Review the Preview: Pitchers

We’re looking back at my preseason predictions for the Padres. Last week we examined the hitters; today we turn our attention to the moundsmen…


Jake Peavy, RHP

What I said: “If he’s going to maintain his place among the elite pitchers in baseball, Peavy really needs to become more efficient.”

What happened: From a visual standpoint, it seemed like Peavy had less trouble putting hitters away once he got ahead of them in the count. Unfortunately I cannot find anything in the statistical record to support this. What I did notice is that the GB% (percentage of balls in play that resulted in ground balls) against Peavy jumped from 38% in 2006 to 44% in 2007; the latter is more in line with career norms. Not surprisingly, Peavy saw his HR/9 cut in half. It bothers me that I can’t get better agreement between visual and statistical observations. I don’t entirely buy the theory that Peavy didn’t really slip much in ’06, but I find myself without a solid rebuttal. As for increased efficiency, it didn’t happen. Peavy threw a career-high 4.03 pitches per plate appearance, and his pitches per inning checked in at 16.2 — roughly the same as for his career. Bottom line: Peavy improved, but I’m not sure why.

Chris Young, RHP

What I said: “Like Peavy, if Young can resolve at-bats more quickly, he could take another step forward, which is a scary thought considering how good he already is.”

What happened: Young is such a strange pitcher. Every year, he throws more pitches per plate appearance than anyone else in baseball, has the worst groundball-to-flyball ratio, and allows the opposition to run wild against him. And every year, he pitches well. When talking about Young’s 2007 season, we need to differentiate between pre- and post-injury. He landed on the DL with a strained oblique muscle after working just two innings of a game at Colorado on July 24. At the time, his 1.82 ERA led MLB. Opponents were batting just .184/.257/.267 against him. After his return, Young’s command deserted him. He went 0-5 with a 5.96 ERA over 10 starts and walked an alarming (for him) 5.47 batters per 9 innings. People will talk about regression to the mean, and there’s some truth to that, but clearly Young was not right over the final two months of the season.

Clay Hensley, RHP

What I said: “Like the two twentysomethings ahead of him in the rotation, Hensley could stand to improve his command.”

What happened: It’s amazing to realize that the Padres almost reached the playoffs despite having one, maybe two effective starting pitchers in the second half of the season. Anyway, Hensley didn’t improve his command; instead he got hurt, stunk when healthy, returned to the minor leagues, and stunk some more down there. Is it cliche to say that his career is at a crossroads? Is it sour grapes to claim that if he’d contributed anything in ’07, the Padres would have been the best team in the National League? I have no idea what the future holds for Hensley, and neither do you.

Greg Maddux, RHP

What I said: “As he did for the Cubs and Dodgers in 2006, Maddux will provide good short-term value for the Padres.”

What happened: Maddux faded in September, but overall, he did exactly what I expected. He took his turn in the rotation, worked about six innings each time, and finished with a league-average ERA+. Maddux also did something I hadn’t anticipated — he tossed the Padres’ only complete game of the year.

David Wells, LHP

What I said: “The Padres… aren’t asking for much. If Wells can even make 20-25 starts this year and continue to lead by example, the club should be happy.”

What happened: Wells made 22 starts for San Diego, and for the most part, the results were not pretty. His key problems were an inability to pitch effectively away from Petco Park (7.99 ERA in 10 road starts) and work deep into games. Wells drained the bullpen. In games he started, the Padres used an average of 3.41 relievers, who threw a combined 68 pitches over 4 1/3 innings. This also had the effect of forcing manager Bud Black to carry 12 pitchers all season, thus limiting his bench options. The question isn’t whether Wells should have been released, it’s what took the Padres so long to cut bait?


Trevor Hoffman, RHP

What I said: “Hoffman won’t light up the radar guns (hasn’t for years) and he’s good for no more than about 60 innings, but despite recent declines in strikeout rates, he shows no signs of slowing down.”

What happened: Except for those final two games in Milwaukee and Denver, I nailed this one. Hoffman worked 57 1/3 innings and posted an ERA+ of 140, same as his last pre-surgery season in 2002. The strikeout rate continued to decline, but for the vast majority of the season, Hoffman remained effective.

Scott Linebrink, RHP

What I said: “Linebrink has good stuff and command, and he’s durable. Many clubs have inquired about his availability as a potential closer, and the Padres would not hesitate to use him in that role themselves should something happen to Hoffman.”

What happened: Linebrink’s command disappeared, and so did he (being jettisoned to Milwaukee in July). It appears that 2006 was not a fluke, but rather the first stages of decline. Linebrink is making the transition from dominant setup man to generic middle reliever. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Brewers offer him arbitration (he might accept, you know) so that they can collect compensatory draft picks.

