A rundown of the seasons of two White Sox pitchers of sub-Major League quality.
Well....not really...Scott Linebrink is Major League quality, he's just really bad. Does that make sense? He belongs in the big leagues, but I would never ever want him on my team, and think he's really terrible. Is this crazy? Is the distinction I'm making understandable? Perhaps the wrap-up can explain...
Stat line: 57.1 IP, 4.40 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 59 H, 11 HR, 52 K (8.16 K/9 IP), 17 BB (2.67 BB/9 IP), 4.81 FIP, -0.1 WAR
What did we expect?: In fairness to Scott Linebrink's 2010 season, I expected the very worst. I expected at some point during a July-Linebrink outing for U.S. Cellular Field to fold over on top of itself like a scene in Inception, maybe even with Leonardo Dicaprio screaming on the sidelines for good measure.....and that did not happen--and still up to this moment hasn't.
"[Linebrink] became incredibly invested in a quest to throw a
perfectly straight fastball and gave up 70 hits in 56 innings in the
process in '09. Now he's keeping the hits down in the Spring but has
become a walkaholic. Useless in either regard. 6 run leads are not safe
with this man."
Not really full of the hate or rage you'd expect, but by the time I got to the bullpen part of my season preview, I was firmly in Hour 8 of the writing process, and had just re-upped my dosage of post-surgical Tylenol 3....I probably thought I was describing baseball to bi-pedal amphibians at this point.
The results: As I described in a much longer feature on Scott (which you really should read because I'm not going to super-analyze Scott Friggin Linebrink's splits twice in a three-week period), he managed to somewhat mask another terrible season in the dressings of half-decency. His control improved, and 8 strikeouts for every 9 innings sounds like the rate of a guy I would bring into a game without having my family threatened first.
But Scott is brought down by a crucial flaw...alright...wait...two crucial flaws. The first and most apparent to the eye is that he's seemingly spineless, and shrinks horribly from every big moment worse than Tweek from South Park. This is probably why Ozzie pulled Scott from any meaningful work after the month of April (only 4 holds all season) up until everyone got hurt and he started throwing crap against the wall in August.
The second crucial flaw--the flaw you might actually look to a baseball blog to elucidate for you--is that so much of what Scott throws that gets hit, goes up (49.4% fly ball percentage), in a park where so much of what goes up, does not come back (U.S. Cellular was the easiest park in MLB to homer in for 2010...by a lot). It's such that even though a pretty normal percentage of what goes up for Scott comes back (12.9% HR/fly ball--his lowest as a ChiSox), when so very, very much of what you're throwing is going up, there's going to be more than an acceptable number of times when it doesn't come back (11 HR).
Sometimes it can be as simple as a pitcher shouldn't give up truckloads of home runs.
Love him or leave him?: Like we have a choice. Linebrink is 34, is staked to another year at $5.5 million, and as one 'on top of their game' SoxMachine reader pointed out, has trade protection for next season! (some things aren't even worth knowing). He's a terrible defender, the owner of 4-straight bad seasons, 5-straight 'definitely not worth $5.5 friggin million seasons, and most of this has come with one of the best pitching coaches ever at his disposal. Any team interested in prying Scott away from the Sox is either desperate to fill out a roster spot, or looking to make Linebrink the closer in their brand-new ballpark with 500 foot fences.
And if you didn't glean what my answer to the question 'love him or leave him?' was after I spent the first 8 lines of this section talking about trading him, then I don't know what to do for you.
Stat line: 5 games, 1 start, 13.2 IP, 8.56 ERA, 2.34 WHIP, 23 H, 2 HR, 13 K (8.56 K/9 IP), 9 BB (5.93 BB/9 IP), 5.05 FIP
What did we expect?: Carlos wasn't really up for a roster spot in Spring Training, but he had been up before in spot starts, and had kinda established himself as passably mediocre, spotted with fits of control issues serious enough to single-handedly lose some games. Torres was 27 coming into the season, and the questions being asked of him had clearly switched over to "could he help the bullpen or start in a pinch" and were no longer "will he earn himself a place in the rotation in the future".
The results: Well, without getting too in-depth, that stat line is profoundly and horrendously awful. His control was non-existent, he was pounded all over the place, and made mistakes up in the zone as if he were being paid by the fly ball. You couldn't really write a more convincing obituary to a baseball career than 27-year old Carlos Torres' posting a 10.03 ERA in his first 4 appearances.
But! In his final outing of the year, with the season over and his fate for 2010 as a complete trainwreck sealed, Torres finally calmed down and threw some ball. 2 picture-perfect innings against Detroit with 4 K's. A tantalizing hint of what Carlos is capable of when he's clicking.
Unfortunately, there's nothing in Torres' history in the minors that suggests that he could ever be expected to make it through 2 innings without a walk ever again, and this shouldn't be given any more credence than his 7 shutout, walkless innings against the Cubs in '09 got. I own quarters more consistent than Carlos Torres.
Love him of leave him?: Torres certainly has got some talent, and can put up some strikeouts on the strength of his fastball; but "talented with control problems" could be written on the headstones of thousands of hurlers. That the White Sox have been toting around a late-20's scattershot right-hander as one of their first spot-starters probably says a lot more unflattering things about the organization than Carlos' potential. Personally, I like Lucas Harrell a bit more for the role, but you might as well be debating the merits of different frozen dinner brands at that point.