Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Enigma That Is Denny Bautista

Quick. I'll give you three guesses as to why Denny Bautista, an obscure pitcher just given a spring training invite by the Giants, is famous amongst statheads. Give up? It's because, a few years ago, Bautista was involved in a trade that sent the saber community into a complete uproar, while many others wondered just what the fuss was about.

Once upon a time, Bautista was a fairly hot prospect in the Orioles system, a guy who threw hard as hell, with lots of movement, but, as is the case with many of his ilk, no bloody idea where the ball was going. Still, that arm had a lot of analysts from both camps drooling. There seemed to be star potential hidden away, if only someone could tame the wild beast he called a right arm.

Of course, in a move typical of the brainlessness shown by the Baltimore front office in the past decade, the team traded Bautista for, wait for it...Jason Grimsley. Did the Orioles need relief help? Well, I guess, among many other things. Were they in a pennant race? Um, no. Did they give away a potentially useful arm to get an interchangeable reliever who'd later gain notoriety for ratting out several steroid users? Bingo!

Bautista has never for a second had any success in the major leagues (the trade was made in 2004), so the Orioles' idiocy hasn't really come back to bite them. Back then, though, I remember sabermetric fans, and a couple of Baseball Prospectus writers, being simply aghast that a legitimate power arm was acquired by the Royals for essentially nothing. It was a great trade for the Royals, albeit one that didn't work out in the end. Hell, it even had some writers fooled into thinking somebody smart was running the Kansas City show. Outside of that community, I don't think anybody really gave a damn. Denny who?

So I remember those days as Bautista shows up in Arizona in a Giants uniform, lugging with him a 6.26 career ERA and a 4.9 BB/9 rate. The chances that Bautista becomes a good pitcher are probably zero, as are the chances that we'll even hear anything about him after mid-March. I guess he serves as a lesson in the combustibility of pitching prospects, or as a testament to the righteousness of TINSTAPP. He's 29 and worth a flyer, but we stat geeks will always remember him for the one heist Allard Baird pulled off in the Royal front office (note: it didn't make up for Dye-for-Neifi).

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