Pitching on Shawn Camp

With the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs needing late inning relief help, a lot of attention has been shined upon Toronto’s Jason Frasor. Such a deal would make sense. After all, Toronto made a similar trade earlier this off-season when they traded Brandon League to Seattle for Brandon Morrow. Say what you want about J.P. Ricciardi, the man built a nice bullpen, and trading another reliever won’t exactly turn the Jays’ pen in to the worst in the league – and if it does, what difference does it make for this version of the Jays?

All the attention seems to be simmering around Frasor and lefty Scott Downs. For teams like the Twins and Cubs, they should focus a little lower on the Jays’ depth chart in order to find a potential bargain. Not to Jeremy Accardo, the tantalizing flamethrower, but on Shawn Camp. The six-foot-nothing righty who lays claim to being one of the few pitchers that was neither good enough for the Royals or Devil Rays bullpen within a three-year span. Usually that’s enough to kill a career, yet the exact opposite has occurred. Take a look at Camp’s FIP by year:

2004: 4.41
2005: 3.98

Signed with the Rays

2006: 4.33
2007: 5.29

Signed with the Jays

2008: 3.21
2009: 4.03

The 2007 season inspired nightmares. Camp’s 7.20 ERA (in 40 innings) was fueled in large part by a .422 BABIP. Since then, though, he’s popped back with his two best seasons. Along the way, Camp has picked up a change-up to go with his fastball and slider combination. Camp did more than pick the pitch up; he threw it over 30% of the time in 2009. That story is eerily similar to Brandon League’s 2009. Although unlike League, Camp’s fastball doesn’t touch 94 MPH in a hurricane. Instead it sits around 88, and Camp relies on mixing speeds more than the baker man. Camp actually worked in higher leveraged situations on average than League did last season while missing a career high percentage of bats.

What makes Camp intriguing besides his (presumably) lower trade return and modest salary just over a million dollars? He’s a groundball machine (56% career) and devours righties (career 3.05 K/BB ratio against them). Any pitcher who can survive in the American League East is worthy of a look-see, and a transition into the American or National League Central would almost certainly improve his numbers, albeit on a marginal level.

For a team on a manhunt that makes Jennifer Anniston blush, Camp certainly makes sense, even if it means living with the jokes about his big ears and country demeanor after the occasional rough outing.

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Marc Hulet
14 years ago

“…Camp relies on mixing speeds more than the baker man.”

Best line ever in a FanGraphs article.