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June 29, 2011

Transaction Analysis Blog

The Return of Brazoban

by R.J. Anderson

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
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Boston Red Sox
Optioned RHP Scott Atchison and LHP Tommy Hottovy to Triple-A Pawtucket. [6/28]
Activated RHP Bobby Jenks and LHP Franklin Morales from the 15-day disabled list. [6/28]

Boston’s offseason inking of Jenks looked like a suave move that gave the Red Sox three reliable late-inning options. Naturally, Jenks will enter July with fewer than 20 innings pitched, and possibly an ERA over six. If you need further proof of Jenks’ relative ineffectiveness, consider that he walked 10 batters during his 12 1/3 innings pitched this season—he walked 18 in 52 2/3 innings pitched in 2010, and walked 16 in 53 1/3 innings pitched in 2009.

Atchison, meanwhile, goes back to Triple-A without appearing in a game during his brief call-up.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Oakland Athletics
Placed RHP Grant Balfour on the 15-day disabled list; retroactive to June 22. [6/28]
Recalled RHP Trystan Magnuson from Triple-A Sacramento. [6/28]

For a while there, no baseball season was complete until Balfour suffered an injury. Over a three-year span, from 2004-2006, Balfour missed nearly 500 days due to various ailments. In 2007, the Rays acquired Balfour at the cost of Seth McClung, and since then he missed 34 days—with those coming in 2010 after he was injured horsing around with his pitching coach, oddly enough. Balfour finds himself on the shelf for the first time in Oakland garb due to an oblique strain, and since he hadn’t pitched since June 21, the A’s can make it a retroactive assignment.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Toronto Blue Jays
Recalled LHP Brett Cecil from Triple-A Las Vegas. [6/28]
Optioned RHP Zach Stewart to Triple-A Les Vegas. [6/28]
Released LHP Michel Hinckley. [6/28]

If there were an award for the team that most aggressively demotes major leaguers during a season, the Jays would be a shoo-in for victory this year. Travis Snider went to Triple-A after 99 plate appearances, and Cecil after 21 innings pitched. You have to admire the Jays willingness to throw up the T and get their players right, even if it is detrimental to their short-term chances of winning.

Cecil combined poor results with down velocity, as PITCHf/x data clocked his fastball at 88.8 miles per hour, lower than the 90.8 and 90.5 mph readings over Cecil’s first two seasons in the majors.  Judging by the results, it’s difficult to tell if Cecil has regained his  velocity or if it comes and goes. In his first outing, he gave up 13 hits and 11 runs, exiting before the fifth inning ended, then record four-straight quality starts before allowing five home runs over the next 13 innings pitched. Cecil threw two complete games within a three-game stretch, but sandwiched in between was another stinker, as he allowed 10 hits and eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings pitched.

PECOTA predicts a 4.78 ERA for Cecil the rest of the way.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Arizona Diamondbacks
Purchased the contracts of RHP Yhency Brazoban and LHP Alberto Castillo from Triple-A Reno. [6/28]
Optioned RHP Esmerling Vasquez and RHP Bryan Shaw to Triple-A Reno. [6/28]

The D-Backs pen posted a 5.94 earned run average last season, so just about anything would have marked an improvement. So far this season (down to a 3.94 ERA), the staff is better, but that ERA still has leaves them as the fifth-worst unit in the National League. Kevin Towers is known for building bullpens on the cheap, so it isn’t too surprising to see him shuffling around pieces in hopes for some improvements.

Vasquez has the third-most innings pitched for Arizona out of the pen, and the third-worst Fair Run Average too (head of only Aaron Heilman and Joe Paterson in the active pen). Shaw, a second-round pick in the 2008 draft, only made five appearances for the team, however all indications are he will be a piece of a future bullpen in Arizona. The former Long Beach State attendee has a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, which means he could even find himself in a prominent late-inning role before all is said and done.

As for the new guys, Brazoban is a familiar name to longtime National League West fans in the audience. In 2004, the then 24-year-old impressed with 32 2/3 innings pitched of sub-2.5 ERA ball for the playoff-bound Dodgers.  Bright things looked to be on the horizon, and sure enough, they were—just in the form of a scalpel and dinner plate. Brazoban followed up a disappointing 2005 with Tommy John surgery, then a labrum tear, then shoulder inflammation, and then disappointed the Dodgers with his woeful conditioning. After all of that, Brazoban finds himself back in the majors league, possibly to stay, thanks to a tick over 30 innings of successful pitching in Triple-A.

Castillo’s name is less famous, but he spent the past three seasons making cameos out of the Baltimore bullpen. At 35, Castillo’s upside is limited. Either he gets lefties out, or he won’t be in the major leagues for long. Given his career numbers against them--.295/.367/.534 (albeit inflated because of his .391/.417/.957 fiasco in 2010)—the safe money is on the latter.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Philadelphia Phillies
Placed RHP Ryan Madson on the 15-day disabled list; retroactive to June 19. [6/28]
Purchased the contract of RHP Andrew Carpenter from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. [6/28]

With Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras already on the disabled list, Madson’s injury means the Phillies will now turn to Antonio Bastardo in their save situations. The 25-year-old southpaw has pitched well this season, boasting a 0.96 ERA, striking out more than a batter (33) per inning pitched (28), and allowing one hit for every three innings pitched. Bastardo’s career numbers show no signs of a platoon split, making him a worthwhile sparring mate for batters of either hand.


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:  Triple-A,  Grant Balfour

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