Today, I listened to a podcast. In that podcast, the two hosts pontificated sharply about how Kris Medlen isn’t for real and that his success last year was merely a result of a few lucky match-ups. His success this year? Unsustainable. The name of that podcast? There Is No Such Thing as a Pitching Podcast — a pun from the old baseball adage “there is no such thing as a pitching prospect”, meaning that young pitchers are too unreliable, disappoint too much, surprise too much, need Tommy John too much, die too much. What they fail to realize, though, is that sometimes we’ve thrown all our coins into Mike Moustakas and are now left in squallor on the street corner getting moosed by strangers just for a quick buck, and our only hopes of redemption are guys just like Medlen. Sometimes, we don’t have our hands on the next Wil Myers or Jurickson Profar, or even a Leonys Martin, but, HAHAHA!, we do have our hands on sexy beast Matt Harvey. Harvey, of course, is seen by many as a better keeper candidate than even Profar, so that old adage can go get moosed by Old Buck in the alley, not us. Anyway, to save ourselves the moosing — which pitchers are worth targeting as keepers going into this year’s playoff push and 2014?
Tony Cingrani (Doesn’t matter what his ADP is/was/will be, you don’t want him)
Deceivingly so, this list starts with a guy who you do not want to keep. After his first few starts spurred some oh-my-god-that-fastball-is-so-deceiving talk, Cingrani’s current role in the bullpen is where he’s going to end up in the future unless that new slider he developed is actually effective. For once, Dusty Baker, star of The Assassination of Mark Prior by the Coward Dusty Baker, actually has a clue what he’s doing with a pitcher.
You can’t get Major League outs consistently via tossing your fastball 82% of the time, especially when it usually grooves around 94 MPH. You just can’t, just believe me. Don’t give me some crazy delivery explanation because it’s not true. It’s moosecrap. Guess where pitchers end up when they have one dominant pitch and a few threes and fours rounding out their arsenal? Exactly where Cingrani is now.
Don’t hold on to hopes that he’ll make the transition into the rotation starting in 2014.
Hisashi Iwakuma (260 ADP, will be in 80s next year)
You paid crap for Hisashi, and Hisashi is my favorite player on this list. You want Hisashi. Hisashi is friend.
Iwakuma’s increased the rate at which hitters chase his pitches out of the zone by 4.6% compared to last year, has them swinging 1.9% less at pitches inside the zone, has them making less contact outside the zone, and, just to finish it off, has them making less contact inside the zone. In other words, hitters are chasing more bad pitches and have hit all of Hisashi’s pitches at a worse rate. Yes, they have a worse BAbip despite an identical 19% LD-rate, but they’re hitting fewer groundballs.
Last year, Iwakuma had 1.12 GB/FB ratio. This year? 0.86. What’s that mean? A lower BAbip — ground-balls goes for hits more often than fly-balls.
And how’s he doing this? According to Fan Graphs’ PITCHf/x, Iwakuma’s increased his regular-fastball (four-seamers, two-seamers) frequency in exchange for his splitter, a pitch that obviously and intentionally induces grounders. And rightfully so: Hisashi calls Safeco Field his home. F bringing in the walls. And lastly, he’s actually getting double-plays at a higher rate than he did last year, which implies that his splitter reduction has increased its effectiveness.
He’s had two rough starts in a row, so try and make a play for him from a potentially-spooked owner. You love him. You need him. And you’ll love me when you’re paying zilch for an ace-caliber pitcher next season, brosef.
Jarrod Parker (170 ADP to start 2013, will be in 130s in 2014)
Parker is tricky. Listen to the song and come back when you’re done.
Okay. There is a moose-ton of talk about how this “new” Jarrod Parker, the one since his last non-Quality Start (May 6), is the real Parker. Through his first 23.1 innings, Parker had an 8.10 ERA and 2.143 WHIP. He was 0-4 and had 13 walks to go with his 14 strikeouts.
Every Parker defender cites the .402 BAbip-against as the sole reason for this, and they might be right, but what those same defenders don’t admit now is that in his last nine starts, Parker’s BAbip-against is down at .189. In those starts he has a 2.59 ERA and an improved strike rate. So, just like how the beginning of the season wasn’t the “real” Parker, this recent hot streak isn’t the “real” Parker either. Who is the “real” Parker? Well, somewhere in the middle, of course. He’s not the #3 SP, which he is on ESPN’s Player Rater in the last 30 days, and he isn’t a guy who only throws 54 first-pitch-strikes in 117 at-bats, like he did in those initial 23.1 innings.
Let the water cool before the deadline, which it will, if you want to grab him for next year. If you wait until next year, he’ll be higher. I think he’s a 3.30-ERA, 1.10-WHIP, 170-K guy, which is what you want out of a young pitcher.
Or bust. I’m all in. Empty your pockets. Unfortunately, so is everyone else.
Drew Smyly (Undrafted, 135 ADP next year)
I interviewed Drew back in the days when he was at high-A Lakeland and I was an intern at Fox Sports and, frankly, he was an asshole. “Hi Mr. Smyly can I ask you a few questions?! I’m new at this! ” “Beat it, kid”. But that doesn’t mean Drew isn’t a good pitcher.
Just like how Cingrani won’t be a starter in the long-run, Smyly indubitably and unequivocally will be, even if not for the Tigers.
Smyly plays with three different fastballs to keep his walk-rate minimal, yet still strikes out 25.1% of the batters he faces — a K/9 of 8.9, but K/9 is stupid and you should never use it and should really only use K%. If a guy strikes out 27 hitters in a game but walks 27 hitters, what’s his K/9? 27 (Amazing). What’s his K%? 50%.
Compared to another young stud, the arbitrarily selected Madison Bumgarner, Smyly actually gets more people to chase outside the zone than his counterpart.
He’s reduced his four-seamer by 13.6% while increasing his two-seamer by 16.3% and cutter by 15.5%. It’s resulted in the aforementioned reduced walk-rate, a microscopic ERA, and a reduced WHIP. The scary thing? His FIP is even a low 2.19. Sure, he’s doing this in small outings at a time but, for the record, in each of his extended bullpen outings, Smyly’s owned hitters just as much as in his 1-IP outings.
He’s being stifled by stupid Leyland, but you want Smyly for next year. Obviously, you don’t want to go stash him now and waste a roster slot on a middle-reliever, but get him before your season’s end. Come next year he’ll in someone’s starting rotation and will be a whole lot of people’s super-sleeper.
Follow Terse on Twitta @TerseRazzball and ask him questions because he contemplates pouring the hot coffee pots on his face when he gets bored at work.