Portland's Interesting Pitching in Saturday Night's Game

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A few days ago, the Portland Beavers lost to the Sacramento River Cats 5-3. The Beavers’ batters were flummoxed by 38-year-old Jamie Moyer-esque lefty John Halama most of the night, leading to the team’s demise.

However, it wasn’t the batting that caught my eye in that game’s box score–it was the Portland pitching.

Not that it was especially good or bad, but the Portland pitching was interesting.

I, like many other statistical analyst types, talk often about the importance of disregarding small sample sizes, and one game (particularly for a relief pitcher) is sure as hell a small sample size. And yet, I am intrigued.

(If you’re reading this article on the Chicken Friars homepage, click “Continue Reading” to view the rest of the entry).

The Beavers pitched three guys Saturday night.

The first was righty Anthony Bass.

Now, if you follow the Padres’ system, you might be wondering what on earth Anthony Bass was doing pitching in a PCL game Saturday night–I sure did.

But there he was. Matt Buschmann and Nate Culp had flunked the fifth starter’s job for the Beavers, and some of the top Double-A guys (Wynn Pelzer and Simon Castro, especially) had been sliding a bit at that level, so they weren’t strong candidates either.

So the Padres apparently turned to Bass, a finesse guy who had put up some solid numbers in Lake Elsinore. I don’t like Bass much, as you may know, but I’ll admit a 2.93 ERA and 50/12 K/BB ratio count for something, even if that something is “possible middle relief future.”

My opinions aside, Saturday was Bass’ big chance to prove he was past the horrors of Cal League parks and could stick in this role so many others had thrown away.

And not surprisingly, Anthony Bass just wasn’t up to the task.

5 2/3 innings, seven hits, five runs, three walks, three strikeouts, and a homer allowed to a badly slumping Michael Taylor.

Sure, that’s a small sample size. But we know Bass is a finesse command guy who’s never seen Double-A before. If he’d gone to the PCL and started throwing zeroes up, then maybe we could think “hey, maybe he’s polished enough to stick there in spite of his inexperience.”

But this? No. Not with a 3/3 K/BB ratio and a homer allowed to one of the worst hitters in the circuit. Bass has some serious adjustments to make before he’s ready to face near-MLB-level hitters.

Relieving Bass was Aaron Poreda.

As with Bass, you might be wondering what Poreda was doing in Portland. The guy had walked 26 batters in 25 innings in Double-A, and it wasn’t like he was improving–he’d walked four in just 1/3 his last time out.

Sure, he had a 2.52 ERA, but we all know you can’t succeed for long while walking over a batter per inning, unless your K/9 is at least 15 or so. Poreda’s was 9.

And yet, he was promoted.

There are three reasons he could’ve been promoted.

1.) The Padres front office has been doing a lot of drugs.

2.) He figured something out mechanically in between his last Double-A outing and the promotion, started firing strikes on the side, and was immediately recalled.

3.) The Padres just wanted to give him a change of scenery.

Well, 1 and 2 (hopefully) are unrealistic, so we’re left with just the “change of scenery” idea. You might think of a fourth option, “they needed to fill a roster spot and everyone else in AA sucked,” but there were tons of deserving relievers (Brandon Gomes, Evan Scribner, Craig Italiano, Bryan Oland) who were dominating in Double-A far more than Poreda, so that notion doesn’t stand up at all.

The thinking, then, I’d imagine, goes like this: “Poreda hasn’t taken well to the demotion to Double-A from Spring Training. Obviously it’s not working; he’s probably pressing, trying to get up to The Show, or at least Triple-A. And it’s only getting worse, going by his last outing…Well, we can either send him to Extended Spring and further derail his confidence, or give him a look in Portland, deserving or no, and see if that helps.”

A rational if somewhat far-fetched idea, it suppose, particularly when viewed in a sabermetric context, but it’s the minors, so you can afford to experiment.

And in this case, it appears the experiment paid off.

Poreda came on to relieve Bass and promptly retired all seven batters he faced, striking out four.

That’s particularly noteworthy in his case, because if you look at Poreda’s game log from Double-A, it wasn’t a bunch of good outings and a bunch of awful four-or-five-walk affairs. No, he tended to throw an inning and walk one batter, or two innings walking two batters, or something like that. He didn’t melt down too much (last game excepted), but never did you see a Poreda AA statline and go “Hey, he really dominated out there. Maybe he can build off this.”

Given that, Poreda’s sudden and immediate dominance in Triple-A tells us something, small samples be damned: He can still pitch. He may not keep it up (he walked two batters in an inning today), but if you catch him on the right day, he can still be that huge, hulking, flamethrowing lefty every scout dreams of. Maybe he’s got some work to do mechanically, maybe some work mentally, probably both. But it’s still there, and it’s up to Poreda and the Padres to find out how to get this going. Poreda’s promotion sure wasn’t a move I would’ve made, but it’s paying some immediate dividends.

Finally, Poreda was relieved by Mark Worrell. Worrell is always interesting because he’s a sidearmer, and because nobody in the minors could hit him when he was coming up in the Cardinals system.

But then arm problems hit, and Worrell is trying to show he’s back, just like Poreda.

Worrell faced three batters. He struck out all of them.

Just like Poreda, that shows that somewhere behind the 5.45 ERA, there’s stuff that still misses bats. Worrell’s had some bad luck this year, but he’s left his pitches up in the zone a bit too much, which has hurt him. Still, in his first year back from arm troubles, you can’t expect consistency. What you want to see is flashes of dominance, and this was a flash.

Sometimes, one game can mean more for a pitcher than you might think. Saturday’s Portland game provided three vivid examples.

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Tags: Aaron Poreda Anthony Bass Mark Worrell Portland Beavers

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