The Karstens/Ponson debate

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It’s pretty hard to believe that, with their abundant Minor League talent, the Yankees are going to turn to Sidney Ponson to start a game this weekend against their crosstown rivals. But as numerous reports have noted, the Yankees have Ponson lined up to start against the Mets, and all signs — including a recent demotion to AA to clear an AAA for J.B. Cox — are pointing toward a Ponson sighting this Friday.

Now, before we get into the clear-cut alternative, let’s look at Ponson’s 2008 campaign. Before landing with the Yanks, Ponson had been pitching in Texas. He was DFA’d after serious questions arose about his attitude. On the season, Ponson’s numbers look good, right? He’s 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA. He has more wins than Joba!

But — and, as this is Ponson, we’ve got ourselves a big but — every important number of his is terrible. In 55.2 innings, he’s allowed 71 hits and 16 walks while striking out a whopping 25 batters. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 11.5 hits per 9 innings, 4.04 K/9 IP and a 1.56 K/BB ratio. Opponents are hitting .307/.353/.429 off of Sir Sidney. That’s the equivalent of facing Placido Polanco nine times.

In other words, Ponson has been extremely lucky this year. He’s allowed 1.56 runners per inning, and opponents are teeing off of Ponson. The fact that his ERA is only 3.88 is a testament to luck. He won’t be this good at all for the rest of the season.

So what’s our alternative? Why, Jeff Karstens, of course. As Mike noted, Karstens just pulled down IL Pitcher of the Week honors, and his Sunday outing lines him up to pitch the Friday game against the Mets. Mike Ashmore encourages the Yanks to catch lightening in a bottle by tossing a hot Karstens out there on Friday instead of Ponson.

I have to agree. Karstens can’t do any worse than Ponson, and the potential for him to do better is there. The only thing the Yanks have to lose is a Ponson start, and that is something I would gladly give up.

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  • greg

    I agree, and you even failed to mention that Karstens is on the 40-man and Ponson is not. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yanks come to their senses and start Karstens over Ponson and I hope I’m correct.

  • Hybrid Moments

    Jeff Karstens is not good. How many more times will he have to be brought up and hammered for people to realize this? Even in the year where he put up a good line for the Yankees as a spot starter he walked 11 batters in 20 innings. It doesn’t matter if Karstens or Ponson start. They’re both bad. The 40-Man spot isn’t a big deal either. If Ponson sucks, he gets released and theres your 40-man spot.

    • Ben K.

      This is a very valid point. They’re both pretty uninspiring choices, but if I had to pick my uninspiring poison, I’d go with Karstens.

      • Hybrid Moments

        I’d go with Ponson because he keeps the ball on the ground and throws 93MPH. Karstens is a flyball pitcher who usually tops out around 91MPH.

        • TurnTwo

          a flyball pitcher isnt necessarily going to hurt you in the toilet bowl that is Shea Stadium.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos

          Ponson throws 93 and Karstens throws 91, ergo, Ponson is a better pitcher…

          it’s idiotic thinking like that that allows guys like Kyle Farnsworth to get 3 yr, $17M deals. We’re talking about TWO MILES AN HOUR here. There are 726 inches between the rubber and home plate. 91MPH is 1,601.6 inches/second, so Jeff Karstens’s fastball gets to home plate in 0.45329670 seconds. 93MPH is 1636.8 inches/second, so Sidney Ponson’s fastball gets to home plate in 0.44354839, a difference of .00974831 seconds.


          • serious1jujar

            Check out the brains on brad!

            • nmc

              nice pulp fiction reference

              • tommiesmithjohncarlos

                Easy now… let’s not start sucking each other’s @#$! just yet…

  • Brian

    I can’t weigh in strongly on this one. I don’t think either option is awesome. Karstens makes more sense from the 40-man perspective. Ponson has experience, and which may be more important, the necessary motivation.

    An aside: the you-can’t-have-too-much-pitching adage is in full force right now.
    Ponson, Karstens, Horne, Igawa (decent tonight), McCutchen, Marquez (on the way back), and Al Aceves (recently promoted)…not to mention IPK on the mend, Rasner and Giese in the Majors….those are a lot of Scranton-worthy pitchers to shuffle.

