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Easily the most significant long-term Blue Jay lost this offseason was Kelvim Escobar.

Love him or hate him, he was always an individual, and he was, at many times, a dominating pitcher. Kelvim has the stuff to take him anywhere, and his future (at only 27) is still a blank page. We may not miss Escobar, but I know that "Super Kelvim" is one guy we'll all miss.

The fans always blew hot and cold on Kelvim - just as his performances tended to blow hot and cold, sometimes within a single month, a single game, or a single inning. But when he was hot, oh my, the heat.

Please share your memories of Kelvim Escobar in this thread.
Gone But Not Forgotten : Kelvim Escobar | 67 comments | Create New Account
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_Jonny German - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 11:28 AM EST (#81590) #
My strongest memory of Escobar is a Super Kelvim game and it's forever linked to Tim Johnson. It was August 27, 1998 (Thank you Retrosheet!), and Kelvim breezed through the Royals for 8 shutout innings while the Blue Jay lineup posted 11 runs. Kelvim came out for the ninth and got the first 2 outs, but then he got into a bit of trouble and gave up a run. Seeing the lead cut to 10 runs, Tim Johnson felt the need to pull Escobar and bring in Carlos Almanzar for the the final out.

My friends and I were incredulous. It was probably the best pitching performance I'd ever seen live at the time, and Johnson wouldn't let him finish. Admittedly, I gave little thought to things like pitch counts back then, but seeing as Kelvim had only given up 7 hits and 1 walk, I doubt he was getting into dangerous territory.

He was frustrating at times and stellar at others, but he was rarely boring. Good luck to Kelvim in California, where it wouldn't surprise me if he proves to be a far better signing than Bartolo Colon.
Craig B - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 11:32 AM EST (#81591) #
Jonny, in true Escobar fashion, Kelvim had thrown 137 pitches when he was removed.


KANSAS CITY ab r h rbi bb so lob avg
Damon cf 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 .278
Sutton lf 4 0 1 0 0 2 2 .240
Offerman 2b 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 .311
Halter 2b 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .227
Palmer 3b 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .286
L Rivera 3b 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .247
Pendleton dh 4 0 0 0 0 2 2 .250
Conine 1b 4 1 3 0 0 0 0 .264
Sweeney c 4 0 0 0 0 1 3 .256
Dye rf 3 0 0 1 0 1 0 .233
M Lopez ss 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 .227

Totals 33 1 7 1 1 8 9

BATTING: 2B - Conine 2 (21, Escobar 2); Sutton (12, Escobar).
RBI - Dye (22). Runners left in scoring position, 2 out - Sweeney 2,
Pendleton 1, Sutton 1. GIDP - Palmer. Team LOB - 6.

FIELDING: Outfield assists - Damon (Dalesandro at 3rd base).

TORONTO ab r h rbi bb so lob avg
Stewart lf 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 .266
S Green rf 4 1 2 2 1 2 2 .275
Canseco dh 2 2 1 2 2 0 2 .236
a-Samuel ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .180
C Delgado 1b 5 2 2 2 0 3 3 .299
J Cruz cf 4 2 3 1 1 0 0 .266
T Fernandez 3b 4 0 0 0 0 1 4 .301
Dalesandro 3b 1 0 1 2 0 0 0 .303
Kl Brown c 5 1 2 1 0 2 2 .272
C Grebeck 2b 5 1 2 1 0 0 1 .271
A Gonzalez ss 4 1 2 0 0 0 4 .252

Totals 38 11 15 11 5 8 19

a-grounded to pitcher for Canseco in the 7th.

BATTING: 2B - S Green (26, Rosado); Dalesandro (5, J Santiago).
HR - Canseco (36, 1st inning off Rosado 1 on, 1 out). RBI -
Canseco 2 (84), S Green 2 (78), C Delgado 2 (95), J Cruz (33),
Kl Brown (13), C Grebeck (19), Dalesandro 2 (14). 2-out RBI -
S Green 2, Kl Brown, C Grebeck. Runners left in scoring position,
2 out - Canseco 1, C Delgado 2, C Grebeck 1, A Gonzalez 1.
Team LOB - 9.

BASERUNNING: SB - Stewart (39, 2nd base off Rosado/Sweeney);
A Gonzalez (18, 3rd base off Rosado/Sweeney).

FIELDING: DP: 1 (A Gonzalez-C Grebeck-C Delgado).

Kansas City - 000 000 010 -- 1
Toronto - 220 005 02X -- 11


KANSAS CITY ip h r er bb so hr era
Rosado (L, 7-10) 5 1/3 9 8 8 5 6 1 4.34
Evans 1/3 2 1 1 0 1 0 2.00
Pittsley 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1 0 6.93
J Santiago 1 3 2 2 0 0 0 9.00

TORONTO ip h r er bb so hr era
Escobar (W, 3-2) 8 2/3 7 1 1 1 7 0 4.53
Almanzar 1/3 0 0 0 0 1 0 5.94

WP - Rosado. IBB - Canseco 2 (by Rosado 2). HBP - Stewart (by Rosado).
Pitches-strikes: Escobar 137-84; Almanzar 4-3; Rosado 110-69; Evans 7-6;
Pittsley 28-20; J Santiago 15-10. Ground balls-fly balls: Escobar 9-10;
Almanzar 0-0; Rosado 6-4; Evans 0-0; Pittsley 2-1; J Santiago 1-1.
Batters faced: Escobar 33; Almanzar 1; Rosado 31; Evans 3; Pittsley 5;
J Santiago 5.

