Wednesday, February 08, 2012

NTB Top Ten Prospects 2012

While many, like me, are holding out hope that the Twins can find a way to compete in a 2012 season where the odds are stacked pretty heavily against them, we must acknowledge that there's a good chance the big-league club won't catch the number of breaks it needs, and that by the mid-season point fans will be looking elsewhere for signs of hope.

Those signs will hopefully come from some of the players listed below in my annual preseason ranking of the organization's top ten prospects. Last year's crop fared about as well as the major-league roster, with nearly every player experiencing injury or performance setbacks, so several members of that list have dropped down or off this year's board.

With that being said, there's a lot of promise to be found below, and the Twins should be stocking their farm system with plenty more high-end talent in June when they select five times in the top 75 picks (including No. 2 overall). Here's a look at the Top 10 Prospects, as I currently see them:

10. Brian Dozier, SS
Age: 24 (DOB: 5/15/87)
2011 Stats (A+/AA): .320/.399/.491, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 92 R

Acquired in the eighth round of the 2009 draft, Dozier established himself as an intriguing prospect while showing strong on-base skills over his first two seasons. Last year, he really put himself on the map with an excellent campaign split between Ft. Myers and New Britain, as he continued to display outstanding plate discipline (66/55 K/BB ratio) while sprinkling in some pop (33 doubles, 12 triples, nine homers).

Ultimately, the biggest questions about Dozier revolve around his defense. Folks in the organization question whether he can stick at short in the bigs. If he can, and if his well rounded offensive skill set holds up, he could prove to be a godsend for a system that is extremely light on middle-infield (and especially shortstop) talent in the upper levels.

9. Alex Wimmers, SP
Age: 23 (DOB: 11/1/88)
2011 Stats (GCL/A+): 41.2 IP, 4.10 ERA, 40/23 K/BB, 1.22 WHIP

In his first start of the 2011 season, Wimmers threw nearly as many wild pitches (three) as strikes (four) in a 28-pitch outing that was cut short after he walked the first six batters he faced. The 2010 first-round pick was immediately placed on the disabled list with "flu-like symptoms" as Twins fans drew inevitable comparisons to Shooter Hunt, a promising hurler whose career went off the tracks after he lost the ability to throw strikes.

Fortunately, Wimmers was able to regain his control in the second half, as he returned to the Miracle in July and posted a 3.32 ERA and 39/16 K/BB ratio over 40 2/3 innings the rest of the way. He ended his season with a seven-inning no-hitter that included only two free passes. His walk rate will definitely be worth monitoring going forward, but for now it appears that disaster has been averted, and if he puts together a full season Wimmers has the potential to shoot up this list.

8. Adrian Salcedo, SP
Age: 20 (DOB: 4/24/91)
2011 Stats (A): 135 IP, 2.93 ERA, 92/27 K/BB, 1.17 WHIP

In 355 1/3 innings as a pro, Salcedo has allowed only 12 home runs and 56 walks. Those are extremely impressive numbers, particularly when you consider that he's been on the young side for every level he's played at. His low strikeout rate (6.1 K/9IP) suggests limited upside, but scouts speak highly of his raw stuff and as a 6-foot-4 20-year-old, he's projectable and could ramp up the whiffs as he fills out his lanky 175-pound frame.

7. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
Age: 20 (DOB: 9/9/91)
2011 Stats (A/A+): .291/.335/.531, 13 HR, 51 RBI, 46 R, 3/6 SB

After he put together a monster season in the Appalachian League in 2010, many wondered whether Arcia's breakout performance was for real, given that it was somewhat out of line with his good-not-great previous efforts in rookie ball. The slugging outfielder made a statement right out of the gates last year, raking to the tune of .352/.420/.704 over his first 20 games at Beloit.

Unfortunately, elbow problems that limited him mostly to DH duties over the first month required surgery in early May, shelving him for a good chunk of the season. When he returned, he was promoted to Ft. Myers, where he rounded out the campaign by hitting .263/.300/.463 with eight homers over 227 plate appearances. Those numbers aren't amazing and he struggled a bit with his plate approach, drawing only nine walks during that span, but his power remained intact and the performance was plenty encouraging for a 20-year-old in High-A ball.

