Thursday, November 04, 2004

Profile: Tony Armas, Jr.

Tony Armas, Jr. is not the hitter his father was. He's actually a horrible hitter (a career .113 OBP), which makes it a good thing he's a pitcher.

Tony is 26, and he's been with the Expos since he entered the Majors at the end of 1999. He's a right handed starting pitcher who showed a lot of promise through 2002, meaning he was not too spectacular, but didn't stink up Olympic Stadium, either. His ERA never got below the 4.00 line and his lowest WHIP in that time frame was 1.31. But, his numbers were never much worse than that.

Tony had a strong start in 2003, with a WHIP just over 1 and a 2.61 ERA in his first 5 games. The 5th game brought these numbers up tremendously due to the 4 home runs he gave up. It turned out that that would be his last game in 2003, as he'd done major damage to his rotator cuff, which required season-ending surgery.

As the 2004 season started, Tony was still recovering. He didn't throw his first game until June 1, and got off to a horrible start, giving up 16 earned runs over his first four games, with only 17.1 innings pitched. He began to adjust well afterward, and his ERA more or less steadily dropped into September, as he only gave up more than one run 3 times in 10 starts. In the worst of those outings, he gave up four runs on four hits in 4.1 innings. He gave up three runs on 5 hits once, and two runs on six hits another time. In two of those three games, he walked 5 batters, which really did the damage.

It was clear that he was coming back from shoulder surgery though, as he was plagued by inflammation, and seemed to have some endurance issues as a result. On September 6th, Frank Robinson started talking about shutting him down due to the ongoing shoulder problem.

His last two starts were abysmal, giving up 11 earned runs on 12 hits with 6 homers and 6 walks in only 6.2 combined innings. In the last of these two games, on September 12, it took him 97 pitches to make it through 3 2/3 innings. Frank Robinson indicated that Tony had probably needed more time to recover in the first place, and thought he might not even be available for the start of the 2005 season. He ended the year with a 2-4 record over 16 starts, a 1.54 WHIP, a 4.88 ERA and 6.75 Ks/9 (lowering his career average to 7.09). Assuming he's healthy, he'll probably do much better than those numbers next year, though, as they were attributable to a few horrendous starts that sandwiched in a fairly decent run, even though he was clearly struggling with his shoulder.

Tony has two good pitches, a cut fastball that reaches about 91, and a big curve ball. He also throws a slider, splitter and change up, giving him quite a big repertoire with which to keep hitters off balance.

One of the things he had problems with in the past that kept his WHIP high was walking batters. Part of the reason I've seen attributed to this is being a bit timid in going inside to hitters to push them off the plate, which he worked on successfully in 2003. I can't determine if he reverted in 2004, or just had control problems due to his shoulder. If that's the case, he could end up being a phenomenal pitcher.

From my research on him, it seems that if he can recover, and really will end up walking fewer batters, he will end up looking even more like Mike Mussina (i.e., he can throw a lot of different kind of pitches, isn't overpowering, yet can still manage to strike out a decent number of betters).

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