Cla Meredith, RHP

What I said: “It would be irresponsible to predict anything close to a repeat of his phenomenal 2006 campaign, but Meredith should remain one of the better setup men in the National League now and into the near future.”

What happened: Meredith dominated in April, then struggled, then came on strong in the second half. He is durable and, despite being a sidewinder, doesn’t have appreciable lefty/righty splits. From a visual standpoint, his biggest problem appears to be the fact that a lot of the worm beaters (5.78 G/F ratio — are you serious?) he serves up find holes. Still, Meredith gave the Padres 80 innings of above-average work out of the bullpen, and in my humble estimation, he’s a decent bet to improve in ’08.

Heath Bell, RHP

What I said: “With a new franchise and a defined role, Bell has a chance to be a useful big-league reliever.”

What happened: Er, that was an understatement. Bell basically duplicated Linebrink’s 2005 season and became one of the best setup men in baseball. Some have identified Bell’s success as a product of his environment, and if we interpret that to mean an organization that gave him the chance to succeed, then I agree.

Doug Brocail, RHP

What I said: “Brocail is nothing special, but he’s only being asked to fill the Jon Adkins/Scott Cassidy/Brian Sweeney low-leverage innings role.”

What happened: At age 40, Brocail gave his best performance of the century (heh). He struggled in June and July, but otherwise pitched well. Brocail’s command sometimes deserts him at inopportune times, which means that watching him pitch can be a bit stressful.

Andrew Brown/Kevin Cameron/Justin Germano/Mike Thompson, RHP; Justin Hampson, LHP

What I said: “Both Kevin Towers and Bud Black have been impressed with Rule V draftee Cameron, who draws praise for his abilities to get lefties out. Thompson, meanwhile, provided the Padres with several shots in the arm as a rookie in ’06 and gives Black a guy who has experience as a starter if something should happen, say, to Wells.”

What happened: Brown was traded for Milton Bradley, Cameron stuck with the club and pitched well in the first half (0.31 ERA) but not in the second (5.34), Germano ended up making 23 starts, Thompson was a disaster, and Hampson worked 53 1/3 mostly low-leverage innings out of the ‘pen. That’s a lot of value out of the final spot on a 12-man staff.

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30 Responses »

  1. You have a great point about the Padres bascially only having 1.5 effective starters in the second half. I really hope that Clay can find his second-half 2006 self once he comes back from the injury.

    Tomko could be a credible fifth starter, but we still need to find some quality arms. The FA market is a little thin on pitching, so we’ll probably have to shop via trade.

    And honestly, at this point, if you get a call from Kevin Towers asking for a pitcher, how do you trade him? Maybe that’s why KT traded for Ledezma. To make people think he’s human sometimes.

  2. Well, at least both NLCS teams are from the NL West. Guess I’m going with Col because they can hit. Seems pitching is near equal. Bos looks really tough, poor angels got some whoopass put on them. Cubs and Philly, lucky to be there and it showed. I hope the padres get some better hitters, take pressure off the pitchers.

  3. Not to nick pick….but we all realize that Arizona has the worst offensive team in the league, right?

    Webb possibly starting 3 times in the series gives them an advantage though.

  4. “Maybe that’s why KT traded for Ledezma.” Classic!

  5. 3: How dare you say anything bad about the D’backs. They play with more heart than any other team in baseball. Fortunate circumstance, er, luck has zero to do with them winning 90 games.

  6. At this point, I’m going with the Rockies – might as well pick the team that knocked us out. I’m mostly over what happened, but not quite – I’ll never be fully… All I know is that the Rocks are the better team in the NLCS. I would like to see the d’backs outed for what and who they really are (run differential and all…) and for the Rockies to represent the NL against the Sox or whomever wins the AL.

  7. 3: Not true, and how dare you suggest it! Their offense is only the second worst in the league (San Fran’s is worst). But they more than make up for it through the heart of Eric Byrnes.

  8. For those with a BP subscription, the recent Cubs’ demise has elicited a look back at their even more tragic exit from the post-season in 1984 …

    … aaahhh, I *love* lookin’ back at the 1984 NLCS :-)

  9. Great review, Geoff.

    One point with respect to Meredith and his splits. He actually did exhibit some minor lefty/righty splits this year, giving up a .695 OPS to righties and a .757 OPS to lefties. The true skill split is likely greater than that. Righties hit .303/.333/.362, with K’s in 21.2% of PA and a .378 BABIP. Lefties hit ..286/.336/.421 with K’s 11.8% of PA and a .293 BABIP. Meredith struck out way more righties and completely eliminated their power, while lefties still hit for some power. That the batting lines are even close is completely due to righties’ ridiculously high BABIP. I’d expect that to go down and Meredith to have much more dramatic splits next year.

