As Jared Hughes and others have shown, not all who wander are wild.
Before we start, just a question: What does a pitcher do to avoid walking batters? This might be a trick question, and it might not be, but whether it is or not doesn’t matter because you’re not on The Price is Right and there’s no prize for getting it right. So what is it, smart guy? How does a pitcher avoid walking batters?
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Writing that Kyle Drabek is no stranger to great expectations oversimplifies things. Drabek is the son of one Cy Young award winner, and he was traded for another before he had thrown a pitch in the majors. Those bloodlines are invaluable in baseball. Good genes can ensure athleticism, yes, but they can also prevent a player from wilting under the hot stadium lights. The physical stuff is easy for Drabek—his hammer curve, and a fastball that can touch the mid-90s, can get big-league hitters out, thanks for asking. The mental stuff is supposed to be, too—scouts labeled him a bulldog multipletimes during last spring; this tells you about his mindset (and excuses his occasional barking at hitters). Yet last season, both the physical and mental parts of Drabek fell apart.
For a time, Drabek made pitching in the bigs look easy. His first start in 2011 was a one-hitter spread over seven innings against an incumbent division winner. He would allow four runs over his next two starts. From that point on, Drabek met the wrath of major-league hitting. He would complete 60 more innings as batters hit .314/.416/.508 against him; Joey Votto, your sixth-place finisher in National League MVP voting, hit .309/.416/.531 last season. Back to the mental part of baseball: the idea is that failing in baseball is unavoidable and difficult. You need to be cut from a special psychological cloth to persevere and, more importantly, to adjust. In summation: failure is nature’s best educational tool. Drabek took this lecture seriously and spent the offseason working on his mechanics. Shi Davidi chronicled Drabek’s transformation:
A few young starters have dazzled us early, but some similar starts last season proved to be false ones.
A pitcher's first start of the year often seems like a momentous event. It's not the first time most fans will have seen him in the past month, but it is the first time his performance will count for anything more than tea leaves. For young pitchers, especially, the first start sets the bar for the expectations game fans and media types like to play with young and unproven players.
With the plodding morass of spring training behind us, our interest in Real Baseball reaches rabid heights for the first week or two of the season, before we settle into the jogger's pace that takes us to the All-Star break. However, the increased importance we assign to early-season starts doesn't make them reliable barometers. They're certainly no more worthy of consideration than any other individual start over the course of the season just because they're the only data point available at the end of the first week. So before we write too many more breathless words about Jake Arrieta, Jeff Samardzija, and others, let's revisit the good first impressions some young starters made last season and look at how things ended up for them.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, both in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
Having young infielders who hit for power at the big league level masks the Phillies' thin farm system. Kevin tells you the names you need to know.
None Very Good Prospects
1. Carlos Carrasco, rhp
2. Kyle Drabek, rhp Good Prospects
3. Michael Bourn, of
4. Josh Outman, lhp
5. J.A. Happ, lhp Average Prospects
6. Matt Maloney, lhp
7. Adrian Cardenas, ss
8. D'Arby Myers, cf
9. Scott Mathieson, rhp
10. Greg Golson, cf