6. Liam Hendriks, SP
Age: 22 (DOB: 2/10/89)
2011 Stats (AA/AAA): 139.1 IP, 3.36 ERA, 111/21 K/BB, 1.13 WHIP

After a spectacular 2010 season that saw him register a 1.74 ERA between Beloit and Ft. Myers as a 21-year-old, Hendriks kept the mojo going last year when he jumped out to an 8-2 start in New Britain, posting a 2.70 ERA and 81/18 K/BB ratio in 90 innings. The continued excellence earned him a promotion to Rochester, where his impeccable command held up (three walks in 49 1/3 innings) but the rest of his numbers came back to earth.

The Aussie eventually made four starts for the Twins as a September call-up, and looked predictably overmatched. This isn't entirely discouraging, considering his age, and doesn't change the right-hander's outlook as a potentially effective mid-rotation strike-thrower.

5. Joe Benson, OF
Age: 23 (DOB: 3/5/88)
2011 Stats (GCL/AA): .284/.387/.491, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 71 R, 14/24 SB

Taking his second shot at Double-A pitching, Benson showed significant improvement in some key areas last year, raising his batting average by 25 points and his on-base percentage by 44 points. He didn't approach his home run total of 27 from the prior season, but his power showing was respectable.

Benson has some notable flaws in his game, the most alarming of which is a bulky strikeout rate (27 percent over the last two years) that will limit his ability to hit for average in the majors. He's also been successful on less than 60 percent of his steal attempts in the minors, which is odd in light of his exceptional speed. Still, even if Benson doesn't live up to the considerable offensive promise he's shown in New Britain over the past two years, he'll maintain value as a strong defensive outfielder who can work the count and hit for power.

4. Kyle Gibson, SP
Age: 24 (DOB: 10/23/87)
2011 Stats (AAA): 95.1 IP, 4.81 ERA, 91/27 K/BB, 1.43 WHIP

Gibson put together one of the best 2010 campaigns of any prospect in baseball, and impressed coaches in big-league camp last year to the extent that certain members of the organization wanted to see him head north out of spring training. Instead, the 23-year-old was assigned to Rochester, where he got off to a solid start before seeing his performance deteriorate until eventually it came to light that he had a torn ligament in his elbow.

He'll miss the entire 2012 season and will return in 2013 as a 25-year-old learning to throw with a surgically repaired arm. Certainly it's a major bump in the road, and many boards are going to have him even lower than I do, but I'm still a big believer in his talent and upside. His timetable may be pushed back by a year (or more), but I think we'll see Gibson become a staple at the front of the Twins' rotation down the line.

3. Eddie Rosario, OF
Age: 20 (DOB: 9/28/91)
2011 Stats (Adv-Rk): .337/.397/.670, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 71 R, 17/23 SB

A year ago, Rosario was a little-known prospect who had put together a solid yet unspectacular debut in the Gulf Coast rookie league after being drafted 135th overall in 2010. That has all changed now. Rosario moved up to Elizabethon last year and absolutely obliterated the pitching there as a 19-year-old, smashing 21 homers to lead all hitters in the Appy League.

Rosario doesn't have the pedigree of his similarly transcendent teammate (who you'll find two spaces below) so it's wise to remain cautious of a drop-off as moves up to full-season leagues, but this incredible performance cannot be ignored. Additionally, the Twins have announced that they'll try moving him from the outfield to second base next year. If that transition takes and his offense continues to shine, he could find himself at the top of this list next year.

2. Aaron Hicks, OF
Age: 22 (DOB: 10/2/89)
2011 Stats (A+): .242/.354/.368, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 79 R, 17/26 SB

In the first two years after he was drafted 14th overall, Hicks was the Twins' consensus No. 1 prospect. At this point, however, I'm taking a leap of faith by keeping him in the second spot. The switch-hitting outfielder has all the tools to develop into a big-league star, but his on-field performance simply hasn't progressed as anyone would hope. His power numbers remain substandard, he strikes out too much, he doesn't hit from the left side of the plate and last year he put up the worst batting average of his career.

