Lost in the Shuffle


An old school baseball trade. Give up a quality player to get a quality player. It's the best kind of trade, with both teams getting something they really need. Everyone benefits

Should I make it more obvious I'm talking about the Montero for Pineda trade? As far as post trade narratives go, the one from the above paragraph appears to be the prevailing one. The Yankees got the number two starter they were missing (I guess) and the Mariners upgraded their offense with a young power bat. Perfect trade for both sides.

Much of the same can be said about the signing of Hiroki Kuroda that almost immediately followed the trade. The Yankees got another high quality arm on a short-term contract and that contract allows Kuroda to explore a return to Japan after 2012. Perfect for everyone involved.

Everyone appears to benefit from the off-season pitching moves. That is unless you're talking about a pair of close to the majors arms hampered by an unfortunate label.

We all pretty much know the story with David Phelps and Adam Warren. Both college draft picks that have burned through each level, posting very impressive numbers along the way. Yet each time a prospect list comes out or a spot start opportunity has come along, both have largely been ruled afterthoughts. Slapped with the label of "back of the rotation prospects", Phelps and Warren are passed over by the flashy numbers guys in the lower minors and in favor of the Brian Gordon's of the world.

My biggest question is "why?". Is the label of back of the rotation really all that matters in face of actual results? Beyond that, do these labels really mean anything at all?

So just to further look into our ever interchangeable Triple-A starters, let's take names out of the equation and take a look at their 2011 season stats against a few major leaguers in their last full season at Triple-A.


I will freely admit this plot is all over the place, but it's not for lack of a good reason. It is exceedingly difficult to find ML pitchers with the amount of innings pitched to make the comparisons even semi-valid. Why? Not sure, but best guess tells me it's an issue of most teams not having the luxury of letting even their back end pitching prospects rack up large innings totals.

This one is a bit funny. The main reason for the selections here is the number of innings each threw. Player A threw 152.1 innings, B went for 145.0 in 2010 and C was good for 123.0 in 2008. One guy is labeled as a potential ace (one guess as to why) and was coveted by many in the Yankees fan base, one is a guy fans are already infatuated with and the other...well, the other is Adam Warren.


Time's up. Answers ahoy! Player A is Adam Warren, Player B is Ivan Nova (2010) and Player C is Gio Gonzalez (2008).

First thing that jumps off the page: strikeouts! If I'm looking for a reason Gio Gonzalez would be thought of in higher regard over the others, it's the strikeout total. Yes, he was certainly striking out more than both Nova and Warren, but that success is largely diminished with an absurd walk rate. Even with the great K/9, Gonzalez's K/BB was identical to Warren's. (2.10 to 2.09...close enough) Those don't, and in Gonzalez's case haven't, go away very often. The romanticizing of giant strikeout numbers despite awful walk totals is truly something to behold.

Now this isn't to say Warren would be better than Gio Gonzalez. Not by a long shot. In all honesty, he might be hard pressed to produce better than Nova. But judging just purely on performance, there was next to nothing to indicate that Gonzalez had ace potential. On the flip side, if you just went by the reports on Nova, back of the rotation would have been, and pretty much is, his label. Doom.

How were they able to sway a large section of public opinion? Why, they were given a chance to show what they could do of course.

Huh. What a novel concept.

All Warren has done in his time in the minors is show the ability to eat innings while posting quality stats to go with the workload. What use would the Yankees have for that?

I'll spare the soapbox for now though. There's another half to this equation to get to.


Fairly similar, no? Almost identical even. Since we already went over the other half of the afterthought duo, it should be fairly obvious who one of the pitchers on this graph is. But can you guess who the other one is?

Here's a couple hints: He was drafted in the first round, one spot ahead of a current Yankees player, placed as high as 9th on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects at one time, appeared on said list in four consecutive years and ranked as the top prospect in the Phillies system before Cole Hamels came rolling in.


Now that you've returned from Google it's probably safe to reveal who the chart maps. Player A is Gavin Floyd (2007) and Player B is David Phelps.

Gavin Floyd, a Top-5 draft pick in 2001 ahead of Mark Teixeira, put up almost identical numbers in his final full stint in Triple-A to what Phelps did in 2011. Same age, same innings (106.2 for Floyd, 107.1 for Phelps); pretty much same everything. The big difference is it took Floyd three full seasons at Triple-A to score that level of success. Phelps, like he has done everywhere, stepped up to Triple-A for 70 innings at the end of 2010 and posted a 3.07 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 7.29 K/9, 1.66 BB/9 line.

It's obviously not an exact science to put Phelps' numbers up against Floyd's, so trying to say "SEE? SAME THING!" is an exercise in foolishness. That said, it's certainly an interesting side by side, especially considering the consistent success Phelps has maintained across the levels. If he could produce even close to what Floyd has done since starting full time for the White Sox (2.5, 4.5, 4.3 and 3.6 fWAR), that would be pretty good for a "back end starter."

But Floyd was a high first rounder and Phelps is a 4/5 starter, so you know, that's impossible.

The point deserves the dead horse treatment: this isn't saying Warren or Phelps would turn into any of the other the guys listed. They could be better, could be worse. It's getting to the point where we may never know, at least not in terms of benefit to the Yankees. If there's anything to take away from this (which there probably isn't), it's that maybe it's time to start ditching the labels and just let these guys pitch. You occasionally get surprised with just how much a back of the rotation starter can do.

Just as something extra, mainly because I'm horrible with conclusions, I came across this when looking through Triple-A pitching leaders in 2005.


If you paid attention at all, you know Player A is Adam Warren. This is Player B.

Enjoy your day.

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