Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

The Curious Case of Daniel Cabrera

Posted by Mike on May 19, 2006

A couple weeks ago, I profiled Corey Patterson based on his difficulty in comprehending the concept of a strike zone.  Today, I hope to do the same for Daniel Cabrera.

Clearly, the point of this toiling is produce pitchers comparable to Cabrera in terms of both promise and their ability to frustrate fans.  Let's first take a look at a few of Daniel's key indicators for the past few years:

                      K/9                BB/9  

2004             4.63                 5.42

2005             8.76                 4.85

2006             9.36                 8.49

There are a few notes I should make right off the bat.  First, Cabrera has the added benefit of being an extreme groundball pitcher.  But I have no way of tracking that historically, so we will have to make do with K and BB rates.  Secondly, we should most concern ourselves with the statistics from 2005.  Clearly, Cabrera had no business pitching in the major leagues in 2004 and I would be remiss to hold that against him (although you should feel free to hold it against the organization).  Conversely, 2006 is still young and his statistics are skewed by a few ridiculous outings. 

With that in mind, here is the criteria I opted to use for creating a list of comparables for Daniel Cabrera:

  1. Season occurred after 1980
  2. Pitcher pitched at least 100 innings
  3. K/9 is equal to or greater than 8.50
  4. BB/9 is equal to or greater than 4.50
  5. Pitcher is 25 or younger during the season in question

Here is a list of matches:

Bobby Witt 1986 & 1987

Like Cabrera, Witt was called up well before he was ready.  By his age 26 season, 1990, Witt did the best of his career.  He maintained his high strikeout rate but cut his walk rate to 4.46 per 9 ip.  For the majority of the rest of his long career, Witt was close to a league average performer with wildly fluctuating strikeout rates. 

Mitch Williams  1987

No surprise that Wild Thing makes an appearance on this list.  Being a reliever, the applicability of this comparison isn't very high.  Nevertheless, Williams had a successful career out of the pen while remaining wild throughout. 

Scott Williamson 2000 

Another immensely talented reliever, Williamson has also battled injury problems.  He's generally been effective when available to pitch.

Chan Ho Park  1996

We all know the story with Park- he went on to become one of the game's best before the Rangers rewarded him with a ridiculous contract.  He promptly broke down.

Kerry Wood  2000 & 2001

Wood's story is similarly familiar.  Yesterday, after his most recent rehad stint, he made his first start of the season.

Oliver Perez  2003

Perez broke out in a big way in 2004.  Since then, he's stuggled with injuries and inconsistency.  He's still only 25 and, personally, I am a big fan.  So, I'll forgive the Pirates for being patient. 

Mark Clear  1980 & 1982

Another reliever- maybe I should have put a games started filter in there…  Anyway, Clear was a useful, if inconsistent, reliever into his early thirties.

Randy Wolf  1999

Wolf went on to become one of the better starters in the National League, until injuries started to drag him down these past two seasons. 

Pedro Martinez  1993

Simply ther most dominant pitcher of all time.  I recently saw a respected writer compare Martinez to Koufax.  That's underselling what Martinez has accomplished.  In their respective primes, I would take Pedro over anybody that has ever thrown a baseball.

Of course, 1993 was his age 21 season and by 1994, he was throwing strikes at a rate that Daniel Cabrera will likely never reproduce.

C.C. Sabathia  2001

Sabathia has quickly become one of the more reliable starters in the AL, although his K rate has fallen along with his BB rate.  Until recently, many believed he could become similar to Livan Hernandez.  That still may happen, but it's unfair to expect any young pitcher to carry the workload that he has.

Scott Garrelts  1985

The former first round pick (and another reliever) had his second best season in 1985.  He switched to starting in 1989 and, despite a plummeting K rate, helped lead the Giants to the World Series.  He was out of baseball by his 30th birthday.

Bartolo Colon  2000

Colon has succeeded by improving his control, even if it costs him a few K's.  His hard work culminated in an incredibly undeserved Cy Young Award last year.  Nevertheless, Colon is a very valuable player. 

Rick Ankiel  2000

After injuries cut short a phenomenal young pitching career, Ankiel has decided to try to make it back to St. Louis as an outfielder.  He hit very well in High A last year and his power translated to AA as well, albeit with no plate discipline.  Earlier this season, Ankiel broke his clavicle, once again proving my point that God hates Rick Ankiel. 

