Longing For Ian Snell And The 2007 Pirates
So I was nosing around the MLB blogs trolling for some interesting tidbits and tips for the upcoming baseball season and I came across a really random post about Ian Snell.
This caught my eye because Snell was one of a host of former Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers that were automatic fades for me. And, in fact, over the last half-decade one of my best and most profitable “systems” was to almost blindly bet against a crop of young arms that came up with the Pirates during the mid-00’s that were consistently overrated by oddsmakers and baseball bobbleheads.
Unfortunately, Snell’s career appears to be over. And, as the post mentions, he is just the latest of this crop to exit the Majors, to the detriment of baseball bettors everywhere.
Here is a quick rundown and a look back – call it an homage – to some of the arms that comprised one of the worst rotations in modern baseball history, along with some of their “highlights”:
1. Zach Duke
This guy was consistently one of the most overrated pitchers in all of baseball. He was always talked about like he was some exciting, up-and-coming arm even though he really never made any progress.
Yes, he was a Rookie of the Year candidate after going 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA his first season. But that was call-up duty. And yes, Duke did make an All Star game. (I was so giddy that season knowing how much money I was going to make betting against him in the second half of the year; he went 3-12 after the break.) But on the whole Duke was a fringe Major Leaguer at best.
The Pirates went 53-92 in his 145 starts between 2006-2010 and he was routinely pounded during those starts, leading to a lot of easy ‘over’ wagers as well. Unfortunately, he was shuffled to the Arizona bullpen last year and his starting days may be over. But man, did he suck.
2. Ian Snell
I will admit that there was a time when Snell was actually a little dangerous to bet against. He went 18-14 in his 32 starts in 2006 (although he did give up 29 home runs and was an easy ‘over’ bet) and he looked like he had some promise. He even went 9-6 to start 2007. But he finished that season 7-10 and went 24-42 the rest of his career, culminated by a horrific 2010 where he went 1-7 with a 5.46 ERA as a starter in Seattle.
3. Oliver Perez
Awful Olly. I got to enjoy – and by “enjoy” I mean have to restrain myself from clawing my eyes out while watching – Perez while he was a member of my beloved New York Mets. He was mostly a train wreck in his career. But Perez actually had some decent seasons and in four of his eight primary seasons he won more games than he lost.
However, he was a great bet on the ‘over’ because he was always giving up a ton of walks and extra base runners. Perez almost never made it through the sixth inning so the Pirates and Mets always had to burn bullpen innings cleaning up his messes. That not only led to higher scoring in his starts but had a trickle down effect for games after that.
(This is getting longer than I was hoping for so I’m going to speed this up.)
4. Paul Maholm
Maholm is still kicking with Washington and we should still be able to bet against him for another year or two. He was kind of like Snell, where he actually wasn’t all bad and had some years where he won around 50 percent of his games. But the value of Maholm is that he was treated like an “ace” by the oddsmakers and was always given moneylines that were 15-20 cents lighter than they should be. Maholm went 7-19 in his 26 starts last year and was the least profitable starter of 282 in baseball.
5. Tom Gorzelanny
No one was happier about Gorzy’s “comeback” last year with Washington than I was. He went just 5-10 in his starts and was ranked No. 245 of 282 pitchers last year in terms of profitability. Even in his “breakout” 2007 season Gorzelanny lost more than he won (15-17). And if you kick out that year his teams are just 29-48 when he takes the bump.
6. Kip Wells
Wells was kind of a right-handed Duke. People always talked about his “good stuff”, but this guy was one of the worst pitchers I’ve ever seen and had no clue how to work out of jams. He led the Majors in losses in both 2005 and 2007 and finished with a career 4.71 ERA. At the height of his ineptitude his teams went 31-61 in his starts from 2004-2007. Man I miss this guy.
7. John Van Benschoten
JVB’s career was short and sweet, and it truly was a shame. Van Benschoten only started 19 games in his career and never more than nine in one year. But those 19 starts were glorious.
JVB left the game with a career 9.20 ERA – which was actually pulled down by his 6.91 effort in 2004, compared to 10.15 in nine starts in 2007 and 10.48 in five starts in 2008. His teams went just 4-15 in his starts and there was seemingly always 100 runs scored when he took the mound both as a starter or in relief.