I was bored last night, and the Reds were inevitably going to get shutout by the Dodgers before that game ever happened; so I found myself watching Rich Hill.
Yes, the same Rich Hill who has appeared in over 120 relief appearances. The Rich Hill who has flamed out for about seven other teams. That Rich Hill is now 7-3 on the season with a 2.18 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. He’s walked 21; his K to BB ratio is about one full unit better than his career rate of 2.18. As Fangraphs likes to say, ‘he’s figured something out’.
The Athletics beat the Mariners 5-0. Mr. Hill – a 36 year old starting pitcher – beat Taijuan Walker. And that’s evidence of something greater I want to point out.
For guys like me who play fantasy baseball and don’t really like to invest in pitchers, it says something that Hill beat Walker even if it was only one night. The story of this game really should have been about Taijuan Walker. He was pitching in front of his home crowd and should be entering his prime in his fourth partial season at the age of 23; he’s now thrown 275+ big league innings. But no, that isn’t the story because Taijuan Walker really isn’t that good yet. Or rather, it’s hard to tell when a pitcher is even good unless they’re one of the few elite. Outside of just a few names, who can you really trust as a pitcher? And even then they’re one pitch from being on the shelf for 20+ months. Pitchers are like NFL kickers anymore. There’s no reason to get attached to them or invest in them, either in real life when you’re following your team or in fantasy.
The Mets built their team around a pitching staff and now they face a shaky foundation because Harvey and DeGrom are poor and pedestrian; respectively.
That’s why the Rich Hill story is a good one in my eyes. Hell, I traded Carlos Martinez for Hill in a league just because I liked Hill’s upside and I was tired of waiting on things to be just right for the presumptive Cardinals ace-in-waiting.
A few things could happen from here. Rich Hill could turn back into a pumpkin. He’s unlikely to continue showing flashes of being Clayton Kershaw. Or Hill could continue this magical little run that is going mostly unnoticed to the mainstream fan in baseball and be shipped off to a contender this summer and become slightly more prominent to the mainstream fan (despite some mentioning that he’s the perfect fit for the Oakland A’s).
My guess is that Hill is this year’s Dickey/Iwakuma/fill in the blank with pitcher who has one magical year that stands out forever on the back of his baseball card. He’ll get flipped for some prospect from a contender that ends up being a pretty good chip for the A’s and he’ll make some important starts for the Red Sox or the Astros or someone who is in a race in September.
I don’t think I’ll fully ever get invested in pitching (while following certain teams and playing fantasy), and I’ll be searching for a Rich Hill each year for the rest of my life. Every year births us new guys like this; it’s inevitable. And Hill has been so good to this point we actually did a post about the Oakland Athletics. That’s impressive in it’s own right.