Things Read in Others Moms' Basements - Around the NL East's Pitching Rotations

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Going into the playoffs, everyone knew that the Giants had really good pitching, but after the game 1s had all cleared the dust, nobody else really existed except Roy Halladay's no-hitter.  And then Cliff Lee transformed into the playoff monster that we've all grown to discover.  And then C.C. Sabathia rescued the Yankees from complete decimation.  And then H2O was going to take over the rest of the playoffs.  But steadily and without much fanfare, the Giants' rotation has kept marching on, and first it was Lowe, than H2O, and now the infallible Cliff Lee has taken his first loss of the post season against the Giants, and I've got no problem with it.  From a sports tournament standpoint, if my team is going to lose, may as well have lost to the very best.

And since it's pitching that wins championships, the theme of the week is starting pitching.  I'm taking a look at what our division rivals may or may not be doing come 2011. The following rotations and depth plans are under the assumption that regardless of speculation and unlikely chance, that NO free agent acquisitions are made, and only the most no-brainer and highly likely arbitration re-signings are picked up.

Welcome back to another week of Things Read in Other Moms' Basements.

NATIONALS

Sorry, there will be no Stephen Strasburg next year, bet on that.  Considering the timing of his injury, and trip to Dr. James Andrews, even at earliest, he wouldn’t be able to make any rehab starts, because the minor league season would be over by then.  And consider the coddling that will be the case, look no sooner than 2012 to see Strasburg again.

Jordan Zimmermann, RHP (24) – despite a less-than stellar return to the majors in 2010 after Tommy John surgery, I’m expecting the young former top-pitching prospect for the Nationals to return closer to his 2009 pre-TJS form, than what most saw all through September 2010.  Personally, considering his entire diagnosis/TJS/rehab took all of 12-13 months, I far from believe he was close to 100% in his return.  He’s a strikeout pitcher with a big fastball, as well as a curveball and slider in his arsenal.  Prior to TJS, he was a starter generating a very good 9.07 K/9, and when healthy, I’d fear that he’d be capable of doing such again.  Career-wise, he’s 2-0 against the Braves, and holding batters to a .231 average.

John Lannan, LHP (25) – Don’t be fooled by his unimpressive 8-8 record from 2010.  He started the year going 2-5, with an ERA of 5.76, and was ultimately demoted through all of July, but after he returned on August 1st, Lannan went 6-3 with an ERA of 3.42.  He is definitely classifiable as a "crafty" pitcher; he doesn’t overpower, he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, but he keeps the ball low, and generates outs.  Some don’t put a lot of stock into it, but regardless of how the Nationals themselves play, Lannan is often among the leaders in quality starts.

Livan Hernandez , RHP (36) – the Ageless Wonder had a great 2010 season which justified the Nationals to bring him back for 2011 at a reasonable $1M.  After discovering racquetball, Livan had his best season in three years, making 33 starts, tossing 211.2 innings, and with a respectable ERA of 3.66.  Mr. Slow, Slower, and Slowest is also a crafty pitcher, since he throws with no power, and a gigantic curveball to eat innings with.  Typically, the Braves have handled Livan very well, but he frustratingly went 2-1 vs. Atlanta in 2010, where he allowed more hits and walks to the Braves than he did to anyone else, but still won.

Jason Marquis, RHP (32) – Former Brave, Mr. Annual Playoffs found his streak of five straight playoffs broken last year, in a very forgettable 2010 campaign, which saw horrible stats, and absence for most of it with bone chips in the elbow, limiting him to only 13 starts.  Honestly, think Kenshin Kawakami – horrendous 2010 year, plagued by bad BABIP (.333), and owed $7M for 2011.  Money is the reason why I expect him to start, but if he can get healthy again, he’s an adequate option to make 30 starts and pitch close to 190 innings a season.

If the Nationals choose to spend precisely what they did in 2010, then at the time of me writing this, then the Nationals have roughly $36M to spend on free agents.  Aside from the likelihood of targeting Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, the Nationals are widely believed to be targeting the crown jewel, Cliff Lee.  This is not the least bit of a long shot, since Lee has pretty much indicated that he’d play for the Newark Bears (indy), Doosan Bears (Korea), or Bad News Bears (fiction), as long as they were willing to pay the most.  The Nationals have a good chunk of change to spend on Lee, and as long as they’re willing to outbid the Yankees, they have as good of chance as anyone to acquire him.  Also lurking in the mires of free agency will be our old friend, Javier Vazquez, who absolutely obliterated his value in New York in 2010.  He will likely be a very affordable option, and some might cite his time in Atlanta as justification to why he belongs in the National League, and in the east, especially.

