Archive for May 2009

Another Switch Pitcher

May 31, 2009

In my recent post Old School St. Louis Baseball: Part 2, I wrote about 19th century pitching star Tony Mullane, who is best remembered today for his ability to pitch with both hands.

Well, it turns out there is another switch-pitcher playing professionally right now.  His name is Pat Venditte, and he’s in the Yankees’ system.  Here’s an AP wire article about him.

Venditte was taken in the 20th round of last year’s draft, because he was already 23 in his last year in college at Creighton, where he started as a walk-on.  He pitched in Rookie Ball last year and is currently playing in the Class A South Atlantic (Sally) league.  These leagues are below the level  of a pitcher with his level of college success, and he has completely dominated them.  So far in his professional career, he has 37 saves in 49 appearances, with a 0.85 ERA, and 74 K’s, 29 hits allowed and 11 BBs in 53.2.  The Yankees should have him pitching at Tampa in the A+ Florida State League already.

According to the article, as right-hander Venditte throws the ball over the top and can hit 90 mph with his fastball.  As a left-hander, he throws side-arm and gets more break on his pitches.  He apparently has great command with both sides.  Needless to say, the Yankees have decided to let him pitch from both sides until he proves he isn’t good enough to do it.

One Major Arm Surgery Too Many?

May 30, 2009

The Twins’ Francisco Liriano is off to a brutal start this year.  He lost to the Rays today, his record falling to 2-7 and ERA climbing to 6.60.  Liriano is only 25 this year, but one has to wonder if all the arm problems and surgeries he’s had have ruined him.

There is some cause for hope, though.  He still appears to have good stuff.

His major problem this year has been throwing strikes.  He now has 67 hits allowed, 28 BB’s and 50 K’s in 58.2 innings pitched.  His hits per nine IP is much higher than his career average.  I tend to think that he’s falling behind hitters and then having to come in over the plate down in the count and getting hammered.  The fact that he is still striking people out suggests he’s still got a good arm, so if he improves his command, he may turns thing around in a hurry.

Joe Dillon, recently called up from AAA Durham, hit a HR for the Rays today off Liriano, the 3rd of Dillon’s major league career.  He’s 33 years old and has been a classic 4-A player.  He mostly played 3B in the minors and has a career minor league OPS of .891, which is terrific for a 3Bman.  He got a shot with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan in 2006, but the experiment only lasted 31 games and 87 ABs.  He hit only .195 with a .585 OPS and was shipped back the States.

Dillon can play some 2B, and with Akinori Iwamura out of the year with a torn ACL, this is Dillon’s last, best hope of having a major league career.  Today’s HR was a good start.

Matt Cain Trade Rumors Greatly Exaggerated

May 30, 2009

Matt Cain is making it just about impossible for the Giants to trade him.  He improved to 6-1 tonight and lowered his ERA to 2.31.  His peripheral numbers aren’t nearly so good, so I suspect that some of Cain’s success this year is the law of averages making up for his 2007 and 2008 seasons when he went a combined 15-30 with ERA’s of 3.65 and 3.76, which are pretty good in today’s high offense game, because no one told the Giants’ hitters they were playing in the modern era.

The thing to remember about Cain is that while he’s now in his 4th full season, he’s still only 24 this year.  Young players tend to get better.

I do have worries, though.   While Cain has not thrown a particularly high number of innings the last three years (608.1 total, or an average of 202.2 IP per year), he’s thrown a lot of pitches.  He was second in the NL last year (behind only teammate Tim Lincecum — Is Bruce Bochy a great manager, or what?  Two losing seasons, but that’s not stopping him from wearing his young aces into the ground), 11th in 2007 and 14th in 2006.  Generally, bad things happen when pitchers under age 25 are overworked.

On the other hand, a lot of people in baseball think that Cain has the right body type (currently listed as 6’3″ & 246 lbs) and the right motion to eat up a lot of innings.  On the other hand, rumors have surfaced that in the Spring of this year, Giants’ scouts were concerned about the drop-off in his stuff.  On the other hand, he’s been pitching great during the regular season.

Just how good is Cain?  He’s pretty good.  He has benefitted somewhat from pitching in a pitcher’s park.  He has a career 3.40 ERA at home and 3.92 ERA on the road.  What team in baseball would not want a 24 year old pitcher who’s already an established major league starter and has a career 3.92 road ERA?  None that I can think of.

As a Giants’ fan, I’ve grown attached to Cain, and I’m thrilled that he finally appears to be having his break out season.  I hope the Giants keep him at least until late July of the season before he becomes a free agent.  If the Giants are still in the toilet then, they can unload him for more prospects than his future career will be worth.  So are the ways of baseball.

