Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Question No. 6: What Will J-Wright's Role Be?

I really did myself a favor here by scheduling analyses of Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright on back to back days. But before I launch into my J-Wright banter, please allow me to explain a matter involving bias.

I think that Jaret Wright is an idiot, and not in the Kevin Millar/Johnny Damon, “we act like a bunch of bozos who are having fun” kind of idiot. My 3-year-old cousin has more intellectual prowess then Wright. Evidence comes right from the beginning of 2005, when he once again re-injured his pitching shoulder (some of you may note the redundancy in saying “once again re-injured,” but Wright has hurt the damn thing so many times that redundancy is the only way to accurately describe it).

Apparently, ”Wright felt tightness in the shoulder during his pregame warmups but didn't tell anyone (Source: ESPN.com).” Wright also "kind of felt it in the second inning and it gradually got worse (Source: St. Petersburg Times)."

To that point, Wright had been on the DL five times for complications with his pitching shoulder, including season-ending stints in 2000 and 2001. So here he is, feeling tight in warm-ups, and then feeling it worsen from the second inning on. And he didn’t allow Torre to take him out. I’m sorry, but that’s just plain lunacy. So by clinging to his personal pride, Wright compromised the Yankees season and lost himself out on $4 million (the whole 75 days on the DL clause in his contract). S-m-r-t.

Here’s some advice for Wright: just take a look at your career. Before an amazing year with Atlanta in 2004, Wright had never topped a 110 ERA+ (which, in case you are confused, is basically a measure of a pitcher’s ERA against the league average, with 100 as average). Better yet, he had pitched 155.1 innings from 2000 through 2003, mainly because of that pesky shoulder. Obviously, he did something different in 2004.

I realize that Leo Mazzone is one helluva pitching coach, but I’m sure his methods aren’t protected under U.S. Patent laws. Why, therefore, wouldn’t Wright go to Mel last year and say, “hey, coach, this is what Leo had me doing last year, and it really worked.” Instead, J-Wright listened to his coach without saying anything (as far as we know), and befell a familiar fate.

Jaret, if you’re out there reading, please oh please go back to doing whatever it was you did in 2004. I realize that the pitching coach is supposed to guide you along and not vice versa, but you have a rookie pitching coach. He doesn’t know how your body works, but as the proprietor, you’re supposed to. Repeat the steps to success and you’re bound to repeat that success.

Of course, I don’t expect this from Wright, given his history of bonehead moves. And as such, I expect him to miss about two months to the DL this season if he doesn’t completely destroy his shoulder. Finally we can get to the question of what part he’ll play during the four months he’ll possibly be on the active roster.

Talk has been running rampant about J-Wright this off-season, mainly because of the Yankees glut of starting arms. With Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Pavano, Chein-Ming Wang, and Shawn Chacon topping him on the Fan’s Depth Chart, it has been widely speculated that he’ll be the long arm out of the bullpen to start the season. But remember, Joe Torre is at the helm, and he very well may opt to use Wright in the rotation and send Chacon to the bullpen. That would spell more than disaster.

It also means that if he does start the season in the bullpen – where he belongs – he’ll be the first name on the short list of spot-starters. Nevermind Aaron Small, the hero of 2005. He’ll have to wait for J-Wright’s DL stint before he gets a chance to prove he wasn’t a fluke. He might not be waiting that long, however.

Wright has made 52 relief appearances in his career, 50 of which came during the 2003 season, mainly with San Diego though he was shipped to Atlanta at the end of the season. His vitals: 76 hits over 56.1 innings, 50 strikeouts to 31 walks, and nine homers allowed. For the sake of having a table,


The only redeeming number is his strikeouts per nine, which is partially negated by his crappy strikeouts to walks ratio. But the most concerning factor is his near 5 walks per nine innings.

We all remember Wright’s return in August, and how he always seemed to get into trouble in the first inning via walks. This was cause for concern, but usually he settled down and pitched a decent game in the anteceding innings. As a reliever he wouldn’t have that kind of time to settle into the game. As a reliever he’s more prone to walks – though he’s always been known as a guy with little control. In fact, one of the biggest keys to his 2004 season was his lowered walk rate.

So he walks a lot of guys as a starter and more as a reliever. He has a penchant for walking guys early in the game. He has a terrible history pitching out of the bullpen. His only success has come when he’s not walking guys. Yeah, this is a wonderful formula the Yankees have going here. Thankfully, he can be bought out at year’s end and not eat up another roster spot in 2007. Because in 2006, that’s all he’s going do.