Word is the Reds will call on Livingston, the former Mariner, to make the starts in Eric Milton’s absence. Manager Jerry Narron’s quote to the Cincinnati Enquirer on Homer Bailey aptly sums up the thought noted in my analysis. "I’m not saying Homer is definitely out of it," Narron said. "But Homer needs to be down there (at Triple-A) for a few more starts. Hopefully, he’ll continue to progress."
That seemingly put to rest for the time being we’ll turn our attention to Livingston, 0-3 with a 3.22 ERA through seven starts for Triple-A Louisville. He’s posted his usual control-motivated 33/4 K:BB ratio in 44 and two-third innings, necessary for his ERA given he’s been hit at a .291 clip; normal for him and his pitcher classification as a 24-year-old soft-tossing southpaw.
The former fourth-rounder from 2001 is interesting in as much as he’s not really a left-hander, but rather ambidextrous who apparently only throws and plays golf from the south side. Perhaps I’m the only one who finds this note worthy as I’m predominately left-handed but switch-hit in all sports that require a stick including golf, and more odd, have played guitar from both sides of the plate for years. Personal notation aside, it would seem Livingston is not really left-handed, writing and doing most day-to-day tasks as the majority, and could possibly throw harder right-handed. Perhaps this is in fact a choice, cleverly contrived to use the unusual gift on the basis there is, and will always be, a need for left-handed pitching.
Coming up in the Mariners’ system as a southpaw with a fastball that topped out somewhere between 85-89 MPH, the comparison to Jamie Moyer was inevitable and frequent. I find this suitable for a short term projection of what to expect from Livingston, for he’s nowhere near as bad as what he showed in his brief tenure with the Mariners in 2006. In fact, he had strong spring training numbers, better than the early results in the Triple-A International League.
The soft-tossing left-hander takes much longer in development. Moyer –currently having tremendous early-success with the Phillies at age 44—did not become a model for comparison until he was in his mid-30s, his early years inconsistent, yielding far more hits than innings pitched until 2001 at age 38. At the same age as Livingston, 24, he posted a 5.10 ERA in 33 starts with the Cubs surrendering 28 home runs, his control less than Livingston’s.
Many pundits wrote Livingston off after 2006, erroneously viewing the waiver claim that sent him to the Reds as a give up, rather than the trade paper-work faux paux between the Mariners and Devil Rays it actually was. He still has promise albeit with the limited ceiling of a Moyer or Kenny Rogers, both of whom found success in their 30s, while struggling with the major league development issues predominant in their genre through their 20s. These issues should be prevalent in Livingston’s early major league time as well.
The issue of control is more finite in these types and Livingston’s margin of error is slim. He’s not going to be wild, he can’t afford to nibble, and the more likely is the three-inch miss that turns him into batting practice fodder. The thing to watch when he does make his start for the Reds is velocity; differentials between fastball and change up are important, but the differences between fastballs thrown are more paramount. He must change speeds; the learning curve of when and to whom is steep and one of the major factors in why it takes so long for these types to succeed.
NL fantasy leaguers shouldn’t expect much and if he has success, you shouldn’t expect it to remain consistent. A relatively neutral flyball pitcher with his limited experience doesn’t profile well in the home park. But don’t abandon all hope; simply note the age and the inordinate amount of experience it usually takes in his type.