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June 20, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Tampa Suffers Another Rotation Malady

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
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Placed OF-L Scott Podsednik on the 15-day disabled list. [6/19]
Activated OF-R Cody Ross from the 15-day disabled list. [6/19]
Recalled RHP Clayton Mortensen and OF-L Ryan Kalish from Triple-A Pawtucket. [6/17]
Placed RHP Josh Beckett and OF-L Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day disabled list. [6/17]

No big-league team has deployed more outfield combinations than the Red Sox, as Cee Angi illustrated earlier in the week. Boston’s margin of lead should increase due to a confluence of circumstances. Adrian Gonzalez is playing right field as of late to get David Ortiz (in National League ballparks) or Kevin Youkilis (in American League ballparks) into the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury is now taking batting practice, and Carl Crawford is playing catch; both could return sooner than later. Factor in yet another injury—Daniel Nava’s aching hand—and the Red Sox outfield will remain in flux.

Kalish debuted in 2010 but missed most of 2011 while suffering from a bulging disk in his neck and a labrum tear in his throwing shoulder. At the time of the promotion, Kalish had appeared in 39 games over the past two seasons, including 15 this season. The results were solid enough—he hit .345/.449/.655, with most of the damage coming in Triple-A—to convince Boston to give Kalish a shot rather than acquire another low-grade veteran. Kalish is athletic enough to man center (at least for the time being) and earns points for his energy. His bat seemingly progressed enough in 2010 to remove the tweener tag. Whether those improvements will withstand the test of time, injuries, and big-league pitching is to be determined, however.

Beckett heads to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Boston chose to start Franklin Morales, ignoring his once-failed attempt as a starter with Colorado, and the southpaw left a positive first impression. Mortensen is the other benefactor of Beckett’s short-term demise. It was clear that Boston had changed Mortensen’s position on the rubber the last time he pitched in the majors.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Recalled RHP Christopher Archer from Triple-A Durham. [6/19]
Placed RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the 15-day disabled list. [6/19]
Recalled OF-L Rich Thompson from Triple-A Durham. [6/18]
Optioned RHP Brandon Gomes to Triple-A Durham. [6/17]

Hellickson heads to the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, with the stint retroactive to the day after his last start. Archer replacing Hellickson is fitting because Hellickson replaced Matt Garza last season, and Archer came over in the Garza trade. Try as he might, Archer will never escape Garza, not even in uniform number (both favor 22). 

There is a lot to like with Archer. He stands 6-foot-3, is a good athlete, touches 95-96 mph with his fastball, and receives grade-70 marks on two of his pitches. There are plenty of negatives too, though. Archer’s inability to repeat his mechanics makes consistent strike-throwing difficult. A below-average changeup serves as Archer’s third pitch, though he did improve on the offering last season. Then there’s the matter of his pitching philosophy, with reports suggesting he tends to suffer from second-guessing, leading him to rely too heavily on his slider early in the count. The big question with Archer is whether he will develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter or an end-game reliever. He should supply some answers in what projects to be a two-start trial.

Thompson returns and brings with him a wave of warm, fuzzy feelings. Not because of his story this time, mind you, but because it means the deconstruction of another 13-man pitching staff. After sending Luke Scott to the disabled list, the Rays chose to recall Gomes and go with an eight-man bullpen. Gomes appeared twice, including at the tail end of a 15-inning affair. You might think that a lengthy game would be the perfect venue for a big bullpen to prove its worth, and you would be right: the Rays still had two unused relievers at the conclusion.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Tyler Thornburg from Double-A Huntsville. [6/19]
Designated UTL-S Brooks Conrad for assignment. [6/19]

Let it be known that Thornburg made it to the majors as a starting pitcher. That factoid could become trivia in time, as Thornburg doesn’t look like a starter. He stands no taller than 5-foot-11, and his delivery… ugh. Describing Thornburg’s delivery leads to Tim Lincecum comparisons and concerns about his effort level. See for yourself:

Thornburg remains a starter because he might just make it work. A low-90s fastball, advanced changeup, and decent-to-good curveball will get major league batters out. Even so, the worries about how his body will handle a 30-start workload persist. The entire picture leaves Milwaukee in a difficult situation should Thornburg exhibit durability concerns in the early going.  

Conrad is a switch-hitting reserve player that relies on his bat instead of his glove. The word flexibility buzzes about Conrad’s name, though his protean nature stems from necessity, not utility. At the plate, Conrad can take a walk and hit for some pop, but he strikes out a lot (30 percent for his career and more than 36 percent this season). It’s difficult to peg whether Conrad will latch onto another team’s 25-man roster.


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

Related Content:  Tyler Thornburg,  Ryan Kalish

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

BP Comment Quick Links

SaberTJ

R.J.

Help me understand something. Why is it that pitchers with smaller frames are seen as not having the body type to withstand 30 starts a year? If the shorter pitchers stay in great shape, wouldn't starting a full season be less stressful on the body than say someone with the extra pounds of a body type like David Wells or Sabathia?

What makes a taller pitcher have more stamina and durability to start 30 games?


FWIW, I am not being argumentative, just curious.

Jun 20, 2012 07:24 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

Part of it has to do with effort levels. Pitchers with longer limbs can create more leverage, while the smaller pitchers have to resort to higher-effort deliveries to compensate.

I asked Corey Dawkins for more insight on how the workload affects different body types. Here's what he said:

Weight loss over the course of the season does not have as much of an effect s how quickly it occurs, although certainly there is a point where there is a negative effect even if done gradually. The smaller players have less to give, so to speak, but it's extremely rare for a major league pitcher to get to the negative zone.

Velocity and effort also have a significant role. More of the shorter/lighter pitchers are not throwing the ball over 95 mph, although there are always exceptions. Throwing at maximum effort increases the forces placed on the structures of the shoulder and elbow, which can lead to injury over time.

We tend to see the most pitching injuries in spring training and the first few months of the season, leading to the velocity of weight loss being the issue and not the number of pounds.


Hopefully that helps.

Jun 20, 2012 09:09 AM
 
SaberTJ

Interesting. I did not consider that. Thanks for the extra work on my question.

Jun 20, 2012 11:35 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

No problem.


I would add that Thornburg isn't dinged just for his size. As you can see in the video, he's got a top-heavy delivery. Those guys are flagged as injury risks because of the stress added, so it's a combination of those two things more so than just "He's small, therefore ..."

Jun 20, 2012 14:53 PM
 
SaberTJ

Agreed. I don't think Tyler Thornburg would get a very high mechanic GPA score from BP resident Doug Thorburn.

Jun 21, 2012 05:15 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

"Mortensen is the other benefactor of Beckett’s short-term demise. It was clear that Boston had changed Mortensen’s position on the rubber the last time he pitched in the majors."

For some reason, I thought this was an odd way to end a paragraph since the "position on the rubber" thing was so out-of-the-blue.

Jun 20, 2012 08:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

I wanted to pass that tidbit along, but didn't feel a new paragraph was necessary.

Jun 20, 2012 09:01 AM
 
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