Every season around this time of the year managers start to grow bored with their drafted players and the siren’s call of rookie nookie starts to take hold. As injuries and ineptitude begin to set in and pitchers go on the Disabled and Disgraced Lists, the buzz surrounding pitching prospects can overwhelm one’s better reasoning. I’m not going to harsh your mellow and tell you not to take a flier on a young pitcher, I just ask that you understand what you’re most likely going to get. Chances are a prospect will give you solid 4th or 5th starter numbers. Don’t overpay for a name. A lot of commenters have been asking about trading for names like Hanson and Price; generally, these trades are grossly overvaluing young arms.
I can already hear some of you: “P0rk, you’re an idiot.” Plenty of people may agree with you but I come bearing numbers. Argue with these, jerk:
Clayton Kershaw: the buzz about Kershaw prior to his call up last season had many managers saving their waiver priority in order to land a stud. Instead they got a roofie with a 5-5 record, 4.26 ERA, and 1.50 WHIP. At least he was nice enough to give you 100 Ks in 107.2 innings. Don’t be rude, thank the man.
Max Scherzer: Jobacum was overshadowed by Kershaw in a lot of places, but not here at Razzball. I’ll share a secret with you even though you called me an idiot: Grey knows what he’s talking about. Over 56 innings last season Scherzer posted a 3.05 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 66 Ks with only 22 BB. If he played for a team that provided run support he would have had a record better than 0-4. Scherzer is one of the few exceptions but his lack of playing time still limited his value.
Johnny Cueto: he failed to live up to the hype, pitching more like Kuato than the Cueto people expected. In 31 starts he had a 4.81 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and went 9-14. Go ahead Mr. Glass-is-half-full, tell me about his 158 Ks in 174 IP. Now that you’re done living in the past there is good news; his K/9 this season matches last year’s while his ERA and WHIP are a respectable 2.55 and 1.19. Two games is a small sample size but you did read Grey’s recommendation, right? He was even nice enough to repeat himself for the slow kids.
Edinson Volquez: last season Volquez made a lot of Cueto owners think they grabbed the wrong Red. I hope you enjoyed it because his career numbers show he’s probably an above 4.00 ERA pitcher. Unlike Scherzer, he had enough playing time to be an actual exception to the rule. Which is why I’m pleading a technicality and saying his 80 innings from 2005 to 2007 disqualify him from this discussion. You’ll need bigger guns than that to prove me wrong, chump.
Tim Lincecum: There’s no denying Tiny Tim is a great pitcher, but when he first hit the big leagues in 2007 the big leagues hit back. Over 24 starts he had a 4.00 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and went 7-5. The 150 Ks in 146.1 innings did let the world know he came to bring the pain.
Joba Chamberlain: If you ignore his 24 innings in 2007 (don’t argue that I can’t do that since I used Volquez’s 80 innings against him, I’m writing this so what I say goes), Joba was worth the hype in 2008. In 42 games,12 starts, and 100.1 innings he had a 2.60 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 118 Ks and had some people drawing comparisons to Papelbon. His move to the rotation and the Yankee Jet-stream has his bad numbers up this season and his good numbers like K/9 down. Joba owners are hoping its nothing a stiff drink couldn’t fix. What, too soon?
Yovani Gallardo: Yo’s 2007 numbers were respectable, and by respectable I mean 3.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 101 Ks in 110.1 innings. Unlike his frustrating teammate Parra he showed control in issuing just 37 free passes. How respectable is that? Respectable enough to finish 9-5 in 17 starts.
Chad Billingsley: The people demand more Bills and I’m never one to leave you hanging. In 2006 C.Bills went 7-4 but didn’t show the league what really made him special. Over 18 games and 16 starts (90 innings for those of you keeping score at home) he notched a 3.80 ERA and1.67 WHIP but just 59 Ks to 58 BB. Compare his 2006 K:BB to ’07 (141:64) and ’08 (201:80) and it should be no surprise that some are whispering Cy Young this season. Now that I gave you more Bills where are the mittens I asked for? My quid is missing your quo.
Johan Santana: While Johan may have competition for the title of best pitcher in the game these days, nobody will argue he’s been one of the most dominant pitchers of the modern era. Except maybe this guy. Johan is perhaps the best evidence that no matter how talented a pitcher is, their first season may not be a good representation of their skills. In 2000 Johan had a 6.94 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, and just 64 Ks in 86 IP. His career numbers of 3.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 9.3 K/9 show just how dominant he became after 2000.
Some of these players did have numbers justifying the hype, but the danger in chasing buzz is it is too easy to get suckered into playing the weepstakes. If you dropped Aaron Cook for Kershaw or Cueto you gave up a 3.96 ERA and 16 wins for Kershaw’s 4.26 and 5 or Cueto’s 4.81 and 9. That’s not exactly a bargain. Even the likes of Andy Sonnanstine (4.38 and 13 Wins) and Jorge Campillo (3.91 and 8 Wins) had numbers falling within the range shown above. Do Sonnanstine and Campillo excite you? Say no even if the answer is yes. You should take a chance on a player like Hanson or Holland, just don’t give up too much for him. And if you happen to own Hanson now would be a great time to try to sell him to a manager that’s fallen into the hype trap.