Mets Minor League Update: Buffalo Bisons Starting Pitcher Chris Schwinden

NOTE: this is a post by another new contributor to MetsToday, Josh Burton. You may remember Josh filled in for me a few weeks back while I was traveling. — Joe

If the Mets and their new administration want to succeed in the the future, they will have to build the team through the draft and consequently, the minor leagues.  In each post, I will highlight one up-and-coming player in the Mets farm system at each level that might have a part in the rebuilding of our beloved Amazin’s.

Chris Schwinden

Chris Schwinden, starting pitcher for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons, has definitely not reached AAA the conventional way. Schwinden was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2004 MLB Draft but did not sign, opting instead for Fresno Pacific University. He was then drafted by the Mets in the 22nd round of the 2008 draft. Any time a player is drafted that late, it is unlikely that they are signed and thus advance through a team’s minor league system — much less reach MLB. Of course, there are exceptions — including one currently on the Mets roster in Dillon Gee, who was picked in the 21st round of the 2007 MLB draft and has advanced all the way to the big league club (and is arguably the team’s best healthy starter right now).

Although he has been in a mini-slump lately in the International League, Schwinden looks like the next Mets pitcher to break the aforementioned rule. On the season, Chris has compiled a record of 3-3 with an era of 3.20. The record may not look very promising but considering the Bisons’ poor 26-34 record on the year, it is very respectable. In addition, Schwinden doesn’t allow many base runners — witnessed by his 1.08 WHIP on the season. (For those of you who don’t know, WHIP is a stat that counts the amount of walks and hits a pitcher  averages each inning. It is calculated simply by dividing the total amount of walks and hits the pitcher has allowed in one season by the amount of innings the pitched in the same season. Generally speaking, a really good WHIP is anything below 1.10 and Schwinden’s falls into that category).

Just like his fellow late-round draftee Dillon Gee, Schwinden is not an exciting pitcher nor has he lights-out stuff. He is able to succeed solely on his pitching smarts, control, command, and pitch movement. Schwinden’s repertoire includes a fastball, slider, curveball, change up — nothing out of the ordinary. His fastball only tops out at 90-92 mph which is not slow, but is not overpowering by any extent of the definition. Chris excels in keeping the ball low in the zone especially with his fastball. This lets him get away with having non-overpowering stuff and yet still manage to strike batters out and induce ground balls.

Schwinden’s best off-speed pitch is his change-up, which can range in speed from 77 to 84 mph. This range helps to keep batters off-balance because one change-up could come in slow and the batter would be too early on it and foul it off. The next change-up might be a little faster and while the batter is trying to slow down his bat to adjust to the pitch, the quicker change-up could blow right by him for another strike. Even with this said, the pitch is much more effective at lower speeds and when used in conjunction with his other off-speed pitches.

Schwinden also has a run-of-the-mill slider and curveball to round out his repertoire. The slider consistently reaches about 84-86 mph and can be effective as an out pitch when he is aggressive in its usage. Schwinden has been cited by his pitching coaches for trying to place his slider too much instead of having confidence in the pitch and just “letting it fly”. His curveball is a standard overhand curve that maxes out at about 78 mph. When Chris can keep his arm at 12 o’clock (straight overhand) while throwing the pitch, it has nasty bite and is a legit strikeout pitch. When he does the “Oliver Perez” (sorry for the bad memories) and drops his arm to more of a three-quarters position, the curveball hangs in the zone and that’s when he gets hit hard.

Truth is that Schwinden might not be the sexiest option for the Mets to call up in the case of a needed spot starter along this year or in the future, but he — like Dillon Gee — will most likely get the job done and be an effective Major League starting pitcher. Even with the bigger-name prospects like Jenrry Mejia and Brad Holt still in the minors and the absurd amount of high school and college pitchers drafted by the Mets this year, Chris Schwinden deserves to be given a shot in the rotation either later this year or in the years to come.

