Thanks to his victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night, Barry Enright solidified his position as one of the brighter spots in an otherwise disappointing 2010 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. With eight impressive innings at Chase, Enright's ERA dropped to 2.66, after his first four major-league starts. The 24-year old, Arizona's second-round pick in 2007, has made the leap from Double-A to the big show look easy, and on the basis of his performances so far, looks set to be a member of the Diamondbacks rotation for some time.
Taking the usual caveats about small sample-sizes as read, let's start by putting Enright's performances to date in a context. How does he stack up against other Diamondbacks starting debutants? The table below lists all Arizona pitchers who threw more than 10 innings over their first four games with the team, with details of how they performed over that time.
It's certainly been a positive start for Enright, trailing only Webb, Scherzer and, of all people, Enrique Gonzalez. EnGon had the best opening spell of any starter in Diamondbacks history, culminating in seven innings of one-hit ball against the Giants on June 13, 2006. However, it was all downhill from there. Over the rest of the season, he went 1-7 with a 6.72 ERA and is now a fringe player in the Tigers bullpen. Pretty much a poster-child for that small sample size thing mentioned above. Certainly, given Enright's 3.78 minor-league career ERA, it would be optimistic to expect him to continue at this level of production. But, hey - we could do with some of that KoolAid, right?
Enright among 2010 debutants (first four games, min. 15 IP)
Also worth noting how Enright has, so far, kept up with some rather more heralded prospects. While he is obviously some way short of the divine greatness that is Le Strasburg, his performances so far are better than the Dodgers' John Ely or Reds' Mike Leake managed during their first few games. As noted above, that's also better than Enright managed in the minors,. so what is he doing right? The good news is, it is not entirely luck - his BABIP has been a little lower than league average, at .274, but that's not particularly excessive. Enright has been a bit too good with RISP: 3-for-15, and that has certainly helped him over-achieve.
The table above compare his numbers so far with those posted in the minors, and I'm surprised how close these are to each other. This is reflected in Fielding Independent Pitching numbers for Enright that are very similar - 3.57 in the minors, 3.88 in the majors. The higher number here is due to the increased walks and (slightly) home-runs. The former is likely going to drop back down, as it's skewed by the four walks in five innings during his first start, when he admitted afterward to being nervous. In three starts and 18.2 innings since, he has walked only three, a 1.4 BB/9 rate that is right in line with his minor-league stats.
Looking at Enright's pitching stats, the one thing which stands out is the high percentage of times he gets ahead of opposing batters by throwing strike one. Currently, that's 68.1%, which is ahead even of noted strike-throwers like Dan Haren (66.9%) and Rodrigo Lopez (65.4%). On the other hand, if Enright has a problem, it's when hitters see him for the third time. After holding them to a sub-Ueckerian .194 (13-for-67) the first couple of times through the order, the opposing BA more than doubles for round three - and he gets hit hard too, with all three homers Barry has allowed also coming in that cycle.
|1st PA in G, as SP||38||35||6||0||1||0||3||12||4.00||.171||.237||.229||.465||.261|
|2nd PA in G, as SP||35||32||7||2||0||0||2||5||2.50||.219||.265||.281||.546||.259|
|3rd PA in G, as SP||20||18||7||2||0||3||2||4||2.00||.389||.450||1.000||1.450||.364|
|4th+ PA in G, as SP||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000||.000|
The was probably the main difference with regard to Enright's last start - he made the necessary adjustments to keep the hitters from becoming comfortable. What had changed? "Just going out there and attacking them," said the pitcher after the game. "Not getting the ball in the middle of the plate and let their aggressiveness work to my advantage. They're going to be aggressive, they're going to swing at balls out of the zone since the first time and the second time through the lineup I've been around the zone. Let them be aggressive and use it to my advantage." The result tied the longest outing of Enright's career.
Before his debut, Nick Piecoro suggested that we "think of him in the Jon Garland/Jeff Suppan mold, with a ceiling as a solid, back-of-the-rotation type." That's not to be sneezed at - not every starter can be an ace, and based on his performances so far, Enright has the potential to become a reliable member of the Diamondbacks pitching staff for some time to come. That could be helpful in stabilizing a part of the team which has gone through a lot of change over the past few years. Here's how the team's Opening Day rotations have shaken down since 2005 [changes in bold] over that time, there has been an average "churn" rate of 56% in our starting five from one year to the next.
|#1||Javier Vasquez||Brandon Webb||Brandon Webb||Brandon Webb||Brandon Webb||Dan Haren|
|#2||Russ Ortiz||Orlando Hernandez||Livan Hernandez||Dan Haren||Dan Haren||Edwin Jackson|
|#3||Brandon Webb||Miguel Batista||Doug Davis||Doug Davis||Doug Davis||Ian Kennedy|
|#4||Shawn Estes||Russ Ortiz||Edgar Gonzalez||Micah Owings||Jon Garland||Rodrigo Lopez|
|#5||Brad Halsey||Claudio Vargas||Micah Owings||Edgar Gonzalez||Yusmeiro Petit||Kris Benson|
A lot will depend on what goes down between now and the trade deadline at the end of the month. But unlike last season, where both Davis and Garland were hitting free-agency, there's a chance #1-4 will all be back in Arizona next year [Haren, Jackson and Kennedy are all under team control, while Lopez seems amenable to re-signing with the Diamondbacks, and has performed well enough they would want him back], and Enright would seem an improvement on Benson. But what would that mean for the rehabbing Jarrod Parker, widely expected to be competing for a 2011 rotation spot? As in many other areas, be interesting to see how things shake down.