Monday, February 06, 2006

Question No. 5: How WIll Carl Pavano Factor In?

There’s a reason I left Carl Pavano off the list of pitchers analyzed last week: he presents the most definitive question mark heading into 2006. No PECOTA or ZiPS projections could possibly predict how Pavano will hurl this year. So the question I face now is, how do we figure this guy out?

Obviously, his shoulder is of the utmost concern. After tweaking his back in spring training, Pavs altered his pitching motion, which always spells trouble for a pitcher. After a few months of inconsistent mediocrity, he hit the DL, never to return. This leaves plenty of room for concern heading into 2006, though Carl purports to be fully recovered.

My concerns concern both his physical and mental state. Physically, I’m not sure what to expect. He pitched half a season with various injuries, so the full extent of the damage done is completely unknown. Shoulder tendonitis is also rather uncommon, which is further troubling. Finally, who knows how hard the guy is working out over the off-season? I haven’t read reports of him starting some Clemens-esque training program or even participating in any off-season workouts. How can we have faith in a guy who was mediocre for half a season, injured the other half, and has not reported any increased physical activity in preparation for the season?

If the physical problem is intricate, the mental one is downright impossible to figure out. Last year, Pavano was the money free agent, and basically had his pick of the litter, among Detroit, New York, Boston, Seattle, Baltimore, Toronto, or even Florida. Wherever he went, he was going to get paid. So he chooses New York, ostensibly because he knows it was his best shot to win a World Series. Then he comes in, doesn’t live up to expectations, and all the sudden there are rumors abound about his unhappiness in New York. Now he’s changed his tune again, and has told the media that he wants to succeed in New York.

Excuse me for not buying into this load of BS. Have you ever been guilted into doing something you don’t want to do? Say, moving a couch at grandma’s house. But then you get the guilt trip for not wanting to help grams out, so you go and move it anyway. And, of course, you tell grandma just how happy you are to be helping her out. Well, Pavano was guilted into saying that he wants to succeed with the Yankees. He was no longer happy in New York, and when the fans/media got on him about it, he quickly changed his tune. I don’t believe for a second that Pavano truly wants to be with the Yankees.

Now he’s heading into Spring Training having to rediscover his true pitching motion, and with a rookie pitching coach no less (though Mel will supposedly be around during Spring Training, which I think is a huge relief). He hasn’t said anything publicly about his workout regimen, which is troubling.

Though I can’t predict exactly how he’ll pitch, I think this analysis helps prove at least one thing: he’s not going to pitch better than he did in 2004. How can he be expected to? He hasn’t stepped up the physical work, he missed half a year, and he’s obviously not happy in New York. For him to top an 18-8, 3.00 ERA season, he’d have to be extra motivated and in practice. So while that’s his actual ceiling, his reasonable ceiling would be somewhere around 15-5, 3.80 ERA. Remember, folks, these are ceiling numbers, not what I’m predicting he’ll do.

Really, that’s all I have on him. Pavano is such a wild card that it’s tough even to break him down. But, since I love pitching peripherals so much, I’ll end today’s post by charting his numbers in 2003 and 2004.

YearIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBGB:FBERA
2003201.05.962.190.852.711.104.30
2004222.15.631.980.652.841.433.00


The only difference is him keeping the ball more on the ground in 2004, which he also did in 2005 with little to show for it. None of this is inspiring confidence in Carl Pavano.