Nate Karns as 5-and-Diver
We report. You decide.


Question comes up whether Nate Karns might be able to throw some ninja Coltrops under the soft sandals of our 2016 bullpen.  Maybe Karns really is a 5-inning type, like Erik Bedard was?*  Okay, you know how objective Dr. D can be when you push one of his hot buttons.  Follows the exemplary "neutral point of view" post.


Dr. D's visceral reaction to the "Five and Dive" charge is to reach for his antiemetics.  Five compazine tablets diving down the gullet, as in.  "Five and Dive" sounds so sweeeet coming off the tongue that it is 90% true before you even begin discussing it.  Problem-o is:  there was a time, y'realize, when baseball coaches had an "Eight and Dive" mentality.  Yes, really.

We just got done discussing James' plan for three starters going 4-5 innings each.  There isn't any real reason that a starting pitcher should throw a lot of innings.  That's point A.


Point B is:  pitchers who are accused of being 5-inning pitchers --- > almost never are.  Erik Bedard averaged 5.7 innings per start in his career, compared to the ML average of 5.8.  And Bedard was a wayyyyy-strikeout pitcher (tons of pitches) who was fragile.  Over the long term, ML starting pitchers are all in the 5.7-6.1 range.  You can find the odd Roy Halladay or somebody.

True, in the article linked below, Tony Blengino accuses Karns of being the kind of pitcher who is good for twice (not three times!) through a lineup and then that's it.


Point C is:  if you're going to carry 7, or 8, or fifteen, Anthony Basses in the bullpen, how 'bout we acknowledge that the SP doesn't have to hand the ball to the closer.  It has honestly been a pet peeve of Dr. D's, how a team would put 8 relievers in the pen and then hear the scouts talk about how Rookie Pitcher Finch was going to "put too much pressure" on this huge flotilla of relievers.


Point D is:  if there was such a thing as a 5-inning pitcher, Karns' type of pitcher wouldn't be it.  He's got a smooth motion, a starter's rhythm, and in 2015 was much better against LH batters (.351 SLG) than against RH (.424).

Karns himself started 27 games last year, averaging 5.44 innings as a rookie, but that includes early KO's and an apparent rookie pitch limit of 85-90 pitches after the middle of July.  For example, on July 21st he had a 3-hit shutout after 5 innings, but was pulled after 85 pitches.  The next game, July 27, he had fired 6 innings allowing 1 run on only 3 scattered hits with 1 walk ... but was pulled after 71 pitches.

That wasn't because Karns, with his Mussina-smooth motion cannot throw more than 85 pitches.  In the first half of the year he routinely went 105 pitches and threw 117 in a beautiful 9-strikeout win over Texas.

Apparently the Rays were super careful with Karns' pitch counts late in the year, as the Mariners were with Taijuan Walker's.  It's true that Karns hit a tremendous rhythm from pitches 50-75 (.169/.225/.270) and then fell off at pitches 76-100.  That, however, is like saying "Karns was a rookie pitching his first long season."  Taijuan himself has been a prime example of "adjusting to the grind," and where are you going to find a more hoss-like SP than him.



Did you miss Tony Blengino's analysis of the Miller/Karns deal?  These are always fascinating because you can imagine a real GM asking his real Lead Analyst, "Gimme your rec on this deal."

Now, Tony has had just a leeeeeetle beet of a hard time being gushy about the Mariners since their divorce.  You can adjust for that.  Buckling up with wry smile at the ready, we dive in and ... it doesn't disappoint.  The EXEC SUM of Blengino's analysis:

  • Theoretically, our conclusion will be driven by the Q's:  will Miller play SS?  Will Karns be a consistent SP fixture?  OK, let's dice it up:
  • Blengino has always loved Miller; he'll be great
  • (M's prospects have generally not panned out lately - cool of Blengino to call attention to this)
  • Karns is nothing more than an ordinary pitcher you can grab in a minor deal, an Anthony Bass type
  • To boot, Karns is a VERY short-shift type of pitcher (don't use him even the THIRD time through the lineup)

In this analysis, Nate Karns is a minor variation on Anthony Bass.  With good nature firmly intact, Dr. D wonders whether this is actually what you find in "EYES ONLY" folders to the GM's desk, or whether the divorce acrimony is taking over and ruining the recommendations.  Honestly don't know which.  If this Fangraphs article is Eyes-Only Grade Analysis ... um.

Needless to add, Dr. D (and Jerry DiPoto) couldn't disagree more.  Blengino starts with one line to the effect of "true, Karns whiffs a lot of ML hitters, but ..." and then hits the searchlights for reasons to snuff him.  SSI is kind at heart :- ) but honestly, the tone of Blengino's anti-Mariner articles aren't doing him any favors with respect to landing his next assistant GM job.

However, if you are looking for an extremely robust Case-Against on Nate Karns, there y'go amig-O.  As against Blengino's argument, Dr. D will be all too glad to bet the over on "twice through the lineup" (70-odd pitches).  Last year, Karns threw 6+ innings in 50% of his starts through July.  But supposing that Karns is a Bedard-type Ferrari, I'm fine with that too.  The bullpen can rest during Paxton starts :- )






...speaking facts to conventional (Blengino) wisdom?

Excellent counterpoint.  If Blengino is a better judge of talent than Dipoto...we're in a world of hurt.  (No chance).

M's Watcher's picture

Tell me there hasn't been motivation for Felix to finish his own wins rather than watch the 'pen blow it upon his exit.  Likewise, any starter leaving the game early after 5 or 6 has to count on a competent bullpen the rest of the way.  In spite of the offensive woes in 2015, it was the pen that cost us the most.  But hey, if Karns can regularly give us 5-6 innings and then 'pen can save them, sign me up.


Bill Gates' favorite 'rebuke' to lower execs was that they'd made a 'random comment.'  Honestly, my reaction to the Blengino article is that it's scuffling in a determined attempt to find negatives.

1.  His BB's are "dogging" him.  (?  3.3 per nine, vs 8.9 strikeouts; Tillman, Gonzalez, James Shields, etc. were higher in BB and lower in K).

2.  Let's look at the infamous BIP breakdown - GB, LD, FLY.  "Total absence of sub-100 production in any of the three areas!!!" (all 100-ish.  And when a *rookie* fans 9 men per game, the minimum standard is not to suppress batted balls into the bargain.)

3.  Admits there's not much in the above.

4.  Hasn't gone 8 IP much in the minors.  (No slop, Sherlock.  Who has.)

4. Quote

Broad conclusions re: Karns? My largest concerns are that he is now 28 years old, has never pitched more than 157 innings in a season in the majors or minors, and ended 2015 on the disabled list with a forearm strain. He’s never been as much as a six-inning starter, even in the minors, and is basically good for two times around the order.


I'm not trying to get on him, but I'll guarantee you that folks IN baseball are hip to the agenda here.  Shoulda got Karns in a minor deal, like Bass?  After his 150 IP in the AL with 150 strikeouts?  Suuurrrreee....

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