I’m going wild about pitching today as I point out a few pitchers who actually pitched better than you may have thought they did during the just completed 2010 season.
Scott Baker had elbow surgery this fall, but he should be fully healthy by the start of Spring Training. Should you care after he posted a 4.49 ERA for the Twins in 2010? Heck yes you should. Baker had a 7.82 K/9 mark, a career best, and though he also posted a 5-year high with a 2.27 BB/9 mark, his K/BB mark was still 3.44. Toss in 148 Ks, and Baker was one of just eight pitchers – eight – in all of baseball to have a 7.80 K/9, 3.40 K/BB, 145 or more K’s and a walk rate under 2.30 per nine. Look at the others on the list: Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Roy Oswalt, Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.
The eighth guy? He is another hurler I would look to buy low on in 2011, and that is James Shields. There is no way that Shields should once again lead the AL in homers allowed (34), and he certainly won’t allow another BABIP mark of .354, especially considering his career mark is just .316. You also have to factor in that Shields posted a K/9 rate of about a batter better than his career mark of 7.38 at 8.28. Guys with K/9 rates that high who also post a 3.67 K/BB mark just don’t post ERA’s over five very often (Shields was at 5.18). In fact, over the past 11 years, Shields season is one of only two by a hurler with at least an 8.20 K/9 mark, a 3.65 K/BB ratio an an ERA over 5.00. The other season like that was authored by Ricky Nolasco in 2009.
Chris Narveson just barely posted an ERA in the four’s at 4.99 over 37 appearances, including 28 starts. How in the world could he have pitched better than that number looks? Well, things clearly took a turn for the better in the second half of the year as everything simply clicked for Chris. Over his last 14 appearances, all starts, Narveson was 5-3 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. That’s some seriously strong pitching. He also posted a decent 2.75 K/BB ratio as batters hit just .231 off him over those 81 innings. He’s no ace, but once the draft hits the late rounds next year, don’t forget about this Brewers’ starter.
A.J. Burnett. There, I said it, and now people are running for the exits right? Hear me out before you go pulling the alarm lever.
Burnett was terrible late in the year (3-8, 5.95 ERA over his last 15 starts), but his overall performance, other than a rather precipitous drop in his K/9 rate (6.99 in 2010, 8.23 for his career), really wasn’t awful compared to his career levels. Burnett did lose a mph off his fastball, but he was still throwing it 93 mph, so there likely wasn’t an injury. Secondly, his walk rate was 3.76, which is almost spot on his career mark of 3.78. His 1.21 HR/9 mark was a three year high, but that mark was 1.09 in 2009 and 1.25 in 2007, so it wasn’t that far off his recent performance. His BABIP of .319 was a bit above his career .297 rate, but it was lower than the .328 mark he posted in 2008. His GB/FB ratio was a bit down at 1.20 (career 1.49), but it was better than his ’09 mark (1.09). And for goodness sakes, his line drive rate was a 3-year low (17.6 percent) and the second best mark in six years. Burnett will be an afterthought on draft day 2011, and I’m telling you, he has a chance to produce a nice return on investment if the cost is low enough.
By Ray Flowers