I remain bullish on Hicks because his raw tools are just too impressive to give up on, and he's consistently displayed two uncommon skills in spite of his disappointing overall output: exceptional plate patience and stellar defense in center field. He raked in the Arizona Fall League recently (.294/.400/.559) and I'm hoping he can build on that and turn the corner in 2012. If not, his tremendous athletic prowess won't save him from sliding down this list next year.

1. Miguel Sano, 3B
Age: 18 (DOB: 5/11/93)
2011 Stats (Adv-Rk): .292/.352/.637, 20 HR, 59 RBI, 58 R, 5/9 SB

When the Twins signed Sano out of the Dominican Republic with a hefty bonus back in 2009, the 16-year-old drew some lofty offensive comparisons. His performance across three levels of rookie ball has left no reason to doubt the high praise.

Sano's second pro season was more impressive than his first, which had already established him as one of the game's better up-and-coming power hitters. Despite being only 18 years old, he finished third in the Appy League in OPS, second in homers and first in total extra-base hits. His strikeout rate was a bit high and his walk rate a bit low – both understandable given his age and degree of dominance – but otherwise it's tough to find much fault with his production.

He's still got a long way to go before reaching the majors, and much can happen between now and then, but at this point Sano is on a path to become the best pure power hitter to come through Minnesota in decades.


TT said...

Nick -

I am genuinely puzzled by this comment about Benson:

"who can work the count "

Given his strike outs, it doesn't look like he works the count, the count works him. He walks when the pitcher misses the plate and strikes out a lot when the pitcher throws strikes.

Am I missing something? Because, whether he is swinging and missing or taking a lot of called third strikes, that doesn't look like a formula for success in the big leagues.

I think Dozier and Hendricks are being over rated, but they are closer to the big leagues than the others. So we will find out this year whether they are really top prospects or guys who will need to fine themselves in the right place at the right time.

I think Hendricks is a good minor league pitcher whose stuff will not play against major league hitters. Dozier's defense is not going to get him a job at shortstop, and I am not sure his offense will compensate for that. He was old for AA, he's only a year younger than Plouffe.

I was glad to see Salcedo make a top ten list. He is one of those guys that started getting minor attention so young people are a bit bored with him. But I think he could develop into a solid major league starter.

Jim H said...

TT, I have read your comments before about Benson, Dozier and Hendriks before. While I can understand where you are coming from on Benson and Dozier, it is possible that either or both could end up as major league reserves and I unsure why you are down on Hendriks.

Hendriks , to me, has a lot of upside. He is young, throws pretty hard and could possibly throw harder as he matures. I think his stuff is better than you give him credit for. His control was off during his September callup but his record shows very good minor league command.

I am likely wrong about this, but though I don't expect it immediately, I really think he is a likely staff ace. I like his delivery, it isn't a maz effort type, and yet the velocity and stuff look good to me. I never quite know what "experts" mean when they talk about mound presense, and understanding pitching, but I have heard those attributes associated with Hendriks.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty accurate minus Brian Dozier being in the top 10. He projects as a utility infielder at best. Parmelee or Levi probably should get this spot. Arcia probably deserves to be ranked ahead of Benson and Hendriks as well due to potential. Hendriks best hope is a #3 starter and Benson potential is a average full-time outfielder. Arcia with his tools could be an All-Star.

Steve L. said...

TT -

Benson strikes out a lot, but it's because of his approach and swing, not that he gets "worked" by the count.

He likes to see pitches (think of it like how Mauer NEVER swings at a first pitch cockshot) and puts everything he has into his swing when he does. He's not the same type of player, but his approach is almost exactly the same as Jim Thome's, which comes with a lot of K's, but also a lot of walks.

You can like or dislike this approach, but the fact remains Benson has a career .094 OBP-AVG Minor League split. That is a phenomenal number, and much better than Mauer or Morneau ever had. I'd call it a reason to be optimistic.

