Thursday, November 10, 2005

Arms For The Poor

Yesterday, I looked at the best starters on the market -- or at least the ones that stand to make the most money. (Look there for an explanation of why I use the stats I use) Today's the scratch and dent sale. Two of them stand to make a decent amount of money, but the others could probably be had at a bargain-basement price.

               ERA   IP   K/9  BB/9 HR/9  G/F   FIP   3YE
Paul Byrd 3.74 204 4.5 1.2 .97 .89 3.98 112 110 132
Jason Johnson 4.54 210 4.0 2.1 .99 1.68 4.39 94 88 104
Ramon Ortiz 5.36 171 5.0 2.7 1.79 1.17 5.48 83 104 82
Kenny Rogers 3.46 195 4.0 2.4 .69 1.42 3.96 130 106 101
Brett Tomko 4.48 191 5.4 2.7 .94 1.05 4.18 92 110 79
Jamey Wright 5.46 171 5.3 4.3 1.16 1.95 5.17 87 123 119

  • Paul Byrd isn't young, but he's solidly effective. Purely a finesse pitcher at this point in his career, he survives thanks to his excellent control. And despite being an extreme flyball pitcher (wouldn't that look good in RFK?), he's not overly homer-prone. Byrd's biggest problem has been his health. He's suffered arm injuries fairly frequently throughout his career, and has only two seasons with 200 innings pitched, one of which was last season. He won't be cheap. I'd guess it's take a two or three year deal at $6 million per. The injuries make him a risk, but it's hard to argue with the performance.


  • Jason Johnson is consistently average. He's nothing special as a pitcher, but in the back of the rotation he's useful. In a good season, he's slightly above average. In a bad one, he's below. He has very good control, but doesn't strike many batters out -- the classic definition of a finesse pitcher. He's been durable throughout his career. Despite his battle with diabetes, you can pencil him in for 33 starts a year, but don't expect him to work deep into games. He's a 6-7 inning pitcher. Nothing in his line jumps out at me, but his W/L record could scare away some people and reduce his price. If he's floating around for $2-3 million per season, he'd be a useful signing.


  • Ortiz earned the moniker Little Pedro because of his nationality, and because of his varied repertoire. He had an excellent future ahead of him until he aged two or three years over one winter. Two out of his last three seasons have been mediocre, but his career OPS+ is still 96. Durability isn't a problem with him either, having pitched in 30+ games in four of the last five seasons -- the one year he didn't, he pitched mostly out of the pen. Ortiz is a flyball pitcher, who was completely mismatched for his home park. He gave up a ton of home runs. His stuff was still good enough to strikeout a fair number of batters, but that homer rate is hard to overlook. With RFK yielding roughly 50% fewer home runs than Cinci's park could he be a diamond in the rough? The numbers he put up last season should scare some people away. A cheap one-year deal isn't out of the question. If it's not a lot of money, say $1-$2 million, why not take a crack at him?


  • Kenny Rogers comes with all sorts of warning signs -- the incident with the camera man, his age, his second-half ERA. But he still gets results. He survives by not walking many, holding runners on, and keeping the ball in the park. He's traditionally been a groundball pitcher, but his numbers were neutral last season. It's actually amazing that his ERA was that low considering the park and the crappy infield defense in front of him. I have a hunch that he's going to be paid. Somone will offer him a two-year deal, probably in the $12 million range. He might be worth it the first year, but the idea of a 42-year old finesse pitcher scares me. One year with a triggered option would be a good deal, but I'm sure some team will guarantee him that second year (or overpay for just one).


  • Brett Tomko is the definition of average. But he's also highly durable. (Are you sensing that I think that that's important yet?) 30 starts and 190+ innings are a lock. The catch is that we're not sure how good those innings are going to be. He's only had two season above average, though he's usually hovering just below. His FIP ERA was much lower than his regular ERA. He struck out a bunch of batters while not walking toooo many. He's a pretty solid flyballer who could probably benefit from playing at RFK. If he can be had cheaply, there are worse alternatives for the 4/5 spot in the rotation.


