Q. Is he a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher?
A. Ron Shandler insists that he's a reliever, but I'll take the other side on that one.
Specifically because my diagnosis would be that:
- He does have better stats as an RP, but well within normal RP bonus
- His repertoire is wayyyy SP
- His "starter's rhythm" and mechanics are wayyyy SP
In the Mariners' case, for this season they could look at him as "long man who provides considerably more rotation stability than the alternatives." I'll buy that for a dollar. I think Phelps would be a Band-Aid all the way, but a well-placed Band-Aid.
Q. Why does he strike out so many guys, with such "meh" stuff and such a low swinging strike rate?
A. He gets good arm action on the slider/cutter. Watch him snap the fingers through with e'lan at this .gif site. Yes, Virginia, there are pitchers who freeze batters a lot better than they sucker them.
As well, he's got legit control of 3 to 4 pitches. Think Erasmo Ramirez with his changeup and slow curve working. Although Erasmo has more zip on the fastball and probably better command, the point's the same -- it's an arsenal that is effectively manifold.
That said, it's not realistic to sustain 8K per game on 7-8% swinging strikes. Don't mistake David Phelps for a legit high-strikeout pitcher. No way in the world, babe. He's a journeyman. But a pretty de luxe one.
Q. He doesn't have good control, either, right? 3.6, 3.8 walks ain't very good for somebody topping out at 89-90 MPH.
A. Well ... Shandler worries about his K/BB trends. I'll take the other side of that one, too.
The K/BB "trends" are on a real small data set; I wouldn't call them "trends" at all.
And Phelps' motion ... he's not only fluid, with pretty mechanics down the centerline, but --- > wow, is that guy LIGHT on his FEET. Think Iwakuma, Hasegawa, Jered Weaver... Phelps looks like he's been training in a DragonBall Z 10G chamber and just stepped out onto the moon. It's a pleasure to watch, man. He's got a better strength-to-weight ratio than Iwakuma.
He doesn't accelerate the CG anything special. But then, he's not relying on velocity. His game is about precision, not power, whatever the K/BB says.
Q. Pitchers you'd compare him to?
A. Wait for it ...
- Best pitch, a slider/cutter featuring great arm action
- Good, not great command
- Reputedly has 70 makeup and pitchability - legitimately confuses hitters
- 7 K per game, out of nowhere
Think about it.
Don't forget Ted Williams: "Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing." This is a golden principle. A select few pitchers are authentically good at it.
We're not saying that Phelps is a righty Jamie Moyer. But I don't expect him to be shelled back to AAA this year, do you?
... and don't undersell Phelps' makeup. The Yankees really do have a knack for identifying rawhide-tough pitchers ... or is it the home crowd and the media clowns that have a way of weeding the cowards out? I'll guarantee you that Zduriencik is seeing a Jason Vargas-like makeup here, and that's what has him wavering.
MLB Trade Rumors has four or five teams currently in on Ervin Santana. You'll remember that Santana can be a Quality Start machine, but also has limited ceiling. I'm guessing the M's take Santana at a discount, or Phelps as a fallback. As Sinjin Smythe would say, that sounds quite reasonable to me.
Q. What's his upside?
He ain't going anywhere with that shtick. Or so it says here. If everything breaks right for him, he'll be Scott Baker for a year or two.
No way that he can dazzle on the level of Good Erasmo, much less on the level of K-Pax or Taijuan. Which is a plus for you and me. No way that the Mariners could confuse him with somebody who should blockade their glamor arms for any length of time.
Phelps is a pragmatic add. One of his many pragmatic benefits: a pressure valve against Taijuan innings if the kid's stiffening up in the dog days.
Sure, you could say that Maurer and Beavan and Erasmo pitch in the same role. But Phelps is much more tempered in that role, if you ask me. You've got risk* with K-Pax, Erasmo and maybe Taijuan, let's zig the other way with the #6 starter swing man and get some reliability.
I like it, kiddies.
So. Do you want a second Scott Baker in this current situation? I'll take one.
Q. At what price?
A. Nick Franklin .... NOT.
Why, specifically? Because David Phelps is most assuredly not better than what you have -- Maurer, Erasmo, even Beavan, all the rest. David Phelps is a few months farther along his career arc, is a little more proven. Two years from now David Phelps probably won't be able to make this team.
You don't pay blue-chip talent to buy a few months' acceleration, but for the April 2014 Mariners, you'd pay something.