Despite a mediocre season, the Mets had a few feel good stories in 2010. R.A. Dickey’s success in the rotation, Mike Pelfrey’s stretches of dominance and emergence of Angel Pagan after so many injuries were all positives. Raul Valdes could’ve been another feel good story: Cuban defector who’s journeyman career finally led him to the major leagues. Unfortunately, after a solid start, Valdes stumbled and was ineffective for most of the season.
Valdes started off the year well enough, allowing two earned runs on on nine hits and three walks while striking out nine in nine and two-third innings. In fact, the southpaw was pitching relatively well through May 25, when he had a 2.86 ERA and 1.306 WHIP through 28 1/3 innings (he also had a K/BB of 3.3). He even picked up a win in relief of John Maine (who was removed after five pitches), tossing five innings while allowing three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts against Washington. However, it was pretty much downhill from there.
From May 31st until the end of the season (22 appearances including one start), Valdes posted a 6.82 ERA, 1.648 WHIP and 1.28 K/BB. He also allowed 33% of inherited runners to score, while opponents compiled a batting line of .271/.383/.492 with six home runs (he only allowed one homer prior to May 31st). For the season, Valdes posted the following numbers in 58 2/3 innings pitched: 4.91 ERA (4.69 xFIP), 1.466 WHIP, 2.07 K/BB, 8.6 K/9 and a WAR of -0.5 Batters hit .260/.346/.445 off of him and he allowed a startling 46% (11 of 24) of inherited runners to score while pitching mainly in low low pressure situations (his aLI, or average leverage index, was .781, where anything below 1.0 equates to low pressure).
Furthermore, not that he was used this way, but based on his numbers last year, Valdes would not make a good lefty specialist. Lefties had 94 plate appearances against Valdes, and hit a whopping .330/.366/.625 (although his K/BB was 9.00 because he only walked three lefties while striking out 27). Conversely, right handers hit just .216/.339/.331 in 169 plate appearances (although Valdes walked 25 right handers while striking out 29, making for a K/BB of 1.16). Even though his slider was his most successful pitch according to FanGraphs (rated at 5.6 runs above average, as opposed to his fastball which was -8.2 and his changeup was -1.5), Valdes struggled to get lefties out.
It’s not like Valdes had great minor league success and then struggled in the majors; his minor league numbers weren’t that great either. In 332 2/3 career minor league innings (dating back to 2005), Valdes has a 4.68 ERA, 1.521 WHIP (averaging 10.7 hits per nine innings) and 2.35 K/BB. He managed to pitch well at Triple A Buffalo in 2010 (36 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.194 WHIP and 4.00 K/BB), but those numbers are most likely a fluke.
Once having the potential to be a feel good story, Valdes career will now take him to St. Louis, where he signed a minor league deal. His role of a long reliever/spot starter will most likely be filled in 2011 by Pat Misch. To Mr. Valdes, I wish him good luck, but will be happy that the only time I see him at Citi Field this year will be in a Cardinals jersey.