But if they can’t buy Lee, Vazquez, or opt to not spend, then look for a rotation spot to be occupied by Yunesky Maya, RHP (28), the Cuban defector who is actually on the books for $2M a year for the next three years.  His debut stretch with the Nationals was not impressive; in 26 innings over five starts, he was very hittable, at .294/.371/.461, with mediocre 4.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9. He allows a ton of contact, which is not good for a guy who has a .307 BABIP.  But he’s on the books, and could be assumed that with the debut out of the way, he can settle down into something serviceable.

Contingency plans:  In order, I would have to theorize that it would be: Ross Detweiler, LHP (25), Craig Stammen, RHP (26), and Matt Chico, LHP (27), who would be given first knocks at any starts, if any vacancies in the rotation arise.

Prospect Watch:  In the event of any aberrational meltdowns, or complete organizational changes in philosophy that would require dipping into the prospect well, here are a few names to keep your eyes peeled for.  Tom Milone, LHP (24), the Nationals MiLB Pitcher of the Year, who spent all of 2010 in AA-Harrisburg, where he went 12-5, 2.85 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 6.7, and a 8.83 K/9.  Further along is Brad Peacock, RHP (23) who ended the year in AA, and is currently terrorizing the AFL with 12K, a lone BB, in only 6.0 IP, while holding batters to a .190 average.

 

METS

Johan Santana, LHP (31) – Remember the days when Johan Santana was called the best pitcher in baseball?  Yeah, Minnesota was on to something, when they shipped him off, and/or the Mets could possibly have the worst medical staff on the face of the planet.  The biggest question is health, and with season-ending shoulder surgery in 2010, nobody knows what to really expect out of Santana come 2011.

Mike Pelfrey, RHP (26) – Big Pelf will be entering his first year of arbitration, and regardless of the season he had in 2010 which should get him paid, I have to imagine that even the Mets wouldn’t be so silly as to let him walk.  I wouldn’t be surprised if his arb years are bought out this off-season.  The big righty had a great 2010, going 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA, and logging 204 innings, and was the only bastion of consistency throughout the entire season.

Jonathon Niese, LHP (23) – the young lefty had a fairly successful 2010 season, whom despite the unimpressive 9-10 record still threw two complete games, and ultimately led the Mets in strikeouts (148).  Despite the fact that the Braves have handled him well, driving up his pitch counts and preventing him from completing six innings in all three 2010 meetings, beating him twice, personally, no Met pitcher was more frustrating to watch, as he nibbled the outside corner with his curveball all day long.

Why shouldn’t the Mets go after Cliff Lee?  They’re the Mets, they have money, and what better way would a new regime try to make a splash than to get a pitcher the caliber of Cliff Lee?  They’re currently allocated with $109M right now, but if it means getting a guy like Lee, wouldn’t it be worth doing what they’ve typically done for years, and overspend?  I wouldn’t be surprised at the Mets possibly going after Bronson Arroyo, considering how often the Mets were linked with the Reds for potential trades for Arroyo over the last two years.  But one of the biggest question marks for the Mets is what they do about R.A. Dickey, who single-handedly rescued the Mets from total oblivion in 2010.  Considering he was on a minor-league deal through 2010, it’s safe to say that he’s definitely going to command a little more coin than the minimum in 2011 – do the Mets reward him and bring him back, or do they look elsewhere?

Expect the Mets to really heavily pursue two, maybe three starting pitchers this off-season, because the other options are pretty limited, or require to possibly, prematurely call up some of the kids on the farm.

Oliver Perez, LHP (28) – When you’re done laughing, remember that he is technically under contract ($12M more to go), which is something that any names you see below his, aren’t.  Okay, when you’re done laughing at that one, think that regardless of the price tag, to not actually expect him to pitch for the Mets.  It doesn’t matter how ITBSOHL he gets, it doesn’t really change the fact that he’s still Oliver Perez.

John Maine, RHP (29) – Gigantic question mark.  2010 season ended prematurely due to shoulder troubles, to which he received arthroscopic surgery on, and is expected to be back in time for 2011.  Also, keep in mind that he was dishonest about his health, and continued to pitch, and pitch poorly before being deactivated.  Entering his third arb year, he might not even be kept.

