Thursday, July 5, 2007

Too Bad WWII Didn't Prevent His Birth

After watching him get knocked around again, it has become painfully obvious; The Kei Igawa experiment was a very costly failure. Paying $45 million for a pitcher, doesn't make him a $45 million talent. In the words of Marcellus Wallace, "Now that's a hard mother fuckin' fact of life, but it's a fact of life that (Cashman and Torre's asses are) gonna have to get realistic about. "

Kei Igawa has displayed marginal "stuff", suspect command, and a tendency to keep the ball up in the strike zone. This recipe is significantly less appetizing than this. Next week he turns 28, so there is little reason to expect significant improvement. For any other organization, the Igawa signing would be a crippling blow. However, the Yankees are perhaps the only team fortunate enough to be in a position to survive this mistake virtually unscathed.

It is well-established that the Yankees have the coffers to outspend their mistakes. What is less widely known is that the organization is bursting with alternatives to Igawa's batting practice offerings. Bear in mind that I am only looking for a pitcher who can post a 5.00 ERA and pitch and average 5 or 6 innings per start for the rest of the season. I believe some, if not all, of these man are capable of doing so immediately. Choose one of the following guys, any of these guys, and give him a shot at the fifth starter until Phil Hughes returns...

Guys We Have Already Seen
- Tyler Clippard- features a nice change-up/curveball combination and just enough of a fastball to keep batters honest. Although scouts aren't in love with him, he has quickly climbed the organizational ladder and had success at every level. Despite a 6.33 ERA in his first 27 innings with the Yankees, he was very impressive in stints. Clippard made a good-hitting Mets teams look downright foolish at times in his first start. He struggled with his control in his first stint in the Major Leagues, but nothing in his minor league history suggests that he has trouble throwing strikes. Tyler Clippard deserves another shot.

- Matt DeSalvo- Much like Clippard, he doesn't have great stuff and relies on a funky delivery and pretty good secondary pitches to get batters out. He scuffled a bit in his first exposure to Major League hitters earlier this year. Anecdotally, I recall him being the victim of an inordinate amount of bleeders and bloopers on his way to posting a 5.87 ERA. Joe Torre showed zero faith in him, by pulling him early in a couple of games, in which he was getting punch-and-judied to death.

Scouts don't love him Two months away from his 27th birthday, he is probably nearly as good as he will ever be. His upside is probably limited to the back end of a rotation. Wouldn't you know it, that is exactly what the Yankees need! His 2.33 ERA, and 57 Ks in 54 innings in Scranton tells me that he would make a serviceable 5th starter right now. Perhaps I'm wrong, and the guy is a career Quadruple A pitcher. But at the expense of further kamikaze performances by Igawa, I am willing to find out.

Even More Unknown Quantities (Qualities)
- Ian Kennedy- The Yankees are notoriously cautious with prospects. When you are cruising to 98 wins per year, this approach is commendable. When you are likely to be under .500 at the All-Star break, it is foolhardy. Ian Kennedy was the Yankees' first round pick last year. While he is not thought to have "ace"potential, Kennedy was considered the most polished pitcher in last year's draft. This year, his composite ERA at A and AA 1.63 and he is striking out 10.63 batters per nine innings.

So, they drafted Kennedy out of college last year thinking he would be able to move quickly. He has proven them right with his performance thus far. Why not roll the dice? Tim Lincecum and Andrew Miller, both selected in the same draft, are pitching pretty well in the Majors. Why can't Ian Kennedy?

- Joba Chamberlain- As good as Kennedy has been, scouts think far more highly of Chamberlain. Drafted just after Kennedy, Chamberlain has also reached Double A and is dominating that level. Unlike Kennedy, Chamberlain features one of the best fastballs in the minors and is believed to be a potential ace. He has an ERA of 2.26 at the same two levels and is striking out over 13 per nine(!) and walking less than 3 per nine.

I don't see what can be lost by trying Chamberlain or Kennedy. If one of them is ready, you make a playoff run this year and then plug him into the rotation for the next 6 years. If they need more seasoning, send them back down. If their pysches are so fragile that they will be destroyed by a little failure, they were never going to be good anyway.

Other Better Options than Igawa
- Steven White
- Alan Horne
- Steve Trout
- Steve Blass (and any victim of his "disease")
- A pitching machine
- Dave Dravecky (with his right arm)
- Any recently murdered, pre-pubescent sufferer of "Fragile X" syndrome

Send Igawa on a well-paid 5 year vacation. Paying a man $45 million to do nothing sucks. But it is favorable to paying the same man $45 million to meticulously maim you for half a decade.

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