Wednesday night Matt Chernoff of 680 The Fan set off sort of a Twitter war with with his claim that Brandon Beach is a number four or a number five starter.
Some of Chernoff’s Tweets:
“how bout let him win double digit games 1st…”
“[70-74 Matt Cain] has won 70 games…Beachy has won what 10? Let [Beachy] put 1 big time season together before we say he is a top of a rotation guy”
“tell Verlander, Halladay and Kershaw wins don’t matter..”
Now I understand what Chernoff was trying to say…I think: Beachy has only had one season of 25 starts in the majors. So let’s wait another season or two before we call him one of the better pitchers in the game.
However Chernoff did call Beachy a four or a five, which was a poor choice of words for a few reasons. First, it ignores Beachy’s skills. Second, it assumes a player needs experience to be considered a very good major league player. Third, Chernoff emphasized that he hasn’t won enough games to be considered a two or a three, relying heavily on wins to measure the quality of an individual pitcher.
I think Beachy is clearly a three, an upper-echelon number three, and might just be a number two. This is because of Beachy’s skills right now. Beachy misses bats (10.1 strikeouts per 9 innings in his career), he has pretty good control (3 walks per 9 innings) and he does a good enough job keeping the ball in the park (0.8 homeruns allowed per 9 innings). What I mean by that is I believe Beachy could likely be a number three, possibly a number two, on most major league pitching staffs and could likely do it this year and the next several years. In other words, he’s not just a guy who could be a two or a three for a season or two if everything breaks right. He simply is a number two or three, without qualification.
While it is true that Beachy is inexperienced–this is only his 5th professional season and will be his second full major league season–it’s okay to call him something greater than a number four or a number five. Overrating experience in baseball drives me crazy. Yes, I understand that players need repetition to hone their craft. But if a player is good enough, he’s good enough, no matter if he’s played 40 games or 400 games. If a pitcher has the skills to be a number two or three and they are actualized, he’s a number two or three. I hate it when teams don’t give deserving young players a chance because the players lack experience. I hate it when a fan wants his team to go with a veteran because the stud rookie lacks experience. Lack of experience should never be a primary reason for a team not playing a player.
I understand waiting a couple of years before claiming Beachy is a better pitcher than some established, clear-cut number two or number three. But it’s okay to say Beachy is a number two or three right now. And if you don’t want to say he’s a number two or three yet, I’m not sure you can claim he’s a number four or five. He’s certainly better than that. If we are forced to categorize, I think we have to say Beachy is a two or a three.
Chernoff’s most egregiously flawed argument supporting Beachy as a four or a five is that Beachy hasn’t won enough games in a season or in his career to be considered better than a four or a five. We should all know better by now. Beachy’s first full season with the Braves happened to coincide with their worst offensive season since 2002, when Julio Franco, Keith Lockhart and Vinny Castilla received regular playing time. Run support cost him wins in his first and, so far, only full season in the majors. He started only three games the season before and has made four starts this season. So the bulk of his career starts came with a rather poor offense attempting to give him run support.
It is true that Beachy doesn’t typically go deep in to games. However it’s fairly normal for a high-strikeout pitcher to throw a lot of pitches. The Braves were not and are not going to leave him out there at ages 24-25 to throw 120-130 pitches. Sure that’s going to cost him wins when the Braves take leads in the late innings. In the four games in which Beachy started and got no decision but the Braves won, the Braves scored a grand total of six runs. The offense is just as much to blame for Beachy not padding his win total as is Beachy leaving those games early.
Discussing where Beachy ranks among major league pitchers is one thing and taking a wait-and-see approach is one thing. Making an assessment as to where he would belong in most major league rotations, now and for the next several years of his career, is a little different. If most teams had a pitcher like Brandon Beachy, he certainly wouldn’t be slotted in to number four or five in their rotations.
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