As for Arcia, he worries me. It's an approach like his at the plate that can be catastrophic to the prospects of an MLB career. He's still high on my top 10 list because of the potential, but could drop very fast if nothing changes in this regard.

Then there's Hendriks. He's never going to be a staff ace, his ceiling is Brad Radke. Solid #3, maybe even a decent #2 at times. Him being rated this high goes to show you how lacking the Twins farm system is in Top-end pitching talent. I feel they absolutely have to address this fact in June with their #2 pick, because they sure as heck aren't going to sign an ace-caliber free agent, and lack the prospect power to trade for one without an F5-tornado-esque demolishing of the farm.

Jim H said...

During most of his big league career Radke easily had to be considered among the top 30 starters in baseball. Some years probably among the top 15. Now that might not define him as an "Ace" depending on your definition, but it should be a number 1.

I don't put much stock in definitions of 1 through 5 starters. Nearly all major league starters are not that consistent from year to year, even great hall of fame starters could be anywhere from 1 to 5 in any given year.

I really like Henricks. Part of the reason I do is because I think the Twins are very high on him. You seldom see the Twins move a young starter that quickly up the the system. Once in awhile a polished college starter, but never a foreign born youngster. He is only 21(or maybe 22?).

I don't think he moved up that quickly because a shortage of starters either. The Twins usually only promote young players that quickly if they are dominating at each level.

Nick N. said...

Given his strike outs, it doesn't look like he works the count, the count works him. He walks when the pitcher misses the plate and strikes out a lot when the pitcher throws strikes.

What kind of weird, vague analysis is this?

Benson has a reputation for taking a lot of pitches and working deep into counts. This has allowed him to walk at a very solid rate, which helps offset his high strikeout tendencies. (See: Adam Dunn.)

Whether he can maintain that trend in the majors will likely dictate his offensive value to a large degree, but so far the signs have been good (despite his struggles, he averaged more pitches per plate appearance than any qualifying Twin outside of Kubel and Mauer).

Steve L. said...

I don't know Jim, that assessment of Radke sounds like blatant homer-ism to me. He was above average, but not even close to top 15, if you ask me. A few years he was probably Top 30, but that's still not "ace" territory. For the Twins he was a #2, but on a lot of teams he would have been lower. There probably isn't a single team that has an exact #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 rotation in this sense, but I find they hold value for talent assessment. Radke would be a #2 during a good year(1997), and #3 or #4 innings-eater in a bad one (1996). Keep in mind, the best ERA he ever posted was 3.48, and over his career 4.22. Good enough, but not great, and never dominating.

And TT - see Nick's comment.

Jim H said...

I think Radke was better than that, although you maybe right about homerism. I haven't checked comparable ERA's during Radke's time, but this was a high scoring period. The Twins had to pay him pretty well (comparative to others during that period) to keep him which is another measure of his value.

Certainly, Santana was better, but Santana was pretty special. I think sometimes "Aces" like Carpenter, Halliday, Lee don't get quite the respect they deserve because they don't blow people away with either velocity or stuff. Santana wasn't considered a power pitcher even though he led the league in strkeouts.

I understand other people's views in these things and there are many ways to evaluate pitchers. Still, I think velocity, "stuff", and strikeouts can all be overrated. The goal is to get outs, and it looks like Henricks might be able to do that.

Nick N. said...

I think Radke's ERA numbers understate his value a bit. I never looked at him as a true "ace" (though I've sort of grown to loathe that term) but you can get a good idea of his importance to the rotation by looking at two stats:

1) Innings. Radke compiled 200+ innings in nine of his 12 seasons, and threw fewer than 160 only once.

2) ERA+. As Jim mentioned, Radke spent much of his career pitching in a high-offense era. His ERA+ was below 100 (or, below average) only twice in his 12-year career, and his overall mark was 113; for reference, Jack Morris finished at 105 and Blyleven finished at 118.

Now, Radke was a unique case and there aren't many guys like him. Pitchers like Slowey and Hendriks inevitably draw those ceiling comparisons, but few pitchers in that mold can carve out a career of Radke's caliber.

