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January 3, 2012

Pebble Hunting

The Three We Missed

by Sam Miller

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It was a pretty big weekend for Baseball Prospectus, as we put the 2012 annual to bed. There are darned near 2,000 player write-ups in it, which gets us pretty close to including every player who will play a role in the coming season. But, inevitably, some slip through. Of the top 500 players in 2011, as measured by WARP, we included 497 in the 2011 annual. That’s pretty great! We told you about Chris Parmelee. We caught Mike McCoy. We included Louis Coleman, who is a player I’m learning about right now, this very moment, as I write this sentence. But we missed three, and that’s something we need to reckon with. These are the three:

Ryan Vogelsong: 1.8 WARP, 212th in baseball

Why we missed him: It had been four years since Ryan Vogelsong had made it into the book. Because of this, when we tried to type in his name, autocorrect changed it to Vocal Song, which led to our repeated viewings of this video.

What we would have written had we tried to write something: In 1924, Otto Vogel played 70 games for the Cubs, hitting .267/.319/.372. He hit one home run and played mostly right field, where he had a .938 fielding percentage. That was the last time he played in the majors; he retired because of an elbow injury suffered as a college football player. He was just 27. He went on to coach college baseball for more than three decades, retiring after a stroke felled him in 1962. (He was discovered, post-stroke, by the milkman.) He would get cancer, and he died on July 19, 1969, one day before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. There are lousy days to die, and the day before man walks on the moon is a pretty lousy day to die. He is buried in Iowa. There is no measurable difference between the likelihood of Vogel making the 2011 National League All-Star team and Vogelsong making the 2011 National League All-Star team.

What we should have written: Ryan Vogelsong spent three years in Japan, where he wasn’t particularly good. Then he came back to the states in 2010, pitched in two Triple-A rotations, and wasn’t good. But Vogelsong has always had decent strikeout rates, and he punched out 10 batters per nine innings between the International and Pacific Coast leagues in 2010. He also works down in the zone, and has generally avoided home run damage. If he could just get his walk rate under control – but the odds of that are pretty long. Incidentally, in 1937, a street sweeper named Joseph Figlock was working in Detroit when a baby fell from a fourth-story window onto Figlock’s head. Unwittingly, Figlock saved the baby’s life. A year later, Figlock was again working when another baby fell from a fourth-story window, landed on Figlock, and survived. Things happen. The Giants signed Vogelsong to a minor-league contract.

What we’ve learned: Never give up on a pitcher who had even a little bit of success, especially if he was a San Francisco Giant. We included an entire chapter this year of former Giants’ twentysomethings: Jesse Foppert, Noah Lowry, Brad Hennessey, Damian Moss, Pat Misch, Billy Sadler, Ryan Jensen. Kurt Ainsworth will still be younger this year than Vogelsong was in 2011. Sleeper.

Bartolo Colon: 2.4 WARP, 139th in baseball

Why we missed him: Because he didn’t pitch at all in 2010, due to rotator cuff damage. Because he wasn’t on a major-league team—he signed in late January, a few weeks after the book was sent to the publisher. Because everybody around here is still pretty bitter that he won the Cy Young in 2005 instead of Johan Santana.

What we would have written had we tried to write something: Hey, so, did you hear about this surgery that Bartolo Colon had? Yeah, there are whispers it might have included Human Growth Hormone. Human Growth Hormone? Shouldn’t Colon be taking Human Diet Hormone get it LOL fat get it? Seriously, though, the doctor injected stem cells from Colon’s own fat into his elbow and shoulder. No word on what the doctor did with the leftover fat, but every person in China is now throwing 94 mph get it ahahaha lol get it aha overweight. Now he’s expected to show up in camp in the best shape of his life, which is to say it’ll take six nurses to roll him out of bed and onto the field ahahaha what a mean-spirited and stupid player capsule this is lol haha lol geez. Seriously, though, we have nothing to say about Bartolo Colon except that baseball is extremely unpredictable and we wish him good health and lots of success.

What we should have written: If you believe we live in an infinite universe, then literally everything that can possibly happen will happen, eventually, on some planet exactly like ours. It’s a simple matter of math: there are only so many ways for particles to be arranged, and given infinite opportunities in infinite solar systems, eventually the particles will group together in a way that makes Bartolo Colon a reliable starter for the New York Yankees, with his best strikeout rate since 2001 and a shoulder that holds up surprisingly well. He’s always had a simple approach and good command, so if his velocity is back, why not here? Why not now?

What we’ve learned: Literally every pitcher alive is a candidate to pitch successfully in the majors. I’m already working on Scott Kazmir’s capsule for the 2015 annual. Aaaand I just finished it. It just says “oh yeah well what about Bartolo Colon smart guy.”

Al Alburquerque: 1.1 WARP, 308th in baseball

Why we missed him: He was a Double-A reliever who struck out less than a batter per inning, walked five batters per nine, and had an ERA near 5.00 in a pitcher’s league. Like Vogelsong and Colon, he was in no-man’s land as far as team chapters go, a free agent who signed a minor-league contract with a new team.

What we would have written had we tried to write something: I just want to talk about this guy Al Alburquerque. What’s his deal? How bad is this guy? [edWho is Al Alburquerque?] Al Alburquerque. [ed—No, you’re supposed to say—if you’re trying to be funny, his name is Al Buquerque, it’s not Al Alburquerque.] His first name is A—[ed—Oh geez. Children. Near the phones.]

What we should have written: In 2010, pitching in the Texas League, Jordan Walden struck out 8.0 batters per nine, walked 4.6, and allowed a total of two home runs. In 2010, pitching in the Texas League, Al Alburquerque struck out 8.4 batters per nine, walked 5.0, and allowed a total of one home run. Not only that, but Alburquerque’s top PECOTA comp is Curt Schilling, while Walden’s top PECOTA comp is Blake Wood—that’s totally the right way to use PECOTA comps, right? If Jordan Walden gets a capsule and high-leverage innings in a major-league bullpen, then Al Alburquerque gets a capsule and high-leverage innings in a major-league bullpen. This is his capsule.

What we learned: Good name = Automatic. Jetsy Extrano is in this year’s annual. Jabari Blash is in this year’s annual. Jean Batman is in this year’s annual. That’s a promise. You give us $15.80, we’ll give you a write-up on Jean Batman. 
 

Sam Miller also writes for the Orange County Register.

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

Related Content:  Ryan Vogelsong

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