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Daniel Cabrera Is Designed To Break Your Heart

Trying to get back up to speed after two weeks of vacation... Let's start with a look at the latest addition to the Nationals' starting rotation.

I covered the start of Cabrera's career as our Orioles beat writer, and saw him at his best and his worst.

With that size (he's listed as 6-7, but in truth he is closer to 6-9) and that stuff (he regularly hit triple-digits on the radar gun early in his career), he is a pitching coach's dream -- but a manager's nightmare, owing to all those walks.

However, Cabrera has come to the right place to rebuild his career. In Randy St. Claire, the Nationals have a pitching coach with a proven track record for turning wayward veterans into productive pitchers again. Below are five veteran starting pitchers who came into St. Claire's possession in the last six years, with their stats from the year before joining the Nationals/Expos and those from their first season under St. Claire's tutelage. (I have limited this study to starters who wound up pitching at least 75 innings in their first season with the franchise.)

Let's not read too much into this. It's a small sample size, and there are extraneous factors (the pitcher's relative health from year-to-year, for example) that could skew the numbers. But in general, you can say these veteran pitchers, in most cases, showed major improvement in their first year with St. Claire.

*Livan Hernandez
2002: 12-16, 4.38 ERA, 88 ERA+, 3.0 BB/9 IP, 1.41 WHIP
2003: 15-10, 3.20 ERA, 141 ERA+, 2.2 BB/9 IP, 1.21 WHIP

*Esteban Loaiza
2004: 10-7, 5.70 ERA, 82 ERA+, 3.5 BB/9 IP, 1.57 WHIP
2005: 12-10, 3.77 ERA, 108 ERA+, 2.3 BB/9 IP, 1.30 WHIP

*Ramon Ortiz
2005: 9-11, 5.36 ERA, 80 ERA+, 2.7 BB/9 IP, 1.50 WHIP
2006: 11-16, 5.57 ERA, 77 ERA+, 3.0 BB/9 IP, 1.54 WHIP
(Note: Ortiz issued 14 intentional walks in 2006, up from only one the year before. If you use only non-intentional walks, his walk rates were 2.6 per nine innings in 2005, and 2.4 -in 2006 -- a modest improvement.)

*Tim Redding
2004: 5-7, 5.72 ERA, 76 ERA+, 3.8 BB/9 IP, 1.67 WHIP
2007: 3-6, 3.64 ERA, 116 ERA+, 4.1 BB/9 IP, 1.45 WHIP
(Note: Redding missed most of 2005 and all of 2006 with injuires, so went back to 2004 for his pre-St. Claire numbers.)

*Odalis Perez
2007: 8-11, 5.57 ERA, 84 ERA+, 3.3 BB/9 IP, 1.66 WHIP
2008: 7-12, 4.34 ERA, 101 ERA+, 3.1 BB/9 IP, 1.48 WHIP

By Dave Sheinin  |  January 5, 2009; 9:05 AM ET
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Thank you thank you thank you. This is great. And it also needs to be over at Nationals Journal.

Are ya'll trying to wean us off NJ or something? Doesn't matter to me, as long as we keep getting stuff like this.

Posted by: NatsNut | January 5, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Is NJ going the way of Metro's paper bus transfers? Why isn't this on the regular blog so that we under-served Nationals fans don't have to go hunting for news about our team?

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 5, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

This can't be from Chico, as it is from a previous o's beat writer. Perhaps Chico is being held hostage.

Posted by: cokedispatch | January 5, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Wow. That's some grade-A stuff there, Dave.

If you look at the numbers Hernandez, Ortiz, and Loaiza put up after leaving St. Claire, you'd also see some stark differences.

I'm reserving even cautious optimism when it comes to Cabrera, though. I'm just not sure it's going to work with him.

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 5, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

My only caution on these stats: most of these guys were moving to RFK, a great pitchers park. I still like St. Claire, but that did help these guys too.


Posted by: db423 | January 5, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse


Can we have a policy that whoever posts Nationals news post it on NJ? It would save a lot of angst and confusion. Thanx.

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 5, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

leetee1955: he couldn't risk it. his post had the word "Orioles" in it.

Posted by: NatsNut | January 5, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse


LOL! It's a new year. Let's move beyond that.

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 5, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

True, #4, except in Perez's case.

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 5, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh, but Dave, take a closer look at what you wrote: "In Randy St. Claire, the Nationals have a pitching coach with a proven track record for turning wayward veterans into productive pitchers AGAIN." Emphasis added.

DCab was never a productive pitcher over the long haul, so I'm not sure what St. Claire is going to rehabilitate. As an O's fan, I've agonized over this guy for years. Glad he's not Baltimore's problem anymore.

Posted by: CDon | January 5, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

JiM, I don't think anybody is sure this is going to work out. That is, as someone once told me, why they play the games.

#4, you make a good point ... except that Perez moved to Nats Park (as JiM points out) and Livan moved to Montreal/San Juan. But look at the ERA+ (which is, of course, adjusted for park effects). All but Ortiz show a real significant improvement.

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 5, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

He'll be great for you guys. Pitching in the AL East those walk numbers look tough cause the red sox, yankees, and blue jays take a lot of pitches and love to walk. In the national league with all those dead outs in the botton of the order he should be a gem.

My favorite Cabrera moment was when Coco Crisp practically started a riot with this guy. Tried to bunt his way on, that got Cabrera going, reached on a single, stole second I believe, got to third on an out, then he starts stunting down the line like he was going to steal home. Cabrera gets all flustered and balks him in, then he tries to take Pedroia's head off with the next pitch. He's all running off the mound ripping his shirt out running at the red sox dugout, ah what a game.

Posted by: Dremit97 | January 5, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Cabrera is not washed-up, fat, short, or goateed, so his chances of success in DC are good.

Posted by: jctichen | January 5, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Cabrera is the Dennis Martinez of the 2009 season (Dennis Martinez couldn't pitch consistently for the Orioles until he was released/traded then he became a pernnial all-star).

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | January 5, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

I think I saw Lee Mazzilli made some positive comments about this signing (can't find it in the Post, though). Cabrera had better success with Ray Miller, Mazzilli's pitching coach, than Leo Mazzone, who was Perlozzo's. Leo seemed to be trying to make him into a Braves style pitcher rather than take advantage of his natural swing-and-miss stuff. His strike out rate went down, and his ERA up.

While I may usually prefer pulling out my fingernails with pliers to watching a pitcher walk a hitter every other inning, I'd take a BB/9 of 4 for Cabrera if his K/9 is >9. He might be capable of doing that. His best years were 2005 and 2006, which were also his biggest strikeout years. '05 was Miller, '06 was Mazzone, IIRC. His worst were 2007 and 2008, which were his lowest K/9 and BB/9 years. I think Miller, by rep, always was a big fan of 1st pitch strikes, which is not Cabrera, but he seemed to make the best of what a pitcher had than force him to be something he was not.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 6, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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