Dillon Gee, RHP (24) – If the Mets get no new pitchers, than Gee stands a good chance at making the rotation.  He was called up from AAA-Buffalo and started five games for the Mets, pitching at least 6.0 IP in all five, along with them all being quality starts.  That kind of consistent production throughout an entire season is precisely what the Mets direly need.

Pat Misch, LHP (28) – Realistically, I think Pat Misch gets a rotation spot in the unlikely scenario that the Mets acquire no new pitchers.  Like many of the callups, Misch was used as a starter and reliever, and although he wasn’t impressive as a starter, he could feasibly start.  And considering it takes five to make a rotation, by default, Misch could be a starter.  Sad.

Jenrry Mejia, RHP (21) – It’s a longshot, but I have to err on the side that the Mets will feasibly foolishly consider Mejia for a starter’s role at the young age of 21.  Personally, I thought he was handled abysmally throughout 2010, being a starter, reliever, hurting himself, and then going all the way back down to AA, and then hurting himself again.  He’s got a huge fastball and supposedly good stuff, but the biggest question is if the Mets will simply screw him up.

Prospect Watch:  Honestly, there’s so little in the Mets’ system that really catches my attention.  The only two players that have caught my attention is Josh Stinson, RHP (22), who had a good year in AA, finishing out the year strong, in AAA, with a final line of 11-5, 3.90 ERA in a 138.1 innings, limiting hitters to a .250 average.  Last seen in A+ is Jeurys Familia, RHP (21), whom despite the scary 6-9, 5.58 ERA numbers, struck out 137 batters in 121 innings, good for a 10.2 K/9.  His drawback however, is the 5.5 BB/9 rate, but if he could get the walks in check, could be frightening.

 

MARLINS

Josh Johnson, RHP (26) – Before being deactivated early due to back pain, Josh Johnson enjoyed probably his finest season in 2010.  Throw the 11-6 record out the window, Johnson enjoyed career highs in ERA (2.30, NL #1) and ERA+ (183, NL #1), H/9 (7.6), HR/9 (0.3, NL #1), BB/9 (2.4), and K/9 (9.1).  Honestly, I know Roy Halladay is in the division, but no pitcher makes me feel more helpless as Josh Johnson does.  In three appearances vs. Atlanta in 2010, Johnson struck out 28 batters for an average of 9.3 Braves Ks a game.  He is the only member signed to a long-term deal, set to make $7.75M in 2011.

Ricky Nolasco, RHP (27) – He finished out the season on the 60-day DL, needing surgery on his right knee, so I have assume that he’ll be ready come Spring Training.  Prior to being shelved, Nolasco quietly had another solid season, which saw a 14-9 record in 157.2 innings pitched.  The 4.51 ERA raises a little question, but his numbers are slightly skewed for his poor August in which the knee troubles arose and effected his numbers.  But prior to then, he had a torrid June/July which saw him pitch 7 of 11 starts with at least 7.0 IP.  But otherwise, he was good for an average of six innings a game, while striking out 8.4 K/9.  Financially, he is an arb-3, but with little mention of him being a burden, it’s safe to imagine that he’ll be re-signed.

Anibal Sanchez, RHP (26) – The guy known for being injury prone ended up being the most reliable starter throughout 2010 for the Marlins.  Posting a 13-12 record, Sanchez led the team in starts made (32) and innings pitched (195), and had a pretty fine year in his own right, posting career highs in strikeouts (157), HR/9 (0.5), BB/9 (3.2), and BB/K (2.24).  One thing to keep in mind though however, is that 195 innings is more than 2007, 2008, and 2009 combined.  For someone with as much arm troubles as Sanchez has had, the workload could feasibly eventually catch up to him.  Sanchez is an arb-2, and will likely be rewarded with another year.

Chris Volstad, RHP (23) – The young righty had a pretty decent year in 2010, for a team that needed consistent production.  He delivered 175 innings in 30 starts, and practically flipped his record around from the previous year, going 12-9 from 9-13.  He does not strike out a lot, and his ERA is a little high at 4.58, but he slightly improved his walk rate 3.3, and drastically kept the ball in the yard better (0.9 down from 1.6 HR/9).

Alex Sanabia, RHP (21) – The even younger righty breezed through AA, and two AAA starts before being called up to the big leagues on June 24th.  Between him, Volstad, and Miller, I think Sanabia has the potential to be the better of the three, solely on the fact that he simply does not walk batters.  He had a 1.74 BB/9 in the minors, and an even 2.0 BB/9 in the majors throughout 2010.  The transition was a little bumpy but not too damaging, and after he settled in around mid July, he settled in very well.  Overall, he went 5-3 with an ERA of 3.73 in 72.1 innings pitched.  He had a very good 1.244 WHIP, and despite not being much of a strikeout guy, the sheer lack of walks helps him get to a neat 2.94 K/BB ratio.

