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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Megdal: Jon Niese Reality Check

The Niese is

was nice?

“The foursome of [Zack] Wheeler, the pitching prospect acquired in the Carlos Beltran trade, [Jeurys] Familia, [Matt] Harvey, and Jenrry Mejia, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, form a nice future nucleus. Throw in Dillon Gee and Jon Niese, perhaps even Mike Pelfrey, and the Mets should have the type of pitching around which to build a contender.” John Harper, NY Daily News

This is not to criticize Harper for this piece, which illustrates nicely the extent to which the Mets are now collecting high-upside pitching prospects. But I think it reflects the way Jon Niese has simply been overlooked. And I’m not sure exactly why that is.

Niese doesn’t have a signature plus-plus pitch, I guess, though an arsenal with several pitches he can throw for strikes is more important. His win totals, not that it should matter, haven’t been impressive the way Dillon Gee’s have been in 2011. But of the entire list Harper mentioned, Niese is easily the best bet to be a frontline starting pitcher for the Mets in 2013.

...This is not to suggest that Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey aren’t strong pitching prospects. But Harvey’s xFIP has only been a bit better than Niese’s in 2011. Familia’s and Wheeler’s have been about the same. And that’s been at high-A primarily for those three, while Niese has been doing it against major league hitters.

Repoz Posted: August 04, 2011 at 03:23 PM | 78 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mets, projections, sabermetrics

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   1. Banta Posted: August 04, 2011 at 03:49 PM (#3892654)
Niese is good, but if one of the pitchers Howard mentioned doesn't turn out better than him, it will be disappointing (although entirely possible). Although it seems that Niese has stepped it up this year and although I do expect the Mets pitchers to gain a bit in the offseason once park factors are updated, as it stands now, Niese has an ERA+ of 95 compared to his 94 last year. Solid pitcher and great to have cost-controlled, but if he's your best pitcher, you're in trouble (which he basically has been).

I can see him getting a bit better, but I'm not really seeing a ceiling above 110-115 ERA+ and for the reason Howard mentioned. It's really hard to be great without a "signature plus-plus" pitch. If we're projecting for 2013, Niese has the best chance of being on the roster, but I just don't see him ever making the leap to ACE, which the other guys at least have the potential for that.
   2. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:12 PM (#3892675)
Banta just said everything I came here to say.
   3. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:35 PM (#3892692)
His FIP is 3.30 right now. xFip is 3.21, right between Felix Hernandez and Dan Haren. He really just needs to hold onto those peripherals, and let his ERA catch up to them, to be in borderline ace category.

He's striking out almost 8 per 9. All of the elite pitchers in the majors are topping that this year, but it's still a good number. Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay are usually around that number.

Believe it or not, he ranks 31st in K/9, but 46th in BB/9. So he has good room for improvement in the part of his job that relies less on developing a "signature plus-plus" pitch.

Not saying that this will happen, but IMO pitchers are unpredictable enough that I don't feel comfortable putting a ceiling on Niese's potential.
   4. billyshears Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:37 PM (#3892695)
Jon Niese is the new John Maine. I actually think Niese has it in him to be elite. He strikes guys out. He doesn't walk too many. His DIPS ERA, FIP, xFIP are all significantly better than his actual ERA. When he's on, his cutter/curveball combination can be very, very hard to hit. But then after cruising for a few innings, he unravels and gives up 3 runs. And then he's left the game after giving up 3 runs in 6 or 7 innings and it's just another decent Jon Niese start. Just like John Maine.

Niese is only 24. His control could improve further. He could gain composure so that he learns to limit big innings. It wouldn't surprise me if he is a 120 ERA+ pitcher in 2012. But I'm beginning to get the sense that we will spend a lot of time waiting for something that probably won't happen.
   5. JJ1986 Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:56 PM (#3892711)
The Harper quote doesn't imply that Niese is being overlooked. It implies that Niese is a sure thing to be in the rotation.
   6. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:56 PM (#3892712)
I like Niese, but I'd take the "field" (Mejia, Harvey, Wheeler, and Familia) over him if the question is who is more likely to be a front-line starter for the Mets at some point. But I also don't like the idea of them as a group somehow being the nucleus of a rotation. Been there, done that, 15 years ago. It just doesn't work that way. A group of prospects like that is good not because of what they will or even may do together, but because having a group gives you a more realistic chance that one of them will become the actual major league pitcher he has the pure stuff to be. Two years ago, once Niese reached the majors, the only guy in the minor league system with that kind of stuff was Mejia. Familia has since developed nicely, and they've now added Harvey and Wheeler.

If the Mets turn Mejia, Harvey, Wheeler, and Familia into one rotation ace and one guy they trade for something useful, they'll have done solid work. I would just expect the one ace, if they get him (and I believe they will -- if only because our luck can't stay rotten forever, and the Mets DO have a legacy of developing great pitchers, if nothing else), to be better than Niese.

And one more thing: if Niese does end up being better than the best of those four (whomever that turns out to be), the Mets will be back in the post-season sooner than any of us might think.
   7. zack Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:00 PM (#3892715)
Do you tender Pelfrey this off-season? He's arb eligible, and I think they have to pay him a minimum of roughly $3.3 million.

I'm guessing the short answer will be "of course", and it's not like there are a whole lot of other options.

Some comparables (2009-2011), guys who reliably pitch ~200 innings, don't strike anyone out, and don't provide many wins

Name               GS      IP      K/9     BB/9    HR/9    GB%     HR/FB   ERA     xFIP    WAR     2011 Salary
Paul Maholm              86   525.2    5.34    2.91    0.67  50.80
%   7.50%    4.35    4.21     7.1  $5.75
Jeremy Guthrie           88   560.2    5.15    2.52    1.27  38.40
%   9.70%     4.4    4.73       5  $5.75
Mike Pelfrey             87     527    5.02    3.01    0.84  48.50
%   8.50%    4.35     4.4     4.6
Trevor Cahill            86   522.2    5.46    3.43    1.02  53.10
%  12.10%    3.81    4.23     4.4  $0.50
Joe Saunders             86     531    4.95    2.98    1.25  44.50
%  11.50%    4.27    4.54     3.5  $5.50 


*as part of a 3-year/$14.5 and a 5-year/$30.5 contract, respectively

I guess you pick him up for another year.
   8. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:09 PM (#3892719)
There are, by the way, a LOT of really good little tidbits in Harper's column, talking about Harvey and Familia. For instance (re Harvey):

"He got 16 swings at curveballs in his last start, and not one of them even made contact. I know it's Double-A, but this kid has a big-league, swing-and-miss curveball. . . . Bryce Harper is the real thing, believe me, but Harvey made him look so bad with that curveball. He struck him out twice with it, and honest to God, the guy swung over one of them by at least a foot."


