December 29, 2007

Great Read: Heilman As A Starter

Eric over at Blastings! Thrillage writes an elaborate piece on Aaron Heilman and why he should, indeed, be a part of the Mets 2008 starting rotation. He takes a great in depth look as him as a pitcher and breaks down the myth of why people don't think he should be a starter:

It's become fashionable to poke fun at Heilman for his "whining" about wanting to be a starter (which has been overblown, an occupational hazard of playing in New York), but can you blame him? He'd been a starter (and a good one) his entire career before the Mets moved him to the bullpen in May of 2005. They were scared by his 6.36 ERA and 73/54 K/BB rate in his first 93 major league innings (which may or may not have been largely the result of a change in his mechanics that the Mets forced him to make). Denying his strong minor league track record (as with Milledge and now Pelfrey), the Mets panicked and moved him to the bullpen after only seven starts in 2005. It wasn't an indefensible move: the Mets' rotation that year was very strong, but their bullpen was weak, and Heilman solidified the relief corps.

In 2006, though, the Mets really screwed him over. Despite a phenomenal showing in spring training (17 innings, 1.59 ERA, 14/1 K/BB), he was passed over for the fifth starter's spot in favor of Brian Bannister, and even after Bannister and Victor Zambrano went down with season-ending injuries early in the year, the Mets refused to move Heilman back to the rotation. You may remember that the Mets ended up using 13 starters that season, including disastrous stints by Geremi Gonzalez and Jose Lima, and entered into the 2006 playoffs with about two and a half starting pitchers. Just like with fellow BT favorites Ramon Castro and Lastings Milledge (may his memory be eternal), the Mets had already made up their mind about what Heilman was and wasn't, and refused to see past their own prejudices.

In reality, Heilman was and could still be a decent-to-good starting pitcher. He had a 3.68 ERA and a 2.3 K/BB ratio in 430 minor league innings. He was plagued by an unusual amount of home runs and an uncharacteristically high walk rate in his few starts in '03 and '04, but when the Mets finally allowed him to resume using his natural pitching motion in 2005, it looked like he'd turned a corner. In his seven starts at the beginning of that season, he posted a 4.71 ERA, but there were encouraging signs: he pitched two gems and only two really bad games, his K/BB rate was an excellent 34/13, and his WHIP was just 1.17.


Anonymous said...

your right john that was an awsome article and he made a great point to a topic that has been beaten to death

Anonymous said...

can we actually see him in the rotation or are we just running in circles?

Anonymous said...


4.34 Career ERA of righthander Aaron Heilman, who has pitched in 146 games over four seasons.

In 121 appearances as a reliever, however, the 28-year-old setup man's ERA drops to 2.97 with only six home runs allowed in 154 2/3 innings.

As a starter, his preferred role, Heilman has proved much more hittable, with a 5.93 ERA and 22 homers surrendered in 133 2/3 innings.

Here is what I think:
Trade Heilman, Gomez and another low level prospect for Blanton.

Than sign Akinori Otsuka and/or Jeremy Affeldt to the bullpen.