Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mitch Talbot: Did he earn his spot in the 2011 rotation?

There was some recent chatter that the only reason Mitch Talbot is in the Tribe's 2011 rotation is because  he is out of options.  Is this a reasonable statement?  Did Talbot acheive any success or give any indication that he may be a major league starting pitcher?  Was Talbot unreasonably lucky in 2010?  Prior to getting to Talbot's 2010 seasson, I wanted to provide some background to his minor league career and how he got from Houston to Cleveland.




Mitch Talbot was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft.  He spent parts of four minor league seasons in Houstons minor league system prior to being included along with Ben Zobrist in the trade that brought Aubrey Huff to the Astros on July 12, 2006.  Talbot would finish the 2006 season in AA Montgomery going 4-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 10 starts.  Talbot would spend the 2007 season with the Durham Bulls making 29 starts, throwing 161 innings, and compiling a 13-9 record with an ERA of 4.53.  In 2008, he was unable to crack the Rays rotation and again spent the season in AAA Durham making 28 starts, throwing an identical 161 innings and compling a 13-9 record with an ERA of 3.86.  Talbot would receive a September call up by the Rays and appear in 3 games.  He would have elbow and shoulder strains hamper his attempts at making the Rays coming out of spring training and the ailments would stay with him throughout the season. Talbot would only make 15 start in 2009 spread out between Rookie Ball, High A Ball, and AAA.  He would go 4-4 with an ERA of 4.47 while only completing 68.1 innings of work.  The Rays would send Talbot to the Arizona Fall League to pitch for the Phoenix Desert Dogs where he would go 3-0 with a 4.37 ERA and pitch 22.2 innings pitched. 



MITCH TALBOT MINOR LEAGUE STATS
YearAgeTmLevAffWLERAIPBB/9SO/9SO/BB
200319MartinsvilleRkHOU442.8354.01.87.74.18
200420LexingtonAHOU10103.83152.22.96.82.35
200521SalemA+HOU8114.34151.12.75.92.17
2006222 TeamsAAHOU,TBD1072.76156.22.78.93.30
200622Corpus ChristiAAHOU643.3990.12.99.63.31
200622MontgomeryAATBD431.9066.12.48.03.28
200723DurhamAAATBD1394.53161.03.36.92.10
200824DurhamAAATBR1393.86161.02.07.94.03
2009253 TeamsAAA-Rk-A+TBR443.6968.12.48.83.72
200925RaysRkTBR000.8211.00.017.2
200925CharlotteA+TBR000.003.00.018.0
200925DurhamAAATBR444.4754.13.06.62.22
201026Mahoning ValleyA-CLE003.003.03.00.00.00
8 Seasons62543.79908.02.67.42.81
AAA (3 seasons)30224.23376.12.77.32.72
AA (1 season)1072.76156.22.78.93.30
Rk (2 seasons)442.4965.01.59.36.09
A+ (2 seasons)8114.26154.12.76.22.30
A (1 season)10103.83152.22.96.82.35
A- (1 season)003.003.03.00.00.00
Generated 1/21/2011.

On December 1, 2009, the Cleveland Indians would send Kelly Shoppach and cash to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a player to be named later.  Mitch Talbot was named as the player to be named later on December 20th (video link).   Shoppach was coming off a disappointing 2009 which saw him hit .214 with an OBP of .335 and a slugging percentage of .399.  Shoppach struckout once every 2.8 at bats and was eligible for salary arbitration which would see his salary go from $1.95 million to an estimated $3 million.  Talbot was 26 years old a the time of the trade and had a career record of 62-54 with a 3.79 in 165 starts and was out of options.  On the day of the trade, Chris Antonetti said that Talbot would have a chance at starting and if that didn't work out he'd get an opportunity to work out of the bullpen.





KELLY SHOPPACH W/BOSTON & CLEVELAND
Year
AgeTmGPAHRRBIBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+
200525BOS9160007.000.063.000.063-81
200626CLE41120316845.245.297.382.67875
200727CLE591777301156.261.310.472.782102
200828CLE112403215536133.261.348.517.865128
200929CLE8932712403398.214.335.399.73497
CLE (4 yrs)30110274314188332.245.331.456.788107
BOS (1 yr)9160007.000.063.000.063-81
Generated 1/21/2011.



MITCH TALBOT 2010 SEASON
In spring training 2010, Mitch Talbot fought Aaron Laffey for the fourth starter.  Talbot would pitch 11.1 innings with an ERA of 0.79, winning the job, and pushing Aaron Laffey to the bullpen.  As many Tribe fans recall, the fifth starter came down to David Huff over Carlos Carrasco.

Manager Manny Acta, after naming Talbot as the #4 starter, gave one of his better quotes of 2010:
"Aaron took it well. He understood that the club comes first. The main thing is he wants to pitch. They're all going to pitch. It's pretty clear we don't have five Bob Fellers in our rotation right now. Everybody is the bullpen is going to get to pitch."
Talbots Cleveland debut came on April 10th at Detroit.  In the pre-game interviews with manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher, both expressed worry that Talbot who has long battled his temper on the mound, would be too amped up.  They (Acta and Belcher) both expressed worry about the first inning.  Almost on script, Talbot came out and struggled in the first, throwing 38 pitches, only 19 for strikes, and gave up a pair of runs.  Talbot would settle down and give the Indians 5 innings (101 pitches), giving up 4 runs, six hits, and five walks.  Detroit would win the game 4-2 in Jeremy Bonderman's return to action.

Talbot would settle in for the Tribe and was having success through June. He'd make 15 starts, give the Indians 97.1 innings, and have an 8-6 record with an ERA of 3.88.  Talbot would start to wear down in July and would be placed on the disabled list on July 30th with a strained back.  Talbot would return to the rotation August 14th.  Talbot would make 4 starts in August going 1-3 with an ERA of 7.78.  Talbot would miss a start in September due to a sore shoulder.  He'd finish the month of September 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA.

Overall, Mitch Talbot didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence moving forwad.  What he did accomplish was getting a full year of time away from his injury plagued 2009 season. Talbot gave the Indians 28 starts and 159.1 innings pitched, a generous increase over his 2009 innings pitched of 91 innings pitched (including AFL).   

Talbot did not appear to be unreasonably lucky or unlucky in 2010.  His ERA of 4.41 was not too far off his FIP of 4.48 but it was a little further off his xFIP of 5.02 (which has the highest correlation with future ERA).   We have confirmation in how normalized Talbots season was by examining Talbots luck trifecta(BABIP, HR/FB%, and LOB%).
The 2011 season will give Talbot a chance to prove that he can stay healthy and prove that he can control his emotions out on the mound. He will also need to increase his K/9 and lower his BB/9.  The HR ball is one spot where Talbot looks to have been a bit lucky in 2010 as he had a HR/FB rate of 7.0% where most starters will come in around 10.6%.  Talbot posted a 1.49 WHIP in 2010, which is abov the upper range of 1.2 to 1.3 that a starting pitcher should be.  One certain way to reduce the number of baserunners would be to lower his BB/9 from 3.90 to somewhere around league averag of 3.2.




  

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