Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 25, 2005
BASEBALL: The Sisco Kid
One of the few bright spots for the Royals this year has been Andy Sisco, a Rule V pick (from the Cubs) who's been put to maximum use in middle relief, appearing in 20 of KC's 45 games, on a pace to toss 92.1 innings out of the bullpen. The 22-year-old Sisco is a big, big guy, listed at 6'10" and 270 pounds, he's lefthanded and he throws in the 90s (Christian Ruzich has more), so he inevitably draws comparisons to Randy Johnson; his Rule V status also brings to mind Johan Santana, who was obtained the same way by the Twins.
Those are unfairly weighty comparisons, but Sisco has pitched impressively: he's striking out 10.87 batters per 9 innings, among the highest rates in baseball, and has allowed just 2 home runs and 17 hits in 25.2 innings of work. He's still an unfinished project, of course, walking 5.61 batters per 9, a rate that's been closer to 1 per inning in recent outings. KC fans can tell you, from watching Mike McDougal, what that kind of control can do to a pitcher with electric stuff. But fortunately for Sisco, the Royals have an inexhaustible supply of meaningless games in which a young middle reliever can work on his control.
UPDATE: I should note, by the way, that Sisco was a starter in the minors. I assume the point of investing major league innings in him now - other than the fact that he's actually one of the team's most effective relievers already - is to groom him to join the rotation in 2006 or 2007, mush the way Santana did with the Twins.
If you look down that K/9 list, some more interesting notes:
*The only guy to throw at least 20 innings with a K/9 of 7 or better and not allow a home run so far is Huston Street, who's stepping into the closer's role (possibly for good) while Octavio Dotel is on the DL for a few weeks. Street's been a bright spot in an A's pitching staff that has collapsed after a hot start: he's been almost as wild as Sisco (their numbers are actually rather similar), but if you can strike enough guys out and keep the ball in the park, you can be real tough to beat. Street is reminiscent of a young Billy Wagner at this point.
*At the opposite pole is Joe Blanton, the Oakland prospect who has bombed, striking out 13 in 43.2 innings of work. The rest of his numbers have now caught up (or, more properly, caught down) with his inability to fool anyone (shades of Jimmy Gobble, another well-regarded prospect who the league caught up with in a hurry last season). Blanton can't survive in the majors with those kind of numbers.
*Another guy who's very low in the K department is Jon Garland, whiffing 4.18 men per 9. Garland has cut his walks and slashed his HR/9 numbers (just 3 in 66.2 IP compared to 34 gophers last season), and his ability to keep that up will determine whether he can remain near his new level of effectiveness. Garland's never been terrible, but he's never hinted that he was about to be this good, either; he's in many ways a data point in favor of the idea that even modestly talented starting pitchers, like NFL quarterbacks, are bound to have at least one really good year if they can stay healthy for enough years and keep taking the ball.
*Tomo Okha is really playing with fire with a 21/16 BB/K ratio and 5 homers in 43.2 IP.