"Pitching has got to be the foundation in the organization. Everybody wants a good pitcher. The more pitchers we have, the stronger our organization will be."
- Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

a tale of two sox

Jack Egbert: My Name ain't Plain, but How's my Game?

year level age IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA
2005 A 22 147 6.55 2.93 .31 3.12
2006 A+/AA 23 161 8.04 3.02 .11 2.68
2007 AA 24 152 9.36 2.54 .18 2.89

What’s not to love? His K rate is over 9 (and rising). His BB rate is under 3 (and falling). His HR rate is miniscule, and his ERA reflects all of the above. Even better than that, he's a workhorse.

What do I notice in this line? His K rate being over 9 means that he strikes out more than a batter per inning. This is important because, when it comes to detecting whether a pitcher with borderline stuff can succeed at higher levels, more than a K per inning can mean that it is safe to promote him. His K/BB ratio is better than 3:1, which is a good approximation for how efficient he's been. Again, his homerun rate is miniscule. And he's passed the AA litmus test with flying colors.

Reading Egbert’s profile in last year's Baseball America prospect handbook, I see a scouting report that I love. His fastball sits in the high 80s with good movement. His changeup is plus. He throws his curve in all counts, and for strikes. Plus he played his college ball in the northeast, which should have limited his innings during those three years.

He looks like the perfect back of the rotation starter.

Gavin Floyd: White Bread; Force Fed

year level age IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA
2005 AAA/MLB 22 163 6.29 4.53 .88 6.79
2006 AAA/MLB 23 169 6.34 3.73 1.22 5.22
2007 AAA/MLB 24 145 7.45 2.86 1.43 4.16

So, this is what improvement looks like? He has made good strides in reducing his walk rate, which absolutely killed him his first two years bouncing between AAA and MLB. His strikeout rate has also improved this season, likely as a result of finally having a consolidation year in AAA.

The scouting report on Floyd is that he's got a straight, hard fastball, and a tight, if inconsistent curve. His changeup lags behind both pitches in both movement and control.

I love everything about Jack Egbert; from his control, his effectiveness, and his groundball tendencies, to his stamina, his performance, and his scouting report. At the same time, and at the same age, everything about Gavin Floyd screams overrated to me. His control is mediocre (but improving), his stuff is not dominating, and he gives up a TON of homeruns as a result of his flyball tendencies. From the fact that he used to be a top prospect to the fact that he still has a workable fastball/curve combination, there is very little that fits the mold of a pitcher that i want on my team.

Here is where the two stories intersect in my mind: I think Gavin Floyd will have a better career that Egbert. I don't think it will even be close.

Intellectually, there is little reason for me to have this belief. I can find no hole in Egbert's game, and at the same time, I can find no solid ground in Floyd's. But I feel as though Jack Egbert's career has peaked. He has passed the injury nexus that is described in this baseball prospectus column, but there is another theory that I have about pitchers passing through this age.

It is my completely unresearched, completely empirical opinion that a pitcher's raw stuff peaks from ages 18-25. That is not to say that those are a pitcher's peak years, but it is, in my opinion, the time at which your fastball is the hardest, and your breaking ball is your sharpest. That says nothing about a pitcher's control, command, pitchability, or health, but it does say that if your stuff is mediocre at age 24, it's not likely to take a great leap forward.

Which brings me back to Jack Egbert. If this theory holds true and his stuff is at its peak while he's in AA, which I think is the case, that doesn't speak all too well for his future.

I love the pitcher that Jack Egbert is right now. I just don't think he will be able to maintain his stuff long enough to succeed at the major league level next year, or any subsequent year.

As for Gavin Floyd, so long as he maintains his fastball-curve combination, he'll have a job. He has had no success in the major leagues to this point in his career (147 innings, 6.97 era, 65 ERA+), but i feel that has been more because of misuse, rather than because of inadequacy. He’s been jerked around almost constantly over the last 4 years, first by the Phillies organization, and this year by the White Sox organization. His role has gone from starter, to long man, back to starter, then to middle reliever, and now back again. And that's just this year. He’s been moved from AAA to the majors, and back, too many times to count since his first promotion to the big leagues.

The Canary in the Coal Mine

One last point that needs to be made about Floyd is that his HR rate is exceptionally high. It is only a slight worry in my mind because of his tendency to give them up in bunches, but i'm not overly concerned about it because it's not a problem that is easily, or even possibly fixed. He throws a hard, straight mid 90s fastball, and there are always going to be hitters that can catch up to it, and send it 450 ft. He also throws a curve, but no matter how well he throws it, he's going to hang it every once in a while, which will also leads to 450 ft. bombs. He will also throw his next few years in a ballpark that plays very unfavorably for pitchers with homerun issues. as a result of this, he's going to get lit up every once in a while.

Earlier this year, I made known my preference to keep Floyd in the AAA rotation for the rest of this season, followed by a move to the bullpen at the start of spring training next year. I believed this was best for him because he had been jerked around so much in the preceding years, that I felt he needed a consolidation year in AAA to figure out what he wanted to do on the mound, and how he wanted to do it. But, instead of leaving him at a single level, allowing him to get a full year of success under his belt, Floyd was again made to ride the shuttle between AAA and the majors, and most of the success he's had at AAA has been overshadowed by the truckload of homeruns he's allowed in the majors.

I still think that a move to the bullpen is a necessity for Floyd because of his homerun tendencies, and I’d like to see it happen sooner, rather than later.

It is WAY too early to call Floyd a bust, considering the stuff that he continues to display. at the same time, it would be irresponsible to pencil Floyd into next year's white sox rotation considering the wholly inconsistent nature of his performance at the major league level.

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