Hey Bill
What if Bob Gibson came up with the M's?
This Week in Hey Bill:
If Bob Gibson were to come up today, would his team try to force him to "clean up" his delivery? Is there a chance that he might have been even better with a more conventional motion? Of course there's always a chance and my questions are very speculative. But I know that you've advocated more open-mindedness about unconventional mechanics, and I just wondered what your thoughts might be. Thanks.
Asked by: stevemillburg
Answered: 11/8/2013
Absolutely they would have tried to clean up his delivery--and would have forced him to adapt to a conventional approach.    You have to remember:   Gibson struggled for a long, long time before he pulled it together.    Sandy Koufax is famous for the years of struggle before he finally broke through in mid-1961, but Gibson was a few months older than Koufax and a couple of years later putting the pieces together.  
And no, there is no chance whatsoever that Gibson would have been even better with a conventional delivery.   Or Koufax either, for that matter.  
Is it even possible to imagine the Seattle Mariners putting up with a starting pitcher "for a long, long time before he pulled it together"?  With Taijuan, Paxton, Hultzen etc. the discussion always centers around --- > will he walk more than two men in his first game out of AAA.
It's not like the city of Seattle is lacking for visual examples of Gibson and Koufax.  The Big Three of the 1990's -- Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer, and Jeff Fassero -- all went many years in the majors before they jelled as stars.
But then Felix came up, and Michael Pineda, and did dominate from their very first games.  Although Pineda's first spring training game, vs. the Dodgers, remember that?  He gave up 4 runs, and then the debate raged fiercely as to whether Pineda should come North...
We ran an article in May, addressing this general subject.  Bill James responded to one of our questions by saying,
Same era, 2000, they had a pitcher named Mac Suzuki.   In 2000 he was 8-10, 4.34 ERA.   In 2001 he made 9 starts for them.   Well, OK. . .who you got that's better than that?
There are two ways to look at it:
a)  We gave him a chance, he wasn't that good; let's give somebody else a chance, or
b)  We tried him, he wasn't that bad, let's see if we can build on it.
Maybe it's just a philosophy thing, but I say, let's build on it.     After Stein they tried Jeff Austin, and then Chris George, and then Darrell May, and then Kyle Snyder, and then Mike Wood, and then Jimmy Gobble.   Through 2012 they were still in that phase, just trying this guy and that guy.    As long as a pitcher doesn't get hurt, he's got a chance to get better.

- See more at: http://seattlesportsinsider.com/article/player-development-and-first-ret...

We ran another one in May, asking, "How important is it, that a rookie pitcher have a lot of success?"  The answer was, Not very.  
James found that whatever your ERA in your first 20-40 games, high or low, it did not change the expectations for your ERA in the rest of your career.  Gimme a pitcher with a 3.50 ERA in his first year, or a 4.50 ERA, and he's liable to have the same ERA going forward.
Why?  Because pitchers learn.  They build on experiences, and get better.  The 4.50 ERA kids catch up to the 3.50 ERA kids.
There's an exception to that.  If a BLUE CHIP pitcher WITH GREAT STUFF comes up and makes a huge splash, then his chances of being a star go way up.  We ran an article on that too.  The 5% best rookie starting pitchers, you tend to see their talent in their debuts.  I mean, if Stephen Strasburg can throw 98 MPH all game, that effects his debut game, and his entire career...
The same is true, of course, for Taijuan and K-Pax.   VERY FORTUNATELY, for you and I at Seattle Sports Insider, these two pitchers made the "patience" issue a moot one.  Serendipity, baby.
Problem is, this corollary confuses the issue.  It runs across the point we made in the previous section.
Going back to the original point about "cleaning up" Bob Gibson's delivery ... there are many possible responses to Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
  • Tweak their deliveries.
  • Make them prove that they can walk fewer than 2.0 men per game before they go to the rotation.
  • Make them pitch with a Moyer-esque knowledge of the hitters' weaknesses.
  • React to two Paxton wild starts with panic.
  • etc. etc.
  • Leave them alone and let them pitch, even if that means two seasons of spotty results.
Only one of the above is the correct reaction in 2014.  ... Every single thing that people say about Taijuan and K-Pax, that does not amount to "Just let them pitch," will be a wrong thing to say.
B'lee DAT,
Dr D





Making young MLB-ready arms "prove" they are MLB worthy in AAA is stupid, is what it is. The only way you can prove that is in the majors and even then you have a learning curve. But you can't ignore that MLB learning curve by "more seasoning" in Tacoma. It exists whether you are 21 or 25.
I may not always be consistent, but there is one thing I do throw out there all the time: Precocious/prodigious talent should rise to the MLB level quickly, based on the talent alone. Bryce Harper hit .243 with one HR in his AAA 21-game experience. That didn't stop the Nats from doing the very right thing and saying, "Here you go Mick...er...kid. CF is yours. Enjoy the next 16 years!"
With Paxton and Walker I don't even thing you take into account the extra arb year. Bring em up out of ST. AT the end of year #2, sign them LT.
Are there really people who think we need more Joe Saunders until the young guys are really "ready?"


Seasoning is important for many, if not most players, but upper echelon talent demands the big stage to thrive, even if the results lag for a year or two. In the case of a pitcher, three or four years, or more.

RockiesJeff's picture

Dr, I have been drowning in stupidity today so a ray of brilliance is very welcomed! Balance is a key, isn't it? Why is it so rare?


If we do not win NOW, I will never go to another game and demand that they fire everyone and I will demand on every web site that everyone get traded and benched and I will bitch and moan and complain until everyone is as miserable I I hope to be when I am proven right.... Ok I am better now.

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