Friday, September 15, 2006

The Rasner Bandwagon

Everyone, gather ‘round. We have a new student in class today, and I’d like to introduce him. He goes by the name Darrell Rasner, and no, we haven’t thought of an appropriate nickname yet. But when we do, you’ll certainly be the first to know.

See, Rasner was picked up as a castoff from the Nationals over the off-season. Jim Bowden apparently thought that he had no use for a promising 25-year-old pitcher, and cut bait. Cashman, being the astute executive he is, quickly nabbed Rasner, knowing that at age 25, he’s quite young for a pitcher. Additionally, the Yankees now own his services for at least four more years, and it could be five depending on his exact MLB service time.

The main question we should all be asking now is, “why? Why did Bowden let Rasner go?” It must have been his minor-league track record, right? He was a second round pick, after all, so a decidedly subpar minor league performance could get him the pink slip. His numbers from AA Harrisburg, a National’s affiliate, in 2005:

150.1 3.59 5.75 1.74 0.60 3.31 1.19

Are you kidding me? That’s the kid Bowden let go? How did this one slip under the radar? He’s only 25, and those are, by all means, very impressive numbers for a youngster. He may not blow people away, but he has control (1.74 BB/9? Freakin’ excellent, my friend) and, most importantly, keeps the ball in the park. His 0.60 HR/9 is no aberration; he’s kept a similarly low rate throughout his minor league career.

He’s ours now, and Joe would be wise to give him a few starts down the stretch. He’s relatively unknown, unscouted, and unseen by the AL playoff hopefuls, giving him the K-Rod and Jenks edge (an edge also in Bruney’s favor). But most importantly, he throws strikes, which can’t be said of Cory Lidle or Jaret Wright. Why would you trot out either of them when you know that the game hinges on their suspect control? Wouldn’t you rather have a guy who 1) your opponent hasn’t seen and 2) actually puts the ball over the plate and won’t “clog the basepaths” via walks? And, as it is integral in the playoffs, keep the ball in the park (though in Wright’s defense, he does a stellar job of this)?

The only way to see if he’s capable is to give him more starts. I know Chien-Ming Wang is going for 20 wins this season, but what’s more important, attaining 20 wins, or being well rested come playoff time? If the Yanks are close or have home field advantage locked up by the last week and a half of the season, I see no reason to not give Rasner two starts. He’s got the tools, he’s got an edge, and he has a potential void to fill.

This all comes on the hells of his lights out performance last night, allowing just one hit over four innings of relief work. You can discount it all you want, considering it was the Devil Rays, but they sure didn’t look like a crappy team against Jeff Karstens over the first five innings. Some other highlights of Rasner’s evening: he tossed a mere 45 pitches over those four innings (a stellar 11.25 per inning), 36 of which were strikes. Eighty percent. That’s downright sick. He also posted five strikeouts, mostly courtesy of his honed hook, and added to that an impressive 5-2 ground ball to fly ball ratio.

I know it’s early to be jumping on the bandwagon, but seriously, what Yankees starting pitcher not named Wang, Johnson, or Mussina is better than Rasner right now? With him and Bruney on the postseason roster, the Yanks will be that much stronger. Now it’s just a matter of convincing Torre that his “Reliable Veterans” aren’t quite as reliable as a 25-year-old Nationals castoff.