BALLS AND STRIKES: A NEW PHENOMENON
BY JASON VOORHEES REPORTING @ PHILLYROCKRADIO.COM
There is a huge list of these retreads that are really doing well. This success means that teams can get more out of their prospects even if the pitcher fails as a starter. There have been many huge starting pitcher prospects that have become busts in the Majors and then find themselves as career minor leaguers or even out of professional baseball:
1) Scott Ruffcorn (1st Round Pick-25 Chicago White Sox 1991). After posting a 2.75 combined ERA in AA and AAA and striking out 185 Batters with only 60 walks, Ruffcorn ended his MLB career with an 0-8 Record and an 8.57 ERA in 30 Games. He is now out of baseball.
2) Kris Benson (1st Round Pick-1 Pittsburgh Pirates 1996). He was one of the highest touted pitching prospects in baseball history who only enjoyed two seasons in the majors and then bottomed out.
3) Paul Wilson (1st Round Pick-1 New York Mets 1994). Paul Wilson was the top Met's pitching prospect and was a member of the trio known as "GENERATION K" along with Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher. He lasted seven years in major league baseball and never enjoyed a good season despite being the top of that class.
4) Dewon Brazleton (1st Round Pick-3 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2001). Brazleton was thrown into the fire in 2003 and after five terrible seasons, he was out of baseball in 2006.
5) Mark Prior (1st Round Pick-2 Chicago Cubs 2001). Prior was also one of the most highly touted prospects in the modern era and he burst onto the scene in 2003, he was injury prone and never became half of the prospect that he was said to be.
Other pitchers that find themselves on this list are Bryan Bullington, Matt Bush, Todd Van Poppel, Matt Harrington, Brien Taylor, Clint Hurtung and many others.
Ok, well there were also some pitchers that were good starters that then went onto have success as relievers later in their career. Jason Isringhausen was a decent starter for the Mets before becoming one of the most dominant closers in the game. There was also John Smoltz from Atlanta who owns the best record of being a starting pitcher as well as a closer. A local pitcher that had a positive transition from starter to reliever was Brett Myers. There have been many stories of good starting pitchers that have went onto great relief success.
Now we get to the new phenomenon that this story proposes. One starter that was absolutely terrible and is now one of the best relievers in baseball is Wade Davis of the Kansas City Royals. After compiling a 36-33 record and an over 4.00 ERA, Davis has now become one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball. In 88 Games between 2014 and 2015, Davis is 11-2/9 Saves/0.50 ERA/125 Strikeouts/27 Walks/1.02 WHIP. These numbers are staggering. Davis was a setup man and finished 6th in the CY YOUNG AWARD finish in 2014 and has again been the best setup man in baseball thus far in 2015. He has yet to yield a run in 17 Innings, while striking out 16 walking 4 and he has a 0.00 ERA and 0.64WHIP. He also had six saves, while taking over the closer role while Greg Holland was on the Disabled List. Can you say Dominant!
Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees retired two seasons ago and after losing Robertson, the new closer to be as a free agent, the New York Yankees found themselves in a bind not really having an experienced closer. Enter Andrew Miller. After going 21-32 for Detroit, Florida and Boston from 2006-2011 as a starting pitcher, Miller made the transition to reliever. He was 21-32, a 6.00 Plus ERA, and a 6.00 Plus WHIP and almost a 5.00 Strikeout to Walk Ratio. He is now 14-14 as a reliever, a 2.12 ERA (0.00 ERA 2015 18 Innings), 0.85WHIP and 15 Saves (13 in 2015). He also has struck out 255 Batters and only walked 52 Batters. This is another great story of a failed starter that has become a top notch reliever.
You can look to the past to other success stories of converted starters to relievers and the number one example is Mariano Rivera. Another great relief pitcher that enjoyed an excellent career as a closer was Billy Wagner. I would venture to conclude that more teams should look into this transition and maybe they can find a genie in a bottle. There are so many times when relief pitchers transition to a starter like Chris Sale, Mark Buhrle, John Danks, but now it is time for these starters to become relievers. This phenomenon could become the norm as baseball evolves season by season. The sky is the limit if general managers and scouts look at this transition.