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Oft-Injured SP Profile: Mark Mulder

Today we tackle Mark Mulder.

When the Cardinals dealt Dan Haren (amongst others) for Mulder prior to the 2005 season, they assumed an ace was on the way. In 2005, Mulder looked like a good enough pitcher despite losing a bit in performance, 200-innings, 4.3 FIP, so-so strikeout, walk, and homerun rates, and an increase in groundballs. Then 2006 came, and since here’s a list of injuries Mulder has suffered:

– Left shoulder impingement (6/06)
– Left shoulder surgery (8/06)
– Left shoulder surgery recovery (07)
– Left rotator surgery recovery (3/08)
– Left shoulder strain (7/08)

That’s a scary pattern for someone who just so happens to rely on his left shoulder to throw a baseball. As you would expect, Mulder’s velocity has been inconsistent, jumping from 88 in 2005 to 86 in 2006 back to 87.5 in 2007 and finally to 90 in the 1.2 innings 2008 provided. Changing speeds manually is good, changing speeds because your body requires you to as part of the aging process is okay too, but changing speeds because your body can’t decide how it feels that year is a bit frustrating.

Concerning performance, Mulder has been awful since 2005. In 2006, Mulder had a 6.01 FIP in 93 innings. Only a dozen innings since leaves Marcels without a decent outlook, and the monkey actually has Mulder with a FIP of 5.06 and 55 innings. Frightfully, that would actually be an upgrade over Mulder’s past two seasons. Still, that would not be too much better than a replacement level starter would bring, making the case for signing Mulder a pretty weak one.

As for the talk that Mulder could become a LOOGY, well, there’s the small problem of him not being exceptionally good at pitching to these of the same hand. The graph below is a nice visualization of his splits, but for the most part Mulder held lefties to an OPS between .650 and .700. His career OPS against is a touch higher due to rough seasons recently and in 2000.

I hesitate to state that any player is “done”, but Mulder doesn’t appear to have a ton of pitches left on his shoulder. If injured pitchers are like used cars, then Mulder’s the one with clanks bellowing beneath the hood and leaves a trail of smoke and oil behind him.