  • Jamey Wright's ERA seems scary, but look at where he's pitched. He's survived the Coors Field gauntlet, for the most part. He walks too many batters, and he gives up too many homers, but much of that, I'd suspect are a function of where he's pitched. He's a groundball pitcher who has given up a ton of hits, again, possibly a function of park. Look at his ERA+ over the last three seasons. Last year wasn't great, but his previous two were solid. If people focus on his decline last season, he could slide through very cheaply, and should be someone the Nationals should consider. Would you take 10 wins and 170 innings out of your 4 or 5 starter? I would.

You won't be seeing any of these guys at the top of your Cy Young ballot, but they're useful role players. Byrd is the most attractive option, but Johnson, Ortiz, Tomko or Wright could all be excellent bargains.

The point is that there are a number of reasonable options for the back of the rotation. So it's not necessary to go to 3/$21 with Esteban Loaiza. Take the extra $15 million you'd save by signing one of those players and apply it to the offense -- or the bullpen. If Loaiza won't sign for our price, someone else will.

Could you live with Patterson, Livan, Byrd, Lawrence, Wright? That's not the 1995 Braves, but that's a better rotation than a few of the playoff teams from last season.

11 Comments:

  • I've always been fascinated by Wright, but I don't know if that's a good thing. I think it was more a desire to see if he could succeed back around 2000 with more walks than strikeouts per season. :-)

    The ERA+ thing with him is deceptive, since '03-04 is a total of like 100 IP combined. Nevertheless, he might be the best choice if we're focused on being frugal (which we are). Byrd's the best bet to succeed, but he's too much of a risk at the price he'll get. Johnson's K rate is tanking---not a great sign. I'm scared of Ortiz. Tomko wouldn't be a bad choice. I like Rogers, but am afraid of anything that would commit us to a second year.

    And so forth. If Wright's available for the money Johnson got two years ago (2-for-4, total), he's worth a consideration.

    By Blogger Basil, at 11/10/2005 11:02 AM  

  • That's the key. How much and at what risk?

    In an ideal world, we'd sign Burnett and Byrd and be done (and probably march into the playoffs)

    But we're learning that anything with the Nats is far from ideal!

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/10/2005 11:05 AM  

  • I renew my objection to Kenny Rogers being included in this crap-pile.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 11/10/2005 11:21 AM  

  • The guy was a teammate with Frank Robinson fer Crissakes!

    You could do one of those teamate chain things with him all the way back to George Davis in only three steps!

    Beside, I'm a reformed Yankees fan. We don't look too kindly at that soft-tossing piece of crap. ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/10/2005 11:23 AM  

  • You need to get over this Yankee thing. That led to your rejection of Tony Clark, which is looking pretty silly right now.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 11/10/2005 12:04 PM  

  • Tony Clark can BURN IN HELL! OK, that's a bit much...

    But still... where would Tony Clark have played? Trade NJ?

    Hey, how'd that NLCS work out?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/10/2005 12:06 PM  

  • As a Yankee Fan, Kenny Rogers' playoff performance in 1999 made up for a lot of his past mistakes. Granted, Mets fans might disagree...

    God, I hate to think how the ALDS was lost last year when John Olerud got injured but dammit, it's true.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 11/10/2005 12:26 PM  

  • Where would Tony Clark have played? Oh I don't know, maybe at first base instead of Wil Cordero, Carlos Baerga, Rick Short, et al.

    By Blogger WeatherMike, at 11/10/2005 12:42 PM  

  • Way to get sidetracked on the Tony Clark argument....

    At the beginning of the season, it wasn't clear that Clark was going to be better than Cordero. The team didn't really have a role for him -- and they really weren't going to pay 750K for a player without a role.

    Hindsight analysis is the easiest kind.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/10/2005 12:45 PM  

  • It was clear to me, sucka! Anyway, that was back when we were pretty sure Nick was going to be traded, and I was looking at some cheap fill-ins at first. I was all like, "Clark could be an inexpensive source of power, and it's worth seeing what salary he'd command." And then you were all like, "TONY CLARK'S A WIFE-BEATER! DEREK JETER'S TEH BESTIST!!!!!!LOL" You could look it up.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 11/10/2005 2:20 PM  

  • That's a bald-faced lie and you know it!

    NEVER have I asserted that Derek Jeter was teh bestest!!!!!11

    I will, however, urge you to COUNT DA RINGZZzzZZZZzZZ, baby!1!1!!!!1

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/10/2005 2:22 PM  

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