The Yusmeiro Petit Addition

Major League Baseball has informed me that I'm free to talk about this now, so off we go. Also, congratulations, Alex.

Anyway, yeah, the Mariners picked up Yusmeiro Petit off waivers from the Diamondbacks today. Petit was made available because (A) he ran an ERA near six, (B) Arizona wanted to clear some roster space, and (C) he's out of minor league options. The M's, having just freed up a lot of room, decided, hey, why not? Nothing wrong with another warm body capable of starting a game.

Petit's name has long been in the middle of the neither-of-us-get-it-so-let's-try-maybe-shouting-really-loud stats vs. scouts debate, as his exceptional minor league numbers didn't match up with his middling repertoire. You see, Petit's the rare righty with a sub-90 fastball, but he's found a way to ride that, a change, and a breaking ball he likes to throw over a broad range of speeds all the way into the big leagues. The problem is that it hasn't exactly worked out for him against the highest level of competition, but he has still been able to have a little bit of success, proving that you don't always need to throw Major League stuff to retire Major League bats.

Petit's a guy that pounds the zone, mixes his pitches, and works up, with predictable results - he doesn't walk many, he gets his strikeouts, and he allows an obscene amount of fly balls and home runs. Despite a 2.5 career K/BB to date, the home runs have killed him. He's given up 50 through 229.1 innings with a HR/FB of 13.6%, which are just staggeringly bad numbers for a big league pitcher. His career 5.44 FIP reflects this inability to keep the ball in the yard and makes Petit out to be little more than a replacement-level pitcher.

However, there are two ways of thinking about that. One way is to look at Petit's four partial Major League seasons, see a ton of home runs in each of them, and conclude that hitters just pound his hittable arsenal. He throws 87, right? Of course he's going to be an exception to the law of HR/FB.

That way is wrong. The proper way of thinking about Petit's home runs is that he's accumulated his numbers over just 36 starts and 71 total appearances, the equivalent of maybe a season and a half. Do we expect HR/FB to be stable after a year and a half? Braden Looper just posted a 15.8% rate over 34 starts. You have to assume that a guy will perform normally until proven otherwise, and with Petit, he has a long way to go before he's proven otherwise. If you look at his Hit Tracker numbers, it's not like the home runs hit against him are taking off. It's luck until it's not, and as such, we should expect Petit's HR/FB to behave going forward.

Regress Petit's home runs and all of a sudden you're looking at a more useful pitcher, a pitcher capable of doing enough to have some success in a big park like Safeco. He'll always give up his dingers, but an above-average K/BB cures a lot of ills.

The only problem, then, is trying to account for the league switch. For his career, he's struck the pitcher out 28 times without walking him once. Take those away and his K/BB drops to 2.1 (I know K/BB isn't great, but it's simple, so bear with me), which is a bit more alarming. Remove the pitcher and add in the DH and you're back to having a guy who's likely to run an ERA north of 5 based on his track record, and then he's a fringey #5/6 who you're hoping either gets lucky or builds on some of his potential.

And that's why the Diamondbacks cut him loose - though Petit has his upside, he just doesn't project to be that useful without a little luck or improvement. Yeah, he had a 6.3 K/BB in the high minors five years ago, but as we've learned from Doug Fister, awesome minor league K/BB ratios don't translate that well when you don't have good stuff. The hitters up here are smarter. They're smarter, and they're better.

Petit, I imagine, is here to serve as insurance and as a Spring Training trial. As insurance, he's a warm body that makes it a little easier to dangle one of the starters we already have in the system. And as a trial, the M's could see how he looks in Peoria, with some good pitching maybe earning him a roster spot since we have tons of starters who I think could go back to Tacoma. Petit's nothing spectacular, but he's also not bad, and who knows, maybe a big park would give him the confidence to trust his stuff a little more.

It's not a groundbreaking move. I don't know why I've spent so long talking about this. I guess it's just cool to have the M's do something again, and plus Petit's got a neat little story. But just because it's a minor pick-up doesn't mean you should forget about him as quickly as you forgot about Reegie Corona. Petit has a shot. And a guy with a shot, I suppose, is a guy worth discussing.

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