Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Crystal Ball '08: Jeremy Guthrie

When the Orioles claimed Jeremy Guthrie off of waivers from the Indians nearly a year ago, I immediately had him sized up when I stated that "he may develop into a decent relief pitcher if things break the right way".


Obviously, he was much more than that, contended for rookie of the year after injuries opened the door for him to join the starting rotation and proved to be the best rookie pitcher the O's have seen in more than 15 years.

Predicting Jeremy Guthrie is kind of difficult because he is something of an oddity. There are very few pitchers in the history of the game who have had the kind of success that Guthrie had as a starter (3.70 ERA, 175 IP) at age 28 with so few innings previously logged at the major league level (fewer than 40).

I mean, guys who break in for good at 28 usually end up as relievers, not above average starters.

I could only find three other guys from the past 50 years who took anything close to Guthrie's path to the majors. The closest was a guy named Jack Sanford, who pitched for the Phillies and Giants in the late 50's and early 60's. Other guys who Guthrie emulates are Bob Veale (another 60's pitcher) and HOF'er Phil Niekro.

The good news? All of these guys ended up being pretty good pitchers for at least 5 years after their debut.

I also find it interesting that nobody like Guthrie has come along in over 40 years.

As far as Oriole rookie pitchers, his performance puts him right up there with the likes of Steve Barber, Mike Boddicker, Mike Mussina...and Rodrigo Lopez. Well, mostly good company.

I've been far too positive in these predictions! I came into this post looking for anything to explode the Guthrie myth but have found very little ammunition. About the only thing I can pin on him is a lousy August where he was almost surely pitching while injured.

Barring injury (the ultimate disclaimer), look for Guthrie to put up the same solid numbers and pitch over 200 innings. On this team, that's makes for a solid number 2 starter.

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