With that said, Hendriks has a plenty decent chance to pan out as a solid No. 3 or No. 4 type, which is why I don't see how I'm "overrating" him by ranking him sixth.

Nor do I see how I'm overrating Dozier by ranking him 10th -- a solid utility guy/borderline starter is about what you should realistically expect from your tenth-best prospect.

Steve L. said...

I will secede though Jim, that if you look at Fangraph WAR values for Radke, that he was top 15 five times in his careeer, and top 30 6 times (including the top 15 years). His highest WAR value was in 2004, at 5.7. The year he got Cy Young votes ('97), it was 5.5. Very good in that sense, but he never had the peripherals of someone with dominant stuff, which is likely why I don't view him as highly as you. The highest K-rate he ever put up was 6.1/9IP.

And I also agree strongly with points in your 2nd post. Different strokes for different folks I guess q;)

TT said...

"What kind of weird, vague analysis is this? "

What is wierd is saying someone "works the count" when he strikes out that often.

There is nothing wierd about my analysis. The idea of patience is that you wait until you get a pitch you can hit. That will get you a walk if the pitcher misses the plate. But when you strike out as much as Benton, it means you are seeing an awful lot of strikes you can't hit.

Those walks don't mean anything except that he is facing minor league pitchers with limited control. When he starts seeing more strikes from pitchers with better control, he is going to strike out a lot more. If, in addition, the strikes are better pitches that are even harder for him to hit, he is going to be in very serious trouble.

"Benson has a reputation for taking a lot of pitches and working deep into counts."

This seems to be just another way of saying "He walks and strikes out a lot."

Just to put that Thome comparison in perspective. Thome's last year in the minor leagues he walked 76 times and struck out 94 times in 497 plate appearances at AAA. Those numbers are not remotely comparable to Benson's.

"The highest K-rate he ever put up was 6.1/9IP."

I am not sure why the proportion of outs a pitcher gets by strike out is a measure of "dominance".

Steve L. said...

TT: "What is wierd is saying someone "works the count" when he strikes out that often."

It's not weird when you've seen him play and KNOW that's actually what he does. Nobody's arguing he strikes out too much, simply arguing your rhetoric behind the reasons for them are flawed.

"I am not sure why the proportion of outs a pitcher gets by strike out is a measure of "dominance"."

-The less guys there are who put the ball in play against a pitcher, means there is less damage that can be caused. There are things like Sac Fly's, Bunts, hit and runs, fielders choices, errors, etc... that can all be beneficial for an offense by moving runners over, giving them an extra base, or bringing them in to score from 3rd, etc... Strikeouts don't have any of these benefits, that's why they are (part of) a measure of "dominance".

TT said...

"It's not weird when you've seen him play and KNOW that's actually what he does. "

Well, yes it is.

I am not sure what "works the count means" in the context of striking out. Working the count usually means getting ahead in the count and forcing the pitcher to give you a pitch you can hit. When you strike out, by definition you aren't ahead in the count.

Some people use "work the count" to include fouling off pitches you can't hit. But again, when you strike out you have failed to do that as well.

Whatever you call it. It appears Benson is waiting for a pitch he can hit and he isn't getting one very often. Its not going to get any easier as he faces better pitching. Whether he "works the count" or not.

TT said...

"The less guys there are who put the ball in play against a pitcher, means there is less damage that can be caused."

And what does that have to do with the percentage of outs that are strike outs? K/9 doesn't tell you anything about how often there isn't an out.

A guy who faces 9 batters and strikes out 3 and gives up hits to the other six is not more "dominant" than a pitcher who faces 9 batters, gives up three hits, strikes out 3 and gets three out on ground balls. But he has a much better K/9.

Steve L. said...

On "working the count": Okay, for your sake, that's probably bad wording. But Benson is known for taking pitches, and because he's not a high-contact-rate hitter, this puts him in danger of K's. This is the same reason why I brought up Jim Thome (he's SECOND all-time in K's, if you didn't know that). They have similar approaches in the way they take an at-bat, which is their desire to see some pitches, even if they are strikes and they end up falling behind in the count.

