Friday, December 13, 2013

Bad pitchers are like bad boyfriends

The first day of my senior year in high school provided a shock. With my head on the desk in homeroom, attendance was being called and the name, Felicia Rivera, rang out. I suddenly lifted my head. That was the name of my first boy-crush in the sixth grade. I looked around and spotted this raven-haired beauty wearing a mini-dress in the back of the room. It was her but all grown up. I caught her after homeroom and indeed, it was the same girl who had moved away to Florida a week after I gave her an ID bracelet. Unfortunately, since she moved back, she had already found a boyfriend.

Still, I got to know her and got her a job where I worked. She did not have a car, so every day after school, I stopped at her house so she could get dressed and then I took her to work with me. She told me stories about how cruel her boyfriend was to her. I tried to convince her to take up with me instead and she always laughed and said I was too nice.

That pattern has gone on probably forever. Young girls are drawn to bad guys. The rogues with the leather coats with the shady criminal records. Nice guys finish last. This might be in part because of some motherly instinct that believes with a lot of love, the bad boy can change. Some do, most do not. 

So what does that have to do with this being a baseball forum? Well...bad pitchers are a lot like bad boyfriends. Teams cannot help themselves and believe a bad pitcher can change. How else could you explain that within hours of each other the Phillies would sign Roberto Hernandez and the Pirates would sign Edinson Volquez?

And these two have been really bad pitchers. And like bad boyfriends, the teams that signed them think they can change what they are. Good luck with that.

The Padres and Dodgers already tried with Volquez. Teams are tantalized by his one golden season when he came in fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2008. But then he was hurt much of 2009 and 2010 and when he was not hurt, he was awful. 

The Red eventually got very tired of him and he was a throw in for the big deal that sent Mat Latos to the Reds. The Padres thought they could fix Volquez. Plus, they had a much more favorable ballpark for him to pitch his home games.

It did not work. After sixty starts with a 1.545 WHIP and a -1.5 rWAR, the Padres gave up and released him. Thinking they too could fix him, the Dodgers picked him up soon after...for a pennant race, no less. Volquez responded with an 0-2 record for the Dodgers in six starts. Yeah, that helped their cause. 

So now the Pirates waltzed over to the boy with the leather jacket and think they can change the guy who had the worst RA9-WAR in all of baseball last year. Volvquez has pitched parts of nine seasons in the Majors. He has pitched 850 innings. His career WHIP is 1.505. In all of those years and starts and innings, he has compiled 1.7 rWAR. Bad boys don't change, honey.

Roberto Hernandez burst on the scene in 2007 as Fausto Carmona, a fake name with a fake age and who knows what else was fake about him. He won 19 games that season and earned a 6.2 rWAR. That was then, this is now. In that one season, he earned 6.2 rWAR, so you would figure his career WAR would be over that, right? Wrong. It sits at 4.7. That is a whole lot of ugly pitching in between.

The Rays thought they could fix him. The Rays can fix anybody. Heck, they even made James Loney look good. They could not fix Roberto Hernandez. On an otherwise winning team, he went 6-13. A ground ball specialist, he has one problem: Just about every non-ground ball goes over the fence. Granted, that might be fluky that a pitcher would have a 20% home run to fly ball rate.

That could be what the Phillies are thinking. After all, Hernandez throws strikes and he throws them often. They can fix him! Good luck with that.

But it has always been this way. Remember Sidney Ponson? Phil Hughes found a home. Harang and Saunders will again too. Heck, the Minnesota Twins make a charity drive of such pitchers every year. Someone is always falling in love with the bad boy thinking he will change. They rarely do. Sometimes, bad is just bad.


Anonymous said...

Pirates are 2/3 so far though...Burnett and Liriano have both worked out well...

William J. Tasker said...

True, Anon. But both had more than one year of success in the past. But point taken.