Articles by Ryan Arbour

A listing of all the articles written by Ryan Arbour for the RotoWire Blog.

Rookie pitcher analysis — Oakland Athletics

After looking at Baltimore’s rookie starters, I now take a look at another team with a young pitching staff — the Oakland Athletics.

Brett Anderson, LHP

Fastball — 53|PERCENT| (88-95 MPH)
Slider — 30|PERCENT| (80-87 MPH)
Changeup — 11|PERCENT| (80-87 MPH)
Curveball — 7|PERCENT| (74-81 MPH)

Anderson is an up-and-coming lefty arm, and a pretty good one. He’s managed to post good strikeout rates throughout his minor league career, and should continue to do so at the major league level. While his fastball has proven to be hittable, his slider, which often looks more like a curveball due to the amount of downward movement, has produced great results for him thus far. Next year, look for him to improve on his 2009 campaign, where he’s gone 9-10, with a 4.36 ERA.

Andrew Bailey, RHP

Fastball — 56|PERCENT| (90-97 MPH)
Cutter — 28|PERCENT| (86-92 MPH)
Curveball — 16|PERCENT| (74-81 MPH)
Change — <1|PERCENT| (83-88 MPH)

While not a starter, Bailey still has tons of fantasy value due to the fact that he won Oakland’s closer job early in the season. There’s plenty to like about Bailey, who made the conversion from starter to closer without any difficulty whatsoever. He can throw all of his pitches for strikes, and is able to miss bats with all of them. As long as he holds onto the closer’s job next year (and at this time I see no reason why he wouldn’t), he’s definitely worth taking a chance on when filling out your roster for next season.

Trevor Cahill, RHP

Fastball — 75|PERCENT| (86-94 MPH)
Changeup — 16|PERCENT| (75-82 MPH)
Slider — 6|PERCENT| (80-86 MPH)
Curveball — 4|PERCENT| (76-83 MPH)

Cahill is a sinkerballer, and a promising one at that. Although the results haven’t been there yet at the major league level (8-12, 4.74), he’s shown enough success in the minors to lead me to believe that it’s only a matter of time before he puts it all together. His sinker can be downright nasty at times (and very hittable at others), and his changeup is excellent, getting unpredictable movement and producing a lot of swings and misses. If he can get his strikeout rates and his homer rates closer to his minor league levels, he should be of great value to any fantasy team.

Vin Mazzaro, RHP

Fastball — 63|PERCENT| (89-96 MPH)
Slider — 21|PERCENT| (82-89 MPH)
Curveball — 8|PERCENT| (78-84 MPH)
Changeup — 8|PERCENT| (82-88 MPH)

Vin Mazzaro is a bit of a question mark at this time. His strikeout rates have never been anything spectacular, and his minor league numbers have jumped all over the place. He posted ERAs over 5 in both 2006 and 2007, before going 12-3, 1.90 in 2008 in AA ball. After a promotion to AAA that year, he regressed, posting an ERA of 6.15 over 6 appearances, so he’s anything but a sure thing. At the major league level, he’s been mediocre, but he’s been able to miss bats with his breaking pitches. If he can gain the confidence to throw them more often, he might be worth something to a fantasy team. At this time, however, I’d stay away.

Rookie pitcher analysis — Baltimore Orioles

I continue digging through this year’s pitch data to give you an in-depth analysis of this year’s rookie starting pitchers, starting with the Baltimore Orioles.

Brad Bergesen, RHP

Fastball — 67|PERCENT| (86-93 MPH)
Slider — 26|PERCENT| (78-84 MPH)
Changeup — 7|PERCENT| (78-85 MPH)

Bergesen burst onto the scene this year, going 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA before going down with a leg injury at the end of July. His fastball usually gets decent sink, and his slider has been a very effective weapon against righties, while he uses his changeup almost exclusively against lefties. He exceeded expectations this year, and now has injury concerns, so his future is questionable.

