Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Masterson vs. Marquez

I have a reader who insists that Yankees minor league pitcher Jeff Marquez is hands down better than Red Sox minor league pitcher Justin Masterson. Usually I'd say, "who cares"? But given the importance of both pitchers in any potential Johan Santana deal, this may actually be of some relevance. And since there's no important news today, why not discuss it?

Justin Masterson is a 22-year-old right handed sinkerball pitcher in the Red Sox minor league system. He was drafted out of San Diego State in 2005, and he finished last season at Double-A Portland in the Eastern League.

Jeff Marquez is a 23-year-old right handed sinkerball pitcher in the Yankees minor league system. He was drafted out of Sacramento City College in 2004, and he finished last season at Double-A Trenton in the Eastern League.

So far, the pitchers are rather similar. Masterson is a bit younger, and has developed a bit faster. Two years removed from college, he's pitching at the Double-A level. In contrast, Jeff Marquez was pitching at the Rookie level when he was two years removed from college. But other than that, they're pretty similar. That is, until you consider how they've fared over their minor league careers.

Masterson last year pitched 58 innings in the Eastern League. Over that time, he allowed 7.60 hits, 2.79 walks and struck out 9.16 batters for every nine innings that he pitched. In that same league, Marquez pitched 155.1 innings. Over that time, he allowed 9.62 hits, 2.55 walks and stuck out 5.45 batters for every nine innings that he pitched. At the same level Marquez had the better ERA and BB/9. Masterson had the better WHIP, H/9, HR/9, K/9 and WHIP. And Masterson was better in all of those categories, with a year less of minor league experience.

Now, in the face of this evidence, I have a feeling how a Yankees fan might respond. "But Marquez is a sinkerball pitcher, his hit and strikeout rates don't have to be low to be affective. Look at Chien-Ming Wang." That ignores the fact that Masterson is also a sinkerball pitcher, but I'll entertain it anyways. Why not?

Sinkerball pitchers don't necessarily have to strike out batters. And since they pitch to contact, their hit rates are typically higher. What a sinkerball does need to do, however, to be affective, is induce ground balls. So let's take a look at ground out to fly out ratios. Marquez last year had a GO/FO of 1.36 last year. Decent, but not even half as good as the GO/FO ratio of 3.52 which Masterson posted in the same exact league.

Still not satisfied that Marquez isn't the better pitcher? Perhaps you'll be swayed when I tell you that over the entirety of their minor league careers, Masterson has posted a better WHIP, H/9, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9 than Marquez. He's also done with less time to develop. And his numbers have been better even though he pitched most of his innings in Lancaster, which could seriously be the most hitter-friendly ballpark in professional baseball.

So, I've yet to see a reason to believe that Marquez is the better pitcher. They both throw hard mid-90's sinkers and both have decent mastery of their secondary pitches. But if anyone thinks they have an argument as to why Marquez is the better pitcher, feel free to share it.


Michael said...

surely you're not referring to me as that insistant yankee fan.

interesting article whomever you're aiming it at.

Royal Rooters said...

No, I was talking about "jb".

Michael said...

oh yeah, i went back and read that stuff.
nice piece on pap and mo having a pow-wow at the all-star game. i would have loved to have a been a fly on that wall.

Jb said...

I think Marquez's better than Masterson. Your a Redsox Fan, I respect your opinion and support Masterson..

Masterson projected to be in the bullpen not a starter in Mlb By Baseball America and scouts.

Jb said...

Rob Neyer- Ranking the best second basemen

Today we continue our series of ranking the best players at each position, with an eye on the next five years ...

Last season there was one great second baseman and a passel of good ones. Chase Utley was the great one, but aside from him there were 10 everyday second basemen with OPS's between .805 and .875, and worthy candidates Howie Kendrick and Ian Kinsler weren't far behind. How to sort through all of them? Well, fair or not, I'm going to summarily dismiss (for the moment) anybody who's 30 or older this season, which eliminates Jeff Kent (40), Placido Polanco (32), Brian Roberts (30) and Orlando Hudson (30). That still leaves nine candidates.

Chase Utley 29 .410 .566 145 9.3
Robinson Cano 25 .353 .488 120 9.2
Kelly Johnson 26 .375 .457 117 6.7
Dustin Pedroia 24 .380 .442 112 5.3
Ian Kinsler 26 .355 .441 109 5.4
Howie Kendrick 24 .347 .450 108 2.0
Dan Uggla 28 .326 .479 108 7.9
Rickie Weeks 25 .374 .433 108 3.5
Brandon Phillips 27 .331 .485 105 7.6

That last column is a new one: WARP, Wins Above Replacement Player, arrives courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and incorporates defensive value (in the form of Fielding Runs Above Replacement, which I believe is a generally worthy metric). Kendrick and Weeks both drop quite a bit with the inclusion of FRAR, while Uggla and Phillips both move up quite a bit.

The biggest mover, though, is Cano, who's credited with 50 FRAR, a gigantic number for a second baseman. Even if you don't believe he was that good with the glove, he still has to rank as one of the two best second basemen in the majors, right? Considering the league in which he plays?

For me, the options are clear: If you're looking for a second baseman for the next five years, you must choose Utley's bat or Cano's youth, and all the rest is just fighting over table scraps.

I'll take Cano, because I don't think we've yet seen his best work and because he plays in the toughest division in the toughest league. So here's how I've got them, with (as usual) the last spot held open for the next great second baseman who hasn't established himself yet. Remember, we're talking about value over the next five seasons ...

1. Cano
2. Utley
3. Pedroia
4. Phillips
5. Johnson
6. Kinsler
7. Weeks
8. Kendrick
9. Hudson
10. ????

One could definitely make the case for Roberts instead of Kendrick or Hudson, and maybe even Weeks (because of the latter's poor defense). The real surprise here is Johnson. He got a late start, but his hitting seems to be legitimate and defensively he's better than most. I'm not at all sure he'll have a better career than Weeks or Kendrick, but I do think he'll have a better next five years.

I gave Mr. Neyer's credit even though He's a Yankees hater for picking and recognizing Robbie's value over Pedrioa, Utley next five years

Royal Rooters said...

Yeah, that would have been quite the conversation. I remember Papelbon said that he wanted to be for the Red Sox what Mo was for the Yankees.

Royal Rooters said...

JB, Masterson is projected to be a reliever OR a starter, probably because he's had success in both roles, even though he's spent most of his time as a starter.

If you're going to refer to scouts, you should cite them. I can't tell you how many times a Yankees fan has told me that "scouts" say this, or "scouts" say that, but when I ask them what scouts they can't tell me.

Royal Rooters said...

Thanks for the link jb. I agree with Neyer, at this point in their careers I'd take Cano as well. But remember, he's comparing a rookie player to a player who was in his third year.

Royal Rooters said...

And I can't find what you're talking about from Baseball America, but they rate Masterson as the 4th best prospect in the Red Sox system. I don't believe they placed Marquez within the top 10 players in the Yankees system. So I think they'd likely rate Masterson better than Marquez.

And that would agree with every other rating I've come accross. Jon Sickels gives Masterson a rating of B+, and Marquez a rating of C+. Can you find a single mlb prospects ranking site (not one by a Yankees fan) that ranks Marquez better than Masterson because as I see it, you really don't have much to your argument here.

Royal Rooters said...

Sorry, typo. That should read a B for Masterson, not a B+.