The contenders’ ERA at the end of week one:
- Kyle McClellan – 0.00
- Lance Lynn – 0.00
- Adam Ottavino – 0.00
- Brandon Dickson – 3.00
- Bryan Augenstein – 2.25
- Raul Valdes – 12.00
- Shelby Miller – 0.00
I spent some time tracking numbers in MLB’s Gameday feature to bring you the following graphs. I plan on recreating them once weekly until a fifth starter has been declared. It might be fun to see how the graphs transform between weeks… and to see how opinions/impressions change… not that I’d ever make a decision based on Spring Training performance. Never! But, in truth, this might be one of few (only?) scenarios in which it might be acceptable to evaluate players on small sample size performance. Would you argue that any of the candidates, in their short careers, have clearly distinguished themselves as the superior option? As Steve showed in an earlier post (Internal Options), the projection systems have lumped these guys together, none offering much more than the other. The Cardinals need a guy to step up and rise to the occasion. The opportunity is there. Maybe this can serve as motivation that allows one contender to reach a new level in his game.
Ottavino has yet to pitch in a game, which makes me wonder how that shoulder is feeling.UPDATE: This just in… from Adam Ottavino’s mother… (see comments below)? On Thursday in a split-squad game against the Mets, Ottavino pitched one scoreless inning (zero strikeouts, zero hits, and one walk). Next week’s graphs will include this information. Thanks, Mrs. Ottavino!
Everyone has made at least one appearance, with the exception of Bryan Augenstein and Raul Valdes who have each pitched in two games apiece. Thanks to already having two appearances, Augenstein leads the pack with 4.0 IP in the first week. However, McClellan, Lynn, and Dickson were the most efficient, each amassing 3.0 IP in their first appearances. Even at this early stage, the favorites (McClellan and Lynn) have set themselves apart in terms of control and strike-out rates.
No, Shelby Miller doesn’t even stand a chance to win the job… but it sure is fun to see his name included, isn’t it?
The next graph illustrates the types of balls in play allowed by each pitcher. We know that the Cardinals love ground balls… and it seems reasonable to assume that Dave Duncan’s ears will perk up if he notices one guy demonstrating a better ability to coax grounders.
And Brandon Dickson lives up to his reputation (55% GB at triple-A in 2010) by getting nine ground balls out of his three innings of work. Combine that with one infield pop-up, one fly ball, and zero line drives, and his profile certainly looks the strongest in this graph. McClellan, Lynn, and Augenstein also have favorable ground ball ratios.
Spring Training is an interesting time of year to follow box scores since rosters include players from all stops of teams’ minor league system. Because of that, it might be worthwhile to take notice of the quality of hitters each pitcher faces. Below, I created a graph that details just that. Hitters were categorized according to the highest level at which they had amassed at least 200 at-bats.
Dickson and Lynn have faced the most MLB hitters (85% and 80% respectively). With the exception of Shelby Miller, McClellan has faced the least amount of big league hitters; 50% of the batters he has faced fall into the triple-A or double-A range. Since the team is specifically setting him up to start certain games.
Speaking of McClellan, he’s not exactly making things easy for the coaching staff to deny him the opportunity to start, is he? McClellan as quoted by the P-D’s HOFer Rick Hummel:
“This is where I want to be,” McClellan said. “This is what I want to do. I’ve had the opportunity in the past and it just hasn’t worked out. There is no better opportunity than this. For someone to come in and take it away from me, they’re going to have to take it while I’m fighting and scratching.”
Sure, such remarks offer a testament to a player’s determination and confidence when things are going well. But, what about when the lining isn’t quite so silver? It makes me wonder how McClellan would endure another demotion to the bullpen. And, if merited by performance, how would the team handle such a decision given their renewed commitment to team chemistry?
At the end of week one, McClellan and Lynn seem to have the advantage… but don’t sleep on Brandon Dickson whose batted ball results were actually more impressive.
Is it ridiculous that I just wrote nearly 800 words about a competition marked by 2-4 innings worth of data per player? Yes. Yes it is. But, my hope is that the graphs and commentary will provide a helpful narrative throughout the spring. Feel free to chime in and offer your own observations in the comments section.