keyboard_arrow_uptop
Submit chat questions for Oakland Athletics Top 10 Chat (Wed Nov 20 at 1:00 pm EST)

This is a story about a surfer who became a pop star, and a pop star who became a clairvoyant.

Jack Johnson was born in Hawaii, the son of a professional surfer, and he might have been one himself if, at 17, he hadn’t lost a bunch of blood and teeth in a serious accident during competition. Maybe it was then that he gained supernatural powers of divination. Maybe it was some other, much later occasion. I wouldn’t dare to speculate. Somewhere along the way, though, Johnson became an unwitting portal through which the universe spoke of the future fall of men. Consider the following insipid ditty from Johnson’s third album:

Situation Number One, It’s the one that’s just begun, but evidently it’s too late.
Situation Number Two, It’s the only chance for you; it’s controlled by denizens of hate.
Situation Number Three, It’s the one that no one sees; it’s all too often dismissed as fate.
Situation Number Four, The one that left you wanting more; it tantalized you with its bait.

This song is called “Situations,” and you just read the whole thing. It runs 78 seconds from beginning to end. The lyrics are perfectly perfunctory. It’s something just this side of a limerick, cutesy in its rhymes and imprecise in its use of words. Or is it, even if Johnson never knew it, something much, much more?

I rise to argue the latter. These lines, like the prophecies of old, pertain to a real and tangible future. Specifically, they pertain to the futures of Alex Meyer, Tanner Roark, Danny Salazar and Carlos Martinez—four pitchers whose teams are using them in ways that, if it hadn’t been for the slip of Johnson’s prophetic tongue, would be thoroughly inscrutable.

Situation No. 1: Alex Meyer Hurtles Toward Death
Alex Meyer is older than Henderson Alvarez. Meyer turned 25 in early January, after spending his entire age-24 season with the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester. He pitched only 130 innings in 27 starts, but he struck out 153 batters—27.1 percent of those whom he faced. However, he also walked 64 batters, and when that lack of control (let alone a starter’s command) followed him into Grapefruit League play, the Twins elected to remove him from the battle for the fifth slot in the rotation. Meyer will start this season right back in Rochester, sitting, waiting, wishing for an injury or underachievement that might reopen a place for him on the parent club.

Here’s the problem with the Twins’ thought process on Meyer: It might already be too late for him to become a good starter, and he’s ready to relieve in the majors right this second. Delaying his move to relief—and his promotion to the big leagues—might be counterproductive at this point.

Here’s a chart showing the distribution of career rWAR of pitchers whose first season came at age 23, and who started at least seven games in that season:

This is for seasons 1969-2014. The sample at age 23 is 120 hurlers. The value bins were chosen to allow easy categorization of players. Players with subzero WAR figures were, obviously, disasters. Then there’s a bin for marginal players, one for acceptable players, one for useful players and one for truly valuable players. At 23, all of those options remain open to a pitcher. Nearly 50 percent of all pitchers in this sample ended up accruing at least 4.0 WAR, which won’t blow any doors off, but signifies a pitcher who provided some value even to an average contender.

At age 24, things get uglier:

(Sample size: 90)

The rate at which hurlers truly bust rises substantially here. There are still a number of pitchers who hang on and make positive contributions for a few years, but that slice of the pie has grown at the expense of the more valuable slices to its left. Of course, some aspect of this is selection: Better pitchers are more likely to be given a chance earlier, but for Meyer the distinction is irrelevant. Whether he’s still developing or simply deemed unexceptional by his club, he’s failing to keep pace with the future stars. Age is a factor even in a pitcher’s development, particularly with regard to the age at which he finally clears his team’s developmental hurdles and graduates into MLB. By 25, that trend becomes clearer:

(Sample Size: 51)

Now, it’s nearly half of pitchers who will be worth less than 1.0 WAR for their careers. They have only a one-third chance of being worth as many as 4.0. More damning than that, though, is the way the few success stories in the age-25 group break out. They can be sorted into clear categories:

· Knuckleballers – Tim Wakefield and Tom Candiotti each had their first seasons at age 25. This makes sense; developing late when relying on the knuckler is no problem. It’s not something Meyer is going to be able to replicate, though.