UMPIRES: HP--Ted Hendry. 1B--Larry Young. 2B--Erik Cooper.
3B--Drew Coble.
T--2:50. Att--25,524. Weather: 79 degrees, clear. Wind: 6 mph,
out to center.
_Chuck Van Den C - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 11:34 AM EST (#81592) #
Could two departing players -- Tom Wilson and Kelvim Escobar -- be any more contrasting?

It's Crash Davis vs. Nuke LaLoosh.

Tom Wilson is an everyman. If allowed to indulge in delusions, we are Tom Wilson. With just a little more skill, just a little more luck, just a few more breaks, we could be the 20-somethingth man on a MLB roster. And we would respect what that meant. We would work our asses off, engage in professional behaviour and do everything asked of us. We would recognize how fortunate we were and revel in the moment, highly aware of how fleeting it would be.

Of course the gulf between our skill level and Tom Wilson's roughly approaches Marlon Brando's waistline or Stephen Hawking's IQ, but the delusion is an easy one to indulge in.

Kelvim Escobar, on the other hand, represents the other extreme. A man with enormous raw talent and, seemingly, neither the accompanying mental acuity nor self-discipline to leverage it. He's the pretty girl who goes through life with minimal effort, riding on her looks. He's the star quarterback who gets all the girls, in spite of being vacuous. He's a HoF talent being governed by a pea-sized brain.

Tom Wilson will fully exploit his modest talents and hopefully that will be enough to log a few more $300K seasons before retiring. Escobar will never exploit his talent but will make millions upon millions.

I'm not rooting against Escobar. I enjoy seeing talented athletes fully exploit their abilities, not for their sake, but for mine. Watching Escobar at the top of his game is a true joy for a baseball fan.

I could care less personally about Escobar, but I do find myself caring a great deal about Tom Wilson. I have met neither one and perhaps they are both upstanding individuals. Who knows. All I have are appearances to go by.
Dave Till - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 11:46 AM EST (#81593) #
I've always thought that Tom Wilson was a lot like Ernie Whitt.

As for Escobar: I'm wondering whether lack of confidence is a factor. (Again, I'm only going by what I see from the stands.) How often have you seen him run up huge pitch counts by constantly nibbling at the corners, while his manager is screaming at him to just throw the ball down the middle, for crying out loud?

Escobar could become great, or he could become the next Robert Person. No one, including Escobar or the Angels, knows which it's going to be.
_Chris - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 11:47 AM EST (#81594) #
I have to agree with Chuck. I didn't much care that Escobar was leaving, we all new it anyway and it's not like he stood out to the fans at all. I am still not sure if there was ever a problem with his arm a couple of years ago or if it was just an excuse he came up with to justify how bad he was pitching. He whined too much as well. When you are making 3 million bucks a year to throw a ball, does it really matter if you are doing it in the first inning or the ninth inning. You should just be happy that there are people out there that are willing to pay you so much.

Wilson, on the other hand seems like someone I can respect. He worked hard, battled and toiled for everything he got from baseball. It's nice to know that he is going into a good situation for him in San Diego and should have a job with the big club.
_Jonny German - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 11:52 AM EST (#81595) #
Jonny, in true Escobar fashion, Kelvim had thrown 137 pitches when he was removed

Ooops... Where'd you get that box score? The Retrosheet one didn't have the pitch count.
_MatO - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 12:01 PM EST (#81596) #
One inning captured career. It was against the Yankees in New York. He came in to close out a 2 or 3 run lead. He had his best jaw-dropping stuff. He made the first two Yankees look sick. He then made Shane Spenser look sick on the first two pitches he threw him. At that point Escobar decides to nibble and walks him. A few walks and a few hits later it's a tie game which the Jays win in extra innings.
_Kieran - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 12:33 PM EST (#81597) #

I hear a lot of rhetoric about Escobar being blessed with "god-like" stuff, but cursed with either no brains or a poor work ethic.

What evidence is there that any of these three claims is in fact true?

Couldn't it just be possible that Escobar has B+ stuff and at this point in his career, he's amounted to a B-level pitcher? Does anyone on this board have any information about the level of "baseball IQ" he posesses? Or his work ethic for that matter?

_R Billie - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 12:33 PM EST (#81598) #
I would still like to have seen what Kelvim could have become had the Jays (A) exercised reasonable patience with him in the minors and (B) kept his pitch counts reasonable when he was a major league starter in his early 20's (C) given him one role and stuck with it.

Under the Jays current regime there would be no possibility of Major League promotion for a 21 year old pitcher who had thrown all of 74 innings above high-A and even then spread over two seasons. Particularly when he walked 40 men in those innings and posted mediocore or bad ERA's. At 21, Kelvim Escobar was Dustin McGowan. Instead of allowing him to develop until ready though, the Jays stuck him into high profile major league roles allowing him to repeatedly fail and tax his arm with 120+ pitch counts until his mid-20's.

Escobar isn't mature or a deep thinker or particularly conscientious...that's partly his fault but it's also partly the fault of the Jays. Instead of allowing Kelvim the time to gain experience and learn respect for the game they said "oh...shiny fastball!" and threw him to the wolves and wasted at least two years of service time which should have been spent in AA and AAA. He may be the pretty girl relying on his good looks but the Jays were the indifferent parents who spoiled their child and wanted to exploit those looks right away instead of considering the long haul.

