The Sergio Mitre experiment

Tim Wakefield hit the DL with back stiffness today, so the Red Sox brought up Clay Buchholz to take his spot. The Yankees had a hole in their rotation, so they brought up Sergio Mitre. There’s a huge gap between a 28-year-old with a 5.36 ERA and a 24-year-old with a 5.35 ERA.

As I wrote about Mitre a few weeks ago, he’s a heavy ground-ball type who has never found consistency in the Majors due in large part to control problems — a pitch-to-contact type can’t walk three or four batters per nine innings and expect to succeed. There are simply too many balls in play with runners on base for the pitcher to garner consistent results. That said, Mitre’s control in the Minors this year has been tremendous, with just seven free passes in 54.1 innings, or 1.2 per nine innings. If he retains that kind of control in the Majors and still has his groundball mojo as well, he can be the late-career Greg Maddux.

The main reason that this will remain just a fantasy is that Mitre almost always showed god control in the Minors. His career rate in 110 games is 2.2 walks per nine innings. In the big leagues he’s either twitchier or more advanced batters manage to lay off his more borderline offerings. When batters have swung, they’ve hit .298/.361/.435. The light power is a token of his groundball approach. Unfortunately, the singles/walks combo has been damaging enough.

The Mitre experiment is worth trying, but if the early results aren’t good the Yankees can’t hang on for as long as they did with pointless reliever Brett Tomko, who was finally DFA’d to make room for Mitre. Pitchers can reinvent themselves, but when it doesn’t happen there’s little point in chasing. That’s something the Red Sox are proving with John Smoltz. Wakefield’s injury buys Smoltz some time, but until today the biggest favor the Sox were doing for the Yankees was pursuing the last ounce the 42-year-old had to give instead of trying to get the first ounce out of Buchholz. Now they’ll do both, still an advantageous situation for the New Yorkers. Should Buchholz establish himself before Wakefield is ready to come back or Daisuke Matsuzaka is ready to give his shoulder another try, the Sox will have enviable depth for the rest of the season.


  1. jeff1112

    1BB and 3ER in 5.2IP tonight wasn’t terrible. He didn’t look too bad. As long as he can keep the ball in the infield its good to have a groundball pitcher in Yankee Stadium II, don’t have to worry about the homers.

  2. paulp15

    Not sure I care for high ground ball pitchers myself, if they cannot get some strikeouts too. Problem is they pitch to contact, which means the balls that are hit have to find an infielder. Thus, even without the occasional walk you still end up with a lot of runners on base. Of course if you can get the next ground ball at an infielder, you do have the double play. I used to think this was Ching Ming Wang’s strategy, get an out, walk the next guy and get a double play grounder, but this is risky and not as consistent as the strikeout pitcher. I guess last year’s experiment with Kennedy and Hughes has left Cashman a little gun shy on throwing a rookie in there for the 5th spot. I would like to see Sergio’s next start, just to see if he wasn’t over pumped for this start and left a few sinkers up.

  3. juliasrants

    One of the best moves the Red Sox have made this season was keeping Buchholz down in Triple-A ball until now. It allowed him to build up his confidence that was lacking. If he can continue to perform as well as he did last Friday then the Red Sox will have found another home-grown gold mine.


  4. jobrown

    Like I wrote on my blog, I feel that Mitre’s the perfect fit for uncertain Chien-Ming Wang’s injurty’s condition. Like you said Steven, Mitre’s definately worth the try and so far it paid off while Mitre got his first win in a long time.

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