Onto K-rates. I think you missed the point entirely. Notice I said "(part of)" being dominant. It's not always the case, but look at some stat lines. Guys who led the league in ERA and WHIP, in general, have high or above average K-rates. There are guys with high K-rates who don't quite fit this mold, but the evidence of it is there:

In 2011, the names of pitchers with the top 10 K's/9IP-rates, were: Zack Grienkie, Brandon Morrow, Clayton Kershaw, Anibal Sanchez, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Michael Pineda, Yovanni Gallardo, Justin Verlander, and Matt Garza. Seems like a pretty "dominant" list to me.

Of the top 10 pitchers in WHIP, only 1 had a below average K-rate (Doug Fister, 6.07K/9IP, and he was #10 in WHIP).

Of the top 10 pitchers in ERA, only 1 had a below average K-rate rate (again, Doug Fister, and again, he was #10). Less baserunners = less opportunity for damage to be inflicted. K's aren't the be all and end all of "dominance", but they are a big part of it more often than not.

chris said...

great article about the santana trade

Anonymous said...

I agree with TT on Benson. I was so disappointed when I watched Benson. Expecially after hearing so much hype about him. Without using stats--I liken him to a hockey player that can skate like the wind, shoot hard etc. and then the game starts and he has a hard time. Benson needs so much control in his game.
As far as Hendricks is concerned( I hope I'm wrong), I don't see him as a quality pitcher. Not even close to a starting pitcher on a quality team. At best he is a complimentary pitcher. What we really need in the pitching department is power arms. Especially, if you get into the playoffs. The Twins stuck too long with "Pitch to Contact". I do think we have some solid talent at the lower levels, though.

Anonymous said...


TT said...

"This is the same reason why I brought up Jim Thome (he's SECOND all-time in K's, if you didn't know that)."

So what? In the minor leagues Thome walked a lot more often than Benson and got hits a lot more often (Thome hit .337 in two seasons in AA). He also struck out a lot less. And he was a couple years younger.

You can compare Benson to anyone you want, Willie Mays for all care. It doesn't make it a realistic comparison. The issue isn't Benson's approach, its that you have to be able to hit for it to work. He isn't hitting very often.

"Guys who led the league in ERA and WHIP, in general, have high or above average K-rates."

If you want to argue that guys with good WHIPs and ERA's are dominant, then I agree with you. What difference does the K rate make?

" Less baserunners = less opportunity for damage to be inflicted."

Again, K/9 has nothing to do with base runners. Its the percentage of OUTS a pitcher gets by strikeout. It doesn't matter how many base runners he allows.

"the names of pitchers with the top 10 K's/9IP-rates"

No. That is list of the top K/9 for pitchers who also got at least 480 outs. Not surprisingly, the actual list of best K/9's are pitchers who did not get that many people out. That's because every time you get a hitter out on a ball in play your K/9 goes down.

What I find interesting is that you consider Brandon Morrow "dominant". This is a guy who had a 4.72 ERA and has a career ERA of 4.37. My take is that you are making a circular argument here. You consider him dominant because he strikes guys out.

Moreover, you are engaged in a basic logical fallacy. The argument you made was that Radke was NOT dominant since he lacked a good enough K/9. Looking at pitchers who had high K/9's doesn't tell us anything about a pitcher who doesn't have a high K/9.

The argument is not whether striking batters out is a good thing. I agree with you there are productive outs and striking batters out can avoid those. But I think the most important ability for a pitcher is to get people out, however they do it.

Radke did that by throwing strikes, not walking hitters and them to hit weak ground balls and pop ups with his changeup. The fact that they didn't miss the ball entirely is not that important.

Anonymous said...


Steve L. said...

"If you want to argue that guys with good WHIPs and ERA's are dominant, then I agree with you. What difference does the K rate make?"

Well, you keep ignoring me stating that its "PART OF" what makes someone dominant, but it looks like there is a pretty obvious direct-relation there to me.