Jason Berken, RHP

Fastball — 60|PERCENT| (88-95 MPH)
Changeup — 18|PERCENT| (79-86 MPH)
Slider — 13|PERCENT| (79-86 MPH)
Curveball — 12|PERCENT| (75-81 MPH)

Berken has been terrible this year, going 4-11 with a 6.02 ERA. Batters have had little difficulty hitting his fastball (which is usually fairly straight), and his changeup has also been extremely hittable. He doesn’t have a whole lot of minor league history behind him, but I see nothing to suggest that he’ll ever be more than an average major league pitcher.

David Hernandez, RHP

Fastball — 66|PERCENT| (89-96 MPH)
Curveball — 19|PERCENT| (75-81 MPH)
Changeup — 15|PERCENT| (81-87 MPH)

Hernandez hasn’t been terribly impressive this year either, going 4-7 with an ERA of 5.04 (giving up 21 homers in only 82 innings). His fastball is a very straight offering that batters feast on, and his curveball hasn’t been very effective at getting hitters out. He only has one good minor league season and several mediocre ones under his belt, so I don’t expect much from him in the future.

Koji Uehara, RHP

Fastball — 55|PERCENT| (84-90 MPH)
Forkball — 34|PERCENT| (76-82 MPH)
Cutter — 9|PERCENT| (79-86 MPH)
Curveball — 1|PERCENT| (63-70 MPH)

While not exactly a spring chicken at age 34, after having logged several professional seasons in Japan, he is still classified as a rookie by MLB standards. He did not disappoint before going on the DL in late June with an elbow injury, posting a 4.04 ERA. His lack of run support and bullpen help made him only 2-4, but he deserved better. His forkball (which really looks more like a splitter) is his bread-and-butter pitch, and it makes his straight 87 MPH fastballs look much faster than they are. His future in MLB depends on how quickly he can bounce back from his injury.

Anatomy of a pitching meldown, part 3 — Ricky Nolasco and Joe Saunders

In the final part of this series, I take a look at Ricky Nolasco and Joe Saunders, and try to figure out how they got off track.

Ricky Nolasco emerged as the ace of the Marlins staff last year, and this year was expected to continue where he left off. He has responded by seeing his ERA jump by almost two runs a game to this point. At one point this season, his ERA was a whopping 9.07, which resulted in a demotion to AAA New Orleans. He has been quite respectable since his recall in early June, posting an ERA of 3.69 and going 7-3, but what caused him to be so terrible at the start of the year? Well, a look at his pitch data for the first half of the season shows that batters had been hitting his fastball at a rather alarming rate (about 100 batting average points higher than last year), while his other pitches stayed fairly consistent. He was also throwing a lot fewer curveballs than he had thrown in the past. His curve is one of his better pitches (and one of the better ones in the game), as he varies the movement on it considerably. He uses it to set up the fastball by throwing off the timing of opposing hitters with a change in speeds. His tendency to throw the pitch less frequently this year could very well explain why his fastball hadn’t been fooling anybody. At any rate, he’s turned it around since his demotion, and he’s back to his old form.

Joe Saunders was actually having a pretty decent season with the Angels for a good portion of this year, posting an ERA of 3.66 through June 24. However, that was the last time his ERA was below 4, as he proceeded to reel off eight consecutive starts in which he gave up at least four earned runs. He’s another pitcher who suffered a noticeable drop in the average speed of his fastball this year. His pitches have also been finding more of the plate, resulting in him giving up four more home runs this year than he did in the entire 2008 campaign, in 50 fewer innings. He wound up on the DL in early August with left shoulder tightness, which could explain his woes. In the two starts since his return from the DL, he has picked up a couple of wins and has given up only two earned runs in 12 innings pitched. His velocity has also come back, as he’s been hitting 93 MPH on the gun with regularity. It looks like Saunders is back, and should hopefully be a safe bet for your fantasy team going forward.

