2009 Analysis: Brian Stokes

brian-stokes-pitchMany Mets fans may be surprised to learn that Brian Stokes appeared in 69 games this past season — but the final record says he did.

Stokes was roleless throughout the season, or perhaps the better descriptor was “everyman”. He was used as a long man, a short man, a mopup guy, a setup man, in middle relief, and as a situational / matchup guy. Strangely, the only thing he didn’t do in 2009 was start.

There were times that Jerry Manuel used Stokes in back-to-back games, and three games in a row, and just as many times when Stokes went a week or more without appearing in a game. Manuel and Dan Warthen seemed unable to figure out where Stokes fit into the plans.

But, previous managers and coaches have been equally confused about Stokes. The 30-year-old righthander has been an eternal enigma from the day he signed a pro contract, shifting from the bullpen to starting and back to the bullpen, all the while impressing onlookers with a 96-97 MPH fastball and a full arsenal of secondary pitches. Yet, with those tools, he’s been able to strike out only 121 batters in 190 MLB innings.

Stokes has two major problems. First, his fastball is usually straight as an arrow. Second, his curve, slider, split, and change are all equally inconsistent, but show promise. If he had just a little sink or lateral movement on his fastball, and/or could transform one of his other offerings into a plus pitch, he’d be an ideal setup man. He has the assortment of a starting pitcher, the velocity of a reliever, but expertise in neither.

I like Stokes’ raw talent and his demeanor. He doesn’t appear to lose his focus in the face of adversity, and he’s fairly aggressive and confident in pounding the strike zone. If I were Dan Warthen, I’d work on his fastball grip, insist that he choose one secondary pitch to focus on, and pencil him in as a 7th-inning reliever. And then, I’d ask Jerry Manuel to give the guy regular work, and see what happens.

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Paul October 19, 2009 at 8:11 am
    I agree. Stokes would definitely benefit from a regular role with regular work. For some reason, I just don’t expect to see it happen.
  2. CatchDog October 19, 2009 at 10:08 am
    I can see Stokes being a “throw in” in an offseason trade. A competent pitching coach will then tweak him and he’ll become the next Heath Bell.
  3. Harry Chiti October 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm
    Stokes was a regular failure when given a chance in the 8th inning role. He can be a long man. That’s it. If you’re looking to Warthen to straighten him out, stop hoping, Warthen hasn’t helped anybody on the staff. Plus, at 30 how much upside can the guy have?
  4. isuzudude October 19, 2009 at 3:06 pm
    Harry:
    I think you have to give Stokes a little more credit. To say he was a regular failure in the 8th inning is inaccurate, because he was 10/12 in hold situations this year. Though all of those may not have come in the 8th, that’s still a pretty good percentage. However, I do agree Stokes should not be designated as the setup man next year, but I’m willing to give him a bigger role than long man. In fact, I may want him to be anything other than a long man, and here’s why:
    1. He held the opposition to a .222 average in the 7th inning this year, showing he can be effective in close/late situations;
    2. When Stokes threw his 1st 15 pitches of an outing, his ERA was a sparkling 2.65 and the opposition hit just .257. When Stokes threw over 15 pitches, his ERA rose to a whopping 7.44 and the opposition hit .284 off him. This highly suggests he works best as a 1-inning reliever, preferrably against right handed hitters, whom Stokes held to a .220 average this year, opposed to .330 against lefties.
    More or less, Stokes should be the Mets right-handed version of Pedro Feliciano, according to these stats. If you use him in a long man’s role, you are exploiting his weaknesses. That’s what the statistical evidence shows me.
    Also, Harry, regardless of his age, if the guy can throw 95 MPH and not walk the ballpark, he has a lot of upside.
  5. Harry Chiti October 20, 2009 at 4:29 pm
    isuzudude. the one thing that everyone knows about statisitcs, regardless of subject, they can be developed and limited and twisted to suit anyone’s purpose. Your 15 pitch stat while detailed to suit your purpose, doesn’t tell anyone if he left and was bailed out by another pitcher, did he come in with guys on base and face a guy who hit a grounder to second to help his team while padding Stokes’ stats and on and on. So they have meaning to you but not me. But to me Stokes in 08 pitched 4 innings of relief in one game no runs, he pitched 2 innings 4 times with no runs so these stats tell me that he is long man material. See, no value because mine like yours both show only a piece of a very big puzzle.
    But as far as upside, you are so wrong. A thirty year old mediocre pitcher with a 95 mph is merely a 30 year old whoi has not and most likely never will be anything more than a mediocre hard thrower. His upside was reached already. Lots of hard throwers.
  6. isuzudude October 20, 2009 at 9:42 pm
    Well, Harry, if Stokes’ upside has been reached already, then what we have is a durable, hard thrower who held righties to a .220 average and has a 3.82 ERA over 103.2 innings as a Met. With the amount of inconsistency, injury, and mediocrity in the Mets bullpen over the past few seasons, I would think you’d covet Stokes a bit more knowing those facts.

    What I believe is that you saw Stokes blow one 8th inning lead this season and have forever labeled him as a guy who can’t pitch in close/late situations. What I presented to you is hard statistical evidence that supports the theory that Stokes can, in fact, be an effective late inning reliever if used properly. What you reply with is a bias against pitchers over 30 and a handful of scoreless, multiple inning outings from 2 years ago. Doesn’t take a genious to see who has the stronger arguement.

    As far as there being “lots of hard throwers,” though that may be true, most hard throwers have trouble throwing strikes, which is not a problem for Stokes, which puts him in a class above the rest. Likewise, if there are such a plethora of hard throwers out there, then name me a few of the other Met relievers who can hit 95 on a gun. Bobby Parnell will be the only name you can come up with, and 2 is not a very big number. So there doesn’t seem to be as many hard throwers as you like to think there are. Like Joe mentioned in the article, if Stokes can harness a strong offspeed pitch or breaking ball to compliment his 95 MPH heater, he will become a very valuable weapon, regardless of his age or past accomplishments. If you push your bias aside you will be able to see that, too.

  7. jdon October 21, 2009 at 6:57 am
    I agree. His fastball has legs but is too straight. This year he did improve on his breaking ball although his changeup is still iffy. Still, a lot more good performances than bad. I would try to keep this guy. He can go 2 innings sometimes when you need it.