2011 Season in Review: Chris Schwinden

The New York Mets went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an ongoing series, will analyze every single Mets player that picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at pitcher Chris Schwinden.

Chris Schwinden was never considered a top prospect (or even a prospect), but prior to 2011, the guy had some pretty solid Minor League seasons. In his professional debut during 2008, Schwinden hurled a 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 5.83 K/BB in 62.6 innings for the Cyclones. The Mets bumped the right-hander up to Advanced-A in 2009, where he posted an impressive 3.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 5.11 K/BB in 126.6 innings. While his strikeouts dropped noticeably (from 10.1 K/9 to 6.5 K/9), Schwiney’s rock-solid control stayed consistent (from 1.7 BB/9 to 1.3 BB/9).

But the righty couldn’t quite figure out Double-A hitting in 2010, where he pitched to the tune of a 5.56 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 3.63 K/BB in 79.3 innings. His combined 4.43 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and 3.83 K/BB in 113.6 during the 2010 season partially hid his Double-A failures, yet the Mets still pushed him along through the system. In fact, Schwinden pitched just 3 innings in Double-A during 2011 before finally seeing Triple-A hitters. Despite getting roughed up by Double-A, Schwinden excelled in the higher level, posting a 3.87 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 2.90 K/BB. Even though his control spiked to un-Schwinden-levels (2.9 BB/9 versus 2.0 career BB/9), his strikeouts numbers from 2008 reappeared (8.3 K/9).

Finally, on September 6, Chris Schwinden got the call to the show. His first career Major League start occurred two days later against the Atlanta Braves, where he hurled an un-miraculous 5 innings–giving-up 8 hits, 5 earned-runs, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. But after his debut, Schwinden got the hang of it. The righty combined for a solid 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 2.6 K/BB over his next three starts (against the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds, respectively). Opposing hitters only owned a .246/.304/.361 line against him during that stint, and his .300 BABIP was, well, perfect.

While his four starts in 2011 were a small sample size (4.71 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 2.83 K/BB in 21 innings), Chris Schwinden showed some undeniable talent. He mixed in his four promising pitches well (fastball, cutter, curveball, and change-up), without relying on any one of them too much (he threw his fastball 45.3% of the time). Granted, his fastball’s average MPH was a little underwhelming (89.1 MPH), both his change-up (average of 81.3 MPH) and curveball (average of 74.4 MPH) kept hitters off-balance.

There’s a good chance the 24 year-old will start 2012 in the Minor Leagues, but Schwinden showed enough poise to at least earn a look during Spring Training and throughout the season.

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