Friday, January 9, 2009

The Crystal Ball '09: Jeremy Guthrie

A big part of trying to guess what a player may be is to examine the past and see where he fits in. There is more than 100 years of baseball history to draw from after all. But that's really tough to do with Jeremy Guthrie because he has one of the most unique career paths for a pitcher in the last 50 years of baseball.

For a guy who never really distinguished himself in the minors and only appeared in 16 major league games before the 2007 season, Guthrie has performed like nobody before him. In last season's Crystal Ball, I could only find three pitchers who had broke into the majors at age 28 who had a similar level of success. After a nearly identical sophomore effort, Guthrie stands alone.

The only guy from last year's list who still bears some resemblance to Guthrie is Jack Sanford, a pitcher from the 1950's primarily for the Phillies and the Giants. He, like Guthrie, came from nowhere to have a very good rookie season for the Phillies in 1957. But he fell back to earth during his sophomore campaign before going on to a respectable 10-year career. (On a side note, Sanford played for the minor league Baltimore Orioles of the International League before breaking in with the Phillies.)

Harvey Haddix broke in at age 27 in 1953 and made a big splash but also fell off a bit during his sophomore season. (Haddix wound up his career in the 60's as a reliever...for the Baltimore Orioles.)

Guthrie has posted back to back seasons seasons of 125 ERA+. No pitcher of his age or experience (barring players coming in from Japan) has had that kind of success and consistency. We are witnessing one of the more distinctive careers in the history of major league baseball.

What can we expect from Guthrie in '09? Don't look for a lot of wins. Guthrie is a very good pitcher but he would not be an ace on many teams. The Orioles are trotting out a guy who qualifies as a solid No. 2 against the very best pitchers in the American League. Some of his best efforts are wasted and he has pitched much better than his Win-Loss record would indicate.

Other than that, there's no reason to imagine that Guthrie won't do the exact same thing that he has done the last two seasons.

Guthrie '09 9 12 190 24 55 124 3.75

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