Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Giants Pitching Preview 2006: Pray For Rain
Such is the search for a suitable fifth starter in the major leagues. We're not trying to find the next Sandy Koufax, or even John Tudor for that matter, just a guy who can take the ball when called upon and a guy who won't self-destruct in a flaming heap on the mound, at least not most of the time. Fifth starters tend to be either mediocre veterans clinging to a last hope or young projects with very little chance of a career. They're cheap, they're fun, they get you through a boring weekend without too much fuss. Just don't get caught with Chris Brock.
Brad Hennessey 5-8 4.64 1.51 WHIP
If Hennessey faced the Cardinals every time out, he'd be the best pitcher to ever live, having not given up a single run against them in over 14 innings last year. It's the other 30 teams he has problems with. Hennessey is pretty much guaranteed a starting role this season, at least to start, unless he has a spring so atrocious that the more appetizing alternative becomes Jamey Wright.
In terms of consistency, Hennessey was all over the map last year. One start he'd look like an ace, painting corners with aplomb and keeping hitters off balance. Then in the next he'd look like the scrubby Rule V infielder sent out to throw a garbage inning at the end of a blowout, getting smoked out of the second inning. He doesn't have great, or heck, even good, stuff, and relies on deception and offspeed shenanigans to succeed. For a guy who walked 52 batters in 118 innings, that ain't good. That ugly 1.51 WHIP means that in a less lucky season his ERA would have been in the mid-5's.
Hennessey might luck into a sort of Jeff Suppan-like career if he stays in pitcher-friendly ballparks, but he's more likely to put up maybe one or two okay seasons before fading into the ether. He's not a long term solution, but if he gives the Giants 170-180 innings of sub-5 ERA, there'll be little complaining from this writer.
Kevin Correia 2-5 4.63 1.58 WHIP
Allow me to equate Correia's potential upside with a little video game experience I've been having recently. Last week I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare for XBOX, and have been chipping slowly away at it. Why, you ask, did I buy this crappy game? Better yet, why am I admitting that I threw down $20 on a game geared for ten-year-olds? The reason is because locked within the new game is the arcade version of Turtles In Time from the early-90's, one of my favorite video games of all time. The game that, in it's day, was fairly advanced graphics-wise, the first Ninja Turtle game where you could chuck foot soldiers at the screen and whoop Leatherhead's ass on a speeding train.
The only problem is that you can't just pop the new game in and play Turtles In Time, you actually have to unlock it. In order to do so, you have to beat the first episode of the new game, which is comprised of 16 levels, not a one of which could be described as fun. So the only way I had to treat myself to that glowing piece of boyhood nostalgia was to slog through 16 interminable levels of 3D melee boredom. The other day I finally, mercifully, got to the end and unlocked Turtles In Time (or TIT, as I call it...wait, never mind). It was worth the twenty bucks, and now I can enjoy hours upon hours of ninja butt-whipping instead of productive activity such as school work and socializing with friends.
Anyway, the point. Kevin Correia's upside is like Turtles In Time, in a way. You have to get through a whole bunch of crap, a lot of home runs, a lot of wild sliders ten feet off the outside corner, before the good stuff ever shows up. Correia has upside. He throws hard, he has good breaking stuff, and he has the ability to be a formidable pitcher in the majors. It's just a matter of whether the Giants want to stick the clothespin on their nose long enough to wade through the refuse in order to finally get to the quality.
Correia's problems are control and home runs. He walked 31 batters and gave up 12 homers in 58.1 innings last year, and that's just not going to do it in the big leagues. He had his moments, like a brilliant start against the Mets, but more often than not he simply didn't know where the ball was going, and when he did, it was leaving the ballpark ten times faster than it left his hand.
At this point Correia is an underdog in the fight to win a roster spot with the Giants to start 2006. If he can work on his control, he can be good, and he's still young enough to realize his potential. I do think there's a Turtles In Time somewhere inside there. Of course, I could be wrong and maybe the Giants will just be left with a crappy version of Pong. Only time will tell if the $20 was worth it for Correia.
Hello, worst-case scenario! If Jamey Wright opens the year as the Giants' fifth starter, Hennessey and Correia ought to be ashamed of themselves. Even though he's spent a majority of his career in Coors Field, Wright has at no point been a decent pitcher. Even on the road last year he threw up a 1.50 WHIP and a 4.63 ERA. He doesn't strike people out and he doesn't induce enough grounders to make up for it. There's just no upside here, unless you consider watching home run balls off the bats of scrub Dbacks hitters sailing into McCovey Cove upside.
As a mop-up/swingman guy like Jeff Fassero, I guess he's tolerable, except that we already have Fassero, and those two guys in the same role means way too much mound time for somebody. Wright might have something to offer, but if you figure out what it is, give me a call. I liked him a lot better when he was on the mound being used as cannon fodder against the Giants, instead of for them.
Random Stankeye Stuff
-The U.S. got beat by Mexico in the WBC to send the Red, White, and Blue to an early exit from the proceedings and putting an end to any faint interest I may have had in the whole charade. Two words: Wh'ua Happened? The USA was on the short list to win the tournament, only to get blindsided by a vengeful Hee Seop Choi and a recalibrated Oliver Perez. I guess this means we'll see Randy Winn back in camp a little earlier, which is certainly a good thing.
-The Tar and Feather Barry Bonds Bandwagon continues, this time with an excerpt from an upcoming book by Jeff Pearlman, better known as the guy who in 1999 brought love and joy upon the world with a story about how John Rocker was a moronic bigot. I actually don't mind Pearlman too much, unlike a lot of people. His book The Bad Guys Won, about the 1986 Mets, is one of my favorite baseball books of all time.
With that said, though, the guy is still a jerk, and his stories reek of a dweeb with an axe to grind. He likes to supposedly uncover the dark underbelly of baseball players, but usually he just ends up making himself look like a jackass. And if Jay Canizaro is the best in-house source you can come up with to incriminate Bonds, maybe you should try a little harder.
I especially love this supposedly incriminating quote in the excerpt by Russ Ortiz:
"One of the things I noticed was how fast he was able to put the bat on the ball. He could recognize the pitch well before he had to swing, and then he would get around so fast, so hard."
Is this supposed to be damning? This just sounds like a scouting report of Bonds from 1992. Taking quotes out of context to support your argument is a bad journalistic practice as old as the industry, but at least do it so it makes sense. So Bonds can get around on a fastball quicker than most. That's a result of steroid use? I seem to remember Bonds lacing 98 mph fastballs over the right field wall long before the sterois speculation. Guess what, that's why he's the best player in the league. And the reason Rickey Henderson stole all those bases was because he was faster than everybody else. According to Pearlman, that's hard evidence of some wrongdoing.