Pitching's youth movement more trend than fluke

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — With four no-hitters, including two perfect games (and that’s not even counting Armando Galarraga’s perfecto robbery), this has definitely been the year of the pitcher.

Not only have we seen dominant performances on the mound, we’ve witnessed an incredible rise of talented young arms. These guys can not only bring the heat, but bring to the table a level of polish and maturity not often seen in pitchers with so little big league experience.

Case in point: the starters for Tuesday’s All-Star game. NL manager Charlie Manuel elected to go with Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez (15-1, 2.20 ERA), a 26-year-old right-hander who commands high-90s heat with unreal movement.

On the AL side, Joe Girardi went with Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price, who at 24 leads the American League in wins (12) and ERA (2.42), and has 100 strikeouts in 115.1 innings.

“It seems it’s the time of the pitchers now,” Girardi said, comparing the wave of young pitching to the golden era of shortstops 15 years ago. “These aren’t just guys with stuff. These are guys who know how to pitch at a young age.”

In addition to the starters, both rosters are filled with 26-and-under hurlers like Trevor Cahill, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum and Yovani Gallardo. But the remarkable thing about this group is not just that there are so many power arms, but that they have become polished so quickly.

“This is a good time for pitchers,” said Boston’s Lester, who is already 53-19 at age 26 and has a World Series-clinching victory on his resume from the 2007 World Series. “Development is getting better. They’re spending more time and money on those guys and giving them a chance to pitch at a younger age. Back in the day they probably wouldn’t have called all these guys up. They would have gone with a lot more veterans and kept paying those guys. And now teams are going with the younger guys with the salaries and all that. It’s just good to see the young guys come in and do well.”

Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, who is already a three-time All-Star at age 27, believes that a trend started with his draft class in 2004, a group that also includes fellow All-Stars Jered Weaver and Phil Hughes, as well as Tampa Bay Rays mainstay Jeff Niemann.

“I was definitely at the front of the wave,” he said. “It’s like fantasy football where one guy picks a kicker and then everybody else starts picking kickers. Guys are going with young strong, talented pitching with good arms, and that’s what teams have started developing.”

Verlander said that improved coaching, from the youth level on up through college and into the minor leagues, has helped pitchers be ready for the majors more quickly.

“To be honest with you, there’s money in it,” he said. “All these youth organizations are making money by putting together some good coaches and having parents send their kids out. I think it’s a win-win.”

But is the trend toward young pitching really here to stay, or is it simply a blip on the screen, part of the cyclical nature of the game? It depends on who you ask.

“Overall I think there is maybe a trend you can look at, but it’s too early to make any assumptions,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “But no doubt there are some real young power arms coming up in the American League that are prepared for a high level.”

Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, though, who has witnessed the maturation of teammate Jimenez from Class-A ball on up, thinks there is a movement afoot.

“(Coaches) know more about pitching then they did back in the day, and that’s helped these guys,” Tulowitzki said. “They can come in and handle pressure situations at the big league level and be real polished at a real young age.

“I would say we’re going to see some really special pitchers every single year coming up to the major league level and making an impact. I’ll take my chances and say it’s going to happen every year.”

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Brandon Finnegan exits start with apparent injury

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Reds lefty Brandon Finnegan exited Monday afternoon’s start against the Cardinals in the fourth inning with an apparent shoulder injury. He grimaced after throwing a pitch and promptly walked off the field without even trying to throw a warmup pitch. In three-plus innings, Finnegan allowed three runs on three hits and four walks with two strikeouts on 58 pitches.

Finnegan, 24, was making his first start since April 15. He had been dealing with a strained left trapezius muscle.

The Reds should have more information on Finnegan’s status later tonight. Given how Finnegan acted after throwing his final pitch, a stint on the disabled list looks likely.

Rays acquire Adeiny Hechavarria from the Marlins

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The Rays have acquired shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Marlins, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The Marlins will receive minor league outfielder Braxton Lee and pitcher Ethan Clark. The Rays are expected to assume the remainder of Hechavarria’s $4.35 million salary for the 2017 season.

Hechavarria, 28, has only played in 20 games this season due to an oblique injury. He has mustered a meager .277/.288/.385 triple-slash line with four extra-base hits and six RBI across 67 plate appearances. He still plays decent defense, though, so that may be enough for him to take the everyday shortstop job in Tampa.

Lee, 23, was selected by the Rays in the 12th round of the 2014 draft. This season with Double-A Montgomery, his second stint there, Lee hit .318/.387/.391 over 296 PA.

Clark, 22, was taken in the 15th round of the 2015 draft by the Rays. In his first stint at Single-A in Bowling Green, Clark has a 3.11 ERA with a 50/18 K/BB ratio in 55 innings of work.