Major League Baseball pitchers shouldn’t be paid for what they have done in the past. Pitchers should get paid for what they will produce in the future. We get it. But damn. It’s not hard to appreciate what Jeff Karstens has done for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
So let’s rewind a bit. The date was August 25, 2011. The Pirates pitchers were about to cave. So as we stare at the possibility of non-tender for each of these pitchers, we think one stands out, at least when it comes to value for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here was the situation back then.
JMac had thrown 139 innings in 2011 surpassing his innings total from a season before and we detailed the situation in Pirates Must Unleash Hell in order to break the streak .
Charlie Morton was nearing his innings total from the 2010 season when he threw nearly 160 innings split evenly between AAA Indy and Pittsburgh. Morton had thrown 139.2 innings headed into his August 25 start against St. Louis. We said his new arm slot raised questions for us, wondering just how his shoulder will react to the change.
Jeff Karstens had pitched 148.1 innings. He pitched 122 in 2010 and 108 in 2009.
At the time, we said….”sound the siren men.”
If you consider each of these three pitchers, who would you bet $100 bucks on pitching well in 2013? Yeh, me too. Karstens deserves better.
On August 5, just twenty days earlier, Karstens was rolling with the fourth-lowest ERA in the National League.
He was kililng it at night with a 1.87 ERA in night games, which was good for best in the league.
He was killing it in Pittsburgh with a 1.96 ERA in 11 games. George Romero was proud.
God, how Pirates fans love the skinny right hander who has grown into a cult figure of sorts. Last night we sent out a quick tweet to gauge what Bucs fans thought about the Pirates tendering Karstens. The response was stronger than we imagined, it’s over 80 now.
Nothing is smoother than that slow curve. Nothing is better than a snapshot of Karstens, the guy is a Dove commercial waiting to happen. He’s truly comfortable in his skin. He’s got a calm, confident, personality between the lines and a sly sense of style off the field.
Over the years as the Karstens legend has grown–at least with us–and we tried to capture it all for you in one convenient location.
Karstens had his own Chuck Taylors…
When he signed to return to the Bucs for 2012, we sent out a warning.
WARNING: Major League Baseball
SUBJECT: Jeff Karstens was signed to return in 2012 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Zombie Cometh. Prepare accordingly.
End of message.
When he did make his return after a solid 2012 spring training, we were ready.
When he was hurt in 2012, we were ready for his comeback
It’s also funny to remember what Keith Law said about Karstens.
When the Bucs needed a bounceback start Karstens typically provided it eliciting such quotes from Clint Hurdle:
He controlled their barrel throughout the outing. Slow breaking ball, changeup, ….outstanding effort from Jeff. Clint Hurdle
….after such a devestating loss yesterday….that’s all I heard in my neighborhood…I said youre right, my guys probably won’t show up. Clint Hurdle
Thank you Cocktails.
It seems like yesterday when Karstens popped on our radar when he outslugged Virgil Vasquez for a spot with the Bucs. Yeh, it wouldn’t be so damn funny if the shitty story and quotes we wrote back in March of 2009 weren’t true.
MARCH 2009. BRADENTON. Presumably, the battle we all have been waiting for begins today for the coveted fifth starter spot for the Pirates. It definently is an undercard as both pitchers have not come up with a cobra clutch on the spot. The final two men standing are…. in the red corner, standing 6’3″ weighing in at 205 pounds from Santa Barbara California, Virgil Vasquez. In the blue corner, weighing in at 185 pounds and standing 6’3″ from San Diego, California Jeff Karstens !
Pirate fans, it has come down to these two right handed pitchers. Each have displayed some ability in the minors. Each has not proven their ability on the big league level. (Insert deep breath and long sigh here.)
Karstens after you drink your dozen egg yolks, here is some bulletin board material for you. I suggest before heading to the mound, please read this about your opponent/teammate Virgil Vasquez.
”He’s intriguing because he does throw strikes and he does have pitches,” manager John Russell said. “He just has to have a better mix of them and to utilize what he has.”
“I was pleased with how he (Vasquez) attacked the zone. It’s nice to see him throw strikes. He gets ahead. I think once he starts to use his other pitches, that’s going to make him more successful.”
Jeff, we wanted you to know Virgil attempts to call you out in the following quote.
“I don’t know how they perceive me,” Vasquez said. “I’ve gone out there for most of the spring and I feel like my stuff has been comparable to every guy who’s fighting for this spot. I just have to keep doing it. Hopefully, my next start will be up here and I can bounce back. I want to show them how I bounce back, that one start’s not the end.”
Jeff, Virgil says his stuff is comparable to yours.
Please show us differently today.
The Pirates have always tried to ignore Karstens, but his performance wouldn’t let them. Remember this story from June of 2010–How Did Karstens Get Ignored?
Remember earlier in the year when Jeff Karstens threw six shutout innings against the Cardinals? Sure you do. Because after he and the relief corps shut down the Cards, he earned himself a trip to the bullpen. Karstens and four relievers combined on a four hitter in a 2-0 Pirates victory.
Karstens isn’t rattled by stupid moves made by this ballclub.
Remember when Karstens pitched against Stephen Strasburg at Strasmas? He pitched well. Nobody noticed he ran out of gas until it was too late.
Sorta like Bradenton. Remember Karstens in spring training? Nobody noticed him then either. The right hander was entirely ignored. He pitched well, but just wasn’t given any shot by the Bucs and was sent to AAA. I recall Neal Huntington even mentioning how well Karstens was pitching at the time to Greg Brown on his radio show. But it seemed the club was too enamored with Kevin Hart losing the fifth starters job to notice a player that wanted to win the job.
Sure it’s easy to second guess. Let’s face it, the right hander isn’t very exciting, but he gets the job done. He has improved. Did you see that breaking ball last night? During some key games this season Karstens has pitched well.
Last night at Wrigley Field, he couldn’t solve Alfsono Soriano. The Cubs left fielder hit two home runs and the Pirates could only manage a bomb by Doumit. The Cubs snapped the Bucs back to reality and took the victory 3-1. The video recap is here.
But the fact is, Karstens deserved better.
Look at some of Karstens starts this season at the bottom of this post courtesy of Yahoo Sports. The great starts against the Cards and the Tigers. The relief appearance against the Braves when he allowed just one earned run. He pitched well enough against the Cubs in both of his starts this year to certainly give the Bucs a chance to win. Against the Brew Crew, he allowed just two runs while pitching 7.1 innings.
Hell, Karstens has four earned runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts this year. Only the Dodgers have lit him up in a starting role, the Reds when he came in as a reliever.
Looking at the work of the Pirates pitching staff this season, Jeff Karstens has been the underdog we have been cheering for all year. It’s a shame it took so long for anyone on the Pirates coaching staff or even the front office executives and evaluators to notice the guy is a gamer.
Karstens has given the ball club a chance to win in eight of his nine starts. It’s a shame that the Pirates offense is so futile it hasn’t bothered to notice either.
Ahh, it’s time to let go. We know that Jeff Karstens will always be watching us. We will miss you Jeff Karstens.
Damn, we will miss you.
Jeff Karstens won’t die. He will just return to haunt us.