Josh Burton is a student at Lynbrook High School on Long Island in New York. He enjoys writing about his favorite sports teams like the Mets, New Jersey Nets, and others. Josh has been a Mets fan since birth and has stuck with the team through the highs of the Bobby Valentine and Willie Randolph managerialships and the lows of the Art Howe and Jerry Manuel managerialships; of course the jury is still out on Terry Collins. His one dream with the New York Mets is to personally witness a World Series Championship in his lifetime. Ya Gotta Believe!
  1. gary s. June 9, 2011 at 8:58 am
    Now that Izzy, parnell and beato are just about useless, maybe this guy can pitch the 8th inning till his arm falls off.
  2. Mike June 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Would like to see a bit more insight into his peripherals. For a pitcher, K/9, BB/9 and K/BB ratios are the best indicators of future success in many’s opinion. WHIP you already mentioned and I agree that it tells a very promising story.

    7.67 3.20 2.40 0.80 .202 1.08 .240

    These numbers show that he is striking out hitters, keeping them in the park, and he has good control. Really, he only should be worried that he’s been a bit lucky with batted balls. But if he continues to keep guys in the park, and striking them out, while keeping the free passes down, then the AVG against and BABIP will remain low because these things are related.

    I think Chris is next in line, but not being on the 40-man roster hurts him a bit.

    • FrankTaveras June 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm
      Actually, most of those numbers say he’s about average for an International League pitcher.

      This year, IL pitchers average 7.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.33 K/BB, 0.9 HR/9, and 1.34 WHIP.

      So by your opinion, the average International League pitcher strikes out hitters, keeps them in the park, and has good control.

      In other words, Josh’s focus on WHIP is the most reliable statistical indicator of optimism.

      • Mike June 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm
        Since when is slightly better than league average not good enough? I never said he was dominant, I said he was doing a good job. If he can be like Dillon Gee then I think everyone would take it.

        Also to note, he had a torrid start and has come back to earth. So it depends on what you think is real: the torrid start or the luster-less May.

        • FrankTaveras June 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm
          Um, dude if you’re talking MLB AVERAGE then you might have a point.

          But, I’ll ask you: since when is average for the minor leagues good enough for MLB? Last I checked MLB was above AAA.

        • Mike June 10, 2011 at 11:04 am
          2010 Mets (AAA) 9.20 2.29 4.02 1.28 .271 1.33 .332

          These are Dillon Gee’s AAA stats from last year. What about that points to him being as good as he was last year in MLB and this year in MLB?

          Schwinden was phenomenal in April, came back to earth in May, and we will see how his June goes. Right now, his stats are better than league average across the board with a bit of luck and an outstanding WHIP. I’m optimistic about the kid.


        • Mike June 10, 2011 at 11:05 am
          K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 AVG WHIP BABIP

          Just in case it wasn’t obvious

        • FrankTaveras June 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm
          “*lawyered*” ???

          Schwinden’s numbers are almost EXACTLY in line with the league average, except for WHIP. So your statement that he’s “a little bit better than average across the board” is incorrect. He IS average across the board.

          What does Gee have to do with anything? The argument is that Josh used WHIP to highlight Schwinden’s potential, and you wanted to look at the other numbers, which do little to argue Schwinden’s case for a promotion. Stay the course, counselor.

        • Mike June 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm
          You missed my point. If you are going to look at WHIP as the deciding factor, then Gee’s success is completely unexpected and the comparison to Gee is lost on me. Schwinden’s WHIP is that much better. As are his peripherals. Schwinden’s numbers are much better than Gee’s and yet they are only slightly better than league average (and yes, each one of them is better than the league average you posted, if only ever so slightly). The only exception is the K%, which was above 9 for Gee (which is a great number) and mid 7 for Schwinden.

          My point is if you are going to ignore his Chris’ peripherals and focus on one stat that is curiously good then do the same for Gee who is compared to Schwinden frequently in this post. And Schwinden’s numbers are much more favorable.

  3. Josh Burton June 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm
    Frank, I agree with you that compared to most of the International League average stats you mentioned, Schwinden looks a little like a run-of-the-mill Triple-A pitcher. But, his WHIP is .26 points less than the league average which is a little more than a quarter of a baserunner per inning. This may seem insignificant, but it actually shows that Schwinden is well above the average International League pitcher.

    Chris, WHIP is one of my favorite stats other than ERA in evaluating a pitcher. It shows that a pitcher can be effective without high strikeout numbers. The only other stat you mentioned that wasn’t contained in WHIP is HRs given up per inning. This can be found calculated in with his stellar 3.20 ERA.