Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Next Coming of Rick Ankiel?

I'm sure you've heard the story by now of Rick Ankiel the pitcher.  He came up as a phenom and flamed out almost as quickly later that year in the playoffs, due almost solely to a complete lack of command.  In 2000, at the age of 20, Rick Ankiel pitched in 2 playoff games.  He logged a total of 4 innings with a stat line that read: 4 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 0 HR, 11BB, 5K, and 9 WILD PITCHES.  He literally could not find the glove.  The next season he was up for less than 30 innings in the majors and his career as a pitcher was over.

I bring up this refresher in the history of control blow ups on the mound because Vin Mazzaro had a similar incident on Sunday.  Mazzaro got the start against the Albuquerque Isotopes, but only managed to make it through 2.1 innings.  His line looked like this: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 3K, 1 WP.  Not on the exact same level but pretty eerily close to Ankiel's first playoff start.  Now the good news is that while Mazzaro was somewhat lucky last year, his control wasn't really much of a problem.  The bad news is that his control isn't really that great.  Mazzaro has 213.2 innings pitched in the majors in his career.  He has 89 walks for a BB/9 of 3.7.  When I see that his K/9 is only 5.8 it really makes me nervous.  This could be something that is just flukey and ends up being early season jitters.  But it's definitely something to keep an eye on.  According to this article at Royals.com, Mazzaro will now be passed over his first scheduled start (This Saturday) in lieu of Sean O'Sullivan.

The article states that the Royals want to make sure Mazzaro gets a few quality starts in AAA under his belt before he pitches in the majors this year, even though he won the 5th starter's job in spring training.  This is understandable but it is scary that Sean O'Sullivan will be his replacement.  O'Sullivan is like a worse version of Mazzaro, not many strike outs, too many walks, and he's prone to the long ball.  As Roayls fans we didn't expect to get off to a 6-3 start, but here we are, and we're about to throw another long reliever in to be a starter, just as we have in the past.  There is one bright side to O'Sullivan, he's somewhat young, at only 25 there is a decent chance he may still improve.  But, as like Rany from www.RanyOnTheRoyals.com likes to point out, most good pitchers are just as good in their early 20's as they are in their mid to late 20's.

Time will tell if Mazzaro or O'Sullivan will even be relevant to the Royals future pitching staffs.  Until then, it'll be an interesting story to follow.

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