· Japanese Imports – Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka have a very good reason for not reaching MLB until they were 25. They were pitching at the highest competitive level available to them in Japan. Comparing them is hardly informative in Meyer’s case.

· Pitch-to-contact oddities Bob Tewksbury, Doug Fister and Chien-Ming Wang are the closest things to normal, successful starting pitchers in this pool of late risers. They each have (or had) conventional arsenals and bear (or bore) heavy workloads, but none miss (or missed) any bats. Meyer isn’t remotely similar to any of them, except in that, like Fister, he’s very tall. The aforementioned strikeout and walk rates Meyer has posted in his minor-league career are close to double the numbers this group would recognize.

· Relievers – Eureka! Greg Harris, Octavio Dotel, Dick Tidrow and Norm Charlton pave the way here. Hard throwers who failed as starters because of their faltering command and control make for exceptionally high-ceiling bullpen assets. Meyer is a brutal fit for each of the other successful subsets of 25-year-old rookie arms, but here, he fits.

Despite not having suffered any of the serious injuries typical of the modern pitching prospect, Meyer has only 337.2 innings pitched in 68 professional starts. He signed late after being drafted in the first round in 2011, and didn’t pitch in a game until 2012. He’s really just getting started, but with a balky shoulder, shaky command and each tick-tock of the clock threatening to start stealing ticks from his fastball, Meyer is out of time to develop as a starter under the Twins’ stewardship. If they weren’t ready to hand him a job in the starting rotation, they should have given him a job in their bullpen instead, to begin building his trade value.

Situation No. 2: Tanner Roark Gets Banished to the Pen
Tanner Roark didn’t pitch in the Majors until his age-26 season, in 2013. Because I know It’s the first thing you’ll wonder, here’s the way the outcomes shake out for starters who don’t get their start until the age Roark was when his came:

The median pitcher from this pool is worth less than a single WAR before he retires. Roark’s story is truly exceptional, though. His 2.57 ERA is the best any starter has ever posted over their first two seasons at his age, given at least 30 starts. His 3.24 FIP is the second-best. Roark is a triumph, the exception to the rule. He’s as fascinating as he is valuable.

Well, actually, he’s quite a bit more fascinating than that, at least to the 2015 Nationals. Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras made sure of that, when they conspired to add Max Scherzer to the already-loaded Washington rotation, and to keep the whole band together. “Denizens of hate” is an odious word choice, but a little imprecise mysticism is to be expected when one receives prophecy.

What most interests me about Roark is not, in truth, the fact of his exile. He’s a good pitcher, but his strikeout rate was uninspiring last season, he lacks an elite pitch, and his track record is short enough to justify skepticism that he can sustain his success. No, more intriguing is that Roark is part of a trend. Around the league, more than ever, good players are being given short shrift in order to serve the needs of teams who can afford even better alternatives. Hitters aren’t immune, either. Only once since the last expansion of the league have part-time players (those with between 200 and 450 plate appearances) made up a larger percentage of the total number of above-average hitters league-wide.

It’s possible to explain that away—it could be injuries, and not team choices, that are holding down the playing-time accruals of good players. Anecdotally, though, situations like Roark’s are becoming uneasily commonplace. I wrote about Andre Ethier’s version of the same conundrum last month. On the mound, Drew Smyly suffered a similar fate after his impressive rookie showing in 2012. Yusmeiro Petit not only spent the bulk of his 2014 season as the Giants’ sixth starter, but appears ticketed for the same role in 2015. Over the past four seasons, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly have each taken turns of some length in the Cardinals’ bullpen, due simply to the team’s surfeit of viable starting candidates.

In the past, financial strictures and/or the competitive landscape likely would have forced creative solutions to logjams like these, or would have forestalled their development in the first place. Under the current rules, though, the league usually has at least two or three teams (this season, I count four or five) noticeably uninterested in winning, which softens the competition for some elite free agents and deepens the talent pool in which teams with short-term needs and immediate aspirations can fish. In tandem with the flood of national TV money that gives every team extra slack when it comes to accepting sunk costs or allocating resources suboptimally, that allows these situations to not only occur, but drag on for as long as the personalities involved permit it.