In Radke's case, he had low K-rate, low walk-rate, high ERA, and middling WHIP. That tells me he was a pitcher who got hit a lot. His career H/9IP of 9.7, also says the same thing. The fact he only had 2 seasons where he gave up less Hits than Innings Pitched (by 1 hit each year) says it too. That's why I wouldn't consider him as "dominant".

And Morrow is the one exception. You're right, my statements of "there are guys with high K-rates who don't quite fit this mold" and "It's not always the case" completely forgot about him...

Tom said...

In TT's world Radke's 4.22 career ERA is dominant while Morrow's 4.37 is not because...well because TT feels like arguing, I guess? There's no way he actually believes what he says, right?

TT said...

"That's why I wouldn't consider him as "dominant"."

That's fine. You sight a dozen reasons he wasn't "dominant" other than K/9. I agree, most of those are good reasons.

But in 1997, the year Radke won 20 games, he was 14th in ERA in the AL. Six of the 13 pitchers ahead of him had lower K/9's.

In short, based on a similar very limited sample, all those other factors may be important to deciding on "dominance". But K/9 is largely irrelevant.

TT said...

" There's no way he actually believes what he says, right?"

Tom, you should talk to your mother about her reading to you. She apparently is adding things I didn't say.

TT said...

Comparing ERA's in different era's is dicey at best. In 1997, when Radke had an ERA of 3.87, there were 38 pitchers with ERA's under 4. There were 60 last year. The major league average ERA in 2011 was 3.94, the league average in 1997 was 4.39.

There were 6 pitchers with K/9's over 10 in 1997. There were two in 2011.

Jim H said...

"Now, Radke was a unique case and there aren't many guys like him."

Nick, I suppose this is true, particularly if you are taking about a long career like you were. Still, there were and are many guys like a Moyer who had long careers.

I think hard throwers with shaky control often have hard times carving out long careers as well. There aren't a lot of Sabathia's around who throw that many pitches and remain consistently effective like he has, over a long period of time.

It seems to me most pitchers with long careers as starters, are somewhere in between. They may begin as hard throwers but gradually (or sometimes suddenly because of injury) become more of a finese pitcher.

I don't have too much trouble with the Twins affinity for strike throwers. It tends to work out at least as well as relying on the A.J. Burnetts of this world.

Tom said...

TT, Zing! Wow, you really put me in my place!

Look all, it's very, very simple stuff here. TT is distorting the conversation, as usual, by saying that outs are the important thing, no matter how you get em. True. But he's assuming that every ground ball hit equals an out, and therefore a strikeout is the same a ground out. But a ground ball only equals a ground out roughly 70% of the time. Some will be hits, some will be errors, etc. A strikeout equals an out 99% of the time (reaching on pass ball, wild pitch).

A strikeout is generally the same as a ground out or fly out (though still preferable due to runners advancing), yes. But this is not the argument. The argument is whether more strikeouts correlates to pitcher success.

Of course a strikeout is better than a ground ball or a fly ball. There is literally no logical way you could say otherwise. Ground balls or fly balls leave open the opportunity for a guy to get on base, strikeouts do not. That's all there is to it. This is termed a "fact", and TT loves arguing facts, but it doesn't change them from being facts.

This doesn't mean it's the only way a pitcher can be succesful, and no one has said that, except TT trying to put words in other's mouths. Nor does it mean guys with high rates will automatically be successful - walks, etc. Unfortunately for TT, there's a middle ground to the discussion, room for nuance and analysis.

I.e., blanket statements like "K/9 is largely irrelevant" are meaningless and, well, irrelevant.

Steve L. said...

Hey Tom: Exactly. q;)

TT said...

'he's assuming that every ground ball hit equals an out, and therefore a strikeout is the same a ground out. "

Again Tom, your mother isn't reading well. Here is what I actually said:

"A guy who faces 9 batters and strikes out 3 and gives up hits to the other six is not more "dominant" than a pitcher who faces 9 batters, gives up three hits, strikes out 3 and gets three out on ground balls. But he has a much better K/9."

