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all-hail-the-garbageman-jorge-campillo | June | 2008 Articles

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All Hail the Garbageman, Jorge Campillo

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In a year of pleasant pitching surprises (and horrible hitting abominations), Jorge Campillo has been perhaps the single best and single least expected. We all know the story by now: he's a 29-year old rookie who toiled in the Mexican Leagues for years, needed to go under the knife for Tommy John almost immediately after taking the rubber for his first major league start, and was then picked up as a free agent in the offseason. Right now, he's looking like one of Frank Wren's smartest moves. To salute his major league success hurling slop, junk, and one eephus after another, I'm unilaterally giving him a nickname, in honor of The Cramps: "The Garbageman." He throws four pitches: fastball, slider, changeup, slow curve. Josh Kalk's work with PitchFX lets us see how those pitches work. His fastball generally sits in the mid-80s, his slider in the low-80s, his changeup in the mid-70s, and his curve in the high-60s to low-70s. He throws them all for strikes and rarely gets taken deep. (Career minor and major league combined HR/9: 0.63.) When you throw that slow, the batter has to provide all the power. By far, according to the PitchFX data, his changeup is his best swing-and-miss pitch, and it's the one he throws second-most frequently, about 28% of all pitches tracked. He throws his fastball 34% of the time, his slider 24% of the time, and his slow curve 14% of the time. His BABIP is .277, on a line-drive% against of 23%, so he has been getting a little lucky. He always had very good control in the minors, 2.15 BB/9 and 6.16 K/9. However, he has improved both his K and his BB-ratios. He's striking out 7.5 per 9, and walking 1.77. We'll see if he can keep it up the second and third time around the league, but the increase in his strikeout rate has contributed greatly to his success this year. And that success appears not simply to be a mirage, as his FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching) has been 2.73, just a tick above his sparkling ERA of 2.54, and his DERA (Defense-Adjusted ERA) is 3.46. He started out in our bullpen, where in 14 appearances he pitched 21 2/3 innings and given up only 3 earned runs. (In one horrific game he got credited for 4 unearned runs, following a Mark Teixeira throwing error and a typical Chris Resop implosion.) But in mid-May he got moved to the rotation, where he's pitched 45 2/3 innings in 8 starts, only returning to the bullpen once since then. He started out well, giving up only 1 run overall in his first three outings, but then seemed to hit a wall, giving up 4 runs in 2 of his next 4 starts and featuring a 4.88 ERA over that span. (In between the bad starts was a gem, 8 innings and only 2 runs on June 15.) He has only pitched 7 innings twice this season, but both occurred in the last two weeks, June 15 and last night, so it's possible his stamina is increasing. He has actually been much better against left-handers than right-handers, possibly because of his terrific changeup: lefties are only batting .179/.220/.268, while northpaws have hit .274/.303/.422 off him. Virtually alone on the Braves, however, he's performed better on the road: on the road, batters are only hitting .200/.208/.305, while at Turner Field batters have a line of .250/.299/.382 against him. The BABIPs in all cases are widely variant, however, which suggests that the longer he pitches these trends may even out. Virtually all of his major league experience has come this year, so he's still working in quite a small sample size when it comes to his splits. As is the case with all soft-tossing junkballers, his stuff doesn't give him a great deal of margin for error. If his walk rate creeps up or his strikeout rate slips, his success will similarly dip. His groundball% is a not-terrific 36%, so he can't count on a natural sinker to bail him out of the longball. He'll have to continue to locate the ball well, because at those speeds, every pitch is a potential meatball, despite the terrific movement. His BABIP indicates his numbers have a bit of correcting to do, and odds are that he won't continue to pitch like a front-of-the-rotation starter in any event. But along with Jurrjens, Reyes, and Morton, he is a perfectly adequate #3/#4, which no one could have expected -- least of all Bill Bavasi.

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