There’s no question Roark is getting a raw deal here. He’s 28 years old; just had a season only 47 other active pitchers have matched at any point in their careers; won’t qualify for arbitration until 2017; and is staring at a full-season assignment to middle relief work. This is his big chance, and forces beyond his control have wrested it from him. I’m not sure how sad we ought to feel for Roark. The Nationals are simply doing what every team needs to do: maximize their win expectancy by calling upon all their resources. It’s just that, as always, progress has a human cost.

Situation No. 3: The Cleveland Con
No team more aggressively pursues long-term contract extensions with its pre-arbitration players—especially those who give off the faintest scent of star potential—than the Cleveland Indians. It’s a minor miracle that this team, who last winter bought up free-agent seasons from Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes just before they could break out and gain leverage, hasn’t already sealed deals with at least one or two of its heralded collection of breakout starting pitchers.

It makes some sense that Corey Kluber, who won the Cy Young Award last season, might wait and see how rich a jackpot he could command after a repeat performance. It’s conceivable, given Trevor Bauer’s well-documented self-confidence and intelligence, that the price to tie him down would be too high for Cleveland’s tastes right now. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, however, have each lived through Tommy John surgery. Each has been on the brink of failure. Each has needed return trips to the minor leagues. They should be so self-aware that signing away potential free-agent riches for a little security would suit them fine.

The Indians haven’t pounced, though, perhaps because they have ample leverage—and cost control—over each player as it is. Carrasco’s rocky career path has held his earning power in check. Salazar has had, if possible, an even more unusual career than Carrasco’s, but it’s his service-time accrual that grabbed my eye this week, when the parent club optioned him to Triple-A.

Despite making 10 starts during the 2013 Indians’ playoff push and 20 more during his sophomore season last year, Salazar has only 162 days of service time to his name—not even a full season’s worth. The Tribe called him up for an emergency start in July 2013, but they then sent him back to the minors for about four weeks. (That’s just a hair longer than the minimum 20 days an option must last in order for the days spent in the minors not to count as MLB service time.) Salazar finished the season with 55 days of service.

Early in 2014, despite impressive strikeout numbers and excellent raw stuff, Salazar was having too many short outings, and letting the bases get clogged too often. The team optioned him again, on May 15th, and recalled him only in the days leading up to the trade deadline—though it was apparent that he was ready to return as early as the end of June.

Then, one might deduce, some intern earned his entire summer’s worth of class credit on a single day in August, when he noticed that, given Salazar’s current accrual, the pitcher would finish the season with 173 days of service, clearing the bar for a full season’s worth by a single day. On August 6th, Salazar was sent back to Columbus again. He stayed only 10 days (the legal minimum, unless an injury necessitates a roster move in the interim), but since he’d been optioned earlier in the year for more than 10 days, he still didn’t get credited with MLB service during his stay in Triple-A. After being called back to the big leagues, Salazar turned in a strong eight-start stretch in which he struck out 51, walked 12 and posted a 3.42 ERA, closing out the season with a bang.

Normally, this dance would now be over. Salazar has been optioned long enough in each of the past three seasons to exhaust the Indians’ right to do so again, under normal circumstances. However, Salazar’s 2010 Tommy John surgery slowed his development somewhat, and MLB granted Cleveland a fourth option year on him in light of that fact. That’s how we’ve ended up back here again.

It’s my turn to play Carnac, or perhaps Chipper Jones: I’ll just bet you that Salazar comes up to the Indians sometime between May 17th and May 24th. The Super Two cutoff for 2015 was two years and 133 days of service. Salazar can come in at one year and 133 days at the end of this year if he debuts on or after May 17th. If that is the case, at season’s end, the Indians will have gotten two and a half seasons of Salazar (interrupted, truncated ones, but two and a half years of the man’s life, and of his arm) for just over one year of service time. They’ll still be two years from paying him arbitration salaries. They’ll still have five years of club control remaining.