K/9 compares how outs were obtained, it says nothing about ground balls that aren't outs. Is it better to get a ground out than a walk? Yes, but what would that have to do with this discussion? K/9 is equally irrelevant to your argument.

"The argument is whether more strikeouts correlates to pitcher success. "

No, that isn't the argument. Because, while K/9 reflects strike outs, it doesn't measure them. The leader in strike outs last year was Justin Verlander. But he wasn't the leader in K/9. That's because he got way too many other outs.

You can find plenty of unsuccessful pitchers with high K/9's. Just sort any database and you will find them. Of course, they won't have stuck around very long. They weren't successful.

More than anything your confusion about what you are measuring demonstrates that you don't really understand what you are talking about. You are just repeating urban myths and insisting they are true.

Finally, back to getting your mother to read more clearly again:

Here is the statement that started this discussion:

"The highest K-rate he (Radke) ever put up was 6.1/9IP."

Here is what I said:

"I am not sure why the proportion of outs a pitcher gets by strike out is a measure of "dominance"."

Again, just to make clear to you what we are talking about, the argument was that Radke was NOT dominant since he had a low K/9.

Whatever relevance K/9 has, that isn't it.

USAFChief said...

TT: But in 1997, the year Radke won 20 games, he was 14th in ERA in the AL. Six of the 13 pitchers ahead of him had lower K/9's.

Odd, then, that since K/9 has nothing to do with success, that 1997 was also the year Radke had his career best in K/9...a full K more than his career average.

Prolly just a coincidence, eh, TT?

TT said...

"Prolly just a coincidence, eh, TT?"

Probably not. So what? He also faced the most batters in his career. Anyone want to argue the number of batters is a sign of "dominance". How about innings pitched, aka outs. Radke had the most outs that year. He also had the most strike outs of his career that year.

But it was also only his third best year in ERA. And in 1999 he had a k/9 of 5, below his career average, and ERA of 3.75. Better than 1997.

In short, it may not be coincidence, but it sure doesn't demonstrate dominance.

Tom said...

TT, the discussion is whether or not K/9 is a meaninful indicator of success, future or otherwise, for a pitcher. You stated:

"K/9 is largely irrelevant"

"But I think the most important ability for a pitcher is to get people out, however they do it."

"K/9 has nothing to do with base runners"

Which indicates you don't believe it tells you anything. No one here is saying K/9 is a be-all, end-all. We keep repeating that, which falls on deaf ears. It's not worth much in and of itself. But the bottom line is, strikeouts are better than ground balls and fly balls, and whether you choose to admit it or not, strikeouts are reflected in that stat.

There are successful pitchers with low K/9s and terrible ones with high K/9s. But if you can't see that high K/9 rates for guys like Verlander, Kershaw, Lee, Halladay, Lincecum, et. al translates to low ERA and WHIP than you're just being willfully ignorant.

Anonymous said...

a pitcher is only due partial credit for ground outs and fly outs.. He is relying more on his team to pick him up then after all it's a team game. They fail he fails. A strike out is more directly the pitchers responsibility. Making the defenses job easy.. Some credit perhaps to the catcher for calling for a pitch or being good behind the plate. A player in any sport at any position that rely's more heavily on his teammates cannot by definition be dominant.

TT said...

So taking this case from earlier in this discussion, the guy who only gets three outs is more dominant than the guy who gets six outs?

"A guy who faces 9 batters and strikes out 3 and gives up hits to the other six is not more "dominant" than a pitcher who faces 9 batters, gives up three hits, strikes out 3 and gets three out on ground balls. But he has a much better K/9."

Or make the example less extreme. Pitcher A gets 3 strikeouts, 2 outs on hit balls and gives up 4 hits. Pitcher B gets 3 strikeouts, 3 outs on hit balls and gives up 3 hits. Would you really argue that the guy with the better K/9 (Pitcher A) was more dominant even though he got fewer outs, gave up more hits and had the same number of strike outs as pitcher B?

The problem is that people insist on using K/9 to compare how many strikeouts pitchers get. But it doesn't measure that.