Reams of fascinating trivia at your fingertips... Rating: Home Run ~ Chicago Tribune

John Shiffert Opines on

19 to 21…No, that’s not how many pitchers the Phillies are going to audition for Brett Myers spot in the rotation.

Two left-handed pitchers’ minor league records, at the point wherein they made their respective major league debuts…


A 14-4 35 195 114 72 273 1.42 .954

B 18-9 55 265 196 116 297 2.55 1.177

From reviewing just these numbers, it should be clear that, while both were excellent minor league pitchers, “A” was the better of the two. Not only did he have better control than the average young lefty, but he struck out almost four times as many batters as he walked, had a WHIP under one and allowed just 5.26 hits per nine innings. Furthermore, what these stats don’t show is that he gave up just two home runs in the minors (both to right-handed hitters) before his major league call-up, and that his only appearance in Triple A produced 36 strikeouts and one walk in 23 innings. It is also worth noting that “A” made his major league debut in May 2006 at the age of 22 years and four months, while “B” is making his debut tomorrow night at the age of 23 years, eight months – another indication that “A” is/was a relatively better prospect.

Both pitchers’ records were compiled during three minor league seasons, and parts of a fourth, and in the same organization, which might lead to some observant spectators to speculation as to why “A” averaged just nine games a year in the minors, especially since he was clearly a minor phenomenon. That’s because he’s Cole Hamels, the current NLCS and World Series MVP, and he spent most of his minor league career battling various injuries, certainly a lot more than he was battling the opposition. Hamels, if healthy, would have been in the majors well before May 12, 2006, when he overmatched Ken Griffey and the Reds as badly as he’d been overmatching minor league hitters.

At this point, Hamels’ developmental years are old news, except maybe in comparison to “B” who is, as noted, making his debut tomorrow night, pitching for the Phillies against the Padres. He’s Antonio Bastardo, and, if Hamels is the best pitching prospect to come out of the Phillies’ minor league system since Robin Roberts, then Bastardo may well be the best Phillies pitching prospect since, well, Cole Hamels. But, just how good is he? Projecting the future of 23 year-old left-handed pitchers is as risky (and maybe as foolish) a business as playing the lottery… to paraphrase that noted philosopher, Joaquin Andujar, you just never know what numbers will turn up.

This uncertainty is accentuated in Bastardo’s case by the fact that he was barely on the radar last year – Baseball America only rated him the Phillies’ 11th best prospect, which just goes to prove that; A) Baseball America isn’t always accurate in its ratings, and B) no one else is, either. This despite the fact that Bastardo went undefeated in 2007, running off a 10-0 record with a 2.14 ERA in A ball, striking out 110 in 97 innings and only allowing 68 hits. In 2009, Bastardo has managed to leap over Carlos Carrasco, Drew Carpenter, et al, to become the Phillies’ top prospect, going 3-2 with a 1.90 ERA split between Double A and Triple A…


2009 3-2 11 47 32 10 51 1.90 .887

His two Triple A starts haven’t been too bad, even though they don’t match Hamels’ three 2006 beat downs of International League competition; 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 12 Ks, 3Ws and 11 hits allowed in 13 innings.

Nonetheless, it is not fair to expect Bastardo to be the next Cole Hamels. First of all, as noted, he’s more than a year older than Hamels was when he made the majors – and Hamels would have been there sooner if not for his physical issues (some of which weren’t baseball-related.) Second, and maybe more importantly, Bastardo is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, a fastball and a change-up. That’s what Hamels came out of the minors with, but his change-up is in the Trevor Hoffman class, and he was in the process of picking up a killer curve ball as well, since very few pitchers can succeed on the major league level for long without a good breaking pitch of some kind. Think Al Orth, The Curveless Wonder of the turn of the last century who had a good change and a good spitter, Walter Johnson (he didn’t need a good curve), Satchel Paige, who, according to Bill Veeck, didn’t have a good curve until he was pitching for Miami in the minors in the mid-50s, and maybe a few others.

