As many St. Louis Cardinals fans know, right-handed pitcher Seth Maness was promoted to the major leagues for the first time on Monday. The control artist was hailed by some as a welcome change-of-pace from the upper 90’s throwers getting considerable attention in the Cardinals bullpen.
Others, however, scoff at Maness’ 90-ish mile per hour fastball and compare the former 11th-round draft pick to another accomplished minor leaguer who spent considerable time recently with the Cardinals, Brad Thompson.
I don’t see that as a negative at all. Consider the reality that Thompson spent parts of five seasons in the majors, including as a member of the 2006 World Champions. The former 16th-round draft pick pitched in over 405 innings in 201 games, including 32 starts, logging a career ERA of 4.46.
As a minor leaguer, Thompson moved onto the radar screen at Double-A. He became a starter in 2004 and began that year with 49 consecutive scoreless innings for Tennessee, setting a Southern League record. Dating back to 2003, his scoreless innings mark totaled 57 2/3 frames, just 1 1/3 short of the all-time Minor League record. At the end of the streak, he was 7-0 with a 0.18 ERA.
Thompson was selected to the 2004 Futures Game, but an injury prevented him from playing. Less than a year later, he was in the majors and was named the club’s Rookie of the Year in 2005. Thompson remained a Cardinal until his release after the 2009 season.
I thought it might be interesting to compare the two as prospects. Following are the numbers for Thompson during his time in the Cardinals minor league system along with Maness’ numbers to date.
Minor league results, St. Louis Cardinals system
Notice how their number of minor league innings is almost identical. Thompson had a superior won-loss record, while Maness has a quarter of a run lower ERA.
Again, hits, total runs, home runs allowed and strikeouts are very close, with the ERA delta due to a relatively high number of unearned runs during Maness’ time on the mound.
The key difference is Thompson’s walk rate. While it is very low at 1.5 per nine innings, it is still over double Maness’ amazing career mark of just 0.7 bases on balls per nine. As a result, Thompson’s most impressive strikeout to walk ratio of 4.2 to 1 is eclipsed by Maness’ other-worldly 9.6 to 1 mark.
In the major leagues with St. Louis, Thompson’s walk rate almost doubled compared to his minor league results, to 2.7 per nine innings. As his strikeout rate dropped to 4.2, the resulting strikeout to walk ratio was just 1.57 to 1 as a Cardinal.
Of course, the reality is that Maness is his own man with his results as a major leaguer to be determined.
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