Messiah is the strongest of strong descriptions to bestow upon someone. Savior. Liberator. Deliverer to the Promised Land. It is also the scratch-and-sniff of the literary world, as all the senses are aroused when the word is spoken; the rays of light raining down from the heavens and the singing by the angels. Personally, I smell the incense embedded into the mahagany pews, but cupcakes work just as well. How can we know who a true messiah is, though? Jesus of Nazareth is considered to be the preeminent Messiah in our society, but did he fulfill the messianic prophecies from the Old Testament of bringing universal peace and restoring Israel to it’s former glory? Back in the mid-400s, Moses of Crete declared himself to be the messiah and persuaded the Jews to walk into the sea in order to return to Israel. They all died. Wasn’t Matt Wieters the messiah for baseball not too long ago? On the flip side, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals don’t win the World Series without David Eckstein. Messiah is a powerful yet broad word, as it fits a variety of perspectives. Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics has pitched two excellent games this season, and is scheduled for three more juicy starts, but could he help deliver you to the fantasy Promised Land?
Manaea is 6′ 5″ 245 pounds and throws from the left side. Coming out of college, he was throwing upper-90s and, as a result, was considered to be drafted #1 overall. The Kansas City Royals selected him with the 34th pick in the 2013 MLB draft. After two years in their system, Manaea was traded to the Oakland Athletics, where he’s been ever since.
Injuries have been prevalent throughout his career. Manaea slid in the 2013 draft due to a hip injury. He missed the 2013 season due to a torn labrum. In 2015, he missed significant time due to abdominal and groin injuries. In 2017, he missed time due to a shoulder strain. He missed the end of 2018 and all of 2019 due to shoulder surgery.
After starting his big league career as a flamethrower, Manaea now throws the fastball at 90 mph and complements it with a slider and changeup.
Since returning, he’s faced the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. The strikeout rate has been 11.25 while the walk rate has been 3.75. The xFIP shows a 4.29 number and the BABIP has been at .091. Before we scream regression from the hilltops, let’s dig a little deeper.
The flyball rate is 60.9%. Uh, ok. Throughout his professional career, that number has been in the high 30s to low 40s range. The hard hit rate has been 52.2%. Damn….
The contact rates have been career-lows, though, and the swinging strike has been at 15.2%. His prior high was 11.8%.
Looking at the splits, the K% is over 30% against both righties and lefties. The only home run he’s allowed was to a lefty, but the walk rate has been significantly higher against righties.
These are not the numbers that inspire me to run to church and scream Hallelujah. Quite the contrary. I’m quite scurred by these numbers and can envision some serious pounding coming. Phrasing, Son. Phrasing.
But then some rays of sunlight peek through the windows. Manaea’s last three starts will be against the Rangers twice and Mariners to end the season. Both teams are top 5 in strikeout rate against left-handed pitching. A concern is that he faces the Rangers twice in the span of a week, and I’m always leery of that scenario.
When I first started writing this piece, I thought Manaea would be an auto start due to the matchups. After digging into the numbers, there’s a ton to be scared about. He won’t lead you to die in the river like Moses of Crete, but he is not a lock to deliver you to the Promised Land. If I needed to catch up in pitching and were more open to risk, Manaea is a solid option. If ahead in pitching and risk averse, I’m staying away from him. BLINGY TRASH