Prior, Webb on the Comeback Trail

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. According to Nick Cafardo, both Mark Prior and Brandon Webb are on the comeback trail once again.

Everybody knows Prior’s story by now. A former second overall pick, Prior had a tremendous 2003 before injuries started to derail his career. He last pitched in the majors in 2006, and posted a terrible 6.56 FIP in just 43.2 innings. Since then, Prior has bounced around to different minor league teams, trying to recapture some of his old magic. His former pedigree continues to get him chances, but things don’t look promising for Prior. Following sports hernia surgery, Prior will begin working out for teams in March.

Webb’s last meaningful game took place on opening day 2009. Following five straight seasons with at least 200 innings pitched, the former Cy Young only last four innings before succumbing to a shoulder injury. Since shoulder surgery, Webb has failed to regain his velocity. He’ll throw for teams at some point in March in hopes that someone will give him one more chance in the bigs.

Both players have some history of elite production in the majors, otherwise, this would be a non-story. While it would be a great narrative if either player made it back to the big leagues, the odds are stacked against them. Here’s hoping for the best for the former aces.

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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

26 Responses to “Prior, Webb on the Comeback Trail”

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  1. I Agree Guy says:

    Has it really been that long now for Prior?


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  2. sam johnson says:

    Instead of writing his FIP for the 2006 season, why not just write Prior’s ERA. A 7.21mark that season is a universal sign for a terrible season.

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  3. “Both players have some history of elite production in the majors, otherwise, this would be a non-story.”

    Based on the brevity of this piece, I’d say it’s pretty close to a non-story anyway.

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  4. B N says:

    Given the amount of time involved, I’m pretty sure Prior is somewhere lost on the Oregon Trail- not the comeback trail. And I’m pretty sure he’s the one who got dysentery, measles, and broke his leg when wagon-master Dusty Baker insisted on a grueling pace. I salute his perseverance, but after 5 years of not playing at this point, I think this wagon has left the station.

    Webb might still have a shot though. It will be curious to see how he’s playing at this point.

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    • DLoth says:

      He’s actually been playing in the minors pretty consistently. He had a big 2010 for an Independent League team and got signed to a Triple-A contract by the Rangers, and then by the Yankees last year. He was supposedly transitioning into the bullpen, but became a free agent in November. I don’t know any of the details – even Fangraph’s info is pretty vague. But, speaking as a Cubs fan, it’d be pretty nice to see him pitch again in the bigs, regardless of what uniform he’s wearing.

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      • gnomez says:

        That “big 2010″ consisted of 9 games out of the bullpen in the now-assimilated Golden League before a single game for the Rangers before getting hurt.

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    • gnomez says:

      This comment is classic.

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    • GMH says:

      Dusty Baker didn’t teach Mark Prior the horrific mechanics he practiced. If you want to blame someone for Prior’s ills, blame Tom House.

      Tim Lincecum threw about 600 more pitches in his first two seasons than Mark Prior. If Dusty Baker was a stern wagon master with his young pitchers, then he has nothing on Bruce Bochy. After all, Prior was a draught horse, while Lincecum was a show pony. The Dusty-Baker-ruined-young-pitchers narrative is tired, old fiction.

      Webb will never pitch in the Bigs again. Fat sinker ballers who can’t throw hard enough to break a pane of glass without wincing in pain are not in demand. The only question is whether Webb’s agent Jonathan Maurer can bamboozle several million dollars from another team that already has an abundance of starting pitchers, particularly if that team is just emerging from bankruptcy.

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      • Bill says:

        Agree on Webb.

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      • James says:

        Lincecum was older, and had fewer starts of >120 pitches… also, I don’t know if the pitching numbers you are looking at account for postseason (which would increase Prior’s 2003 totals).

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      • James says:

        Also, ask Aaron Harang about Dusty Baker’s pitcher management philosophies.

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      • B N says:

        Yah, yah- I know the Dusty Baker crack is much more apocryphal than fact. But it just fit so well to have him as the wagon-master, there was no way of avoiding it. Plus, he DID use Prior a lot which could be construed as a grueling pace.

        But certainly, there are no predictive measures that demonstrate causality between Prior’s later issues and his usage patterns other than that he was a major league pitcher who threw a good number of pitches until he didn’t. Unless somebody has redeemed Pitcher Abuse Points, that is, haha.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Reporters said Webb “topped out” at 86 MPH in extended spring training last year. Considering he was a Cy Young caliber pitcher averaging 88 MPH, I’m curious what his average velocity was last year, and how much movement he had to take off to get it. It’s not too surprising that Webb and some front offices would think he’s worth a flier if he had only lost about 3 MPH off his old form. Yeah, that’s a lot, but Webb was ridiculously good at 88 MPH.

