Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

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2014 Rotation Rankings 1-30

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The ace on the best rotation in the game.  Photo: talksportsphilly.com

The ace on the best rotation in the game. Photo: talksportsphilly.com

Last year, with my excitement over Washington’s Dan Haren signing and my supposition that Washington had the best rotation in the game, I ranked all 30 team’s rotations ahead of the 2013 season.  Then, after the season was done, I revisited these pre-season rankings with a post-mortem to see how close (or, more appropriately, how far off) my rankings turned out to be.

Here’s the 2014 version of this same post: Pre-season rankings of the MLB’s rotations; 1 through 30.  Warning; this is another huge post.  I guess I’m just verbose.  At this point midway through Spring Training there’s just a couple of possible FAs left that could have altered these rankings (Ervin Santana being the important name unsigned right now), so I thought it was time to publish.

The top teams are easy to guess; once you get into the 20s, it becomes pretty difficult to distinguish between these teams.  Nonetheless, here we go (I heavily depended on baseball-reference.com and mlbdepthcharts.com for this post, along with ESPN’s transaction list per team and Baseball Prospectus’ injury reports for individual players).

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Written by Todd Boss

March 10th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

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Ask Boswell 12/10/12 edition

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Denard Span's "best of 2012" defensive catch, highlighting more of what we can expect in 2013. Photo NYpost.com

I wasn’t expecting much baseball talk in Ask Boswell this week (12/10/12), not with the Redskins on a 4-game winning streak.  But there were some significant baseball moves to discuss, and a ton of baseball questions made their way in.  So here we go.  As always, I read the question and answer before reading Tom Boswell‘s response, and sometimes edit questions for clarity:

Q: I find it hard to imagine any starter of worth will sign with the Nats now that there are five rotation certainties in place.  Will the Nats get the starter depth they desire?

A: There is definitely a class of starter out there who absolutely would take a minor league contract with a team like the Nats in order to rehabilitate their FA value, which may have been eroded due to injury or a bad season.  Who would sign Erik Bedard (as an example) to anything guaranteed right now?  Or Jonathan Sanchez?   I would say though that more likely is the team acquiring guys on the minor league free agent market (where there’s 100s of guys available) and trading for farm system depth (I could envision both Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa being moved for prospect depth right now).  Boswell didn’t really address this part of the question, instead focusing on the next question.

Q: Why did Rizzo non-tender Gorzelanny, who as the LHP long man could spot start? He has been effective at times, the non-tender now seems like a false economy.

A: Simple econonmics; despite Tom Gorzelanny‘s salary being miniscule in the grand scheme of things, they couldn’t tender him and risk getting an un-acceptable award in arbitration.  I posted on the topic ahead of the non-tender deadline.  I’m hopeful that Gorzelanny re-signs with the team at something close to his 2012 salary.  But, that being said the bullpen looks awfully full right now and there might not be room for him.  5 returning RH relievers, new signing Zach Duke and only one spot left, likely being filled by Bill Bray in a pure LOOGY move.  Boswell points out that Duke exactly replicates what Gorzelanny would have given us at a fraction of the price.  Enough said.

Q: How do you like the Denard Span acquisition versus Philly’s acquisition of Ben Revere?   Should the Nats have acquired Revere instead of Span?  Do the Nats have an internal CF option after Span’s contract ends?

A: I posted my opinion on the Span deal here; quick analysis: liked the Denard Span deal but didn’t like that they made it.   Now, if I compare the Span to the Revere deals, I can’t help but say that I think Philadelphia overpaid, badly.  Trevor May was Philly’s #1 prospect in their system.  May for Revere may have been a decent deal (akin to our own Alex Meyer for Span), but throwing in a servicable starter with 46 decent MLB starts under his belt was questionable.  It isn’t like Ben Revere is the second coming of Joe DiMaggio; he had a 89 OPS+ last year in his third pro season.  Great defense absolutely, but at what cost at the plate?  At least Span profiles as a better-than-league-average hitter.   The Span contract is for 2 years, by which time the Nats have a slew of potential replacements (in likely order Goodwin, Perez, Hood, Taylor), so yes there’s plenty of rising talent in the system at center.  Boswell doubts the talent of Trevor May despite the consensus scouting opinion of the player, but he likes Worley and thinks the Phillies “took a flier on talent.”  He does think Span > Revere though.

Q: Have the Nats done enough to their roster to win it all?  Do they need another closer?

A: I believe the team has already done enough to re-qualify for the 2013 playoffs, especially in the NL East where Miami and the Mets are reeling, barring a slate of pitching injuries.  I can make a legitimate argument (tease for a future post) that the WAR improvements expected from our existing players (Strasburg, Harper, a full season of Werth, etc), plus addition by subtraction for players who hurt us last year (Nady, DeRosa, Henry Rodriguez, etc) alone will result in a better team than 2012.   Do we need another closer?  No, but I think one more right handed option out of the pen could help.   That being said, we don’t really have any 25-man room right now given the anticipated pen.  I liked last year’s Brad Lidge signing as a way to get some bullpen help, but doubt the team will do it this year.  As far as Drew Storen goes, he’s a top notch reliever and does not need to be replaced.  But I could see the team flipping him or Tyler Clippard as they get more expensive.  Boswell says the Los Angeles acquisitions change the game, and teams like the Nats may have to re-think their approaches.

Q: What do you think of the Shields trade? Who comes out ahead? Do the Rays have enough pitching to remain AL East contenders, even after trading their No 1 starter?

A: I believe Tampa Bay fleeced Kansas City; Shields was NOT their #1 starter (David PriceJeremy Hellickson) or honestly maybe not even their #3 (Matt Moore, at least on potential).  So the Rays traded a mid-rotation starter who they wanted to move anyway, along with a long-man in Wade Davis for the best prospect in the minors right now  (Wil Myers), the Royal’s #1 pitching prospect (Jake Odorizzi), another high-end pitching prospect (Mike Montgomery, a former highly regarded arm), and yet another minor league player.  That is just frankly ridiculous.  If you had told me the trade was simply Myers for both Shields and Davis, I could have squinted and understood.  But the addition of the other prospects made this a complete heist for Tampa.  You don’t trade the best prospect in the minor leagues for anything less than an ACE starter.  Does Tampa have enough to remain AL east contenders?  Absolutely yes; this was a trade of spare parts for Tampa (akin to the Nats trading Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi for some other team’s two best prospects) and they didn’t give up anything that they weren’t already planning on replacing.  Dayton Moore has gone all in on this move; if the Royals do not win the division in 2013, he’s out of a job.  Boswell didn’t really offer an opinion, just saying that the Rays are still stocked and noting that the price in prospects was why the Nats stayed away.  Disappointed not to read an opinion on the trade.