This likely wouldn’t happen to a hitter, because this kind of manipulation doesn’t work for position players. Even timing promotions and demotions perfectly, and assuming a minimum of time lost for travel, shuttling position players back and forth between the high minors and the majors would leave underqualified players with an increased load to carry. Moreover, because workload monitoring and management aren’t a part of the usual conversation about position players, needing fresh legs to rotate in at shortstop during a three-week stretch without an off day would not be regarded as a legitimate reason for this kind of move. (Salazar’s August demotion last season was, half-truthfully, ascribed to the team’s need to deepen their bullpen and take pressure off some overworked arms.)

That gets to the heart of the specific issue with Salazar. As I alluded to above, Salazar is often guilty of leaving a lot of work to the relief corps when he starts—even if he has an otherwise impressive outing. A shade over 500 pitchers have made at least 30 starts in their first two major-league seasons, while working almost exclusively in that role. Of those, Salazar’s 30-percent Quality Start percentage (QS as a percentage of all starts) is lower than all but 10. That completely belies his skill set, though:

This chart only shows the 200 worst starters in the sample by QS percentage, but you get the idea. Pitchers as good as Salazar usually turn in longer, more satisfying outings than he has. Salazar works only 5.4 innings per start, well below even the very low modern standard for normal starter workload. His 89.6 pitches per start ranks 131st out of 148 pitchers who have made at least 30 starts in their first two seasons since 2000, so it isn’t really a matter of his pitch counts getting out of control. Rather, the Indians worry about injury risk whenever he works deep into games; Terry Francona has a quick hook; and traffic on the bases tends to pile up on Salazar. It’s not just lip service; Salazar really taxes the bullpen at a unique level.

Yet, it’s not just Salazar. It’s Francona and the Indians, too. Indians starters bequeathed 308 baserunners to relief arms last season, 50 more than any other team in baseball. Francona was proactive about matchups, making more pitching changes and using more relievers for short outings than any other manager in the league. We’re starting to see, if not a pattern and plan itself, then the imprint of one. The Indians just might be trying something truly new, using every inch of territory they can get with regard to roster rules to spread their workload more widely than any other team in baseball. It bears watching, but in the meantime, so does this: Salazar is an MLB-quality pitcher who will open the season in the minor leagues.

Situation No. 4: Carlos Martinez Has Got Some Bait A-Waitin’
Since 1988, 28 pitchers have racked up 100 innings pitched while working 80 percent of their outings in relief over their first two seasons, at ages 23 or younger. (Yes, I used the Play Index. Buy the Play Index.) It’s rare, to be good enough to be counted upon so heavily at so young an age, but to be asked to do so in relief. As Carlos Martinez, the most recent such hurler, gets a promotion to the Cardinals’ starting rotation, I looked up these pitchers to see who among them had successfully transitioned into starting roles as their careers went on.

The first thing you should know, I don’t want to tell you yet. So here’s the second thing you should know: 15 of the previous 27 pitchers to begin their careers the way Martinez has begun his never started (or have yet to start) a major-league game. That’s okay; many of them turned out well anyway. Rafael Soriano, Huston Street, Drew Storen, Jesse Crain and Rod Beck are among the group. If the Cardinals had simply left Martinez in a set-up role, they’d have been doing fine.

Now, I’ll tell you the first thing you should have known about the pitchers who started out like Carlos Martinez. The thing is this: Pedro Martinez was on the list. That’s significant, if for no other reason, because everyone and their ugly brother compares Carlos to Pedro so often that seeing any connection between them is going to radically shift the perceived possibility curve on Carlos to the right. Two of the most famously, hideously mishandled reliever-starter conversion efforts of this century, Neftali Feliz and Joba Chamberlain, were also in Martinez’s situation after their first two seasons in the majors. Then again, so was Johan Santana. Denny Neagle, Kelvim Escobar and Brandon McCarthy weigh in on the bright side of the possible conversion. Brandon Morrow and Terry Adams argue for leaving well enough alone.

