Dave’s Guys: The Pitchers

This afternoon, I offered up three guys who I think I’m a bit higher on for 2010 than most people are. The conclusion? I like switch hitters, apparently. However, since there aren’t any switch-pitchers in MLB (yet), I’ll have to settle for other criteria in listing the pitchers that I’m a fan of, relative to my perception of expectations surrounding them.

Manny Parra, Milwaukee

There’s probably not a better example of the divide between the FIP crowd and the ERA crowd than Parra. Those who evaluate a pitcher by the amount of hits and runs he allows will see Parra as an inconsistent flake, a guy with good stuff but no idea how to use it. Those of us who don’t hold a pitcher’s entire BABIP against him will see a lefty who gets both groundballs and strikeouts and has been the victim of bad luck and/or bad defense in a career that still represents a small sample.

I lean more towards the latter camp, obviously. I don’t see a compelling reason to believe that he’s earned a .349 career BABIP. His line drive rates are average-ish, and his GB rate isn’t high enough that we should expect him to give up that many hits on balls in play. He doesn’t throw hittable crap down the middle. He may have been frustrating to watch over the last several years, but there’s a lot more ability here than the results would suggest.

Derek Holland, Texas

In an organization with a lot of good young arms, in a division with a lot of good young arms, Holland gets overlooked, but he may be the single most important player in the AL West in 2010. If he’s as good as I think he is, Texas has a legitimate shot at winning 90 games. This kid can really pitch. His 2009 numbers are driven by a high HR/FB rate, which caused him to allow too many baserunners to score, but I don’t see either of those issues carrying over this year.

He has four pitches, throw strikes, misses bats, and has better command than he showed a year ago. And he’s left-handed. There should be way more excitement about a kid with these tools, but that ugly 6.12 ERA still scares people off. Forget the ERA – Holland can pitch, and could easily emerge as the ace of the Rangers rotation.

Nick Blackburn, Minnesota

When people talk about the Twins rotation, they’ll usually focus on one of the other four guys. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Carl Pavano, and Francisco Liriano all have higher profiles, and Blackburn just kind of hides in the background. As a strike-throwing sinkerball without an extreme GB%, he doesn’t really fit into any category of pitcher that gets a lot of attention, but he does everything well enough to make the total package work. He mixes in several fastballs to keep hitters off balance, and his change allows him to get left-handers out with regularity.

Guys who lack an out-pitch are often projected to fall apart by people who evaluate pitchers almost exclusively by strikeout rate, but Blackburn fits the mold of pitchers who just make it work without racking up a lot of Ks. He might be the obscure pitcher in the Twins rotation, but he’s also the most reliable.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

10 Responses to “Dave’s Guys: The Pitchers”

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  1. Goose says:

    I love the blurb about Derek Holland above, I just don’t understand why the Ranger would not only bring in Colby Lewis, but assure him of a rotation spot.

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    • t ball says:

      The Rangers did not guarantee Lewis would stay in the rotation for 30 starts. He’s going to have to perform, obviously. He starts the season in the rotation, but it’s going to be up to him to stay there. He has a lot more experience pitching than most of their young, volatile staff and I think he’s a good bet to be at least as good as Millwood is this year.

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    • alskor says:

      I dont think Lewis is related to Holland… its not like theyre flooded with good options for the back of the rotation. They might be flooded with *below average* options. Holland is probably the second best pitcher there (yes, better than Feldman).

      Basically there is room for both of them. Tommy Hunter and Brandon McCarthy arent forcing anyone out of the rotation.

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  2. B-Chad says:

    2 out of 3 aint bad. I still really like Parra a lot, and have faith in Derek Holland. I loved Parra’s scouting reports and numbers coming up through the minors, and his GB and K-rate have me expecting him to eventually put it all together. Holland has a nice bag of goodies to work with, and as you said, was much better than his surface stats would indicate. I would imagine fears of Holland’s home ballpark and his overall unsavory surface stats last year will make him an attainable end game flyer. Like the piece a lot Dave, keep up the good work.

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  3. hamandcheese says:

    Don’t forget about Holland’s outstanding velocity (for a left-hander).

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  4. Pochucker says:

    It will take a lot for me to get back on the Parra bandwagon. I drafted him last year, finally dropped him and even traded to get him back later in the year hoping he would turn the corner. He will be a good pitcher im just not sure when at this point. But ill be watching.

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  5. wobatus says:

    Yeah, I like all of these guys, for different reasons. But I have liked Parra for a while and he has never really rewarded the faith in the k and groundball stuff. Blackburn is almost the anti-Parra. Fairly successful despite the peripheral talents most saber guys go for.

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  6. knucka11 says:

    As far as Blackburn goes, there is not another pitcher on that Twins staff, that I would rather see on the mound in a game 7 (or game 163 for that matter). The overall numbers may not bear it out, but the man comes to play when it counts the most.

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  7. And That says:

    Re: Parra
    “He doesn’t throw hittable crap down the middle.”

    Except that he does. Just about 2 months ago on Rotographs, Dave Golebiewski wrote a lengthy Parra article, and he found that part of the reason for Parra’s struggles was maybe he did throw too many meatballs.

    Article here: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/the-curious-case-of-manny-parra/

    Quote here: “Manny does seem to leave his heater down the middle more often than most. Parra is a good example of simple velocity not being everything for a pitcher: he sits at 92 MPH with his fastball, but gets few whiffs and tends to catch too much of the plate.”

    And as a Brewer fan, I can attest to the fact that in a misguided to attempt to throw strikes at the wrong times, Parra throws just as many lolling fastballs right down the heart of the plate as he throws sharp breaking pitches that aren’t close enough to swing at. If and when Parra learns to locate his fastball in the zone and his breaking stuff close to the zone, he’ll take off.

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  8. Wally says:

    Dave did a good job on Holland (4.08 ERA, 0.8 WAR in 57 innings not quite an ace but good). He missed pretty badly with the other two, Blackburn’s 2010 ERA was 5.42 and Parra’s was 5.02.

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