The Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners have just as many similarities as they do differences. Both teams entered the league in 1977, wear a version of blue in their logo, and each team appeals to Vancouverites nearly as much as white drugs. On the field the similarities, of course, end.
The Jays met early and repeated success while the Mariners are yet to visit the World Series, despite posting the greatest record of the modern era. While the Jays toil away as the good team that isn’t quite good enough, the Mariners of the last five years have seen more ups and downs than a Vancouverite in search of cheap white drugs. Win 88 games…lose 100. Win 85 games…lose 100. Crazy stuff.
Both teams enter 2011 in re-build mode. The Ms look to keep preventing runs while searching for ways to actually score one or two while the Jays continue to integrate cheap, young, talent. Neither team positioned itself to compete for a playoff spot in 2011, and everyone is (should be?) okay with this.
The Ms and Jays both have significant investments (and no small amount of hope) in impressive young hurlers looking to break camp and make impressions at the big league level. The Jays acquired Kyle Drabek in the Roy Halladay trade while the Mariners Michael Pineda emerged as the Mariners number 1 prospect after a terrific 2010 season. Both teams figure to head north with these young hurlers in their rotations, are they making the right choice?
The most pressing concern when promoting a young player so early in the year is controlling their arbitration clock, as detailed here by Matthew Carruth of Fangraphs. Nearly every team in baseball must consider losing a year of “player control” when making their personnel decisions, especially when the team is not in a “win now” mindset.
Pineda is very young with just three seasons of pro ball behind him, one of which he largely lost to injury. Depending on the club’s approach to innings limits, Pineda could be limited to as few as 150 innings in 2011. Should the Mariners opt to start the year with Pineda as the fifth stater, the club could possibly skip his turn a few times (early in the season and around the All Star break) to ensure he is still throwing into late August.
Recognizing how well he pitched in 2010 (139 innings, 154 strikeouts versus only 34 walks and 10 home runs allowed across two levels) many claim Pineda doesn’t have much to prove at the minor league level. I don’t know that I agree.
Considering Pineda’s youth and the relative sanity of Seattle’s AAA ballpark1 (by PCL standards), allowing Pineda to get more seasoning harms only the impatient Mariners fan hoping to speed up the rebuilding process.
The same cannot be said for Kyle Drabek. Drabek is plenty stretched out and his service time clock already ticks. Sending Drabek — who has not pitched above AA — to rot in Vegas does nothing but crush his spirit and will to live. Some might argue that Drabek has more to prove in the minor leagues but the “some” in this case would be fools.
While Drabek’s minor league numbers aren’t nearly as eye-popping or awe-inspiring as Pineda’s, he spent his time “learning to pitch” and work without his best stuff. To me, that helps pitchers looking to establish themselves at the big league level. Drabek brings a wide repertoire and ability to retire hitters in a variety of ways. More strikeouts are always welcome but Drabek doesn’t rely on them to survive.
The Jays seem committed to opening the year with Drabek taking a turn every fifth day. The Mariners are leaning the same way with their stud Michael Pineda. Hopefully both teams do what is best for the long-term success of the respective teams. Good knows Vancouver could use a break now and then.
1 – Note: Seattle’s PCL affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, open a new ballpark in 2011. So official park effect data will eventually roll out, we can still assume the damp, coastal air doesn’t make it seem like pitchers are throwing superballs.