Friday, 24 February 2012

Dustin McGowan's future with the Blue Jays

One of the highlights of the 2011 season occurred on September 6th when Dustin McGowan, 1155 days removed from his last major league appearance, appeared in relief versus the Boston Red Sox.  McGowan pitched 4 innings of relief, while McGowan wasn’t his old self just getting back to the majors was a huge accomplishment.

After his first appearance McGowan made 4 starts with mixed results, with his September 21st start vs. the Angels standing out.   He pitched 5 innings of 5 hit, 2 run ball.  Striking out 8 and walking none and giving up 6 ground balls 4 fly balls and 2 linedrives.  While in other games he struggled greatly with commend and gave up hard contact at an alarming rate.
McGowans stuff still looked good out there, though inconsistent.  The curve flattened out more often then it used to, and his command of his pitches wasn’t as sharp. 

I wont get into predictive stats in this case because really with such a small sample size and the context of the situation, they are just not applicable at all.

2007 PitchFx Data Is the top chart, 2011 the bottom.

As the data shows his fastball clocked in 2.5 MPH slower then in '07. His Slider, curve and changeup all lost velocity, but that was expected with 3 year layoff.  While his pitches recorded similar movement at the finish of the pitch, the command of his pitches was not nearly as consistent and pitches were breaking earlier then in previous seasons.  He threw the lowest % of pitches in the strike zone in his career and the number of whiffs he generated drop from 10.7% in 2007 to 8.5% in 2011.  McGowan did flash the stuff though that made him the Jays top prospect in 2003 and 2006.

McGowan's future will likely be decided in Spring Training this year.  If he can stay healthy there is a good chance that he can jump in and contribute as the #5 starter in the Blue Jays rotation. Its unlikely he fits in with the bullpen with his previous shoulder issues and lack of a routine for dealing with his shoulder.  Should McGowan make the team Farrell has projected an innings cap of around 140-150 innings for McGowan.  With more workouts, throwing more regularly and just resuming normal baseball activities full time it wouldn't be surprising to see McGowan gain a tick or two on his pitches.

McGowan's long term future with the Blue Jays is uncertain, but should he remain healthy and regain a bit more of his previous ability, there is no reason to believe he can't be a valuable contributor in the rotation for at least a few years.  If not, he'll likely be cut as he can't be sent to AAA without being put on waivers.

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