With Brett Myers out for the rest of the season, and the 2009 trading deadline still two months away, the Phillies have been linked with every conceivable starter who might be available, and even a few who aren’t (why would the Jays trade Roy Halladay or the Reds Aaron Harang?). And maybe they will indeed play Let’s Make a Deal. After all, they’ve swung mid-season deals for pitching help in each of the last three years – Jamie Moyer in 2006 (that turned out pretty well), Kyle Lohse in 2007 (everyone makes mistakes) and Joe Blanton, without whom they probably wouldn’t have won the World Series, in 2008. Note though that none of these deals was a blockbuster of the C.C. Sabathia caliber (though it continues to be rumored that they were second in the C.C. Sweepstakes last year), in all three cases, they were looking for incremental improvement. That may or may not be the case in 2009, when; A) they have a World Series trophy to defend, and B) they have one less year to win with the 28 to 30 year old nucleus of the current team. Given both those situations, it’s still possible that Bastardo may get several starts for the Phillies. And, it’s possible he may pitch pretty well. But it seems unlikely that he’s due for an extended stay in the Philadelphia rotation. He’s only 5-11, 170 pounds, his stuff is more like that of a reliever, he’s only made two starts above Double A, and he’s not Cole Hamels. But, then again, very few are, and it may be that the Phillies will shoot that high in the trade market.

Next up… are the 2009 Nationals really as bad as the 1962 Mets? And, why are really bad teams really bad?

-- John Shiffert

March 22 in Baseball History

2005 - The Red Sox send OF Adam Hyzdu to the Padres. In return‚ SD sends P Blaine Neal to Boston.

2005 - During a 10-minute impromptu press conference Barry Bonds uses the word "tired" 14 times and raises the issue of his retirement blaming the press for his troubles. Bonds, using crutches after his second knee operation in two months, continues to be plagued with questions about steroids. And two days ago Kimberly Bell talked about her nine-year relationship with the married Bonds. She alleged that Bonds used steroids, gave her $80,000 he supposedly had received for signing baseballs, and told her how to deposit the money to avoid an IRS audit. Ms. Bell has supplied no evidence to support the allegations regarding Bonds's steroid use, while Bond's former business partner, who claims it was he who gave Bell the $80,000, admits he has no idea whether Bonds paid taxes on the money.

1999 - The Cardinals announce that P Matt Morris‚ expected to be the ace of their staff‚ will miss the entire season because of a torn ligament in his right elbow.

1996 - The Tigers trade Ps Sean Bergman and Cade Gaspar‚ and OF Todd Steverson‚ to the Padres in exchange for OF Melvin Nieves‚ C Raul Casanova‚ and P Richie Lewis.

1993 - Cleveland pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews are killed‚ and Bob Ojeda is seriously injured‚ when the motorboat in which they are riding strikes a pier on Little Lake Nellie in Florida. Crews and Olin are the first active major leaguers to die since Thurm Munson in 1979. The Dodgers‚ for whom Crews played the previous 6 yerars and was very popular‚ will retire his #52.

1972 - In what ranks as one of New York's best trades‚ They send 1B/OF Danny Cater to the Red Sox for relief P Sparky Lyle. In 7 years with the Yanks‚ Lyle will post a 57-40 record with 141 saves and a 2.41 ERA‚ win a Cy Young award‚ and help the team to 3 WS. The deal is completed when the Yanks toss in SS Mario Guerrero.

1963 - The Mets purchase P Carl Willey from the Braves.

1962 - A former Giant-requesting anonymity-reveals that Bobby Thomson's HR in the 1951 playoffs against the Dodgers was helped by a sign-stealing clubhouse spy. The spying is claimed to have gone on for the last 3 months of the season. Thomson‚ along with former manager Leo Durocher‚ vehemently deny that he received help‚ but a source close to the team confirms the spy operation.

1889 - The All America team beats Chicago 7-6 in England's Old Trafford Cricket Stadium. The Manchester Guardian said the "general verdict of the more than 1‚000 spectators was that the American game was 'slow' and 'wanting in variety.'

1877 - The NL publishes its 1877 game schedule‚ the first league-wide schedule ever issued. The failure of the Athletics and the Mutuals to finish the 1876 season has convinced the NL of the necessity of agreeing on a schedule.

Copyright All Rights Reserved.