Prior a definite two-year stud
By Will Carroll and Nate Silver
Special to ESPN.com
In the terminology of pitching biomechanics, Mark Prior is a freak.
Stand near Prior in the Cubs' clubhouse, and you'll see that his calves are roughly the size of an average man's thigh. As Prior goes through his delivery and pushes off the rubber, the strong muscles drive his body forward. While the gyrations of a windup like Dontrelle Willis or Hideo Nomo make it difficult to assess their mechanics and add to the deception a hitter faces, Prior's efficient delivery disguises the linear driveline his pitches come through.
While we all know that the quickest path between two points is a straight line, few pitchers can regularly bring a baseball in a straight line to home plate. Prior can.
Mark Prior might emerge as the best pitcher in the game.
According to Gary Heil of the National Pitching Alliance, Prior was tested using high-tech Matrix-like technology to assess his mechanics.
"No one else was even close," Heil said. "He's the model; he's perfect."
Dr. Mike Marshall is a former Cy Young Award winner who has completed extensive scientific studies of the pitching motion. Using basic, Newtonian principles of inertia and reaction, Marshall's teachings show that Prior's controlled delivery is near ideal.
He'd be the Six Million Dollar Bionic Pitcher. Except that when his salary arbitration payday comes up, he'll undoubtedly make a lot more than that.
But Prior isn't the only pitcher to achieve such success, and receive so much attention, so early in his career. We consulted with our BP colleagues to create a top 10 list of the best two-year debuts by starting pitchers in the modern era. The factors we evaluated, in rough order of priority, were the following: ERA relative to league average (ERA+), wins above replacement level (WARP), strikeout-to-walk ratio, W-L record, and age at time of debut (younger debuts are considered more impressive). We tried not to consider how the pitcher fared down the road, accounting only for the strength of the first two full seasons (50 or more IP) on their own merits.