On the first part of the journey,
I was looking at all the life.
There were plants and birds. and rocks and things,
There was sand and hills and rings.
Horse With No Name, America (1972)
While many confused America’s 1972 number-one hit about a desert journey about a run in with elicit drugs, America maintains that the song was a rather-literal composite of a hypothetical journey. The open lines of the song always remind me of the beginning of the baseball season – plants blooming, birds chirping, sandy baseball fields, and runners running rings around the diamond.
Jeremy Horst, to most folks outside of Philadelphia, is a rather unknown commodity, a no-name Horst or a Horst with No Name (ha!). Horst came from Cincinnati before the 2012 season in exchanged for Wilson Valdez and we at Phillies Nation have spared no space to write about what a coup it was for the Phillies to acquire such a reliever. Despite a rocky outing against the Braves, Horst has posted a 1.81 FIP thus far in 2013 and has 5 Ks in 5.1 IP. He pitched four dominant innings against the Braves and Mets and has thus far struggled more, uncharacteristically, with righties than lefties. Is Horst an option to be a long man in the ‘pen?
Last year, Horst was used primarily as a lefty specialist or a LOOGY. This year, he has two appearances of two innings or more, one shy of how many he had last year in 32 appearances. In the minors, Horst excelled as a starter until reaching Double-A for the Reds in 2009. That year, Horst pitched a career-high 132 innings.
There is obvious risks in making Horst the default long man. For one, Horst has not come close to the innings pitched mark, with the closest coming in 2010 when he pitched 84.1 innings. The innings in between? 98, across two seasons. For another, you lose the advantage of having someone who posted a .170/.250/.191 line against lefties in 2012. As Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley pointed out in 2011, there is great danger in misusing a specialist pitcher.
Yet, Horst’s career lines indicate he may be up for the challenge. Working with a fastball, slider, and change-up, his career Major League splits (albeit, in a very small 216 PAA sample) indicate that he is good pitcher against lefties and righties. Horst sports a .233/.308/.362 line against righties in his short Major League career and a .250/.329/.368 line against lefties, with over a K per inning pitched.
Horst has the talent to be a very good Major League reliever and, perhaps, one of the better lefty specialists in the league but has shown flashes of being capable of even more than that. If you were Charlie Manuel, what role would you give Horst? To me, he has earned a shot to become a reliable seventh or eighth inning option in his short time with the Phillies.