Backman also made the point that Harvey's numbers in AA are a bit deceptive because he's been hurt when throwing his change-up, which is the pitch he's got to work on -- where they sacrifice pure results for development. The article has both Backman and a scout from another club saying Harvey and Familia have major-league quality fastball and curveballs right now.

It's a good read.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:17 PM (#3892729)
And one more thing: if Niese does end up being better than the best of those four (whomever that turns out to be), the Mets will be back in the post-season sooner than any of us might think.


Well, it's still possible that Niese is just the new Ted Lilly, and none of the other four reach that level. Lots of things are possible.

The best Mets pitching prospects, from Generation K, not including current prospects, ranked very hastily:

Paul Wilson
Kazmir
Pulsipher
Pelfrey
Isringhausen
Dotel
Heilman
G. Roberts
P. Strange
Y. Petit
Humber
Niese

Right now, Wheeler/Harvey/Familia/Mejia would probably all rank somewhere between Dotel and Niese. That's terrific, it's quality we haven't had in years, but it's not a guarantee of anything. I suppose the odds are that two of them flame out completely, one turns into a starter (maybe good, maybe just OK), and one turns into a reliever.
   10. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:26 PM (#3892737)
Backman also made the point that Harvey's numbers in AA are a bit deceptive because he's been hurt when throwing his change-up, which is the pitch he's got to work on -- where they sacrifice pure results for development. The article has both Backman and a scout from another club saying Harvey and Familia have major-league quality fastball and curveballs right now.


This is a lot of the reason why I tend to disregard minor league stats (and spring training stats). The Mets have stated that they want their minor league pitchers to throw 14% changeups. So you have pitchers being forced to work on a pitch that isn't their strongest pitch. This leaves them open to more walks, hits(and HRs) and fewer strikeouts. So, their numbers aren't going to be an accurate reflection of their ability.
   11. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:39 PM (#3892753)
Right now, Wheeler/Harvey/Familia/Mejia would probably all rank somewhere between Dotel and Niese.


Wow, do I have some issues with that list, or at least with placing the current group in the below-Dotel half of it. Heilman, for example, was the 18th pick in the 2001 draft, and never had a minor league season (other than 38 innings at St. Lucie) in which he averaged a strikeout an inning. IMHO, there's no way he was a better prospect than either Wheeler (# 6 in 2009) or Harvey (# 7 in 2010).

Grant Roberts was an 11th round draft pick. Petit never had elite stuff. The highest Dotel was ever rated by BA was # 45.

Honestly, the current crop is clearly regarded as being comparable to the Wilson-to-Isringhausen range, somewhere. At least Wheeler and Harvey are, and I think Familia is getting there. Mejia is going to depend on how he comes back from the Tommy John surgery, obviously Now, they could clearly fall short of being great or even good. But as prospects? You are vastly underrating where these guys fit.
   12. zack Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3892755)
There is a whole lot of baby in that bathwater, Mark.
   13. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:55 PM (#3892773)
There is a whole lot of baby in that bathwater, Mark.


Obviously. But the further away from the majors a player is, the more development they have to do (which is why they are so far away from the majors). The more development they have, the more they are going to be doing things other than throwing their best pitches. Teams often have players change their pitching motion or swing in the low minors, so the players won't be putting up their best numbers while they are in the middle of making that change.

Overall, if a player is below AA, I'd lean on the scouts more than the stats. AA or above is when I would actually start caring about the stats.
   14. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:56 PM (#3892775)
Sam -

Kazmir, Wilson and Pulsipher were all widely regarded as elite prospects. None of our boys are at that level yet. They're still looking up at those three.

Pelfrey and Isringhausen were both terrific prospects. Pelfrey was a big draft pick (like Wheeler/Harvey) and stormed through the minors with good K rates. Isringhausen didn't get as much love from BA but he had fantastic numbers.

(Grant Roberts was ranked #28 by BA in 1998, close to where Wheeler is today. His career numbers then were an ERA under 2.30 and more than a strikeout per inning. He fell in subsequent years.)

I think I may have overrated Dotel, but that was my only error. But that #45 ranking came in the offseason. After that ranking was released, he struck out 90 in 70 IP at Norfolk, and would have been much higher, probably at least in the 30s, which is above where Mejia was (before his injury) and near Wheeler. Familia would be behind Dotel. Heilman was also ranked #45, and also followed that up with a good AAA performance, although with a low K rate. He would have also been in the 30s in a mid-season ranking.

I think you could argue that Matt Harvey is at the Izzy/Pelfrey level right now. Wheeler and Familia are probably in Dotel territory. Mejia is tough to gauge with his injury.
   15. JJ1986 Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:58 PM (#3892778)
This is that list with the highest BA ranking for each pitcher.

