Brett Tomko

Dave · August 24, 2007 at 3:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Not convinced that Horacio Ramirez should still be in the rotation (yea, me either) and still looking for potentially useful replacements? Well, we’ve got another one.

The Dodgers designated Brett Tomko for assignment this afternoon. He’s been a disappointment this year, running a 5.80 ERA while splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. He’s never lived up to his reputation coming through the minors, but in recent years, he’d been a serviceable pitcher, including running a 4.73 ERA last year, 4.48 the year before, and 4.04 back in 2004.

Has he just declined to the point where he’s no longer useful? Let’s take a look.

2004: 7.7% BB, 13.1% K, 42% GB, 11% HR/Fly, 69.4% LOB%, .305 BABIP, 4.78 xFIP
2005: 7.0% BB, 13.9% K, 40% GB, 11% HR/Fly, 70.5% LOB%, .322 BABIP, 4.65 xFIP
2006: 5.9% BB, 15.5% K, 38% GB, 11% HR/Fly, 67.2% LOB%, .298 BABIP, 5.03 xFIP
2007: 8.8% BB, 16.6% K, 41% GB, 11% HR/Fly, 62.1% LOB%, .338 BABIP, 4.68 xFIP

Pretty consistent, eh? Walks are up a little bit this year, but so are the strikeouts, and the downward trend in his GB% has reversed, indicating that his stuff isn’t sliding into uselessness. He’s not giving up any more home runs than usual either, so he hasn’t turned into a guy who is just throwing meatballs down the heart of the plate.

So why the high ERA? A lot of balls in play turning into hits and an inability to strand guys once they’re on base. Guess what – those aren’t nearly the repeatable skills that the walk, strikeout, and groundball rates are, and they paint a totally different picture than ERA does. His skillset hasn’t changed much at all – just the results have, and if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you know that skillsets predict future performance far better than past results, especially in things like batting average on balls in play and stranding runners.

Basically, Brett Tomko’s 5.80 ERA is the exact opposite of Jarrod Washburn’s 3.20 ERA back in 2005. Stranding runners wasn’t a repeatable skill then and it’s not one now. There’s no reason to believe that Tomko will continue stranding just 62% of his baserunners going forward, and when you adjust your expectations for a normal strand rate, Tomko profiles out as a perfectly adequate 5th starter.

In fact, I could put together a rather compelling case that Tomko is a very similar pitcher to Miguel Batista, and projections for their performance the rest of the season should be nearly identical.

Would you pick up a Miguel Batista clone to replace Horacio Ramirez if he was made available for nothing? Yea, me too. Horacio Ramirez has never been as good as Brett Tomko is right now, and this is yet another possible move the M’s could make to strengthen their team for the stretch run.

Bring back Brett Tomko.


84 Responses to “Brett Tomko”

  1. Notor on August 24th, 2007 4:42 pm

    I get the sick feeling they’re going to be sticking it out with HoRam.

  2. Dave on August 24th, 2007 4:52 pm

    They’ve worked with HoRam on his pitching mechanics. All is well.

    Please tell me you’re kidding. You seem like a generally reasonable guy, even if you think we’re wrong about everything, but you can’t actually believe that to be true, can you?

  3. Sammy on August 24th, 2007 4:55 pm

    52. I believe that’s sarcasm.

  4. Ben Ramm on August 24th, 2007 4:55 pm

    Just make sure Tomko brings his wife to the games.

  5. terry on August 24th, 2007 4:56 pm

    I’m thinking that was dripping with a little sarcasm…

  6. Teej on August 24th, 2007 4:58 pm

    RRS will surely not start for the M’s this year — or ever, really. Just because he went four innings one time doesn’t mean he’s now a capable big-league starter. It was 57 pitches, or roughly half of what you want out of a starter. Can he really go five, six or seven innings? I think not, especially when he’s been pitching one- and two-inning sets all season.

    I really wish this were an option, because I want to see Ramirez out of the rotation at essentially any cost, but I just can’t see it happening. RRS is a reliever for a reason.

  7. Karen on August 24th, 2007 5:13 pm

    My first reaction on you, Dave, contemplating the Mariners acquiring Brett Tomko is, ACK! I still carry the impression that he’s a head case, both past tense with the Mariners, and present tense.

    And he’s still an “emotional guy”, sorta like Mike Mussina is when one of the Yankee fielders behind him boots a ball and he has to pitch a 4th out (see: controversy earlier this week “it wasn’t YOUR fault” said to the HP umpire).

