Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Revisiting Rick Ankiel

Rick Ankiel is one of the more intriguing stories in the history of baseball.

As a 20 year-old (in 2000), Ankiel was in the process of living up to all the hype which surrounded him. In 1997, Ankiel was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round (and signed a $2.5 million signing bonus, the fifth highest ever awarded to an amateur player) -- and was said to have possessed some of the best "stuff" scouts had ever witnessed (High School Player of the Year in 1997). After all, he was a lefty that threw absolute peas, a heavy sinker, and had a hook for a curveball (the best curveball I have ever seen to-date...no exaggeration).

In 2000 (officially, his rookie year), Ankiel made 30 starts (175 total innings)...and compiled an 11-7 record and a 3.50 ERA in the process. In these 175 innings, Ankiel recorded 194 strikeouts (9.98 K/9 ratio). THAT IS UNHEARD OF THESE DAYS, especially for a 20-year-old rookie!

Then, came the playoffs. The wheels spun off right in front of our very eyes. It was painful to watch. In 4 playoff innings, Ankiel allowed 7 earned runs, all while walking 11 batters. To put it politely, he was a mess -- as he continuously threw to the backstop.

Below, I have outlined Ankiel's spiraling line in the 3rd inning of Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS (vs. Atlanta):

Maddux walked; Furcal popped to Clark in foul territory; Ankiel threw a wild pitch (Maddux to second); Ankiel threw a wild pitch (Maddux to third); A. Jones walked; Ankiel threw a wild pitch (A. Jones to 2nd); C. Jones was called out on strikes; Galarraga walked (Maddux scored on wild pitch by Ankiel; A. Jones to 3rd); Jordan singled to Lankford (A. Jones scored, Galarraga to 2nd); Ankiel threw a wild pitch (Galarraga to 3rd, Jordan to 2nd); Sanders walked; Weiss singled to Lankford (Galarraga scored, Jordan scored, Sanders to 2nd); Mike James replaced Ankiel; López popped to Viña; 4 R, 2 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Braves 4, Cardinals 6.

This above game was the beginning of the end, as he never was able to recover. Instead, in 2005, Ankiel suddenly announced that he was switching to the outfield, after an unsuccessful practice outing in which his wildness reappeared.

Still don't think baseball is a mental/confidence game?? Think again.

Fast forward to today...on Memorial Day, Ankiel hit two tape measure home runs in Round Rock, Texas against the Express. He also clubbed an RBI double and made a running over the shoulder catch in deep centerfield that saved two runs. Thus far, it is his best game as a hitter and is the best evidence yet that he is ready for the majors.

On the year, Ankiel (despite missing 10 days earlier this month with an Achilles' tendon injury) has totaled 11 homers. He's hitting .275 in 149 at-bats.

Here's to hoping that Ankiel stays hot and eventually forces his way onto the big-league 25-man roster (he's likely replace Ryan Ludwick)...


Simply Suds said...

He should have asked Tin Cup or his caddy Romeo how to get rid of the shanks.

Anonymous said...