Rich Hill and 50th Percentile Projections

It’s amazing what can happen in but two short years. Coming into the winter of 2008, Rich Hill looked like he could be the real deal. His 2007 season wasn’t stellar – his FIP was only 4.32 due to a high home run rate – but there were great signs, especially from a 27-year-old left-handed starting pitcher. Most notably, the 8.45 K/9, especially given Hill’s lack of electric stuff, had Cubs fans expecting great things for years to come.

Now, we know it just wasn’t meant to be. Hill’s 2008 was derailed after only five starts, after a terrible 18 walks in 19.2 innings resulted in a demotion to AAA. Once in Iowa, the struggles only continued, as Hill walked over a batter per inning there, as well. He got another chance in Baltimore based on the potential he showed in 2007, but again, Hill couldn’t find the strike zone, and walked 49 batters in 61 innings between Triple-A and the majors.

In 2010, the Cardinals are going to hope to strike gold with Hill, giving the lefty an invite to spring training. It seems like Hill could be productive – CHONE projects him to have a chance to be worth roughly 1 WAR and to compete for a job as the 5th starter. Hill certainly seems like the perfect non-roster invite candidate, as the risk here is minimal and the reward could be great.

We must remember, however, that the projections presented here are “50th percentile projections.” With Hill, it seems like we have two possibilities: either he finds the strike zone and returns to 2007 form, or he remains a walk machine and is a below replacement level player. When we see “9” in the RAR category for CHONE, that’s combining the possibility that we get the +31 player from 2007 and the possibility that he remains the below replacement (certainly, if you include his time in AAA Iowa) player from 2008 and 2009. We’re probably looking at a 20% chance of a 4.00 FIP and a 80% chance of a 5.00 FIP, leading to the roughly 4.80 FIP being projected by both CHONE and Marcel, or something along those lines.

With the price of the dice roll merely a non-guaranteed contract with an invite to spring training, St. Louis should be applauded for taking this chance. Given Hill’s constant problems, however, expectations must be tempered – any sort of major league results out of Hill in 2010 will be a bonus to a Cardinals team that is already favored to win the NL Central.

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20 Responses to “Rich Hill and 50th Percentile Projections”

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  1. rh146 says:

    Basically it comes down to… can Dave Duncan help make another pitcher do a complete 180 in back to back years?

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  2. Tim In Missouri says:

    He’s done it before. If he can, the Cardinals are only paying him $575k. There may be some incentives but I just don’t see how this could be a bad move for anybody. Hill gets a chance to work with the best rehab coach in pitching history and improve his value for 2011 while the Cards get a chance at huge upside 5th starter(since most teams don’t expect their #5 to be anything other than average with lots of innings). Also, the Cards would prefer to leave Jaime Garcia at AAA for at least another 1/2 season to make sure he is back to presurgery form and isn’t rushed. And, if it doesn’t work out, they are only out the Spring Training stipend and a little time.

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    • Tim In Missouri says:

      I meant, “If Duncan can do his magic, the cards are only paying $575K-which is dependant on Hill staying with the club(barring injury) the WHOLE season”. How can this bad?

      Also, Tom B, are you by chance a fan of the Small Bears?

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  3. Casadilla says:

    There’s a chance he just can’t stay healthy. It must be hard to find consistency with your mechanics when you’re fighting your body the whole way.

    His back issues derailed him the first time around before ending up with the O’s. But with the O’s, he claimed shoulder trouble. Though, this was voiced after the fact of his disappointing “comeback.”

    Subsequent medical testing revealed a tear.

    Disgusting curve ball, below average fastball, terrible mechanics, injury history…long shot? Yep.

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  4. Mike says:

    Jack — interesting and well-written post. Keep up the good work.

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  5. pack says:

    Rich Hill’s mechanics hurt me. He somehow manages to to be inconsistent in his release point and arm angles, while consistently leading with his elbow and being late getting his ps arm vertical. I think he’s going to be another case of injuries ruining command before it ruins velocity/movement. I wish the best for him, my uncle is friends with his dad and says they are a really sweet family.

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  6. Really? The Cardinals are the NL Central favorite?

