2011 Draft: Scott McGough

The draft is just six days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.

(Photo Credt: Flickr user boomer-44)

Background
The son of a former minor leaguer, McGough was a 46th round draft pick of his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school back in 2008. He did not sign and was part of Oregon’s first baseball team since 1982 as a freshman. McGough has also pitched in the wood bat Northwoods League and for the Collegiate National Team during the last two summers.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 lbs., the name of McGough’s game is power. His fastball regularly sits 92-94 and he’s flashed a few 97’s with the Ducks. A sharp slider in the low-to-mid 80’s is his top secondary offering and a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch. McGough has also dabbled with a curveball and changeup this spring at Oregon’s behest. McGough is a good athlete with a loose arm, though he’s still working to find consistency with his delivery and overall command. Here’s some video.

Miscellany
McGough is almost certainly a reliever long-term (he’s pitched out of the bullpen for Oregon almost exclusively), but the fastball-power slider combo hints at strikeout potential and a late-inning profile. He’s expected to a be drafted somewhere in the fourth or fifth round, which is a fine spot to jump on a college reliever. Keith Law did not have McGough and his latest draft prospects list, though Baseball America ranked him the 126th best prospect in the class in their latest effort.

How much longer for Nova?

One reason the Yankees have difficulty developing pitchers is that their win-now mentality is often at odds with the struggles young pitchers face. Rare is the instance that a pitcher, fresh from the minors, pitches to his potential from Day 1. There are certain pains each one goes through, and those pains often hurt his team’s current standing. The team accepts those wounds with an eye to the future. But the Yankees, with their championship-or-bust mantra and their toughest-in-baseball division, often have to cut short those experiments in order to keep the focus on the present. That’s why it came as a surprise when Joe Girardi announced that the Yankees would stay on rotation this weekend, even though they have a days off on Thursday and Monday.

The reason for the surprise, of course, is Ivan Nova. His turn comes Thursday, and with the way he’s pitched this season, and particularly of late, skipping him seems like a fairly easy and obvious move. That would line up Sabathia, Colon, and Garcia for the weekend, and then, after a day off, the Yankees could attack Boston with Burnett, Sabathia, and Colon. Instead they’ll head to Anaheim with Nova, Sabathia, and Colon scheduled. For the Boston series they’ll have options, but none of them include Burnett, Sabathia, and Colon all pitching. Instead, CC can go in the finale on Thursday, preceded by, in all likelihood, Garcia and Burnett. The chances of them going Garcia-Burnett-Nova, I think, are slim to nil.

More important than the discussion of rotation order, though, is the discussion of Nova’s place in it, period. Again, this harkens back to the idea that the Yankees need to keep an eye on the present as well as the future. Nova certainly has potential, but as it stands now he’s not doing much to help the team win. His ERA currently ranks 92nd among 113 qualified starters, and that’s just the start. His FIP ranks 87th, and his xFIP ranks 107th. As Mike noted, his swinging strike rate, just 3.9 percent, is dead last among those 113 pitchers, and his contact rate is the highest. He mitigates this somewhat with ground balls, but it’s not nearly enough. Combined with a crappy walk rate, it adds up to a 1.59 WHIP, which is fourth worst in the league.

If this were a matter of Nova experiencing typical rookie struggles while putting up decent results, it would be one thing. But as nearly all the numbers indicate, he ranks among the worst regular starters in the majors. Worse, there is no real reason to believe that he’ll suddenly improve. That is, maybe he will improve down the road — his minor league control numbers were better, for example — but in the here and now there is no indicator of impending improvement. The Yanks will probably get a decent start out of him here or there, but chances are he’s going to roll along in roughly the same manner he is now. That’s not going to work for the Yankees this season.

There are reinforcements, of course. Hector Noesi, once Girardi found his name on the bullpen card, has done a decent job in limited action. He was already going to be one of the first rotation reinforcements from the minors, so they have little to lose by giving him a shot. There is also Carlos Silva, who has done an OK, decent, even fine job during his stint in the minors. He has a mid-June opt-out, and so will warrant consideration soon enough. Nova shouldn’t have much time, in other words.

If the Yankees do stick with their announced plans to start Nova in Anaheim, it could be as a last chance scenario. But that could end up being a mistake. The Angels have some decent hitters, but they lack power. Nova might be able to cover up some of his shortcomings if there isn’t someone who can punish him for all the walks and base hits. If good results mean an extended stay in the rotation, that would render the Anaheim game a bad audition environment. It means he’ll get a start against the Red Sox (probably not) or the Indians, both of which have produced some of the best offensive numbers in baseball this season.

