Royals acquired Vin Mazzaro for the stuff, not the stats

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Last night the Royals traded veteran outfielder David DeJesus to the A’s for 24-year-old starter Vin Mazzaro and pitching prospect Justin Marks.

Marks is a former third-round pick and a solid prospect, but the key to the deal from Kansas City’s point of view was clearly Mazzaro, as general manager Dayton Moore called him “a big, strong guy who our scouts feel can be a solid rotation pitcher for a number of years.”

In his article about the trade Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that Mazzaro “generally draws raves from scouts for his stuff, particularly a sinking fastball.” Similarly, “a scout” told Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse that “Mazzaro’s stuff was second only to Trevor Cahill on the A’s.”

I could quote some other examples, but hopefully you get the idea. Mazzaro is 6-foot-2 and 24 years old, scouts love his raw stuff, and the Royals think he can be an impact starter for years to come. And here’s where it gets interesting: Mazzaro’s numbers aren’t particularly impressive at all.

First and foremost he’s 10-17 with a 4.72 ERA in 214 career innings, allowing opponents to bat .290 with a .360 on-base percentage and .452 slugging percentage against him. Among the 139 pitchers who’ve thrown 200 or more innings in the past two seasons, his .812 OPS against ranks 127th.

Delving a little deeper, Mazzaro has managed just 138 strikeouts in 214 innings, which works out to 5.8 whiffs per nine innings. Among those same 139 pitchers with 200-plus innings since 2009 that ranks 94th. And for all the talk about his “sinking fastball” Mazzaro has induced fewer ground balls than the average pitcher at 41.3 percent, which ranks 97th in that group of 139. His walk rate of 3.7 per nine innings ranks 115 out of 139.

So his ERA is 4.72 despite calling a pitchers’ ballpark home, he’s allowed opponents to bat .290 with an .813 OPS, he hasn’t racked up many strikeouts or induced many ground balls, and his control has been poor. In other words, Mazzaro has struggled in basically every key area of performance and even his numbers in the minors showed similar flaws.

What he has on his side is youth and the fact that at least some scouts still think his raw stuff is very good. Moore and the Royals have already established themselves as an organization that doesn’t rely on statistical analysis and in acquiring Mazzaro as the centerpiece of a trade for one of their best players they’re definitely trusting scouts and stuff rather than numbers.

Nick Cafardo named winner of 2020 J.G. Taylor Spink Award

Boston Globe
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SAN DIEGO — The Baseball Writers Association of America has named the late Boston Globe columnist, Nick Cafardo, the winner of the 2020 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. He will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown next July. Cafardo died suddenly last February at the age of 62 while covering the Red Sox at spring training in Fort Myers.

Cafardo, who covered baseball in New England for 35 years, received 243 votes from the 427 ballots cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years’ service. He becomes the 71st winner of the award since its inception in 1962. Jim Reeves, an award-winning columnist and baseball writer in a 40-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, received 108 votes. Patrick Reusse, who has covered the Twins for decades, got 76.

Cafardo worked at the Brockton Enterprise and the Quincy Patriot-Ledger before joining the Boston Globe as baseball columnist in 1989, where he inherited the Sunday notes column, founded by Peter Gammons. Cafardo covered more than 30 World Series, All-Star Games and Winter Meetings. He wrote four baseball books and won the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year Award in 2014 and the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dave O’Hara Award in 2017.

Cafardo becomes the first posthumous winner of the award since his Boston Globe colleague, Larry Whiteside, in 2008.