Q: Will Harper be hitting cleanup this year and, if so, what’s your thinking on this?

A: Answer: It depends.  If the team does NOT re-sign Adam LaRoche, then they have precious little left-handed hitting in the lineup, and Harper will be forced to bat somewhere in the middle of the order.  Cleanup may have to be the spot.  If LaRoche does come back, then the team can spread out its lefty power and continue with a similar lineup to what they used last year (going Harper-Zimmerman-LaRoche-Werth for L-R-L-R).  I certainly don’t think that someone like Harper will have any issues batting clean-up in the major leagues; one thing he’s never been accused of lacking is pride.  Boswell agrees with the opinion here, and then talks about just how much respect Harper earned in his rookie season.

Q: Should I be worried about our pitching depth? Our pitching was remarkably healthy this year and if that doesn’t hold true, especially with questions about Haren’s health I am not sure we can assume that will hold true this season. Don’t we need another starter or two who could eat innings if needed?

A: Yes, we have a depth issue.  Especially given that we’ve traded nearly an entire AAA team worth of rotation insurance in the last two off-seasons (Milone, Peacock, Meyer, Rosenbaum all traded away or lost to rule 5 in the last two off-seasons).  But Dan Haren has been remarkably durable through his career, only missing 28 games in his entire career to injury.  So lets temper the whole “Haren is fragile narrative.”  He’s not; he just happened to have an injury in 2012.  I’m assuming, until proven otherwise, that Haren will return to his previous form and throw 220 innings.  Does this mean that we weren’t lucky in 2012 and should plan for someone to get hurt in the rotation?  Absolutely.  I believe this is why moving either Michael Morse or Danny Espinosa for starter depth is wise.  Boswell reminds the reader about Duke’s starting capability and the team’s plans for Christian Garcia.  There’s also Ryan Perry.  And there’s also the slew of guys who won’t get MLB jobs but who aren’t ready to hang them up who will be there for the taking.  You know, guys exactly like Duke was last year 2 days before the start of the season.

Q: Don’t you think that if LaRoche was going to re-sign that he would have by now? If he goes, have the Nat’s alienated Morse?

A: No; the baseball off-season moves slowly, and few moves happen before the Winter Meetings anyway.  LaRoche is right on schedule for his negotiations.  Now, the team’s overt coveting of LaRoche has to have Morse pissed.  I would be; clearly the team is planning for your exit on a day to day basis in the open press.  Which is a real shame, because I like Morse and don’t think he did anything to warrant being treated this way.  Boswell somehow thinks that this whole dance is a compliment to Morse.  I don’t get it.

Q: Rizzo has a 2 year offer on the table for LaRoche, and history says he’s not likely to budge. Moreover, with other options like Morse and Moore, there’s no reason for him to. If another team needed help at 1B and was willing to give LaRoche 3 years, wouldn’t they have done so already? You’ve said all along you see the Nats and LaRoche amicably parting ways. Still see it that way?

A: Rizzo can budge on his demands.  Hey; at least it isn’t a four year deal that LaRoche is demanding.  I think a 2year deal with a club option for a 3rd makes a lot of sense for the team.  For the player, not so much.  This is LaRoche’s last chance at the free agent bonanza; he has to get the biggest contract he can.  The market for LaRoche won’t completely clear until Josh Hamilton signs.  While they’re not apples-to-apples comparisons, they are both lefty power hitters.  If a team that wanted Hamilton doesn’t get him, they can come looking for LaRoche to fit a middle of the order lefty bat.  The team still needs and wants LaRoche for two main reasons; plus defense and lefty power.  They’ll take a step backwards in both categories by going with Morse at first and Moore as first guy off the bench.  At the beginning of the off-season I thought LaRoche was leaving, because he’d want (and get) a 4 year deal.  Now I think he may be back.  Boswell now thinks LaRoche may be back and the team may give a 3rd year.

Q: I realize that the life with LaRoche is much preferred by the Nats. However, do you think there will be much of drop off in the quality of Nats play? Even without him, I have no doubt that the Nats will still win their share of games and make the playoffs (assuming the starting rotation stays relatively healthy). All starters are strike out pitchers. Offensive production should be about eqaul (though not as balanced),and Morse/Moore will probably make a few more errors. I feel like moving Zimmerman to first in 2014 and have Rendon starting at third would be the ideal way to make sure the core stays in tact.

A: I mostly agree; we’ll live without LaRoche but will be righty-heavy.  Morse is healthy and has shown 30 homer capabilities in the past; why wouldn’t he do that again in 2013?  It is a contract  year for him after all.  Meanwhile. the “save first base for Ryan Zimmerman” plan is one I’m 100% for; we’re just waiting for Anthony Rendon to show up.  Boswell cautions to temper expectations for Rendon, who hasn’t had an injury-free season in years.

Q: Why does Shane Victorino get a 3 year deal before Adam LaRoche?

A: Because the Red Sox made a rash, poor signing?  The LaRoche market just hasn’t played out yet.  Plus, filling a first baseman versus a corner outfielder is more risky for teams, so they do more due diligence.  Boswell doesn’t like the Victorino deal.  At all.

Q: Michael Young had the lowest WAR of ANY position player last year, do you really think he’s an upgrade for the Phillies? Personally, I can’t wait for those fans to start booing him 2 weeks into the season.

A: Yes, Michael Young looked pretty bad statistically last year.  But i’m guessing that a change of scenery may help him.  Texas has spent the past several seasons acquiring players to overtly replace Young; the year after he won a gold glove at short the team asked him to make way for Elvis Andrus and he moved to third.  Then the team moved him off of third when they acquired Adrian Beltre.  Then the team moved him to first … but then gave most of the starts at first to Mitch Moreland Maybe his 2012 was just pure disappointment in his treatment by the club where he’d played his entire career.  I think though that at his age (36 next year) he’ll be lucky to be just replacement level.  Boswell states the obvious; the Phillies are hoping for the 2011 version of Young, not the 2012 version.




Can we find a 5th starter for 2013 internally?

