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Havens For the Recently Released

With the regular season inching closer by the day, teams are beginning to get a better feel for which bubble players are going to make the big league squad. As a byproduct, those squeezed out of the bubble are being released by their now previous employers. Two players cut in somewhat questionable fashion were Shawn Hill of the Nationals and Jimmy Gobble of the Royals. Both players apparently still look appealing to the league, as Hill is expected to sign a minor league deal with the Blue Jays immediately upon clearing waivers while Gobble is going to sign a minor league deal with the Rangers.

JP Ricciardi aptly compared Hill’s status to the team with that of Wade Miller‘s, which makes sense given that both pitchers have shown spurts of effectiveness marred by longer periods of injury. With Miller, Hill, and Clement in camp, Ricciardi is essentially throwing darts while wearing a blindfold and hoping that one sticks somewhere on the board. If all three work out, great, but the moves are so low risk as to not adversely affect the team if they prove to be busts.

Hill’s modus operandi, as discussed last week, is fairly well known: he has a tremendous sinker, a career FIP just over 4.00, but a health history that would elicit chuckles from Chris Snelling. Hill has missed an entire season due to injuries, as well as large portions of other seasons, making just 37 starts over the last five calendar years. His 2007 season produced +1.5 wins in just 16 starts, but that figure actually happens to be the highest number of starts he has made in a single season.

Gobble was a once promising prospect in the Royals organization, a lefty who, along with fellow southpaw Jeremy Affeldt, would lead the team out of the cellar. His first two seasons did not necessarily go as planned, producing a combined +1.8 wins, with an abysmal 2.98 K/9 in 2004. The next season, Gobble primarily pitched out of the bullpen, and despite seeing a strikeout rate rise to 6.37, his control imploded, a fact made apparent by a 5.03 BB/9.

In 2006, Gobble quit relying on his fastball as much, incorporated a healthier dose of breaking balls, and saw his FIP improve significantly to the tune of 4.17. His strikeout rate soared above 8.5 while the control issues subsided resulting in a BB/9 of 3.11. Of course, since relievers accrue such small samples of playing time, their efforts are largely wasted in the win values column, but Gobble’s +1.1 wins in just 84 innings speaks volumes to his effectiveness. He followed that successful campaign up with another solid season in 2007, sustaining his FIP and experiencing minimal dropoffs in his strikeout and walk rates. Gobble stranded runners much better as well, posting just a 3.02 ERA.

Then, last season happened. Gobble’s strikeout rate fell to 7.7, which might not have been as bad if not for a revived implosion of control, with a walk rate well over six per nine innings. In just 31.2 innings, Gobble posted an 8.81 ERA, 5.85 FIP, and -0.3 wins. CHONE sees Gobble capable of repeating his 2007 campaign, which would likely be good for +0.3 to +0.6 wins. Even when struggling, Gobble still dominated lefties over the past two seasons, and if he retains this ability, the Rangers just found themselves a solid reliever.

Neither Hill nor Gobble could end up making their respective squads, but Ricciardi and Daniels have done a good job at identifying potential bargains by bringing these two aboard.