Monday, January 25, 2010

Who Is This Guy?: Kelvim Escobar

Who Is He?

Kelvim Escobar is a 33 year old (will turn 34 in April) right handed pitcher who was born in Venezuela.

Where Did He Come From?

Escobar came up through the Blue Jays farm system, striking out a lot of batters and always being a little young and a little wild for his level. He made his major league debut at the age of 21 and was fairly dominant out of the bullpen, saving 14 games that season.

For the next few years he bounced between the bullpen and starting rotation. From what I can tell, the Blue Jays knew that he could do either and moved him back and forth depending on their personnel. From 1998-2003 he made between zero and 30 starts each year. In 2002 he was the full time closer, notching 38 saves. In 1999 and 2003 he almost exclusively was a starter.

In 2004 he signed with Anaheim, who used him as a starting pitcher. That year he made 33 starts and pitched 208 innings, posting a 3.93 ERA, good for 10th in the league. In fact, he placed in the top ten in ERA two more times as well, placing 6th in 2006 (3.61) and 8th in 2007 (3.40).

2007 was his finest full season. He made 30 starts that year over 195 innings, going 18-7 with a 1.27 WHIP. As always, he struck out a lot of batters - 160 over 195 innings.

This is the Mets - So What's the Catch?

Injuries. Lots of them.

The biggest came in 2008, when it was discovered that Escobar had a "shoulder tear," which is something I have never even heard of (usually it's a part of the shoulder, isn't it?). He underwent the surgery some time in July of 2008, after an attempt to pitch through pain that season. Fun fact? The surgery was performed by the Mets own orthopedist David Altchek.

Then in 2009, when attempting to return from the surgery, he experienced a "deep ache" in the shoulder and had to shut it down yet again.

What Does He Throw?

For his career, Escobar has thrown a 93.4 mph fastball 54% of the time, a slider 10% of the time, a changeup 11% of the time, and a splitter 14% of the time. Last year, however, he seems to have ditched the slider and gone with the changeup instead, throwing it 25% of the time. The gap between the fastball and changeup was an excellent 9.7 mph.

According to fangraphs, his most dominant pitch has changed over the years - but he has always had one. In 2003 with the Blue Jays, his curveball was dominant, at 3.66 runs above average per 100 pitches. In 2006 with the Angels, it was hit cutter at 3.11 runs/100 pitches and curveball at runs/100 pitches. Last year, his slider was a terrible value, at -3.48 /100 but his changeup and splitter were both excellent at over 3.30 runs per 100 pitches.

What Can We Expect?

Anyone who tells you that they know the answer to this question is a big fat phony. But we do know that if healthy - he will be a great asset. For what it's worth, it appears that the Mets intend to have Escobar pitch out of the bullpen this season. Perhaps his shoulder won't flare up as much from there.

For his career as a reliever, Escobar has a 4.44 ERA and 1.42 WHIP over 247 innings. In that same stretch, he's walked 119 batters and struck out 270 for a K/BB ratio of 2.27. This split, ERA and WHIP-wise, is actually worse than his career stats overall - but most of those innings came earlier in his career.

This is a relatively low-cost signing so there is not much risk on the part of the Mets. I know the blogosphere really enjoyed the acquisition - so here's hoping that he can hold up over the course of the season.

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