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Could Garcia's great stuff translate into a starting role in 2013? Photo unknown via federalbaseball.com

I’ve been thinking about the rotation  for 2013, reading some early 2013 Free Agent rankings, and steeling myself for the reality that this team is more than likely to lose Edwin Jackson to free agency.  Two primary reasons we probably lose Jackson:

1. He’s one of the best available starters in this coming off season’s FA market

2. He’s likely to command a multi year deal at more money than this team is probably willing to offer.

Considering our “core 5 starters,” Jackson ranks 5th out of 5 in terms of ERA and ERA+, and he’s 4th of 5 in terms of Whip and FIP, and 3rd of our 5 (barely) via xFIP and SIERA.  He’s been clearly out pitched this year by our 5th starter Detwiler and isn’t ahead of the big three in anyone’s eyes.  So the question is; will the Nats make its 5th starter its highest paid pitcher?

I just don’t think so.

So we’re likely looking for a 5th starter for 2013.  The FA market is pretty bareZack Greinke is going to command a massive deal for a guy who, honestly, has had one stellar season in 2009 and since has been no better than a 3rd starter.  I think the Nats should stay away from him.  The Nats should also stay away from promising starters in 2012 but who have injury or inconsistency issues (Dan Haren and Jake Peavy, both of whom likely have their 2013 options declined).  Who else is out there that fits the Mike Rizzo mold (hard thrower, high K/9 rates)?  Shawn Marcum?  Brandon McCarthy?  Also injury concerns.  How about Anibel Sanchez, Jonathan Sanchez and Ervin Santana?  All three guys have good seasons in their immediate past but blew up (or were at best inconsistent) in 2012.

Maybe the above paragraph is even more support for re-signing Jackson frankly; he’s got no injury issues, apparently is a good clubhouse guy and meets Rizzo‘s starter criteria for veteran, hard-throwing innings eater.  So maybe this whole article is going to be moot.

Here’s a different take (and the point of this article); some news items came out this week that caught my eye; perhaps the Nats can find a 2013 5th starter internally instead?  Christian Garcia has really impressed in 2012, from his stellar minor league numbers to his good performances out of the bullpen in September.  And now word has it that the team is considering looking at him as a starter.

I love Garcia’s stuff; he’s a 3 plus pitch guy with a ton of movement on his decent fastball.  Here’s some Pitch F/X data for him this year; 95mph average (peaking at 97.8mph), 10mph delta between his fastball and change, and a ridiculous amount of movement on his 12-6 curveball.  He’s getting nearly a 20% swing-and-miss rate across all his pitches.  Fangraphs.com even did a post specifically on Garcia based on his September performance, featuring an animated .gif of  his “stupid good” curve.

That features as a pretty good starter line to me.  Perhaps he needs a 4th pitch (his over-the-top delivery could lend itself to a sinking 2-seam fastball, a cutter or even a split-fingered pitch that he could add to his arsenal) to be truly effective as a starter.

Meanwhile, the team has already started the Ryan Perry conversion to starter experiment, and his AA starting numbers in 2012 were pretty good.  Pulling this text from my AA-in-review post:

Ryan Perry, astutely acquired for Collin Balester (who failed to impress in Detroit and was DFA’d earlier this year) in spring training and he competed for the MLB bullpen.  He featured briefly, was ineffective and was optioned to AAA.  The team took a look at his repertoire and decided to try to convert him to a starter in AA.  The results?  Pretty good; a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 whip in 13 AA starts.  Outlook for next season: here’s the problem with Perry; he’s out of options for 2013.  He was added to a 40-man roster in April 2009, and burned options in 2009, 2011 and this year.   So he has to either make the MLB club or be DFA’d at the end of spring training.  So look for Perry to compete for the #5 starter job or be considered trade bait in the off-season.

Can Perry continue his starter performance in spring training in 2013?  Could Garcia win the job?  Will the Nats pursue a starter on the FA market?  Or, as they did in the 2012 off-season will they shock us with a trade that comes out of nowhere?

What is the “ceiling” of the various Nats pitching prospects?

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Will Matt Purke fulfil his former Ace-starter promise? Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Its nearly impossible to project high-end pitching prospects, the further they are from the minors.  Think of someone like Colten Willems, our #1 draft pick in 2006 who retired before ever getting out of high-A.  Or perhaps Josh Smoker, a supplemental 1st rounder in 2007 who struggled with injury and is now a situational lefty in the high-A bullpen, four-plus years into his pro career.

But, it is fun to think about the upper-end, best case scenario and what it would mean for this team.  I’m sure that this post will garner a ton of disagreement; feel free to make your case in the comments pro or against what i’ve posted.  I know that some people are already drinking the kool-aid on September call-ups Peacock and Milone, but I’m not (read below for more).  I’ve included all our current starters and most of the upper-end draftees over the past few years.

(post-publishing note: a commenter asked what I “meant” by a #1 or a #5 starter.  Here’s text pulled from the comments as to how i’m defining each of these level of starters:)

  • #1 starter is one of the best 15-20 pitchers in the league, someone who you’re genuinely surprised if he performs badly on a given day, mentioned in Cy Young conversations.  Verlander, Lincecum, Halladay.
  • #2 starter: a slight step down from your elite, but still a reliable starter.  The “robin” to the ace’s “batman.”  I’m thinking Matt Cain, Chad Billingsly, Cole Hamels, Clay Buchholz as examples.  Not the best guy on their rotation but a great #2 guy.
  • #3: better than your league average pitcher, someone who is solid, consistent innings eater and who routinely gives you quality starts but not much more than that.  I’m thinking someone like a Jonathan Sanchez, Derek Holland, Edwin Jackson, someone like that.
  • #4: is basically someone defined as someone who’s a slight step above the back-of-the-rotation guy, a mlb veteran guy who knows how to pitch but doesn’t have the best stuff to really go much beyond.  John Lannan is a great example of a #4 starter.  Freddie Garcia, John Lackey, Jon Garland, Jason Marquis are other examples.
  • #5: just good enough to fill out your rotation.  Starters at the back end who all you’re hoping for is 6 innings and keeping your team in the game.  On our team, Livan Hernandez, Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen in past years.

Nationals Starter prospect Ceilings (per scouting reports, personal observations)

#1: Strasburg
#2: Zimmermann, Cole
#3: Purke
#4: Lannan, Ray
#5: Detwiler, Turnbull, Solis
4-A starter: Milone, Meyers, Rosenbaum
MLB bullpen: Meyer, Peacock, Stammen
Minors starter: Maya, Martis, McGeary, Jordan, Grace
Minors bullpen: Holder, Smoker

Discussion.

