Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kevin Correia

Kevin Correia was a star pitcher and shortstop at Grossmont High in San Diego and played college ball first at Grossmont JC, then Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the same school that produced Ozzie Smith and Mike Krukow

When the St. Louis Cardinals selected him in the 23rd round of his junior year, Correia decided to return for his senior season. The gamble paid off a year later, when he received a $105K bonus as a fourth round pick of the Giants.

And he was no late bloomer. When Correia made his debut for San Francisco in July 2003, he became the first player from MLB's 2002 draft class to reach the majors. He made the show before the Pirates' number one overall pick Bryan Bullington and other top picks like Nick Swisher, B.J. Upton, Joe Blanton, Matthew Cain, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels and Mark Teahen.

It wasn't permanent. He got a few outings for the G-Men from the pen, but mostly was working in a minor league rotation. In 2004, Baseball America named him the organization's #6 prospect.

Correia split the 2004 and 2005 seasons between the Giants and the minor leagues before joining the bigs to stay in 2006. San Fran used him mostly as a reliever; in his first four seasons with them, he made 86 appearances with 19 starts.

Going into the 2006 season, Correia was in the mix for the Giants' fifth spot, losing out to Jamey Wright. Correia was sent down, but was called back in April due to injuries and poor performance by the team's bullpen, and worked middle relief. In 48 games, he put together a 3.49 ERA.

He started out of the pen again in 2007, but joined the rotation in August. Correia had a 4-7 record with a 3.45 ERA in 59 outings, including eight starts. In 2008, Correia primarily started, but had a 3-8 record with a 6.05 ERA and became a free agent after the season. San Diego signed him for a year at $750K. He was a steal.

2009 was a breakout year for Correia in his first season as a full-time starter. He began slowly until Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley began tweaking his delivery. By June, they had figured it out and Correia was hitting on all cylinders.

With Jake Peavy and Chris Young on the DL, Correia picked up the slack. He put up a 12-11 slate with a 3.91 ERA in 198 innings. On December 12, 2009, Correia was rewarded with a one year, $3M contract.

He struggled in 2010, with a 10-10 record and 5.40 ERA in 145 innings. Correia lost his rotation spot to Tim Stauffer after getting bombed in late August and was stashed in the bullpen for the remainder of the season. He didn't show any particularly red flag peripheral differences between seasons except that his HR total went up drastically and he walked an extra batter/game compared to 2009.

Correia's xFIPs, a stat that measures a pitcher's performance by what he controls, such as walks, K's, etc., was 4.19 in 2010, and 4.20 in 2009. He increased his strikeouts and got more ground balls.

And he also dealt with one huge tragedy. In early May, his younger brother Trevor died after falling from a cliff while hiking. The brothers had developed a sort of father-son relationship, and Correia admitted that his focus would come and go during the season as he tried to come to grips with the loss.

Correia is not the answer to a rotation in trouble, but he is a solid number four pitcher, with the potential to go up or down a spot in the rotation. And that's a fairly valuable role. The Padres offered the free agent arbitration, and they're glad they did.

The Pirates signed him to a $2M bonus, $3M salary in 2011-12, and a possible $1M in bonuses over the two seasons. It was the first multi-year deal that the Pirates have given a free agent pitcher since Cam Bonifay signed Pete Schourek to a two-year deal in 1998; hopefully Correia will do a little better. And the Padres get a sandwich pick in the upcoming draft.

He throws an effective slider as his bread-and-butter pitch, and uses it as part of a five pitch mix: 90 MPH fastball, high-eighties cutter, mid-eighties change and slider and mid-seventies curve.

Correia comes with these questions: was 2009 an anomaly or did his brother's death and bad luck with the longball conspire against him last year? He's 30, and the comparisons between him and Zach Duke, whom he was brought in to replace, are striking.

Their career averages over 162 games are: Correia 7-9, 4.57 ERA, 150 IP, 1.441 WHIP; Duke 10-15, 4.54 ERA, 206 IP, 1.484 WHIP. And Duke is three years younger.

Duke had better control with 2.5 walks/game to 3.6, but Correia is much better at missing bats, 6.6 K/game to 4.7. In 2010, Duke got 48% grounders, Correia 49%. All in all, really not much difference.

Bill James projects a 4.37 FIP for Duke and a 4.36 FIP for Correia in 2011. Heck, even the contracts are pretty similar; Duke got a year at $4.25M, Correia two years at $8M with $1M in possible bonuses.

So what the Pirates are hoping for in Kevin Correia isn't someone to stick at the top of the rotation, but a guy that takes the ball and keeps you in the game from the back or middle of the pack. And we think he'll be a solid addition to the staff; his numbers should approach 2009's results more closely than last year's did.

And we don't think the Pirates are done adding arms yet. After last year's implosion, the suits will do what they can to provide depth and competition for the starting jobs without creating any blocks for the upcoming gang of Rudy Owens, Jeffrey Locke, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, etc.


WilliamJPellas said...

Here's the thing about the comparison with Duke. Duke was actually quite inconsistent in his career, and with his wonky elbow and inability to miss bats, there's no guarantee he'll be the serviceable - slightly above average guy we saw in 2006 and 2009, as opposed to the dude who got bombed and strafed in 2007, 2008, and 2010.

I've said repeatedly that I honestly believe the Pirates are better served with a rotation made up of average or even mediocre starters, provided they are RELIABLY average or mediocre. In my mind we went as far as we possibly could have gone---which obviously wasn't very far---with a rotation based on control pitchers like Duke and Maholm who are fairly good when they're on, but who have no margin for error and when they're even a little bit less than 100%, are just about hopeless. Especially Duke.

So, I'm more than ready to turn the corner. If the rotation is even sort-of average, ie, a 4.50 or so ERA, if the lineup and bullpen are improved, the team will be significantly better going forward. Mind you, "significantly better" is not the same thing as "contending for the postseason". But right now I'll take what I can get.

Ron Ieraci said...

A professional staff would be nice, Wil.

And this team should be platooning; look how well it's worked for the Great Satan Tony LaRussa; Dusty Baker uses it well - with payrolls the way they are, it's a necessity.

And you're right; JR didn't give the team a chance to compete some days; some days the team didn't give him a chance, either, lol!