The organization has only themselves to blame for Kelvim turning the corner just as he became eligible for free agency. And I include the current regime in that too. Had he been left in the rotation following his turnaround 2001 performance a lot of strife could have likely been avoided, especially in the 2002 rotation. That doesn't excuse Kelvim's lack of motivation...but the Jays never REQUIRED him to be motivated in order to earn responsibility. Things were just handed to him. I think it's fortunate that the current organization is at least not taking that route with standouts like Rios, McGowan, League, and Perkins.
_MatO - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 12:49 PM EST (#81599) #
R Billie agree with you almost 100%. The reason the Jays took him out of the rotation was due to some mysterious numbness he was feelin toward the end of 2001 after pitching a few innings. He was eventually shut-down, This motivated the switch to the bullpen.
_Roger Davis - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 01:10 PM EST (#81600) #
R. Billie I think you've hit the nail on the head. Who would you rather have for $300,000 to $1 Million: a 21, 22 and 23 year old Escobar or a 27, 28 and 29 year old Escobar? Realistically, the Jays can only keep a guy 6 years (till he's eligible for free agency) and I'd much rater have a guy when he's 28 - 29 than when he's 22 -23.

Keep him in the minors till 23 at least, 24 even better. Let him learn his craft on his 6 years minor league time instead of on his 6 years major league time.

If we are seriously going to compete we need to keep guys as far into their prime as we can.

_Ryan - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 01:34 PM EST (#81601) #
I was in Baltimore in 2002 for a day-night double-header between the Jays and O's. During the first game, I was sitting one section over and several rows back of J.P. Ricciardi. With the Jays up 4-1 going to the bottom of the ninth, Carlos Tosca brought Escobar in to close out the game. As soon as Escobar came in from the bullpen, Ricciardi got up from his seat and started walking down the concourse, eventually stopping in the left field corner. I'm not sure if he was just stretching his legs or hoping to catch a home run ball.

If it was the latter, he didn't get his wish. Escobar only gave up a single before nailing down the 4-1 win. :-)
Mike Green - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 01:45 PM EST (#81602) #
Actually, when Kelvim came up at age 21, he was behind where McGowan was at the end of last year at age 21. Dustin has demonstrated control at the AA level; Kelvim had not. I am glad that McGowan will start next year at AA.

That minor quibble aside, R. Billie's points are excellent ones. Interestingly, premature promotion of pitchers was a problem that plagued the Jays throughout the 90s, even during the salad years: Brad Cornett, Huck Flener... But, Kelvim got the worst of it, in relation to management constantly changing his role.

As for Kelvim having turned a corner, I can't honestly tell. I saw him start a couple of times at the dome last year, and it was easy to tell that his confidence could easily be shaken by a questionable umpire's call, a bad hop or an error. He would slow down the pace of the game to a crawl and start to nibble. At other times, of course, he was pretty much unhittable, but I'm really not sure how much one will see of each Kelvim next year or the year after that.
_Robbie Goldberg - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 02:02 PM EST (#81603) #
Speaking if Dustin McGowan...DOWN ON THE FARM WITH DUSTIN MCGOWAN!!!
(COMN for link)
_Robbie Goldberg - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 02:07 PM EST (#81604) #
...Sickel's description of McGowan's abilities are stronger than I thought he felt based on the A- grade. (Not that that's bad at all)...Sickel's says:
a) Objectively and subjectively, McGowan has everything in his favor. If he stays healthy and maintains his command, he could be a No. 1 starter. Expect to see him make the Show sometime this year.
b)Statistically, high strikeout rates, and improving K/BB and BB/IP figures, mark McGowan's track record. This is a clear sign of a rising young pitcher.
Mike D - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 03:29 PM EST (#81605) #
Ryan, I only got into Baltimore to catch the night game of that doubleheader, but I was there for Esteban L----a's nightcap victory. (I will never type that man's name.)

Vernon Wells made an amazing catch, and homered as well.

Were you there in between games for the filming of the "Presidential First Pitch" scene of "Head of State"?
_coliver - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 03:38 PM EST (#81606) #
What I remember most was the whip that he used to warm up with before he began his warm up pitches in the bullpen...that and some scary relief appearances!
_Rob - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 03:43 PM EST (#81607) #
Kind of interesting, that Sickels article, where it says he was a compensation pick for Graeme Lloyd. How do you get a first round supp. pick? I thought it was only with Type A's and Lloyd couldn't have been an A. Maybe he was B.
_Rob - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 03:46 PM EST (#81608) #
Oh, I guess I should say something about Escobar. I always thought he had the talent to be a No. 1 but was rushed to the majors along with HLH and Carp. Doc was only good after Mel Queen rebuilt him in Dunedin, which shows the previous admin's problems with rushing young talent.
_Ryan - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 04:08 PM EST (#81609) #
Were you there in between games for the filming of the "Presidential First Pitch" scene of "Head of State"?

I was there. I haven't seen the movie yet so I'm not sure if I got in it.