#1 Starters: Stephen Strasburg, in my mind, is already an “Ace” starter in this league, ranking up among the 15-20 best arms out there.  When he’s healthy.  In 2010 he posted MLB-best k/9 rates and would have clearly led the league in some sabremetric measures of pitching in his debut season had he qualified.  But health is the big question mark; is he going to become the next Justin Verlander or the next Mark Prior?  Only time will tell.

#2 Starters: Jordan Zimmermann has achieved Robin to Strasburg’s Batman in this rotation, and seems set to be a pretty good rotational guy for the next few years.  AJ Cole pitched well in his first full season, is a big kid who was touching 96 in HS.  He could be a big arm who slides into the rotation as a dominant arm.  Some think his ceiling is even higher than a #2 starter.

#3 Starters: Matt Purke was a 1-1 talent (1st round, 1st overall draft pick) before suffering shoulder bursitis, and the Nats took a gamble on him.  But its a great gamble; he has Ace material, throwing mid 90s from the left hand side with completely dominating stuff.  He was rated BA’s #14 prospect coming out of high school and had a $4M signing bonus deal turned down by MLB.  He allowed the Nats medical staff to do a dye-injection MRI and were satisfied with the results.  His deal could be remembered as a steal of the 2011 draft if he pans out.  However recent scouting reports have listed his stuff as “ordinary,” so a #3 starter seems like a good middle ground for now.  If his arm is really ok, he’ll start to show it next spring (hopefully at high-A) and he’ll rocket up the prospect lists soon enough.

#4 Starters: Perhaps one could argue that John Lannan is a #3 starter but I don’t believe so; I think he’s a solid, underrated #4 starter on a decent rotation.  If you compare Lannan to the #4 starters on a number of teams, he compares favorably, and you’d clearly take Lannan if given the choice.  The problem is; he’s just not flashy.  We’ll never get appropriate trade value for him because his W/L numbers are mediocre and his K/9 rate isn’t that impressive.  I’d guess that he sticks in our rotation until he reaches free agency, at which point its likely that some of our developing power arms will be ready to take over.   Robbie Ray had a fantastic debut season and may even be better than a #4 ceiling; certainly he put up as good of numbers as his 2010 draft classmate AJ Cole, but his stuff doesn’t project as highly.

Here’s where a number of arguments are probably to be had, starting at the #5 ceiling.

#5 Starters: Ross Detwiler really has yet to fully show his full capabilities, but lefties that throw mid 90s don’t grow on trees.  2012 is a make or break year for him with this organization, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him moved in the off-season so that the team doesn’t have to deal with his option status when constructing the rotation next spring.  I put him with slightly better stuff than the 4-A guys below.  I’m still not sold on him as a MLB starter, but saw a lot out of him this season that shows improvement over where he was in the organization in 2010.   2011 draftee Kylin Turnbull was overshadowed by the high-end talents drafted ahead of him, but he’s lefty, throws well and is projectionable.  Thanks to Sean Hogan‘s excellent draft research, some scouting reports are here.  Right now it sounds to me like Turnbull has a bit more power than someone like Milone and perhaps can get more missed bats.  For now i’m listing him as a #5 starter ceiling; if he was a righty he’d probably be in the MLB bullpen category.  Lastly Sammy Solis projects thus far as somewhere between a a #3 range starter, a mid rotation guy who has 3 plus pitches and can be a lefty work horse out of the rotation and a back-of-the bullpen guy with mediocre stuff but good constitution.  He may not have the best stuff, but being lefty and being a solid, Mark Buehrle build could mean he’s a slightly better version of John Lannan for this team.  We’ll see how he does in AA in 2012.

4-A starters: (for those that don’t know what is meant by “4-A or AAAA,” it means someone who is better than a AAA pitcher but not quite good enough to get out major league hitters on a consistent basis).  Tommy Milone had a great September debut and has impeccable control in the minors, but I don’t see him having good enough stuff to consistently get major league hitters out.  Now, I could be wrong and he could have Greg Maddux-esque control, at which point he doesn’t need mid-90s heat.  But from what I saw in his September starts, I don’t think he’s got what it takes to stick in the majors.  Brad Meyers could end up in the same position as Milone; a guy who dominates in the minors but who can’t cut in the majors.  It doesn’t look like he’ll even get a shot at the 2012 rotation with the crowded 40-man roster.  Lastly Denny Rosenbaum seems cut from the same cloth as Milone; a softer-tossing lefty without great K/9 rates in the low minors but who is effective enough at getting guys out.

Bound for the bullpen (but good enough to stick in the majors): 2011 draftee Alex Meyer is going to go one way or the other: he’s either going to be a wild man out of the bullpen or a near #1 starter.  Scouts seem to be pretty split as to which way he’s going to go.  Right now, based on the struggles he had early in his college career, I’m guessing he struggles to maintain his forward momentum and ends up a Cole Kimball-esque hard throwing option out of the pen.  Meanwhile, what to make of Brad Peacock?  I know he just finished off a fantastic minor league season and had two effective September starts (giving up just one run in 12 innings over two starts).  But to me I see a guy with good life and heavy reliance on one pitch (a 4-seam fastball), a good 2nd pitch (change-up) no confidence in his third pitch (loopy curveball) and no fourth pitch.  To me, that says bullpen.  Lastly i’m clumping in Craig Stammen here, who couldn’t really cut it as a full time starter in 2010 and spent the entire 2011 season starting in AAA.  I think he can be an effective guy out of the MLB bullpen if he’s given the shot.  I like Stammen and perhaps this is a bit high of a ceiling for him; i wouldn’t be surprised a bit if he misses out on the 2012 bullpen and slips into minor league free agency frankly.

Minors starter: This list of guys looks like they’re destined to be “organization guys” for this team.  Yuniesky Maya was clearly not the pitcher the team thought he was when he got his 4-year contract; he’s gotten a couple shots at the majors over the past two seasons and has not capitalized.  I think he’s going to be ensconced in the AAA rotation for the near future, unless someone can figure out how to trade him.  He certainly isn’t a better MLB starting option than any of the guys listed above him.  Shairon Martis mostly earned this fate when he successfully passed through waivers and off our 40-man roster.  His worth ethic and conditioning came into question in the organization, and he went from a 22yr old starter in 2009 to a AA starter in 2011.  He had pretty good numbers in AA, but that doesn’t really prove much for a guy who was in a MLB rotation two years prior.  Jack McGeary is finally back from two years of mediocracy and Tommy John surgery, but faces a pretty steep climb back into future rotational pictures.  For now, i’m guessing he struggles to ever make it, topping out as a minor league starter once he hits his free agency period.  For now, i’m also classifying both Taylor Jordan and Matthew Grace as org guys, continuing to rise up as 4th or 5th starters but never really making an impact.