    And, it’s not like Trenton has room. Coke, Jones, Kontos, Wright (recovering), and Hacker all deserving their spots. I guess Aceves leaving frees a spot back up for Wright’s return in a week or so?

    This seems like a perfect storm for a trade package. Aceves may get talked up a lot for those purposes alone, though I want to see what he could do…

  • Jamal G.

    I want Jeff Karstens. You know how sometimes you just have a bad feeling about things? Well, I’m getting that type of feeling as I imagine Sidney Ponson starting on Friday and Sir Sidney knows better than anyone that you should always trust your gut.

    • nmc

      I think we should bring both up, and then when one is bounced in the 2nd inning, we can replace him with the other.

  • Bob

    It’s only one start, but Karstens deserves the look after his last two game in AAA. If he pitches well, he may even get the long relief job he seemed to have earned early in spring training, coinciding with a well earned Hawkins release.

  • Rich

    If it’s at all feasible, I’d opt for Horne…or rain.

    • A.D.

      Rain sounds excellent, then maybe they’d make this game up at a reasonable time, like a regularly scheduled off day as one team comes home and another is about to head out

  • felixpanther

    even Igawa is better option than Ponson

    • J.R.

      I wouldnt go that far.

  • TurnTwo

    from the begining of Spring Training, you had Karstens and Rasner on the radar as the long man/spot starter for this team, as long as they were healthy.

    Rasner has come thru, and helped the team stay afloat.

    i like what Karstens has brought to the team in the past. noone here is going to claim he’s a legit prosect or is going to be great, but i just like the fact he works quick, and pounds the K zone when he’s right. what we saw in his last start, it seems like he’s healthy and he’s finally pitching like it.

    i understand why they signed Ponson, and its never a bad idea to stockpile potential pitchers… but it seems as though you hitched your wagon to Karstens early in the year, so why not give him the first look? you owe more loyalty to him than Ponson, no? does that at some point in the discussion come into play here?

    • steve (different one)

      but it seems as though you hitched your wagon to Karstens early in the year, so why not give him the first look? you owe more loyalty to him than Ponson, no?

      well, Karstens was hurt until recently, and his stellar performance on Sunday came AFTER they signed Ponson.

      if Karstens hadn’t been hurt and pitching well all year, Ponson would never have been signed.

      • TurnTwo

        yeah, this is kind of my point.

        as long as Karstens is healthy, dont they owe it to him to give him the first crack at the rotation?

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’m not a huge Karstens fan, but I’d rather see him out there for the spot start as well.

    In the end, it’s a spot start. Who cares who makes it. I don’t understand why we’d go as far to get this bum Ponson off the scrap (again) to make it. He ain’t worth it.

    As far as character issues go…….I think I’d rather see Denny Naegle make the start than Kei Igawa. :)

  • http://2009 Haggs

    This is like choosing between a poke in the eye or a kick in the shin.

    For very unscientific reasons, I’ll choose Karstens.

    If both of them were to pitch poorly, I’d be angrier about Ponson’s bad job than I would about Karstens. Something about that fat bum who has been given chance after chance after chance and blown all of them really ticks me off. Meanwhile if Karstens were to do crappy I’d say thanks for trying kid, enjoy life in the minor leagues. Karstens has had a few chances, but one of them ended with a broken leg. He’s had bad breaks, whereas Ponson has just pissed it away. I know Karstens is not a good pitcher, but I want him to do well. Ponson, not so much.

    If both of them were to pitch reasonably well, I’d be happy for Karstens, but if Ponson did well, I’d be upset that I’d have to watch him a second time – even if he was marginally helping the team. I know it doesn’t make sense, but….

    • TurnTwo

      its completely illogical, but this sums up how i feel, too, pretty well.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      Yeah I pretty much agree. I dislike everything about Ponson…even his name. I don’t dislike Karstens at all. Sometimes I even feel sorry for him. I just wish he pitched better. I can’t see Joe Girardi being thrilled about Ponson. If he is, it’s not the Joe I think I know.

