Scott Atchison looks out of place on a 21st Century team. He looks old. I mean no disrespect when I say that – yet he looks much older than his actual age of 37. He looks more like a guy you would see gracing a baseball card from the 1950s or 1960s. He has a weathered look to him – like someone who works the family farm in the offseason.
Last night in the Game Chatter I mentioned that he looked older than any Met since Julio Franco and that Moises Alou wanted to know who the old guy was. Soon it dawned on me that I didn’t know too much about Atchison. So here’s a quick bio on his baseball career.
Atchison was drafted out of high school by the Mariners in the 36th round of the 1994 Draft but elected to go to TCU, instead. It looked like a questionable decision, as he got knocked around his first three years with the Horned Frogs. Following a junior season in which he posted a 7.52 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP, no major league team picked him.
So Atchison returned to TCU for his senior season and put up his best season by far. He went 10-4 with a 2.58 ERA with 115 Ks in 101 IP. It was enough for the Mariners to take him on the 49th round of the 1998 Draft.
He worked his way up Seattle’s farm system and got into 25 games in 2004 and another six in 2005. Following the 2006 season, he signed as a free agent with the Giants but he was unable to establish himself in the majors there, either. Atchison then left for a two-year stint in Japan, where he was very effective. His second season overseas, he posted a 1.70 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP for the Hanshin Tigers.
The last three years, Atchinson split time between Boston and Pawtucket. He had a solid season in 2011, when he notched a 3.26 ERA in 30.1 IP with the Red Sox. Atchison was enjoying his best season in pro ball last year before he came down with an elbow injury.
After a consultation with Dr. James Andrews, Atchison decided against surgery and he was able to return to the majors in mid-September, after being sidelined for two months. He pitched in five games for the Sox and did not allow a run in 5.1 IP.
However, he was non-tendered by Boston in late November and signed a minor league deal with the Mets in January. Atchison sewed up a spot on the Opening Day roster with a strong Grapefruit League performance. In 11 games, he posted a 2.19 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP while limiting opposing batters to a .200 AVG.
With the Mets’ starters struggling to go deep in games, Atchison has gotten a lot of work early in the season. He’s already appeared in nine games and ESPN has him on pace to pitch in 81 games this year. Atchison had one bad outing in the poor conditions in Colorado, where all three batters he faced came around to score. Other than that he’s been reliable, making it easy for Terry Collins to call his name on a regular basis.
Last year in Boston, Atchison became an extreme ground ball pitcher, as his GB% was a career-high 55.3%. The trend has continued this year, as Atchison has a 56.7 GB% here in the early going. Pitchf/x shows him as throwing predominantly sliders but in an interview earlier this year with MetsBlog’s Michael Baron, Atchison claimed that it’s more of a cutter than a slider.
Regardless of what you want to call his pitch, Atchison is using it very effectively, getting batters to beat the ball into the ground more often than not. He has not allowed a HR this year and last year he had a microscopic 4.8 HR/FB rate, as he surrendered just two homers to the 200 batters he faced.
In 2012, the Mets attempted to create a strong bullpen by spending eight digits on relievers. This year Sandy Alderson chose to go a different route, looking to sign experienced pitchers to cheap deals. The three most notable signings of this type were Atchison, LaTroy Hawkins and Brandon Lyon. So far, Atchison has been the best of the lot.