Before the first game, I was able to get Eric Hinske, Chris Woodward and Carlos Tosca to autograph my ticket (which now sits framed in my livingroom, below my blue jay painting). I don't usually try to get autographs when I go to games, but the fans in Baltimore are the most orderly autograph seekers I've ever seen. The only other time I had been able to get an autograph from a player on the field was Shawn Green in 1997 at Tiger Stadium, and I had to fight a dozen other fans just to get that one.
_Nigel - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 04:21 PM EST (#81610) #
I can't say I feel good about Escobar's departure. Not that I disagreed in any way with JP's decision, I have been advocating not risking good money on Escobar for some time now. Rather, Escobar symbolized the failure of the mid to late 90's talent push for the Jays. He symbolized it, because he is to date the poster boy for unrealized potential. To my unsophisticated eyes he has the best pure stuff of any homegrown pitcher the Jays have ever had (and I've seen them all since '77) and yet the results were maddeningly inconsistant. The blame for this can be shared around as others have mentioned above. Of the core 5 (Delgado, Green, Gonzalez, Carpenter and Escobar) only Delgado remains but he hasn't disappointed, so to me, Escobar's departure truly severs all ties to that era for me. I wish him well, I certainly do not believe that his failure to live up to his potential is all his fault.
Thomas - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 05:57 PM EST (#81611) #
Mike and Ryan. Coincidentally I was also at the nightcap of that doubleheader, and I was there for the filming too. My brother actually held up a Mays Gilliam sign, if I remember correctly, but we were to the side so I doubt we're in the shot, and if we are it's for a split second. They had fireworks after one of the games, I it was after the Friday game, as opposed to the Saturday?
robertdudek - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 07:08 PM EST (#81612) #
WRT what Kieran wrote ...

Escobar's stuff is great - certainly among the top 10% of major league pitchers. He's always had trouble locating his pitches and has been subject to frequent bouts of wildness. It is VERY VERY VERY difficult to succeed in the majors as a pitcher if you don't have good control.

I don't think lack of confidence or "immaturity" is a big factor at this point. I don't think Escobar is a crafty pitcher, but he has does have an idea about what he wants to do. He gets frustrated when things don't go his way, but so do a lot of big league pitchers. He's better at keeping his cool now than a year ago.

His control has been getting better and he's started to turn a corner. I think that he loses his command a bit too often and when that happens, he gives up hits and walks.

Stuff = A; Command = C-; Poise B-
robertdudek - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 07:43 PM EST (#81613) #
I disagree with the majority of R Billie's characterisation of the Jays' handling of Escobar. Escobar didn't struggle his first year with the Jays. Nor did he struggle in 1998. Lots of pitchers at age 21 and 22 get a taste of the majors. I think that (generally speaking) this is important in their development. I also don't mind guys coming up at a young age and then returning to the minors for a few months to work on some adjustments.

Escobar's struggles began in 1999 when he was made a full time starter - in his 3rd big league season. Maybe his arm couldn't handle starting for a full season, or maybe the hitters realized that they could lay off certain pitches because Kelvim couldn't throw them for strikes.

I don't think making Kelvim spend all of 1997 in the minors was going to be a big help. It's true he skipped AAA, but lots of pitchers do that or make only a handful of starts there and go on to become successful big league pitchers. What I think happened was that the Jays saw him pitch in AA and were impressed, so much so that they decided to give him a trial in the majors (this happens a lot - you've got injuries, so you bring a hot prospect up for a look-see - Dontrelle Willis anyone?). And he was so good in that trial that they decided to keep him - wouldn't you? I mean why would you send your best relief pitcher to Syracuse just because he's 21?

I think the K-man was too good for the minors at that point. What would be the point of making him go down and dominate inferior hitters ? The only way a pitcher improves is if he faces a challenge.

As an example, if McGowan makes 15 starts in AAA this year and blows hitters away, I think it would be detrimental to his development to make him finish the year in AAA.

The one aspect I agree with is the strategem of starting the arbitation clock a little later, which I think might have kept Kelvim in Toronto one year longer (at a high price in 2004). I'd rather have Batista for less money.
_Jabonoso - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 08:26 PM EST (#81614) #
Thank you R Billie for your post, I agree with you in most instances.
There have been at least three lies against kelvim that are granted by many in this blog: Kelvim is a whiner, a headcase and does not works hard. The facts are the he looks fit, can pitch year round, has not have any serious injury, comes from a very different culture and has had some success in MLB. Mystery numbess or not, i would have sticked him in the rotation and it would be clear by now that he is worth the price he was asking. BJ brass are to be blamed to have a very bad CV regarding major league success with its system pitchers ( Miracle Halladay apart )
Robert: Nobody is bringing up McGowan now! or Rios, not even Arnold or Bush and that is considered a plus.
To bring a young kid up and have inmediate success is a very sensible and complicated matter. Cabrera looks like the real deal, and Dontrelle may regress and not be the first 10 starts marvel anymore.
robertdudek - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 08:44 PM EST (#81615) #

If McGowan has 15 excellent starts in 2004 in AAA, I think he ought to come up.
_Jabonoso - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 09:09 PM EST (#81616) #
Every person has his own development time. My guess is that he will start in AA, and spend the rest in AAA. Maybe in 2005 and with a wave of good rookies: Peterson, Bush, Arnold.
robertdudek - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 09:12 PM EST (#81617) #
McGowan's already made 15 quality starts at AA. What does he need to prove there? I don't think babying pitchers is the way to create all-star pitchers.
Mike Green - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 10:12 PM EST (#81618) #
I don't think it will hurt to give McGowan 5 starts at AA. While he dominated AA last year, he did not dominate single A. His ERA there is a little lower than his peripheral stats would suggest. Besides, the Jays have a shortage of starters for the double A level.

I expect him to be triple A by May, and if he is as dominating in triple A as he was in double A, he could get the call in about August.

