Another Year of Yordano Ventura

There were few expectations placed on Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura last season. While he was considered the favorite to open the year as the team’s fifth starter, Ventura had only made three starts in the majors. The potential was there, but Ventura came with a lot of uncertainty. Once he got the job, Ventura proved he was a fifth starter in name only. Over 183 innings, the 23-year-old posted a 3.20 ERA, with a 3.60 FIP. By the playoffs, Ventura had emerged as the Royals second most dependable starter behind James Shields. With Shields expected to leave town during the offseason, Ventura will enter 2015 with enormous expectations. Will he provide an encore?

In order to determine how Ventura might perform moving forward, let’s take a look at some players who turned in a similar performance at age-23.

Name IP K% BB% ERA FIP WAR
Mike Witt 246.2 19.00% 8.100% 3.47 3.16 5.3
Javier Vazquez 217.2 20.700% 6.500% 4.05 3.68 5
John Danks 195 19.800% 7.100% 3.32 3.44 5
Clay Kirby 267.1 20.900% 9.300% 2.83 3 4.9
Jon Matlack 242 20.300% 9.800% 3.2 3.03 4.9
Andy Messersmith 250 20.900% 9.900% 2.52 3.1 4.5
Brad Penny 205 18.500% 6.500% 3.69 3.39 4.4
Tommy Hanson 202.2 20.500% 6.600% 3.33 3.31 4.2
Eric Milton 206.1 19.00% 7.300% 4.49 4.28 4
Matt Cain 217.2 19.900% 9.800% 3.76 3.91 3.6
Patrick Corbin 208.1 20.700% 6.300% 3.41 3.43 3.6
Tony Armas Jr. 196.2 20.700% 10.700% 4.03 3.99 3.6
Jarrod Parker 181.1 18.600% 8.400% 3.47 3.43 3.5
Andy Benes 223 18.400% 6.500% 3.03 3.55 3.4
Jerry Reuss 192 20.900% 10.0% 4.17 2.94 3.3
Jose DeLeon 192.1 19.300% 11.600% 3.74 3.33 3.2
Chris Carpenter 175 18.300% 8.200% 4.37 4.05 3.1
Yordano Ventura 183 20.300% 8.800% 3.2 3.6 2.8
Dave Righetti 183 20.300% 13.400% 3.79 3.59 2.8
Brian Matusz 175.2 18.800% 8.300% 4.3 4.05 2.8
Jon Niese 173.2 19.200% 8.100% 4.2 4.1 1.6

The above chart shows pitchers who produced similar strikeout and walks rates to Ventura at age-23. This isn’t the most ideal way to compare Ventura to other pitchers, but it at least gives us an idea of how guys with similar peripherals performed going forward.

You’ll notice a few things about the list almost immediately. For the most part, the chart is comprised some very talented players. You’ll also notice Ventura’s 2.8 WAR rates fairly low among the bunch. There are a few reasons for this. For one, Ventura wasn’t worked as hard as many of these players. His 183 innings ranks as the sixth-lowest on the list. That’s a result of pitching in the modern era. Teams don’t push their young starters as much anymore, so there was no chance Ventura was going to throw 246.2 innings at age-23. These aren’t major issues, though, and shouldn’t take away from Ventura’s strong performance.

What will things look like going forward? In order to figure this out, we can look at how these players performed at age-24. That should give us a rough view of how Ventura will perform next season. When sorted, the sample drops by two players. Ventura is obviously not included since he hasn’t turned 24 yet, and Patrick Corbin missed all last season due to Tommy John.

The results are actually somewhat surprising. While most of the pitchers included continued to post good numbers, nearly all of them experienced decline at age-24. Only five of the 19 pitchers posted a lower ERA or a lower FIP at 24. Six managed to post a higher WAR (Chris Carpenter posted an identical 3.1 WAR both years).

This isn’t necessarily a bad sign for Ventura, though. It’s tough to really improve on a 3.20 ERA and a 3.60 FIP, so some regression is probably expected. On top of that, it’s not like many of these pitchers completely fell off the map at age-24. Brian Matusz saw a pretty big decline, and never really got back, but that’s about it. Some of the other pitchers would eventually fall off due to injury, like John Danks or Tommy Hanson.

Ventura turned in a promising rookie season that put him among some really talented young pitchers. While it’s going to be tough for him to immediately build off the promise of that rookie season, that doesn’t mean Ventura is doomed entering next season. Even if there’s some drop-off, there’s plenty to like about his ability moving forward.

We hoped you liked reading Another Year of Yordano Ventura by Chris Cwik!

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan

Can we have the name in focus in bold with tables like these? I don’t know why they don’t stand out, it’s Yordano we’re comparing to everyone else after all.

Promising signs for Yordano though, only thing is he isn’t a huge strikeout pitcher for todays era. More of a “here’s my fastball, hit it” type which leads to a lot of ground balls. But his breaking ball is his main strikeout pitch and further command and confidence throwing that will definately help his totals- huge differential between that and his heater.

Looks a very promising arm, let’s just hope he can stay healthy.

Peter 2
Guest
Peter 2

Sort of reminiscent of Justin Verlander at his age 23 season, when he was throwing 95-100 MPH gas, posting a respectable ERA, but not necessarily getting the strikeouts you’d expect from that sort of power arm. For Verlander, it took three more years before he came into his own as a strikeout pitcher. We shall see with Ventura.