The Underheralded Rookie Pitchers

There are few things in baseball that get fans as excited as the new young star pitcher. Whether it was Dwight Gooden, Ben McDonald, Josh Beckett, Mark Prior, Felix Hernandez, or David Price, the promise of a potential ace is something that every fan base goes nuts for. There’s something special about having a truly dominating starting pitcher take the hill every five days.

Price got all the hype headed into the season, and perhaps his struggles have led to a bit of disappointment in the crop as a whole. But once you look past the fact that he didn’t dominate in the way some were expecting, there’s a whole lot of talent in this rookie pitching crop.

I talked about the emergence of Brett Anderson a month ago. He’s not only got a bright future, but he’s showing that he’s already one of the better pitchers in baseball. As a 21-year-old lefty, he’s running a 3.3 K/BB ratio while maintaining a 50% GB%. And he’s getting better as the year goes on. He might not have the sizzle of the names listed above, but he’s not that far away from being a #1 starter.

In the NL, Tommy Hanson is doing something similar. His first five starts were a bit rough, as he struggled with his command and ran a 17/18 BB/K rate in 29 innings. Since the calendar turned to June, however, he’s been lights out – 92 innings, 76 H, 27 BB, 89 K. This is the kind of line you should expect him to put up. He’s that good.

We just talked about Derek Holland last week, so I’ll spare the recap of that other than to say that he’s been much, much better than his ERA would indicate.

After those three, you’ve still got a strong crop of guys. J.A. Happ, Randy Wells, and Jeff Niemann have had strong rookie seasons, even if they aren’t quite as talented as the trio mentioned above. Rick Porcello has held his own as a 20-year-old without an out pitch, which is impressive in its own right. Brad Bergesen, Ricky Romero, and Mark Rzepczynski showed terrific sinkers and a good feel for pitching.

And finally, there were the relievers – Neftali Feliz stole the show late, but Andrew Bailey, Luke Gregerson, and Darren O’Day were lights out all year long. Daniel Bard flashed brilliance at times, while Chris Perez and Sergio Romo showed significant potential as well.

This is just a remarkably deep group of good young rookie pitchers. Injuries and attrition will send a lot of them by the way side, but don’t be surprised if we look back in five years and realize that a large handful of the best pitchers in the game all put themselves on the map in 2009.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

18 Responses to “The Underheralded Rookie Pitchers”

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  1. Rick says:

    No love for Danny Ray Herrera? His FIP might not quite be elite due to his K rate, 60 IP and an ERA south of 3.00 along with a very solid 1.69 GB/FB rate should get the little guy some attention, right?

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  2. Adam D says:

    and the fact that three of those young gentlemen you mentioned belong to the Texas Rangers is also worth noting… that’s automatically the most pitching depth we’ve ever had!

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  3. Danny says:

    Daniel Bard shows flashes of brillance, but hes also had periods with constant yips. He needs to get a lot better i we want him taking over for Papelbon in a year or two

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  4. JohnF says:

    Not sure if he qualifies as a rookie(30 IP last season), but David Robertson is posting a 3.09 FIP thanks in large part to a 13.39 K/9.

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  5. Nats fan says:

    no love for any of the NATS? nearly all we pitched this season was rookies….

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  6. CJ says:

    Two Astros’ rookie starters have had their moments this year, Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino. Norris was shut down last week because he exceeded his career hgh innings pitched, but he has pitched well enough in the majors that he will be handed a rotation slot next season. He was PCL pitcher of the year in AAA this year. Paulino has been inconsistent and has a high ERA, but his x-FIP is only 4.12 and his K/9, BB/9, and K/BB ratios compare favorably to most of the highly touted rookie starters.

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    • Christian Seehausen says:

      Thanks, I was just about to mention Norris. His numbers were dragged down by a few bad starts in a row, but then he made the adjustment and was doing well again. Norris’ K/9 has been very good at about a strikeout per inning. I don’t expect him to blow people away next season but I think he will be a productive middle of the rotation guy. If he can add a good curve or something and work on his command a little, he could be ace material.

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  7. Jeff says:

    Besides Anderson, Porcello is the best of the bunch…

    In the long run, I think Porcello will be a borderline number 1, solid number 2…

    As to not having an outpitch, Porcello has been instructed to get groundballs not K’s… The Tigers are doing something smart by having him limit his pitch count by trying to get groundballs instead of strikeouts…

    In the future, I think he will develope into a fine strikeout pitcher… If you remember Verlander had a low K-rate also as a rookie… Look at him now…

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    • Jeff says:

      ALSO… dont forget that Porcello is in only his SECOND SEASON of pro ball… Price played in college and had even MORE time in the minors to develope than did Porcello…

      By the time he is 22, which is when alot of stud pitching prospects FINALLY make thier debuts, Porcello will already have 3 seasons of helping his team under his belt…

      To me that is more valueable than sitting in the minors trying to raise your K/9…

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    • wobatus says:

      Verlander averaged 6 a game. Porcello 4.4. That’s a pretty big difference. Yes, Porcello is much younger, and he is pretty good and good be great, but I doubt his k rate will ever be like Verlander’s.

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      • Jeff says:

        Well noone in baseball has as many K’s as Verlander this year…

        I just wanted to point out that hardly anyone takes into account how little experience Porcello has..

        And also to point out that Porcello and the Tigers are purposely having Porcello try and get ground balls and not K’s… as someone who watches every Tiger game, I noticed that Everett ALWAYS mans SS when Porcello plays, and that Santiago plays only when others are pitching…

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  8. MMfan09 says:

    Henry Rodrguez has barely pitched this sept, but tonight 20 pitches were 99-100mph, if he ever improves his control. pairing him w/ bailey could be an interesting combo in oakland

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  9. Joe R says:

    The funny thing about Anderson? Beane-haters will still find a way to bitch.

    Once on Yahoo answers I got hit by a double dose of idiocy on Beane. One guy asking how good the A’s would be if they still had Harden, Hudson, Mulder, Zito, and Haren, ignoring 1) how expensive they are, 2) how hurt Harden and Hudson have been, 3) How mediocre Zito has been, 4) How nothing Mulder has been, and 5) How they traded Mulder to acquire Haren.

    In case this wasn’t enough, another guy brought up how it was stupid they traded Blanton. Because, you know, who wants a cost controlled Josh Outman (once he comes back) and the future at second base in Adrian Cardenas when you can have a decent, 29 in December year old #3 starter?

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    • MMfan09 says:

      That Harden deal doesnt look so great.

      THough people forget how injured he had been, despite elite talent. From 06-08 he pitched as many starts 30+ as he has done all of 09. A’s got 4 cost controlled not so great players but they took that gamble. Gallagher ended up being traded for hairston. murton traded for wimberly. Patterson has had a nice september and donaldson is a solid prospect.

      They passed on signing blanton long term multiple times. Tried to trade him in 07, to dodgers but they declined. Outman looked like a great find, power lefty before TJ surgery, cardenas will be a solid above avg player. Spencer has a good yr in AA.

      Swisher deal-surprisingly kenny williams looks the worst out of this, with swisher’s better 09. Stats doesnt tell everything, but the “throw in” ryan sweeney has a 3.8 WAR. Gio is inconsistent despite great stuff, DLS who knows, he’s a wildcard

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  10. luke says:

    Is David Robertson a rookie? He walks a few too many, but man oh man does he strike ‘em out too.

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