Finally, when Kelvim was called up in 1997, he had thrown 24 innings in Knoxville and walked 16. The Jays had no business having him skip a level at that point, and go straight to the majors for good. It worked out all right in 1997 in the long-relief role, but IMO it hindered his development. Kelvim should have had his pitching education, and mastered each level before moving on.
robertdudek - Thursday, January 08 2004 @ 10:39 PM EST (#81619) #
Mike Green,

Do you have any tangible evidence that pitching successfully in 1997 and 1998 in the big leagues hurt Escobar's development? I find it hard to believe.

You know, there are plenty of pitchers who skip levels or make a handful of starts at a given level. Many of them become successful big league pitchers. Thus, I consider the idea of insisting that every pitcher master every level to be some sort of dogma.
_okbluejays - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 12:50 AM EST (#81620) #
I watched Escobar a lot over his tenure as a Blue Jay. Most of us agree that he was rushed and this hurt his development, but I just want to state what I think this means. I think it hurt his development of a 3rd good pitch, I think his second pitch (splitter) never was honed to the point where he could rely on it day in - day out, and his fastball, while certainly fast, can't always be placed with any certainty. I remember reading a story about Juan Guzman, and whoever was catching him in the early years basically told Guzman to aim his fastball right down the middle of the plate. He knew it would end up being a strike somewhere, he just didn't really know where. I think that describes Escobar on some nights. In the minors, prospects can be sent out to the mound to work on a particular pitch or a particular skill (i.e. control). Some boxscores which look terrible to us and might appear to be a step backwards are in fact occasions where a pitcher has taken steps that may eventually improve their progress (but they just aren't there yet!). Kelvim never got the chance to make mistakes out of the glaring eyes of the fans and without the pressures to perform to a) keep his job, and b) earn a greater salary for the next year. I think he'll always be guy that teases you with the odd outstanding stretch of games, but never puts it all together in a way that leaves you satisfied.

I think the current regime will be more prudent with their good young arms, and so far they have been. But, when a player is ready, they're ready. If McGowan dominates AA and AAA next year over the first half of the year I have no problems with the Jays starting his arbitration clock in the same way that Oakland did with Harden. Now, Oakland was in the thick of the playoff race and they thought that Harden could help them make the playoffs. If the Jays were well out of it a stronger case could be made to leave a prospect in the minors for longer, but in general, I think when a player has proven all they can in the minors it's time to see what they can do at the major league level.
_S.K. - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 01:04 AM EST (#81621) #
Robert - obviously there can't be tangible evidence, because no one will ever know how Escobar WOULD have turned out. I think we can agree that every player is different - but promoting someone averaging over 5 BB per 9 to the majors straight from AA does seem a little strange.
_babe Escobar - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 01:20 AM EST (#81622) #
I have to disagree with Jabonoso. Kelvim was working out five to six times a week so don't said he is not in. He work on his pitches,too. Kelvim is also not a headcase.I would know I a good friend of his for 5 years now. I am going to miss seeing him pitch for the Jays. I went to all the games for the past 4 years. I think Kelvim is secord best pitcher(doc the first in some when) I have every seen in a Blue Jays uniform.
_R Billie - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 01:24 AM EST (#81623) #
Robert...are you saying two more years of pressure free instruction in the minor leagues would have done nothing to help Kelvim improve his command, game plan, and maturity? IMO walking 40 guys in 74 innings of AA ball is not proof someone is ready of promotion. In that case the Jays should send Perkins straight to AAA in April and then to Toronto in May...who cares how many guys he walks if minor league hitters can't catch up to his fastball.

And why bother sending McGowan to AAA at all? His stuff is good enough, he throws strikes. Start him in the majors. Or maybe there is something to be gained by having the player prove himself to some degree at each level. While giving a guy an early trial in the majors sounds good in theory it will at best leave you with a player who becomes a free agent before his prime years arrive. There's a reason the Jays want to be absolutely sure that a player is in the big leagues to stay once he gets there. They can't afford to waste service time.

I'm trying to think of young pitchers who arrived quickly in the big leagues and had success who didn't have very good control and peripheral stats in the minors. I really can't think of many. Dontrelle Willis DOMINATED the minor leagues in 2003. Kelvim Escobar struck out a lot of guys in the minors but he never dominated a level above A-ball.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 08:03 AM EST (#81624) #
I think there is some sort of myth floating around and that is that you can only work on your pitches in the minors and that the minors are pressure free. There are such things as a bullpen. In general, the better pitching coaches are in the majors.

Regarding McGowan - if there were some sort of emergency and a pitcher was needed, why not give McGowan a couple of games. I don't think that will happen in 2004 since we've got lots of pitching depth, but it did happen in 1997. The point is that Escobar was a success story. He's been a good pitcher. He did well in 1997 and 1998. If you want to press your case that bringing a guy up as a 21 year old stunts his growth, pick someone who flopped in the majors. Sure he had a couple of down years but most young pitchers do no matter how much time they spend in the minors.

The thing that prevents Escobar from being a great MLB pitcher is his command. I have a hard time understanding why some people think he would have developed BETTER command if he had spent more time in the minors. Minor league hitters are less selective, so it stands to reason that you don't need quite the command at that level than you do in the majors to succeed. Pitching in the majors ought to provided the stiffest challenge and so ought to be the best way to develop command. The key is to pitch at the highest level you can handle; Escobar clearly was ready to pitch in the majors in 1997.

Kerry Wood never had good control in the minors - he still doesn't.
Pistol - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 08:52 AM EST (#81625) #
If you want to press your case that bringing a guy up as a 21 year old stunts his growth, pick someone who flopped in the majors.

