Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Who is Sidney Ponson?

The Twins entered spring training this year with few question marks. A club that last year discovered a consistent and talented lineup paired itself with arguably of the finest bullpens of the last many years, and continued to play above average defense, and for the most part, had consistent starting pitching. To be certain the Twins had to patch things together a bit in the rotation as, Brad Radke, the Twins stalwart for the last decade or so had a miserable first half with a 5.13 ERA, and once promising youngster Carlos Silva began what has become a well documented melt-down. To further complicate matters, Twins prospect Scott Baker who won the 5th starter role out of spring training couldn't find the bottom half of the strike zone, and Kyle Lohse couldn't find anything until Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire found him a spot on the end of the bench in the bullpen. In total, the Twins used 10 starting pitchers last year.

However the staff ended the year respectably led by newcomer Fransisco Liriano (The Sisco Kid?), and Best Pitcher In The Universe Johan Santana. That along with a resurgent Brad Radke, and enough quality starts from Boof Bonser managed to get the Twins the Central Division Crown. Albeit for only the last hour or so of the regular season.

This season however things look dramatically different. Old dependable Brad Radke retired with what was left of his right shoulder, Fransisco Liriano had Tommy John surgery, and the Twins suddenly found themselves scrambling to find the right pieces to put together a staff. One of the pieces to General Manager Terry Ryan's starting rotation puzzle was Sidney Ponson. A long time Baltimore Oriole, Ponson has been through numerous off-the-field issues in the past few years and was finally run out of town when his pitching went south. For the first couple years of his career Sidney was an above average major league pitcher sporting a 4.54 ERA over his first six seasons.

Ponson, a citizen of Aruba, made his major league debute at age 21 for the Baltimore Orioles and put together a respectable rookie campaign going 8-9 in 31 games (20 starts) while posting a 5.27 ERA.

Coming off his best season ever in 2003 when he tossed 216 innings with an ERA of 3.75, along with an official 'Knighting' by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, (Aruba is a province of the Netherlands) the Orioles made Ponson their opening day starter for 2004. However he was never able to find his groove and started the season with a 3-12 record. Even though his numbers were better in the second half, he still struggled to a 11-15 final record with a career high ERA of 5.30. Despite that, the Orioles we're clearly impressed enough by his second half to decide that he was worth resigning to the tune of 8.5 million for 2005. It was a bad decision. In 2005, Ponson, a lifetime sinkerballer suffered a serious case of Silva-itis. Posting only 130.3 innings with a ghastly 6.21 ERA. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, it was bad off-the-field for Ponson too.

On Christmas 2004, Ponson was arrested in his native Aruba for assaulting a judge presiding on a case over the mishandling of his speedboat. He spent 11 days in jail and was released after agreeing to pay fines, and do community service. The next month he was arrested in Florida for drunk driving. Just eight months later Ponson was arrested again, this time in Baltimore, and once again for drunken driving, his second charge in a year. The Orioles, fed up with his off-the-field trouble, disgusted with his pitching, and anxious to get his 3 year 22.5 million dollar contact off their books release Ponson and voided his contact that September.

After his embarrassing 2005, Ponson, suddenly without a team signed a 1 million dollar deal with the Cardinals in 2006, but never really got going, and the Cardinals designated him for assignment. The Yankees, desperate for starting pitching took a flier on him later that year, but it never worked out, and he was released after the season. For the year he posted a 6.25 ERA over 85 innings.

Now with the Twins, Ponson is trying once again to prove himself in major league baseball. His spring so far has been pretty good. And while the numbers overall aren't overly impressive, he has been the one thing the Twins desperately seek, consistent. This spring 'Sir Sidney' has posted 16 innings over 4 starts, giving up 7 earned runs, on 22 hits and 3 walks for a 3.93 ERA, and a 1.56 WHIP. His strikeout rate is a disturbingly low 3.37, well below his career average, but perhaps the most promising number for Twins fans is that Ponson, as a sinkerballer has posted a 28-13 GBo-FBo ratio this spring, while giving up no home runs, both indications that his sinker has life and he's keeping it down in the zone.

If Ponson can carry over his spring training success to the regular season (admittedly a HUGE if) then the Twins will, for a million dollars have bought themselves a lot of consistency in the middle of the rotation.

Ponson's Spring Training Stats


Anonymous said...

Good analysis of Sidney Ponson, but I didn't see you mention he got bone chips removed in the off-season and that is another factor in the low strikeout total, and lesser velocity, this spring. It is also a reason to believe MAYBE he WILL have a decent comeback for Minnesota in 2007! He may have a healthy elbow for the first time in years-add that to sobriety and maybe some maturity, he might just be valuable to his team again!

Corey Ettinger said...

Wow, great stuff, too bad you didn't leave your name! Actually, I was unaware that he had bone-chips removed. My girlfriend will be thrilled that someone out there has pointed out the fact that I do not indeed "know it all." I personally am depressed by the fact, but oh well.

That said, welcome to the site and thanks for the comment. Hope to see you here again.