Adenhart To Debut On Short Rest

Angels righthander Nick Adenhart, the top pitching prospect in the organization, was called up today from Triple-A Salt Lake to make his major league debut against Oakland.

Adenhart, 21, has made five starts for Salt Lake, holding down a 0.87 ERA with a 19-15 K-BB ratio in 31 innings.

The Angels haven’t babied Adenhart’s workload, letting him throw 153 innings last year in Double-A. His pitch counts in five games this season with Salt Lake have been 85, 110, 93, 103 and then 98 in his last start on Sunday. That means Adenhart, who is now four years removed from having Tommy John surgery when he was drafted in 2004 as a 14th-rounder, will make his major league debut on just three days rest.

For major league pitchers, there is a marked difference, on the whole, for those forced to pitch on three days rest. 

3 days 597 5.04 179 216 3,108
4 days 20,282 4.55 7,341 7,134 121,464
5 days 11,224 4.50 4,005 4,007 67,143

Looking at the numbers this way is a bit of a quick-and-dirty method because we’re looking at the numbers in the aggregate, rather than controlling our sample to include only pitchers who have made starts on both three days rest and normal rest. It makes sense that, if we examined the data that way, the disparity in performance could be even greater. The pitchers making starts on three days rest are likely better pitchers than those comprising the normal rest sample—you would rather have Jake Peavy throw twice in four games than see Mark Redman do the same—which means the difference in days rest could be even greater than the half run we’re seeing above. But that’s just conjecture.

Taking a bit of a closer look, it appears that one of the reasons pitchers in the aggregate allow more runs on three days rest than on normal rest could be due to the decrease in their control.

MLB STARTERS, 2000-2007
REST BB/9 K/9 H/9 HR/9
3 days 3.3 6.2 9.9 1.3
4 days 3.1 6.2 9.4 1.1
5 days 3.1 6.2 9.4 1.1

While the strikeout rate remains the same, the walks increase, indicating that the pitchers might be losing a bit of control. That could also be responsible for the increase in hit and home run rate, as a pitcher with decreased control may be missing his location within the strike zone more frequently, leading to pitches up in the zone or out over the plate that result in more hits and more home runs.

It all points to an imperfect storm for Adenhart, a pitcher with premium raw talent who hasn’t yet put the finishing touches on his command. Despite his 0.87 ERA, Adenhart has walked 15 batters (4.4 per nine innings) in 31 innings, and last year in Double-A he walked 65 batters (3.8 per nine). To top it off, Adenhart will face the Athletics, a patient team that is second in the majors in walks.