To me, there was no more puzzling development during the 2009 season than the adoration among writer's and scouts of Tigers rookie pitcher Rick Porcello and the utter dismissal of Oriole rookie pitcher Brad Bergesen. Why?
ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB Porcello '09 3.96 1.34 4.7 2.7 1.71 Bergesen '09 3.43 1.28 4.7 2.3 2.03
If anything, Bergesen was the slightly better version of the same pitcher. Maybe because Porcello is 20 and Bergesen is 23? Perhaps but I think Bergesen is just overlooked.
But maybe he was just lucky. Let's check the BABIP for Bergesen. Hmmm....it comes in at .289. According to Baseball Prospectus, an average BABIP is about .290. So he wasn't particularly lucky either.
Is it the heat? Porcello throws his fastball at 91 mph on average, Bergesen only hits 89 mph. That could be an issue going forward.
But guys like Bergesen can and do success in the majors. Bergesen compares favorably to a buy like Mark Buehrle and pitchers of the past like Bob Tewksbury. He won't be an ace but he could be a solid #4 starter for years to come. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.
In addition, he is an outstanding fielder. I was reading The Bill James Handbook and he was considered the second best fielding pitcher in the American League (behind Mark Buehrle). Any little bit helps.
One word of caution...that leg injury. Guys like Bergesen have no margin for error. They need a repeatable delivery to locate their pitches and deceive the opposition because they have such marginal stuff. Chien-Ming Wang never came back from his foot injury the same pitcher. We can only hope that Brad fully recovers and can regain his form in Spring Training.
My prediciton: a sub-4.00 ERA, a walk rate very close to 2.00 BB/9, a K/9 over 5.00 and 180 innings pitched.
If he can recover from his injury, I think he's for real.