Yesterday when I logged onto Rotoworld
, I noticed a short note coming from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ official homepage: “Clayton Kershaw was pulled from his start for Double-A Jacksonville after just one inning on Thursday, suggesting that he’s on his way to the majors.” I was almost moved to pick this kid up for my team and ride him to the Promised Land. I have missed out, in years past, on the likes of Francisco Liriano, Yovanni Gallardo, and (this year) Edison Volquez. Of course, it was my own fault. I was slow to action and, as a result, I lost the opportunity to bolster my rotation for the second half of the season.
As of right now, I am still incredibly slow to act on this young man… but I am not so sure that my pensive approach is completely unwarranted. Let’s take a step back here. Yes, Clayton Kershaw is better than Esteban Loaiza. Yes, despite his bad record in Double-A this season (0-3) his numbers (2.21 ERA in 36 2/3 innings) have been incredible. Yes, Joe Torre is his manager. Of those three yeses, Joe Torre is my biggest concern. It’s hard to say if the way in which the likes of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain were handled under the 2007 Yankees had a lot or a little to do with Torre… but, for fantasy purposes, I am sure that I don’t want the 2008 version of any of those players.
Let’s just take a minute and look at the comparables of a few of the young pitchers who have come up to the bigs over the past few years. For me, Innings Pitches is the most important
category, as it demonstrates a potential innings limit any potential starter may see as a big league pitcher. There’s no way a Major League franchise risks its future on a guy who has barely seen 100 IP in a season while on the farm. Here’s a look at a few of the young arms of yesteryear:
Phil Hughes, NYY: In 2005, 85.4 Innings effective innings with 93 strikeouts and a 0.87 WHIP. So for as many batters as Hughes dominates in the strikeout department, he wasn’t allowing terribly many base runners while on the hill either. In 2006, 146 IP, 168 K’s, and a 0.87 WHIP, demonstrating, again, that Hughes was absolutely dominating from the full wind up. However, as Yankee fans remember from the 2007 version of Phil Hughes, he had difficultly pitching from the stretch. He was so dominating in the minors, that the scarcity of base runners handicapped his ability to perfect pitching from the stretch.
Francisco Liriano, MIN: Here’s Liriano’s IP over his minor league career:
2003 (Injury Shortened): 9
Here’s the next extreme. Liriano was making steady progress in ’01 and ’02 before his injury shortened ’03. Then, out of no where, he was somehow allowed to throw 150+ innings a year after coming off an debilitating injury (which is ridiculous when looking at these numbers, but I digress). In 2005, the Twins saw Liriano nearly throw 200 innings in Double-A, Triple-A, and the Majors. In 2006, we all saw what happened, Liriano threw 121 innings, and blew his arm out. Obviously, Liriano’s 2006 injury, as well as the injuries to high-profile prospects like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood (years ago), has led to a different approach for some organizations when dealing with pitching prospects, a la 2007 Yankees.
Yovanni Gallardo, MIL
: To me, Gallardo was dealt with the best of these three prospects. In 2004, he threw 26.2 IP. In 2005, Gallardo took a huge leap with 121.1 IP for Single-A West
Virginia. In 2006, between Single-A and Double-A he, again, increased his workload with 155 IP. In 2007, as we all remember, he threw a combined 188 IP between Triple-A and MLB. Gallardo received the most pampering and, therefore, provided the Brewers with a dominating ace that only a freak injury could snatch away.
And now, we return to our old friend Clayton Kershaw. Which of these three paths will he follow? Let’s take a look:
In 2006, Kershaw threw 37 innings in the rookie league. In 2007, between Single and Double-A, Kershaw threw 122 innings, a huge increase over his rookie league campaign. Thus far in 2008, he’s thrown 43.1 innings, striking out 47, with a 1.09 WHIP. Looking back over the last three years, the only Hughesian WHIP he’s ever maintained was in the rookie league, after that he’s allowed enough base runners to work on his pitching from the stretch.
However, the Liriano/Prior/Wood problem, as we’ve seen last year with the ’07 Yankees, is something that is usually fresh on Joe Torre’s mind. Hughes, Kennedy, and Chamberlain were all kept on a strict innings limit and, in 2008, the Dodgers have announced that they do not want Kershaw throwing more that 25 innings a month. Torre has shown in seasons past that the front offices’ wish is his command when it comes to decisions such as this one.
Does your team really need a guy who, at most will be throwing 5-6 innings a start. Remember how frustrating Felix Hernandez was two years ago when Seattle placed the same inning limitations on him? Combine these inning limitations with the fact that Kershaw is a strikeout pitcher and his fantasy owners will be lucky if he makes it out of the 4th inning for each start.
It’s a shame that this is the situation, but if I were the Dodgers, I’d look to the way in which the Brewers managed Yovanni Gallardo and deal with Kershaw in this same way. For me, I passed on Kershaw for this year and picked up his compete antithesis: Jake Westbrook, and innings-eater.