How Good Is the Mexican League? Part II: the Pitchers

Yesterday, I wrote a post which looks at the players to lead the Mexican League in OPS since 2005.  These players are mostly over 30 and not from Mexico.

Today, I tackle the players who have finished in the top ten in ERA in the Mexican League since 2005 (including 2013 to date).  These players are overwhelmingly Mexican and considerably younger than the league’s offensive stars, although they are still old compared to MLB’s National League.

72% of the 90 pitchers in the sample were born in Mexico, 16% came from other Latin American countries, 11% came from the U.S. or Canada, and exactly one (Japan’s Mac Suzuki in 2010) from somewhere else.

The degree to which the Mexican League’s top sluggers predominantly come from abroad while the league’s pitchers are home grown is striking.  It’s almost the reverse of the current trend in South Korea’s KBO, where almost all current foreign players are pitchers.  Apparently the KBO thinks it needs pitching help, while the Mexican League needs to import sluggers.  This is not unlike Japan’s NPB, where teams generally import position players whom they hope will hit for more power than most professional Japanese hitters do.

54% of the Mexican League pitchers with top ten ERAs were 30 or older, 28% were in the prime years of 26-29, and 18% were 25 or younger.  By way of comparison, in the National League since 2008, 35% of such pitchers have been 25 or younger, 35% have been between age 26 and 29, and only 30% have been 30 or older.

A cursory view of leading Mexican League pitchers suggests that most of them don’t throw very hard.  This is almost certainly the reason why they have not been acquired by MLB organizations. In fact, most Mexican League pitchers who strike out roughly one batter per inning are either over age 30 or extremely wild.  Young Mexican pitchers with strikeout stuff and good command apparently don’t stay in the Mexican League for long.

At the end of the day, I am left feeling that the Mexican League is a little better than the Independent-A Atlantic League, but probably not by much.  The Mexican League almost certainly has less turn-over from year to year than the Atlantic League, because for many players over 30, the Mexican League is not seen simply as a vehicle to get back into organized baseball, the way that players generally view the Atlantic League, but rather a place where professional careers can continue into their late 30’s or even early 40’s if the players can continue to perform.

Also, although I don’t know what the Mexican League’s best players are paid, I suspect they earn a little more than Atlantic League stars, who are basically capped at $3,000 a month for a five-month season with the majority of Atlantic League players making less than that amount.  Certainly, whatever they make in Mexico goes further than the same dollar amount earned and spent living on the East Coast of the U.S.

I doubt, however, that Mexican League players make much more than $3,000 a month, because if they did, I think we’d see a lot more American and Canadian veteran minor leaguers continuing their careers in Mexico than we actually do.  In particular, I would expect more Mexican American players to continue their careers in Mexico.  There have been a few long-time American stars in the Mexican League in recent years, like Kit Pellow, Derrick White, and Jesse Gutierrez, but not a whole lot.

More importantly, looking at the Mexican League’s attendance figures from milb.com, it seems doubtful the league’s teams can pay high salaries.  In a 16 team league, only two teams, the Sultanes de Monterey and the Saraperos de Saltillo, have regularly averaged 7,000 or more fans per game since 2005.

As a final note, the Mexican League’s best pitcher so far in 2013 is former San Francisco Giants prospect Paul Oseguera, who is putting up roughly the same numbers this year as he did for the Bridgeport Bluefish in 2012, when he was the Atlantic League’s best pitcher.  Oseguera is still only 29 this year, and while he might be getting old for a return to a major league organization, he certainly deserves a shot from Japan’s NPB, South Korea’s KBO or Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League, where salaries are higher.

Unfortunately, the NPB and KBO usually want players with at least a little major league experience, and Oseguera has never pitched higher than in AA ball in the States.  However, Michel Abreu’s success in Japan this year (he’s currently leading Japan’s Pacific League with 17 HRs) despite no prior major league experience may open a door or two for Oseguera if he continues to pitch as well the rest of the season as he has so far.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad, National League, San Francisco Giants

4 Comments on “How Good Is the Mexican League? Part II: the Pitchers”

  1. jose barron Says:

    there is a better league the pacific coast league the winter baseball league in mexico in the north about AAA

  2. Burly Says:

    On further investigation, there seem to be more American players in the Mexican League than I suggest in the piece above. They simply haven’t shown themselves in the league’s top ten the way that foreign born players from other Latin American countries have.

  3. Burly Says:

    My most recent information says Mexican League salaries are capped at $8,000 per month. So, more than the Atlantic League but not so much that American players are falling over themselves to pay in Mexico.

    • Burly Says:

      I suspect that maximum Mexican League salaries are about 100,000 Mexican Pesos a month, which would be about $4,900, given the continued fall in the Peso since Trump’s election. As of 2016, Atlantic League salaries are still capped at $3,000 a month, with average salaries around $2,100 a month. If my numbers are accurate, the Mexican League is almost certainly a better league than the Atlantic League simply by virtue of paying slightly higher salaries which go further in practice.


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