Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Gang Of 13: Tim Redding

As one of the 34,000 or so candidates for the second through fifth starter's job, Tim Redding is the one most tab as the potential breakout performer.

Redding, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 20th round of the 1997 draft. As a draft-and-follow, he didn't sign a contract with them until just before the following year's draft.

His first two years in the minors were spent in A-ball. (Minor league stats) He showed promise as the kind of guy who could really excel if he could just harness his stuff. Over those two years, he struck out an utterly dominant 12 batters per 9. During that same stretch, he walked an ungodly 6.5 per 9. Still, he was able to keep the ball in the park, and his overpowering stuff prevented him from giving up too many hits.

2000-2001 is where he really started to put it together. He got his control together, for the most part, and rocketed all the way up to the majors after several short stops along the way. He peaked at #3 on Baseball America's Top-10 Astros prospects list (behind some stiff named Roy Oswalt). Interestingly, his manager in 2000, when he was the Florida State League pitcher of the year was Manny Acta.

Redding struggled in the majors at first. A tough hitters park, inexperience, and a so-so defense certainly didn't help him much. It wasn't until 2003 he broke out. He stayed the entire year in Houston, starting 32 games, throwing 170+ innings and winning 10 with a terrific 3.68 ERA on a team that fell one win short of the post-season. Redding didn't pitch particularly deep into games, and the team's lousy offense helped make his 10-14 record look worse than he really pitched.

But that was his high-water mark.

Redding started 2004 as the Astros #5 starter. He started off terribly, before going on a brief hot stretch thanks to some extra work with the Houston pitching coach. They gave him 14 starts, and his 5.73 ERA got him kicked to the bullpen where, in his second relief appearance, he coughed up 6 runs in just an inning. After bouncing in and out of the rotation, they sent him back to the minors to work on some things. He gave New Orleans fans 5 starts with a 6 ERA, and somehow got a promotion in September after the rosters expanded, where he stunk just as much as before.

Houston traded him to San Diego, and he's bounced around since. He scuffled with San Diego before being disabled with a strained right rotator cuff. He pitched 2 great rehab starts in Triple-A, got promoted, go knocked around, then was traded to the Yankees who gave him all of one inning (and six runs) to prove himself. He finished the year by struggling in Columbus, and looked officially washed up.

The White Sox offered him a minor league deal and he want to Charlotte to prove himself. He threw 180 innings, winning 12 games with a solid 3.40 ERA. Impressively, he improved his command, walking just 2.7 batters per nine while striking out just over 7 a game. In one stretch, he went 25 innings while allowing just one run, and striking out 32 batters. Even more impressive, in his final 44 innings, he allowed just 27 hits. (minor league splits)

What improved for Redding? I'd guess that his shoulder had been bugging him for longer than he let on. And there almost certainly was a mechanical issue that he worked on. It seems like the physical and mental aspects of pitching clicked again. Now some of his improvement is tied to favorable conditions where he pitched, but if he can just duplicate what he did last year, he's a solid #4. Any improvement, and the Nats have a #3 (which they lacked last year).

So what do the pointy-headed prognosticators have to say?

Baseball Prospectus says: 5.24 ERA
CHONE says: 4.99 ERA
ZIPS says: 5.04 ERA
Marcel says: 5.65 ERA
(If you're interested in the last three methodologies, you'll have to click through some crap here)

Those all seem like reasonable expectations. Although I could see him trending much better than that (thanks to his seemingly real improvements and a pretty nifty defense in a pitcher's park behind him). Of course I could also see 5 starts with a 10.04 ERA.

For a point of comparison, even the worst of those ERA projections would make him better than Ramon Ortiz was last year.

I don't really know what to expect out of him, but that's the one silver lining on the tornado-bearing thunderhead that is this season. We'll have plenty of time to sort through the chaff, seeing what's good, and what stinks. If he works out, the Nats have a #3/4 starter under contract for next year at a bargain-basement price. If he flames out, you ship his carcass back to the minors.

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