Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Friday, April 02, 2004
Dr. Strangeglove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Glendon Rusch
Yesterday's news that the Cubs had signed Glendon Rusch to a minor league contract elicited a reaction from me that would have been described by our President as "nuculer." Yes, I became a Weapon of Mass Derision, and now with a night's sleep between myself and the offending event, I figure I owe it to Glendon to examine the issue with at least a soupcon of objectivity.
In my rush (rusch?) to denounce, I referred to the new kid as "Shawn Estes' Evil Twin." But is he really (his twin, I mean)? Maybe it would help to look at a few comparable years from each pitcher's career. Since Rusch was 28 last year, let's look at his age 25-28 seasons as compared to Estes 25-28 seasons.
First, Mr. Estes, whose 25-28 seasons were from 1998-2001
Now, Mr. Rusch, whose 25-28 seasons were from 2000-2003.
One of the first things I'm struck by is how these two are not terribly similar. My characterization in my last post appears quite unfair in light of the above. Argue all you want about relative value, but how they get there is not alike.
The only thing that kept Estes from being terrible all the time was his stinginess with the home run and his decent hit rates. His strikeout rate dropped precipitously over those four years (it has since leveled off), and his walk rates were just painful (and climbing back up over the last two years). In fact, what made him so horrid in 2003 were his career high hit and home run rates, at 10.76 and 1.18, respectively. Estes has consistently walked a ton of men, and it's impossible not to get killed when you become hittable, like he did last year.
What served as career highs for Estes in hit and home run rates in 2003 were par for the course for Rusch. The difference, at least in his age 25 and 26 seasons, was his control. A walk rate around two per nine is awfully nice, and Rusch managed to strike some guys out as well to keep his SO/BB ratio over three and a half. Kerry Wood needed to give up 25% fewer free passes to get in that territory, and that was while striking out 11.35 men per nine innings.
Rusch's trouble the last two years has been the erosion of his control and his strikeout rates, and even though he got some of his strikeout ability back last year, he had such a ridiculous hit rate that it didn't matter.
This is where I start to back off of yesterday's statements a bit. While I'd like to see Rusch get his walk rate back down, the fact that his strikeout and home run rates improved last year is encouraging. Also bracing, is how he performed in the limited duty he had upon his return from demotion in the second half. Over 39 innings, he had 9.69 H/9, 0.46 HR/9, 2.08 BB/9, and 7.62 SO/9 with a 3.23 ERA.
These are not Hall of Fame numbers, the sample size is limited, and most of those innings were out of the bullpen. However, there is justification to be found in taking a flyer on a guy like this by giving him a minor league deal, as the Cubs did. Should Mitre falter, Rusch should serve as a passable insurance policy until The Franchise is ready to return.