Minors bullpen: Lastly, i’m listing both high-end draft picks of the past few years Trevor Holder and Josh Smoker as topped out as minor league bullpen guys.  Smoker seems like he’s already there, having come back from an arm injury but still only having risen to high-A in his fourth pro season.  He put up good numbers as a loogy/bullpen guy this year, and perhaps his real ceiling is the MLB bullpen, but getting a loogy out of a first round draft pick is still a major disappointment.  Holder was clearly an over-draft in the Strasburg year, getting picked up in the 3rd round when he wasn’t even in some team’s top 10, and has done nothing to earn his draft position.  He posted a 5.77 era in high-A this year, repeating the level and leaving the team clearly in a conundrum as to what to do with him.  I think he is destined for a bullpen role in 2012, perhaps in high-A again, and may be short-lived for the franchise.

Is there someone I’m missing?  Agree, Disagree?  Discuss in the comments section.

Debate: Was Jimmy Rollins’ steal against Baseball’s “Unwritten Rules?”

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Jimmy Rollins steals lots of bases: did he steal one too many vs the Giants friday night? Photo: Thearon Henderson/Getty Images

(editor’s note: this post started with an email conversation amongst friends, where the Phillies fan amongst us didn’t think Rollin’s steal was “bad baseball.”)

The Giants and Phillies mixed it up in Friday 8/5′s game, a 9-2 victory (box/gamer) for Philadelphia that featured some “unwritten rule” discussion over the actions of Jimmy Rollins and subsequently Giant’s reliever Ramon Ramirez.

Here was the situation: the Phillies had just scored 2 runs to extend their lead to 8-2 in the top of the 6th inning.  The Giant’s starter Jonathan Sanchez had been knocked out of the game, and reliever Ramirez gave up a 2-run scoring single to Rollins.  Rollins promptly stole second base, and the next pitch plunked batter Shane Victorino.

Honestly, I believe it was a deserving retaliation by Ramirez and/or the Giants.  Stealing with a lead is a sliding scale; had Rollins done it in the 2nd inning with a 3-run lead it wouldn’t have gone punished, but the 6th is iffy with a 6 run lead.  Essentially, when the game appears to be out of reach, major leaguers have a tendency to just “play out the string” and expect this “conceding behavior” to be matched by the winning team.  Having been on both sides of many blowouts, there’s definitively a list of things you don’t do with a massive lead.  Steals and bunts are definitely out.  Curtailing aggressive play (taking extra bases, take-out slides, etc), swinging at 3-0 pitches and swinging out of your ass trying to hit homers are all examples of no-nos.  Certainly admiring homers and showing up a pitcher is a no-no, at nearly any point in the game (the Weaver incident earlier this week).

My Phillies friend apologist countered that the game was still close enough, that the Giants still had 4 at-bats, and the steal (though borderline) was justified.

Here’s some stats on the Giant’s offense and their capabilities of coming back, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

  • The Giants are 0-8 when giving up 8 or more runs in a game.
  • They’re 12-26 when trailing after the 5th, no matter how many runs they’re down.  And,
  • The largest comeback they’ve had all season in being behind 4 runs.

I’d like to find some stats on how often baseball teams make up X-run leads, but my google skills are failing me.  I’m pretty certain though that the likelihood of making up 6 run deficits is pretty slim.  Tom Boswell has done research that shows that about half of all baseball victories feature more runs scored by the winning team in ONE inning than the loser scores the entire game (his “Big Bang” theory, based on his own research).  Sure enough, the Phillies scored more runs in the 5th inning (four) than the Giants did the entire game (two).

For me, the play was bush league, broke the unwritten rules of showing up your competitors and/or running up the score, and the retaliation was not only deserved but expected.

What do you think?

Written by Todd Boss

August 7th, 2011 at 9:56 am

My 2011 Fantasy Team

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Note; stop reading now if you’re one of those people who hate to hear about fantasy teams or analysis of leagues.  I understand your point; its kinda like hearing someone go on and on about how their ugly baby just did the cutest thing last week.

I’m in a modified 5×5 yahoo league with 9 other fantasy baseball nuts (of all the fantasy sports, baseball tends to have the biggest nerds I think.  Well, perhaps fantasy golf or fantasy nascar).  We’ve modified the typical 5×5 categories to add in a 6th category on both sides.  We put in OPS on the hitter side and Losses on the pitcher side.  We made this change a few years back when one of the players won by churning and burning starting pitchers over and over to stock-pile wins and Ks.

Before going into my draft results and analysis, a few notes on my strategy for picking baseball teams:

  • I like pitching and I like to analyze pitching, so I focus on pitchers.  I like to have the bare minimum of hitters and load up on pitchers.  This strategy can be questioned; the clear winner last year had a bare minimum of pitchers but tons of hitter depth and was tough to beat.
  • I try to focus on NL starters with good K rates.  I try to avoid AL pitchers if I can, and I especially try to avoid AL east pitchers because of the gauntlet of great hitting teams they face.
  • I try to get 5 closers.  This can be tough, especially in a 10-person league with only (theoretically) 30 closers to go around.  However, I try not to overpay for closers.  Two years ago I experimented with a Zero closer system and it did not fare as well as I thought it would.
  • Do not overpay for a Catcher.  I’ve been burned so many times on catchers going down with injuries (in the past three years I’ve dealt with Varitek, Russell Martin and Victor Martinez injuries or inadequacies, going to the waiver wire each time).

Here’s my team’s draft results.  I was picking 2nd in a 10-man league with a typical snake-style draft order.

