Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is 31 Too Late To Start Pitching?

There are certain positions in sports that, despite clear flaws, you will continue to get opportunities because your skillset is forever in demand.  Big men will always have a job in the NBA.  You might not be a true post presence and you may get confused as to what to do with the ball in your hand, but a big body gets you jobs.  True, you probably shouldn't unpack that suitcase because your flaws eventually annoy your team.

In football, every team needs a returner.  True, your inability to tackle/run the ball/catch the ball/play coverage will limit you to special teams and in a number crunch, you could get your walking papers, but returners are always needed, even with the rules that cause an absurd amount of touchbacks.  Your biggest threat, in addition to number crunches, is those rare situations where your competition can actually do something else other than just returning.  That's when you channel your inner Tonya Harding and do what got's to be done.

In baseball, the old adage used to be that if you could pitch left-handed, you had a job.  True, you might not be able to get a right-handed hitter out and the second your performance level falls, you get the boot, but don't worry.  Another team is in desperate need for your ass.

But now, it's gotten to the point where if you can throw the ball with velocity, you will be taken care of.  Whether you know where it's going is of less concern.

Case in point - former Atlanta Braves farmhand Erik Cordier.  Despite never throwing a major league pitch, Cordier signed with the Giants last November, receiving a major league contract.  Not only did the Giants give him a major league deal, but they were not alone, if MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes and his sources are correct.  Two other teams offered Cordier (again, he of zero major league pitches) a spot on their 40-man roster.

Like I said, Cordier is a former Braves farmhand, joining the system during spring training of 2007.  Rather than waive Tony Pena while receiving nothing, the Braves sent him to KC in exchange for the injured Cordier.  For no good reason, the Royals started Pena as their every day shortstop in 2007.  They also lost 93 games.  Not saying it's a causation...but it's probably a causation.

Cordier would miss all of 2007, his second missed season in three years.  In fact, after selecting the Wisconsin native in the second round of 2004, Cordier made just 21 starts before his trade in '07.  After finally getting healthy, Cordier pitched just 45 innings in 2008 before posting solid ERAs and terrible WHIPs for two years before missing it up with a terrible ERA and terrible WHIP in 2011.  Injuries limited him to just 32.1 ING in 2012.

Cordier was due to become a minor league free agent after 2012, though he spent two seasons on the 40-man roster in Atlanta as they patiently awaited his arrival to the bigs.  By the end of 2012, they outrighted him and let Cordier go, finally closing the door on a trade that once provided a potential huge reward.  Cordier spent 2013 in the Pirates system, converting to a full-time reliever and posting a 11.0 K/9 to go with 4.8 BB/9.  And the Giants said "we gotta get ourselves some of that."

I suppose scouts got a boner watching his fastball pop into the catcher's mitt during warm-ups.  For his ten-year minor league career (that includes two lost seasons to injuries), Cordier has a 4.29 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 5.0 BB/9, and 7.3 K/9.  His stuff best profiles as a reliever, but even in his best year, he still got hi around a good deal.

However, he can pitch and ipso facto, he has a job.  I think I have an idea on how to improve unemployment.

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