Craig B - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:08 AM EST (#81626) #
Well, lots of guys get Steve Blass Disease. We only hear about the ones in the majors... but this happens all the time to guys in the minor leagues. They tend to just get released - quick - unless they are can't-miss prospects.
Mike Green - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:12 AM EST (#81627) #
Robert, I guess that we can all watch how Bonderman progresses to test it in the extreme.

I should say this. There are pitchers who dominate every minor league level, and who have nothing to learn in the minors. Roger Clemens is a classic example. Kelvim was not in this situation. When he came up, he had serious problems with command and poise.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:17 AM EST (#81628) #
Ankiel absolutely dominated all levels of the minor leagues. Going back to the early 80s, Ankiel had more dominant minor league stats for age than any other pitching prospect. He made 8 starts in AA AND 16 starts in AAA, unlike another phenom who skipped BOTH levels and was pitching in the majors at 19 (I'll let you guess who that might be). If there was ever a single pitcher who ought to have been in the majors at 21 (actually he was 20) based on his minor league numbers, Ankiel was the one. Based on minor league performance, Ankiel was the best high school pitching prospect in 25 years, and perhaps the best going back as far as Bob Feller.

Further, his first 200 innings in the majors were of high quality.

Ankiel is an example that goes on my side of the ledger.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:24 AM EST (#81629) #
Mike Green,

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Kelvim was and is a successful major league pitcher. People seem to project a sense of lost opportunity onto Esobar, whereas I doubt that that is the case.

Kelvim doesn't have the stuff that Ankiel, Wood, Prior or Clemens do and did. His "failure" to become a dominant pitcher is due in very large part to his lack of command.

Until I see some evidence that pitching in the minors improves command at a greater rate than pitching in the majors, I just don't buy the "Kelvim was stunted" argument.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:35 AM EST (#81630) #
Until I see some evidence that pitching in the minors improves command at a greater rate than pitching in the majors, I just don't buy the "Kelvim was stunted" argument.

I'm staying out of this because I think you guys are both right. But I'm surprised Mike hasn't mentioned the following:

In 1996 in the minors, Kelvim pitched 164 1/3 innings. In 1997, he threw a total of 67 innings, 36 1/3 in the minors, 31 in the majors.

It's possible that Kelvim's command *would* have improved had he been allowed to pitch 180-200 innings in 1997 rather than 67 1/3.

I would have kept him in the minors, as not to start his arbitration case. But I agree with Robert, Kelvim *was* lights out in Toronto in 1997.


Pepper Moffatt - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:36 AM EST (#81631) #
That should be arbitration clock, not arbitration case. Must be time for coffee.

Pistol - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:44 AM EST (#81632) #
Ankiel is an example that goes on my side of the ledger.

I could see how you could say Ankiel doesn't compare to Escobar, but it's hardly a positive for you argument. He got called up at an unusually young age, and while there was good reason to support that (and where the comparison to Escobar doesn't fit) he ultimately fell apart.

I don't see how his first 200 innings matter. Ankiel is virtually useless for the Cards now (actually, maybe he'll play LF).

He started a playoff game at 21 and couldn't throw a strike. He hasn't been able to throw strikes since. It would seem entirely possible that the pressure of starting a playoff game at 21 stunted his growth and he would have benefitted from more time in the minors. Or perhaps more time in the minors would have ended in the same result.
Mike Green - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:45 AM EST (#81633) #
Robert, you might be right. It certainly is possible for a pitcher to develop command at the major league level (usually after a number of years)- Koufax and Randy Johnson are obvious examples. But, both came to the big leagues with poise, and both had legitimate trials in the high minors.

How precisely could one measure "poise" to test the proposition? As fans, we see pitcher's facial expressions and feel their sense of pace. Boxscores don't tell this tale. There is no recording of the number of seconds between each pitch.

Incidentally, in the game in Baltimore referred to earlier in the thread, I'm guessing that JP went for that long walk because Kelvim's pacing made him anxious. I often felt that way myself.
_MatO - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 09:56 AM EST (#81634) #
Esbobar gave up 28 hits and 19 walks in 31 innings in 1997. That is hardly lights out. His 1998 season was accompanied by a stint in Syracuse.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 10:05 AM EST (#81635) #
Mike Green,

I'd be happy to see a study focusing on non-intentional walks per batters faced, using MLEs for minor leagues stats. Use a control group (those left in the minors for a "normal" length of time) and an experimental group (those who were brought up early).


I see no causal connection between Ankiel's young debut in the majors and his playoff meltdown. Are you saying that if he had been a year or two or three older when he made his playoff debut he'd never had had a meltdown? While it's conceivable that being 21 instead of 23 led to the meltdown - that is pure speculation on your part. Jaret Wright pitched WELL in the playoffs at a similar age, but he too was largely useless to the Indians afterwards. It doesn't strike me that there's any connection between age and subsequent breakdown.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 10:10 AM EST (#81636) #
I'd be happy to see a study focusing on non-intentional walks per batters faced, using MLEs for minor leagues stats. Use a control group (those left in the minors for a "normal" length of time) and an experimental group (those who were brought up early).

A good idea, but it'll be hard to eliminate the rather large selection bias inherent in such a study.


robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 10:26 AM EST (#81637) #
Mike Moffat,

You're right. It's hard to eliminate selection bias, but we could ensure that the two groups have equal manifested ability up to and including (say) age 22.
_Jonny German - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 10:40 AM EST (#81638) #
The ideal procedure, in my opinion, is to call up prospects in July, as was done recently with Hudson and Phelps. Give them some time to adjust to the majors but without getting them to arbitration sooner than necessary. If this means calling up a 20 year old player who has been dominant in just 4 AAA starts, so be it.

