you about Vegas though. That's where pitchers go to die and to get battered around like a government mule, and thus to develop mental issues about their stuff. After this season, just skip him straight to the majors and let him pitch his way through trouble.

eyebleaf said...

@ The Ack: I saw that too, the Esco/JoBau shake. I hope they get to practice it for years, especially after back-to-back jacks.

mike in boston said...

if i'm AA i'm keeping Drabek as far away from Cito as possible.

i don't see much upside in giving him 3 or 4 starts pitching to scrubs in septemeber, after he's pitched a full season in AA. let him rest up, work on his stuff in ST and open the '11 season in the 4 or 5 spot.

Tao of Stieb said...

Funny, but the more that I see Drabek's numbers, the more I think of Shaun Marcum.

I don't get the impression that Dabek is going to walk in and blow people away, but he'll be a really strong 2-3 guy or a good number 1 if you have some depth behind him.

Anonymous said...

I can help but think, WHO CARES? An out is an out whether it is a K or not. Granted I would like to see the walk rate come down. It appears to me given the other stats like IP, ERA and WHIP of which I am more concerned.
If you look at Doc's stats from years gone by his K/9 stats stack up pretty similarly.
There are plenty of dominant pitchers that rely more on hitters getting themselves out then the K. And guess what? that's fine because an out is an out.

Anonymous said...

Also if you want a good laugh check out the stats of the untouchable Casey Kelly from the RSN.
Who would you rather have?

The Ack said...

y'know, I had a rebuttal (to steve g) comment all lined up concerning The Untouchable Casey Kelly, Esquire, and the fact that he's never reached the 9K/9 mark at any minor league level - and still always designated as a future #1 .....but he's always been young for the league he's pitching in, so left it alone.

Mark said...

Don't agree with the thought of skipping AAA. Someone actually asked Sickels if he thought Drabek/Collins (RIP) should skip AAA because of the environment, and he was totally against it. Said the different levels teach different things, and it's generally not a good idea for players to skip AA or AAA.

If Drabek is having problems with walks in AA, he definitely needs AAA, where batters are more selective. He'd give up 5-6 right now in MLB.

mike in boston said...

in reply to Mark, on skipping AAA

i think with batters the thought is that they'll see a lot junkball pitchers in AAA so it's sometimes best not to mess up their swings.

with pitchers the thought is that the PCL turns flyballs into HRs and this can cause pitchers to make unnecessary adjustments which then need to be undone at the ML level.

i'm not sure you can project BB rates at the ML level based on the AA results. different defense, different catcher, etc. i'd be happy to see him get a chance in spring training to win a rotation job and then be the 1st guy to get called up from AAA if he doesn't make the team outright.

dave said...

Re: Bautista/Latinos

Steve G. said...

@ Ack - Although I'm a Red Sox fan, I'm not a Red Sox homer. After this year, I think Kelly's peak is more #2 or #3 starter, although as you point out he is pretty young and new to pitching.

@ Mark - I agree with Mike in Boston. Also, I think the value of exposing a player to AAA is far less now, since AAA serves mostly as a travel team for Major League injury replacements now as opposed to a place where guys develop.

@ Anonymous - Strikeouts per nine is important because batting average on balls in play tends to fluctuate from year to year. Therefore, it's more valuable to have pictures who can control their own destiny by limiting walks and strikeouts than who rely on fielders.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve G hate to get all nit-picky but I am curious how a "picture" can control it's own destiny.
BABIP really shouldn't fluctuate all that much year to year for a PITCHER. Yes it is more dependent on defense and luck but it also will generally average out in the majors to somewhere between .290 and .300. If it falls outside that range you can usually find a reason.
I will agree that Drabek does need to limit his walks but again reiterate that his stats this year shouldn't be used to downgrade him as a prospect.

Steve G. said...

Sure, kill a guy for making a typo ;)

BABIP fluctuates quite a bit for pitchers, so pitchers ideally want to strike out as many guys as possible. Nick Blackburn doesn't strike out anyone, and as a result, he's in Rochester right now. It's hard to find consistently elite pitchers who doesn't strike out a ton of guys. Sure, you need to have control too, but the career leaderboard of K/9 guys has folks like Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, Pedro, Nolan Ryan, Trevor Hoffman and Sandy Koufax on it, 1 through 6. (#7 is Oliver Perez; neither he nor batters know where his pitches are going.)

Right now, Drabek is at 6.82 K/9. I whipped up a quick spreadsheet, limiting it to Eastern League pitchers with at least 50 innings, and he ranks 47th. (For what it's worth, Kelly is 17th.) Most guys lose strikeouts as they go to the majors.

So yeah, I'd find Drabek's K-rate mildly concerning, and it would make me downgrade his peak from #1 starter / consistent all-star to more of what the Jays have now - a bunch of average starters. The Twins have proven you can win with those kind of guys though, provided your lineup is strong enough.

Anonymous said...

Yes he ranks 47th among all pitchers, but how many of the guys ahead of him are starters?
Also you say that guys with great K rates tend to be hall of fame/superstar type pitchers but the flip side of that is that there are also plenty of great pitchers that never attain that K rate.
We may have to agree to disagree on this one but I don't think that with the defense being assembled behind these guys that you really need to worry about pitching to contact.

Anonymous said...

Roy Halladay's career K/9 is 6.67.
Greg Maddux 6.05
Tom Glavine 5.31
Andy Pettite 6.63
Jamie Moyer (just for fun) 5.38
Kevin Brown 6.63
Kevin Appier 6.91
Mark Buerle 5.12
Cliff Lee 6.82
Doug Drabek 5.66

Everyone one of those pitchers (with the possible exception of Moyer, but I wanted to see his number) have been definite #1, Cy Young calibre pitchers, with K/9 very similar to what Kyle Drabek's doing. Good pitchers just get the job done.

