The Los Angeles Dodgers have been firmly entrenched in the headlines recently thanks to their ongoing negotiations with Manny Ramirez. The ManRam saga received so much attention that many are yet to discuss their starting pitching situation. Gone are both Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, and Greg Maddux has hung up his cleats for good, eliminating the possibility of another mid-season trade. This leaves Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf manning the first four spots, with the likes of Shawn Estes, Eric Stults, and Jason Schmidt competing for the final position.
Well, remove Schmidt from the running, as Joe Torre has conceded that the former all-star will not be ready for opening day, and cannot yet be relied upon for consistent playing time. At 36 yrs old, and with rapidly declining fastball velocity, Schmidt may very well be at the end of his career. So let’s take a look at his major league tenure.
After starting his career with the Braves, Schmidt found himself traded to the Pirates in 1996, where he would make 154 starts spread over six different seasons. Schmidt’s peripherals were nothing to write home about, consistently posting a sub-7.0 K/9 and a walk rate comfortably above 3.0 per nine innings. Towards the end of his time with the Pirates, though, he began to miss more bats, meaning the Giants acquired a different pitcher than Pittsburgh fans had been accustomed to seeing.
That 2001 season, during which Schmidt joined the Giants, turned out to be his best up to that point, with an 8.5 K/9, 2.33 K/BB, 1.32 WHIP, 4.07 ERA, and 3.64 FIP, all of which were career bests. Proving that the previous season was not a fluke, Schmidt bested the aforementioned bests in 2002, with a 9.5 K/9, a 2.68 K/BB, 1.19 WHIP, 3.45 ERA, and 3.11 FIP. Our win values metric begin in 2002, as well, showing that Schmidt’s solid campaign produced +4.4 wins, virtually equivalent to the 2008 output of Cole Hamels.
Having already showed signs of incredible improvement, Schmidt’s 2003 and 2004 seasons would see lower walk rates and a decreased batting average against. Combined with increased strand rates and very high whiffs per nine, Schmidt was missing bats, limiting hits, preventing free passes, and keeping stagnant those fortunate enough to reach base. His 2003 season produced +6.7 wins, followed up by +6.6 wins in 2004. In 2005-06, Schmidt failed to look as dominant but remained very valuable to the Giants, adding an aggregate +6.9 wins. Following the season, the Giants chose to go in a different direction and Schmidt signed with the rival Dodgers.
The 6-start season was marred by injuries and ineffectiveness, landing Schmidt with an extended trip to the disabled list. In fact, he did not even pitch in the majors last season thanks to injury bugs. With the departures of both Lowe and Penny, Schmidt figured to be a solid contender for the rotation this season, especially given his exorbitant salary, but it just does not seem to be in the cards. He could continue to work and join the team mid-season, but one has to wonder how effective or durable of a boost he could even provide.
Jason Schmidt, in his prime, was a very fun pitcher to watch, but he is several years removed from his prime and, barring unforeseen circumstances involving improved health or performance reminiscent of his glory days, he might even be fortunate from here on out to become an NRI fixture.
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