Nick Adenhart at Rancho Cucamonga in 2006.
In a May 28 post, I noted that Nick Adenhart’s ERA in the 1st inning was 7.20 and wrote, "Clearly first-inning jitters are part of the problem, although I suspect most of it has to do with (1) being a 20-year old in Double-A, and (2) mechanical issues. Stuff that fools younger and inexperienced hitters will be ignored by players with more experience, and some of them (such as teammate Curtis Pride) have major league experience."
I got backup in today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from Travs beat writer Todd Traub who wrote in his Texas League Report:
It looked like Arkansas Travelers right-hander Nick Adenhart was fated to suffer another sub-par outing when he gave up Chase Headley’s two-run home run in the first inning of Sunday’s game against San Antonio at Dickey-Stephens Park.
Adenhart was fresh off his worst start on May 22 when he was rocked for seven runs in the third inning against Corpus Christi as the Travs blew an 8-0 lead to lose 15-11.
But this time, Adenhart righted himself to pitch 7 2/3 strong innings, and the Travs rallied to tie, then won it thanks to catcher Bobby Wilson’s eighth-inning home run.
Adenhart arrived in North Little Rock as the Los Angeles Angels’ No. 2 prospect overall (Baseball America) and the organization’s top pitching prospect. He rolled to a 3-0 start before he began to struggle – as when he gave up three first inning runs and got no decision against Springfield on May 16 – and blamed his problems on not adjusting as the Texas League hitters began to figure him out.
“The way I was going early I was kind of falling into a pattern of having a lot of success and doing the same things,” said Adenhart, 3-2 entering Friday. “And then, once those same things weren’t working … or I wasn’t able to repeat [them] how I wanted to, I had to try to make an adjustment and pitch with not my best stuff.”
“I think he just kind of ran into a stretch of bad luck there,” Catcher Bobby Wilson said. “I think he was trying to carry too much of a load on his back. Instead of just pitching his game and his stuff being good enough it was ‘Oh, I can’t give up any runs,’ because offensively we’ve been struggling.”
Sure enough, in last night’s start at San Antonio, Adenhart struggled again in the first inning. Here’s what the Democrat-Gazette reported:
Nick Adenhart won for the first time since April 19 as the Arkansas Travelers beat the San Antonio Missions 3-2 on Saturday at Nelson W. Wolff Stadium, giving the Travs their first winning streak in more than a month.
Adenhart (4-2) had a rocky start, allowing two runs in the first, but he held the Missions scoreless over the next four as Arkansas won two in a row for the first time since April 26-27. The Travs beat the Missions 3-1 on Friday and ended a three game losing streak.
Chris Bootcheck went through the same thing is his minor league career. It happens to a lot of pitchers. It’s just growing pains, nothing more.
I lean hard on the sabermetric community because too many of them make blanket statements about numbers without bothering to learn the context. Clearly the context here is that Adenhart is a 20-year old in an advanced league facing older hitters who adjust to his stuff. He’s not a "bust," he’s not "abused," and he’s not "overrated." But he is an outstanding pitching prospect who’s learning to adjust as hitters adjust to him.