Monday, February 11, 2008

Taking a closer look into Troy Percival

The St. Petersburg Times reported this weekend that Troy Percival will take it easy in the early days of spring training. Percival says he won't really crank it up until the last week or so.

"I'll keep it easy the next three weeks and probably won't break 87-88 mph until the last week of camp because I understand now that anything I do now is something less that I can do later," he said. "It's just about getting my body in shape and getting my arm in shape. The stuff will be there. I know how to pitch."

I've been looking at Troy's career stats lately and noticed some interesting things. Percival has never been a real workhorse in the bullpen. He's never pitched over 74 innings in a season and never more than 67 games. I then took a closer look at his last five years in Anaheim(2000-2004). In these years he averaged 55 appearances throwing 52.6 innings and with 35 saves a year. For a closer than's not an insane work load. I then looked at last year's numbers for Percival, which was his first action post injury. Percival pitched in 34 games, tossing 40.0 innings and posting some impressive numbers. The work load was less than his pre-injury numbers, but not that far off and the results were excellent. Percival had a 1.80 era, .085 WHIP, over 3:1 K/BB ratio, .177 BAA and my favorite stat ERA+ 244.

However, his closer role with the Rays will be a little more demanding than the middle relief role he had with the Cardinals. Two questions that need to be answered: First, can he pitch on back to back days or even three days in a row? Second, can he pitch more than one inning per appearance. Looking back to the '07 season he only pitched on back to back days three times. The good news is on the second day of back to back appearances Percival tossed 3.1 scoreless innings. A very encouraging number from '07 is the number of times Percival threw multiple innings in an appearance. Percival pitched 2 innings in a single game 9 times last year, giving up 5 ER's in 18.0 innings or a 2.50 era in those outings.

The key to Percival's success this year will be picking spots on pushing his work load. A lot of that is contingent on the success of Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler. If Reyes can duplicate his 1st half success of last year the Rays are in luck. However, Reyes is facing a similar situation as Percival, an older reliever who needs to be monitored carefully. This leaves a lot of pressure on Dan Wheeler. I believe Wheeler is the key to the whole bullpen. If Wheeler pitches well it will certainly lighten the load on Reyes and Percival. Wheeler can pitch in a variety of late inning roles including closer if needed. If Wheeler doesn't, it will force the Rays to use Reyes and Percival more often or turn to one of the lesser proven relievers to step up in key situations. This will definitely be one of the things to watch durning Spring Training as well as the regular season.

In other Rays news, it's been a slow couple of days on the news front. Minor League catcher Matt Spring was invited to Spring Training. Spring is just another warm body to catch for the pitchers. He has a better chance of taking Scott Cursi's job than seeing any real time on the field. However, he does have the all time best name for a spring training bench warmer, does it get better than Matt SPRING?