I’ve outdone myself this time. Luis Mendoza, he pitches for the Royals if you were unaware, went 8-10 with a 1.42 WHIP last season. That type of pitching line points to a hurler being barely usable in a league specific setup. So have I run out of things to write about at BaseballGuys? Am I part owner of the Royals? Is Mendoza married to my second cousin? The answer to all of those three question is no, so why write about Mendoza? There must be some reason…
For the totality of the 2012 season, here are some Mendoza numbers:
5.64 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, 1.76 K/BB
As you know, none of those three numbers is even league average. In most cases that would portend doom in my eyes. Does it in the case of this Veracruz, Mexico righty? Don’t give up the faith just yet.
If a guy has a set of numbers like that, in most cases one of two things occur. (A) He’s likely to end up riding buses in the minor leagues very soon or (B) he’s got to have another skill that has led a major league team to use him in a significant role. In the case of Mendoza, it just might be the second situation.
As is often the case with a hurler who doesn’t strike anyone out and walks batters at the league average rate, Mendoza has a pretty impressive sinker at his disposal. After throwing his sinking fastball 80+ percent of the time from 2009-11, Mendoza actually cut back a bit in 2012 throwing the pitch 68 percent of the time as he leaned more heavily on his curve ball throwing it 23 percent of the time (that mark had never been above 11.4 percent during his big league career). By the way he’s really only a two pitch hurler as he threw a change up less than 10 percent of the time in 2012. As for the sinking action on his pitches, they worked to great effect in 2012. Mendoza’s ground ball rate last season was 52 percent, just slightly above his 51 percent career mark. Looks like the switch in the deployment of his pitches didn’t hinder him in the least. Given his only slightly elevated 21 percent line drive rate he was able to produce a 1.92 GB/FB ratio, the 7th best mark in the AL.
As we’ve seen forever, think Derek Lowe, Bronson Arroyo, Justin Masterson etc., pitcher’s can have a ton of success in the real world with a less than ideal skill set in the fantasy game. Taking a look at those three names that I listed, you will probably remember seasons where those guys led you to fantasy championships while in other seasons they doomed you to searching the waiver-wire to try and make up for what was a horrible fantasy effort. That’s often the case with guys that can’t get free outs (strikeouts) and that struggle with their control at times. When that sinker isn’t sinking/diving/darting they just don’t have the stuff or location to consistently get batters out. That up/down nature of sinker ballers is why I rarely get behind guys whose main asset is the ability to induce ground balls unless they can compliment that skill with the ability to miss bats (a ground ball arm who can strike batters out is the panacea of pitching – think Felix Hernandez, David Price and James Shields). Mendoza doesn’t have the ability to miss bats but he was decent during the second half of the season posting a 4.01 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in the second half of 2012 (remember when when I wrote about Phil Hughes in his Player Profile? In that article I noted that Hughes’ 2012 numbers included a 4.23 ERA and 1.26 WHIP). If Mendoza can cut the walks just a bit, and keep the ball down in the strike zone consistently as he has in the past…
Mendoza is a reserve round speculative pick in mixed leagues at best. The fact is that in most leagues with 12 teams I doubt he will be drafted. I’m not saying you should buck that trend and do so, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Mendoza could run off a series of effective seasons on the bump. He’s never going to produce strikeouts, and his ratios may never be anything better than league, but given that you will be able to add him for nothing in 2013 it might be worth remembering his name early in the season if an injury strikes your club or if you play in a league that uses a head-to-head setup where a 2-start Mendoza might be worth considering rolling out there.
By Ray Flowers