Finding the right balance of risk and reward is difficult in the cases of most pitchers, but especially in the case of Martinez. All the historical precedents seem to pull toward extremes, and that’s exactly the kind of proposition Martinez feels like. He’s not going to have an average, ordinary, Carlos Villanueva (also on the list) kind of career. He’ll either get hurt, crash and burn due to his limitations as a starter, or thrive the way Santana did before him. (Let’s leave Pedro out of the equation.) Small pitchers like Martinez rarely get this kind of opportunity to stretch out and leave the bullpen behind. It should probably send us a positive signal about him that St. Louis was even willing to give it a shot. Still, the risk shouldn’t be dismissed. For all the promise, given the odds against a successful transition (and given the depth the Cardinals have; Marco Gonzales could have taken the job in Martinez’s stead), I think St. Louis is making a bad bet by moving Martinez.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
majnun
4/03
A wonderful read
matrueblood
4/03
Thanks! It was fun to write.
Kauffman
4/03
Great article!! Very insightful.
matrueblood
4/03
Thank you. Some of the nuggets in here took me totally by surprise, very interesting stuff. We'll see how each choice turns out.
ctherrien
4/03
This article is indicative of the content coming from BP these days - refreshing and so much deeper that other sites, even deeper the BP one year ago. I've been a BP reader for many years, feels like we're regressing in a good way.
danrnelson
4/03
I actually don't think that Meyer is being handled poorly. Tall starters take a lot longer to be ML ready, because it takes them years to consistently repeat their mechanics due to all the moving parts. His control/command has gotten better every year and he's getting close to being ready. If a guy can start and throw 95+ with a great strikeout pitch, you get him to start. To prove my point, only five players in ML history have pitched over 100 innings as a starter in a season at 6'9" or taller: Randy Johnson, Chris Young, Jeff Niemann, Mark Hendrickson, and Eric Hillman Chris Young didn't have a full season as a starter until age 26. Randy Johnson arrived for a full season at 25 (only 160 innings). Niemann arrived at 26, Hendrickson at 29, Hillman at 27 (he was out of baseball by 29). All of these guys had extended time in the minors to work on their mechanics until they were repeatable. So in the very limited track record we have, Meyer is still relatively young to be making his debut at 25 as a 6'9" starter.
matrueblood
4/03
This has been a common thread in conversations about Meyer. I disagree with it. We talk way too much about tall pitchers, setting them apart from others just an inch or two shorter, satisfying ourselves with tiny samples and extrapolating wildly therefrom. It's not the smart way to analyze a career arc. He's tall. He's also right-handed, white and a college draftee. These are all demographic data points of at least as much value in discussing his development as his height. None of them should drive the discussion about his future the way repertoire, age, injury history and minor-league track record should.
danrnelson
4/03
My point is that Meyer is part of a very select group of people with a very select skillset. Being "an inch or two taller" actually makes a big difference when it comes to the ability to repeat mechanics. There just aren't very many people in the world that can do what Meyer can do with that stature. That being the case, I think it's unwise to remove height from the equation simply because we have less data to work from for players with similar stature. Simply making the data pool larger by taking height out of the equation doesn't exactly solve the issue. To me, this is purely a baseball decision based on the individual player's skillset. The reasoning for not bringing him up is that the Twins think he can start, because he's had some success, he has three pitches, and he has potential to be a frontline starter. If he just needs more time to refine his mechanics, you might as well take it. On top of that, the Twins NEED starting pitchers, they don't need hard-throwing bullpen righties. They just drafted two guys in Cederoth and Burdi who are near ML ready as hard-throwing late inning relievers. And then they drafted about four more guys who are hard-throwing college righties with bullpen profiles. The Twins aren't going to compete this year, so there's no reason to give up and send a guy to the pen if he can still become a starter. It's not like he's been a complete bust as one to this point. While it may not be wise to only use the small sample of super-tall pitchers, it may also be unwise to only use data from all pitchers, when a player like this is so unique. I think the evaluation of the player and his skillset and development takes precedent due to the lack of reliable comparisons.
huztlers
4/03