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      • Matt Mosher says:

        At the time Prior emerged, people raved about how good his mechanics were.

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      • Phils_Goodman says:

        There are different schools of thought on pitcher mechanics, many of them at loggerheads. Referencing what “people” were saying about Prior’s mechanics is not going to capture that.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I think at this point, Dusty Baker should be off the hook and much of the blame placed on Mark Prior’s “perfect” mechanics, which we now know are correlated with risk. Or he has loose joints. Or his had bad luck. Or whatever other reason that we have to find why Mark Prior didn;t become the next Roger Clemens.

      Mark Prior’s IP:

      Not exactly grueling pace, although the comments were funny and creative though.

      Compared to Prior and Wood, Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum have been ridden like rented mules.

      I think the whole “Wood and Prior” narrative has been exaggerated so often that it’s essentially become “legend”. You’d have thought by now that both guys threw 300 IP for multiple years.

      I’m no fan of Dusty Baker, but until data shows that he used SPs for more IP/G than most other managers, the commentary is just perception.

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      • curl says:

        It’s pitch count, not innings pitched.

        Prior threw over 130 pitches more times in 2002 and 2003 than Lincecum and Hernandez have in their entire combined careers.

        Prior averaged 113.3 pitches in his first full season.

        Since 2002, pitchers with more than 26 starts who have averaged more pitches per start than Prior’s 2003 season.

        Justin Verlander in 2011 – 115.9
        Livan Hernandez in 2005 – 114.5
        Randy Johnson in 2002 -114.1
        Jered Weaver in 2011 – 113.5
        Justin Verlander in 2010 – 113.5

        A pretty short list we have there. Verlander was a youthful 27 with 5 full seasons in the league before he was first pushed passed Prior’s 23 and first full season.

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  5. Joshsaysgomo says:

    This article has no point whatsoever haha. It’s just a rundown of facts.

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  6. imstillhungry95 says:

    Oh Webby. Please stop making a fool of yourself, and just retire already! Go fish, play your guitar, and spend time with your family. It’s time to stop.

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  7. Sydhartha says:

    “The Dusty-Baker-ruined-young-pitchers narrative is tired, old fiction.”

    Many observers disagree. What’s your basis for making this statement? Comparing Prior to Lincecum doesn’t prove a thing…

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    • B N says:

      Eh, they never really found a causal link between the popular measure of the time (Pitcher Abuse Points) and pitchers actually getting injured. The revised view of it seems to be that it was likely mechanics, which would have eventually led to an injury. Heavier than normal usage patterns might have made him run into the injury sooner, but it was probably waiting there one way or another.

      With that said, the “Dusty Ruins Young Arms” makes a much more interesting narrative and would be the one I’d run with if I had to make Moneyball 2: The Search for More Money(ball).

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      • Keith says:

        The idea is obviously overblown, to an extent. It’s not a simple matter of ever young arm Baker used blew up. It was something of he got guys destined to get hurt, and he exacerbated the issue/sped the process up. Wood, Prior, and Volquez are three examples of abuse there.

        On the other hand, Homer Bailey was eased into his role and has still gotten hurt, and Mike Leake was thrown into the fire without any minors experience, and he’s done all right (granted, he didn’t get pushed into about 230-240 IP like Prior did). Kerry Wood wasn’t even abused, honestly, when you consider he didn’t crack 180 IP until his fourth season. Volquez was somewhat eased in and blew up.

        The matter is more legend than anything, and Dusty basically gets a bad reputation because of one case of abuse (Prior) and a couple of bad luck cases (Wood, Volquez).

        Still, in a game of superstition (baseball), that bad luck is enough to make me scared to hire him as manager, haha.

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  8. Todd Doug says:

    What’s sad is, if one of those two guys are there when I make my final fantasy pick this year, I’m totally gonna take a flyer on one of them. For that price, I’ll buy a lottery ticket.

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  9. DC says:

    I can’t help but wonder if Webb’s velocity issue is related to the surgery, he was really good at 88mph range but just plain lost velocity on the ball after it…I could still recall Capuano doing a double-take on TJ.

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  10. Matt Mosher says:

    I remember that opening day start of Webb’s and wondering what the hell was wrong. He looked like a high school pitcher, his velocity was so bad. Just my take, but I think he’s completely done.

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