    Let’ break this down.
    1) Pujols and Holliday are awesome, but Ludwick is nothing of his 2008 mold (nor perhaps his 2009 showing). Outside of these 3, however, the rest of the team’s offense is terrible.
    2) The pitching>> out goes a great season by pinero, in comes….nothing. Wainwright is awesome, but will he be that good this year? FIP says not. Carpenter also going to pitch that well? Will he be healthy?

    on the other hand, the cubs were a +500 team, only 7.5 Wins out of it last year
    1) That includes being only second to the Mets in DL stints (4/5 SP’s went on the DL last year, Aramis missed 1/2 the season, Soriano was injured and playing then just missed time, soto had an arm injury that never healed, etc)
    2) Of the players that remained, only DLee performed up to standards. The BABIPs on the rest of the crew were incredibly low

    I say it’s a very close call b/w the cubs and cards with the cubs getting the edge here b/c the team has more balance through the lineup and field

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      1) Pujols and Holliday are awesome, but Ludwick is nothing of his 2008 mold (nor perhaps his 2009 showing). Outside of these 3, however, the rest of the team’s offense is terrible.

      This comment kinda strikes me as funny. It basically says “Outisde of the projected 14.1 WAR of StL’s Big 3, their offense is horrible.”

      Okay, never mind that 2 of the 3 are putting up ~5 and ~7 WAR seasons, which takes the Cubs best 4 players to equal (CHONE projections).

      Here are the 8 starters and their ’10 projected WARs (I don;t like looking at ONLY offense, because that’s a dumb thing to do … especially when much of the Cards success is pitching and defense).

      C — Molina (3.6); Soto (3.2)
      1B — Pujols (7.2); DLee (3.0)
      2B — Schu (1.6); F’NOT (1.4)
      3B — Freese (1.8); ARam (3.3)
      SS — Ryan (2.8); Riot (2.2)
      LF — Holliday (4.8); Soriano (1.8)
      CF — Rasmus (3.0); Byrd (2.4)
      RF — Ludwick (2.1); Fukudome (2.2)

      Total — StL 26.9; CHC 19.5

      Would you like to look at Pitching staffs? (Fans Proj, no CHONE listed)

      SP1 — Wain (5.4); Big Z (3.4)
      SP2 — Carp (4.7); Lilly (3.0)
      SP3 — Lohse (2.3); Dempster (3.5)
      SP4 — Penny (2.1); Wells (2.6)
      SP5 — Wellemeyer (-0.3); Gorz (0.7)

      Total — StL 14.2; CHC 13.2

      Batting (Starting 8) + Pitching (Starting 5)

      StL 41.1 v. CHC 32.7

      So, unless you’re using a better or more accurate metric, I would say YES, StL is the favorite above CHC. I would also say that MIL is likely #2 ahead of CHC, and CIN may be also ahead of CHC.

      I don’t know if Wellemeyer will be the #5 or not, but even with him, it’s an overall better rotation than CHC.

      The point could be made that Carp and Wain may not repeat their performances from 09, but I’d make the same point about Wells and Lilly.

      Injuries, like always, will probably be a major determining factor. But as far as projections go, your question got answered.

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      • Felonius_Monk says:

        Circle, I agree with your post (i.e. Cards are definitely favourites to win the NLC), but you’re kinda right in that Wellemeyer won’t be back as the #5 (he’s OOC and the Cardinals have zero interest in bringing him back). You can probably slot Jaime Garcia in as the presumptive #5 starter now. FWIW, I think the Fans’ projections on Wainwright and Carp are ridiculously optimistic anyhow, so that probably balances it out somewhat.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        The pitching really doesn’t matter for the post I was responding too, since the poster stated that the Cubs have a better overall offense, once you take out the 12 WAR of Holliday and Pujols.

        My points were …

        [1] Even then it’s pretty close.
        [2] It’s doesn’t matter, b/c you don’t take the 2 best hitters out of a lineup, and then make a comparison.

        As far as I know, no one has ever said (with a straight face) “You know if you take Jordan and Pippen out of the lineup, the Knicks have the better offense.”