1. Hanley RamirezPujols goes first; I could have gone with Tulowitzki here but I opted to go with a guy who has been a bit more consistent (and less injury prone) at the #2 spot.
2. Matt Holliday.  By the time I pick again, all the top tier 1B and 3B were gone.  I figured this would happen and had targeted a couple of lower-end 1B and 3B players that I figured I could get later on (see rounds 10 and 14).   I wanted Hamilton here but he went earlier than I thought he would.  I would have loved for Adrian Gonzalez to slip but he did not.
3. Tim Lincecum.  I was either-or for Felix Hernandez or Lincecum here.  In the end I went for Lincecum because of the NL angle and because of how bad Seattle is.  Hernandez went immediately after Lincecum.
4. Richie Weeks.  Coming back at the end of the 4th, I needed to focus one at least one of the “skill” positions that can be tough to fill.  I wanted Uggla but missed him by a few picks.  Weeks is a good all around player; 29 homers with 11 SBs in 2010.  I’ll take that out of the 2nd base position.  Someone took a flier on Chase Utley not knowing just how bad his injury is … it pays to be prepared and up-to-date on injury news.  Weeks himself is an injury risk and was listed as a possible fantasy bust for 2011.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
5. Jason Heyward: I can’t remember if Posey was sitting there available at this point or not, but I like having an up-and-coming power hitter here.
6. Alex Rios: I filled my 3rd OF position with a bit of a sleeper in Rios.  He was #27 fantasy producer in 2010, hitting 21 homers and getting 34 sbs.  My first 5 out-field players all can be described as guys who can hit for power and get SBs.
7. Cole Hamels: I missed out on Cliff Lee but am a bit wary of him this year anyway.  He wasn’t THAT great in the regular season last year.  Meanwhile Hamels had a sneaky solid season with 211 ks in 208 innings.  He took a lot of losses though; lets hope that his move to the #4 starter puts him in line to get many more wins.
8. Mat Latos.  #32 ranked 2010 fantasy performer in the end of the 8th round.  I’ll take that.  Lots of Ks, great ERA and whip and pitching in the massive Petco.  Love this pick.
9. Neftali Feliz: I announced prior to this pick that I didn’t care if he was starting or closing, that I wanted him.  He apparently will be the closer, which i’m kinda bummed about since I think he’d be a great starter … but at the same time he’s probably the 3rd or 4th best closer out there.  I wanted Marmol and his ridiculous K rates but he went very early.  I also wanted Heath Bell right around here but missed him by one pick, with Acheson getting him just before I was to pick him.
10. Paul Konerko.  In the 10th round I sitll didn’t have a first baseman or a third baseman, two positions that are very power-hitter friendly.  As mentioned above, once I missed out on the top guys in the 1st-2nd rounds, I made a calculated gamble targeting two guys I figured would be either overlooked or be later round guys.  Konerko was the first: he was the #12 fantasy hitter last year, blasting 39 homers with 111 rbis.  It was a contract year, which is a bit scary, but he also inherits Adam Dunn as protection for 2011.  I’m hoping he continues to hit at this level despite him being 35 this year.  With him and Dunn switching off between 1B and DH perhaps the rest will do him good.
11. Jonathan Sanchez.  Oddly Yahoo has him ranked 173rd, despite being the 70th best producer last year.  I don’t get it; 13-9, 205 ks in 193 innings, good era and whip.  This may have been a reach by ranking points but I like him.
12. Matt Weiters. At this point there was a slight run on Catchers and I felt I needed to make a move.  I was looking at either Weiters or Geovany Soto.  Honestly before the draft I would have loved to have taken a shot at Carlos Santana but he went very early.  I debated between Soto and Weiters and went with the promising rookie.  Vito, drafting right behond me, was thinking the same thing and immediately snapped up Soto.
13. JJ Putz.  At this point in the draft, I nearly had all my positional players and generally go SP-RP all the way out.  I wanted to get my hands on at least one of the upper-end closers available and went with Putz.  Putz took a setup job in Chicago last year and pitched well enough to earn another closer job.  Arizona isn’t going to get him a ton of closer opportunities but after their debacle last year trying Qualls, Rauch and the kitchen sink in the role, Putz may do well.  Remember, Matt Capps got a ton of saves for a last place team last year too.
14. Pedro Alvarez.  My last positional player.  Most of the good 3rd basement went in the first two rounds.  I didn’t want to mess with guys like Bautista (flash in the pan?), Michael Young (he’s a utility player in a bad professional situation) or Aramis Ramirez (two bad years in a row).  I was targeting Alvarez or Mark Reynolds.  Reynolds hit less than .200 last year after a monster 2009 and is moving to a fantastic hitters park for him, so that was tempting.  But he’s also moving to the toughest division with a lot of upper-end pitching and he may push 250 Ks this year.  Meanwhile, Alvarez is a cool rookie with a lot of upside and he could be fun to follow.
15. Francisco Cordero: my 3rd closer; from here out my goal is to get the best closers available til I get to 5, then get whatever starting pitchers look enticing.  Cordero got 40 saves last year; works for me.
16. Leo Nunez; 20 picks later I get Nunez, who I have ranked right next to Cordero.  More Ks, better whip but fewer saves for Florida.
17. Brandon Lyon: Not a ton of saves last year but he wasn’t the closer til August.  then in 6 weeks he got 15 saves.  I’m hoping this is a steal of a pick and he racks up 35-40 saves this year.
18. Madison Bumgarner; Amazing, i’ve got Bumgarner ranked the exact same as Sanchez, who I got 7 rounds earlier.  I like Bumgarner and think he can be as effective as he was in the playoffs.  Honestly I wanted Hellickson around here but Droopy got him.  Bumgarner fits my profile better; NL starter with good numbers.  Not the best K/9 guy but he’s also a youngster and can get better.
19. Carlos Zambrano; This pick was partly a joke; there is a massive Cubs fan in our league (Erwin) who absolutely would have picked this guy.  But this was also strategic; Zambrano got an incredibly quick hook out of the rotation last year, missed a month but still finished the season 11-6 with 8.1K/9.  He was very effective down the stretch.  I’m hoping he picks right back up where he was before.
20. David Aardsma: Strategy pick; I know he’s going to start the season on the DL, so I will move him to my DL slot and pick up another guy.  As it turned out I did not pick up a utility player, so I’ll get the best hitter available before the season starts.
21. Anibel Sanchez: in the last round, i looked at my starting pitcher depth charts for the NL and selected what I thought was the best targeted starter available.  I was considering the likes of Fausto Carmona, Travis Wood, Dallas Braden or Jorge De La Rosa.  In the end Sanchez had a solid season last year for Florida and could do well.

