Mauricio Robles and the 5-inning stigma

Spec sez,

I'm one of the Robles-as-SP skeptics...

I freely admit I don't have as much to go on, but I've been watching his linescores and it's just fact -- he never gets past 6 IP. 2007 Rookie: 4.9 IP/start in 14 GS 2008: used in relief several times, so can't figure 2009 Midwest League: 5.1 IP/start in 11 GS 2009 FL St League: 5.0 IP/start in 7 GS 2010 Southern League: 5.18 IP/start in 22 GS 2010 PCL: 5.6 IP/start in 5 GS Also, not conclusive of anything, but he's been used in short relief roles in Venezuela the last two winters.

I'm a fan in every other way, but that's why I haven't been sure that he'll end up an MLB starter.

It's definitely a factor to watch, agreed.  And the Mariners seem to be watching it, along with you...

 If Senor Robles gives us a Bedard-like 5 innings, it's fine with me (although maybe not with an M's shot-caller).

Here's a discussion of the 5-inning stigma from last August, along with some remarks from G-Money.


The differences between one starter and another are subtle, as it pertains to IP/G.  When an injured Bedard was averaging 5.20 innings and the beat writers were apoplectic, we pointed out that the ML average at the time was like 5.85.  Two batters' difference ...

Robles has some inefficiencies in his motion -- his CG is kinda wobbly around the corner -- and I'll be intrigued to see if some age (like Wilhelmsen has) and some smoothed-out mechanics get Robles from 5 to 6 innings.

Here, check out Robles' footwork in this sublime photo from Marc W:

That is the footwork of a LOOGY, without a doubt.  And if we recall correctly, hasn't it actually been Robles' lower body that has shut him down, when he's been hurting?

It's okay for a 1-inning guy to come around the corner like Jeff Nelson or Brian Fuentes, but the ol' chassis isn't going to hold up to 110 pitches at 96 mph, if your body is battling itself the way it does during a crossover step like this.

Hence our remark that, if Robles is taught correct (yep) Mike Marshall footwork, that the stress comes off the body enough to make the difference between 90 pitches, and 105.  What could be a simpler change than to simply set your foot down in a different spot?


As well, it's pretty rare in my memory that a 22-year-old flamethrowing lefty couldn't handle starting just because of muscle fatigue.  (?!)   Injury, sure.  But the guy just gets tired?  Why couldn't that problem be solved?  Everybody can throw 100 pitches if they're not hurting, can't they?  :- )


We won't be able to settle Robles' SP/RP destiny by voting on a mythical national championship -- we'll just have to watch it.  But Spec points out a problem that is no small matter from the M's standpoint.

If they can keep the kid in the rotation, his pure stuff appears to rival that of Kershaw, Bedard or Santana.  The M's could use a big surprise like that, one of these days.



Dr D



Like I said, I don't have an answer for it.  It's just very apparent when you follow the box scores.  Just a red flag, that's all.  But he is a work in progress (entering age-22 season).  Definitely do not see them pushing him into the 2011 mix, especially with Pineda ahead of him.


Can't link to that August bit, Doc, so I might be repeating myself. 
It's a short-pitcher problem, or at least I think it is with hard throwers. The lever isn't as long since his arms are shorter and the downward plane is harder to achieve with his lack of height, so as he gets tired he gets the ball up and gets hit around more easily, or his mechanics get ugly.  
His lower half needs to be stronger.  Oswalt used to have that problem, I believe, and Lincecum this year started working the lower half like never before to compensate for not being able to fireball the pitch in there like he had been.
Robles - a bigger body anyway who may wind up with more than a little Bartolo Colon in him - just needs to run stairs all off-season, and then correct his footwork as indicated.   
There's no way I take a not-yet-22 year old in AAA who throws 95 for a hundred pitches - as a lefty - out of the starting rotation.
Not until I'm REALLY sure he can't stay.  If he has to go to the bullpen, then he has to.  It happened with Eric Gagne, a hard-throwing righty with the same height and build issues. The Dodgers tried til he was 26 to get him to start.  After 3 unsuccessful years at that in the pros they moved him to the pen and he killed. 
Maybe some of that was steroids, but he was always a good arm.
Robles has the same high-K and low-hit approach, but with less-repeatable mechanics he's walking more guys.
I don't know if more stamina or better footwork should be the first step, but if a guy is unhittable and strikes out the world when he gets it over the plate, you sorta want him to throw more than 15 pitches a game.
Please, PLEASE make him a project of somebody, because the arm is worth it.


And here it is also.  Your previous report was more convincing ;- ) and you'll probably experience that Eddie Murphy moment in I Spy when he watches himself box:  MAN!  I LOOK SCARY!
You pointed out that in his 5th and 6th innings, he was still fanning 7-10 men a game.
This time:
There's no way I take a not-yet-22 year old in AAA who throws 95 for a hundred pitches - as a lefty - out of the starting rotation.
Not until I'm REALLY sure he can't stay.  If he has to go to the bullpen, then he has to. 

That'll do for us to.


Am never exactly sure whether you're going to find a follow-on irritating or interesting ... your material stands on its own.
But when we have three paragraphs emerging from the dubious ether of the mind, we're under imperative to get a post together, so thanks for the indulgence to mosh off your great stuff amigo...


Any follow up you want to make is absolutely fine with me, Doc.  Here's a small one of my own.
A couple of variations on the Bedard theme:
- Scott Kazmir (6'0, 92-95 MPH FB/slider/change pitcher, 19 WAR in 4 seasons, then broke, has a 90 mph FB now)
- John Danks (6'1, 91-94 MPH FB/curve-ish/change pitcher, 17 WAR in 4 seasons) 
That's the class of pitcher I have Robles in.  He doesn't have the control of Danks or Bedard yet (not that theirs is great, but their 3 BB/9 is far better than his 4.5).  Kazmir is an example of what happens when you don't get it and have those sorts of mechanics, so he's the guy I'd comp Robles to now...and I'd still take those first 4 wild years in the pros anyway, thanks.
But nobody told Kazmir or Danks to get in the bullpen.  They were high first-round picks from high school and were given the fast track with the expectation of success and had their failures ridden out.
Sometimes I think Robles is given a disservice by not being a free agent WE signed or a draftpick WE made.  Or maybe it's just perception.  If we had traded Washburn for some #6 starter and 20 year old Scott Kazmir he'd be the prize of our pitching system (unless we happened to have a Francisco Liriano in that system too, which we do in Pineda).
Age 20 season:
Kazmir: 7.0 hits, 0.3 HR, 3.7 BB and 9.3 K per 9 in A+ and AA (5.3 innings per start)
Robles 7.4 hits, 0.7 HR, 4.4 BB and 10.6 K in A and A+ (5.1 innings per start)
Just think of him as Scott Kazmir with a chance to be John Danks/Erik Bedard instead of as "potential bullpen guy."  That's all I'm askin for. ;)


Forgot about him.  You've got the lack of height, you've got the wildness and you've got the extra notch on the fastball.
If Robles were pitching for the Yankees or Mets, am sure he'd be moving into that kinda hype...

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