  • zack

    Ponson is a jerk, Karstens isn’t. Do you need anything more to go on? They both will likely suck, or, perhaps, pitch well enough for one game, have the announcers talk about how fortuitous it was the Yanks “discovered” him, and then regress to sucking.

    When in doubt, don’t pick the fat, drunken stupid one. Its no way to go through life.

    • LiveFromNewYork


      • zack

        Thanks :)

  • steve (different one)

    the Yankees put Steven White through waivers and sent him back to AAA.

    so as far as i know, there is an open spot on the 40 man.

    that eliminates that part of the discussion. the roster issue is a non-issue.

    so that leaves the simple question of which pitcher will give you the best chance to win.

    it’s close, but i think i would go with Ponson. yes, his peripherals don’t look so great, but you guys neglected to mention that he has a G/F ratio of 2.51. that’s higher than Wang’s.

    in other words, he is consistently keeping the ball on the ground.

    NOW, is this little more than a sample size fluke? possibly. probably.

    or, did Ponson develop a sinking fastball? has he changed something? i don’t know.

    but the possibility that he may have tweaked something enough to be effective for a few starts is the reason i’d give him the nod over Karstens. we know he has a decent arm.

    the odds are high that he will suck and that will be the last we see of him. but for 1 start, i say bring on the Frying Dutchman.

  • JRVJ

    IMO, the Yankees need to call up BOTH Ponson and Karstens for Friday’s DH.

    The reason is simple – they have to protect the pen, because if one of the 2 starters of that DH get hit, you don’t want to run your pen into the ground.

    • TurnTwo

      this is actually a pretty good point. especially with Giese now in the rotation, technically the only ‘long’ man they have in the pen is Ohlendorf.

      • JRVJ

        It all depends on how the starters will be slated, but IMO, I would throw Giese first.

        If Giese gets hit hard, then I’d have Ponson come in and throw long relief.

        Then I’d send down Ponson, activate Karstens and have Karstens start the second game (Obviously Karstens would have to be around in NYC that day).

        If Giese throws a complete game, then it’s less of an issue, and you might actually want to get some work in for the pen (depending on how the Pittsburgh series goes).

  • pete c.

    Karstens should get the start, if for no other reason than, he’s paid his dues both this year and last year. If the minor league guys need to know they are getting called up because they earned it. Not because of a track record that as a whole was mediocre at best.

  • A.D.

    I’m not a Karstens fan, I think he needs to be shipped to the NL, where he could be a decent back of the rotation starter in Petco. But he has throw the ball well his first 2 starts, he has been with the Yanks all season, and he’s not Ponson. The yanks should be giving one of their minor leaguers this spot start to reward them for being part of the system and at the same time seeing what they can do. So this should be going to Horne, Karstens, Marquez & co.

    • TurnTwo

      i find it amusing that it seems like the answer for every marginal pitcher we have, whether it be igawa or karstens, or whoever, is to ship him to San Diego so he can pitch in a pitcher’s park, regardless of whether or not the Padres would actually want them.

      • A.D.

        Well SD actually put the waiver claim in on Igawa, so the did want him, I’m sure if Karstens was available for nothing they’d throw a claim on him

        • nmc

          sadly, I think Igawa has more talent than Karstens.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos

            Having talent and getting outs aren’t the same thing.

            I anticipate the Yankees and Igawa coming to a settlement in the offseason and him returning to Japan.

    • steve (different one)

      The yanks should be giving one of their minor leaguers this spot start to reward them for being part of the system and at the same time seeing what they can do. So this should be going to Horne, Karstens, Marquez & co.

      i disagree.

      Karstens, maybe, but you don’t just give a spot start as a “reward” to someone like Horne who you actually have future plans for.

      once you put Horne on the 40 man roster, that’s it, you have tied up that roster spot going forward.

      if Horne was ready to come up and stay, then sure, i’d like to see Horne. but he’s not. he’s just coming back from an injury.

      it’s simply bad roster management to call up Horne for a spot start only to send him back down afterwards.