    See the pertinent part of this article from the LA Times regarding the game Tuesday:

    “Staked to a 3-0 lead after two innings, Tomko gave up two runs in the third on a single, double and a scoring fly ball and two more in the fourth on Aaron Rowand’s two-run home into the first row of the left-field stands.

    Then he failed to get an out in the fifth when the Phillies loaded the bases on a pair of singles and an error.

    The error may have upset Tomko since he walked the next hitter, Pat Burrell, on five pitches, forcing in a run and leaving the frustrated pitcher barking at plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth.

    That would be the last batter Tomko would face but by then the damage was done.

    “There’s no time to — I don’t know how to say this — if there’s a bad call, you’ve just got to let it go,” catcher Russell Martin said. “I know he’s battling. It’s hard when the record is what it is right now.”

    I can just see Tomko’s reaction when Lopez or Betancourt get a little fancy with their footwork or throws, and Tomko’s “forced” to pick them up…

  8. Steve Nelson on August 24th, 2007 5:16 pm

    #44: rsrobinson Says:

    They’ve worked with HoRam on his pitching mechanics. All is well.

    Sarcasm tags are your friend. Use them.

  9. msb on August 24th, 2007 5:41 pm

    Except that Tomko is a nutbag headcase

    but a heck of an artist

  10. davepaisley on August 24th, 2007 5:43 pm

    58 – Oh, but the deadpan comment worked so well. I mean, really, how funny is it if you have to *tell* people it’s sarcasm. I thought the delivery was perfect.

    Kudos to rsrobinson for a well delivered line.

  11. Chris Miller on August 24th, 2007 7:38 pm

    They also figured out Ho was tipping his pitchers. He’ll be fine :p

  12. Chris Miller on August 24th, 2007 7:39 pm

    His pitchers??? Hmmm. That came out wrong. I wonder if it’s something like Washburn, Batista, Weaver, and Felix beating him up for his lunch money. Lol.

  13. gwangung on August 24th, 2007 7:45 pm

    Kudos to rsrobinson for a well delivered line.

    Agreed, agreed. Takes a fine hand to do that with a straight face…

  14. Sidi on August 24th, 2007 9:06 pm

    Hey, maybe we can trade something for Jose Mesa too!

    Jokes aside, I don’t think this is a terrible idea, despite my gut reaction. My gut reaction said bringing back Ibanez was a terrible mistake as well, and (even with struggles this year) that was proved wrong. Tomko really wasn’t that bad, compared to the train wrecks that have called Seattle home…and, well, certain pitchers this year would need to be reduced a couple hundred casualties to count as a “train wreck.”

  15. davepaisley on August 24th, 2007 10:08 pm

    Yeah, the term “Brazilian Air Disaster” comes to mind.

  16. dcmarinerfan on August 24th, 2007 10:38 pm

    Dave, as a longtime reader and a first time contributor to this site I have to vehemently disagree with you, and side with Churchill here.

    Yes, I will agree with you in saying that Ramirez has been pretty brutal this season, as shown by his 59 ERA+. But it’s not like Tomko has been much better with a 77. I think this stat is a pretty important one to look at, and I also think you’d agree.

    In fact, the last time Tomko had an ERA+ at or above 100 was 2004 (which was one of two times during his 11 year career). For Ramirez, the last time he topped 100 in ERA+ was also 2004.

    If you want to take it a step further and want to try to predict whether Tomko would be a significant improvement for what would be 7-8 starts the rest of the way, let’s take a look at the last five starts from both HoRam and Tomko:

    Tomko: 26 IP, 20 ER, 30 HA, 15 BB, 14 K, 6.92/1.73
    HoRam: 27.1 IP, 24 ER, 39 HA, 13 BB, 12 K, 7.90/1.54

    Now I’m not going to suggest that HoRam is going to be solid down the stretch — actually I don’t believe that. But, there’s a reason that the Dodgers believe taking a chance on Boomer Wells over Tomko. I’d prefer the Mariners dance with the girl the brung them as opposed to trying to make a deal on a whim for a guy that’s not likely to be any vast improvement.

    Right now we’re 15-6 in August, and we’re winning games in a lot of different ways — come from behinds, blowouts, nailbiters. I’m not sold on us completely, but I think making a move for a reject starter from a team that’s barely treatind water in the NL race would be a bad idea.

    Let’s just hope McLaren can keep the pitch counts of Washburn / Batista under 100 for the next few weeks and keep them rested for mid to late September.

  17. Chris88 on August 25th, 2007 1:30 am

    66 – You don’t want to take a chance on Tomko because he is “not likely to be any vast improvement”?

    At least IS room to improve with Tomko.

