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Control Yourself: Ethan Martin to start Friday for Cliff Lee

Hooray, we didn't trade Cliff! Wait, who is this guy?

"Hi.  I got news."
"Hi. I got news."

Has it been too long since you said to yourself, "Boy, I hope this guy holds it together long enough to get through the inning"? Oh, right, the bullpen. Nevermind.

Well, has it been too long since you said, "This guy could be a great starter, if only he kept about 65 percent of his pitches in the strikezone"? I feel like I haven't had that particular anxiety in ages. If you feel the same way, then I have good news -- Shane Victorino trade sweetener Ethan Martin is going to making what is, one hopes or presumes, a spot start for Cliff Lee on Friday! Hold onto your butts.

Martin is a right handed pitcher with tremendous stuff, but a seemingly persistent inability to control that stuff. Here is the Phuture Phillies writeup on him that works through what exactly his stuff and his control problems have looked like over time. Their conclusion dovetails with my own: dude is supremely talented, but a total question mark. If he can control his pitches, he's a number two starter; if he can't, his ceiling might be high level reliever. He's a bit like a shorter Phillipe Aumont in that way.

Unfortunately for Martin, that control has been wanting for much of this season in AAA. He is currently up to 5.21 BB/9 this season, and while his K/9 of 8.33 is nice, it won't overcome that high of a walk rate. To give some context as to how poor that walk rate is, the closest MLB starter that qualifies for the ERA title is Jason Marquis, and he's bested Martin by .01 (his BB/9 is 5.20). If your best case scenario is Jason got some worries. Still, this is over-simplifying Martin's potential, as someone like Marquis isn't striking out guys at 8+ per nine clip, either. And Martin's last few starts have been fairly encouraging as far as BB/9 is concerned: he had a rough game on the fifth of July against the Nats AAA club (five walks to four strikeouts in nine innings), but since then, he's had four starts, spanning 24 innings, with 28 strikeouts to 10 walks. That's a 10.5 K/9 rate and a 3.21 BB/9 rate; still high, but workable!

We'll have to hope he's figured something out, because he'd be a lot more useful as a starter than as a bullpen piece. I for one didn't expect to see him this soon, but strange times call for strange measures. Hope you're healthy soon, Cliff. Hope you're lights out, Ethan.

At the very least, we've got a strong reason to watch baseball tomorrow!

EDIT: Here is a report from CBS, in case you'd like some secondary corroboration.