Paul Wilson (2)
Scott Kazmir (7)
Bill Pulsipher (12)
Mike Pelfrey (20)
Grant Roberts (29)
Jason Isringhausen (37)
Octavio Dotel (45)
Aaron Heilman (45)
Yusmeiro Petit (46)
Phil Humber (50)
Pat Strange (63)
Jon Niese (UR)

Harvey and Wheeler would slot between Roberts and Isringhausen based on the midseason list. Mejia isn't eligible but would probably be somewhere below Izzy. Familia wouldn't rank above anyone except Niese and maybe Strange. None of them are prospects near the level of Wilson or Kazmir.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:04 PM (#3892782)
So in retrospect I should say that the foursome rank somewhere between Isringhausen and Pat Strange. I realize my mistake was on the back end of that comparison. They are all better now than Strange, Petit or Niese were. Maybe.
   17. zack Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:07 PM (#3892785)
Similar to the above, here's all the BA pre-season top-100 rankings for the listed pitchers, by age. Hopefully not completely unreadable:

Human Worm Baby                   18      19      20      21      22      23      24
Paul Wilson                                               
#16     #2
Kazmir                            #11     #12     #7
Pulsipher                                 #21     #12
Pelfrey                                                   #36     #20
Isringhausen                                              #37
Dotel                                                                             #45
Heilman                                                           #78     #45
GRoberts                                #29     #79     #84
PStrange                        #78     #63
YPetit                                  #46     #69
Humber                                                    #50             #73
Niese                                                     #77

Wheeler                                   #49     #55
Meija                                     #56     #44 


I think, in BA's (questionable) eyes, there are four clear tiers:
Wilson-Kazmir-Pulsipher
Pelfrey-Isringhausen
Dotel-Heilman-Wheeler-Meija
Everybody else

Goetz, Peterson and Brad Holt also got some very late top-100 love of guys I spot checked.
   18. zack Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:08 PM (#3892786)
I don't know why that turned out blue and orange, but <3 synchronicity.
   19. JJ1986 Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:12 PM (#3892790)
Eddie Yarnall ranked 60 at one point.
   20. Banta Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:17 PM (#3892794)
I can't believe Dotel made it that high onto the list at age 24.. I mean, he always struck out guys, but he was pretty old for the level and only had one year where he threw a real amount of innings.

What was his story anyway? Visa problems or something? They signed him in '93 as a 19 year old, but he didn't make it into the system until '95.
   21. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:20 PM (#3892796)
Dotel-Heilman-Wheeler-Meija


Harvey would have to slot in here as well, given his placement in the 30s in their most current (mid-season 2011) rankings, and Jim Callis's clear statement that he believes Wheeler and Harvey are extremely close as the Mets' # 1 & 2 prospects. And that's not just how BA sees it, by the way -- the other prospect mavens also like them both about equally well.

I guess I'll accede to placing Heilman here, but I never thought that highly of him. I always thought his ceiling was as a mid-rotation starter.

I also bet we start to see Familia move up, at least into the lower half of the top 100, in a lot of pre-season 2012 rankings.

EDIT:

Harvey is ranked # 30 and Wheeler # 35 in BA's mid-season update.
   22. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:21 PM (#3892798)
I can't believe Dotel made it that high onto the list at age 24 and having a pretty scattered minor league career. I mean, he always struck out guys, but he was pretty old for the level.


He was 24 (about average for AAA) and was striking out over 10/9IP. In 1998, the average ages in AAA was around 26 and there was only 7 pitchers younger than 23. And Dotel was 4th in the league in K/9IP. So I can see why BA was bullish on him.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:23 PM (#3892801)
Dotel had fantastic stuff. He struck out 145 in 105 IP with Houston one year. If he met the 1,000 IP minimum, he would be B-R's active leader in K/9!
   24. Banta Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:25 PM (#3892803)
And as for Niese, his K and BB rates are virtually the same in the majors as they were in the minors now(.6 off his minors K-rate, career BB rate is identical). He posted a 3.75 ERA down there. He had a better homerun rate in the minors .5 to .9. I know that this is quick and dirty, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's a guy who's gonna underperform his FIP consistently.
   25. Banta Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:27 PM (#3892804)
I guess I'm underrating Dotel, (which is weird because I really thought he could turn into Pedro Martinez when he came up). I was just a bit shocked that he was 25 when he made his major league debut... I could have sworn he was younger.
   26. Banta Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:35 PM (#3892810)
Ok, I think I did the math right... Niese's minor league FIP would be 3.21 relative to his minor league ERA of 3.75. His major league FIP to this point is 3.80 relative to his major league ERA of 4.22.
   27. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:38 PM (#3892811)
I was just a bit shocked that he was 25 when he made his major league debut... I could have sworn he was younger.


I was surprised at that too. But he was a legit prospect. And age is so much less important with pitching prospects.
   28. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 07:29 PM (#3892858)
Speaking of Mets' aces, anybody want to make something out of nothing -- as in, the lack of any word on the check-up Johan was supposed to have after "lingering discomfort" in his shoulder after pitching at St. Lucie last week?

Is this a "no news is good news" thing, in the "at least they haven't announced they're sending him to see Dr. Andrews" sense?

Or an "uh-oh," they're trying to figure out how to spin the bad news, he's shutting it down for the winter, kind of thing?
   29. Walt Davis Posted: August 04, 2011 at 07:42 PM (#3892871)
So, their numbers aren't going to be an accurate reflection of their ability.

Or they are, at least as regards the important factor of their ML-ready ability. If your minor-league numbers aren't great because you can't fool A-ball hitters with your changeup, you've probably got a long way to go to be an ML pitcher (well, starter at least).

And those numbers are only "inaccurate" if most organizations don't have their prospects working on changeups too -- which I find unlikely. They may not have a strict 14% rule but every starter in the low minors is working on his 2nd and 3rd pitches.
   30. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 08:46 PM (#3892940)
Or they are, at least as regards the important factor of their ML-ready ability.


I agree, but that's not a particularly important quality -- being major-league ready -- for a prospect like Harvey, who has thrown all of 105 minor league innings (to date). To the extent the Mets are worried about how close he is to the majors, that would say more about them as an organization then it would about Harvey. Fortunately, I don't think Alderson & Co. are concerned at all about that (right now). They seem quite clearly to be focused on his development and not his pace to the majors. It's a bit too soon to say the same about their handling of Wheeler, but there's certainly no reason to say they would treat him any differently.
   31. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:09 PM (#3892991)
Speaking of Mets' aces, anybody want to make something out of nothing -- as in, the lack of any word on the check-up Johan was supposed to have after "lingering discomfort" in his shoulder after pitching at St. Lucie last week?

Is this a "no news is good news" thing, in the "at least they haven't announced they're sending him to see Dr. Andrews" sense?