You seem pretty reluctant to accept that Meyer just might not have what it takes to start. Nothing about him is trending positively - except maybe his chance for an arm injury. He has a million dollar arm but little else at this point. He may not have enough command to work in the bullpen for that matter. Success is not just waiting for him.
danrnelson
4/03
I bet people said the same thing about Randy Johnson... Check out his minor league stats. His control/command were far worse than Meyer at the same stage and he's the only player in MLB history that comes close to comparing to Meyer. They're very, very similar in stature, development curve, repertoire, minor league track record, and overall skill set. I'm not saying Meyer is a HOFer by any stretch, but many, many, many evaluators have tagged him as a high-end starter (including BP, who ranked him 14th overall in the 101. If they thought he was a RP, he wouldn't rank that high). If he takes another half-season before they bring him up, I don't think it impacts his overall future profile. If a guy has the chance to be a high-end starter, it behooves the team to give him every opportunity to be that. If he doesn't pan out this year, he's Wade Davis next year. Patience is the smart play here, especially for a team that lacks high quality starting pitching at the MLB level and has a glut of hard-throwing RP in the minors.
NJTomatoes
4/03
The discussion points to the need to have pitcher's wingspans listed as one of their stats.
danrnelson
4/03
I think I actually talked myself into agreeing with you now. The Twins probably should just give him a shot as a starter ASAP. I just don't think they should relegate him the the bullpen without trying him as a starter at the MLB level.
matrueblood
4/03
Fair enough. Worth a shot, in my opinion. But he's had so many (however minor) shoulder hiccups that I really can't see a good way forward for him in the rotation. Still, why not try it? Other, I suppose, than for the fact that the Twins don't seem to share the consensus view that they're cellar-bound again this season.
danrnelson
4/03
That's a great point. I'm definitely in the "why not try it" camp. The Royals gave Wade Davis (who had very similar minor shoulder woes as a starter) three shots to be a MLB starter, didn't work out...but he was still able to become an elite bullpen arm in his late-20s. I'd say that's a good model for how the Twins can approach Meyer over the next 2-3 years.
tombores99
4/05
I hope ya'll don't mind if I chime in. My spidey senses were tingling with "mechanics," "moving parts," and "Randy Johnson." While there may be something intrinsically more difficult about pitching with extra size, I think that the trend for slow starts by tall pitchers is also tied to the natural process of scouting and development. The biggest issue IMO is that these guys weren't hand-picked by scouts for command purposes; they were sought-after because A) they threw hard, and B) they were really tall. Pitch-speed and height/size are two of the main things that scouts look for in a pitcher, partly because they are both measurable, and everyone wants velo and downhill plane. The hope is that player development can coach him into an efficient machine - conventional wisdom says that you can't teach velo (or size), but you can teach the rest. As a result, many of these ultra-tall pitchers have a longer developmental To Do list than your typical prospect. This is especially true when they are compared to top prospects (which they will because of the perceived upside). Many of these guys are behind the learning curve when they enter the organization, so it takes them longer to figure it out. It's kinda the opposite effect as the short pitcher paradigm - shorter pitchers need to have better deliveries (in general) to get past evaluator bias. Tall guys that throw hard receive a free pass. That said, I actually like some of Meyer's baseline mechanics (I gave him a B- in the 2015 SP Guide). He gets huge power scores but very low on the balance and repetition scales, and this is pretty common of pitchers regardless of size. All power and no stability makes Alex a wild boy.
pobothecat
4/03
"I’ll just bet you that Salazar comes up to the Indians sometime between May 17th and May 24th." Now THAT's a prediction.
chapmantime
4/03
I enjoyed this article exactly as much as I dislike Jack Johnson, which is to say a lot. No mean feat! Can't say I agree that the decision with Martinez is a bad bet, or that the transition is as fraught as you indicate, Matthew. He was developed as a starter for the entirety of his minor league career prior to his fist promotion, and has been used as a starter for stretches as a major leaguer. Unless there's reason to believe that a season and a half of usage as a reliever is that detrimental to moving back to starting -- Earl Weaver might have had something to say here -- then the concern seems nebulous.
matrueblood
4/03
