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.