While Leo Nunez and Clay Hensley have turned in strong seasons, Florida’s relief corps ranks 11th in the National League in xFIP (4.36) and 14th in Win Probability Added (-1.5). Dan Meyer pitched capably last season after washing out of the Athletics’ system, but he has a 4/12 K/BB ratio in 9.1 big league innings this year and hasn’t done much to redeem himself at Triple-A (12/7 K/BB, 5.26 FIP in 21 IP). Control-challenged Renyel Pinto was let go earlier this season and has since signed with St. Louis. Taylor Tankersley (career -0.8 WAR in 114.2 major league innings) doesn’t inspire confidence.
As such, the Fish sought a seasoned lefty and got one in Ohman. Whether he helps much is subject to debate, though. The soon-to-be-33-year-old missed most of the 2009 season following left shoulder surgery and signed a minor league contract with the O’s this past winter. He’s got a nice-looking 3.30 ERA, but with over five walks per nine frames handed out, Ohman holds a 4.40 xFIP in 30 IP. His career xFIP versus lefties is 3.62, compared to 4.92 against right-handers. Ohman has been moderately useful against same-handed opponents, but left-handed batters aren’t trembling at the prospect of facing the former Cub, Brave and Dodger.
From Baltimore’s perspective, the club gives up a guy with a 4.76 projected FIP from ZiPS for a 25-year-old with a history of missing lumber and missing starts. Originally signed out of the Netherlands back in 2002, VandenHurk has struck out nearly a batter per inning during the course of his minor league career, with 3.8 BB/9. He sits 91-92 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a hard mid-80’s slider and a changeup.
He comes with plenty of drawbacks, though. For one, the 6-5 righty can’t stay healthy — he scarcely pitched at all in 2005 and 2006 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, missed time in 2008 with ulnar neuritis and was put on the shelf with elbow inflammation last season. VandenHurk is also an extreme fly ball pitcher, with a 37 GB% in the minors since 2005 according to Minor League Splits. That leads to lots of round trippers. In 155.2 major league innings over the 2007-2010 seasons, Rick has gotten grounders just 27.8% of the time. As a result, he has surrendered 1.56 HR/9, and that’s without a sky-high home run per fly ball rate (12.3%). VandenHurk has fooled plenty of hitters (8.79 K/9 in the majors). But all those big flies, coupled with ample walks (4.63 BB/9), have led to a 5.19 FIP and a 4.87 xFIP.
Chances are, this trade won’t have a profound effect on either team. Ohman’s a so-so southpaw, and VandenHurk can’t seem to stay off the DL for any sustained length of time. Still, the swap gives the Marlins a better lefty than Tankersley and the O’s a live arm who could play some part on the next relevant Baltimore club.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.