…. Backtalk

Readers unite in backtalking the OBM God. ;-)

Jim Adams and I are usually in agreement, but I think he may have misunderstood my earlier post about Hennessey:

…. The thing about pitchers is, sometimes they surprise you. If a guy can’t hit by the time he’s 25 he’s not going to hit, period. But with pitchers, there’s always that chance. Did anyone think that Livan Hernandez had it in him to do what he’s done the past two years? Did anyone think, back in 2002, that Joe Nathan would become a top-notch closer? How about Dustin Hermansen? Russ Ortiz’s minor league record didn’t look like much. Kirk Reuter and Felix Rodriguez looked like nothing at the time the Giants acquired them. And Dave Stewart was a 30-year nobody who had been released by Texas at the time the A’s acquired him; he later won 20 games four years in a row.

So I say let’s give Hennessey his shot. Sure, he’s probably nothing special, but the kid has been through some tough times, he’s not blocking any Grade-A prospects, and maybe he’ll surprise us. I am rooting for him, and I hope he’ll be one of the feel-good stories of the second half. In a season like this one we need all the good feelings we can get.

Livan Hernandez was an established major league pitcher at age 21. He was striking guys out at a better than league average rate from the minute he put on a uniform. The odds that he would have an upswing as he matured were pretty damn good, even though I was as frustrated by him as anyone. But again, that illustrates the organizational problems the Giants have had during the last several years. In large part, the Giants frustrations with Livan had to do with their own insistence that he was the team’s ace, something that he resisted strenuously. Had they allowed him to grow into the role, as he seems to have done in Washington, perhaps he would have embraced it and he’d still be here. Instead, they alienated him much the same way they alienated Jeff Kent, and he’s at the All Star game in a different uniform.

Russ Ortiz was an established major leaguer at 24 years old, and by the time the Giants traded him, had a track record of almost 1000 innings striking out 7 men per 9 innings to look at when determining whether he or Woody should be the guy to give $15 million dollars to. Felix Rodriguez was striking out guys (more than 7 per 9 IP) from the minute he was a pro.

Joe Nathan, coming off surgery, still struck out almost ten guys per 9 IP in 2003, whether he had the makeup to be a closer isn’t the question; it’s whether the Giants brass understood what to look for in making these choices? In my opinion, they didn’t, and they still don’t.

Rueter’s the only real outlier, there’s really no explanation for his success, but the rest of the guy’s we’re talking about (even Hermanson) have always had the one thing needed to be a major-league pitcher -the ability to strike guys out. Hennessey does not have that ability.

What are the odds of him becoming another Rueter? 500-1?

You mention Dave Stewart as a guy who came from nowhere to have a terrific run at 30 years old. Well, Stewart, when he was struggling, managed to strike out hitters right around Hennessey’s rate, (5.55 per 9IP, 600 innings, 380 strikeouts) when Oakland got him. His strikeout numbers went up a bit under LaRussa, but he was pitching for a team that was an offensive juggernaut (Bash Brothers, et al), and his overall numbers were never quite as good as his won-loss record. He averaged around 250 innings per season(!) during that run, in around 35 starts per, meaning he was allowed to stay in games until the offense gave him a lead, and then Eckersley made sure he didn’t lose it. And anyway, Stewart’s as big an outlier as Rueter, a pitcher who put it together at 30 after flailing around for ten seasons is pretty rare.

Meanwhile, we’ve got a manager who seems to think a 25-year old pitcher, fresh from a two week stay in Fresno, finally got the one piece of coaching advice he’s been missing all these years and now deserves a shot in the second half, even if it means messing up the teams plans.

That was my point, anyway. Not that Hennessey’s garbage, but that the Giants are clueless right now. They have no idea what to do, why to do it, and when to.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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