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March 25, 2007

Taking The Fifth, Revisited

MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan believes the competition for fifth starter is over, and Jamey Wright has prevailed. I can’t say I had any reaction at all when I heard the news in the midst of a fantasy draft Saturday night. He’d might as well have announced, “Drill a pilot hole before installing an anchor in sheetrock.”

I can’t find the link now, but I recall Wright saying he’d found a groove last season in San Francisco until Mike Matheny was injured. The stats bear him out:

2006 with Matheny catching
2006 with others catching

His success with Matheny was no BABIP-induced fluke, and his bullpen didn’t have to bail him out (one of his two bequeathed runners scored). Cutting his walk rate to a terrific 2.4 per nine innings dropped his ERA to within spitting distance of league-average. Alas, with either Todd Greene or Eliezer Alfonzo as his receiver, his mechanics suffered and he offered the usual.

How much credit does Matheny actually deserve for Wright’s modicum of success? That slides into the grey areas of Matheny’s defensive reputation and how their personalities clicked. But if Wright says so, it’s at least partially true. However, it’s reasonably certain that Mike Matheny will not be catching Jamey Wright this season.

I realize no one is asking Wright to pitch 162 innings with a 4.50 ERA. (Actually, Jon Daniels did say, “[Wright] is capable of giving us 160-180 innings,” but he has to say stuff like that occasionally.) Also, the fifth-starter decision isn’t made in a vacuum; it includes injuries, depth problems at AAA, younger candidates with minor-league options, and Wright’s contractual ability to bail if he’s not on the 25-man roster. However, from all I’ve read, coaches and management seem pleased with him, irrespective of the extraneous issues factoring into his ascendance. They believe they can keep his mechanics in order.

Herein lies the problem. We have a pitcher:

  • with a career ERA+ of 93 in over 1,400 innings
  • who’s pitched exactly one season of at least 162 innings and league-average ERA in his career (six years ago)
  • who’s allowed opponents an OBP of .369 outside of Coors Field
  • who’s permitted 5.2 BB+HBP per nine innings
  • who’s been released fives times during the season or Spring Training
  • and who’s been cut rather than granted arbitration five other times.

We also have an organization that, during the past nine years:

  • has posted a better-than-league-average ERA only twice,
  • and has developed exactly one homegrown pitcher who’s thrown at least 162 league-average innings (Doug Davis, 2001).

And Texas is going to fix Jamey Wright? Pin a medal on Mark Connor if that happens.

Posted by Lucas at March 25, 2007 01:14 PM