Mike Rizzo is up to his usual
tricks illusions* again, this time doing his sleight of hand routine by scouting Javier Vazquez in Puerto Rico, then *poof* turning it into a Ross Ohlendorf minor league signing.
While beset by injuries the majority of his career, Ohlendorf has shown flashes of steadfast pitching when healthy; as such, he is a minimal risk, minimal reward type of signing that will more than likely get very acquainted with the sights and sounds of Syracuse for the 2013 season. Sadly, the last time Ross was healthy was in 2009, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since then, he has wandered the lonely bullpens and mounds of both the major league and AAA teams of Boston and San Diego, with unsavory results. For the young and weak of heart in the HDIB? audience, I have removed those statistics, and provide you the stats of Ohlendorf’s career, and career season (thanks Fangraphs!):
|Total||– – –||18||32||9.87||6.36||3.45||1.31||0.303||1.48||0.3||5.1||4.86||4.71||0.9|
As we see, his best outings were with the Pirates.
The Pittsburgh Pirates.
That’s a lot of former Pirates to stockpile, Mike Rizzo.
Coincidence… or trend?
When Rizzo signs former Pirate Jeff Karstens, we will have our answer. Until then, good luck getting the 1979 Pirates battle cry out of your head.
*if you don’t know what this is in reference to, watch this
As we come to down to the homestretch of the 2012 MLB season, we find many teams not only still alive in the hunt for a playoff berth, but also a division title. One of the more befuddling teams this season has been the Baltimore Orioles, who currently share 1st place in the AL East with the New York Yankees, after spending much of the season atop the division alone, and at one point, enjoying a 10 game lead on the second place O’s.
On a team full of headscratchers, one player rises above the rest, and sits atop the mountain of improbables, as King of the WTF’s.
Ladles and gentlespoons, I give you Nate McLouth – nay – FORMER ALL STAR Nate McLouth.
A midseason minor league signing after not hitting enough to make the most of his second tour of duty with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nate has done his share to bring home a handful of improbable victories, in a season full of improbables for the Orioles, and in a scant number of at bats. From baseball purgatory (or at least AAA affiliate Norfolk), to hero, McLouth has done about as much as you can ask a guy in 98 at bats.
So how did he get to late inning heroics from a 2010 season distinguished by a WPA of -1.31, especially given a league wide acknowledgement that his bat speed has been in decline ever since his All Star season of 2008?
As usual, I will look at the numbers, some standard, some advanced, but all delightful, and not to be afraid of. I know what many of you are thinking already…
…but hang with me on this. If not, skip ahead a couple of paragraphs, or bide your time with the many faces of McLouth.
So what can we say about McLouth’s Charm City success? Is it a revival of past Pirate prowess, or the apex of a disappointing post-Atlanta career? Looking at what Nate’s done with the O’s, during his breakthrough 2008 All Star campaign, and his career, overall, let’s see if we can answer this WTF moment, with the help of our buddies at Fangraphs:
Nothing really jumps out as something indicating the turn for the better for McLouth’s hitting. He’s walking and striking out as much as he has over his career, with unremarkable power numbers. His BABIP has increased a hair thus far in his Baltimore stint, but is still slightly below average. His line drive percentage (LD%) has gone up a tick, but can be readily paired with BABIP, so doesn’t pose much of an explanation of Nate’s success on its own. Again, we must consider small sample size – right around 100 AB’s for his 2012 Baltimore appearances. His stolen base rates are also at career average, so his legs aren’t helping his cause any more than they did in his heyday.
Looking at his batted ball, pitch type, and plate discipline, we can see that, in general, his approach to pitchers, and what he swings at, and the success he has with those swings in making contact, compared to the pitcher’s approach to him, in what they are throwing him, have not seen any significant changes. The only minor variation I see is that he is seeing more cutters, as the pitch becomes more and more the bread and butter of all hurlers; this bodes well for a guy whose bat speed has declined significantly over the last few years. Throw a slider/cutter to a guy with slider/cutter speed bat speed, chances are, he’s going to hit it. However, the spectre of small sample size haunts us yet again.
So what do we have? We have a guy who is making the most of an opportunity, and playing the game within the limits of his fading, albeit still productive, abilities. Hard work, catching lightning in a bottle one last time due to small sample size, a head clearing trip to AAA, and making the most of the cutters he sees, all add up to a worthwhile and shrewd signing by Baltimore; let’s be honest, a bench/spot starter type player who gives you a 0.6 fWAR is nothing to complain about.
For us, we have a true WTF? story, and one so WTFish, even Nate can’t believe it:
As my ‘About’ attests, I am a fan of the lefty reliever specialists, LOOGYs, if you will. As some of you may also know, I have been a hardcore Doug Slaten follower, as he has journeyed through the back roads of the backends of various bullpens. I have my reasons, as I will touch upon shortly, but for the moment, I would like to salute Doug for some
great fond memories. I would also like to thank him for his game worn Nationals away jersey, and his locker plate:
Slaten, a recent DFA victim by the Pirates, has done what many a lefty has done in the game, and that is come in, get the occasional lefty out, and in general, grease the wheels for a win; he has done so in yeoman-like fashion. No frills, just get outs. His stay with the AAA Indianapolis Indians this year was awe-inspiring numbers-wise, giving up a solitary run all season, but also damning of his place as a AAAA player, as we can gather from his MLB numbers. Yet, to carve out a 7 year career as a lefty with middlin’ at best stuff is impressive, and it is with this post I applaud Doug for his work, dedication, and persistence in getting this far as a professional pitcher.
A 17th round draft pick back in 2000, Slaten bounced around a number of California junior colleges – Glendale CC, LA Pierce JC, and El Camino CC – until bouncing some more, this time around the minors, culminating in a Southern League All Star nod in 2006. Overall, Doug flew under the radar, and for all intents and purposes, was destined for bullpen work. While never a prospect, it must be noted that a 7 year career out of a 17th rounder is more than anyone can ask for. Ponder this – in 2000, 7 LHPs were drafted in the 1st round, with the top 3 picks (#4, 9, and 10) never making it to the bigs. Of the other 4, Sean Burnett has had the most decorated career – as a lefty short reliever.
Hindered by injuries, his pitching repertoire, and the ceiling of his talent, Slaten’s career has nevertheless fascinated me, and I unabashedly follow his trajectory. I see what could’ve been for my own baseball career, as a lefty reliever with iffy stuff, that just got hitters out while bouncing around the California junior college and NCAA ranks in his day. I never made it – injuries, and a simple ‘no’ to an offer for a tryout made an abrupt, but euthanasic end to that life chapter – but you always tend to find yourself in others that did. While Doug and I are more enantiomeric than mirror images, there is that arrogant, narcissistic notion that creeps into my thoughts on occasion that makes me feel like I somehow blazed a trail for him, being a few years older, and having shared some cursory baseball career parallels. Of course this is total BS, but fandom and rational thought are things that will never be twinned or made to agree.
I leave you to peruse the baseball URL of your picking to further investigate Slaten, and his career, whose nadir didn’t make it much past sea level in terms of altitude. I hope you look into the numbers, and look at them not so much in sympathy, but more as a Rosetta Stone of dedication, hard work, and unbridled passion of a game that is littered with instances of fractions. Only a fraction make it to the bigs, and fractions of seconds determine the difference between weak grounders, and home runs, as well as nasty sliders, and unintentional BP fastballs.
The fractions summed up to a whole number for Doug, and I hope he can tack on another one.