Or an "uh-oh," they're trying to figure out how to spin the bad news, he's shutting it down for the winter, kind of thing?


According to Adam Rubin, the Mets said that Santana didn't get to New York until 3pm. So any status update will be either late today or tomorrow.
   32. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:11 PM (#3892992)
I agree, but that's not a particularly important quality -- being major-league ready -- for a prospect like Harvey, who has thrown all of 105 minor league innings (to date).


He also had about 268ip in the NCAA :-)
   33. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:13 PM (#3892993)

Or they are, at least as regards the important factor of their ML-ready ability. If your minor-league numbers aren't great because you can't fool A-ball hitters with your changeup, you've probably got a long way to go to be an ML pitcher (well, starter at least).


If they are in A ball, then they are not ML ready. If they were close to ML ready, then they would (in the majority of cases) be closer to the majors. Since they are not ML-ready, their performance is a secondary concern to their development. So, if the Mets believe that Wheeler needs to work on his changeup more (because it isn't good enough), then he will be throwing a not good enough pitch more often with the accompanying bad results. But, from a development standpoint, he is right on track despite the bad results.
   34. Something Other Posted: August 05, 2011 at 05:06 AM (#3893222)
Dotel had fantastic stuff. He struck out 145 in 105 IP with Houston one year. If he met the 1,000 IP minimum, he would be B-R's active leader in K/9!
Yikes. That's impressive. The only guy anywhere near the top of the K/9 list whose career I wouldn't want is Oliver Perez's.

In TFA Howard linked to, Harper writes,

To contend next year, the Mets probably still need to hope that Santana can recover from shoulder surgery and once again be something of an ace next season, because their young pitching probably isn't ready to make them San Francisco Giants East quite yet. But at least you can see the possibilities.


Is this at all likely, that the Mets contend in 2012? Other than as a fluke, I mean.

The tea leaves of the offseason are unreadable, but most of us would take 25 starts with an ERA of 3.75 from Santana next season. That leaves the Mets with a 2 through 5 of Dickey, Niese, Pelfrey, and Gee. Dickey will be 37 and to date has one and a half good ML seasons in a fifteen year pro career. However we might read his peripherals, Niese has been utterly consistent in putting up an ERA+ in the mid90s. Pelfrey never has turned the corner, and has only two respectable seasons, seasons with an ERA+ over 85. This season isn't one of the good ones. Lastly, there's Gee, 4.14 FIP and an xFIP of 4.53. I probably put less stock in those stats than most, but they back up my sense that he's been more than a little fortunate. The Mets have no one else under contract likely to put up tolerable numbers as a starter in 2012. (I'm not assuming they'll be able to bring Capuano back.)

Short of getting very good luck with every single one of those guys, that's not a contending rotation, especially not with the 2012 Mets lineup even assuming Jose Reyes does come back.
   35. There are no words... (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:08 PM (#3893351)
So, if the Mets believe that Wheeler needs to work on his changeup more (because it isn't good enough), then he will be throwing a not good enough pitch more often with the accompanying bad results. But, from a development standpoint, he is right on track despite the bad results.


I like this. Having a good process triumph over results is the second best outcome you can have.
   36. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:18 PM (#3893361)
So, if the Mets believe that Wheeler needs to work on his changeup more (because it isn't good enough), then he will be throwing a not good enough pitch more often with the accompanying bad results. But, from a development standpoint, he is right on track despite the bad results.


I am very suspicious of this argument. It is so self-serving. If his ERA is low, it's good news. If his ERA is high, it's also good news, because it means he's getting good practice.
   37. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:54 PM (#3893395)
I don't think there's any reason to be suspicious of the development-over-results argument in the case of a pitching prospect in his first couple of years in the minors, and even longer than that for a kid signed out of HS or Latin America. Adjusting to the pros, learning new pitches or new delivery (the Giants almost immediately tried to change Wheeler's wind-up), moving up levels. Certainly, there comes a point when the foundation work should start to pay dividends, but that's not a reason to be skeptical of the point; it's a reason to pay attention to the trend for each pitching prospect and see whether he is showing better results over time. You don't ignore results -- you just look at results in context of realistic expectations, and look for progress. If Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey aren't getting better with their secondary pitches a year from now, and certainly by 2013, as reflected in results, it's a problem.
   38. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 07:36 PM (#3893540)
By the way, last night in Altoona, Matt Harvey got his first AA win, going five shutout innings (he was lifted for a pinch-hitter as the Mets broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth):

5 3 0 0 1 4

Here are his seven AA starts, in order:

4.2 9 4 4 2 4
5.0 5 2 2 1 5
3.0 6 7 7 1 5
5.0 5 2 2 3 9
5.0 6 3 3 1 5
7.0 4 1 1 2 10
5.0 3 0 0 1 4

Call me crazy, but that sure looks like a pitcher who is adjusting to the level and showing what he is capable of doing. 34.2 IP, 42 K's, 11 BB -- and a pretty obvious positive trend (20 hits in his first three starts/12.2 IP, and then 18 hits in his next 22 innings).

Maybe it's a sample size fluke, or maybe it's a young player showing his talent and showing how well he adapts and implements instruction as he goes. It's too soon to tell, but what's wrong with seeing what he's doing, and being optimistic about it? Time enough to be sour if and when his development stalls or he hurts his arm or he gets busted for drugs or whatever else among the 150 things that could go wrong.

EDIT:

P.S. -- In that game, there was also a sighting of the rarely seen, almost extinct Reese Havens-bird. It's on the endangered species list, so please be very quiet about this.
   39. Conor Posted: August 05, 2011 at 07:47 PM (#3893550)
Is this at all likely, that the Mets contend in 2012? Other than as a fluke, I mean.

The tea leaves of the offseason are unreadable, but most of us would take 25 starts with an ERA of 3.75 from Santana next season. That leaves the Mets with a 2 through 5 of Dickey, Niese, Pelfrey, and Gee. Dickey will be 37 and to date has one and a half good ML seasons in a fifteen year pro career. However we might read his peripherals, Niese has been utterly consistent in putting up an ERA+ in the mid90s. Pelfrey never has turned the corner, and has only two respectable seasons, seasons with an ERA+ over 85. This season isn't one of the good ones. Lastly, there's Gee, 4.14 FIP and an xFIP of 4.53. I probably put less stock in those stats than most, but they back up my sense that he's been more than a little fortunate. The Mets have no one else under contract likely to put up tolerable numbers as a starter in 2012. (I'm not assuming they'll be able to bring Capuano back.)