Here’s the team by position:

  • C: Matt Weiters
  • 1B: Paul Konerko
  • 2B: Rickie Weeks
  • 3B: Pedro Alvarez
  • SS: Hanley Ramirez
  • OF: Matt Holliday, Jason Heyward, Alex Rios
  • SP: Lincecum, Hamels, Latos, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Zambrano, Sanchez
  • Closers: Felix, Putz, Cordero, Nunez, Lyon and Aardsma

Based on last year’s averages/week, my hitters are probably going to be

  • a bit below average for Runs scored (30.8 versus 27.6)
  • a bit above averages for Homers (7.92 versus 7.0)
  • right around average for RBIs (29.1 versus 28.1)
  • right around average for SBs (4.8 versus 4.2)
  • above average for BA (.202 versus .273)
  • above average for OPS (.838 vs .790)

Based on last year’s averages/week, my pitchers are probably going to be

  • Above average for Wins (5.00 vs 3.65)
  • Below average for Losses (4 vs 2.9)
  • Above average for Saves (4.56 vs 3.88)
  • Well Above average for Ks (69.4 vs 48.2)
  • Above average for ERA (3.20 vs 3.553)
  • Right around average for WHIP (1.24 vs 1.25)

I see 6 categories where i’m above average, 3 where i’m about average, two a bit below average and one where i’m well below average.  That could average out to a lot of 7-5 or 8-4 weeks.  Far enough.

Draft Analysis Conclusions: it is fair to say i’m weaker on the hitting side.  That tends to happen when drafting very early and missing out on the 1B and 3B rush.  I much more like drafting 4-5-6th spots so you can get top-tier guys in both positions.  I will have to be diligent on the waiver wire looking for hitters.  There are a couple of non-drafted guys that I like who may fit in at 1B if Konerko falters badly.

I’m also depending a lot on 2-3 non-sexy names (Weeks, Rios, Konerko) and several high profile rookies (Weiters, Heyward, Alvarez, Bumgarner).  This could really backfire if these guys don’t produce.  I’m most worried about Alvarez, who put up decent numbers in half a season last year but it may be a stretch to assume he’s already a 30-homer guy. I’m also worried about Weeks’ health and ability to stay on the field.  He may end up sitting in my DL spot for a while. I may focus on finding a speedster/leadoff/high SB/high Runs guy for my utility player.

I really like my slew of starters.  All of them have good K/9, era and whip values.  Lots of losses though; i’m hoping for a bounceback season for Lincecum and better w/l records from the likes of Hamels and Sanchez.

I’ve got a lot of closer depth, including the Aardsma pickup.  There’s a few other possible closers to be had as well; Lidge is down with an injury, Washington’s situation is certainly fluid, Tampa’s closer really hasn’t been identified, Atlanta may flip flop Venters and Kimbrell, and nobody at all knows who is going to close in Toronto.  So there’s more waiver wire work to be done.

1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Matt Holliday
3. Tim Lincecum
4. Richie Weeks
5. Jason Heyward
6. Alex Rios
7. Cole Hamels
8. Matt Latos
9. Neftali Feliz
10. Paul Konerko
11. Jonathan Sanchez
12. Matt Weiters
13. JJ Putz
14. Pedro Alvarez
15. Francisco Cordero
16. Leo Nunez
17. Brandon Lyon
18. Madison Bumgarner
19. Carlos Zambrano
20. David Aardsma
21. Anibal Sanchez

WS Pitcher Review and Lee’s horrendous Decision in Game 5

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Edgar Renteria buried the Rangers in Game 5. Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.

(this is a follow-up to a previous posting about the Giant’s World Series victory).

Despite the supposed massive superiority of the American League and its juggernaut payroll teams, a team from the National League (one that barely made the playoffs no less) was crowned WS champion after a rather tidy 4-1 series victory.  The Giants are certainly not a low-payroll team; they started the season with the league’s 9th highest payroll, finished the regular season with the 5th best record and advanced through the playoffs with relative ease (they were 11-4 in the playoffs altogether, losing 2 Sanchez starts, a Lincecum and a Cain start (despite Cain continuing a 22 inning post season no earned-run streak).

Not that it mattered in the end, but game 5 certainly turned on a questionable pitching strategy decision just before the decisive 3-run homer in the 7th.  Cody Ross led off with a single (continuing his amazing post season and certainly buying him FA dollars in the off season).  Cliff Lee made an 0-2 mistake to Uribe who smacked a single into center.  After a fantastic career-first sacrifice/drag bunt by Aubrey Huff, Cliff Lee had runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out.  Lee battled Burrell to 3-2 before striking him out on an outside cutter.  This seemed at the time to be the game-changing strikeout that Lee needed but he quickly fell behind the next batter Edgar Renteria 2-0, missing badly with two curveballs.  Announcer Tim McCarver, often villified as being the master of the obvious, stated very clearly that the right decision upon falling behind 2-0 would be to walk Renteria, load the bases with 2 outs and start afresh with the on-deck hitter Aaron Rowand (a sub in the series and not nearly the threat of Renteria).  Before McCarver could finish his thought, Lee grooved a 2-0 fastball, belt high, down the middle of the plate and the aging, soon-to-be-retired Renteria didn’t miss.  He crushed a 3-run homer and the game was essentially over.  Lincecum pitched 8 complete (giving up a meaningless homer to Nelson Cruz) before oddball closer Brian Wilson blew through the heart of the Rangers lineup (Hamilton, Guerrero and Cruz again) to get the save and finish out the series.

Why does Lee not walk Renteria there?  Why does the pitching coach see the obvious situation, run out to the mound and say, “hey, lets just throw two fastballs a foot outside and start over on Rowand?”  This is the reason MLB teams have bench coaches; to help the manager manage the game.  It was the latest in a series of curious pitching moves (or non-moves) from the Rangers coaching staff.  In reality Lee is a competitor and probably thinks he can get anyone out, at any time, let alone an over-the-hill bounce-around-the league veteran like Renteria.  But, no matter what the quality of the hitter mistakes in Major League Baseball quickly turn into gopher balls.