Where does Roy Halladay fit in this discussion? He was somewhat successful as a 22 year old in the majors, then historically awful as a 23 year old in the majors and AAA. Re-built in the minors as a 24 year old, he's gone on to be a dominant pitcher known for his mental toughness.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 11:01 AM EST (#81639) #
Interestingly, Halladay made 43 starts in AAA and 7 in AA. It didn't seem to prepare him for long-term success, though. He experienced a similar pattern as Kelvim: after initial success, he regressed.
_R Billie - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 11:09 AM EST (#81640) #
You do have to increase difficulty when someone has nothing left to prove at a certain level and it's true that minor league hitters are much less selective than major league hitters. What I don't understand is is why 40 walks and a 4.82 era in 74 AA innings meant Escobar had nothing left to prove. In addition to poor overall performance he was clearly pitching VERY inefficiently and throwing a lot of pitches per batter. I'm just not seeing this convincing evidence that Escobar was ready for the majors here.

As Mat mentioned above his '97 performance was deceptive as he gave up 47 baserunners in 31 innings for a WHIP of over 1.50 which is far from even average. He was averaging over 19 pitches per inning which is awful efficiency. The following two years he was still over 17 per inning which is still quite bad and his ERA rose over 5.00 when he became a full-time starter and was asked to use a greater variety of secondary pitches. Did he accomplish something constructive which an average free agent signing couldn't have done? Did he accomplish anything other than burn three years of service time where he could have been developing his game? I'm not seeing a success story...I'm seeing an organization wrecklessly using a *potentially* valuable asset.

Call me crazy but two more years of starter's innings practicing all of his pitches might have helped Kelvim adjust to the big leagues a little better. Not to mention the Jays would have had him until age 29 instead of losing him to free agency this year. Promotion of Kelvim would not have been defensible under the current regime and I think there are objectively and subjectively good reasons for that.

Vince Perkins walked 53 guys in 84 innings in high-A in 2003 but he also gave up only 1 homerun and allowed just 58 hits (.201 opponent's average). So is he ready for AA? IMO until he demonstrates at least average command against his current level how can anyone assume his command will improve against even tougher competition? Learn, perform, increase difficultly in that order. How quickly you increase difficulty should depend on how well you performed. I don't think that's an unreasonable position at all. Now if the player levels off at a certain level then maybe you promote him and hope for the best. That's basically what JP did with Vernon Wells after he had spent over two years in AAA with stagnating performance.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 11:28 AM EST (#81641) #
Look. Kelvin pitched well in '97 and '98, not brilliantly. Of course it would have been a good idea to keep him in the minors and delay his arbitration clock. I said so in my first post on the subject.

What I am saying is that this action did not necessarily lead to Kelvim being "stunted". IMO Kelvim has not been stunted and I'm waiting for evidence that suggests that pitching in the minors helps reduce the risk of a pitcher being stunted.

By the way, Kelvim had almost a 2 to 1 K/W ratio in 15 starts in AA; his K/W ratio in Dunedin was nearly 3.5 to 1. Perkins rate was about 1.3 to 1 in Dunedin last year. That suggests Kelvim was at least ready for AAA and the Perkins case is not an appropriate comparison.
_R Billie - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 12:28 PM EST (#81642) #
Using K/W in a vacuum isn't a good way to evaluate where a pitcher is at though. At minimum it should be combined with BB/9 to determine where a guy's command really is. My point was the guy was a tightrope walker in both the minors and that suggested he would be one in the majors too. He did not pitch efficiently, giving up a lot of baserunners and using a lot of pitches.

And while there's no evidence to suggest spending additional time at a level would have increased Escobar's skill in particular, there's plenty of evidence to suggest spending additional time at a level will in general increase player skills. You would expect a pitcher repeating AA to do at least a little bit better upon repetition provided his ceiling was actually higher than AA...familiarity with a level of competition makes things easier.

And if he had gotten better to the point where he was walking significantly fewer people and pitching more efficiently that would have made him better prepared for a jump to the big leagues. I'm not sure that can be "proven" but subjectively most people would believe that to be true.

And the point of not starting the arbitration clock to early is pretty much the point I'm making...but more specifically not starting it until you can get what is likely to be a more useful performance out of Escobar during his cheap years. That in turn would have increased the likelihood of the Jays extending him on long term contracts as opposed to one year deals where he was eventually lost. If you keep promoting Kelvim and handing him closer roles or starter roles then where was the incentive for him to improve his command in the first place?
_S.K. - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 01:11 PM EST (#81643) #
Robert - are you saying that Escobar's development was not hurt by being brought up early, or simply that there is no EVIDENCE to that effect. If you are saying the latter, then I suppose I agree with you. But it still seems counterintuitive, so I think that the burden of proof is on your side. (I'm deliberately not addressing anyone's arguments so far, I quite honestly don't have time to wade through them =))
_Jabonoso - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 01:16 PM EST (#81644) #
Babe Escobar:
Your point is my point, I like Kelvim very much, I think strongly that he will have better years with the Angelitos, with Scioscia ( having worked with El Toro early in his career and recently with K Rod, very similar to Kelvim in background ).
Use my mail link to talked more ( in Spanish if it is the case )
_Wildrose - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 02:18 PM EST (#81645) #
Great discussion, valid points on both sides. I was going to post this yesterday early in this thread, but if you ever want to stir up disagreement amongst bauxites bring up the name Kelvim Escobar. Usually we all tend to be in general agreement on this blog except I notice when this guy is discussed. I'm not sure if will ever see the likes of him again.

