Baseball On My Brain


Time to catch up on some things
January 24, 2008, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m behind in my writing — which I feel bad about. I started this blog with the goal of posting daily — and an aspiration to post multiple times daily. I haven’t been good about it so far, but I’m back on the saddle with some things that have been sitting in my “to process” list.

David Pinto of Sporting News wrote an article examining the impact of bottom-of-the-rotation starters. (You may also know of David if you’ve been to BaseballMusings.com.

The fourth and fifth starters fall into a weird realm — they tend to be filled either by overpaid free agents who happen to crop up in a week off-season, or young guys fighting for time who have shown promise in the minor leagues and spring training. We’ve seen the Mariners give Carlos Silva some pretty serious money for a guy who has been discussed as someone who wouldn’t pitch in the playoffs, and we’ve also seen Kyle Lohse have to change his requests for dollars and contract length. You’ve also got Bartolo Colon still hunting for a gig, and most teams kicking his wheels are reported to be middle of the pack.

So how do you fill those bottom of the rotation spots, and how much do you pay to do so? That’s the question many teams are struggling with this off-season. But as Pinto illustrates, it not so much who you put in the 5-spot, it’s how little you’re able to use them.

I’m inclined to agree with Pinto’s analysis — the returns on a 5th starter aren’t terribly great across the board…so how do you deal with them?

A) Get more out of your other starters by having the minimize pitch counts, thus saving the bullpen for these games when they’re more likely to be needed.

B) Keep your other starters as healthy as possible.

C) Surround your weak pitchers with the best offense you can find and hope you put up a truck load of runs.

Pinto doesn’t address the run-support issue, which I think could add another dimension to this argument. Which clubs gave their back-end starters the best chance of winning by putting up the most runs? Assuming the league average ERA for the number 5 guy is around 6.00 as Pinto shows it was in 2007, which teams got close to putting up 6+ runs to help their own cause? Surely the runs are out there to be had —

The one team that stands out is the Mariners — with a league worst (and God-awful) 8.03 ERA from their 5th starters, they still managed to win 40% of the games, good for 7th overall. That’s what you call stepping up when the stuff gets thick.

So as your team struggles to fill out their rotation, keep in mind that there are a lot of factors at work, and in the end, it’s still about putting more on the board than your opponent.

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