Pitcher of the Year: AZL Padres take II

A two-horse race from the get-go became even more difficult to call down the stretch. Winning by a nose. . .

Whoa! Not so fast. Let's take a look at some facts to back us up first.

Boasting a 1.95 ERA and a .159 average against over five starts earned Ernesto Frieri (pictured above) a spot in the bullpen – where he ironically won six of his seven games.

A veteran of both the Padres Venezuelan Summer League team and their Dominican Summer League team, Frieri entered the year with 108 strikeouts in 86.1 innings of work while walking 39.

The reason for his move to the bullpen was a high walk total, 15 in 18.2 frames as a starter.

When he moved into relief, Frieri was outstanding. He posted a 0.65 ERA in 27.2 innings and held the opposition to a .122 average against. He struck out 39 batters while walking 14.

On the year, Frieri had a 7-1 record with a 1.17 ERA, holding the opposition to a .137 average against. With runners in scoring position, he gave up just four hits in 53 at bats – a minute .075 average.

He is the sexy choice after ranking sixth in the league in strikeouts – despite just 46.1 innings of work.

Geoff Vandel, a 34th round pick out of Shaw high school in Georgia, skipped out on going to Chipola College in Florida to sign with the Padres, albeit a little later than most signees.

Notching his first appearance in the Arizona Rookie League on August 3, Vandel began his dominance. It was just his second game in professional ball that he struck out the side.

He posted a 0.43 ERA in 11 games that spanned 21 innings of work, holding the opposition to a .164 average against.

The lefty allowed two hits in 20 at bats with runners in scoring position and did not allow a hit with RISP and two outs.

He ended his tour with Arizona having struck out 32 while walking only five, possessing a higher strikeout stat than his competition for this award at 13.7 K's per nine innings to Frieri's 11.5.

What separate the two are twenty innings and the situations they were used. Frieri, when used in relief, often found himself on the hill with the game tied while only two of Vandel's appearances came with the game tied.

Vandel impressed with his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Frieri handled the pressure of a tie game with relative ease.

In one of the closest battles for supremacy as the respective Pitcher of the Year, the award goes to Frieri.

He had more pressure situations to deal with and despite a high walk total was dominant with runners in scoring position and held a slim ERA as a reliever.

Vandel, at 18, has the better upside as a consolation prize.

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