There are benefits to having a young starter in the rotation, and further benefits to letting him work through his troubles. But a team in the Yankees’ situation can’t afford an extended audition. Nova has shown little to this point that indicates he will help throughout the 2011 season. It was a worthy experiment, but it should be coming to an end. The Yankees have a few arms they can call upon to take the fifth spot in the next few weeks while Brian Cashman looks around for a more suitable replacement. In the long-term, Nova might help the team as a fourth or fifth starter who can deliver some league-average innings. In the short term he’s shown that he’s something less than that, and it’s something the Yankees can’t afford.

Scouting The Trade Market: Derek Lowe

Three offseasons ago, everyone knew that the Yankees were going to make a major run at CC Sabathia. The rest of their starting pitching plans were a little unclear, but it seemed like a safe bet that they were going to pursue another free agent starter. They ultimately landed A.J. Burnett, but the other candidate was the sinkerballing Derek Lowe, who ended up with the Braves.

Atlanta has the most pitching depth in baseball, even after trading Rodrigo Lopez to the Cubs last week. Aside from their five Opening Day starters (Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and the currently DL’ed Brandon Beachy), they also had top prospects Mike Minor and Julio Teheran in Triple-A and the lesser known but still effect Todd Redmond. The Braves are very much in contention and maintain that they have no interest in trading Lowe, but everyone has a price. Let’s start with the cons…

The Cons

  • It’s hard to believe, but Lowe will turn 38 on June 1st. And with that age comes with a loss of velocity, as his famed sinker now sits more 86-89 than 89-91 like it did a few years ago.
  • Lowe would be more than just a second half rental. He’s under contract next season for the decidedly not team friendly price of $15M. He makes the same amount this year, so he’ll cost about $2.5M per month the rest of the way. That is no bargain.
  • It’s been more than six years since Lowe pitched in the American League or in a hitter’s ballpark.
  • Lowe’s recent DUI case was thrown out, but it’s still an unnecessary distraction and an obvious character flaw.

The Pros

  • Despite his age and declining velocity, Lowe is still really effective. His 55.8% ground ball rate this year is his worst since the data started being recorded in 2002, but it’s still a top ten mark in all of baseball.
  • Lowe is one of the most durable pitchers in the game, throwing at least 190 innings in each of the last six years and in eight of the last nine. In the one off year, he still made it to the mound for 182.2 IP.
  • Lowe’s strikeout rate has actually been going up over the last few years, and right now it sits at 7.79 K/9 with 9.2% swings and misses. Both of those are career highs as a starter. Those whiffs are the result of an increased using of his sharp slider, which is often mistaken for a cutter. He’s also throwing his changeup more than ever as well.
  • I don’t put too much stock in postseason track record, but it can’t be a bad thing that Lowe owns a 3.30 ERA in 76.1 playoffs innings since becoming a full-time starter in 2002. He’s also pitched in the World Series, for what it’s worth.

One thing to keep in mind: all those ground balls are great because dinky little seeing eye singles are better than the extra base hits that tend to result from fly balls, but the Yankees have a pretty poor defensively infield. Aside from Mark Teixeira, everyone is below-average now that Robinson Cano seemingly forgot how to use his glove.

Lowe’s contract is far from ideal, but you’d have to think the Braves would be willing to eat some of it to move him. They simply won’t get anything of value back if they don’t. Part of the problem is that Atlanta doesn’t have any obvious needs. Jason Heyward is out with a shoulder issue, but when he’s healthy their outfield is pretty much set (Heyward, Nate McLouth, and Martin Prado). None of their four infielders (Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Alex Gonzalez, and Chipper Jones) are going anywhere, and neither is catcher Brian McCann. They have pitching as well. Of course these things have a way of changing and quickly, but right now there’s no obvious trade match between these two clubs even though Lowe’s appears to be one of the better trade candidates out there.

The RAB Radio Show: May 31, 2011

It’s been an odd West Coast trip so far. The Yanks have held their own against four very good, if not great in some cases, pitchers. Yet they’re only 2-2 to this point. Mike and I talk about the frustrations of Friday and Saturday, and then look forward to see what could change in the next couple of weeks.

