Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A vote for Pedro

The Phillies signed Pedro Martinez to a 1-year, $1-million deal, which to me seems like a low-risk, high-reward move (much like the Mets signing Gary Sheffield this season). The biggest questions are whether Pedro is healthy enough to start regularly and how long it will be before he's ready for action.

Last season, Martinez was 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets. But he had a 9-game stretch in the middle of his year in which he posted a 3.48 ERA and struck out 42 in 51.2 IP. He was not very good in September, but it is likely because his arm was ailing.

A trip to reveals some interesting data. First, Pedro's fastball averaged 87.7 mph last year, which is not far from his 2005 average (88.0) when he went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA and fanned 208 in 217 IP.

One problem he had in 2008 was he had a career-worst 1.98 K/BB ratio. His K/9 was a career-low 7.18 and his BB/9 of 3.63 was his worst since 1993 (when he was primarily a reliever).

Obviously, his chances of be successful drop if he doesn't have command. According to Fangraphs data, he used his fastball and changeup more than usual last season and barely used his slider. I would guess a sore shoulder might have reduced his ability to throw the slider; he used it 1.6% in 2008 compared to 12.3% in 2005. (It's also possible his sliders were reclassified as cutters, because his cutter percentage was an unusually high 7.3.)

Assuming the slider data is correct, it might hold the biggest key to Pedro being successful. If his arm is good, and he can throw his slider, he might be able to regain his form. Pedro is a smart pitcher at this point in his career, not unlikely Jamie Moyer. Even as Pedro's fastball diminished, he still got hitters out with regularity.

If anywhere near healthy, this might be interesting.

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