Steve G. said...

They did it in the major; Drabek's rate is probably going to decay as he climbs up the ladder. He also doesn't have their freakish control, since most of the guys you listed don't walk people at all. And even among that narrow band, the guys with the higher K/9 tend to have higher peaks than Buerle, Moyer and Glavine.

Anonymous said...

For fun on the other side of things, guys with high K/9 who weren't #1 guys:

Hideo Nomo 8.73
Kelvim Escobar 7.82
Darren Driefort 8.3
Ryan Dempster 7.7
Robert Person 7.8
Matt Clement 7.8
John Maine 7.6
Ted Lilly 7.7
Brandon Morrow 9.5

Now, I'm not saying these were/are bad pitchers. You have to have some level of talent to strikeout big league hitters. But, just that a high K/9 does not make a #1 starter on its own. Nor does a lower K/9 keep a player from being a #1.

Tim in London said...

@Steve G.

All I can say is it looks like our return on Doc is better than what we got for Cone or far.

Anonymous said...

Fun challenge Steve, and with baseball-reference as my friend here it is. 1st number is k/9, second is BB/9, all minor league numbers:

Drabek 7.3/3.3
Halladay's 5.9/2.9
Maddux 7.2/2.7
Tom Glavine -/4.2
Andy Pettite 7.3/2.5
Kevin Brown -/3.6
Kevin Appier -/3.0
Mark Buehrle 6.6/1.4
Cliff Lee 10.1/4.2
Doug Drabek -/3.3

Some interesting stuff. K/9 unavailable for the older guys, but those whose numbers were there pretty similar to Drabek (with the exception of Cliff Lee).

BB/9, again pretty similar with the exception of Buehrle. Most guys lowered their BB/9 significantly when the reached the majors (usually by about 1). Looking through some other pitchers dropping walks once reaching the majors does not seem unusual. But I can't be sure if it means they make the majors because they drop their BB/9 or if BB/9 naturally drops as these players mature. Likely a combination of the 2.

Anyways, that was fun. I still argue that there's nothing about Drabek's numbers that mean he can't be great. Having never seen him pitch, and not being a major league scout, I can't say that he will, but the same would go for the other people making judgements.

William said...

This was one post where the comments were almost as interesting as the post itself. Way to go guys.

The Ack said...

^^ yes - fantastic.

Parker said...

One should bear in mind that any of Keith Law's comments concerning the Jays should be taken with a grain of salt. He isn't exactly the poster boy for objective analysis, which is somewhat understandable given his history with the team.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyable read, thanks guys.

mike in boston said...

just listened to Buck Martinez's interview on PTS. He had some pretty nasty things to say about Law. I wonder what that's all about.

Darren Priest said...

@mike pretty sure Law's tenure with the Jays ended acrimoniously. Since then, I can't recall Law having a single positive thing to say about the organization. That's probably why the Bobcat keeps bringing him back.

I'm sure the Toronto sports media will be quick to jump on the bandwagon when the team is closer to contending. Right now, the safe bet is to shit all over the team and it would seem professional sports media members like to be right.

Asking KLaw about the Jays is like asking Jennifer Aniston about Angelina Jolie.

SP said...

Great discussion, guys. While I agree that pitchers who control their input are more likely to consistently produce good outputs, I disagree about high K rates being the best indicator. Aren't K/BB or WHIP much better?

Also, it's been shown that fastballs are the most common out pitch or swing and miss pitch, however I think that effect is exponentially greater if the pitcher has great secondary stuff. It's the difference between AJ Burnett and Adam Wainwright, both have killer curves, but the latter has a killer slider too plus a change. Right now, Drabek has that same fastball-curve combo as Burnett but Drabek has better control than Burnett did in the minors. Even though Burnett had the better K-rates in the minors, I'll take the control and hope that Drabek develops a good enough changeup, which will make his fastball more effective.

mike in boston said...

pretty sure Law's tenure with the Jays ended acrimoniously.

that doesn't really explain why Buck has his own issues with Law. i believe the quote was "i don't want to hear anything Keith Law has to say."

Martinez's cheerleading for Cito's handling of the bullpen and Gregg in particular was embarrassing. this is more of the same piggish "no criticism is to be tolerated" attitude. it betrays some pretty thin skin, probably due to his own short tenure as manager.

i really wish they would put Ashby with him for a week ...

Darren Priest said...

Yes, it's not very Christian of him to react that way to KLaw. He should want to hear more of what Keith Law has to say. That's the role of the manager -- current or former.

Steve G. said...

@mike pretty sure Law's tenure with the Jays ended acrimoniously. Since then, I can't recall Law having a single positive thing to say about the organization. That's probably why the Bobcat keeps bringing him back.

To be fair, he's said some positive things in chats about Snider and Doc, and he's pretty critical about every team.

However, the Jays' highest win total has been 87 the past decade, and the best finish has been second in 2006, when they were still 10 games back of the Yankees. I'm not sure why his negativity would be unwarranted.

And IIRC, Buck Martinez hates Law and the other stats guys the Jays had around because of his time managing. I believe it is one-sided, but I don't have time to look up the chat archive when Law discussed it.

Darren Priest said...

I wonder what Law was saying about Doc when he was sent down to double-A. Seeing as Law was "special assistant to the GM" during that period, do you think maybe he would own some of that record? He had a shot to bring his baseball acumen to the real world, but I guess he blew it.

If Law had AA's job, he probably wouldn't have made the Yunel Escobar trade --seeing as he sees him as "declining."

I don't blame Buck for not being interested in KLaw's latest cynical salvo.

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