Podcast run time 23:10

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[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow053111.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

2011 Draft: Keith Law’s Mock Draft v2.0

Keith Law’s latest mock draft went up behind the iron curtain of Insider yesterday, and this time he has the Pirates taking UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole first overall. “The Pirates are still seriously on Danny Hultzen and Bubba Starling,” says KLaw, “and I wouldn’t rule Anthony Rendon out entirely, but my gut tells me right now they’ll find Cole’s raw stuff — he hit 101 for me on Friday night and touched 100 many times, including in the eighth inning — too good to pass up.” He had them taking Hultzen last time, and MLBTR summarized the rest of the mock nicely.

The Yankee don’t have a first round pick, but Law provides some info on which players could fall due to bonus demands, so check it out.

Looking back at recent complete game shutouts

After going an AL record 341 games between nine-inning complete games, the Yankees have received two such efforts in the last week. CC Sabathia did the honors against the Blue Jays last Tuesday and Bartolo Colon did the same to the Athletics yesterday, but you might remember that Sabathia’s was not a shutout. He allowed four runs in the early innings of that game before settling down. A big reason why the Yankees have had so few complete games (shutouts or otherwise) in recent years is Mariano Rivera, and that’s a pretty damn good reason. In honor of Colon’s gem, let’s look back at the last five complete game shutouts thrown by Yankees’ pitchers.

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

CC Sabathia (May 8th, 2009 vs. Orioles)

This game is more memorable for Alex Rodriguez than Sabathia. After missing the first 28 games of the season due to his hip surgery, A-Rod returned to the lineup in Baltimore and promptly hit a three run homerun on the first pitch in his first at-bat. That swing gave the Yankees a lead Sabathia would protect for all nine innings, allowing four hits and a walk on 112 pitches. Two of those hits led off the ninth, but CC rebounded to punch out the next three for outs numbers 25, 26, and 27. This was Sabathia’s “welcome to New York” moment of sorts; he came into the game with a 4.85 ERA and the Yankees were just 2-4 in his starts. (Game Score: 86)

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Chien-Ming Wang (July 28th, 2006 vs. Devil Rays)

Two years before his career effectively ended while running the bases in Houston (sob sob), CMW tossed nine shutout and fairly typical CMW innings against the team former known as the Devil Rays at home. He struck out just one of the 30 batters he faced, getting 19 ground ball outs and seven in the air. Tampa didn’t put a man on base until the fifth inning, when they got one of their two hits. It was vintage Chien-Ming Wang, he threw just 104 pitches thanks to the impatient Devil Rays’ batters. (Game Score: 82)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Aaron Small (Sept. 3rd, 2005 vs. Athletics)

Yep, Aaron Small. Fun fact: He made just nine starts in 2005 despite that 10-0 record. The other win came in long relief. The Yankees gave Small just one run of support through the first six innings, so his margin for error was small. He allowed five hits and two walks on 112 pitches, but only once did Oakland have two runners on base at the same time. Small struck out just three, getting most of the other outs in the air and on line drives. Good thing he was pitching in spacious Whatever They Called It Back Then Coliseum. (Game Score: 78).

Mike Mussina (June 14th, 2005 vs. Pirates)

It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Pirates put someone on base, and Bernie Williams saved the shutout by throwing a runner out at the plate in the sixth inning. No, seriously. Bernie really threw a runner (Matt Lawton) out at the plate. Moose struck out six and walked one, surrendering five hits in this game, throwing a tidy 109 pitches in the interleague matchup. The Yankees scored seven runs before the fifth inning was over, making life a little easier for their starter. (Game Score: 82)

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Carl Pavano (May 17th, 2005 vs. Mariners)

Pavano didn’t do much for the Yankees, so this game was easily his best in pinstripes. This was before the days of the completely punchless Mariners offense, and Pavano allowed just five singles and a hit batsman against seven strikeouts. Two of those hits came in the fourth inning and another two came in the ninth, when the Yankees were up six-zip. This was Pavano’s ninth start of the season, and he’d make just 17 more over the next three and a half seasons with New York. (Game Score: 84)

* * *

Moose owns four of the six complete game shutouts before those five games, with the other two going to Roger Clemens and David Wells. Boomer actually threw nine complete game shutouts in pinstripes, six more than Andy Pettitte did in 273 fewer starts. Wow. Here’s a list of all 806 CG SHO in Yankees’ history.