Seems to me the only way the Mets are competing next year is if they get ace level pitching from someone, be it Santana returning to his old form, Niese matching his peripherals, or a guy like Harvey making the leap quickly. (If i had to rank the 3, it would probably be in that order, but I don't think any of them are all that likely).

I'm pretty ready for the Mets to be done with Pelfrey. Dickey is a knuckleballer, so I am not sure how much you can look at his entire career. I think you can count on him to be pretty solid next year. I'm waiting for Niese to make the next step, like I said, the peripheral numbers are there, but he hasn't been able to put it together. Gee strikes me as just a guy, when he's making the league minimum he's a nice guy to have around in the 4/5/6 spot, but nothing more than that. I think the Mets would be interested in bringing Capuano back, and believe it or not, his FIP and xFIP since he's come back from the TJ are better than the numbers before the injury.

But yeah, the main issue is the lack of heft at the top of the rotation. If Santana is 90% of what he once was, and Niese pitches to the 3.3 xFIP, the Mets rotation looks pretty solid, but what are the odds both of those things happen? So if the rotation is Santana/Niese/Dickey/Capuano/Gee. That's probably ok, but the odds of it being much better seem to a be a lot lower than the odds of it imploding.

They do have some pretty intriguing arms with Wheeler/Harvey/Familia/Mejia, but I'm thinking the earliest you see any of those guys is mid 2012, and that's probably a best case scenario. (Though I suppose maybe Harvey could be ready a little before that, I'd be pretty surprised if you see any of the other 3 before that even in a best case)
   40. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:15 PM (#3893565)
If the next true Mets' contender is going to be led by dominant starting pitching, it's not going to be in 2012. The young arms show a lot of promise, but even if the best-case scenario comes true, the development of these kids is going to require patience as they learn to utilize their talent and perfect the secondary pitches that will make their best stuff that much better. The Mets rushed Mike Pelfrey and it's a big part of the reason he will almost certainly never be as good as he might have been. Sure, maybe this is all he was ever going to be, but we'll never know if another couple of hundred innings honing secondary pitches in conditions where winning wasn't the primary point could have made a big difference.

If the Mets assemble an offense where a decent set of starters can keep them in contention, then 2012 could be interesting. Otherwise, 2013 is the first year we can think of where the question of the genuine quality of some of these young starters, and how fast they arrive without being rushed, could be important for the Mets' chances to contend.
   41. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:28 PM (#3893572)
I am very suspicious of this argument. It is so self-serving. If his ERA is low, it's good news. If his ERA is high, it's also good news, because it means he's getting good practice.


That's a bad argument. It's also not the argument I'm making. I'm saying that it doesn't matter whether he ERA is high or low, since he's so far away from the majors and pitching against hitters that are equally far away from the majors. If a guy as a 2.00 or 5.00 ERA in A ball, then I don't care. If he has a 5.00 ERA in AA, I start worrying. If he has a 2.00 ERA in AA, then he's almost MLB ready. If he has a 5.00 ERA in AAA, then he's most likely not going to be in the majors. If he has a 2.00 ERA in AAA, then bring him up.
   42. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:35 PM (#3893576)
With regard to Harvey in AA, I don't think you even need to hang your hat on trends or the idea that he's adjusting. His peripherals are nearly identical, down the line, to his A+ numbers. Looks just like a little BABIP fluke. If he keeps pitching this well (10.9 K/9, 3.8 K/BB) the results will follow quickly.
   43. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:36 PM (#3893578)
If a guy as a 2.00 or 5.00 ERA in A ball, then I don't care.


I do.

I mean, I'm with you on the distance to the majors thing, and I'm with Sam on the skills are more important than results thing, but you're both stretching your arguments too far. Results matter at every level, good results are always a good sign, bad results should not just be waved away.

Zack Wheeler with a 2.50 ERA in A-ball is a better prospect than Zack Wheeler with a 4.00 ERA in A-ball.
   44. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:48 PM (#3893584)

Zack Wheeler with a 2.50 ERA in A-ball is a better prospect than Zack Wheeler with a 4.00 ERA in A-ball.


Not necessarily. Let's say that Zack Wheeler is using his fastball to overpower A ball hitters, but not working on his secondary pitches. Then he is getting good results, but not working on stuff that will make him a better prospect. The upper minors are littered with pitchers who had great results in A ball, but didn't have good enough stuff (or pitches) to make it further. Cough*Yusmeiro Petit*cough
   45. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:54 PM (#3893590)
Not necessarily. Let's say that Zack Wheeler is using his fastball to overpower A ball hitters, but not working on his secondary pitches. Then he is getting good results, but not working on stuff that will make him a better prospect.


You're right, it is not necessarily true. But in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary, we ought to assume that it's true.

Also, Petit is a weird example - kind of the opposite of what you're talking about. He was ignored by scouts because he had bad stuff, and was apparently getting minor league hitters out with a polished and diverse repertoire of pitches.
   46. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:00 PM (#3893593)
Zack Wheeler with a 2.50 ERA in A-ball is a better prospect than Zack Wheeler with a 4.00 ERA in A-ball.


What I should have said here is:

Zack Wheeler with a 2.50 ERA in A-ball will be universally regarded as a better prospect than Zack Wheeler with a 4.00 ERA in A-ball.
   47. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:01 PM (#3893594)
You're right, it is not necessarily true. But in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary, we ought to assume that it's true.


Why?

Also, Petit is a weird example - kind of the opposite of what you're talking about. He was ignored by scouts because he had bad stuff, and was apparently getting minor league hitters out with a polished and diverse repertoire of pitches.


