My weekly review of Joe Morgan Chat Day will not appear this week beacuse there was no Joe Morgan chat this Friday.
However, I can comment that I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ugueth Urbina blow the ballgame against the Yankees tonight, allowing 2 runs in the tenth. After hearing Morgan's ode to Urbina last weekend in the Rangers-A's Sunday night game, I wanted to retch. Morgan said something to the effect that Urbina was a superior pitcher to the A's closer Keith Foulke and that he had many pitches with which to get a batter out whereas Foulke had but one.
Urbina showed again tonight why he and his ilk are the best argument possible against the post modern closers in the Dennis Eckersley mold. Urbina looked good in the ninth inning of a tie ballgame, striking out Williams and Matsui with Giambi at first and one out. But he walked two of the first four men he faced in the tenth and then relinquished Soriano's game-winning RBI double.
Urbina now has given up eight walks to go with his nine strikeouts in eleven innings. Those eleven innings have been amassed in ten games. Tonight was only the third time he had gone over one inning in an outing and his 1.2 innings tonight are his season high for an outing yet far. Even though opponents have batted .189 against Urbina, he has a 1.36 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).
Keithe Foulke, on the other hand, has 15 K's and 3 walks in his 12.1 innings this year. Opponents are batting .205 against him but his WHIP is under 1.00 (0.97). Foulke only has two appearances over an inning in his 10 appearances yet far, but one was for 2 innings. Besides given that he has pitched between 77.2 and 105 innings in each of the last 4 seasons, he should continue to roll up the innings (Urbina's high over the same period is 75.2). Also, even though reliever ERAs are somewhat deceptive, Foulke distances himself from Urbina by registering an ERA no higher than 2.97 since 1998. Urbina's low over that period is 3.00 (though he did have a 1.30 ERA in 1998).
Urbina is not a bad pitcher, but he is the typical one who impresses enough to be a closer but does not pitch well enough to be an effective one for his career (see Roberto Hernandez). Morgan is impressed by the variety of his pitches, but when he hangs a 1-2 slider to Soriano to lose the game, one has to wonder if variety alone is such a good thing. Though Foulke still relies on his fastball and excellent changeup combination, his stuff is not such that it would dazzle an overeager analyst like Morgan. Urbina now seems to again have good velocity on his fastball (after some injuries over the last couple of years) and his slider can impress, but he is demonstrably an inferior pitcher to the underrated Foulke, and Morgan should know that.