Decision Time - Jimmy Gobble

Continuing a series of diary postings/polls centering on specific players and if the good folks here at RR believe the Royals should stick with them or relieve them/us of their/our misery.

The players I will focus on are those which the Royals can retain, but who can demand more than minimum salary.

Previous Entries and the consensus opinion of the RR management:

  1. Runelvys Hernandez - RR management says: "Cut him loose"
  2. Emil Brown - RR management says: "Short term commitment"  Offer arbitration
Decision Time - Jimmy Gobble

Jimmy Gobble enters his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2007.  This does force the Royals to make a decision in his case.  Is he worth retaining now that he must be paid something approximating his actual value?  I anticipate something in the area of $750K to retain Gobble.

Year: Innings Pitched, ERA (K/9, BB/9, HR/9) WHIP

  1. 148 - 5.35 (3.0 / 2.6 / 1.5) 1.35
  2. 53.7 - 5.70 (6.4 / 5.0 / 1.5) 1.75
  3. 84 - 5.14 (8.6 / 3.1 / 1.5) 1.48
At first glance these numbers do not seem to prompt any strong conclusions, but there are patterns here that do tell a story.  The most significant development in Gobble's career is his evolving ability to strikeout batters.  Decent MLB pitchers are expected to strikeout six or more batters per nine.  Gobble has transformed this aspect of his game from a negative to a positive.  In 2004 he had one of the lowest K/9 averages in all of baseball, last year he led the Royals in strikeouts despite only pitching 84 innings.  He did this while keeping his homerun and walk per nine within normal parameters. The hole in Gobble's game at this point seems to be his hitability.  Opposing batters hit (.282 / .341 / .469 / .809) against him last year.  All on the ugly side.  Also, all pretty consistent with his career numbers (.279 / .337 / .470 / .806).  So Gobble is not improving yet in terms of getting more outs, just in how he gets those outs.

Gobble's value would be much higher if he could develop more effectiveness vs. right handed hitters, his lefty/righty splits are pronounced in batting average (.255 vs. .294) and OBA (.276 vs. .366)  If he could bring these more into line he would be a better option as a starter (where he faces line-ups stocked 80% with overly comfortable right handed batmen).   As it is he remains effective only in the bullpen where his exposure to righties can be better managed.  For his career Gobble is (4-3, 4.95) in 79 games as a reliever, and (10-12, 5.58) in 34 starts.   As long as Gobble is in the pen he is good for only about 70 innings a year, as a starter this number might triple, along with his value to the team.

I have perhaps an unreasonable degree of hope for Gobble.  I see he has corrected one of his two problem areas (K's), and I anticipate (for no reason other than powder blue faith) that he will figure out a method of reducing his hits allowed.  This leaves only the righty/lefty problem, and even if he never fully corrects that limitation he will still remain effective in middle relief for perhaps another 10 years.  Gobble is still young at 26, and thus presumably growth can be expected for another few years.  The normal pattern is to be MLB established by 26, improvement into late 20's, slow decline in early 30's, drop off around 34.  Gobble is actually ahead of this model.

While it may be premature to open this discussion, I do think if the Royals decide they have faith in Gobble they might consider locking him up.  If the Royals present him with something like a 5yr, $10M package now, Gobble might sign to buy that new bride of his a dream home and the Royals might have a reasonably priced swing man, or a bargain priced #4 starter, for years to come.  Or of course, it could all go horribly bad.

Finally, there is that issue of his name.  If he had been named James Gable things might have been different.  Gobbler doesn't inspire the same degree of awe.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.