Tigers Consider Coke for Rotation
Would Phil Coke work as a starter for the Tigers?
It’s something they’re considering.
Typically taking your newly acquired LOOGY and plugging him in your rotation is about as good of an idea as letting your neighbor who had an accounting class in high school to your taxes. But in this case, it’s not completely far-fetched.
First, the obvious.
Coke was primarily a starter in the minors, and with relative success (3.61 ERA, 2.53 to 1 K/BB ratio), although he was always old for his league. His minor league FIP was 3.68, and he proved to be only slightly less effective against righties than lefties, with a FIP of 3.46 against LHH and 3.74 against RHH.
The majors, however, have been another story.
At first glance, his splits hold up. For his career, lefties have hit .197 off Coke, and righties have hit .202. But something out jumped out at me when I looked at the numbers. Can you see it? It hit me like a ton of bricks.
In the minors Coke showed above-average control, walking 2.91 batters per 9 IP. In the majors, his rate has been 2.7 batters per 9 IP, relatively the same. But Coke’s career splits show us that 72.7% of his career walks (16 of 22) have come against right-handed hitters.
There is no reason to believe (at least as far as I can tell) that Coke somehow loses all concept of where his pitches are going when a righty comes to the plate. A more likely scenario, considering that the bulk of Coke’s work is as a situational lefty, is that he often was asked (or it was suggested to him) to pitch around a right-handed hitter to get to a lefty.
Consider the situation Coke probably faced routinely – manager Joe Girardi calls Coke out of the bullpen to face a L-R-L situation in the batting order. With the Yankees not wanting to use up an additional pitcher, Girardi instructs Coke to go after the lefty, be very careful with the righty, then go after the next lefty before heading in for a shower after a hard day’s work. Not wanting to get hurt by the RHH, Coke attempts to get him to chase pitches outside of the strike zone and get himself out, and if unsuccessful, issues the unintentional-intentional walk (UIIBB for those of you scoring at home).
If I worked for the Tigers, I would run the numbers and find out exactly how many times this occurred, because it directly affects the validity of Coke’s .202 BAA vs. RHH, but since I have to have a real job for a living, I don’t have time.
The point is that if Coke spent any significant portion of his time facing righties actually trying to avoid them, then his numbers against them are irrelevant. The only real information the Tigers have to go on in predicting Coke’s success as a big league starter are his minor league numbers, which don’t give them much information.
They have nothing to lose by trying him as a starter in Spring Training. At worst he goes back to the bullpen. But they’d be smart to have a few other options ready.
- Exhibit A of how much the McCourt’s divorce is affecting the Dodgers’ spending – Ned Coletti defends his decision not to offer arbitration to Randy Wolf for fear of getting stuck with a $15 million bill. And he’s probably right, given his new financial restraints. But this is coming from the same GM who gave Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt $83 million to be fat and/or hurt.
- Just in case you weren’t sure, Barry Bonds’ career is over…probably. The last quote from Bonds’ agent is baseball comedy at its finest.
- We all know Ed Wade is a bad GM, but aren’t he and Drayton McLane a match made in heaven (or hell, if you’re an Astros fan)? As my grandmother always said, there’s a lid for every pot.
- Transaction note – the Royals released Mike Jacobs. On a related note, Leo Nunez just turned 26 and still throws 94 mph.
- Braves fans, you can breathe easy again, but if you’re still looking for that queasy feeling, look no further
Tags: Detroit Tigers