My pet theory regarding our Venezualan enigma is that he should never have been a reliever in the first place. Escobar's struggles with command and control are related to difficulty in finding his release point early in each game.Here's the 2003 data:

pitches 1-15 .949 OPS
16-30 .653 OPS
31-45 .706 OPS
46-90 .540 OPS

His 3 year splits are similar.

I'm not sure why his initial success in 1997 as the teams closer(after the trade of the incumbent Timlin to Seattle for Cruz at the trade deadline)went so well. Perhaps his stuff was so good, and the hitters never having seen him before, a tad impatient gave him a clear advantage. At any rate this early success coupled with a mysterious arm nubness in 2001 led him to be mis-cast in the closer role for much of 2002/03. After his great run at the end of 2001 I just wish he could have remained a starter,clearly his best position.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 02:46 PM EST (#81646) #

My point is that there isn't any reason to think it hurt Kelvim's development. I'm neutral on the issue. I'm very skeptical of this "never skip a level" doctrine. If it were up to me I would have moved him to triple A in '97, but K-man's performance in '97 and '98 is clear evidence to me that he wasn't one of those pitchers who comes to the majors and is completely overmatched. As such, it provided a valuable learning environment (because of the higher skill level of the batters) and I'm far from convinced that Escobar would have learned more if he had instead pitched those 110 innings in AAA.

For the record here are his High A, AA and AL numbers from those years.

Dunedin 96/97 122.1 IP, 117 h, 36 niw, 129 k
Knoxville 96/97 78.1 IP, 81 h, 40 niw, 75 k
Toronto 97/98 110.2 IP, 100 h, 52 niw, 108 k

Does that look like a pitcher who had no business being in the majors?
_MatO - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 04:04 PM EST (#81647) #
Escobar did not pitch particularly well in 1997. He did pitch well in 1998, ironically after pitching 59 innings in Syracuse that year and then had disastrous 1999 and 2000 seasons. When you look at the entire start to his career I don't think he was ready for the majors. Despite that he seems to have come through it all. In that sense Robert is right. We can't prove that Escobar would have been better off taking another route to the majors.
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 04:11 PM EST (#81648) #
Actually, Escobar started 1998 in Toronto, was sent down to Syracuse, and then came back up.
_MatO - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 04:25 PM EST (#81649) #
I stand corrected.
_R Billie - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 04:27 PM EST (#81650) #
He was ready to be a reliever (albeit and erratic one) in 1997 because he'd only need his fastball and splitter, his two best pitches. Once he took to starting and was required to mix in the change and curve as well things went south because he had already spent a great deal of time not throwing them much. Hence the marked decrease in strikeout rate and lots of walks as a starting pitcher in 1999 and 2000.

If he had been kept a reliever after '97 and '98 there could be an argument that Escobar was ready enough for the bigs although he still had erratic control and to this day struggles to find his command early in an appearance. His best position with his early struggle quirks and endurance was as a starter and he should have been polishing his secondary pitches and control before he took that role at a major league level.
_John Neary - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 04:27 PM EST (#81651) #
If you want a pitcher who was really brought up too quickly, how about Halladay? And I'm not referring to his historically bad 2000:

Year Level IP BB K
1997 AA 36.2 11 30
AAA 125.2 53 64
1998 AAA 116.1 53 71
MLB 14.0 2 13
1999 MLB 149.1 79 82

Mind you, this is more of a service-time argument than a stunting argument.
_MatO - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 04:27 PM EST (#81652) #
But he did pitch much better after his time in Syracuse.
_MatO - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 04:42 PM EST (#81653) #
In a bizarre sort way at looking at things, can we be sure that Halladay would have been as good as he is now if he had not been mishandled early in his career and not gone through his trials and tribulations?
robertdudek - Friday, January 09 2004 @ 05:09 PM EST (#81654) #
MatO has touched on something that has been beneath the surface of my comments. Namely that after a pitcher's MLB baptism, the subsequent adjustments by the hitters constitute an important test for a pitcher. How he deals with that will set the course for the rest of his career. It's a kind of a coming-of-age test.

It would be a mistake, I think, to think that you can avoid this simply by keeping a pitcher in AAA indefinitely. Although I admit that there are some pitchers who are so good they make it through this test flawlessly.
_John Neary - Saturday, January 10 2004 @ 10:26 AM EST (#81655) #

Do you have any evidence that pitchers go through an adjustment period shortly after reaching the major leagues? I suppose that the existence of such a period would be manifested by a higher-than-normal attrition rate, or the existence of a larger-than-expected group of pitchers whose performance for a period of time shortly after reaching the majors is below expectations.

If it's true that both:
1. Pitchers' development can be impaired by bringing them up to the majors too quickly, and
2. Pitchers go through a challenging adjustment period shortly after reaching the majors,
then I wonder whether pitchers who are rushed might make up a disproportionate fraction of the pitchers who don't adjust efficiently. (I'm still agnostic about both of those points, though.)

robertdudek - Saturday, January 10 2004 @ 10:46 AM EST (#81656) #

No evidence, really. Just a bunch of observations. I think the same thing occurs to many hitters - I'm planning to do a study to see if the phenomena of sophomore slumps exist for hitters. I might as well do one for pitchers too.
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