Youth Movement   (08/24/01)

Even should one of the currently hot sluggers manage to break Mark McGwire's single season home run record, 2001 will go down as the Year of the Pitcher, specifically the Year of the Young Pitcher.  While Randy Johnson topped 300 K's for the 4th consecutive season - something no one, not even Nolan Ryan had accomplished - it is the young pitchers who have, by and large, dominated the game this year.  Freddie Garcia, Matt Morris, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Eric Gagne, Joe Mays, Kerry Wood, CC Sabathia, Ramon Ortiz, Jarrod Washburn, Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller, all 26 or younger, have come from relative obscurity to pitch their teams into playoff contention.  OK, so Kerry Wood hasn't been exactly obscure, but few people expected he'd recover as quickly from his arm surgery as he has.  In addition to those major league newbies, Javier Vazquez, Tony Armas Jr., Jason Johnson, Brad Penny, AJ Burnett, Doug Davis and Bartolo Colon are among the league leaders in ERA.

Regardless, more terrific arms are are on the way with some of them making recent major league debuts.  Even though most have been brought up with an eye towards next year and beyond, these guys will help their teams (and yours) this year in the final months.

Ruben Quevedo and Nick Neugebauer
PITCHERS           W-L   ERA   G GS CG SHO   IP    H   AB  TBF   R  ER HR SH SF HB  BB  SO WP
N. Neugebauer(AA)  2-1  1.50   4  4  0   0  24.0   10  78   89   5   4  1  1  0  1   9  26  1
N. Neugebauer(AAA) 5-6  3.46  21 21  1   1 106.2   94 391  453  46  41  6  5  3  2  52 149 13
R. Quevedo (AAA)   9-5  2.99  22 22  1   1 141.2  124 523  588  54  47 13  8  6  3  48 150  1

Quevedo came over from the Cubs in the David Weathers trade and has already dented their playoff hopes with a win at Wrigley.  There was some concern that Don Baylor endangered his future with a couple of 120+ pitch outings last year after his call-up but so far, those fears have proved unmerited.  Quevedo was having a very good season in AAA and will be a mainstay in the Brewers rotation for the foreseeable future.

When you think Neugebauer, think Nuke Laloosh.  Like the wild flamethrower in "Bull Durham", Neugebauer has an amazing fastball (readings of 100 mph are not uncommon) and until this year, an amazing lack of control.  This year, however, he has harnessed his incredible talent - his slider is even better than his fastball - and should be the ace of the Brewer's staff for year's to come.  Neugebauer, Quevedo and Ben Sheets, health-willing, will terrorize NL Central hitters for years to come and will very likely finish their careers as the best Brewer's pitchers ever.

Brandon Duckworth
PITCHERS           W-L   ERA   G GS CG SHO   IP    H   AB  TBF   R  ER HR SH SF HB  BB  SO WP
B. Duckworth (AAA) 13-2 2.63  22 20  2  1  147.0  122 534  584  46  43 14  5  2  7  36 150  5

Duckworth was never really highly touted largely because he doesn't possess a great fastball.  However, he has always had a good feel for pitching and he has a very good curveball.  After his stellar performance in Venezuela in the winter of 1999, he moved up the Phillies prospect list rapidly.  He's shown no signs of slowing down now that he's in the bigs.  Think of him as the NL version of Aaron Sele.

Carlos Hernandez
PITCHERS           W-L   ERA   G GS CG SHO   IP    H   AB  TBF   R  ER HR SH SF HB  BB  SO WP
C. Hernandez (AAA) 12-3 3.69  24 23  0  0  139.0  115 504  591  60  57 11  7  4  7  69 167  3

As evidenced by their success this year, the Astros have a wealth of quality young pitchers.  Add Hernandez to that list.  The little lefty - he's 5'10", 145 lbs - reminds many observers of Pedro Martinez, both in stature and repertoire.  He doesn't have Martinez' immaculate control so he might not develop into the Hall-of-Fame type pitcher Martinez is.  However, he's shown both in the minors and in his first two major league starts that his stuff and savvy is gonna give hitters fits.

Jason Jennings
PITCHERS           W-L   ERA   G GS CG SHO   IP    H   AB  TBF   R  ER HR SH SF HB  BB  SO WP
J. Jennings (AAA)  7-8  4.72  22 22  4   0 131.2  145 516  572  80  69  9  6  2  7  41 110  3

Jennings is not the Rockies' last best hope that they can develop pitchers, but he's pretty close.  He has good command of three pitches, including a low 90s sinking fastball and he has the intensity and will of a bulldog on the mound.  His first major league start looked very promising, as he became the first pitcher in major league history to throw a shutout and hit a homer in his first major league game.  It's hard to go up from there, but he has enough talent that he won't drop very far.