        IMO, the rror the poster is making is likely thinking of each player’s best year as a marker for what type of hitter they are. If you take each player’s best year, then the Cubs probably are the better offensive team … but that’s not realizing that Soto, Fuku, Fontenot, Riot, etc have ALL likely had their career years already (and have had just a few years into their careers), and are now just a % of their former selves.

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    • Felonius_Monk says:

      “out goes a great season by pinero, in comes….nothing. ”

      Erm, what about Brad Penny? To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure there’ll be much separating Penny (coming off an ugly post-injury season when he put up 2.5 WAR) and Pineiro (coming off an unsustainable career year when he put up 4.5 WAR) by the end of next year, and Todd Wellemeyer is definitely addition by subtraction.

      You’re right, however, that Carpenter and Wainwright are unlikely to be as good.

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    • TOLAXOR says:


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  7. jirish says:

    Rich Hill is an interesting pick up. I don’t think it will amount to much for the Cardinals. There’s two kind of pitching problems that Dave Duncan hasn’t been particularly good at fixing, it’s pitchers with mechanical issues, and left handed starters. I think Rich Hill falls into both categories.

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  8. Circlechange11 says:

    I was having the same conversation today with mr broter in law & dad and I asked if Dunc had ever rejuvenated a LHP. Other than someone like Rick Honeycutt’s role. I could not think of one.

    The explanation for this is that he gets RHPs to pound the zone with movement that breaks lat and down or late and in (either Stew’s forkball or Supp’s and Pineiro’s 2-seamer or sinker.

    The only pitch that a lefty can throw that moves late and in (away from the barrel of the bat) to a RHB is a cutter. I don’t know that Hill is able to produce the velocity and consistency with a pitch like that to ne as effective as the other pitchers mentioned . My guess would be ‘No’ and StL is likely to use a revolving 5th starter to survive by changing the looks other teams get. By playoff time, the 5th starter won’t matter.

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  9. QBsillest1 says:

    Yeah, he is the epitome of a “long shot”. When he pitched for the Orioles in 09, his first start was pretty good. He showed a true “plus-plus” curve. The problem is, as an above poster mentioned, he has a below average fastball. Apparently in 07 he could run it into the 90’s, but in 09 even before the labrum surgery I never saw him touch 90 MPH. For pitchers who throw in the mid 90’s losuing a few MPH isn’t quite as catastrophic as as it is for a pitcher with fringy velocity like Hill. Furthermore, his command is terrible, mostly due to a delivery that is nearly impossible to repeat. If you watch videos on Hill, you will see that depending on the game or year, his delivery fluctuates. He dips back when he breaks his hands and his “dip” isn’t always the same, sometimes his hand(throwing side) almost touches the ground and other times the “dip” is less exaggerated. The “dip” throws off his timing especially when it is inconsistent which will make him be extremely wild and puts tons of strain on his arm as he is trying to throw “up hill”, which I am sure was a big part of his shoulder problems.

    And, to take things a bit further, he is basically a 2 pitch pitcher, FB/CB, and since his FB is fringy and VERY hittable, he relies heavily on this CB which I mentioned was a true “plus-plus” pitch. But, he will fall in love with his CB and I have seen him throw the pitch as many as 5 times in a row to the same hitter. Eventually, the hitters in the AL figured this out and would take his curveball and sit on the FB and knock him around. Even if he would be successful the first time through the lineup, by the 2nd time through the lineup, the hitters have seen everything he has and he has a very hard time making it through the lineup again.

    I know that it is always fun to dream about his true potential and it is understandable, he K’s a good amount of hitters even though he has terrible command and a mediocre FB which really shows how strong his CB truly is, but unless he comes up with a QUALITY 3rd pitch, he is nothing more than a situational lefty which I believe he could be.

    Note- He apparently used to have a pretty decent slider back when he was successful with the Cubs, which he benefited from tremendously, but in 09 with the O’s the pitch was never seen. He may have been scared to throw it because when he did pitch in 09, he already had a torn labrum(it was witheld from the public until the end of the year) and sliders put a ton of stress on the arm. But, you would assume that he would have atleast tried to throw the pitch after getting hammered time after time and continued to start….

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