CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Unfinishe... (03/16)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Purpose Pitches: Day 6... (03/15)
Next Column >>
Purpose Pitches: Hitti... (03/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Future Shock: Manny Ba... (03/16)

March 16, 2011

Purpose Pitches

Day Seven in Cactus Country

by Christina Kahrl

MESA—Tuesday's game was one of those unsexy yet critical real-world fights that reflect spring training's high-end purpose. Sure, it exists to get people in shape, and also as a warm-weather money-making venture for the franchises and the attendant tourist industry. Still, at its root, there are actual job fights to be resolved. HoHoKam was exactly that sort of battlefield, as two of the leading contenders for the fifth slot in their respective teams' rotations squared off: Esmil Rogers of the Rockies and Randy Wells of the Cubs.

Admittedly, in each case the competition is a bit theoretical. Wells is being put through his paces, but the inclusion of journeymen Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer, or organizational soldiers James Russell and Casey Coleman, in the race to round out the rotation seems a matter of polite formality, not actual menace. Wells and Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva are the pack, from which just two will emerge, and both Cashner and Wells pitched yesterday in split-squad action, to mixed results.

Wells had three of his likely starting infielders to lean on, but it wasn't the best three, with Starlin Castro traveling to Cashner's game against the A's. Wells' day had to involve Blake DeWitt's apparently never-ending process of becoming a second baseman, a Godot-like exercise that reflects how DeWitt, like so many former Dodger prospects, may be a fine athlete and good at some things—but playing second base is not necessarily among them. At short, Wells was tasked with utility aspirant Matt Camp. Camp's getting consideration for a bench job in fairly direct competition with Darwin Barney, and if he's going to win, he has to show he can play short. That's how Cactus action goes—you can ask for the A-team, but do and you're as likely to get B.A. Baracus as the guys you'd actually wanted.

Wells responded with a good game, but the infield did end up tasking him. After three hitless frames, he gave up a one-out base hit to Carlos Gonzalez that barely made it to the infield grass; maybe Geovany Soto could have gotten out of his crouch and pounced more quickly, but cat-like swiftness isn't among his better features as a receiver. Wells came for the ball, and couldn't get CarGo in time, trying to pivot and throw. He then threw what he later referred to as his one bad pitch of the day, which Jose Lopez singled to right, advancing CarGo to third, where he could score on a Todd Helton sac fly.

The two runs allowed in the fourth were more purely examples of a pitcher only being as good as his defense. Hernan Iribarren's one-out single to the hole was a matter of beating out Matt Camp's second baseman's arm. The double steal that followed was a different sort of defensive mess, as Rogers, a former position player, couldn't get the bunt down with the runners moving, but Soto's throw didn't beat Chris Iannetta to third—think on that, that's the catcher leading a "double steal"—and Iribarren's late-breaking move to second drew a throw from Aramis Ramirez that he beat out as well. As a matter of scoring the play, it was less a matter of Jim Tracy's design than sloppy play.

That put the bat back in Rogers' hands, producing a new defensive disaster: he flied to Alfonso Soriano in left. Soriano seemed as if he might have time to get Iannetta, but uncorked one of those throws that make you wonder when Strat's ever going to introduce T-ratings on outfield arms, as he uncorked a dribbler towards the Rockies dugout on the third-base line that let the alert Iribarren race home.

Afterwards, Wells was simultaneously diplomatic and philosophical, allowing that "some bad things happened" but adopting the same line Jake Peavy had the day before, that this allowed him to practice pitching from the stretch. Wells said he used the opportunity to go to his sinker with a man on first, keep his fastball inside, and not make any mistakes with fastball location—all reasonable goals.

As far as how he felt about the outing despite three runs allowed in five, Wells was upbeat. He said, "That was probably the best I've felt all spring. I had good life on the sinker, good life on the fastball." He certainly isn't going to make Mike Quade's rotation decision any easier, but outings like this and last week's effort seem to be inching him towards locking in the fourth slot, and leaving the fifth man scrum to Silva and Cashner.

---

In the Rockies' fifth-man fight, Rogers seems to have the job to himself now that Aaron Cook's headed for the DL. As Geoff Young noted yesterday, Rogers' chief competition still standing is Greg Reynolds, but Rogers cruised through his five frames, facing the minimum 15 batters. The one hit he allowed, to Carlos Pena, went for naught when Pena tried to stretch a single to left and was thrown out at second. Like most shortstops (or catchers) put on the mound, Rogers throws more than hard enough, but it's the promise of his curve that might make him something more than a temp during Cook's absence. Given that Reynolds was once the second overall pick in the draft, while Rogers is yet another talented Dominican dredged up from the Rockies' prodigious scouting effort on the island, you can understand why the guys on the Rockies beat joke that the team would be better off skipping on pitchers until the later rounds in the draft.

