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February 27, 2014

The BP Wayback Machine

Carl Pavano: A Career in Player Comments

by Baseball Prospectus


While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.

On Wednesday, Carl Pavano announced his retirement. Pavano first appeared in the Baseball Prospectus annual in 1997, and as a career retrospective, we've collected the comments our book authors have written about him over the years. As a reminder, annual comments through 2013 are available to BP subscribers on our player cards. Baseball Prospectus 2014 is on sale now.

Carl Pavano
Position: P
DOB: 01/08/1976
Height/Weight: 6’5” 250 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 13th round, 1994 draft (Red Sox)
Teams played for: Expos, Marlins, Yankees, Indians, Twins
Career Stats: 302 G, 284 GS, 1788.7 IP, 4.39 ERA, 108-107, 5.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

Year Comment
2013 The Twins re-signed Carl Pavano and his mustache at a premium rate in 2011 because they expected them to continue to be workhorses who could throw 200 innings or more while getting by striking out fewer than five batters per nine innings. Neither of those things happened, obviously, as anyone who was not former-GM Bill Smith could have predicted. With a bum shoulder (that they suggested the Twins training staff failed to diagnose properly), Pavano and his mustache were limited to only 63 innings last year. They won’t get a multi-year deal this time around, but assuming their shoulder is healed and velocity recovers, Pavano and his mustache could still be good enough to fill a fourth-starter spot. It probably won’t be on the Twins, but they could, and probably will, do worse.
2012 Pavano's days of "American Idle" appear to be behind him. Given his newfound propensity for durability—his 420.1 innings in 2009-2010 ranked 19th in the majors—the Twins rewarded him with a two-year, $16.5 million deal last winter, and at the very least, he continued to show up for work regularly. Problem was, his strikeout rate dipped 15 percent from its already-low 2010 mark, to the point where it was the majors' second lowest among ERA qualifiers; when backed by an inferior defense, his BABIP shot up 25 points. Even given his pinpoint control, he's a League Average Inning Muncher at a more or less breakeven price, which has its purposes on the roster of a contender, less so on a second-division club looking to cut payroll.
2011 Pavano has done a nice job turning his career around and improving his image since his debacle of a four-year stint with the Yankees from 2005-08. He hasn't missed a start in the last two seasons with the Indians and Twins, even qualifying as a workhorse by averaging 6.5 innings per outing. However, Pavano's strikeout rate of 4.8 batters per nine innings in 2010 was a red flag that turned crimson after dropping to 2.8 during the final month of the season. The mustachioed moundsman's rebound has come about in part because he has honed his changeup into an outstanding pitch, and his control is exemplary, but his inability to punch people out with a 90-mph heater will eventually catch up to him.
2010 After becoming a bit of a joke in New York after three seasons and just 26 starts on a four-year contract, Pavano found his health waiting for him in Cleveland, where it had been keeping a low profile while recording an album with Santana. Reunited with it, Pavano made 33 starts in 2009, including 12 for the Twins after a mid-season trade. He took the surprising step of accepting the Twins' offer of arbitration after looking at the market for a few weeks as a free agent, and is a lock for a rotation slot in 2009. He remains a strike-throwing machine with a good changeup, but he's hittable, and even healthy, isn't a starter who puts you closer to a pennant.
2009 Pavano made his last start of 2007 on April 9, and made his first start of 2008 on August 23. In between came Tommy John surgery and a rehab which seemed to stretch on endlessly due to the pitcher's ability to injure every part of his body, not to mention a reputation for malingering. Once "healthy," Pavano survived six hittable starts despite complaints of a stiff hip. It's said the second year back from TJ surgery is the one to look forward to, but as Pavano has made just 26 appearances in the last three years it's hard to know what he has left. The Indians, desperate for help at the back of their rotation, signed him to a one-year deal; they'd better have upgraded their whirlpool facilities since Major League.
2008 The Yankees' default Opening Day starter in 2007, Carl Pavano made just one more start before a DL stint and Tommy John surgery. Curiously, the Yankees' pitching-rich farm system may be his legacy, as GM Brian Cashman has been hoarding pitching prospects ever since an empty larder forced him to bid on Mr. Glass.
2007 When it was revealed in late August that Pavano had busted a couple of ribs in a car accident, derailing his umpteenth comeback from bruised buttocks, bone chips, arm soreness, back stiffness, rotator cuff tendonitis, humerus pain, therapy to even the length of his legs, and dandruff, Derek Jeter cracked, `It`s not a letdown if you weren`t counting on it,` and Johnny Damon said he hoped that the car was okay. Yankees sources were quoted as disparaging Pavano`s `apparent indifference . . . he has been a regular on the massage table and is often seen munching candy bars.` Having cemented his rep as the world`s most expensive escapee from the Island of Misfit Toys (the Yankees have paid him close to $17 million so far and are in for another $23 million before they`re done), Pavano will attempt to come back from nearly two years off. What the Yankees will get if he remains healthy is anyone`s guess--Pavano was never that good in the first place.