  10. 10.

    A brief message from Oliver Stone: “Let it go.”

  11. from the Chicago times:

    “Because it has more young players coming, Colorado is positioned to make a major trade. GM Dan O’Dowd reportedly is considering dangling third baseman Garrett Atkins (25 homers, 111 RBIs) and left-hander Brian Fuentes, which would be a strong down payment for a one-year rental on Johan Santana.”,1,1329389.column?coll=cs-home-headlines

  12. 12: Humidor or not, I can’t imagine Johan Santana going to Coors for one year rental.

    Since we are doing pitchers, I wonder if Jake was just hurt a bit in Coors before he pitched as he was not pitching the same way in his prior start. Then again, his sliders were not breaking as much so it could just be the thin air. Having said that, I doubt Schilling would have done as well as he did in Game 3 yesterday if he has to pitch against the Rockies in Coors field.

    I just hate reading about how great a pitcher Curt is in big games as in this column:

    especially this part, “I think he wills himself toward perfect execution. It’s mentally very tough to do, and he does it. Over and over again.”

    So, yeah, Go Rockies! And the Tribes too.

  13. 11: the perfect director to make the movie “Holliday touched the plate…or NOT”, a 3 hour and 18 minutes dissections of whether the MLB umpire was conspiring against the Padres, specifically, Sandy Alderson in the FO, and whether the media was trying to cover the evidence nationwide ending with the Congressional hearing that found the proof inconclusive.

    What I want to know is who called for the 8 straight change-ups to the rookie Tony Gwynn Jr. ?

  14. 10: Good stuff.

  15. 14.

    Oliver has allready passed on the project. He is quite busy right now, moving into his new home. In Denver! Purchased for him by none other than Boris Badenov. Things are getting curiouser, and curiouser.

  16. 17: That’s an interesting possibility.

  17. Thuuuuuuuuuuuuh Yankees Lose … and Alex Rodriquez still hasn’t even been to a World Series … ouch!

  18. 17 … I think this very much makes sense for the Padres … here’s some “scouting” info …

  19. 10 … thanks, Masti … classic! Hmmm, a new term to add to my vocab … disposiblog (disposable blog) … it will be interesting to see how long it lasts … I’ve added a few comments … see if that stirs the pot any … and I’ve posted a link to the DS shirts …

  20. Fuko!

    How much $$$ will we need to post for him? Anyone have stats or anything on him? How old is he?

    I like the whole “throwback” thing in that mlbtraderumors article — buzz cut, no jewelry, no tattoos, etc.

    YANKS LOSE!!! What a beautiful day it is!!

  21. 17 – I’d like to sign the guy just for the namesake alone. Every time I read the name I crack up.

  22. RE: 22 no posting fee he is a FA

  23. #9: That is a great point, Ben. I’d considered mentioning the discrepancy in strikeout rates right vs left, but decided against since we’re looking back rather than forward. You are absolutely right, though, that this bears watching into the future.

  24. Cla simply went through stretches where he had a hard time keeping the ball down. Cla has a very fine margin, he literally has to be right on the lower edge of the zone. If he’s even one ball width higher he gets hit, thus the higher BABIP. It’s not “luck” (a word that drives me insane with the way it’s thrown around these days), I believe (strictly based on obeservation) he’s one of the few pitchers that has some control over BABIP. When he’s got his control you see a lot of short grounders with crazy spin. When he’s elevating the ball he gets hit but normally the ball is still so low that it’s hard to hit home runs off him so any hard hit balls will stay in the field, leading to a higher BABIP.

    I also think there was an adjustment factor throughout the league this year. Batters learned not to swing at that frisbee slider that ends up two feet off the plate and to wait for a pitch above the knees. I think Cla had to learn how to deal with those adjustments and also how to keep the ball down. His numbers showed improvement throughout the season and he was pretty good in September. I expect him to be better next year, probably about in line with his September numbers (.228 BA against).

  25. #26: Yep. The main problem I noticed with Cla (aside from the stretch where he elevated his pitches) is what I like to call “Kevin Brown Syndrome” — he’d get so much movement on his pitches that off the bat, the ball would come back with crazy spin and often be unplayable.

    My biggest reason for being optimistic with Cla is the way he bounced back in August and September.

  26. Arizona Fall League starts today,

    Will Startup, Nick Hundley, Matt Antonelli, and Will Venable are playing for the Peoria Saguaros.

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