Small Right-Handers Get No Respect

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2010

I saw this article today by Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald in which he writes that 33-year old Scott Strickland has a good shot at making the Marlins roster out of Spring Training despite the fact that Strickland hasn’t pitched in the majors since the end of the 2005 season.  Strickland has allowed one earned run over seven innings pitched and six appearances this Spring, giving him a 1.29 ERA.

That’s a great story, and I remembered the name, although truth be told, I couldn’t remember any specifics.  Once I saw his stats, though, I remembered who he was, and the biggest surprise by far is why he hasn’t pitched in the majors at all since 2005.

Strickland had three consecutive strong years as a relief pitcher in the early 2000’s for the Expos and Mets.  Here is his career major league line: 3.34 ERA, 240 IP, 201 hits, 25 HRs and 111 walks allowed and 243 Ks notched on his belt.  Those are awfully good career numbers for a guy who has spent the last four seasons in the minors.

The only way I can make sense of it is that Strickland suffers from the deeply ingrained prejudice in MLB against small right-handed pitchers.  The Baseball Cube lists him as 5′11″ and 180 lbs.

To be fair, after a strong start in 2003, he blew out his elbow tendon, and it took him two years to get back to the majors.  However, he was clearly all the way back by 2006, but he couldn’t even get a look.

His 2006 season is the best example.  He spent the entire season at AAA Indianapolis in the International League without even a cup of coffee from the major league club, the Pirates.  Meanwhile, down in Indy, his 2.09 ERA was the lowest of any Indians’ pitcher who threw as many as 30 innings, and the rest of his line was 73.1 IP, 63 hits, four HRs and 15 walks allowed and 70 Ks.  He also recorded five saves.

Meanwhile, the Pirates were limping their way to another 67-95 season, yet for some reason they never thought it made sense to give Strickland a call-up, even in September when the rosters expanded.  Sure, the Pirates were trying to develop younger players, but it still doesn’t say much for the Pirates to leave a guy pitching like that down in AAA when the rosters expanded on September 1st.

Strickland appears to have had arm problems in 2007, and he was just a better than average AAA reliever in 2008 (3.53 ERA, but 72 Ks in 66.1 IP), but he resurfaced in 2009 as the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes’ (the Dodgers’ top farm team in the PCL) closer.  He had a 2.98 ERA with 57 Ks in 48.1 IP and recorded 32 saves in 34 chances, setting an all-time Isotopes’ single season record.  Yet no September call-up.

Something is really wrong when a pitcher who has a career major league ERA of 3.34 and is still blowing away AAA hitters can’t get even a yearly cup of coffee.