Anatomy of a pitching meltdown, part 2: Manny Parra and Jeremy Guthrie

Milwaukee’s Manny Parra went from being about average last year (his first full season in the Majors) to being absolutely terrible this year. So what changed for this promising young left-hander? Well for starters, he, like Scott Kazmir, suffered a noticeable drop in his fastball speed this year. Even though Parra had relied less heavily on his fastball in the past than Kazmir had, the results have been equally catastrophic. In his 2008 campaign, batters were already teeing off quite regularly against his straight-as-an-arrow-fastball compared to his other offerings (a curveball, a splitter and a changeup), and that certainly hasn’t gotten any better this year. He also has not been throwing his splitter as often as last year, relying more on his changeup instead. This, combined with his drop in velocity suggests to me a possible injury, as the splitter is known to be hard on a pitchers arm (just ask Rich Harden, who abandoned the pitch for that reason). Even so, his ERA last year (4.39) was considerably better than it should have been based on his other numbers (a WHIP of 1.54, for example), so his lousy season so far should not have come as a huge shock to anybody. A demotion to AAA Nashville hasn’t helped him any, and it’s a safe bet to say that he’s a lost cause for this year.

Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles is another pitcher who has fallen from grace. Coming into the season, Guthrie was the only certainty in Baltimore’s rotation, and he has been a disappointment for much of the year. His downfall is a little harder to explain than the two aforementioned pitchers, as Guthrie has shown no considerable loss in velocity, and his use of the various pitches in his arsenal looks very similar to what he’s thrown in the past. So, what’s the big difference this year? Well, he’s given up a whopping 29 dingers in 154 innings, which is well above his career norms. A close look at his pitch location for the year shows that he’s been leaving a lot more balls over the heart of the plate, which would explain why batters are taking advantage, regardless of which type of pitch he throws. However, he’s put together two great starts in a row, so he may be turning the corner. His strikeout rates aren’t going to help anybody’s fantasy team much, but if he continues to work on keeping his pitches away from the heart of the plate, he may be able to net you a few wins and help your ERA and WHIP.

Anatomy of a pitching meltdown, part 1 — Scott Kazmir

Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir tops my list of this year’s underachieving pitchers, and with a quick look at his numbers, I think few would argue with that choice. Last year, Kazmir posted a very respectable 3.49 ERA, with a whopping 166 strikeouts in only 152.1 innings pitched. He has followed it up so far this year with a miserable 6.17 ERA, with only 81 K’s in 105 innings.  So what accounts for this drastic downfall? Well, I delved into his pitch data from 2008 and 2009 to see if I could figure it out. Here’s what I found:

Kazmir has lost, on average, a whole two miles per hour off of his fastball from ’08 to ‘09. For a guy who threw about 75|PERCENT| fastballs last year, that kind of drop in velocity would obviously have a huge impact. This year, he’s had to pretty much reinvent himself, relying on his slider a lot more often. He’s been throwing the slider more than twice as frequently as he did last season, and considering it doesn’t have a lot of break to it, that’s not a good thing. It also doesn’t help that his slider has lost velocity either. Not surprisingly, opposing batters have been teeing off on both pitches at an alarming rate. Another thing that Kazmir has done to try to compensate has been using more 2-seam fastballs to complement his 4-seamer, but it hasn’t made enough of a difference to overcome his loss in velocity. To his credit, he’s been shying away from last year’s strategy of pounding the upper half of the strike zone with fastballs, which is always a good idea for a pitcher without a plus fastball.

So what does this mean for your fantasy team? Well, don’t expect Kazmir to turn things around overnight. He was decent in his last start, but even so, his ERA for the month of August currently sits at 6.00, and his K totals are still down. His velocity has come up a bit since the start of the season, but it’s still not quite where it needs to be, and it might take some time for him to regain the confidence that made him so successful in the past. While he can’t possibly be any worse than he’s already been thus far, he’ll probably be no better than league average over the final month of the season. Hopefully by next year he’ll have gained back some of his lost velocity and regained some confidence to help make him a decent pitcher once again.