As discussed in yesterday's
Reliever of the Year article, the Johnson City Cardinals
used what is known as the "piggyback" starting system this year. The piggyback or tandem starting system
pairs two pitchers together as a unit for a game. This year,
The piggyback system - with no personnel changes, no schedule changes and no injuries - would ideally give each of the ten piggyback starters a chance to both start and relieve about seven games during the year. Since the piggyback system pairs two pitchers together to pitch the majority, if not all, of the innings in a game, it seems only fair to name a pair (two pitchers) as the "Johnson City Piggyback Starting Pitchers of the Year".
Jose Mateo, a reliever for
The starters averaged 1.94 appearances per game while pitching seventy-seven percent of the innings. Why not exactly two appearances you ask? Doubleheaders would split the pair into two actual starters since the games were only seven innings so the average was slightly less than two.
The starters slightly outperformed the relievers this year in that they allowed fewer walks, hits, runs, and home runs on average. Their walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) was 1.31 while they strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) was 9.45. The starters averaged 6.93 IP per game. The starters finished with a 3.99 earned run average (ERA) and a 21-24 overall win-loss record.
The starters garnered fifty-eight percent of the team's wins and eighty percent of the team's losses while pitching seventy-seven percent of the team's innings. One starter, Scott McGregor, finished with a perfect 4-0 record and one starter, Carlos Gonzalez, failed to get a win as a starter (0-2). Reynier Gonzalez was the only starter to appear in the maximum number of games (14).
The list below shows the starter's names, number of games pitched as a starter, walks plus innings pitched (WHIP) as a starter, innings pitched as a starter, strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) as a starter, and number of walks per nine innings (BB/9) as a starter. The list is ordered from top to bottom by the number of games pitched as a starter.
With the piggyback starting pitcher system, the starters were sometimes entering the game in a save or hold situation. The starters were able to garner only three saves and seven holds in those situations. The starters had two blown saves for the year (compared to seven last year).
I will pair each of the twelve qualifying starting pitchers above in reverse order of how I would pair them for the award (best pair first). All the statistical rankings are relative to the twelve qualifying starters and are for pitching as a tandem starter only (i.e. not as a reliever).
6th Pair – Brett Zawacki and Carlos GonzalezCarlos Gonzalez really struggled this year but it wasn't all bad news for the just-turned 20-year-old from
Brett Zawacki seemed to have one situation in almost every start where everything kind of fell apart. The really good news is that he is still very young (19 years and 5 months) and he has good velocity on his fastball (low 90s). His foot injury early in the year certainly didn't help him maintain any consistency through the year. He seems to struggle much more with runners on base (.365 batting average allowed) than with the bases empty (.273 BAA). In two years, he still hasn't totaled 40 innings pitched yet. Zawacki will be starting next year and will be competing with many others in spring training for a long season assignment. A repeat with a short season team to get more innings and to work on his pitching success from the stretch seems more likely.
5th Pair – Randy Santos and Reynier Gonzalez
Randy Santos started the season
pitching as well as any starter, however much like Zawacki, he began to have one
tough spot in almost every start that he just couldn't work out of without
giving up several runs.
Reynier Gonzalez' success is all about control. He didn't have enough this year and finished last in BB/9 with 5.2. He had good enough control in back-to-back appearances toward the end of the year to take an Appy League Pitcher of the Week award but he just couldn't locate his pitches consistently. Gonzalez was able to keep his pitches down. He allowed only one home run while leading the team in innings pitched (53.2). Just like Zawacki, he seemed to struggle most with runners on base. He was tenth in WHIP and ninth in ERA (4.36). He will turn 20-years-old next month.
4th Pair – Mike Blazek and Matt North
Mike Blazek started the year as well as any starter but when he injured the fingers on his pitching hand while fielding a groundball, it took him a month to return to his early season success. He had a very good June, a bad July, and a very good August. His bad July really impacted his rating. Blazek could have been much higher with a more consistent year. He will be 20 years old next March and his upside looks very good. Blazek may be the Nick Additon from last year's team.
Matt North has three pitches and when
he can spot all three in good locations and stay healthy while doing it, he is
as good as any starter on the team.
He just couldn't put all of that together consistently. North led the team in home runs allowed
(5) and had to return to
3rd Pair – Jose Mateo and Jon Bravo
Jose Mateo is a groundball machine who
has pitched well when he is a piggyback starter. He is your prototypical
"pitch-to-contact" pitcher. His
secondary pitches need work but his slider is a plus pitch. Mateo has only allowed three home runs
in just over 100 innings pitched.
He had the second-lowest BB/9 and WHIP and the fourth-best ERA
(2.86). He was a starter last year
Jon Bravo doesn't look anything like a starting pitcher but he lets his left arm paint a different picture. The 5'7" 22-year-old was second in K/9 (12.34). He will pitch inside (seven hit batters and only 10 walks). He has good low 90s velocity on his fastball however; his curveball was his primary strikeout pitch. He was very good against left-handed hitters (.192 BAA). His best attribute may be his ability to pitch better with runners on (.189 BAA) and with runners in scoring position (.116 BAA) than he does with the bases empty (.328). He missed a few starts this year with a "tired arm". His future may be as a reliever.
2nd Pair – Adam Veres and Kevin Thomas
Kevin Thomas lost almost a third of the season to shoulder soreness but he was a very good pitch-to-contact performer when he was healthy. His two-seam fastball and slider produced the best groundball-out to fly ball-out ratio of all the starters. He only allowed one home run in 34 innings pitched. He had the third lowest BB/9 and ERA (2.65) and the fifth lowest WHIP. He was the oldest starter at 22 years old so the organization will likely look to challenge him with a full-season position in 2009.
Adam Veres, a 49th round
pick out of
Veres will turn 21 years old just before spring training gets started next year and he should get a close look next year for a return to a starting pitcher position. His .276 BAA was a little high and he still only has 43 innings in exclusively short season levels so the next two years will go a long way to determine what the Cardinals really have in Veres.
Starting Pitchers of the Year – Deryk Hooker and Scott
Deryk Hooker (right), as you might expect from
his name, uses his curve ball to record the majority of his strikeouts. He had the fourth best K/9 (11.6) and
was absolutely dominating on the mound when he could throw his curve
consistently for strikes. He is the
youngest starter at just 19 years and three months. His last outing was the best of the year
Scott McGregor's statistics at
Note: Master article with all 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily announcements: link. (This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home page.)
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