The Corpus Christi Hooks were a pretty exciting team to watch this year. They had a few top prospects see time with the club (Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Villar, and George Springer), as well as several solid additions added to the club after the trade deadline. Today we’re going to take a look at the Hooks pitching staff. Like the Redhawks pitching staff the Hooks staff experienced quite a bit of movement as well. The Hooks opened the season with a starting rotation of Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, Ross Seaton, Jose Cisnero, and Jake Buchanan, and ended the season with Ross Seaton, Asher Wojciechowski, Matthew Heidenreich, Rob Rasmussen, Bobby Doran, and Paul Clemens in the rotation.
The Hooks pitching staff ranked about average in most of the traditional statistical categories in the eight team Texas League division. The team ERA of 4.06 ranked fifth in the Texas League, There average walks and hits allowed per innings pitched (WHIP) was 1.33 which was a tie for the fourth best in the league with San Antonio and Arkansas. Hooks pitchers recorded a total of 1055 strikeouts which was good for third best in the league. The bullpen also racked up a total of 35 saves which tied them for fourth best in the league with NW Arkansas.
Seaton had a solid year this season in his repeat tour of Corpus Christi, and even got four starts at the triple-A level where the results were favorable as well. He’s never been a big strikeout guy, but instead relies on pitching to contact and solid control. His walk rate has always been impressive, but this year in 146 innings pitched he lowered that rate to a career best 1.91 BB/9. He also raised his strikeouts rate from 5.63 K/9 in his previous season at Corpus to 6.53 this season. Seaton’s FIP of 3.94 was average for the league, but was below average in every other category except for allowing walks, which is an area where he excelled. The biggest area where Seaton struggled this season was the fact that he was too hittable. He gave up a total of 155 hits in 146 innings pitched for the Hooks, and 43 of those hits went for extra bases, which is troublesome for a pitcher that has a sub-par groundball rate.
Like Seaton, Heidenreich is another guy who shows excellent control but is also hittable. Overall his stats are pretty similar to Seaton’s only slightly better. He pitched a combined 146 innings in high-A and double-AA this year at age 21, and posted a 3.88 ERA, 3.82 FIP, with a 5.98 K/9 rate and 1.54 BB/9 rate across both levels. He only pitched 35 innings for the Hooks this season but posted a 3.67 ERA and 3.14 FIP in the small sample size. His strikeout rate increased during his time with the Hooks to 6.82 K/9 and his walk rate was only slightly higher at 1.83. To touch base on the being hittable subject Heidenreich allowed 154 hits in his 146 innings and 48 of those hits went for extra bases.
Rasmussen had a combined 4.25 ERA and 3.81 FIP with a 7.54 K/9 rate and a 3.42 BB/9 rate spread across two levels. For the Hooks he totaled 55 innings and posted a 4.80 ERA with a 4.07 FIP. In his 55 innings pitched with the Hooks this season Rasmussen was a little bit better than league average in most categories. One of the additional things you look for in southpaws is how they handle left-handed batters as they might transition into the role of a left-handed specialist down the road if they fail as a starter. In Rasmussen’s career he has pitched against a total of 84 innings against lefties and posted a 3.75 FIP with a 3.77 SIERA. Against right handed hitters (albeit a much larger sample of 207 innings) Rasmussen has a 3.94 FIP with a 4.52 SIERA.
Doran is interesting if for no other reason than the fact that he survived pitching in Lancaster for most of the season. In his 104 innings pitched for the Jethawks this season he turned in an impressive ERA of 3.57 and FIP of 3.79. He did this with a solid but not great groundball percentage of 45.80%, and only allowing line drives 13.80% of the time. After a shaky start to his double-A career he came on strong to finish the year and posted an FIP of 3.94 in 54 innings pitched. His groundball percentage was much better for the Hooks at 50.60%, and he also raised his strikeout rate from 6.18 K/9 in Lancaster to 7.17 K/9 with the Hooks. He is also another pitcher that showed above average control in the Hooks rotation, though not as good as Seaton and Heidenreich.
Clemens opened the year with the Oklahoma City Redhawks after having a solid 2011 season at the double-A level. After getting off to a hot start Clemens struggled mightily and posted a 6.73 ERA in his 102 innings pitched, though his FIP of 4.85 was a little better. The batting average on balls in play of .374 was much higher than the league average of .323. This performance earned him a demotion to the Hooks rotation to end the season where he pitched 37 innings and posted a 3.44 ERA. His FIP was higher than his ERA at this level at 4.59. He was able to raise his K percentage to 21.40% at the level and also lowered his walks rate to 7.10%. Next season will be a pretty big season for Clemens as he will need to rebound from a disappointing 2012 season.
Here we will focus on the Hooks closer Jason Stoffel, Josh Zeid, and Alex Sogard. Kevin Chapman will be reviewed in more detail later today so check back at 11:00 for that one.
Stoffel enjoyed a great season and was the closer for the Hooks bullben this season. When looking at Stoffel’s stats the biggest thing that jumps out at you as far as improvements made is the fact that he lowered his BB/9 rate from 4.7 in 2011 to 2.5 in 2012 while still averaging almost a strikeout per nine innings in his 58 innings pitched for the Hooks this season. He induced groundballs 50.60% of the time and struck out hitters 24.70% of the time which is pretty impressive. His FIP of 2.68 and his SIERA of 3.14 are both higher than his ERA but are still impressive. The biggest outlier and possible red flag here is that he previously had never had a batting average on balls in play before below .347, and this year he allowed a BABIP of .248 which is significantly lower than that of his career totals. Over his career he has been equally successful against left-handed hitters (3.15 FIP) and right-handed hitters (3.09 FIP), with a batting average against of .232 against lefties and .233 against righties. He looks to have late inning reliever stuff and could find his way to Houston at some point next year if he continues to pitch strong.
Unlike Stoffel, Zeid did not experience as much success in the Hooks pen this year as evidenced by his 5.59 ERA in his 57 innings pitched. However also unlike Stoffel, Zeid also did not benefit from the unsustainably low batting average on balls in play and posted a much better FIP of 3.40, and an SIERA of 3.13, which was actually slightly better than Stoffel’s SIERA of 3.14. He also posted a much better strikeout rate of 10.38 K/9, and still had an impressive walk rate of 3.20 BB/9. One strike against Zeid is that he has struggled against lefties in his career and has posted an FIP of 5.09 against southpaws versus a FIP of 3.83 against righties. Still, despite the perceived down season Zeid could be someone to watch next season and could experience a breakout campaign.
Sogard gave the Hooks a second solid lefty out of the pen. Like Kevin Chapman, Sogard was used as more than just a left handed specialist and faced a good deal of righties this year. Overall he posted a 3.24 FIP and struck out 17.5% of lefties faced, while posting a 4.18 FIP and striking out 16.9% of righties. There are two things to note statistically when talking about Alex Sogard. The first is that he induced groundballs 64.9% of the time in his 54 innings pitched for the Hooks. The other however was that his strikeout rate decreased from 9.56 K/9 at Lancaster to 5.87 K/9 in Corpus while his walk rate stayed on the high side at 4.19 BB/9.
In conclusion, there was a lot to like about the Hooks pitching staff this season. For the first time in a while the starting five in the rotation were all prospects, and four of those five pitched well enough to see some time at the triple-A level. In addition, the pitcher’s that were traded for and placed in Corpus all performed decent and should form a solid core for next season.
All stats listed in this article were gathered from minorleaguecentral.com and firstinning.com.