      Marquez is on the 40 man, but he hasn’t really pitched well this year.

      that really leaves Ponson, Igawa, or Karstens. take your pick.

  • Mike A.

    Any chance we could just forfeit the game and save the bullpen?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Lets just sign Jeff Cirillo and let him pitch.

      • E-ROC

        Or trade for Aaron Miles.

    • A.D.

      Or call up all of Scranton to play in the game, Robertson & Cox 1-2 punch late

  • jsbrendog

    ok. his issues were so bad that texas, TEXAS, the team that scores the most runs in baseball and still sucks because they have no pitching cut him. Think about that, whatever he did was so bad that a PITCHING STARVED organization cut him outright despite better numbers than some of his probable and possible replacements.

    this is the gentleman we want in our clubhouse?


    • TurnTwo

      ive got no problem with ‘issues’ he may or may not have had.

      is he the best option to put out on the mound that will give the team the best chance to win the game?

      if yes, then pitch him.

      if no, then go with your best option.

      my debate is whether he’s a better option than Karstens… and if the difference is negligible, id rather see Karstens out there than Ponson.

  • justin

    Everyone I’ve talked to about this seems to be getting anxious to see some of the pitching depth we’ve aquired through the draft the last couple of years. We keep hearing about all the young pitching but picking up Ponson seems like more of the same over-rated free agent garbage with which all of us are intimately familiar. I hope they just picked up that waste of a roster spot to cover their ass in case you, know a prospect-seeking missile takes out the throwing arms of everyone we’ve drafted. There are plenty of people pitching well enough to get this start, all of whom are not named Sidney Ponson. I know the Yankees want to be careful but calling someone up from double-a for a spot start is not the craziest idea. You know what is, giving a fat, washed up, alcoholic cry-baby another shot at something he never has and never will deserve.

    • steve (different one)

      We keep hearing about all the young pitching but picking up Ponson seems like more of the same over-rated free agent garbage with which all of us are intimately familiar.

      no, not at all.

      we are talking about picking up a guy to make a spot start in an unscheduled double header.

      it is indicative of absolutely nothing.

  • Chip

    I want to see Karstens up here. We all said Rasner was going to suck and what-not when suddenly he comes up and has a few good starts. Plus, what a story would it be to have Giese, Karstens and Rasner all up in the major league starting rotation? And for the most part doing well!

    • A.D.

      Ponson’s number psot 2003 season are essentially the same as Karstens pitching in the majors

  • Yankees=warriors

    I dislike Ponson as well, but there’s actually a even worst choice out there.
    Has anyone read this?

    Who does Arroyo think he is? We don’t want him!

    • A.D.

      Someone is going to pay him 11M in 2010….that’s scary

    • Count Zero


  • RustyJohn


    1) If called up, Ponson will get drunk and die in a fiery DUI related crash on the Belt Parkway.

    2) If called up, Karstens will pitch two great innings and then his bad luck will take over. A shattered bat will fly out towards the mound and lodge in his neck. Surprisingly, the injury will only be superficial, missing every major artery. After Farnsworth performs an emergency tracheotomy with his pocket knife, Karstens will be placed on the 15-day DL.

    Neither is a good prospect.

  • jon

    On the contrary – Ponson has NOT been lucky. If anything, he has been slightly unlucky, as his FIP is 3.75, and his ERA is 3.88.

    His walk rate is the lowest it’s been in years, and his BABIP is extremely high at .340. His LOB% is on the low side, at 62.5%.

    He has been lucky in that his HR/FB rate is low – he “should” have probably allowed 5 HR instead of 3. But on the flip side, his GB rate is the lowest ever, so he’s allowing less fly balls.

    His fastball velocity is up (nearly 92mph) and he’s added a split-fingered fastball.

    Yes, he has been somewhat lucky that he has allowed 1.56 baserunners per inning and his ERA is below 4. But he has been UNLUCKY to allow that many baserunners in the first place.

    Give him a shot I say. He’s not the savior but he’s done well enough to warrant a shot.

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