Times have been pretty rough for sports media people. It’s kind of funny to see sports media companies reach for material but you gotta do what you gotta do. Speaking of, if you can’t beat em, join em.
We would officially be less than 12 hours from opening day if it weren’t for COVID-19. Unfortunate circumstances but that’s life sometimes. Yes, I’m sad since you were asking and wondering. THERE ARE NO SPORTS. Say that one more time in your head or out loud. It is unfuckingreal to think this is real life at the moment. I know every sports fanatic has been thinking that and saying it to themselves or their buddies but I can’t stop thinking about it. We would be in the midst of March Madness loving EVERY minute of every game. Dayton had a chance this year and we will never get a chance to know if they had it or not. Shout out FSU though, ACC Champs. Breaks my damn heart, but with no sports, and baseball going to be hopefully coming back shortly after this mess, it got me thinking of some hypothetical situations. One situation that got me thinking was if I had a choice to choose a starting pitcher under the age of 26 to start a franchise with, who would it be?
With the great young crop of pitchers out there, there really isn’t a terrible choice anywhere. You can’t really go wrong but some carry a little more value based on age, potential and stuff. These are a few of the pitchers that I will be debating from:
- Walker Buehler
- Jack Flaherty
- Shane Beiber
- Mike Soroka
Pretty dang good set of names that I’m sure anyone would be happy to have on their team. Let’s discuss:
*All stats used are from baseballsavant.mlb.com which also uses statcast*
Ever since Buehler conquered high A, AA, AAA, and then got the call up to the Majors all in one season, he was bound for greatness. With an arseanal of six pitches he works with, Buehler has options; all good options that is. An electric fastball that he throws 53.2% of the time and can climb all the way up to 99 but averaged 96.5 in 2019, a slider he throws 14.% of the time and averages 86.8 MPH that opposing hitters hit .209 off of last season, a cutter he throws 13% of the time, a curveball he throws 12% of the time, a sinker he rarely uses at 7.1%, and rarst pitch he throws, a changeup that he threw 13 times and hitters went 2-2 against it. Buehler has the arsenal. He throws three different variations of a fastball with his 4-seam, his cutter, and his sinker. Ask Greg Maddux, the hardest pitch to hit is a pitch that moves, and all of Buehlers pitches have some type of movement to it. Last year was Buehlers first full season of professional baseball and he excelled. Through 30 starts, Buehler had an ERA of 3.26, a WHIP of 1.042, 215 strikeouts, only 37 walks, and two complete games through 182.1 innings. I assume the Dodgers had him on an innings limit during the regular season which is why he only threw 182.1 innings and then in the postseason he threw another 12.2 innings which put him right at 195 innings for the total of the 2019 season. Buehler has a very bright future and at the age of 25, there is a lot to look forward to.
Just like Buehler, Flaherty had no problem with the minors and was brought up at the ripe age of 21. Now 24, Flaherty has five pitches. A four-seam fastball that reaches upper 90’s but averaged 94.3 MPH in 2019, a slider he throws more than a quarter of the time at 27.6%, a curveball, a changeup, and a sinker as well. His four-seamer, slider, and sinker all held opposing batters under a .200 average and his slider garnered a swing and miss 45.4% of the time. Similar to Buehler, Flaherty had an innings limit his first season with the Big league club as he only threw 151 innings but still put up an ERA of 3.34 ERA and 182 strikeouts. So what happened when the animal was let out of the cage? Flaherty went 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA, a LEAGUE LEADING .968 WHIP, a LEAGUE LEADING hits per 9 at 6.2, 231 strikeouts, 55 walks. All of that was through 196.1 innings and was “rewarded” a fourth place finish in the Cy Young voting. Flaherty is a walking future Cy Young award winner. It’s just a matter of time.
Talk about improvement from one year to the next. Beiber made 19 starts in 2018 and held a 4.55 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and 118 strikeouts through 114.2 innings. Beiber looked good in 2018 but you could tell how the way he pitches, moving from corner to corner with precision and then mixing in his dirty slider, that something was just missing. Whether it was confidence or something mechanically, Beiber figured it out. Beiber has four pitches, a four-seam fastball that averages 93.1 MPH but can reach 96-97 on a good day, a wipeout slider that he averages at 85 MPH. Interestingly, Beiber ADDED 1.3 MPH to his slider from the year before which sat at 83.7 in 2018. Beiber also has a curveball and a changeup that he mixes in their. Beiber had huge improvements to his BAA (batting average against) from 2018 to 2019. With his four-seam fastball, Beiber improved his fastball BAA by .079 points, his slider BAA by .046 points, his curveball by .020 points, and his changeup by .048 points. Beiber has yet to get his BAA below .300 for opposing hitters for two seasons in a row now. I don’t know if a new grip needs to be brought into consideration or maybe turning his hand over on the pitch to act as a circle-change or maybe he throws one already, whatever it is, he might need to take a few MPH off of it or do something. If Beiber can improve that pitch, the American League needs to look out. Beiber did start to throw his fastball a little less than 2018 to 2019 as in 2018 he threw his four-seam 57.4% of the time and in 2019 he knocked that down to 45.7%. In 2019, Beiber was an AL All-Star for the first time and ended up taking home the MVP award for the game as well. As a whole, Beiber went 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA, a 1.054 WHIP, a LEAGUE LEADING 1.7 walks per 9, 259 strikeouts and only 40 walks through 214.1 innings. Beiber did lead the league in shutouts with two and complete games with three. There is a lot to like here and his future seems to be trending in the right direction.
Oh sorrey, Mike Soroka is the Canadian beast. Soroka might be the best Canadian born player since former MVP Justin Morneau. Soroka is another guy that doesn’t throw many pitches straight and utilizes his sinker very often. Soroka throws his sinker 44.6% of the time while he only uses his four-seam 187% of the time. Soroka also has a slider he uses 24.3% of the time and a change he uses 12.4% of the time. For as often as Soroka uses his sinker, he also gets it hit fairly often too as hitters hit .290 against it last year and his four-seam was hit quite often as well a in 2019 hitters batted .274 against it. His off-speed pitches are a little different as his slider held hitters to a .154 while his change-up held hitters to average of .133. Last year Soroka went 13-4 through 29 starts and held an ERA of 2.68, a WHIP of 1.111 (sketch), 142 strikeouts, 41 walks, and lead the league in HR/9 with a .7 mark. Soroka seems to be carving out a role similar to the great Tim Hudson who also worked almost exclusively with his sinker and also had a wipeout slider. Soroka will hopefully hold down the number one spot in the Braves rotation for the foreseeable future and maybe get himself a Cy Young in coming years.
Did you get all of that? A lot of shit to take in right there and i apologize kinda for the excessive info but all four are great options, obviously, and you really can’t go wrong with any of the choices. I do believe that if I had a choice to choose one pitcher from this group to start a franchise with, I would have to go with Jack Flaherty. The man is only 24, showed that he has a dominant arsenal and can take over this league already with one full season under his belt. Flaherty is someone that is set to win a Cy Young in the next 2-3 years if he stays healthy and can continue his dominance throughout the league and possibly even have a you know what career. The Cardinals are lucky to have him and he should be their number one starter for many years to come.