Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Brad Bergesen

Killing worms at MLB stadiums since 2009...
Before we get started,a quick rundown of Brad Bergesen's numbers from 2010, followed by 2011 projections from Marcel and Bill James:

               IP     BB/9   K/9   HR/9   ERA   GB%   FIP   
2010          170.0   2.70  4.29   1.38  4.98  48.7  5.14
Marcel        156.0   2.65  5.13   1.10  4.27  ----  4.52
Bill James    198.0   2.36  4.45   1.09  4.27  ----  4.56  

It's interesting that these systems see improvement for Bergesen in 2011. (The FanGraphs fans predictions see improvement as well although not quite as good as these projections...)

My guess would be that, due to his good groundball rate, the projections do not see Bergesen giving up 26 home runes again. Bergesen's gave up home runs at an 11.9% HR/FB rate. That does not seem likely to continue. Bergesen never gave up home runs at anything close to those rates in the minors or last season. Unless he just completely falls apart, that number should come way down.

And that's the key, isn't it? Bergesen is a guy who lives on the edge. His factball barely cracks 90 mph, he doesn't strike guys out and outside of his slider, I'm not sure you can point to any of his pitches as a "plus" pitch.

But he gets by on very good control, getting a ton of ground balls and, in turn, giving up few home runs. With that kind of skillset, he really shouldn't have survived in the AL East until year three but he has.

Everything has to go right for Bergesen to be an effective starter; there is no room for error. And maybe that was part of his problem during the first half of last season. He was sidelined from July until February by the Billy Butler he took off his shin and then sidelined even longer when he tweaked his arm shooting a MASN commercial of all things. He didn't get an offseason and it seemed like it took him awhile to get it all together in 2010. A hurler who survives on fantastic control like Bergesen relys on a very, very repeatable delivery and the layoff had to hurt him a bit.

After a stint in Norfolk and another in the bullpen, Bergesen's second half was much better.

            IP     K   BB   HR   ERA
Apr-Jun    58.0   14   20    8  6.83
Jul-Sep   112.0   67   31   18  4.02

(For a more detailed look at Bergesen's turnaround, read this post from Dan at Camden Crazies.)

Bergesen is never going to be a great pitcher but he can certainly be a useful 4th or 5th starter. He has a fair shot to throw 180 innings of league average ERA in 2011. It's not the stuff Cy Young awards are made of but Tim Wakefield made a career of it.

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