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On Robinson

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For about a week-and-a-half or so, there has been some less than vigorous debating going on at a popular Good Phighter haunt about whether or not Robinson Tejeda is one of the National League's elite starting pitchers, a stance heretofore maintained by just one individual and roundly rejected by a multitude of others.

Don't worry. I'm not here to make an argument for Tejeda as being one of the top five starters in the N.L.

That?s a wholly absurd suggestion at this point and, I?d argue, one that actually does more harm than good for the 23-year-old rookie from the Dominican Republic in that his statistical performance to date simply cannot match the Oswalts and Pedros of the league, and to make such comparisons makes him look unnecessarily inferior. By comparing him with more realistic peers (say, N.L. rookie starting pitchers), one can truly begin to appreciate the impressive level of performance he has recorded to date.

Let?s take a look at the aforementioned classification (with a minimum IP restriction of 50 and a minimum GS restriction of 10):

Player            TEAM Age  G  GS  IP    K/9   BB/9  HR/9  ERA   WHIP   BAA  BABIP VORP
Duke, Zach        PIT  22   10 10  59.2  6.64  2.41  0.30  1.81  1.17  .243  .295  24.7
Tejeda, Robinson  PHI  23   23 12  78.2  8.01  5.49  0.46  3.20  1.35  .209  .265  19.6
Davies, Kyle      ATL  21   14 13  73.0  6.78  4.93  0.74  4.56  1.64  .279  .327   9.1
Houlton, D.J.     LAD  26   27 13  96.1  6.73  3.08  1.03  4.86  1.41  .277  .318   3.7
Hennessey, Brad   SFG  25   14 14  75.2  5.00  4.40  1.31  5.35  1.65  .319  .310   2.8
Stauffer, Tim     SDP  23   15 14  81.0  5.44  3.22  1.11  5.33  1.49  .286  .312   2.2
Halsey, Brad      ARI  24   25 24 145.2  4.88  2.10  0.99  4.39  1.45  .304  .331   2.0
Francis, Jeff     COL  24   26 26 145.1  6.69  3.53  1.30  6.01  1.67  .316  .359  -6.2
Astacio, Ezequiel HOU  25   14 12  61.2  7.59  2.87  2.73  6.13  1.61  .309  .324  -8.1
Rodriguez, Wandy  HOU  26   17 16  91.0  6.13  4.15  1.58  6.23  1.60  .293  .318  -8.5

Sorted by VORP, one can see the massive gap between the N.L.?s top two rookies and the rest of the field. For someone who was a barely discernable blip on most everyone?s radar coming into the season, Tejeda has managed to put himself into Rookie of the Year consideration, especially if the team reaches the postseason.

Breaking his year down further, the gap between performance and luck has been narrowed as his BABIP number has climbed from the superlucky low .200s to the stillprettylucky .260s. That his performance has not significantly tailed off even with that climb indicates that he may very well be more than just a one-time-through-the-league sensation. Key to his sustained success has been his improved K and BB rates. Over his last 11 appearances, he is averaging 8.81 K/9 and 4.89 BB/9, both better than his season averages.

The last remaining vestige of true luck that those inclined to doubt can rightfully make claim to is his HR rate. In 78 2/3 IP, he has allowed just 4 HR, a rate of 0.45 HR/9. Compared with his minor league rate of 1.09 HR/9, there is a case to be made here.

Consider, however, that, prior to 2004 when he allowed 29 HR in Reading in a park long considered predisposed towards the hitter, he had allowed just 40 HR in 419 minor league innings, rated out to 0.85 HR/9. Granted, very few pitchers are likely to maintain such a consistently low rate of taters allowed, but if one can accept the notion that 2004 is likely to be an outlier along his career stat line, then, perhaps, the argument that once his rate regresses back to a more maintainable one--still low based on his own track record-- that he can still be very effective is not as difficult to buy.

All things being what they are, Tejeda is not likely to ever be one of the league?s top five starting pitchers and expectations of that nature are unfair to him. This is a player who just last year in AA could not keep an ERA under 5 and who is now a contributing member to a playoff contending team. Was there a light bulb that switched on during the few winter league and AAA innings between last year and this? I don?t know, but it?s certainly a reasonable proposal to make given the fickle nature of youth in starting pitchers. The stuff and poise are there, as well as what has been medal-worthy character for gladly suffering the puzzling jerking about between the rotation and the bullpen that he has had to from manager Charlie Manuel. Without getting all Tim Kurkjian on you fine folks, I will freely admit that I am rooting for Tejeda just as vehemently as I rooted for Ryan Madson last year, because he, like Mad Dog, has once again shown this backwards organization that youth can be relied upon to perform if it is only given the chance.