He had great results at the minor league level, but was never considered a prospect because he had bad stuff. But if you looked at his stats, you'd think he was a stud. As a comparison, If you look at the 2004 St. Lucie Mets, you had Kazmir and Petit on the same team for about 50 IP each. Petit had higher strikeouts, lower walks, lower hits, lower HR than Kazmir. But Kazmir was a much better prospect and had the better results in the upper minors and MLB.
   48. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:14 PM (#3893598)
Why?


Because results matter.

Look, I didn't want to get into silly hypotheticals territory here, but if Wheeler A had a 0.50 ERA with outrageous numbers, and Wheeler B had a 9.00 ERA and could barely last an inning at a time, I'm going to assume that you agree that Wheeler A is probably the better prospect. You've already agreed that you pay attention to results in AA/AAA. So you agree with me: results, at least to some uncertain extent, matter.

Petit had higher strikeouts, lower walks, lower hits, lower HR than Kazmir. But Kazmir was a much better prospect and the results in the upper minors and MLB.


You might think I'm arguing something I'm not. I only compared Wheeler with a fictional version of himself (that is, controlling for stuff, scouting reports, intangibles etc). I am quite aware that minor league numbers don't foretell everything about a player, and that scouting remains extremely important.
   49. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:14 PM (#3893599)
You're right, it is not necessarily true. But in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary, we ought to assume that it's true.

Why?


I think I probably agree with PreservedFish on this, at least to this extent: while I think that results are secondary, I want to have some actual basis for putting them aside -- some knowledge that the pitcher in question is, in fact, working on development instead of actually getting pounded by hitters his own age, when throwing mostly his best stuff. It's one thing to say, "Hey, don't worry if Familia had a bad time at St. Lucie in 2010, with walks exploding through the roof, and an ERA over 5.50 in a pitcher's league." That's Bobby McFerrin stuff, unless you have a reason not to worry about it.

But it's another thing to say that he was working on a change-up over which he had no command, that was the pitch he was walking people with, and noting that he still had a very strong K/IP rate, produced when he was throwing the stuff he's already good at. If you don't have an actual basis to say that the year (despite the bad results) was spent on worthwhile development, then I think the default assumption ought to be that the prospect in question is not as good as we thought he was.

In the case of Zack Wheeler, we DO have a strong basis for saying that the Giants were doing some serious work on his delivery, and it was affecting his performance. Maybe that was in his best long-term interest, maybe it wasn't. But the point is that any time major adjustments are being made like that, or work is being done on new pitches, etc., it should affect our expectations as to bottom-line results.
   50. zack Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:20 PM (#3893602)
Petit has also spent the last couple years in Phoenix, Reno, Tuscon and Albuquerque, which are a who's who of hitter-friendly parks. Stick him in a park that doesn't exacerbate his primary weakness as an extreme flyball pitcher and he wouldn't he'd be an average starter.
   51. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:21 PM (#3893604)
But it's another thing to say that he was working on a change-up over which he had no command, that was the pitch he was walking people with, and noting that he still had a very strong K/IP rate, produced when he was throwing the stuff he's already good at. If you don't have an actual basis to say that the year (despite the bad results) was spent on worthwhile development, then I think the default assumption ought to be that the prospect in question is not as good as we thought he was.


That's where I have to disagree. Look at the Petit/Kazmir example I gave above. Petit destroyed Kazmir in A+ ball in pretty much every category available. Kazmir then went on to destroy Petit in every level above that. A ball (and even A+) ball is simply too far away from the majors to expect the results to have that much meaning. My general feeling is that scouting matters more below AA than results.

Matt Harvey blowing away hitters in AA gives me confidence that he is an elite prospect. Matt Harvey blowing away A+ hitters might just be him having one good pitch that young hitters have trouble handling.
   52. zack Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:34 PM (#3893616)
But no one is arguing that Petit was a better prospect than Kazmir, that's a total strawman. They're just saying that results matter in addition to scouting. As you move up the chain, the mix changes to rely more on results than scouting.
   53. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:34 PM (#3893617)
But Mark, you're talking about evaluating (and perhaps discounting) success. And I agree with you on that; you have to take success in A ball -- sometimes even overwhelming success -- with a grain of salt.

I'm talking here about the circumstances under which we can and should discount apparent failure. I think that's quite different. The issue is not whether a non-elite prospect might fool you with success at the A level (Ian Bladergroen, anybody?). The issue is whether a struggling prospect might still be elite, despite seeming failure (or something pretty close to it) at the A level.

In those cases, I'm just saying that I like to have some actual reason that comes across in what the scouts say, or in what I see if I'm lucky enough to see the kid play, to tell me it isn't that he's an overrated bust, but that something really is going on with his development program to explain the struggles. I mean, hey -- it's not like there aren't actual busts out there, players who get hyped and over-drafted and then suck in A ball. There are.
   54. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:53 PM (#3893627)

In those cases, I'm just saying that I like to have some actual reason that comes across in what the scouts say, or in what I see if I'm lucky enough to see the kid play, to tell me it isn't that he's an overrated bust, but that something really is going on with his development program to explain the struggles. I mean, hey -- it's not like there aren't actual busts out there, players who get hyped and over-drafted and then suck in A ball. There are.


Let's look at the four extreme possibilities

1) Good scouting reports, good results - Probably a stud on the way up
2) Good scouting reports, bad results - Either over-hyped and not going to make it or working on needed adjustments and results haven't caught up yet
3) Bad scouting reports, good results - Either scouting results haven't caught up to his changes or he will struggle at higher levels
4) Bad scouting reports, bad results - Stick a fork in him.

When we're talking about a prospect in A+ and in situation #2, I'm inclined to give them a lot of leeway since they are so far away from the majors. Everyone would love their prospects to be in situation #1, but prospects struggle at times and need to make adjustments. Now if they are in situation #2 in AAA, then I'd be a lot more pessimistic. At AAA, results matter a lot more than at A+.
   55. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 10:00 PM (#3893633)
My general feeling is that scouting matters more below AA than results.


Look, that's fine. Nobody has a problem with this. But you're arguing (whether you realize it or not) that results are irrelevant below AA. That's the position you've got to back down from.

