While we are talking about pitching and pitcher development, I thought I’d link to this cool Q&A Baseball Beginnings did with James Shields.
In the interview, Today’s Game James’s talks about learning to pitch in the minor leagues. That took me back to an observation a scout friend of mine made when Shields first broke in with the Devil Rays. Shields was the first truly successful pitching product to be wholly developed by the Devil Rays’ farm system.
In press dining one night, we were discussing why Shields seemed to succeed where Ryan Rupe, Joe Kennedy, Dewon Brazelton, Seth McClung and other hyped pitching prospects failed. My friend told me to go back and look at the number of innings each pitcher had thrown in the minor leagues. His point? Shields had the opportunity to complete a normal developmental course in the minor leagues where he learned to pitch. The other prospects were rushed to the majors for a variety of reasons from draft position, to contract leverage, or to stem some negative public relations.
Extrapolating on my friend’s point proves how different the development approach of Andrew Friedman’s Rays is to the development approach of Chuck LaMar’s Devil Rays.
LaMar’s pitching prospects (Brazelton, Rupe, Kennedy, McClung) averaged 50.5 minor league appearances and 281 minor league IP before debuting in the show. That number excludes Shields because he was never really considered a top pitching prospect in the era of the Matt Whites and the Bobby Seays. That is what allowed his development.
Friedman’s prospects (Price, Davis, Niemann, Hellickson), on the other hand, averaged 78 minor league appearances and 423.2 IP before hitting the big leagues. That number goes to 98 appearances and 528.1 IP if you exclude David Price’s remarkably short run that clearly hasn’t negatively affected his development.
The current crop of Rays pitchers have utilized the extra 142 innings and 28 minor league appearances to develop the nuances that make big league pitchers successful. Andrew Friedman deserves credit for that approach.
In case you are interested, here are the numbers.
Total Minor G/GS/IP before Major League debut:
|Dewon Brazelton 27/27/151||James Shields 93/90/554.1||David Price 19/19/109.2|
|Ryan Rupe 31/31/165.2||Jeff Niemann 47/44/239|
|Joe Kennedy 62/62/371.2||Jeremy Hellickson 108/103/578.2|
|Seth McClung 82/78/435.2||
Wade Davis 138/138/767.1