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Ryan Drese Is No Livan Hernandez, But Why Not?

[November 1st] -- While Ryan Drese has pitched effectively at times during his four year major league career [10-9, 4.51 with Cleveland in 2002 and 14-10, 4.20 with the Rangers in 2004], he has also pitched poorly enough to have been released by the Texas Rangers, who had at the time the second worst ERA in the American League. Why the "Jekyll and Hyde" pitching style? There is a big difference between talent and wins.

Drese's numbers with the Nationals most resembles those of Livan Hernandez. No, not wins and losses; we have to look deeper. Hernandez, who won 15 games in 2005, allowed opponents to bat .284, have a .348 OBP and a .427 SLG average. John Patterson, by contrast, allowed a .233 batting average, .298 OBP & .358 SLG average. So how did Hernandez do so well? Because he knows how to pitch. In 246 innings, Livan gave up a whopping 268 hits while walking 84 batters, an average of 1.4 base runners per inning. There were ALWAYS base runners. But Hernandez knew how to get out jams and win games.

Ryan Drese allowed a .283 batting average, one point below Livan. His OBP of .351 was only 3 points higher, and his SLG average of .412 was 15 points lower. In 59 innings, he gave up 66 hits and walked 22.

Drese, like Hernandez, ALWAYS had runners on base, posting an identical 1.4 base runner per inning ratio [Patterson by contrast allowed only 1.1 runners per inning]. Drese, however, had an ERA a full run higher than Hernandez, and won only 27% of his starts, compared to 42% of starts won by Livan.

Throughout his career, Drese has been able to win only when he had his good stuff, when he gave up a few singles and struck out ten. Of his seven combined wins in 2005 [4 with Texas, 3 with the Nats], only one occured in a game where he didn't have his good stuff. Drese has to dominate or he loses. Hernandez, however, wins with guile. He gets a double play when he needs a double play. He strikes out a batter when he needs it the most.

That "something extra" that all the great pitchers seem to have cannot be learned. Hernandez wasn't standing on the mound one day, bases loaded and nobody out, and said, "Oh, I get in now!" More likely, it has always been part of his makeup. At 29, Drese has reached the point in his career that he would have showed that "extra gear" if he had it. He must now focus on the mechanics of pitching, and in his mind plan out step-by-step that which comes naturally to Livan. Drese can become a competent "back of the rotation" pitcher, winning 10-12 games a season, keeping his ERA in the 4.50 - 5.00 range. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Two pitchers, with similar "internal" numbers, have two very different outcomes. One has the special gift, and one doesn't. Ryan Drese needs to be "ok" with who he is - - he needs to do his best and accept the outcome. He has the ability to be a integral part of the team not by getting better, but by becoming more consistent.

Teams with $80 million dollar payrolls don't need starters like Ryan Drese. Teams like the Nationals can't do without them. That's why Drese is so important to the team's future.

Farid I wanted to say that your columns very good and insight is incredible and that I am glad that I stumbled across your site.
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