2006 Along with Womack and Wright, Pavano made for three major free-agent misjudgments in one winter. Seduced by the sole season of Pavano`s career in which he was both healthy and good, the Yankees handed him a four-year deal, ignoring his low strikeout rates and the benefit he reaped from pitching in Dolphins Stadium. Pavano had a decent start to the season, but got progressively worse until he hit the DL with shoulder tendinitis after his June 27 start. He was only supposed to be gone briefly, but his rehab lasted into August. On the verge of returning, he called the whole thing off and headed to Birmingham to meet with Dr. James Andrews. It wasn`t a social call. Though no structural problems were found, he was shut down for the rest of the season. Pavano has exemplary control: his BB/9 has declined in each of the last three seasons. Unfortunately, his K/9 did exactly the same thing. Scared of their shallow starting rotation, the Yankees resisted trade entreaties on Pavano all winter long. Given an opportunity to get out from under this contract, they should take it.
2005 Here's the problem with Pavano's new wealth: The four-year, $39-million contract he signed is for twice as many full seasons as he has on his resumé. Pavano isn't a top-tier, dominant starter so much as he's a guy who managed to stay in the rotation in front of a good defense for a team in a pitcher's park. His strikeout rate is below average, and while he has good command and gets his share of ground balls, strikeout rate is the key indicator for pitchers. His low ERA this year was about the Marlins' defense, not his performance. Pavano will chew up innings and be average, which means the Yankees are going to be disappointed. At least it's a forgiving organization.
2004 Pavano looked like he'd forever be a once-great prospect who could never stay healthy. Then he went out and led the Marlins in regular season innings and was the team's second-best starter in the playoffs behind Josh Beckett. Pavano credited off-season bikram yoga sessions for improving his focus, conditioning, and flexibility. The classes, held at room temperatures of 105 degrees and 60% humidity, are designed to strengthen bones and improve joint mobility and range of motion by working against gravity. We may never know if that or/and other factors turned Pavano around, but it's heartening to see players trying new and different methods to improve performance. This isn't your father's (or grandfather's) MLB,and that's a good thing.
2003 The Big Tease. Pavano looks very pitcher-ish on the mound, but he’s been beaten like the Washington Generals since his pitching elbow was surgically reattached in 2000. With the Marlins, he actually pitched pretty well, especially in a dominant relief stint—a 2.61 ERA over 20 innings—to start his Marlins career. But the Marlins are forgivably stubborn in this case, and he’s in the mix for a rotation slot in 2003.
2002 Pavano’s medical history reads like a script from ER minus the incestuous frolicking by an ethnically diverse cast. Although he managed eight late-season starts, he hasn’t thrown without a burning sensation in his elbow in at least five years. It would be nice to see what he could do if he were able to take the mound 30 times this season, but that’s little more than wishcasting.
2001 Expect to find Pavano’s picture under the definition of "tendinitis." He’s had it in both his shoulder and elbow, and it has kept him from a full season in each of the last three years. If he finally pitches a full season, he’ll be one of the top 20 starters in the league--and very wealthy through arbitration or a multi-year deal.
2000 He had a wildly inconsistent year, alternating very good and very bad starts, leading to Bill Lee’s observation that no real prospect can fire heat with such a small butt. Fox-quality color commentary aside, a persistent elbow problem put Pavano on the shelf. The Expos have been very careful, getting second and third opinions to make sure that the elbow only requires rest and not surgery. If that’s really all there is to it, he’s a great bet to finally fulfill his promise in 2000, allowing the Spaceman to tackle more important subjects.
1999 A future ace, despite the rocky introduction to the majors. He showed the incredible poise that was his hallmark throughout his minor-league tenure, and didn't show any ill effects from the tendinitis that kept him off the Opening Day roster. May not break out until 2000, but when he does, look out.
1998 This marks the second straight year in which Pavano took a big step forward. He boasts excellent control of all three of his pitches, and improved his command last year. All indicators – K/BB, K/IP, H/IP and adjusted ERA – say he’s ready to join a major league rotation. He’ll have the shortest adjustment period of Boston’s Big Three pitching prospects. Voted top pitching prospect in the International League, which shows that somebody was looking past the won-lost records. Traded to Montreal for Pedro Martinez. he’ll be in the rotation there as well, with a similar outlook.
1997 Pavano sprinted past Orellano on the prospect lists with a great year at Trenton. The Thunder play in a good pitcher’s park, but there’s still a lot to like here. Pavano’s a big guy (6' 5", 225) in the mold of this other pretty good Red Sox right-hander. He understands the value of conditioning, again like that other Sox starter, and he closed with a fury, going 10-1, 1.96 and allowing just one baserunner an inning. He and Suppan are going to be a great 1-2 punch around 1999.

Related Content:  Carl Pavano

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Prospects Will Break Y... (02/26)
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The BP Wayback Machine... (02/20)
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The BP Wayback Machine... (03/07)
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Fantasy Article Tale of the Tape: Matt... (02/27)

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