Notice a trend?  Despite the fact that the Marlins look like they’ve got a pretty solid rotation, injuries always come into play for the Fish.  I’d expect for the Marlins to bottom feed late in the off-season to attempt to sign some low-end starters to minor league deals, to bolster depth, and possibly push Sanabia and/or Volstad to the minors for more seasoning.

Contingency plans:

Andrew Miller, LHP (25) – The gigantic 6’7 lefty will probably start 2011 in AAA, considering he went from AA to the majors last year, not to a whole lot of success.  In 32.2 innings of Major League time, he was blasted to the tune of .372/.470/.584 with a horrendous BABIP of .429.  At his age, he’s running out of "he’s still young" cushion, and 2011 will likely be a make or break year for Miller.

Sean West, LHP (24) – he actually has 112.2 innings of major league service already logged, but is more kind of like organizational filler at this point.  He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, and his platoon splits are probably going to lead him to relief pitcher, but I’m curious at the 2 complete games he logged in ’10, with one of them being a shutout, so he might be able to handle righties better than I’m suspecting.

Prospect Watch:  The Marlins aren’t barren in the minors, at least in some pitching depth as I was led to believe a few weeks ago.  And given the Marlins propensity to dip into the farm for arms as opposed to free agency and trades, the following names caught my eye as candidates to possibly get a sip of coffee in 2011.  Elih Villanueva, RHP (24), the Marlins MiLB’er of the year, went 14-4, with a 2.26 ERA in 179.0 innings pitched, for AA-Jacksonville.  He held hitters to a paltry .212 average, and also pitched four complete games, three of which being shutouts.  Tom Koehler, RHP (24), also pitching in AA, went 16-2 with a 2.61 ERA, in 158.2 innings.  He’s more of a strikeout pitcher than Villanueva is, but the two of them will likely make it to AAA by next season, if not making a major league appearance.  Further down is Brad Hand, LHP (20), whom despite the age, finished out 2010 in AA.  In 146.2 innings, he struck out 138 batters, and generated a fairly efficient amount of groundballs en route to a cumulative 3.31 ERA.

 

PHILLIES

Roy Halladay, RHP (33) – Pretty sure Doc’s a lock for the NL’s Cy Young for 2010.  He led the National League in wins (21), innings pitched (250.2), complete games (9), shutouts (4), as well as BB/9 (1.1) and K/BB (7.30).  And put a Perfect Game on top of all that, too.  He delivered everything as advertised, if not more, and the Phillies have him until he’s 36 (at $20M a year).  Hard to question the assessment that he is, currently the best pitcher in baseball.

Roy Oswalt, RHP (32) – Acquired right before the trade deadline, the former ace of the Houston Astros is now just another member of the talented, expensive Phillies rotation.  But it’s hard to say that he didn’t earn his money once arriving in Philly, because he had himself a dominant campaign, even in abbreviated time.  Playing for a winner seemed to have invigorated him, as he went 7-1, with an excellent ERA of 1.74, with a microscopic 0.895 WHIP.  He is signed through 2011, with an option year available in 2012.

Cole Hamels, LHP (26) – It’s funny to think that back in 2008, when the Phillies actually won the World Series, it was Cole Hamels that was the de facto ace of the squad, and with each additional ace that has come and gone, the Phillies have gone from losing the next World Series, and subsequently falling in the NLCS a year after.  Regardless, Cole’s 2010 contributions may look pedestrian compared to his rotation mates, but are absolutely no less impressive to those who actually read them.  The 12-11 record doesn’t impress much, but the 208.2 innings, 211 strikeouts, 1.179 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 are all still very dominant. 19 of his 33 starts he went at least 7.0 innings, and seven of those he went at 8.0 innings.  He will be on the final year of a $20.5M deal where he’ll be making $9.5M prior to his last arbitration eligible year.

Joe Blanton, RHP (29) – Lost in the hullabaloo of the H2O phenomenon is anyone else in the Phillies rotation.  Joe Blanton is a perfectly serviceable 4th starter who in his 28 starts, the Phillies went 17-11, en route to a 9-6 record.  He’s always been hittable, but he was especially hittable in 2010, allowing .294 average, and an unlucky .331 BABIP.  Oddly enough, right-handed batters hit him far better than lefties (.314 vs .266).  He was worth 1.9 WAR, which was good for $7.5M in contributions for someone making $3M.  But average out his 3/$24M contract, and so far he’s close to contributing what he’ll be getting paid through 2012.  Basically, what I’m saying is that if Blanton puts 2010 behind him and gets back to his regular numbers, the obscure 4th starter can be easily worth it.