Also, what zack said in #52.
   56. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 10:12 PM (#3893640)
Look, that's fine. Nobody has a problem with this. But you're arguing (whether you realize it or not) that results are irrelevant below AA. That's the position you've got to back down from.


I do realize it and I believe it. I don't care about stats below AA. I care more about what the scouts say.
   57. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 10:16 PM (#3893642)
Then, there's the forgotten Mets' pitching prospect . . . the Mets' first pick in 2009, Long Island's own Steven Matz. Still hasn't thrown a pitch in the minors, and won't in 2011, either. His comeback from Tommy John surgery has evidently been further derailed by muscle tears around his pitching elbow.

There's your fifth extreme possibility:

5) Bum arm, coulda, woulda, shoulda - Life sucks.
   58. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 10:18 PM (#3893643)
5) Bum arm, coulda, woulda, shoulda - Life sucks.


He has bad results (not being able to pitch) and bad scouting (not being able to pitch). He fits nicely in #4.
   59. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3893649)
Speaking of that 2009 draft . . . man, it's looking ugly for the Mets. With Matz's arm looking like he decided it would be more at home in a meat grinder than on a pitching mound, and Darrell Ceciliani taking a big step back this year at Savannah after a nice year at Brooklyn in 2010, the only guy looking right now like he might amount to anything at all is Darin Gorski, who's having one of those Yusmeiro Petit years at St. Lucie. His future looks like AAA rotation filler.

I know the Mets didn't have a pick until # 72 that year, but geez.
   60. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 10:55 PM (#3893656)
I do realize it and I believe it. I don't care about stats below AA.
\

OK, then I return to my ridiculous hypothetical.

Zack Wheeler, St. Lucie Met: 15 G, 100 IP, 2.00 ERA, 140 K
Zack Wheeler, St. Lucie Met: 15 G, 60 IP, 6.00 ERA, 40 K

Same exact thing to you?
   61. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:01 PM (#3893662)
Zack Wheeler, St. Lucie Met: 15 G, 100 IP, 2.00 ERA, 140 K
Zack Wheeler, St. Lucie Met: 15 G, 60 IP, 6.00 ERA, 40 K


Depends on the scouting reports. He could be working on changing his motion, could be working on his secondary pitches or could be injured. The only thing the numbers tell me is that the top line might be ready to move up to AA and the bottom line isn't. They don't say a lot for what their ceiling is or how good a prospect they are.
   62. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:03 PM (#3893664)

I know the Mets didn't have a pick until # 72 that year, but geez.


When you don't start picking until #72, you can't really expect many high upside players. Especially with the Mets sticking to slot recommendations.
   63. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:06 PM (#3893666)
Depends on the scouting reports.


They are identical. He's both Zack Wheeler.
   64. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:13 PM (#3893676)
When you don't start picking until #72, you can't really expect many high upside players. Especially with the Mets sticking to slot recommendations.


Oh, I understand the reasons. Not picking until # 72, and the whole slot thing, are two good reasons for not having high expectations. Throw in Matz's injuries, and there you have it. But still . . . when all is said and done, there's a pretty good chance they may get nothing whatsoever -- not a single guy who even makes it to register a single inning pitched or PA in the majors. That would be screwing up the draft with gusto.
   65. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:14 PM (#3893679)
Depends on the scouting reports.

They are identical. He's both Zack Wheeler.


If the scouting reports are the same, then I see no reason to differentiate between them. Like I mentioned, the only difference is how ready he is for AA.
   66. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:16 PM (#3893682)
I suppose, Mark, we will agree to disagree.
   67. Sam M. Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:20 PM (#3893685)
They are identical. He's both Zack Wheeler.


Depending on the circumstances, I might just prefer the second one. Let's imagine this scenario: Someone high up in the Mets' hierarchy -- we'll call him "Jeff" just to give him a name -- gets overly focused on trying to justify the Beltran trade, and wants to see Wheeler succeed. Or at least have the veneer of success, and to have him move up the ladder quickly. So the tabloids and talk radio won't talk about how the Mets got taken, and how their latest phenom is struggling, yada yada yada. So when he asks about how Wheeler had a rough outing in St. Lucie last night, and is told by the GM that he's working on some secondary pitches and refining his motion for long-term development, he suggests that maybe the best thing would be to build his confidence by letting him blow some people away for now and showing people what he can do with that arm of his. And you don't tell "Jeff" he's wrong, do you? So all of a sudden, the minor league pitching co-ordinator is told to shelve the work on Zack's change-up and let him air it out with that 95 MPH fastball (and make sure he goes back to the delivery that allowed him to reach that number on the gun, too) and that knee-buckling curve.

Voila. You get those eye-popping numbers . . . at St. Lucie. Because Jeff is running your minor league system. Never mind that Jeff's way doesn't get you the Zack Wheeler who might be a finished major league pitcher in two years, but instead limits you to Mike Pelfrey's ceiling.

So which one of those I like depends entirely on how he got there and what approach produced it.
   68. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:22 PM (#3893693)
I will also state that I don't understand why you think there is a huge world of difference between A and AA. I get what you're saying, and I agree that scouting is more important the further away you are from MLB, but I do not understand why the STATS MEANINGFUL / STATS MEANINGLESS barrier is set between A+ and AA.

We could also get into a deeper discussion on how scouting/stats are intertwined, whether or not scouting can exist perfectly independent from stats...
   69. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#3893698)
So which one of those I like depends entirely on how he got there and what approach produced it.


But you are exploding the question by introducing a variable I didn't allow for. I agreed in #45 that a scenario like yours is possible.
   70. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:28 PM (#3893699)
I will also state that I don't understand why you think there is a huge world of difference between A and AA. I get what you're saying, and I agree that scouting is more important the further away you are from MLB, but I do not understand why the STATS MEANINGFUL / STATS MEANINGLESS barrier is set between A+ and AA.


It's not a barrier, it's a spectrum. I trust AA numbers more than A ball numbers which I trust more than Rookie league numbers which I trust more than college numbers (and so on). In my view, the level of competition at AA is high enough that the stats can be meaningfully translated to MLB. Below that, the level of competition is so uneven that a player might have good numbers without being a good prospect. And a good prospect might have bad numbers while staying a good prospect.
   71. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:34 PM (#3893716)
So which one of those I like depends entirely on how he got there and what approach produced it.

