San Francisco Giants right-hander Yusmeiro Petit is trying to pull off a very, very rare feat as the 2013 season comes to a close: In the span of two months, make the move from one-time top prospect to roster filler to squarely in the plans for the 2014 rotation in San Fran.
Amazingly, the question of Petit's future wasn't even a question two months ago. Literally, there was no future. With a 4.52 ERA in Triple-A ball, the 28-year-old looked more likely to bounce around as a minor league free agent over the next few years rather than enter any discussion in any front office about a starting spot in 2014.
Yet, since being recalled on July 23 for one half of a double-header and then again for good on August 27, Petit has excelled.
Years after his inclusion as a top pitching prospect in the trade that sent Carlos Delgado from the Florida Marlins to the New York Mets, Petit has strung together six starts worthy of rewatching, four of which were excellent and one that was, well, nearly perfect in every sense of the word.
In total, Petit has thrown 38 innings for the San Francisco Giants staff, pitching to a 3.08 rotation. If this was a competitive year in San Fran, we might be writing about Petit's inclusion on the postseason staff destined for another improbably long run through October. Of course, at 70-82, the Giants were out of the NL West and wild-card race many, many weeks ago.
For a team used to competing due to strong starting pitching, the evaluation process has begun for 2014. With former ace Tim Lincecum headed to free agency, Barry Zito staring at an $18 million option that almost surely has no chance of being picked up and Ryan Vogelsong, off an injury-plagued year that helped launch Petit into the rotation, likely set to return on a one-year, $6.5 million deal, there's a hole to be filled in both the short and long-term in San Francisco.
Outside of Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, guaranteed spots in San Fran's rotation will be open for the first time in years.
While Petit hasn't quite earned a spot yet, he's put himself on the radar for the front office and ownership group in San Fran.
When the team decides which direction to go with Lincecum, Vogelsong and other impending free agents or trade targets, the small, yet effective body of work Petit has put forward should play a role in their decision making process.
As we look deeper at the numbers Petit has put forward thus far, two things stand out: The near perfect game against Arizona on September 6 and a FIP (fielding independent pitching) mark of 2.10, almost a full run better than his actual ERA.
Anytime a pitcher takes a no-hitter or perfect game deep into a contest, baseball fans around the country will take notice and make sure others, without jinxing the moment, know what is happening.
On the Friday evening of Sept. 6, hearing about Petit's magic wasn't hard for me as I sat in WFAN's newsroom preparing for my radio show. While a bad San Fran team was hardly the topic of conversation in New York that night, my eyes were locked on the television showing the game through MLB Network's feed.
What stood out the most: Dominance.
Petit didn't look like a guy featuring luck or dazzling defensive plays to get through the first eight innings. He looked like a pitcher that had once been rated an excellent prospect with game-changing stuff on the mound.
Of course a fuller body of work, like, say, 38 innings, is better than just nine great ones. That's why Petit's FIP of 2.10 should be taken seriously.
When pitchers have campaigns in which their ERA is vastly different than their FIP (vastly, in this case, meaning about a run or more), you should take notice. With Petite, we'll hold our breath because 38 innings is still a very small sample size compared to 200 over a full six months.
However, when a pitcher has a great FIP, but only a good or decent ERA, he could be a candidate for improvement the next season. For the Giants and Petit, that could mean the difference between a rotation candidate and the No. 3 spot on their team after Bumgarner and Cain.
Prior to the last two seasons, I ran a list at MLBDepthCharts.com profiling bounce-back candidates that had similar numbers as Petit. Of the 2012 candidates, Jon Lester and Ivan Nova have pitched considerably closer to their FIP than ERA in the previous year. A year earlier, Brandon Morrow did the same.
Petit has been good, and, for one night, almost perfect. The reason he's a candidate for the Giants rotation in 2014, however, is because he might be able to be even better with a little luck and defense behind him.
Don't pencil him in yet, but he's certainly earned a spring training crack at a regular job.
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