The Legend of Ryan Vogelsong

It seems silly to put a before/after line on it, but give me one more start. Give me one more start before I leave the warmth of the past-predicts-future blanket. It's warm and safe, that blanket, because it's usually right. If you go around thinking that every player who hit eight home runs last year is going to hit 40 next year, you're going to be disappointed quite a bit. If you think that every player who hit eight home runs last year is going to hit eight next year, you're probably going to be right more often than not.

But a couple will sneak through the cracks. There was nothing in Jose Bautista's profile, for example, that suggested he'd be anything more than a fringe starter. And then he was Jose Bautista. It happened quickly, and at some point, everyone has to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Most people already have.

Ryan Vogelsong isn't Jose Bautista yet. He never will be in terms of overall value. But Ryan Vogelsong isn't Ryan Vogelsong either. This is Ryan Vogelsong:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev ERA IP H ER BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
1998 20 2 Teams 2 Lgs A--A+ 3.24 75.0 60 27 20 92 1.067 7.2 1.0 2.4 11.0
1999 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA 3.86 98.0 77 42 42 109 1.214 7.1 0.9 3.9 10.0
2000 22 Shreveport TL AA 4.23 155.1 153 73 69 147 1.429 8.9 0.9 4.0 8.5
2001 23 2 Teams 1 Lg AAA 3.21 89.2 61 32 33 86 1.048 6.1 0.8 3.3 8.6
2002 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-A+ 6.22 59.1 66 41 17 55 1.399 10.0 0.8 2.6 8.3
2003 25 Nashville PCL AAA 4.29 149.0 142 71 54 146 1.315 8.6 0.7 3.3 8.8
2006 28 Indianapolis IL AAA 2.66 67.2 54 20 12 43 0.975 7.2 0.7 1.6 5.7
2007 29 Hanshin JPCL Fgn 4.13 106.2 113 49 41 91 1.444 9.5 1.4 3.5 7.7
2008 30 Hanshin JPCL Fgn 3.99 65.1 65 29 19 50 1.286 9.0 0.4 2.6 6.9
2009 31 Orix JPPL Fgn 4.54 41.2 39 21 16 56 1.320 8.4 0.9 3.5 12.1
2010 32 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA 4.81 95.1 107 51 62 110 1.773 10.1 0.8 5.9 10.4
2011 33 Fresno PCL AAA 1.59 11.1 8 2 5 17 1.147 6.4 0.8 4.0 13.5
12 Seasons 4.06 1014.1 945 458 390 1002 1.316 8.4 0.9 3.5 8.9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2011.

Pretty simple. Okay strikeout numbers. Poor walk numbers. Result: one nondescript professional career. Last season he allowed 175 base runners in 95 AAA innings. In the history of the Giants, only nine pitchers have had a similar performance at the major league level when it comes to walks and hits per innings pitched. Vogelsong racked those numbers up at AAA, a level at which Kevin Frandsens and John Bowkers are king. Gookie Dawkins is in AAA this year; he's slugging over .500. 

But it's getting close to a point where we'll have to figure out what this Ryan Vogelsong is, and forget about what he did with the other Ryan Vogelsong.  Because if this guy who is filling in for Zito had a name like "Randall Vypersang," and all we knew is that he had a good season for Telemarket Rimini last season, his K/9 would look good, his BB/9 would be acceptable, and while we'd be wary of small-sample potholes, we'd be pretty impressed. Maybe this is our Colby Lewis, we'd think.

Because this is a guy who was prospect for the Giants a freaking decade ago, and because he's had all sorts of visible, measurable struggles at levels that are sub-Pirates, it's hard not to be cynical. Your brain throws up all sorts of neural bear traps, trying to catch bits of counterintuitive nonsense like this -- it's what's made our ancestors say, "Wait, if those berries killed my uncle,  maybe ... I ... shouldn't ... eat those berries either! Oh, sweet epiphany! Your death was not in vain, Grog!"

In my more whimsical moments, though, I think of this. That's a link to Andres Torres's minor league stats. He was Clay Timpner until he was a 31-year-old with a couple of nice seasons in Iowa under his belt, and then he was World Champion Andres Torres, Very Good Leadoff Hitter. There's additional context in his case, with the ADHD and the revamped swing, either of which could be 100% responsible for the quantum leap, but it was one of the more unexpected career paths of the past decade.

Baseball's weird. Maybe after 1350 professional innings, his brain got some sweet collective bargaining done with his muscular system, and now he has average control. Don't know. But give me one more start. It's a silly thing to put a qualifier on a bandwagon hop, but there it is. I don't not yet unbelieve just yet. But I'm getting there.

Also of note: Wally Pipp and Barry Zito have exactly nine letters in their names. Food for thought.

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