---

Tonight, I'll be heading out to Surprise to see the ubiquitous Rockies and focus more on the Rangers. The predicament Texas is in, having given Neftali Feliz a shot at starting and then seeing him decide that, yes, he'd really rather do that than log saves, is sort of interesting because of how it's left the Rangers robbing Peter to pay Paul. Dealing for a veteran reliever isn't that inconceivable at this late date in the spring, but it makes for an interesting contrast to the A's situation with Andrew Bailey. Where losing Bailey is frustrating, it isn't the end of the world when you have Grant Balfour and Michael Wuertz around, and that's just the start of the A's deep pool of alternatives from the pen.

In contrast, sans Feliz, the Rangers pen gets... exciting. Last season, they were very reluctant to use Alexi Ogando in anything other than "clean" innings, where he got to pitch full frames instead of come in to clean up other people's messes. That's obviously not a handicap if he is forced into the static "ninth-inning saves dude" role. Otherwise... yesterday a reader asked if a team has used two lefties in the eighth/ninth innings; give it a few more weeks, and we may have a new answer: the Rangers, with Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  Esmil Rogers,  Andrew Cashner

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

jhardman

Christina - please use your influence to have Strat include T-ratings on outfield arms! That had me rolling....

Also, if you are focusing on the Rangers tonight, please see if there is any traction to the Mark Lowe as a closer story.

Mar 16, 2011 09:54 AM
rating: 0
 
wjmcknight37
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I don't care about the article, but since there's not contact information, I want to know A) why the PETOCA spreadsheet hasn't been updated, and B) what happened to the SS/Sim stat

Mar 16, 2011 19:56 PM
rating: -7
 
pobothecat

Free Chris Davis.

Mar 16, 2011 20:14 PM
rating: 0
 
zskuhn

Wells' day had to involve Blake DeWitt's apparently never-ending process of becoming a second baseman, a Godot-like exercise that reflects how DeWitt, like so many former Dodger prospects, may be a fine athlete and good at some things—but playing second base is not necessarily among them.


Every time I cancel my BP subscription, I come back and find sentences like this and want to stay forever. People wonder why anyone would pay for content on the internet--this is why, dummies. You won't find this on Sportsline (in fact, on Sportsline you'd find an apostrophe after the second L in Wells, a reference to Snooki rather than Beckett, and four sentences rather than one.)

Mar 17, 2011 07:09 AM
rating: 2
 
Peter7899

The weather finally warmed up back in here in Chicago... all it took was for you to go on vacation!

Mar 17, 2011 07:15 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I'm coming back on the 23rd, but with all due respect to W.C. Fields, I'd rather be here than in Philadelphia--or Chicago. Here's where the baseball's at, after all. Although I did hear that I missed the dingo's first trip to the beach in 2011, which must mean things have indeed gotten very nice back home.

Mar 17, 2011 07:31 AM
 
davinhbrown

good read. been enjoying the entire series of articles.

Mar 17, 2011 08:54 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Thanks, always appreciated, believe me, it's been an excellent experience on multiple levels.

Mar 18, 2011 08:55 AM
 
Peter7899

Have you or has anyone around you heard or seen some evidence of a kid named Hayden Simpson? Word has it he was drafted in the first round or something like that... nary a word on him yet.

Mar 17, 2011 09:58 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Unfinishe... (03/16)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Purpose Pitches: Day 6... (03/15)
Next Column >>
Purpose Pitches: Hitti... (03/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Future Shock: Manny Ba... (03/16)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, April 24
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Carlos Rodon and the White Sox...
Eyewitness Accounts: April 24, 2015
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: Of Signals and Sausages
Raising Aces: Debut Ante: Raisel Iglesias
Painting the Black: No D In Desmond?
BP Bronx

MORE FROM MARCH 16, 2011
Premium Article Future Shock: Manny Banuelos' Close-Up
Premium Article On the Beat: Unfinished Business in San Dieg...
Premium Article Painting the Black: Relievers and Arbitratio...
Premium Article Contractual Matters: AL Central Payroll Proj...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Quentin's Falling Stock
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks in the Outfield
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL-only Draft Results

MORE BY CHRISTINA KAHRL
2011-03-18 - BP Unfiltered: Life After Luis Castillo
2011-03-17 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Senior Circuit Shuffli...
2011-03-17 - BP Unfiltered: Cactus Action, Ranger Danger
2011-03-16 - Purpose Pitches: Day Seven in Cactus Country
2011-03-15 - Premium Article Purpose Pitches: Day 6 in Cactus Country
2011-03-13 - BP Unfiltered: Days 4 & 5 in Cactus Country
2011-03-11 - Purpose Pitches: Day Two at HoHoKam
More...

MORE PURPOSE PITCHES
2013-01-25 - Purpose Pitches: Remembering Earl
2011-04-01 - Purpose Pitches: A New Delivery
2011-03-21 - Purpose Pitches: Hitting the High and Low No...
2011-03-16 - Purpose Pitches: Day Seven in Cactus Country
2011-03-15 - Premium Article Purpose Pitches: Day 6 in Cactus Country
2011-03-11 - Purpose Pitches: Day Two at HoHoKam
2011-03-10 - Premium Article Purpose Pitches: Day One at HoHoKam
More...