But you are exploding the question by introducing a variable I didn't allow for. I agreed in #45 that a scenario like yours is possible.


This is information you won't know unless you get scouting data. And the numbers become meaningless unless you know the scouting data behind it. Is he working on becoming a better pitcher or is he blowing away young and unready prospects, but will get rocked at higher levels.
   72. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:38 PM (#3893727)
It's not a barrier, it's a spectrum. I trust AA numbers more than A ball numbers which I trust more than Rookie league numbers which I trust more than college numbers (and so on).


Mark, you keep contradicting yourself.

You go back and forth between claiming that sub-AA numbers are "irrelevant" and that they are only less relevant.
   73. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:43 PM (#3893737)
Mark, you keep contradicting yourself.

You go back and forth between claiming that sub-AA numbers are "irrelevant" and that they are only less relevant.


How? I've stated before that I believe numbers below AA are too far away from MLB to be meaningful and I trust scouting information at that level more than numbers. And since the players are so far away from MLB, the numbers are meaningless for how good a prospect they are.

It is entirely possible for one player to have better A+ numbers and be less of a prospect (and I provided examples). And there are times where a player having better numbers in A+ might not be making themselves a better prospect (Sam's example in #67).

So if I can't judge who is a better prospect by looking at their numbers and I can't tell if a player is making themselves a better prospect by their numbers, then why am I looking at their numbers?
   74. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:53 PM (#3893758)
I've stated before that I believe numbers below AA are too far away from MLB to be meaningful and I trust scouting information at that level more than numbers.


You're doing it again, even in this very sentence. You keep saying, and I'm paraphrasing and emphasizing to underscore the contradiction:

"I do not trust the statistics at all. I trust them less than scouting."

The first sentence declares that the stats are meaningless, totally without value. The second implies that they do have value (just a lesser value).

You're doing this over and over in this thread, and it's significant, because the first sentence is controversial whereas nobody is going to care or even notice the second. And you keep wobbling back and forth between them. I still have absolutely no idea what your position on this is. Your comment about the "spectrum" vs the barrier is entirely at odds with other things you've said, which are in fact explicit descriptions of a "barrier" behind which stats become utterly meaningless.
   75. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 06, 2011 at 12:07 AM (#3893790)

You're doing it again, even in this very sentence. You keep saying, and I'm paraphrasing and emphasizing to underscore the contradiction:

"I do not trust the statistics at all. I trust them less than scouting."


That's not what I said at all. I said that it is a spectrum from extremely meaningful numbers (MLB career numbers) to completely meaningless (Little League). I see AA as the point where the numbers start being more meaningful than the scouting reports. At A(+) ball, the scouting reports are still more meaningful and if they are different(bad numbers with good scouting or good numbers with bad scouting), then I'll ignore the numbers.
   76. PreservedFish Posted: August 06, 2011 at 12:20 AM (#3893810)
That's not what I said at all. I said that it is a spectrum from extremely meaningful numbers (MLB career numbers) to completely meaningless (Little League). I see AA as the point where the numbers start being more meaningful than the scouting reports. At A(+) ball, the scouting reports are still more meaningful and if they are different(bad numbers with good scouting or good numbers with bad scouting), then I'll ignore the numbers.


I'm with you until the very last clause, but that just puts me back at zack's response in #12. Your position doesn't make sense to me. If you can weigh scouting reports vs stats at AA, why can't you do the same at A+? You don't have to weigh them the same. Hell, you can make it 95% scouts and 5% stats. But as soon as they're at odds, you throw one out entirely? Doesn't make any sense.
   77. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 06, 2011 at 02:40 AM (#3894062)
I'm with you until the very last clause, but that just puts me back at zack's response in #12. Your position doesn't make sense to me. If you can weigh scouting reports vs stats at AA, why can't you do the same at A+? You don't have to weigh them the same. Hell, you can make it 95% scouts and 5% stats. But as soon as they're at odds, you throw one out entirely? Doesn't make any sense.


I've seen too many "prospects" succeed at lower levels and then fail when they got to higher levels for me to believe numbers without any scouting reports behind them. If the numbers are good and the scouting reports are negative, then I'm going to stick with the scouting reports. If the player goes up levels and the numbers stay good (with negative scouting reports), then I'll start trusting the numbers more. But at A ball, I'll stick with the scouting reports.

I really don't see what's so hard to understand.
   78. Sam M. Posted: August 06, 2011 at 05:01 AM (#3894092)
Here's how I would put it:

I would certainly prefer it if Zack Wheeler has the inherent ability to put up that top line from # 60 -- if the scouts and the indicators of his ability tell me he CAN do that in A ball, that's a lot better than if they tell me he isn't capable of doing so.

So if the question is whether those lines are the same when it comes to what Wheeler is capable of, the answer is of course not. You'd prefer him to be capable of the dominant line. And the lines also not the same in terms of what he actually does. But as I said before, it's not as clear-cut which you'd prefer. Whether I want Wheeler to actually dominate that way is a much more complicated question; it depends on what is best for him and the organization. If he can dominate while doing the things necessary to develop into the best major league pitcher he can be, wonderful. See, for example, Doc Gooden, Lynchburg, 1983.

What I don't think you can say from the lack of dominant results is that the pitcher doesn't have dominant ability. That, I take it, is Mark S's point -- why he trusts scouts and raw stuff (early in the minors) more than results, because at that stage the focus isn't on results. Put another way: if the Mets and Zack Wheeler aren't focusing on results, why should we?

I'm somewhere in the middle. I think if you pay close enough attention to performance and results, there is enough information out there nowadays to glean what a high-profile prospect is doing and what the organization is doing with him. You can thus filter his results through that understanding, and assess whether "poor" results reflect limited ability or developmental approach. If the latter, we can assess whether that approach is yielding progress by looking (in part) at results and trends over time. In other words, I believe in looking at the results, but doing it within the context of how the pitcher is being groomed and where he is in the development process, to the extent we have that information.

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