Overview of all 15 games the Giants played this offseason:

Series/Game # Giants SP Opponent SP Game Result WP LP
NLDS-1 Lincecum Lowe Giants W 1-0 Lincecum Lowe
NLDS-2 Cain Hansen Braves W 5-4 Farnsworth Ramirez
NLDS-3 Sanchez Hudson Giants W 3-2 Romo Kimbrel
NLDS-4 Bumgarner Lowe Giants W 3-2 Bumgarner Lowe
NLCS-1 Lincecum Halladay Giants W 4-3 Lincecum Halladay
NLCS-2 Sanchez Oswalt Phillies 6-1 Oswalt Sanchez
NLCS-3 Cain Hamels Giants W 3-0 Cain Hamels
NLCS-4 Bumgarner Blanton Giants W 6-5 Wilson Oswalt
NLCS-5 Lincecum Halladay Phillies 4-2 Halladay Lincecum
NLCS-6 Sanchez Oswalt Giants W 3-2 Lopez Madson
WS-1 Lincecum Lee Giants W 11-7 Lincecum Lee
WS-2 Cain Wilson Giants W 9-0 Cain Wilson
WS-3 Sanchez Lewis Rangers W 4-2 Lewis Sanchez
WS-4 Bumgarner Hunter Giants W 4-0 Bumgarner Hunter
WS-5 Lincecum Lee Giants W 3-1 Lincecum Lee

SF Starting Pitching Stats in the playoffs (all three series combined)

Pitcher Starts w/l Team w/L ip k/bb era whip
Lincecum 5 4-1 4-1 37 43/9 2.43 0.92
Cain 3 2-0 2-1 21.33 13/7 0 0.94
Sanchez 4 0-1 2-2 20 22/9 4.05 1.25
Bumgarner 3 2-0 3-0 20.66 18/5 2.12 1.11

The cliche for post season baseball has always been, “good pitching beats good hitting” and we certainly saw this in the 2010 post season.  The Giants featured 2 clear “Aces” in Lincecum and Cain, while witnessing a 21-yr old rookie Madison Bumgarner dominate on the sport’s biggest stage.  Only #3 starter Sanchez struggled in this post season (if you can call a 4.05 era against the best teams in baseball truly “struggling”).   The world series featured the league’s best hitting team in Texas, but they were shut down by the Giant’s pitching staff, hitting .190 for the series.

Ironically; what the Giants just finished doing to the Rangers is what most of the baseball world thought the Phillies and their vaunted rotation would be doing.  Yes; the AL has the Red Sox and Yankees and Rays (by most opinions 3 of the best 5 teams in baseball) but the NL has the rotational depth to shutdown $150M rosters.  If the Yankees want to compete next year, look no further than replacing Vazquez with Cliff Lee, turning the ineffective Burnett into a 5th starter (ala what SF did with Barry Zito) and finding themselves a solid #1a Ace behind Sabathia.

How does this tie back to the Nats?  The answer is clear; if you can put together a top notch starting rotation, you can go incredibly far.  Imagine in 2012 this rotation: a healthy Strasburg, a strong and improving Jordan Zimmerman, an impressive young starter in Sammy Solis, a top notch free agent acquisition along the likes of Greinke or a healthy Brandon Webb, and a take your pick from our stable of #5 starters like Lannan, Detwiler or Maya.  These guys can end losing streaks, keep your team in games, throw up quality starts 80% of the time, and turn a league average offense into a post season team.

That’s the “plan” anyway.

Interesting thoughts about the Giant’s roster construction…

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As I watch the NLCS and its surprising results so far (Cody Ross with a Reggie Jackson-esque performance thus far, Roy Halladay getting beat, etc), you can’t help but notice some interesting items about the Giants roster and its makeup.

1. The Giants THREE highest paid players (Zito, Rowand, Guillen) are not even on the post season roster, and their 4th highest paid player (Renteria) is not the starter at short.

2. The position players that the Giants are depending on are all either developed internally (Posey, Sandoval) are retread/journeyman free agents on one-year deals (Torres, Uribe, Huff, Fontenot) or total reclamation projects (Burrell who was DFA’d earlier this season and Ross who they got on waivers).

3. Almost their entire pitching staff is home grown. Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner plus setup/closer
combo of Romo and Wilson are all original SF draft picks. Only #5 Starter Zito is an (infamous) FA acquisition.

Here’s a quick table of Giants “primary starters” player acquisition methods:

SF (postseason 2010) acquisition method
Buster Posey Draft
Aubrey Huff FA
Freddy Sanchez Trade Prospects
Pablo Sandoval FA (intl)
Juan Uribe FA
Pat Burrell FA (dfa’d)
Andres Torres FA
Cody Ross Waivers
Tim Lincecum Draft
Matt Cain Draft
Jonathan Sanchez Draft
Madison Bumgarner Draft
Barry Zito FA
Sergio Romo Draft
Brian Wilson Draft
Drafted/Developed 8
Traded Prospects 1
Traded MLBs 0
FA/Waivers 5

By way of comparison, the Nationals opening day roster featured only FOUR such home grown players (Zimmerman, Desmond, Lannan and Stammen).

The Giants list their 2010 payroll at $96M, of which $42M is allocated to those 3 guys not even rostered.  Imagine what this team would look like if that $42M was properly allocated.

I think what this shows is that, with enough development time and effort put into your pitching staff you can get to the playoffs even with near replacement players in most of your fielding positions. Hope for the Nats, since this seems to be the direction Rizzo is going with his 2009 and 2010 pitcher heavy drafts. 8 of the first 11 picks in 2009 were arms, and while only 4 of 2010′s top 10 picks were arms there was significant funds paid to Solis, Cole and Ray.

Can the Nats turn these two drafts (plus other prospects) into a Giants-esque rotation? Strasburg, Zimmermann, Solis, and Cole all project to be #1 or #2 starter quality per scouting reports. Those four, plus live arms in the pen like Storen, Holder and Morris could be our future. 3-4 years out future, but still promising.

Or am I too rosy glasses colored?

Who has the best Playoff Rotation?

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In a short series (if you went to a 3-man rotation in the playoffs, as lots of teams do), who scares you the most?

Candidates:

  • Philadelphia: Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt
  • Boston: Lester, Beckett, Buchholz.  tough.  If they were all performing that is.  Beckett seems off this year.
  • NY Yankees: Sabathia, Burnett and Hughes; this was supposed to be Vazquez but once again the best rotation that money can buy, didn’t.
  • St Louis: Carpenter, Wainwright and Garcia.  Wow.
  • San Francisco: Lincecum, Cain and Zito/Sanchez/Bumgarner; again, that’s tough.
  • Tampa Bay: Price, Garza, Shields (with Sonnanstine/Hellickson thrown in there).  Scary tough, which is why they’re beating out the Red Sox right now.

For my money, it has to be Philly slightly followed by St. Louis.  How is that team gonna get beat this off season?  Of course, they have to MAKE the playoffs for it to matter.  Ironic that the 3 best rotations in the AL are all in the east.  Chicago’s is decent but more veteran laden.  Texas’ starts with Lee and ends with a guy who was playing in Japan this time last year (Colby Lewis).  I don’t think Minnesota’s guys are scaring anyone.  How scary is it that Toronto has two guys with one-hitters this year (Marcum, Morrow) but is buried in FOURTH place in the AL east.  That’s a tough division.