With the disappointing news the Duke is going to going under the knife, the rotation has an additional spot open for longer than was anticipated with Duke seemingly on the mend before this week. With what now becomes the 4th starter spot seemingly locked up with Brett (Mr.) Anderson. The fifth spot is up for grabs with 3 pitchers still seemingly in the game, Trevor K-hill, who is clearly the future, Egon, of Ghostbuster fame and Josh "you couldn't pick a better name for a pitcher" Outman. According to Slusser Outman still has a fighting chance for the what becomes the 5th spot in the rotation:
Geren said Josh Outman is still in the mix to start despite his eight-run outing last night, so a lot will be riding on Outman's next appearance, which should be Sunday.
but Trevor Cahill seems to have a lot of popular support for a spot in the rotation. I strongly support not giving the job to Cahill but to Outman.
This is the most recent free, detailed scouting report (Baseball America, 11/13/07) (h/t Future Phillies) I could find on Outman:
Strengths: Despite his revamped delivery, deception remains Outman’s biggest strength on the mound. Hitters can’t get good reads on his 90-94 mph fastball, his late-biting, 83-84 mph slider or his changeup. He scrapped his curveball in 2007, and his arm speed and his location with his changeup improved dramatically as he concentrated on a three-pitch mix. He’s a good athlete and fields his position well.
Weaknesses: The patience of Double-A hitters was a wakeup call for Outman, who walked six in his Reading debut. He fell behind in counts after often overthrowing his fastball and elevating it in the strike zone. While he repeats his mechanics well, he throws with some effort and has a slight head jerk, especially when he throws his slider.
Outman's control has always been an issue. After changing from the unconventional delivery taught to him by his father to a standard motion, Outman struggled with finding the zone. However, Outman's BB rate did decline precipitously in the 53.2 IP for Oakland after the trade from a staggering 4.73 BB/9 before to 2.54 after. Granted, this is a small sample size across two levels and changing organizations really shouldn't improve control, (though returning to the routine of starting might) but it did make up 40% of his innings.
Outman's control will determine whether or not he will be successful this year. Looking at the projection systems there is a huge swing in projected performance. Marcel projects that Outman maintains his K/9 rate from his call up and that his walks don't return to his AA levels. According to Marcel, Outman will be very valuable pitcher with a 4.08 FIP, which would rank 59th out of the 170 pitchers who recorded 120+ IP in 2008. The other projection systems aren't so keen both showing a return to 4+ BB/9. Chone projects a 5.14 FIP and ZIPS a 4.98.
With the exception of the Marcel projection, neither of the other two systems are pretty. But lets look at what Cahill projects. Fangraphs doesn't have a Marcel projection for Cahill but Chone projects K-hill walking nearly 5.5 batters per nine and putting a 5.36 FIP OUCH! ZIPs is more optimistic projecting a 4.84 FIP.Therefore, if Chone is right, putting Outman in the rotation is a better move than putting Cahill there and if Marcel is right Outman belongs in the rotation on his own merit regardless of Cahill.
But what if ZIPS is right and Cahill will be better than Outman this year? I would argue that the difference in projected FIP from ZIPS isn't significant enough to overcome the advantages of keeping Cahill in the minors to start the year. Cahill should be a dominant top of the rotation starter by the time that he matures, and keeping him in the minors for the first several weeks of the season would allow for us to gain an extra year of control. Additionally, If Outman pitches well it will also make it easier to gain the same additional control from Brett Anderson. If Anderson is pitching well in a rotation with Cahill, when Duke comes back, only one will be sent down and have their control saved. However, if Outman is in the rotation, I see it being less disruptive if Anderson is sent down when the rotation Ace and a veteran returns from the disabled list, than if he was just sent down at some point solely to maintain control of him for an extra year. Finally, If Outman struggles he can be replaced by Gio when healthy more easily that you could with Cahill, whose future is definitely isn't the pen and shouldn't really be screwed around with by bouncing him around. Finally, I think that Cahill should get some time in AAA. His walk rate spike in AA concerns me (I know ironic since im pushing Outman) for someone who will be expected to skip levels and perform on a pitching depleted playoff contender.