SweetSpot: Dana Eveland
- Rob- any thoughts on the Jays? They have been one of the hottest teams the past month yet it remains a struggle to get any air time from ESPN. I recognize that it is early, and they will likely not end up contending by season's end but what does it take to at least get a blog?? Some great stories here around some young pitching, Wells re emergence and Cito all of a sudden looking like a genious again.
- Regan (Toronto)
The Jays' hitting is full of bizarre anomalies, not so surprising considering that we're still in May. John Buck, Alex Gonzalez, and Jose Bautista are all out of their minds, while Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, and Adam Lind are all hitting below their weight (which essentially works only if you play first base for the Brewers). I should probably throw Vernon Wells in there somewhere, too, if only because .627 seems like a fairly high slugging percentage even for a player with such obvious talents. Travis Snider might be the only guy in the lineup who's reasonably close to pegging his projections.
Leaving all that aside, the Jays are second in the league in scoring but have the 10th-best on-base percentage, and I'm not real sure that's a combination with much long-term viability. Which means the Jays' overall performance probably isn't sustainable, either. The big story has been Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero, and there are certainly good reasons to think they both are (or will become) fine major league pitchers. But the rest of the rotation is loaded with question marks, as Dana Eveland doesn't strike out enough guys, Brandon Morrow walks too many guys, and Brett Cecil feeds too many gophers (so far, anyway).
I wish I had better news, Regan. But I just don't see these Jays as better than a .500 team, and I think they're probably more likely to finish below than above.
- The A's dispatched starting pitcher Dana Eveland to Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday, with simple instructions: Find the man who inhabited his uniform last season.
Eveland's struggles in Oakland this season stretch deeper than his 16 walks in 241/3 innings (but those numbers don't exactly help). He also had trouble with his command in the strike zone, as evident in this damning number: Eveland allowed 41 hits in those 241/3 innings.
"I told him it's a matter of him going down there and getting his confidence and his aggressive game," pitching coach Curt Young said. "When you pitch defensively, you're not going to be pitching late in games, which is what we're looking for. Last year, he was the one dictating the game and forcing the action."
Eveland was 9-9 with a 4.34 ERA in 29 starts last season for the A's. His slow start this year - 1-2 record, 7.40 ERA - prompted his demotion, as the A's try to pump life into their decidedly green starting rotation.
As this season opened, the five guys in the Oakland rotation could boast the grand total of 18 wins in the major leagues ...
I don't suppose it would have been appropriate to refer to Eveland as the "ace" of the staff, particularly considering his unimpressive K/BB ratio last season (his best season). Still, he was the closest to a sure thing they had ... and of course he's been a disaster. Eveland's not really this bad, but then again it's not clear that he's anything more than a decent No. 4 or 5 starter, even at his best.
You might remember that the A's were my pick to win the West. I figured that two or three of Oakland's young starters would have to pitch well, and so far that's just not happening. They seem to have something in 25-year-old Dallas Braden, but 21-year-olds Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson -- both of them with sterling credentials -- have essentially flopped. Anderson's struck out only 14 batters in 28 innings, while Cahill has struck out 12 and walked 18 (!) in 33 innings. Neither has pitched even a single inning in Class AAA, and in retrospect it probably was terribly optimistic to believe they could step right into the majors and pitch anything like championship-quality baseball. Instead they're getting on-the-job training, and one can only hope they're tough enough, mentally, to survive the coming maulings.
- Mike Pelfrey was ready for me in the Mets spring training clubhouse, as if he knew I was coming.
"Look at me," the Mets right-hander said one day last month. "I'm a pretty big guy." Yes, sir. Pelfrey is 6-foot-7. Thankfully, he is a rather pleasant, mild-mannered guy.
I didn't feel threatened, but my theory about young pitchers getting overworked was precisely in Pelfrey's crosshairs. Pelfrey was familiar with my rule of thumb that pitchers 25 and under are at risk of injury or significant regression in the year after their clubs boost their workload by 30 or more innings.
So I agreed with some of what Pelfrey presented. He turned 25 in January and is a big guy, so maybe he withstands his 48-inning jump better than someone younger and smaller. That said, I'm still not taking him off my list of the most at-risk young pitchers of 2009 based on the Year After Effect. There is a reason why the Mets had an innings threshold in mind for Pelfrey, a reason why the Yankees have treated Joba Chamberlain with kid gloves and a reason, going further back, why Oakland was very careful to manage the innings growth of its young starters almost a decade ago when I first learned about this growing trend: Too much too soon is risky stuff.
This year I red-flagged 10 pitchers -- and the list includes some of the greatest young arms in the game. Here are those pitchers and the innings jumps that put them on the list ...
- How much should those guys be worried? Over the previous three years I red-flagged a total of 24 young pitchers at the start of those seasons. Of those 24 at-risk pitchers, 16 were hurt in that same season. Only one of the 24 pitchers managed to stay healthy and lower his ERA: Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado, a guy I said would be less at risk because of his powerful body type.
In the early years of my tracking the Year After Effect, the Royals notoriously pushed young pitchers to awful results (Jose Rosado, Chris George, Runelvys Hernandez, Mac Suzuki, etc.). The Pirates have supplanted the Royals as the worst offenders (Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny). It's one thing for the Mets to push Pelfrey with a playoff spot at stake, but it's hard to explain why a rebuilding franchise would put young starters at risk in meaningless games in September.
Last year I red-flagged seven pitchers: Jimenez, Gorzelanny, Ian Kennedy (Yankees), Dustin McGowan (Blue Jays), Chad Gaudin (Cubs), Yovani Gallardo (Brewers) and Fausto Carmona (Indians). Except for Jimenez all of them broke down with injuries -- some of them serious, not all arm-related -- and combined to go 29-32. None won 10 games. Previous blowouts that were red-flagged included Francisco Liriano, Gustavo Chacin, Anibal Sanchez, Adam Loewen and Scott Mathieson.
Verducci's method strikes me as terribly arbitrary. That doesn't mean it doesn't work. But without a control group -- without some basis for comparison -- we can't really know if pasting the photos of a bunch of young pitchers on the wall and throwing darts wouldn't work just about as well. And one thing I'm sure about: the Red Sox and Rays and Cardinals and Indians and Padres and another half-dozen (at least) teams aren't throwing darts.