M’s add a pitcher – really!
This isn’t going to show up in the local dailies, and no one in town is going to care, but the M’s have signed a pitcher who has a legitimate chance to help them in 2007.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking – he’s 29 and has a career 5.31 ERA in 83 innings in the majors. To which I respond, so what? It’s 83 innings.
Justin Lehr is a guy who deserves a shot and has never gotten one. He’s never going to be an all-star, but he’s got a skillset that works in the major leagues; groundballs and strikeouts.
He threw 112 innings in the rotation for Nashville this year and had a GB rate of 50.1%. His Triple-A G/F rate is the same as Felix’s was when he was in Tacoma. This wasn’t a one time thing, either, as Lehr has a long tradition as a groundball guy. However, he’s not a one tricky pony like Sean Green – Lehr’s got decent enough secondary stuff and solid command, allowing him to post a 31/90 walk to strikeout ratio. His walk rate and strikeout rates were better than average in the Pacific Coast League, and for a heavy ground ball pitcher, that’s rare.
Lehr lacks an outpitch and he’s spent most of his career in the bullpen, but the Brewers were onto something when they decided to stretch him out in their Triple-A rotation. He doesn’t have the dominant stuff to be an end-game reliever, but his sinkerball has enough movement to get him through 5 or 6 innings a game. If you want to see the prototype of this type of pitcher, check out Clay Hensley, who gave the Padres 200 good innings in the rotation last year by just throwing his sinker over and over.
Justin Lehr, on a minor league contract, is a terrific signing. He’s better than Cha Baek or Jake Woods, and as a non-guaranteed invite to spring training, there’s no risk here, and a decent amount of upside.
Whenever someone tells you that there’s no pitching to be had on the cheap, point to Justin Lehr. Bargains can be found if you look in the right places. The Mariners found one, and now we just have to hope they use him.