Like it or lump it, Carlos Silva is now a member of the Chicago Cubs. And because of his profoundly awful performance the last two years, and egregious contract over the next two years, he’s not likely to go anywhere else. So he’s ours to behold.
But… but… is there any hope?
You know… maybe.
Silva’s failings over the last two years have been well-documented: a 6.46 ERA in 2008, and an 8.60 ERA in an injury-shortened 2009. Those numbers weren’t a matter of bad luck, either. Silva’s calling card has always been control. In his career, he’s been perhaps the most strike-throwingest pitcher in all of baseball, averaging an absolutely minuscule 1.7 walks per nine innings – yes, that is the best in baseball. So it’s no surprise that, in Silva’s worst two seasons, his walks went up. His walks per nine the last two seasons were the highest they’ve been since he was a young reliever in Philadelphia six years ago.
Perhaps not a coincidence, his strikeouts per nine innings – never very high – actually increased in the past two seasons. Normally, that would be a good thing, but it was also commensurate with a dramatic increase in his hits given up per nine innings (an absolutely insane 12.4 hits per nine innings over the last two years). Together, what you have is a guy who started to nibble. That resulted in more strikeouts, but also more walks. And it resulted in counts where he had to come over the plate more often, and he was predictably rocked. I did not follow the Mariners the past two years, but if I did, my guess is I would have seen a guy who was consistently falling behind hitters, and not throwing a first pitch strike. Perhaps there were also mechanical issues at play, in addition to subtle injury concerns, each of which could turn around in 2010. Perhaps.
So how did Silva get that 4/48 contract in the first place? Well, it was two parts improvidence, and one part past success. He was an adequate starter in Minnesota from 2004 to 2007. His ERA+ in that time was solidly over 100 (meaning he was above average) in three of his four seasons, and he averaged over 190 innings pitched. In sum, the guy was a very solid four or five starter; even a three at his best. In 2006, Silva faced 749 batters. He walked 11 of them, and two of those were intentional. In two words: holy shit.
Thus, Silva has a history of being a guy who could fit at the back end of the Cubs’ rotation. But history is just that; and recency, when it comes to ballplayers, is a much better predictor of future success than seasons two or three years ago. Then again, Silva is just 30 years old. Pitchers of Silva’s ilk – that is, crafty, control-based pitchers – often do not peak until their early or mid-30s.
The Cubs have said they’ve been scouting Silva all winter, and claim he looks not only healthy, but much better than the past couple of years.
So you see, there are lots of reasons for hope, but we can’t forget how powerfully awful Silva has been the past two years. It’s grim. And to make matters worse, Silva isn’t exactly a model citizen. Harry at Cubs f/x has gathered together a list of some of Silva’s most notable issues. Lowlights include Silva spouting off to the Seattle media from time to time – ruh roh.
In sum: Carlos Silva used to be pretty ok, and now he seems pretty down and out after a couple very disappointing seasons. He’s got media issues, injury issues, and he’s massively overpaid.
What do you know? He’s a Chicago Cub, after all.