A Quick Look at the Rookie Pitchers
Now that we are at the midway point in June, it is the perfect time to take a look at how the Rookie of the Year races are shaping up in both the American League and the National League. Today we'll take a gander at the pitchers and I'll come back on Wednesday with a look at the hitters.
Jair Jurrjens, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2008: 84.0 IP | 86 H | 34 BB-62 SO | 118 ERA+
Jair Jurrjens has been solid for Atlanta this season, which has helped to ease the loss of veteran Tom Glavine to injury. Jurrjens has the most impressive won-loss record of the rookie hurlers in the National League at 7-3 (a fact that unfortunately is important to voters at the end of the season). His rates are OK at 6.48 K/9 and 3.77 BB/9 but they do not suggest superstar-in-the-making; instead they appear to be more in line with a No. 3 starter. Major League hitters are batting .266 against Jurrjens, who has similar numbers against both left-handed and right-handed batters.
John Lannan, LHP, Washington Nationals
2008: 76.0 IP | 78 H | 26 BB-46 SO | 123 ERA+
John Lannan has been effective in his brief career so far, which is a little surprising considering he was an 11th round draft pick in 2005 out of a small college. He also doesn't exactly have overwhelming stuff. Regardless, through 76 innings this season, Lannan's ERA stands at 3.43. His rates are OK, but not great at 5.45 K/9 and 3.08 BB/9. Batters are hitting .267 against him. The numbers suggest Lannan could be a pretty solid No. 4 starter but he is probably not going to be a future All-Star or even the Rookie of the Year... although stranger things have happened.
Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2008: 82.1 IP | 84 H | 27 BB-50 SO | 107 ERA+
It's hardly fair to compare a pitcher with 91 career wins and more than 1,500 innings pitched in Japan's top baseball league to 22- and 23-year-old true-blue rookies, but that's Major League Baseball for you. Despite his success and the press surrounding him, Hiroki Kuroda actually has similar rates to Lannan: 5.47 K/9, 2.95 BB/9 and he has allowed a .266 batting average against in 82.1 innings. Kuroda, 32, also has only three wins in his 14 starts. He has been good, but hardly dominating.
Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
2008: 79.2 IP | 82 H | 31 BB-72 SO | 81 ERA+
Johnny Cueto caught the attention of the baseball world with a sizzling month of April but he has cooled considerably. Regardless, his future remains bright. Cueto needs to cut down on the hits allowed (82 in 79.2 innings) and walks (3.50 BB/9). He also needs to keep the ball in the park (18 homers) but he is pitching in a homer-happy stadium. His strikeout rate of 8.13 K/9 will earn him some votes in the Rookie of the Year balloting, but his ERA will hurt him (5.42).
Max Scherzer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2008: 31.0 IP | 25 H | 14 BB-33 SO | 154 ERA+
If Max Scherzer returns to the majors soon enough, he could still be in the running for Rookie of the Year in the National League at the end of the season. He was recently demoted to the minors to stretch out his arm for a role reversal from reliever and spot starter to full-time starter. Many scouts believe Scherzer is better-suited to relieving long-term, but he will have an opportunity to prove them wrong. He has had a nice start to his career with a 2.90 ERA in 31 innings, as well as a rate of 9.58 K/9 and only two homers allowed. Batters are hitting only .222 against him. He is walking more than four batters per nine innings, which obviously needs to improve.
Greg Smith, LHP, Oakland Athletics
2008: 79.2 IP | 68 H | 33 BB-62 SO | 107 ERA+
Greg Smith, an afterthought in the Danny Haren winter trade, was supposed to be an organizational soldier and at best a swing man in the bullpen in 2008. Instead, he has been a savior and one of the Athletics' most valuable players. He is third in innings pitched amongst Major League rookies, second in ERA and second in hits allowed per nine innings (minimum 50 innings). In 79.2 innings pitched, Smith has allowed 68 hits and has held batters to a .232 average. Like most rookies, he is allowing too many walks with a rate of 3.73 BB/9.
Nick Blackburn, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2008: 86.0 IP | 106 H | 15 BB-46 SO | 103 ERA+
Nick Blackburn, like Smith, has been an unexpected savior for his pitching staff, compensating for the ineffectiveness of Francisco Liriano. Blackburn is tops amongst rookie hurlers with 86 innings pitched but he has also allowed 106 hits. His control though (only 15 walks) helps to make up for that, and keeps his WHIP from getting out of hand. Like many of the rookie pitchers, Blackburn is not blowing anyone away and he has struck out fewer than five batters per nine innings.
Clay Buchholz, RHP, Boston Red Sox
2008: 42.1 IP | 49 H | 20 BB-43 SO | 79 ERA+
Despite making a name for himself last season with his heroics, including a no-hitter, Clay Buchholz has had an up-and-down year, complete with injuries and demotions. Regardless, the 22-year-old has some of the most impressive "stuff" amongst the rookies and a strong second half could help him significantly in the Rookie of the Year voting. Buchholz has the greatest chance of having an All-Star career out of all the American League hurlers but it remains to be seen how big of an impact he will have in his rookie season. He currently has a 5.53 ERA in 42.1 innings with more than one hit allowed per inning pitched.
Armando Galarraga, RHP, Detroit Tigers
2008: 65.1 IP | 40 H | 27 BB-44 SO | 127 ERA+
Claimed off the scrap heap from Texas (gee, could they use a pitcher or five?), Armando Galarraga has been a solid performer since being promoted from the minors. He has a 3.31 ERA and a 6-2 record on the season. He has pitched 65.1 innings so far and allowed just 40 hits. He has also posted rates of 6.06 K/9 and 3.72 BB/9. Do Ranger fans dare to dream about what a rotation would look like with Galarraga and Edinson Volquez in it?
Aaron Laffey, LHP, Cleveland Indians
2008: 57.1 IP | 53 H | 13 BB-28 SO | 150 ERA+
Aaron Laffey has been laughing at American League batters so far this season with a 4-3 record and 2.83 ERA. In 57.1 innings, he has allowed 53 hits and only 2.04 BB/9. Unfortunately, he has also struck out only 4.40 batters per nine innings. Cleveland fans can only hope he does not implode like Jeremy Sowers.