Obviously you have to give Schuerholz credit for trading a utility infielder and getting back the second-most valuable pitcher on the 2005 staff. His 2.55 ERA looks for all the world like a fluke, one his peripheral stats can’t maintain. The only real improvement in his basic stats was that he cut way down on his homers allowed, which helps but doesn’t explain a drop of more than two runs of ERA. His strikeout rate actually went down; his control was a little better once you factor out eight intentional walks. As I’ve said before, he had dramatic splits depending upon the situation, becoming much harder to put the ball in play on when runners were in scoring position:
270 AB with no one on: .278/.359/.433, 37 K 34 BB 6 HR.
236 AB with runners on: .199/.282/.305, 48 K 30 BB 6 HR
124 AB with runners in scoring position: .194/.309/.306, 31 K 23 BB 1 HR
Some of it is certainly hit luck; even the increased strikeout rate can’t explain a .199 batting average against. At the same time, I’m pretty sure that he’s bearing down more and is willing to walk a guy rather than give him something good to hit. It’s not a bad strategy as such. If he can increase his innings and maintain these splits, he can be a valuable pitcher. If he can pitch like he did with runners on all the time, he can be a star. If he can’t increase his innings without losing effectiveness, the indication is that he might be better served in the bullpen, where he might throw 70 innings a year as a closer, going all-out most of the time. I have little doubt about his talents. It’s quite likely that he will pitch better in 2006 but not be as lucky and see his ERA go up. I like him going forward, but I don’t think you can count on him being more than a fourth starter or setup man in 2006.