GoodEnough for Me is an on-going analysis of the rookie pitchers during the 2007 baseball season. The series was inspired by, and serves as companion piece to, The Extrapolater’s Smells Like Pujols series, which is taking a look at some of the top rookie position players. You can find Smells Like Pujols HERE.
ESPN, in its ubiquitous coverage of any time Boston and New York play each other, had a lot to say about this weekend’s series featuring the Most Obnoxious Fanbase In Sports (Boston Red Sox fans), and the Most Arrogant (Yankees fans, though, I mean, if any fanbase should be arrogant, it should be the Yanks, I suppose).
Mr. Thursday monitored the match-up pretty closely, as, going into the Sunday night game, Boston was sporting our top reliever, and our top starter, both of which were offseason acquisitions coming all the way from Japan’s Nippon League. Naturally, the series came to a crescendo with the third and final game, with GoodEnough for Me pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Chase Wright started for their squads, both coming off solid outings earlier in the week.
Naturally, I was sitting on my couch, watching Red Sox-Yankees, because it was the only game on, and excited about it because both starting pitchers were rookies. Equally unsurprising is that I would remark, without hint of irony or sarcasm, “This Chase Wright looks like a pretty good, young pitcher,” with sufficient volume that not only dogs and birds, but regular human beings could hear the sounds I made. Not only that, but I spoke these words with enough clarity that these humans could understand exactly what I was saying. In my defense, Wright was, at the time, getting David Ortiz to fly out harmlessly to Melky Cabrera. I had no way of knowing that half of Boston was going to start teeing off on him. It’s worth noting, and unsurprising, that all the taters came off breaking balls high in the strike zone. Young Master Wright is going to have to work on that if he wants to keep playing with the big kids. Of course, last night’s game is not reflected in this week’s good enough standings, but if it were, Wright’s FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching) would be significantly worse than anyone elses. For the record, FIP is set-up to look a lot like ERA, and, like ERA, the league average is always about 4.50. The worst on our list is 7.99 from Matt Chico of the
ExposNationals, who probably won’t lose his job anytime soon because, well, who’s going to replace him? Wright’s FIP, currently, 12.175. Yikes.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me, right?” Chase Wright had 1 rough inning. Really rough.
The Yankees, in fact, lead the league in rookie starting pitchers. In addition to Wright, the Yankees have received ugly, nasty, clumsy performances from Kei Igawa, who, to be fair, has actually pitched pretty well, in his past two starts, especially when compared to his 5 inning, 7 run debut. In each start Igawa’s gotten more strikeouts, allowed fewer walks, given up fewer home runs, and induced more grounders. Jeff Karstens, aside from being goofy lookin’, has a 2.538 WHIP. That’s inexcusably bad. He’s only made 1 appearance this season, so we won’t read anymore into it, but he was not good in that start. Not good at all. Darrell Rasner, meanwhile, has made three starts, and none of them have been easy on the eyes. Rasner’s in the Robin Roberts mold pitching, it appears. Not a lot of strikeouts, a good amount of home runs allowed, but hardly any walks. He was lousy in his debut, giving up two dingers in 4 1/3 innings, but otherwise hasn’t pitched too terribly, it would seem. He just needs to get his innings per start up, as he hasn’t made it through the sixth yet, and only made it into the sixth once in three starts.
Now, if you look at the GoodEnough standings, you’ll notice a new column marked “LW”. This stands for Last Week, and it’s nothing more than the ranking pitcher’s ranking from the week before. The pitchers marked with an “X” weren’t in the top 12 last week, but in future weeks, we’ll get rid of those, so you’ll get a better sense of how far a pitcher climbed to get into the scoreboard. Interestingly, one of our pitchers from last week, Rick Vanden Hurk of the Florida Marlins (I think he was in 6th place among starters) is now off the list. If we extended our lists to include all the rookies, Vanden Hurk would now be in 14th place among relievers. Why the odd change? Well, for purposes of easy sorting, we’re merely assigning “Starter” status to any pitcher who averages at least 4IP per appearance. Vanden Hurk has appeared in 3 games, and started 2 of them. Going into this week, the one start Vanden Hurk had wasn’t dominant, but it was pretty good. Since then, however, Vanden Hurk made a spot appearance in relief (2 1/3 innings), and was lit up by the Mets in a start (4 innings), and as such, his IP/G dropped below the threshold. Despite this bad run over the past week, I like Vanden Hurk, and not just because he’s Dutch. He’s a tall, lanky, young right-hander with an excellent curveball. He’s pitching for the Marlins right now, in all likelihood before he’s reading, only because of injuries to the rest of the starting staff. He’ll probably head for Triple-A if and when the Marlin regulars return, but the kid certainly has potential with a hook like that.
Another interesting reliever is the Mets’ Joe Smith. Smith is a bit of a sidearmer, and a righty, which would normally relegate him to spot work, facing only right-handed batters, as lefties tend to hit well of side-arming righties. So far, however, Willie Randolph has used Smith pretty indiscriminately, and he’s been earning his playing time. Right-handed batters can’t hit him (batting .190 in 21 AB), but he’s been walking them a bit (4 walks), so they’ve got a .320 OBP, which is okay, but nothing to write home about. They’re slugging for diddly, too, and I imagine that as long as Smith’s opponents’ OPS is .558, the Mets will keep sending him out there to whomp batters. As for the lefties… They’ve got 11 at-bats. No walks. 2 hits. A .455 OPS. Smith has been very impressive so far.
The biggest positive jump from any pitcher this week has been the 12th-to-1st maneuver of the Red Sox southpaw reliever Hideki Okajima. Okajima has a bit of a herky-jerk delivery, with a big overhand motion that seems to help him fool hitters. This week, Okajima struck out the side against the Blue Jays, and then came back and pitched 2 shutout innings in the appearances against the Yankees. Okajima’s been pitching even better than his numbers suggest. He gave up a bit of a fluke homer to John Buck of the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day, in a game that was already a lost cause. If we pretended that home run never happened, Okajima’s FIP drops from 3.18 to 1.82. He’s pitched 7 innings since then, in 8 appearances, with no home runs, and though, still, this is a small sample size, it looks like Okajima isn’t going to have a home run problem. With confidence, though, we can say that Okajima is really dominating right now.
Tonight I’ll be at the Phillies-Astros makeup game, which features the 6th-place-and-falling Chris Sampson starting for the Astros. Hopefully, the Phils will pound him so much he’ll drop him below Zach Segovia for next week’s ranking.
A short note: In looking for a picture of Chase Wright after giving up the fourth consecutive homer, I decided to scour the Boston Globe’s sports section. One of the articles written there had the title Good Looking Win? No Dice, with the tagline, “On a night the Japanese pitcher didn’t throw that well, he still battled.” I’m intensely curious if Nick Carfardo would have written the same article had the Red Sox lost. What did Nick expect Matsuzaka to do? Refuse to come out of the dugout after the Yankees scored 2 runs in the first? Matsuzaka pitched poorly, but got lucky when the Red Sox hit what seemed like a bajillion circuit clouts in 2 minutes. Why are we giving him credit for anything?