I like him a lot. He reminds me a little of Mike Stanton in his build and pitching style, which may sound like faint praise but Stanton’s about to start his eighteenth Major League season and is one of the few pitchers to make the All Star Game as a middle reliever. McBride’s ERA last season wasn’t very good (5.79) but four of the nine runs he allowed came in one disastrous outing against the Cards, and he allowed only one of 21 inherited runners to score. He struck out 22 men (in 14 innings) and walked but seven, and didn’t allow a home run. Of the 27 hitters who did put a ball in play against him, eighteen hit the ball on the ground. But he allowed eighteen hits, hence the high ERA. According to the The Hardball Times Baseball Annual, his “Fielding Independent ERA” was 1.34.
McBride had huge platoon splits, so extreme that I’m not sure that a measure like FIP that looks at all batters as a group really tells the whole story. He faced righthanders 35 times and allowed a .433/.486/.467 line; he faced lefties 30 times for a .172/.226/.207 line. Fifteen of the strikeouts were against lefties — in other words, lefties struck out half the time against him. Seven strikeouts, five walks in 35 PA against righthanders isn’t actually too bad, especially for a rookie, but they got thirteen hits (all but one a single), hence the high OPS.
Barring injury, this thing’s going to go one of two ways. One is, he never does get a handle on righthanders and merely becomes the best lefthanded specialist in the majors for the next decade. The other is he does get a handle on them, holds them to a reasonable batting average, and with his groundball tendencies becomes one of the majors’ best all-around relievers. I’m not saying it’s going to happen in 2006, and young pitchers do get hurt a lot, but I think he’s going to be special.