    He is possibly better, probably inexpensive, and at worse the same. Why the heck not try it?

  18. scott19 on August 25th, 2007 3:08 am

    Brett Tomko is no superstar by any means…but when HoRam has, for the most part, been about as effective this year as the automatic slow-pitch machine at a batting cage, even he’s an improvement.

  19. Dave on August 25th, 2007 5:23 am

    No, I don’t think there’s any reason to use ERA+ to project pitcher performance. No, I don’t think there’s anything instructive that can be learned by looking at their last five starts. No, I don’t think that we should care that the Dodgers misevaluated Tomko.

    Tomko > Ramirez. There’s not an argument to be made otherwise. If you want to stick with Ramirez, you want the inferior pitcher.

  20. terry on August 25th, 2007 7:17 am

    Would a fella like Joe Kennedy be worth a flyer or has he regressed into another HoRam?

  21. dcmarinerfan on August 25th, 2007 8:16 am

    Alright Dave, here’s why I don’t think Tomko > Ramirez for Seattle at the time being: whatever pitcher you go after right now, you’re going after to get 7-8 starts out of. If we get a servicable replacement for HoRam they’ll surely be jettisoned come the postseason (provided we make it there) for a four man rotation.

    That being said, you want the guy in the rotation who’ll give you the best chance of winning as many of those 7-8 starts as possible. Right?

    When HoRam pitches this year, the Mariners as a team are 9-6. Is that because he’s kept us in ball games? Well, not too many ball games sure. Is that because the offense realizes they have to come to life when HoRam takes the bump? Maybe. But, we’re winning games that he starts.

    In fact, HoRam has five quality starts this year — by the way the Mariners won all of those games. Basically he’ll give you a quality start 1/3 times he takes the mound. Let’s say the other two-thirds of the time he starts the Mariners have an uphill battle on their hands and win just 25-33% of those starts, he’ll still be a 50-50 pitcher the rest of the year. So we probably go 4-4 (maybe 3-5) in his last eight starts of the season.

    Tomko on the other hand has six quality starts, which is 40% of the time he takes the mound. By the same logic Tomko gives us a 4-4 record most likely as well.

    It really won’t be incredible pitching out of the 5-hole that wins us the division or the wild card. It’ll be timely hitting that scores runs consistently, pitching that keeps us in the game more often than not, and a bullpen that continues to shut down opponents.

    I for one do not think bringing in Tomko — a guy who by his own admission was not a fan of Seattle during his time here — is going to provide us with a better shot at making it to October.

    Here’s to a great start by HoRam tonight and another Mariner win!

  22. Dave on August 25th, 2007 8:21 am

    If you haven’t already, read the Evaluating Pitcher Talent post in the left hand corner. You’re using tools to predict the future that have no predictive value.

  23. rsrobinson on August 25th, 2007 8:43 am

    52: Yes, Dave, haven’t you heard that they’ve worked on HoRam’s mechanics so he’s all better now?


  24. Sec 108 on August 25th, 2007 9:34 am

    I just read about Wickman being DFAed. Sadly, isn’t it more like the M’s to go after him than Tomko? For my money, btw, I would love Tomko over HoRam.

  25. dcmarinerfan on August 25th, 2007 9:56 am

    And you’re trying to tell us that acquiring a new fifth starter to make eight starts is going to make or break the Mariners season. I just don’t buy it. Like it or not, the Mariners have a winning record when Horacio takes the mound. Yes I realize that has more to do with the fact that the Mariners offense has been producing for him, but you can’t argue with 9-6.

    You also can’t get past the fact that anybody the Mariners go after now is going to make a maximum of eight starts the rest of the way. The risks of picking up a guy like Tomko who by his own admission is not a Seattle fan far outweigh the potential gain. Do you think the Mariners go 2-6 in HoRam’s last 8 starts? Do you think they go 4-4? 5-3? What?

    Whatever it is, how do you purport to tell me or anyone else for that matter that a guy like Tomko is statistically significantly better for the Mariners right now for a maximum of eight starts than what we currently have. If anything, Tomko having a better record than HoRam for a set of eight starts would be dumb luck, and I for one am not willing to take a chance on dumb luck, and the possibility of MAYBE one more win to bring in a guy who was an absolute dick while he was in Seattle.

  26. terry on August 25th, 2007 10:22 am

    And you’re trying to tell us that acquiring a new fifth starter to make eight starts is going to make or break the Mariners season

    An arm like Tomko might reasonably be expected to provide a 10 run upgrade over HoRam in 8 starts. Right now the Ms are exactly a win out of first place.

