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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reds sign Kerry Ligtenberg

Last week, the Reds signed former surprise Atlanta closer Kerry Ligtenberg, 35, to a minor league contract. Ligtenberg is best known as the sideburned reliever who came out of no where to save 30 games at age 27 for the 1998 Atlanta Braves--saving them from Mark Wholers' implosion that season. Though he didn't maintain his position as closer after that year, Ligtenberg carved out a very solid five seasons of relief for the Braves and Orioles from 1998 through 2003 (he missed 1999 due to injury). He ran into hard times in '04, however, and has spent most of 2005 & 2006 in the minor leagues.

Recent stats:
2003/BAL 59.1 7.2 2.1 1.37 0.281 3.34 4.30
2004/TOR 55.0 8.0 4.1 0.98 0.366 6.38 4.20
2005/ARI-AAA 50.0 9.0 1.3 0.72 0.320 3.24 2.66
2005/ARI 9.2 4.9 3.9 3.91 0.347 13.97 9.07
2006/CHC-AAA 58.0 6.8 0.9 1.24 0.301 3.57 3.79

When he's right, Ligtenberg has shown excellent control and the ability to strike guys out at a high rate. As is often the case with relievers, his hr/9 rate has been up and down throughout his career, though he's had many years with homer rates in the 0.6 to 0.9 range (career hr/9 = 1.06). The last three years, at least when he has appeared in the majors, Ligtenberg has been excessively wild...but this hasn't shown up at all in AAA. Part of that must be the opposition, but he still be able to post good walk rates in the majors. It's also worth noting that Ligtenberg's bad season in 2004 may have been, in part, due to some bad luck. Kerry had a 0.366 BABIP that season, and his peripherals, despite the 4.1 bb/9 walk rate, result in an FIP of 4.20.

Ligtenberg had a good year in AAA last year (though his K-rate was down significantly...), and might be a guy who could help us later this season. Nevertheless, given the competition for that last spot in the bullpen, I'd be surprised to see him make the opening day roster. If he goes to Louisville, however, and pitches well, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him in May or June of this season. Hopefully, he'll have a good year for us.