I think the oft-cited Weaver philosophy is obsolete at this point. We don't use anyone te way he used the guys he broke in that way. There are no long relievers. No modern relief role, and certainly not the one Martinez has occupied, prepares a pitcher in any meaningful way for the task of starting. Still, I see your broader point, and can accept it, too. This is a 60/40 kind of decision, to me. I just think the Cardinals played the thinner odds, and didn't need to.
roarke
4/03
Perhaps thinner odds, but a higher payoff. The Cardinals do have some recent history of managing the transition successfully as Wainwright, Lynn and Shelby Miller all spent time as set up men/closers in the first years of their careers. Granted, they may not have put in quite so many innings in that role as Martinez has, but that's just a matter of degree. The Cardinals seem to know what they are doing, so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt on a close call like this.
chapmantime
4/03
I like the 60/40 clarification. After all, we're talking about a guy with almost 340 minor league IP (69 of 70 appearances were starts) and eight major league starts under his belt. He's far more starter than reliever, and I'd say that 60/40 encapsulates the less optimistic evolution of the inherent reliever risk that's always been part of his profile. Completely agree on contemporary relief roles, and how inadequate they are in preparing a pitcher to start. Too often pitchers are encouraged to go full bore and to jettison pitches. That's what was frustrating about Gausman's usage. You take a guy who needs to work on his slider and put him in a role where he's almost certain to pitch to his strengths at the expense of development. To BAL's credit, they did use him for multiple innings on occasion. The days of Ramiro Mendoza are gone though...
yibberat
4/04
I would really like to see an article re this - is the Weaver philosophy really obsolete? Yes, 'modern relief role' = one inning max so doesn't prepare a modern RP for anything but that is hardly a law of physics. Yes, I do think that the massive workload that Weaver put on his four-man rotation is obsolete. But IMO, most #3-#5 'starters' are actually long-relievers. They don't have the fatal flaw (or the specialist strength) that forces them into a short-appearance specialist role. But nor do they have the ability/repertoire to comfortably get through the order a third/fourth time. Which means they are already going to tax the bullpen and burn out all those 'specialists' in non-specialist innings/batters. On a $/IP or appearance, those guys are a lot cheaper and more effective than the two pitching extremes that we've tried to cram all pitchers into. And if that change in workload also reduces the totally wasted cost of pitcher injuries, then there is even more reason to look at 'long relief' (get thru the order once or twice - whether you are 'starting the game' or 'finishing the game' or 'in between') as a pitching role.
dethwurm
4/04
Small thing, but Rafael Soriano had 8 starts in 2002 for Seattle. Being an old fogie, I remember back then his move to the bullpen was mostly about his (in)ability to stay healthy, he had decent control and a full aresenal of pitches.
matrueblood
4/04
right, that's the point there. He started early in his career (that's the filter we set there), but found success by moving to the bullpen.
yibberat
4/04
Very good. But re Tanner Roark, I believe the sentence should read 'anti-trust exemption has a human cost'. That's why he's being forced to middle relief without being able to offer his starting pitching services to another club.
matrueblood
4/05
Ahm. Hmm. Well, while it's often cited as such, the antitrust exemption isn't really the reason players can't auction their services to the highest bidder at any given time. At least, not anymore. All the roster rules that tie player to team are now collectively bargained, and while, yes, the exemption protects the owners' position in negotiations, it probably wouldn't survive a serious challenge from the players, in that sense. These rules are what they are mostly because everyone, including the players, understands that teams' ability to retain absolute control over a player's rights, for whatever term, is vital to maintaining the competitive integrity of the game. You can't have guys just declaring themselves unhappy and seeking a new, better position week-to-week. Baseball needs contracts, so players have agreed to work under binding contracts. It's not really an antitrust thing. These days, that mostly applies to issue like the Cubs' current conflict with the rooftop owners near Wrigley Field, or to the processes teams must go through to gain entry to the league or move from one city to another.
Roldman
4/05
Is there any chance Washington would consider trading Roark considering how many quality starters they currently have? Is there anything another team has that could possibly tempt them to part with him?
jfranco77
4/06
I mean, given the holes all over their lineup at this exact moment, the answer appears to be no. Not many teams make it through the season with 5 starters. Also their bullpen is kind of a mess and they might actually want Roark back there to stabilize things.