POTD Mike Kickham, LOOGY #2
Sorry, no sale.


Q.  Kickham?

A.  The John Madden Raiders had a 7-foot-6 linebacker, Ted Hendricks, that the media called Stork.  Madden said that the Raiders laughed about that; his real nickname was "Kick 'Em," short for "Kick 'Em In the Head."  A reference to a practice incident in which Hendricks tried to jump over an offensive player.

For SSI, this pitcher will always be Kick 'Em.


Q.  Thumbs up, or thumbs down?

A.  Thumbs down.

Moderately down.


Q.  Is it kind of okay to have a second -- meatball -- lefty, at the expense of a crocodile like Carson Smith?

A.  It's kind of okay, ONLY because of McClendon's magic sparkle dust in 2014.

Even the FIRST loogy is an affectation.  Many effective bullpens have had no lefties at all.  You going to swap out Fernando Rodney in the 9th, because a lefty comes up?  Then why swap out Danny Farquhar?

Because if you wave Joe Beimel in against Mark Trumbo or Sin-Soo Choo, and Beimel loses the ballgame, then the media says nothing.  Leave Farquhar in, and you spend the whole night explaining to the media why you did it.  Do that three or four times, and you might lose the media.  It's retarded.  I mean that in a good way.


The platoon advantage is 40 points of batting average.  I'll take the great pitcher.

So you can imagine what Dr. D thinks about a backup loogy, when it's at the expense of Jesus Montero or Brad Miller.  Shall we cut K.J. Wright from the Super Bowl roster, so that we can suit up a third quarterback?


That said, McClendon did the unpossible with the 2014 bullpen.  This made the entire season possible.  He's earned the right to do what he wants.  (For one year.)


Q.  Mike Kickham in three words.

A.  Volatile, high-upside loogy.

Compared to garden-variety LOOGYs, the generic guys you bring in just to cover your backside with the media ... Kick 'Em is:

  • Wilder, more mistake-prone
  • More deceptive in his delivery
  • More into "stuff" and less into location


Q.  Like what?

A.  Check out this video.  Even we can't see the ball coming out of his hand, with benefit of a camera and a rear angle; how is the batter supposed to see it?  Like a lot of guys around the majors, if Kick 'Em was able to deliver all his pitches like this, he'd be Andrew Miller.*

But here is another vid ... on pitch #2, you can see the ball coming down Sixth Avenue.  You do realize that Kick 'Em has given up 9 homers and 54 hits in 30 major league innings.  It's gotta be pitches like that second one.  

As a LOOGY, can you afford three good pitches and one tater pitch per batter?  Also known as Bobby Ayala Syndrome.  One pitch per at-bat, he'll center a fastball.  So just chill and look for it, you know what I mean?

Pitches #1 and #3, his stuff is average to plus.  We're not talking a Charlie Furbush slider or a James Paxton fastball, but ... gimme a decent location and he'll get the job done.


Q.  Leaving the M's where?

A.  Presumably they like his upside, if he can keep the ball down, or on the hands.  Here's one pitcher where that cliche would fit well.  Edit out the "here it is, hit it" pitches and Kick 'Em has the makings of an (modest-)impact lefty reliever.

Why this specific team, the 2015 Mariners would want such a pitcher, you got me there.  It's like asking if the 2014 Seahawks would like a huge, ponderously slow, run-stuffing "thumper" at linebacker.  Maybe some teams would use him.  But this team?

Here's the problem, b'wana.  If you just want a generic lefty to get out a left hand hitter who bats #7 for the Rangers, what are you doing with one who is homer-prone?  Why not a second lefty who won't beat himself, like Joe Beimel?

Kickham would be in Tacoma for me, and even when he gets it together, where? does he fit in.  But this isn't the first time the Mariners have gone for a Luke French-type "lefty because he's lefty" pitcher.  Bah humbug. ... of course, given that they coughed up a hairball, er, relinquished an 87-MPH minors reliever for Kickham, this could be precisely their intention.  To give Kickham a year in the minors to see if he jells.  If so, great.

Up by two runs in the 6th, men on base, and you're saving Furbush for later.  Fine.  I'll take Smith or Leone against a lefty batting eighth.  Not the guy who might tee one up for them.   

Kick ME,

Dr D







This nickname better describes his MLB performance so far.
By the way, 2014 AL Leaguewide Splits
.241 .301 .348 .648, LHB vs LHP
.253 .322 .391 .714 , LHB vs RHP
Differences? Batting average, 12 points. OBP, 21 points, Slugging, 66 points.
My recollection has always been that IN GENERAL bringing in a LOOGY as compared to a righty affected average a little, OBP some more, but mostly power. A good manager will factor the situation into the equation. If a home run will beat you but a single will not, that becomes a significant fact, but even then not as much as the specifics of the players involved. Is you LOOGY a lefty-killer? Or just a lefty pitcher? Is your batter effective against same-hand pitching, or totally lost? In most cases it's not the extremes that make the decision easy.
Thanks for the article, Doc.


Good line :- )
And I suspect you're right -- that LH-on-LH cuts way into the batter's power.  I bet that in the heat of the moment, managers are just thinking "I gotta stay away from disaster here."


His major league numbers are obviously SSS. 2.67 HR/9 is ridiculous, but we're talking 30 innings. Reason for concern? Meh. His minor league rate over 500 innings? 0.6 It's fine. Most likely he's just a AAAA pitcher due mainly to control issues. (I'm guessing e's starter depth anyway...he's ONLY ever been a starter in the minors)


At the same time, there are some short trials that you weigh heavily.   If you deal me cards and the first 5 cards are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 of hearts, I'm going to figure it's not a shuffled deck :- )
If you put Joe Shlabotnik at shortstop, and he makes errors on 7 of his first 12 chances, he's not getting opportunity #13.  Small "sample size"?  In theory, yes - in practice, no.
And, in a "small sample" of Spring Training (or Kickham's 30 innings) we evaluate the players by eye, much more than by stats.  Looks to me like Kickham is well-and-truly capable of teeing balls up, way too often.  Erasmo Ramirez syndrome.
He ain't a lost cause by any stretch.  :: shrug :: he had a rough intro to the majors.  So what?  Most guys do, up to and including Alex Rodriguez.  Kickham needs to avoid mistakes.  If and when he does, he's interesting.

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