Memphis Redbirds Starter of the Year: 2010

Brandon Dickson is The Cardinal Nation/'s top starting pitcher on the Triple-A roster in 2010.

Coming in, I thought that the selection of The Cardinal Nation/ Starting Pitcher of the Year for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds would present a bit of a challenge. I realized that I must keep in mind the same point that I drill home with our writers – "This effort is about selecting the best player this past season, not which one is the top prospect." Fortunately, we have another process coming up later this fall to address the latter.

So, how did I determine Brandon Dickson was the top pitcher on the Cardinals' Pacific Coast League club this past season? I used the numbers to guide me, of course!

First of all, I narrowed down the list of 13 starters that opened at least one game for the Redbirds in 2010 to the top six, each with nine or more starts. Eliminated from consideration were Ryan Kulik (eight starts), David Kopp (five), Rich Hill (four), Nate Robertson, Chuckie Fick and Kyle Lohse (three) and Trey Hearne (one).

Two of the top six were then factored out by the fact they did not make at least a dozen starts for the team, Oneli Perez and Adam Ottavino. Perez was in effect a swingman, moving from relief into the rotation as needed with Ottavino having good rate stats before he stepped up to St. Louis.

That leaves the big four of Lance Lynn, P.J. Walters, Even MacLane and Dickson.

Beginning with the most basic stats, Lynn led the staff with 29 regular season starts and 13 wins. In a good indication of his inconsistency at times, Lynn also endured the most losses with ten. He did finish the season strongly, including a team-record 16-strikeout performance in the playoffs.

Dickson bested Lynn by two innings for the most thrown by a Memphis starter and importantly, led the starters in both ERA and FIP (fielding independent pitching, which removes all factors out of a pitcher's control).

Lynn 13 10 4.77 4.43 29 0 0 164
Dickson 11 8 3.25 3.53 27 0 0 166
MacLane 7 7 4.61 4.49 23 1 0 142.2
Walters 8 5 3.79 3.73 18 0 0 107
Perez 2 4 8.08 4.49 11 0 0 45.2
Ottavino 5 3 3.97 3.70 9 0 0 47.2

Dickson kept the ball down with the best groundball rate on the staff resulting. Not surprisingly, he also yielded the fewest home runs among the big four.

Because of his stinginess in giving up so few walks, MacLane had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio with Walters next. The two tied for the lowest WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). Despite a relatively-high fly ball ratio, Walters posted the lowest opponent batting average of the four.

Lynn 164 96 87 21 62 141 2.27 1.38 0.99 0.259
Dickson 179 77 60 11 53 136 2.57 1.40 1.61 0.276
MacLane 157 78 73 21 19 78 4.11 1.24 1.12 0.286
Walters 104 50 45 12 29 105 3.62 1.24 0.79 0.253
Perez 62 43 41 5 31 42 1.35 2.04 0.82 0.321
Ottavino 43 23 21 5 12 43 3.58 1.15 1.54 0.239

The final table also takes the post-season into account. Dickson paced the club with the highest percentage of quality starts at 58.6. (A quality start is an outing of six or more innings in duration with three of fewer earned runs allowed.)

Walters tied Dickson with the unenviable stat of having been given the least offensive support at 4.9 runs per start but still led the club with a team winning percentage of 70 during his starts.

In an interesting sidebar, left-hander MacLane tossed the only complete game for the club in 2010. He went nine innings against Nashville on June 22, but yielded ten hits and three earned runs in a 6-3 defeat for both the pitcher and his team.

Digressing one step further, do you believe the Pacific Coast League is a hitter's circuit? Obviously, no Memphis hurler tossed a complete game shutout in 2010. In fact, one has to go all the way back to May 19, 2005 to find such a result, when Anthony Reyes spun a shutout at Portland in a 2-0 Redbirds win. The Redbirds have played 800 games since.

Starter GS Tm TM win % Run Spt QS QS pct.
Walters 20 14-6 70.0% 4.9 11 55.0%
Lynn 30 19-11 63.3% 5.7 16 53.3%
Dickson 29 18-11 62.1% 4.9 17 58.6%
Ottavino 9 5-4 55.6% 5 3 33.3%
MacLane 23 12-11 52.2% 5.5 11 47.8%
Perez 11 4-7 36.4% 5.9 2 18.2%

Putting all this together, it really came down to Dickson and Walters. The former had more starts and innings pitched, a higher percentage of quality starts, lower ERA and FIP, allowed fewer home runs and had a greater percentage of ground balls. The latter had a better personal and team winning percentage, a higher strikeout-to-walk ratio, a lower WHIP and lower opponent batting average.

Finally, Dickson was one of two Redbirds named to the 2010 PCL All-Star Game, along with closer Fernando Salas. Dickson was the only Memphis starter to capture one of the ten possible Pitcher of the Month awards for 2010 (one each from The Cardinal Nation and the Cardinals organization for the months of April through August). Dickson picked up the Cardinals system's nod for June.

After the season concluded, ran a reader contest to select the top starting pitcher across both Triple-A leagues. Of the six nominated candidates, Dickson amassed 55 percent of the vote to win easily despite being the only one without MLB experience.

Congratulations are offered to Brandon Dickson, The Cardinal Nation/ 2010 Memphis Redbirds Starting Pitcher of the Year.

Note: Link to article with all award winners across the system as well as 2010 team recaps, exclusively for subscribers!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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