Conclusion

This list doesn't need much more commentary.  Aside from Rick Ankiel (Quick aside: Has anyone thought of making Rick Ankiel novelty voodoo dolls?), the comparables are quite positive.  To my surprise, most people on this list either developed more control or managed it in some way (usage patterns?) to maintain effectiveness. 

I should note that many of the people on this list have some kind of advantage over Cabrera.  Pedro Martinez was 3 years younger than Cabrera was when he qualified for the list and even then, barely so.  Nevertheless, I don't think many of you would be surprised to discover some objective confirmation of Cabrera's tremendous upside.  What surprises me most is that so few of his comparables failed outright.

One word of caution is that many of these pitchers suffered through injuries.  In some cases (Wood, Perez), the jury is still out on what type of career they will ultimately carve out for themselves.  You could argue that the sample is inherently risky since it only considers pitchers 25 or younger, but it makes sense that this particular breed of pitcher would suffer disproportionately.  Even those on this list that carved out long careers for themselves, like Pedro, are constantly scrutinized for health concerns.  Luckily, you couldn't ask for much better of a pitcher's build than Daniel Cabrera's, but that, and because his pitch counts are easy to lose track of, are not good excuses for abusing him

Finally, one name you guys might have been expecting to see is Randy Johnson's.   He missed the list because of the age cutoff, which was meant to convey the possibility of rapid development, but his 1992 season would have otherwise qualified.  His example is as good as any to leave you with.  Like most of the other examples, Johnson's career demands patience with the enigmatic Daniel Cabrera.

So rest easy, O's fans.  It might not happen this year or even next, but Daniel Cabrera's upside is as high as any young pitcher's in baseball.  For that, I'll gladly wait and endure the rough patches.

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7 Responses to “The Curious Case of Daniel Cabrera”

  1. Ted C said

    Nice job again, Mike.

    My favorite comp to Cabrera is JR Richard, but he missed the cut due to the year.

  2. Craig S said

    My only concern is – will the Orioles front office be smart enough to be patient with him. It turns out Duquette was the “mastermind” behind the Kazmir for Zambrano trade. I hope he doesn’t have any more “bright” ideas.

  3. Ted C said

    But wasn’t Rick Peterson the one urging Duquette to make that deal?

  4. Eddie said

    …It looks bad now but I think the Mets braintrust was figuring that Scott Kazmir’s body type and windup wouldn’t make it out of the nexus intact…it’s a decent gamble they made…it just looks like they gambled wrong…

    …these comparables are encouraging about Cabrera…it makes it appear like Cabrera will end up being productive one way or another…but, if he ends up being a RP I think it would be a letdown…my opinion of him is that, when he first came up, he didn’t seem to really try to repeat his mechanics from a technical point of view consistently enough…sometimes he’d start at one side of the rubber…the next pitch he was at a completely different part…and his arm slot would change from pitch-to-pitch dramatically…sometimes pitchers like to alter this stuff pitch-to-pitch to catch batters off gaurd but, with Cabrera, you’d like to see him master a single consistent delivery first…since his rookie year, technically he’s started to become more and more consistent but he’s still a little off…

    …the differences in his results from start to start IMO are a lot more similar than it might seem…I think he’s actually been more or less consistently wild in every start, but, has had more success against anxious offenses wanting to snap out of a slump, or, just plain impatient teams…

  5. Kilbs said

    His talent is undeniable. However, what’s the best way to maximize his value while he is under control of the Orioles? Would it be wise to send him on an extended rehab stint in the minors?

  6. Eddie said

    …great point…him tweaking his shoulder might be a great indirect way to get him some innings at AAA to work on a few things…just getting away from MLB game situations where everything counts might be just what he needs to correct a few mechanical things?…

  7. Sam said

    I like Kilbs’s idea, but strongly doubt anyone in this organization has the foresight and patience to make that decision. The Roy Halladay idea of sending an major leaguer down to A ball was brought up in relation to Corey Patterson, but I think this strategy may be helpful to consider with Cabrera as well. Cabrera has no shortage of confidence, but has real specific mechanical changes he needs to make in order to cut his walk rates. A ball is a good place to make these changes. If he tries to make the changes at the big league level, the changes could initially result in him getting shelled, which may lead him to abandon the changes rather than sticking with them. I doubt the organization ever would think about this option, but its worth considering.

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