Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Meet Seth Maness: Control artist extraordinaire.

OK, I'll admit it, I'm a big fan of Seth Maness.

He isn't one of the Cardinals top prospects.  He barely cracked Baseball America's top 30 for the Cards, coming in at #23.

He doesn't have a power arm.  While guys like Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez can all throw in the upper 90's, Maness tops out at 90 mph, on a good day.

But what Maness does have that most power pitchers lack is pinpoint control.  We're not talking the "good" control label that scouts often use to describe pitchers who walk maybe 2 batters per 9 IP.  No, we're talking PINPOINT control, as in 0.7 BB/9 in his 247.2 minor league innings.

Last year, Maness pitched 169.2 innings and walked just 10 batters, giving him a 0.5 BB/9 as well as an incredible 11.20 K/BB ratio.

Color me impressed.

So, when the Cardinals announced that Maness would get the call to try to help sort out the Cardinals bullpen issues, my thoughts went back to another Cardinals control artist, Bob Tewksbury.

For those of you who don't remember Tewksbury, he too was a control artist who, after bouncing between the minors and majors for several years, put it all together in a 6 year stretch with the Cardinals from 1989-1994.  During that time, he posted a 3.48 ERA for the Cards (108 ERA+), including his incredible 1992 season in which he went 16-5 with a 2.16 ERA.

Yet, with all of his success with the Cardinals, he only posted a 3.8 K/9 ratio.  What allowed him to be successful was his low 1.5 BB/9 ratio, including two years (1992 and 1993) when he posted an 0.8 BB/9 ratio.

To put that a bit more in perspective, since 1950, only 4 pitchers have posted a BB/9 ratio below 0.8:  Carlos Silva, who had an insane 0.43 BB/9 ratio in 2005, Brett Saberhagen's 0.66 BB/9 ratio in 1994, Cliff Lee's 0.76 BB/9 ratio in 2010 and Greg Maddux's 0.77 BB/9 ratio in 1997.

Maness could have similar success with the Cards.  His minor league BB/9 ratio of 0.7 is actually lower than Tewksbury's (1.9).  So, while it took a while for Tewksbury to master his art, Maness seems to have already mastered it.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Maness can do at the major league level.  He may take his lumps early on, but I think if he can show the same kind of pinpoint control that he displayed in the minors, success will come.

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