    Given the stakes, an upgrade of that magnitude is definitely worth chasing.

  27. terry on August 25th, 2007 10:27 am

    and I for one am not willing to take a chance on dumb luck, and the possibility of MAYBE one more win

    To me it’s not even a debatable concept really. What I’d love instead is to be a fly on the wall during the strategic debates in the FO and actually see how they’re evaluating Tomko and many of their other recent options.

  28. dcmarinerfan on August 25th, 2007 10:31 am

    Reasonably expected? I don’t see it. Frankly it’s a crapshoot. What happens if you get Tomko and his first time out he goes 4 and two-thirds, gives up 5 earned? Does he get a second start? What if he tosses a gem but then has two terrible outings?

    I don’t think it’s a no-brainer here. As great as “predictive values” might be, in eight starts anything could happen. Yes, I’d probably be a bit more content if Horacio wasn’t taking the mound every fifth day, but I’m not feeling noticably better handing the ball to Brett Tomko. I’m sorry, I’m just not with you here.

  29. terry on August 25th, 2007 10:33 am

    Sure anything can happen in 8 starts but that’s hardly a formula for an effective projection system.

  30. Dave on August 25th, 2007 10:47 am

    The whole eight start thing is a red herring.

    We’re going to flip a coin eight times. Heads you win, tails I win. I have two coins. One is weighted so that it comes out heads 60% of the time. The other is weighted so it comes out tails 60% of the time.

    Which coin are you going to choose?

    There’s no argument here. If you pick the one weighted to come up tails, you’re making a bad choice, regardless of what happens after that.

  31. Sec 108 on August 25th, 2007 10:48 am

    I guess I just do not understand the anger against those of us who just want to play better odds. We are NOT saying definitively that Tomko will put us over the top. We only believe that we will be getting a better chance to win on any given day he starts rather than if HoRam was starting. If there are 8 more starts for that slot, then yes, I would love to start someone who gives me a better chance of winning on each of those individual days.

    So looking back at Dave’s original post, ask yourself, “Would you pick up a Miguel Batista clone to replace Horacio Ramirez if he was made available for nothing?” Or better yet, do you feel better about a Batista start than a HoRam start?

    We are all wanting the same thing here. Enough Mariner victories to get us into the playoffs. If you feel HoRam is trusty enough to lean on during the stretch run, well you have much more faith than I do.

  32. dcmarinerfan on August 25th, 2007 11:18 am

    I don’t know Dave, I just don’t see this as a 60/40 thing. I realize you’re not giving up your position, and I’m not going to be convinced that Tomko’ll somehow be a magnificent upgrade. Either way, I don’t see us doing a thing. It’s not like Bavasi’s a wheeler and dealer anyways. Where’s Pat Gillick when you need him?

  33. Dave on August 25th, 2007 11:42 am

    Right – you don’t see Tomko > Ramirez. But at least you’re arguing the right topic again. The whole “it’s only eight starts” distraction just takes away from the discussion.

    If Ramirez’s run distribution had been even, rather than massively inconsistent, and the M’s were something like 3-12 in his starts, would you still be advocating for him to be in the rotation? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

    Essentially, your argument breaks down to this: run distribution is not random, and the fact that Ramirez has been massively inconsistent is predictive of how he’ll do going forward.

    I say that argument is fundamentally flawed and flies in the face of all the research done on the subject. I’m not really arguing Ramirez/Tomko with you – I’m arguing evaluative process.

    No one knows the future, but what we can know is probability. Failing to take advantage of any real upgrade (and when you evaluate pitchers by their skills, Tomko is clearly a big upgrade from Ramirez) in a pennant race is an organizational failure.

    I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t let meaningless random performances affect how we understand talent evaluation. I’ve got a massive load of history on my side that says that you can’t expect a team to win half the games started by a pitcher as bad as Horacio Ramirez. The Mariners have gotten fantastically lucky to be 9-6 when he pitches.

    Counting on luck to win the pennant, when you could instead count on talent, is a bad idea.

  34. azruavatar on August 25th, 2007 3:47 pm

    Dave, from the original post —

    the downward trend in his GB% has reversed, indicating that his stuff isn’t sliding into uselessness.

    This seems like taking too much stock in recent performance. His GO/AO has been on the decline for several years and his slight increase in K% is most likely the result of pitching from the pen. It’s seems more likely to me that this is a blip on his continuing downward trend than a true reversal.

    (I’m not arguing he isn’t better than Ramirez, rather that too much is being read into this year’s performance to say his stuff isn’t getting worse.)

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