Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Book on Nick Adenhart

Or rather, the pamphlet, since this is going to be short. It's gonna sound stupid, but right now, the way to get to Nick Adenhart is to get someone, anyone, on base. So far, that hasn't been a problem. He's allowed almost half of the hitters he's faced to reach base safely, 31 (18 hits and 13 walks) out of 63. His WHIP is over 2.50.

There's no way to sugar coat it, he hasn't been very good, although he's shown flashes. In fact, in the first inning of all three major league starts, he hasn't allowed a baserunner. Even better, seven of those nine outs have either been ground outs or strike outs. Actually, he's retired the first four hitters in order in every start (five in the Royals start).

But in each of those starts, he's allowed a man to reach base in the second inning, and that's where the trouble starts. He's given up nine runs in those second innings, despite the advantage of having retired the leadoff hitter. And the reason he's running into trouble is because he has not been able to successfully pitch with runners on base. Blame it on jitters perhaps, but more likely it's a mechanical flaw that comes from pitching out of the stretch. He's a little wild as it is. He gets worse with runners on.

Adenhart has faced 33 hitters with the bases empty. Seven of them have reached via the hit, and five via the walk, for an OBP against of .364, which isn't great, but isn't awful. Once a batter reaches, however, he goes from adequate to much worse. He's faced 30 batters with runners on base, and allowed an alarming 19 of them to reach. That's OBP against of .633! In other words, once one man gets on base, almost two of the next three are also likely to reach base. That's nuts. Keep in mind that he's not a strikeout pitcher to begin with, and he only has four strikeouts in his 12 major league innings, but none of those have come with runners on base, so he's not helping himself out once he gets into trouble (though he has induced three hitters to ground into double plays).

Those numbers are pretty distressing, or they would be for any other pitcher, and of course all of the caveats about sample size still apply. But first of all, he's only 21, so to the extent these are a function of nerves, he has plenty of time to learn to deal with them. Second, he was only slated to make three starts, assuming the healthy return of John Lackey, so he's got some things to work on, and he can do it in the minors. Perhaps most importantly, the one thing he doesn't do is give up home runs. He's now pitched 404 innings in professional baseball, and has seen only ten of his pitches leave the yard in fair territory. That means he can get away with allowing a few more hitters to reach over the course of a season, because he's not susceptible to the back breaking three run homer. But he simply can't allow the number of baserunners he's allowed at the major league level. Shockingly, he's actually 1-0 in his major league career, thanks to the 23 runs the Angels have scored in his starts.

I have no reason to believe that with some additional minor league seasoning, he won't turn into solid, if not spectacular major league pitcher, and he has a great deal of upside. His minor league numbers compare favorably to Brandon Webb. Not that he'll be that successful, but if he be 75% of a Brandon Webb, that's a damn good major league starter. I think the Nick Adenhart experiment was a success in that it will eventually make him a better pitcher. I could see him being a fixture in the rotation as early as next year if there's a spot, and as we're learning from the current health situation, there's always a spot.

No comments: