Monday, December 1, 2008

In-Depth look at Fuentes

With the reports that Brian Fuentes will be coming to NY for a meeting with Omar, I decided to take a closer look at the pitcher. I have three concerns with the Mets bringing in Fuentes;
  1. Age- 31 y/o
  2. Can he handle pressure - he lost his job in a playoff run
  3. Is he injury prone

Now I fully admit; I don't know much about Fuentes, what happened in 2007 or how the Rockies operate. Which is why I decided to take an in-depth look into who exactly Brian Fuentes is (as a pitcher) and what we might be getting in our next closer.

Brian Fuentes is a 31 y/o left handed closer who has an unusual side arm delivery that he uses to throw off the timing of batters. Prior to 2007 there didn't appear to be a question about Fuentes pitching ability. 2003 was his first full season in which he made 75 appearances with a 2.75 ERA, record of 3-3 and converted 4-6 save opportunities. The next year he struggled through back injuries (has not re-occurred since) and only made 47 appearances with an ERA of 5.65 ERA. Not only did he rebound the next season but it was a break out year, he was selected to the All-star team and tied the Rockies team save record with 31 while posting a 2.91 ERA. He followed that up with his second consecutive All-star appearance while compiling 30 saves with a 3.44 ERA.

Then there is the 2007 season which is where he supposedly began to struggle, many pitchers would kill to have his numbers be called an off year. In 64 appearances he posted a 3.08 ERA with a record of 3-5 and compiled 20 saves in 27 save opportunities while being selected to his third straight All-star team. So what happened;

Apparently Mgr. Clint Hurtle had a very quick hook on Fuentes after blowing four straight saves he was pulled from the closers role. Either the team felt that he needed as break from the spot light or they had ulterior motives. Fuentes was pulled from the closers role on July 1st, the Rockies didn't appear to be contenders at that point and Manny Corpas looked great as the set-up man. Corpas was a very cheap alternative and Fuentes stock approaching the trade deadline was dropping rapidly with each blown save. Was Fuentes pulled to save his value while the team got a look at his replacement.....
This is a fairly stunning turn of events given the fact that Fuentes had converted 81 of 92 save chances from 2005 through June 21 of this year. However, after Fuentes blew four straight chances in spectacular fashion, manager Clint Hurdle felt obligated to pull the plug. source ESPN
"We are going to keep him in the bullpen, but take him out of the role of closing," Hurdle said. "We just want to try and get him out of the spotlight a little bit and off the burner. We want him to reacquire his weapons and then get him back involved." source Denver Post

Shortly after the demotion it was discovered that Fuentes was attempting to pitch through a hip injury. Fuentes was placed on the disabled list with a strained hip and by the time he returned Manny Corpas had established himself as the teams closer...
There were some rumblings after Brian Fuentes pulled out of the All-Star game that he had a mysterious injury. The speculation by some, including myself, was that Fuentes just wanted some time to figure out his troubles; he had blown
his previous four consecutive saves
and been demoted as closer. This all didn't matter to Tony La Russa who selected him for the All-Star team anyways. It's not like it was a completely mysterious injury -- we knew it was a sore lat muscle. But it seemed mysterious that Fuentes had only complained about it after performing poorly. Turns out the injury was no joke. source Fan House
Corpas was rewarded for his tremendous second half with the longest contract ( 4 years) ever given to a reliever by the Rockies. Despite that contract and the obvious assumption that Fuentes was on the outs many felt that he would still regain the closers role during the 2008 season.
It's one thing to try to guess whether Kevin Gregg or Dan Wheeler will seize the opportunities given to them; it's quite another when you're dealing with a pitcher of Fuentes' pedigree. He has struck out better than a batter per inning over the course of his career. He has allowed a batting average of no higher than .218 for three straight seasons. His ERA last season was 3.08, his WHIP 1.13, both well below his career numbers.
Think last season was an off year? Fuentes had a bad June, blew five saves while surrendering a few too many homers and then turned out to have an injury, which held him out for most of July. Did he recover? Upon his return, he held batters to a .159 average, struck out 25 in 23 2/3 innings and didn't allow a home run. This is still the same guy who has notched 81 saves in his 2½ years as the Rockies' closer. source ESPN

Well Brian rewarded those experts who had faith in him, despite Corpas and his huge contract along with being in a walk year the Rockies returned him to the closers role. So after being demoted while trying to be a team player pitching through an injury and finding in spring training that they still considered Corpas the closer, how did Fuentes respond. In 2008 his ERA was 2.73 with 30 saves in 34 opportunities, in 67 appearances. It seems like Corpas was given more of a chance then Fuentes before being pulled and still lost the closers role.
Brian Fuentes will take over as the Colorado Rockies' closer after Manny Corpas blew save chances in consecutive games. "It's three saves in a week. It's four out of eight," manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday. "I've watched a volume of work. Take it from there. It's apparent to me that we need to shuffle the deck." source ESPN

Whether it was lip service or not, after all the adversity he faced with the Rockies he was still willing to return to them, it was the Rockies who couldn't afford him.

Overall he has been on the 15-day disabled list twice; 2004 back injury and 2007 with a hip injury. In his six years as a full timer has pitched 60 or more innings in every season except 2004. He has a career record of 17-27 with a 3.41 ERA and a 115-139 SVO all while pitching his home games in Colorado.

His age isn't going to change but after researching his history, I'm much more comfortable with his injury history and his personality......