This was, according to his Game Score, Robinson Tejeda’s best start since May 18, a span of eight starts in between. The fact that his score was 41 will tell you how badly he has been pitching in that time. His ERA has gone up in all but one of these last nine starts, now standing at 6.70. In those nine starts he has pitched 40.1 innings, which is about 4 1/2 innings per start; in other words each time it is his turn he is burning through the bullpen. This time it was Ron Mahay taking a bullet, pitching 3.1, and I am surprised to note that he has pitched at least three innings five times this year; counting back I see he pitched three innings only seven times from 2002-06. He is certainly getting in some work. In fact Mahay has relieved Tejeda in his last four starts now, pitching two innings on one occasion and at least three on each of the others. He must be needing five days rest after pitching three innings, just like starters do.
Tejeda’s ERA in those games is just over nine, he’s given up 58 hits and 32 walks in 40 innings, while striking out 29. Walking more than you are striking out is a sure sign of a pitcher who is struggling with his command, with the strike zone, and with the fact that he only has two pitches in the first place. So is an opponent’s OPS of 1.078 (not including today’s start), which if he were a batter doing that he’d pretty much be Barry Bonds. If your average opponent is Barry Bonds, you’re in deep trouble. Look for something to happen to Tejeda in the very near future (i.e. before the All-Star break next week): he will either be sent to the bullpen or more likely to Oklahoma. You can’t keep sending a guy out like that, even if you are a hundred games back.
Now, this may appear contradictory, it may appear like a change in position for me, because I’ve been spouting all along that you need to get young pitchers up and give them a chance to show what they can do, especially when you’re out of it so soon. But I don’t think it is. My point is to bring up guys and see if they can do anything, see if they will show glimpses of a future, and get them experience in the big leagues. Tejeda now has that, and he’s still struggling. He has 240 career innings in the majors, which is a little over a full season for a top starter, and he is 14-15 with a 4.84 ERA. I would take that as a good start to a career, especially since he’s only 25, but the thing to look at is how he is regressing. His first season, with Philly, he had a 127 ERA+, presumably as he came out and blew people away with his outstanding fastball. Then he got to Texas, new league, new batters, and did pretty well here too last year, 110 ERA+. This year, it’s 68, and they’re showing all the signs of having caught up to him.
He’s still young enough, he could develop another pitch and get back to some quality work in the minors. We all know he isn’t going to develop anything up here with Mark Connor watching him and Ron Washington saying he doesn’t have any guts. Let him go down, work on some stuff, and either get another pitch and get back up here, or stick with the two pitches he has and end up working out of the bullpen, maybe in the late innings where he can use that 97 mph fastball to good effect. He isn’t doing himself or us any good throwing the ball in Arlington.
Now, having said all that, I went and read the Rangers site. I should have read it first, because their take is a lot different to mine. Wash said “He turned the corner as far as I was concerned.” Connor said “Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction and he’ll come out of this with a little confidence.” Gerald Laird said “He definitely threw the ball better.” And the man himself said “My changeup was working well, so was my slider and I had pretty good control of my fastball.” Uhhh, okay. Back to the charts, I guess. I ran the Gameday numbers from tonight, and it showed exactly the same as it did when I ran it a few weeks ago and concluded he only had two pitches. There is nothing else there. Today he threw 44 pitches ranging from 74.3 to 84.4 mph, and 58 ranging from 91.6 to 95.9. There is a clear cluster of fastballs. There is a slightly muddy cluster of another pitch, which if I tried real hard I could imagine might be two pitches, or might just be a little wildness. I’m not going to present the graphs right now, I want to go back and take a deeper look at him. Why would he think he’s throwing three and the data only shows two? He’s either wilfully imagining he has a third pitch, because he needs one to succeed, or he really does have a third pitch but it is doing nothing different to one of his other pitches (in which case the argument would be whether it really is a separate pitch at all). Either way, I think I will investigate some more.
The quotes from the others are interesting though, because they are clearly not what one would imagine. All right, he did have his best start in a month and a half, as I noted above, but it was still way below average. Would they be so desperate for even the slightest glimmer of hope that they would clutch onto any straw they could find? Or could it be psychological warfare, hoping that their quotes get back to him and give him a little boost of confidence (and if that’s the case, and if you’re reading this Robbie, then really I’m just making up a bunch of stuff that you should ignore. You’re fantastic. Really. You should get a Cy Young one of these days).
The story did also say he might make a start in the minors due to the All-Star break, so maybe I’m right after all. Stranger things have happened.
Kam Loe tomorrow. Can he keep it up? Can Robbie Tejeda learn something from Loe, if he goes down to the minors for one start? Stranger things have happened there too.