Thursday, September 11, 2008

Charlie Haeger and Scott Patterson

We've been active on the waiver wire in the past 48 hours as we've claimed two right-handed pitchers: Charlie Haeger from the Chicago White Sox and Scott Patterson from the New York Yankees.

Charlie is a young (24) knuckleballer who was originally drafted as a more conventional pitcher by the White Sox in the 25th round in 2001. After pitching two seasons, Charlie went on the voluntary retired list for all of the 2003 season. I believe the history is that Charlie decided to come back in 2004 armed with a new weapon - the knuckler. He then moved quickly through the ranks, reaching both AAA and the Major Leagues in 2006. Over the past three seasons Charlie has amassed nearly 500 innings in AAA with a 3.87 ERA and an additional 30 innings in the big leagues with a 4.85 ERA.

Quite frankly, this is a situation where fit matters. As is the case with most knuckleballers, Charlie can walk some hitters, and he can give up some fly balls. That's not a great combo in the American League, particularly in US Cellular in Chicago, but it's more palatable in our environment. Kevin Towers has said in the past that he's been intrigued with the idea of a knuckleballer in our park given the coastal weather conditions and the spacious outfield. In a more general sense, knuckleballers can also create some flexibility within a pitching staff due to their ability to pitch often and in a variety of roles.

Scott Patterson (29 years old) has taken an equally interesting path to the Major Leagues. The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in 2002, Scott went undrafted and signed with the Gateway Grizzlies in the Frontier League. After a few successful seasons as a starter, an invitation to the Seattle Mariners minor league spring training, and a move to the pen, Scott really blossomed. In June of 2006 the Yankees signed Scott away from the independent leagues and sent him straight to AA Trenton. Over the next year and half Scott pitched 113 innings, allowed 71 hits and 23 walks while striking out 135 hitters. His performance enticed the Yankees to add him to the 40-man roster last winter.

2008 marked the first season that Scott began at the AAA level, and he broke through to the Majors pitching one inning for the Yankees. Despite battling pneumonia in the middle of the season, Scott's AAA totals over the past year plus are: 50 innings, 47 hits, 13 walks, and 55 strikeouts. A 6'6", 230 lb man, Scott has a deceptive delivery that has proven to give hitters all kinds of problems. Another flyball pitcher, Scott should be a good fit for Petco Park. Scouts Rich Bordi and Van Smith both have written positive reports on him, and we're excited to add him to our bullpen mix.

In addition to getting a chance to play all of our young players this September, the only other consolation to being in our current position is that it allows us to be aggressive on the waiver wire (we're near the front of the line). We plan to use that to our advantage, and we think both Charlie and Scott have a chance to help the Major League club going forward.

10 comments:

Schlom said...

Will Haeger get a start over the next three weeks?

Paul DePodesta said...

Schlom,

That's a good question. He'll probably be reporting tomorrow, but he hasn't pitched since Sept 1 (though it was a complete game). We'll have to see how things shake out, but we certainly expect him to pitch during this month.

Brad said...

I've followed Patterson pretty closely since he joined the Yankee organization, and I think that you've made a great pickup.

I saw him pitch in person in Durham (I always pick seats next to the Yankee bullpen), and you're right about his delivery; it's funky and looks a little awkward, but it's startling enough to throw hitters off a bit, regardless of what side of the plate they're on.

As a Yankee fan, I would've liked to see him get a genuine shot with the big club, but I think he has a great chance to succeed in Petco given that he's a somewhat extreme flyball pitcher.

Alex said...

Two nice pickups, especially Patterson. It always amazes me that with so many Horrible relievers on 25 man rosters teams don't scour the minors more often for veterans who are killing and just need a chance on the big league level. So many of these guys have a bad run in their 5-10 inning cup of coffee that they forever get cast off the rest of their career even with dominance in AAA.

Last year I felt the Giants had such a guy in Scott Atchinson, who was certainly nothing amazing, but had a good year in the minors and was solid in a call up. Yet next year the team let him go in lieu of more proven guys like Tyler Walker. I have a theory that a team could build a near league average bulpen using NOTHING but minor league relievers aged 27+ (essentially the age where most are left off 40 man if they can't crack bigs or when they are viewed as too old for AAA, etc.). Perhaps I am generalizing but for the most part Id guess any 27 year old in AAA NOT rehabbing is probably not too hard to acquire

Just for fun here is the pen that a team could have if they just filled it with seemingly east to acquire 27+ year old in the minors.

1. Mike Adams (thebbiggest stretch because injuries/rehab were a factor, but nonetheless)
2. Rocky Cherry ( on name alone!)
3. Chris Smith - Bos/Paw
4. Greg Aquino
5. Falkenborg
6.Patterson (I'm on my iPod so I can't search too much hence 3 pads examples)
7. Brandon Knight/Jason childers

This isn't even that a great a list for an example, but this pen would be the cheapest I'm baseball and if you already had good pieces in place, just take the top 4-5. I guarantee that this pen as is would be better than some
2.
2.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Paul,

The Haeger pickup plays perfectly into the "park effects". It's easy to get carried away with it but sometimes, it just fits.

Good move,
Jason

sdsuaztec4 said...

Paul,

Darnell had a less than spectacular defensive game for the storm in game 5. Are you guys going to keep him at 3rd base or try to move him somewhere else?

Christopher said...

Alex,

Agreed. Every year teams pay millions for middle-relievers who bust just as often as AAA prospects. Building a reliable bullpen out of league castoffs is one of the easiest ways for a team to save money or reallocate it for bigger free agent signings. If you have one above average talent as a pitcher, chances are a manager can find situations in which you can succeed. Jeff at lookoutlanding has written on this topic repeatedly--e.g. http://www.lookoutlanding.co/2008/8/27/602105/samplingthedelicious-fru

bullpeners said...

I have seats on the bullpen in left field and just got home from the game where both these guys pitched. Patterson definitely has a different delivery, way over the top and a sharp slant on his ball. He looked good in warmup and on the mound.
Haeger was all over the place with the knuckler in warm up and was not effective in the game. He has had a long layoff and that might be a factor. Luke Carlin caught him in the bullpen and had a tough time catching the knuckler. He mixes in an 83-85 mile/hr fastball that looks pretty straight to me and needs his knuckler for strikes to be effective. He will be interesting to watch and see how it goes.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

Hi, I'm new to your site, but I have a question about Patterson. At what age do you stop really looking at minor leaguers? Patterson is 29 (and presumably 30 next season) and hasn't made it to the majors yet. Is it a good idea to really go after someone like that, or is it that he's a good pickup because A)he's a reliever who won't pitch much, B) it's still a low-risk acquisition, and C) he's theoretically near his "prime"?

Alex said...

Saw Patterson pitch against the Giants and he has quite a funky throwing motion. Doesn't seem to use much of his lower body and throws really over the top. Quite unusual, but he was effective, seems like a potential solid pickup