A Move I Like

May 30, 2009

The Mets were apparently eager to trade their back up catcher Ramon Castro, as the starter Brian Schneider was coming off the D.L.  Castro is a pretty good back-up to have around, at least in terms of his ability to hit.  He’s got a career .728 OPS and 51 dingers in 1167 ABs, which are fine numbers for a back-up catcher.  He’s 33 this year.

I suspect that Castro’s defense isn’t very good, though, because the Mets apparently preferred to keep 28 year old rookie Omir “Pito” Sanchez, who looking at his career minor league numbers, looks for all the world like a glove-tree catcher.  [The conventional wisdom is that good defensive players who can’t hit are a dime a dozen.  Whenever a GM needs a back-up to play mainly late inning defense, he goes and shakes the glove tree, and an appropriate good-field-no-hit player falls out.]

Anyway, the Mets were eager to unload Castro and as much of his $2.5M 2009 salary as they could, and it appears they actually got a player in return.  The White Sox gave them former 1st round draft pick Lance Broadway (15th in the 2005 draft).  Broadway is 25 this year, and he’s been no great shakes as a professional so far.

Still, I think Broadway has a reasonable chance to be a good major pitcher some day.  The White Sox put him on the fast track, and he stalled at the AAA level (which obviously is the best place for a minor league player to stall — he only has to improve a little bit and suddenly he’s a major league player).  Broadway has a career 4.10 minor league ERA, but he has 399 K’s against 187 BB’s in 531.1 minor league innings, almost all of it in the high minors (AA & AAA).  He doesn’t appear to have had any major arm problems either.

Everybody needs pitching, and to get a player young enough and talented enough to still have at least some chance of developing into a star for a guy you were just looking to dump so you wouldn’t have to carry all of his not especially high salary is a good move.  Besides, shouldn’t player named Broadway being playing in New York?

Strasburg’s Human!

May 30, 2009

San Diego State’s Stephen Strasburg finally lost a game today against Virginia in an NCAA Regional game.  Strasburg gave up two runs, both earned over 7 innings in the Aztecs’ 5-1 loss.

Strasburg didn’t do much to persuade the Nationals not to take him with the first pitch in the draft, though.  Although Strasburg gave up 8 hits and threw two wild pitches, he struck out 15 and walked no one.

Through tonight’s game, here are his season stats:

W   L   ERA   IP   Hits   BB   K

13  1   1.40  116  73     19   210

The last two numbers are correct: 19 walks and 210 strikeouts.  Unbelievable!

One number that is interesting is that while he has only 19 walks, he now has 13 wild pitches.  That makes me think that his stuff is wicked, and his college catchers just can’t handle it.

Does anyone remember the kind of ridiculous breaking pitches Kerry Wood threw when he first came up before all the arm injuries?  Sometimes the stuff broke so sharply there wasn’t much his major league catchers could do.  Wood had the best stuff of any young pitcher that I can remember, going back to the late ’70’s or early ’80’s.  I’m mainly a NL fan, though.  Anyone remember any body comparable?

One has to think that if he stays healthy and signs a professional contract by the August 15, 2009 deadline, Strasburg will be pitching in the major leagues for good no later than September 2010.

Matt Herges Sighting

May 29, 2009

Matt Herges won his first game of the season for the Indians tonight.  He’s 39 this year, and he’s another player with as many professional lives as a cat.  His career has appeared to be on the ropes more times than I can remember, but he also seems to bounce back.

After a poor, but not horrendous, year for the Rockies last year, he started in AAA Columbus in the International League this year and did not pitch particularly well, posting a 1-2 record with a 5.40 ERA.  The Indians called him up solely out of desperation, but he’s been lights out in the majors.  After 8 appearances, he has a 1.35 ERA with 14 K’s in 13.1 IP.  Will wonders never cease?

No Middle of the Road for Randy Johnson in 2009

May 28, 2009

It’s been all or nothing for Randy Johnson in his 10 starts this year.  He has pitched fantastically well in four of his starts and extremely poorly in the other six.

Good Randy has a 0.71 ERA in 25.1 innings with 14 hits allowed, 5 BB’s and 28 K’s.

Bad Randy has a 9.51 ERA in 29.1 innings with 42 hits allowed, 14 BB’s and 26 K’s.  Bad Randy’s best start was against Arizona on April 25, where he had a game ERA of 5.40 but didn’t make it out of the 4th inning.

I looked for patterns but had a hard time discerning any.  Good Randy obviously had better control, but Bad Randy was not nearly wild enough to explain how hard he got hit.  Good Randy pitched great games against the Rockies and the D-Backs, but Bad Randy showed up for his next starts against these teams, each about a week after Good Randy’s appearances.

Good Randy has shown up for the last two starts, so Giants fans have to hope he sticks around for awhile.