Kyle Kendrick, RHP (25) – During ST, it was almost cute how Kyle Kendrick did everything he could to get some of Roy Halladay’s mojo to rub off on him, from copying his workout routines, all the way to the way he wore his facial hair.  But then reality hit, and the skill difference revealed itself throughout the regular season.  Regardless, Kendrick had an adequate year for a 5th starter, starting 31 games and eating 180.2 innings.  The Phillies managed to stay afloat in his starts with a 17-16 record, and supposedly Kendrick pitched himself into trouble with pitching coach, Rich Dubee with some poor game decisions.  Regardless, he’s young, durable, and cost-controlled, and there’s little reason that he shouldn’t resume his spot as the Phillies fifth starter in 2011.

With close to $55M dedicated to starting pitching in 2011, it’s almost a safe bet that the Phillies won’t really make any splashes on the free agent market, for another starter, unless the outlandish rumors that a sign-and-trade will happen in order for them to somehow magically get Cliff Lee again, but I really wouldn’t count on the Phillies getting anything more than a low-end to a minor league deal.  So for depth, the Phillies will likely turn to the minors for contingency plans.

Vance Worley, RHP (23) – in the midst of injuries, Worley made his MLB debut last year straight out of AA-Reading, and likely be the first guy out of the minors in the event of any injuries or Kyle Kendrick collapses.  He started two games, and pitched well in both of them, despite an 0-1 record in them, but the latter being a 5.0 innings of one-hit shutout ball against the Braves in October, when the Braves desperately needed a win.

Brian Mazone, LHP (34) – the aged lefty is seemingly organizational filler, and I’d say screams AAAA, but in actuality, has never been up to the major league level.  At his age, he’s clearly been passed up many times, but who knows, maybe 2011 is the right year, if the stars align.

Drew Carpenter, RHP (25) – another guy on the cusp of being a AAAA player, he has seen MLB action in the last three seasons in very brief cameos, but based on his numbers, he doesn’t really seem like someone with much of a future as an MLB starting pitcher, but in the event of an emergency, could get lucky to get a call up.

Down on the Farm:

Austin Hyatt, RHP (24) – Marietta, Georgia’s own Austin Hyatt, Phillie prospect by route of Alabama is someone to keep an eye out on.  In 2010, he chewed up A+ ball, striking out 156 batters in only 124.1 innings (11.31 K/9), and was promoted to AA, where he continued his thing, fanning 25 batters in 22 innings (10.22 K/9).  The strikeout machine went a cumulative 12-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, while easily maintaining a double digit K/9 throughout the year.  The obvious knock on him is his love of the strikeout, and how it has gotten him in a little trouble, as evidenced by his 4.91 ERA in AA, where he’ll likely be starting in 2011.

Drew Naylor, RHP (24) – a big Australian pitcher, he went 12-10 for AA-Reading, while showing a healthy appetite for innings, chewing up 167 innings of work, with three complete games, two of the shutout variety.  He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, but has clearly shown ability to generate outs.

Jesus Sanchez, RHP (23) – his numbers aren’t exactly astounding by any means, but they’re still efficient.  Going 9-7 with a good 2.99 ERA in 22 starts, while chewing up 129.1 innings, while holding batters to a cumulative .230 average in A+ ball is headed in the right direction.

Phillippe Aumont, RHP (21) – I’ll never forget seeing this guy for the first time in 2009, at the World Baseball Classic, in Toronto, when the USA played against Canada.  At 19 years old, he gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases, and then sat down three straight MLB all-stars, and the Canadian crowd went bonkers.  Anyway, he was clearly the centerpiece of the deal that shipped Cliff Lee off to the Mariners, but apparently expectations were a little too high for the gigantic power righty.  Starting in AA, he was demoted back down to A+ to regain his bearings.  After the move, he found his strikeouts again, and finished out the season with a nice 9.6 K/9.  I expect him to be back up with AA by the end of 2011, if he’s not starting back there again.

 

And as always, during these hypothetical division-wide rosterbation posts, if any fans from our opposing teams disagree, or want to shed some better light on their respective clubs' depth charts, by all means, are welcome to do so.

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