Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bergmann to the Pen

As I said in my preview of Bergmann's last outing, he needed a good start badly, and instead he gave us one of his worst yet.

It's time for the move, and I think it's being executed mostly right. In particular I'm glad Manny gave him a fair chance to work through it. I think there's a big difference between the way Bergmann's troubles were handled these last weeks and at the start of the season when he was banished to the pen after two bad innings and to Columbus after a third. I think that's jerking a guy around. He'd earned his rotation spot and deserved more of a chance.

But this fall he had more than enough time to pull out of it, and it's reasonable to give some kids a chance. If a) Hill comes back, b) another kid develops, or c) we acquire another starter in the off season, Bergmann could easily get bumped into the sixth starter/long man from the bullpen. (Although with Perez becoming a free agent, we'd need two new starters to emerge, assuming Perez isn't resigned.)

Indeed, I think Bergmann could be a very valuable chit for us in that role. Remember, a typical team gets 20% of their starts from pitchers who aren't among their top five. I still believe Bergmann can be solidly among the best 120 starters in MLB, and the spot starter/sixth guy often gets significant innings. Again, however, if you're going to use a guy that way, it has a lot better chance for success if the manager can say to him, "we believe in you, and we're going to do this because we think it give us the best chance to win. I know you're disappointed, but you are going to get your chance to help us win." That's another reason why it matters how this demotion was done.

As much credit as I give to Manny for how he's handled this so far, I thought Bowden's quote on Nationals Journal smacked of more Bergmann-jerking:
Harlan: Explain the decision.
Bowden: Obviously Shairon Martis did very well in his first start, and Bergie has been struggling.
This quote somehow implies that Martis earned the promotion by outpitching Bergmann. I'm sorry, but the Wowin' Curacaoan threw more balls than strikes, had baserunners on all night, walked a ton, and didn't pitch well really at all. His final line looked ok, but he was lucky, and I'm sure he'd be the first to admit it. It's unfair to Bergmann to suggest that he's being benched because Martis has somehow proven that he gives us a better chance to win. Mark my words--we'll be howling for Martis to go back to the pen sometime sooner than later. That doesn't mean it doesn't make sense to give him a shot and let him learn at the big league level, but I haven't seen anything to convince me that the 21-year-old Martis is better than Bergmann right now, as Bowden implies.

I much prefer the way Manny said it:

"We're going to put Bergie in the pen," Acta said, "and allow Martis to start a few games for us."

It's a correlation, not a causation. Listen to Manny, Bergmann.

Finally, I do wish that they'd stop characterizing Bergmann's problems as mostly mental. It's just kind of insulting to him to suggest that there's no reason for him not to succeed if he wasn't such a mental weakling. The reality is that his command has been really slipped over the last month, and he doesn't have the stuff to get away with mistakes, especially to lefties. St. Claire and Bowden both referred to this in their comments, citing his front shoulder flying open as the culprit, which makes sense to me, although I'm not quite enough of a pitching expert to see the nuances in mechanics at play here. I just wish they'd leave out the constant critique of his emotional toughness.

And then there's the flyball thing. I would like to hear them say they have a plan to help him get more groundballs. Maybe it's by working on his change or slider, pitches that are often used to get guys to roll over and hit in on the ground. Maybe he needs to learn how to throw a two-seam fastball or a cutter, although those wouldn't be mid-season adjustments. But I want to hear about the things that will actually help the kid succeed.


Mike said...

Good points on Martis. I gave him a pass in my Parr post, but yeah, he's lucky it was only 2-0.

He's still in my rotation on Opening Day 2009, though.

Steven said...

Martis is in the rotation on opening day next year only if he does really outstanding this Sept.

There are a ton of good SPs out there this year, so I would guess we'll sign someone for Perea's spot. That means FA, Balester, Redding, and Lannan have four spots. Then Martis would have to beat out Hill and Bergmann.

I dunno. From what I've seen, I still expect Martis to stick as a bullpen arm, and not for another year or two. Watching him in the Olympics and in his one start, he doesn't look like a major league starter to me.

Mike said...

Well, Martis had a pretty good year at AA and AAA, and his line has mostly improved at every level. (The 1.42 WHIP in Columbus does concern me just a little.)

Could be he's just gassed. Spring will tell us more, I suspect.

Any idea whether he's playing winter ball? I can't remember seeing anything about it on NFA but I know he's not going to AFL.

I don't see either Bergmann or Hill in the '09 rotation, at least not on Opening Day. My opening day rotation is Lannan - Redding - Perez - Balester - Martis.