So this article became kind of moot yesterday when the stupid Padres picked up Shawn Hill, but you still get to enjoy my article on why we should've picked him up.
Remember a couple months ago how much the Rockies were trying to land Tim Redding? We even went as far as to offer Willy Taveras - who of course, we later cut - to the Nationals for this pitcher.
What on earth were we thinking?
Dan O'Dowd gets the strangest fixations on the crappiest pitchers. I'm not going to take the time to go through the past 5 years and point them out, but Tim Redding was the most recent O'Dowd ManCrush.
Redding isn't an AWFUL pitcher. He's a serviceable back-end starter. He pup up an ERA of 4.95 last season over 182 innings, and FIP supports his performance, clocking in at 4.93. He pretty much performed as well as you'd expect him to, defense or no. Redding used a mediocre combination of K9, BB9, and HR9 to build those numbers (5.93, 3.21, 1.34) along with a GB% of 39.8 (below average), and while none of them would impress anyone too much, he did have a K/BB ratio of 1.85 and a WHIP of 1.43. I'll be honest, those numbers aren't terrible, but why was O'Dowd so intent on picking him up? He would've also cost the team between $1.5-2.5M, pretty much guaranteeing him a roster spot, so if he stunk, there's not much we could do with him.
Especially when another Nationals starter was close by and could more than likely be had for a song?
Shawn Hill would come with a pile of baggage. Inside that baggage, you would find gauze, tape, bandaids, ibuprofen, ice packs, slings, and a little black book full of physical therapists' numbers. Over the past 3 seasons, Hill has put together 197.1 IP over 34 starts. Most certainly not impressive, but completely understandable when you consider the number of injuries he's had. He stunk up an ERA of 5.83 in 2008, but had a FIP of only 4.06. That .373 BABIP (compared to a career .324) really doesn't help things in that regard, as he was clearly tipping, or getting unlucky, but basically not pitching to his ability.
The upsides of Hill involve his sinker and the ensuing GB% that comes with it. Hill's sinker comes in at about 90 mph, and according to his Pitch F/X data, he gets around 11-12 inches of break on it (about 6 in the vertical, 10 in the horizontal - for comparison, Cook gets about 9 inches, roughly the same vertical but less horizontal). Take that and add in decent control and you get a Career 50.1%GB. Downright impressive, and it sounds to me like the kind of guy we should've been looking for. I know he's totally injury prone, but what if we could get 15-17 starts out of him? Who knows, maybe we could've worked some sort of healing magic over him to get him back in one piece.
However, instead of watching the bargain bin, we instead move forward with guys like Josh Fogg who can throw a splitter effectively enough, but don't have much of a future starting anymore. This far into Spring Training, we've seen a lot of our question mark guys kind of fizzle and look like the low end of what we were hoping (Smith, Hirsh, Fogg, Reynolds), and while we have seen some upsides (Morales, Chacin), it's sounding like we're in the market for more pitching depth for sure. Hill would've been a great addition, even if it was only for a dozen starts or so.
In reading this, you might've stumbled across the RMN method for valuing pitcher ability ©. For those of you who DIDN'T, I'll go ahead and break it down for you.
I'm firmly of the position that the things you can evaluate hard-and-fast for a pitcher are Strikeouts, Walks, and Home Runs. All have park effects related to them, but they're pretty much the only things that a pitcher can control. A really good pitcher also won't give up many hits, but there are a lot of variable that may make one pitcher look downright hittable and another one look like a lockdown ace.
So K9, BB9, and HR9 are the things I look at. First and foremost, I look at HR9, but that isn't enough to DQ a pitcher. I like to see a HR9 lower than 1.00. Next, I want to see K9 and BB9. A pitcher with a good K rate (6 and up), a good BB rate (3ish, lower), and by extension a solid K/BB (North of 1.5-1.6) will get a bit of forgiveness in a suboptimal HR9, because you're not seeing them put a lot of guys on base via BB to get driven in on those HRs, or they just strike everyone else out after letting someone on.
Finally, and this is the fun one: GB%. With our potential IF defense, GB% can make you forget a LOT of the unsatisfactory areas above, for obvious reasons. League Average GB% in 2008 was about 43% - think Zack Greinke, John Danks, Armando Galarraga, or Jeff Francis. Hill has a 50.1% career GB, so yeah, you can see where he might be someone to keep an eye on.
A few young pitchers to keep in the book-o'-cheap-trade-targets include Brad James from Houston, Jaime Garcia from St. Louis, Dallas Trahern from Detroit, Dallas Buck with Cincy, and Robert Mosebach with the Angels, just to name a few potential young groundballing pitchers. - Several of these pitchers may have swapped teams, I was going off of what Baseball Cube told me, feel free to correct me.
As long as we're on this short tangent, Mark Mulder might be a decent pickup, despite his probable inability to keep his arm on his shoulder. He has a strong history of groundballing, could come for a minor league contract.
Anyhow, the scrap heap isn't too full anymore, but who knows what other players will be released in the next 2 weeks here that we could use to fill out or terribly thinning ranks.