Juan Cruz and Carlos Zambrano
PITCHERS           W-L   ERA   G GS CG SHO   IP    H   AB  TBF   R  ER HR SH SF HB  BB  SO WP
C. Zambrano (AAA)  9-4  3.98  24 23  0   0 135.2  117 499  584  67  60  8  5  2 14  64 134 10
J. Cruz (AA)       9-6  4.01  23 23  0   0 121.1  107 450  534  56  54  6  6  2 16  60 137  4

The Cubs have enough pitching depth in the farm system that they could trade a talent like Ruben Quevedo for a middle reliever.  These two pitchers aren't the only reasons they were able to make a deal like that, but they are the best.  Both of them possess mid-high 90s fastballs with crazy movement.  They have the potential to become numbers 1a and 1b in the Cubs rotation, behind Kerry Wood in the coming years.

Cruz' first big league start was terrific, allowing only 2 earned runs in 6 innings while striking out 8.  Zambrano's wasn't as good but that's largely due to poor catching technique by Todd Hundley.  Look, if you're catching a pitcher who's fastball tails a foot to the outside, you don't set up on the outside corner of the plate with your target.  If you do, the pitch will tail way outside and you'll put your pitcher behind in the count.  Instead, set up dead center behind the plate and let the pitch's natural movement tail to the corner.  That way, the ump is more likely to call a strike and the hitter has a tougher time guessing the pitches.  Hopefully, the Cubs will put someone competent behind the plate (like Robert Machado) for Zambrano's next start so he can display his considerable talent statistically.

This Week in Sandbox

I finally got fed up with Glendon Rusch.  He had given hints of pitching as well as he did last year, but always seem to follow a good outing with a completely horrible one.  So regardless of how well he had pitched against NL East opponents in the past - the reason he was on my roster - his lack of consistency didn't bode well for his usefulness over the final month and a half.

I tried to acquire Ramon Ortiz, who the Woodmen had dropped in favor of Bill Mueller, who presumably will back up Scott Rolen at third base when the latter has days off.  But Ortiz has been solid over the last month and has shown a propensity for strong finishes.  But alas, my position in the standings, and thus my waiver position, worked against me, so the Pundits were able to acquire him ahead of me off the wire.

Undeterred to get Rusch off my roster - who might yet have some value in NL only leagues - I acquired Kelvim Escobar.  Escobar has a better history in relief than he does as a starter at the major league level, but has always intrigued managers and GMs as a possible starter.  His minor league numbers indicate he could be dominant in that role.  His last 3 outings convinced me that he's on his way toward achieving that potential.  Along with Roy Halladay and Cris Carpenter, he'll be part of a strong starting nucleus for the Blue Jays for the next several years.

As for this year, down the stretch he'll be facing teams he's done well against - Detroit, Baltimore, Tampa Bay - so his potential to contribute a number of quality starts down the stretch is reasonably high.

The Standings

                                   Starting P        Relief P        Hitters FP
Rank  Team                       FP    G   FP/G    FP   G  FP/G    FP    G   FP/G  Total
1     SF Mock Woodmen           1868  129  14.5   861  109  7.9   4223  1230  3.4   6952
2     ...Jumanji!               2018  121  16.7   854  108  7.9   3987  1218  3.3   6859
3     BaseballHQ Bombers        2192  129  17.0   876  114  7.7   3644  1226  3.0   6712
4     Sandbox Sports            1923  131  14.7   935  113  8.3   3575  1227  2.9   6433
5     Fantasy Baseball HQ       1986  124  16.0  1059  122  8.7   3267  1229  2.7   6312
6     Dr. Stats Juggernauts     2338  133  17.6   829  102  8.1   3091  1179  2.6   6258
7     Desert Dwelling Scalawags 1890  154  12.3   564  109  5.2   3572  1232  2.9   6026
8     The Write Stuff           1927  118  16.3   762  105  7.3   3271  1177  2.8   5960
9     WSS Hurlers               2080  131  15.9   602  112  5.4   3226  1168  2.8   5908
10    Press Room Pundits        1775  126  14.1   694  119  5.8   3256  1235  2.6   5725