Can Jake Odorizzi Offer Immediate Help?

Can Jake Odorizzi lead the Royals out of the darkness?


Short of completely imploding in his next few starts in Omaha, the odds heavily favor Jake Odorizzi's promotion to Kansas City sometime before the end of July - probably sooner. The service time issues have or are about to go away as they relate to 2012. Unless Dayton Moore wants to game Odorizzi's time for another entire year, those will very shortly no longer be an issue (at least to the Royals).

There will be a lot of high hopes, likely unrealistically high hopes, when Jake gets the call. We all know that, more often than not, a young pitcher is likely to struggle when introduced to major league competition. Look no further than Danny Duffy or go back a long ways to the likes of Tom Glavine. You can also pile up a painfully long list of prospects who struggled in their rookie seasons and continued to struggle their way out of baseball.

Still, there have been young pitchers who excelled in their very first year. Between 1995 and 2011, forty-one pitchers between the ages of 20 and 24 have made 14 or more starts in their rooke season and posted an ERA+ of 100 or better. Zach Duke is number one (ERA+ of 233) and Jon Lester is number forty-one (ERA+ of 100).

In between those two are some great pitchers: Jered Weaver, Tim Hudson, some guy named Greinke, Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum and C.C. Sabathia. There are enigmatic ones like Barry Zito and Dontrelle Willis. There are pitchers who were felled by injuries such as Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Jose Rosado. This list also contains the likes of Horacio Ramirez, Boof Bonser, Jaret Wright and Ryan Rupe.

While a rough rookie season does not mean a pitcher is doomed to failure, a good rookie season does not guarantee success, either. All told, there were 82 pitchers that fit into our criteria, but you know there are many, many more who did not start 14 games in their rookie year, or relieved a few times or whatever. Basically, it would be wrong to say that half the starting pitchers who came up between the ages of 20 and 24 succeed - which you all already knew.

Anyway, back to Jake Odorizzi....sort of.

These are the top nine (why nine? because that's all the research I felt like doing) rookie seasons by ERA+ for starting pitchers between the ages of 20 and 24 since 1995.

Pitcher

ERA+

Year

Age

Starts

Minor Lg Inn

Zach Duke

233

2005

22

14

431

Jered Weaver

177

2006

23

19

133

Barry Zito

173

2000

22

14

131

Jose Rosado

155

1996

21

16

312

J. Isringhausen

144

1995

22

14

483

Tommy Hanson

143

2009

22

21

389

Tim Hudson

142

1999

23

21

268

Brad Bergesen

133

2009

23

19

490

Dave Bush

131

2004

24

16

293

Not surprisingly, if Odorizzi (who has 413 minor league innings under his belt) were to duplicate any of the nine rookie seasons in this chart, his ERA+ would be head and shoulders and a couple more heads above any Royals' starter whose arm has not been on an operating table this summer.

Certainly, there is more data to indicate that the above won't happen than that it will. We found 41 pitchers over a 16 season span, so we are talking two or three per season on average. A fair portion of those went on to become some of the best pitchers in the game. No one is projecting Jake to become that (although I would be delighted if he did).

This very limited research does show that pitchers, every so often, do come up and help their teams get better as rookies. Maybe, just maybe, the Royals are due for a pitcher to come up and be less Davies and more Rosado for a change.

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