Thiel on pitching prospects

DMZ · April 5, 2006 at 12:13 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Art Thiel’s column looks at why the M’s haven’t developed much pitching. I’m glad someone’s covering this, and not to be depressing, but when the PI goes away, do you really think the Times is going to suddenly start covering this stuff?

A couple points: Thiel does note that the team’s had a lot of injuries, but on the list of causes one of the things that’s not there is probably the most important cause — that the Mattox/Gillick drafts picked many horrible pitchers.

Also, as to this —

In terms of injury rate, the Mariners may not be much above the norm, although comprehensive stats are hard to come by. Last summer on the Web site, executive editor and P-I baseball correspondent Jason Churchill concluded in an extensive story that the Mariners’ casualty rate isn’t much above the major league norm.

Or, if you want to spend a season doing research, you could determine that they’re way above the norm, even if that’s not above what you might expect from random variation.

He then repeats Jason’s basic contention, which is that power guys with breaking pitches get injured more. There are two problems with this: first, defining what that means turns out to be harder than it would seem, and that statistically if you look at the injuries and attempt to classify them into any defined bucket of what you’re looking you’ll find the data doesn’t support that. Jason’s argument sounds logical, and if you talk to the wizened baseball guys they’ll agree, but I haven’t been able to find the data to support it, and it’s certainly not something that’s as clear as distinction as is being drawn here. I wrote about this in the “Power versus finesse” section of the Attrition War Summary and Conclusions.

BTW, Jason’s got a new blog. Check it out.

I’m happy to see Thiel write about this, especially at such length. I am a little disappointed at how it wound up.


8 Responses to “Thiel on pitching prospects”

  1. JMB on April 5th, 2006 12:38 am

    Jason was on KJR today, too. He even mentioned the gathering on Sunday when answering a question about Doyle…

  2. Churchill on April 5th, 2006 6:45 am

    Of course I did. It’s a really great thing you guys do, and I was glad I was able to make it.

    It won’t be long and I’ll be saying “USSMariner” on the air on a regular basis.

  3. pdb on April 5th, 2006 7:45 am

    Too many Jasons….head about to asplode….but seriously, nice job on the prospect insider site, Jason (Churchill).

  4. Seth on April 5th, 2006 8:58 am

    What I found interesting was this quote from Benny Looper: “U.S. kids these days don’t throw as much we used to (growing up),” he said. “We seem to see fewer arm injuries among Latin pitchers, who throw a lot.”

    If that’s the case–why would you draft U.S. pitchers at all?

  5. Churchill on April 5th, 2006 9:14 am

    You can’t ignore one demographic, so not signing or drafting US kids is not an option. You just have to handle them differently.

    And it’s not ALL US pitchers. And not ALL Latin and international pitchers throw a ton.

  6. Steve T on April 5th, 2006 9:30 am

    I thought that piece missed the biggest points.

    In the first half of the time period, 90-96, we actually drafted a TON of great pitching. They just never pitched for us. Specifically, going by their Baseball America top ten ratings, in 1992 we had three: Shawn Estes, Mike Hampton, and Derek Lowe. All three went on become top starters and All-Stars–over 5,000 IP between them, a total of 122 for us.

    Estes was traded with Wilson Delgado for Saloman Torres. Bzzzt. Hampton was traded with Mike Felder for Eric Anthony. Bzzzzt. Derek Lowe was traded with Jason Varitek (!) for Heathcliff Slocumb (!!). BZZZZZT.

    Taking back those three miserable trades alone would have put us well up on the other teams in our division. There’s also Dave Burba and Bill Swift (who was left off the list because BA never ranked him in the top ten, but he was very good), both of whom were traded for Kevin Mitchell.

    These trades alone are enough to explain why a team with Griffey, Johnson, and A-Rod couldn’t win anything.

    But that’s not the story the P-I decided to tell, which had lots of anecdotal guff about how kids don’t throw anymore, how kids were intimidated by the Kingdome, blah blah blah. The fact is, in the first half of the nineties, we DID draft well, we just threw the goods away. And in second half of the nineties, we drafted much more poorly, gaining only marginal starters like Ken Cloude, Gil Meche, and Joel Pineiro. And in the 2000s, we didn’t draft at all because Gillick gave all our picks away.

  7. little joey on April 5th, 2006 10:56 am

    The more I think about it, the more I hate Pat Gillick. I’ve almost always forgiven his mistakes for the utopian 2001 season, when the Mariners did have a great farm system. But everyone in it was Woody’s legacy, and as often as he dumped young pitchers in the 90s, give Woodward credit for leaving something in the cupboard when he left.

    But the M’s of today are basically a hangover from the Gillick years. It’s precisely because nothing came into the farm system between 2000 and 2003 that we have no pitching depth and do silly things, like signing Washburn.

    A good general manager can put a winning team on the field AND keep an eye towards the future. We’ve never had one in Seattle.

    I’m guessing that the end of the decade will be bleak in philadelphia-wait, they already have to watch ryan franklin.

  8. Seth on April 5th, 2006 2:27 pm

    You have to make some generalizations…if 50% of US pitchers got arm injuries, and only 20% of Latin pitchers, wouldn’t you want to avoid US pitchers all together? These statistics are completely fabricated, of course. I wonder if Looper’s observation has any basis in fact?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.