Tagged: Starting Pitchers

Is Sabathia the New Vlad?

If the Dodgers… Ned Colletti in particular
(i.e. the Human ****)… let Sabathia go to the Angels, it
will be deja-vu all over again. Last time we idly sat back
and let the top free agent on the market (Vlad Guerrero) go
elsewhere (who just happened to want to sign with the
Dodgers) the team was up for sale and the front office was
virtually non-existent. This time there’s no excuse… of
course, other than the front office being non-existent. The
team is not for sale this year so the Ned Colletti’s of the
world  will have absolutely no excuse whatsoever if they
sleep on Sabathia. Face it, the Dodgers thought Sabathia was
going to take a hometown discount to come play here but now
that the Angels have entered the fray… and are claiming
they will come close to Yankee money… the Dodgers cannot
lowball him with a half-*** offer. If the Dodgers want him…
which they should considering he’s by far the best pitcher on
the market and our de-facto ace, Chad Billingsley, just broke
his leg… they are going to have to play by the same rules
as everyone else. Ned can’t go cheap on Sabathia just because
he screwed up on signing Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, Jason
Schmidt, Nomar, etc… He’s going to have to open up the
checkbook, match the Yankees offer (or come close to it) and
make CC Sabathia the top paid pitcher in all of baseball if
he wants him in Dodger blue next

To CC or Not to CC

Word on the street is super-pitcher, CC Sabathia, has his sights set on signing with the Dodgers. He has indicated that he wants to remain in the National League and has begun construction on a new house near Los Angeles. I’d take that to mean he either expects to sign with the Dodgers or the Padres… and considering the Padres’ current situation… that means the Dodgers. 

Sabathia is the type of pitcher that the Dodgers have lacked for some time now… a true ace. Judging by what he’s done in Cleveland and Milwaukee, this is a guy who will put the team on his back and do whatever it takes to win. That’s the kind of player you want on your team… someone who is dedicated and doesn’t have the “me first mentality”. The only drawbacks to Sabathia will be the enormous contract he’ll command on the open market and his weight problems. Random MLB execs expect Sabathia to be offered a contract upward of 6 years and $140 million. Many expect the Yankees to throw the bank at him and if that happens, the Dodgers aren’t likely to top their offer. It will come down to the money or hometown. He may be pressured by his agent and the Players’ Union to accept the best deal monetarily but if you look at Sabathia’s past actions, he may place comfortability over cash. Obviously, he has to know that the Yankees plan to offer more money than anybody yet he is still building a house in LA. Of course, the Yankees could afford to fly him back and forth between NYC and LA as much as they want so that may not mean as much as it seems. 
Besides the Yankees, Sabathia’s weight and conditioning could become a problem during the back end of a 6 or 7 year deal. Many scouts think that he’s much more prone to a late-career breakdown because of all of the extra weight he’s carrying (and not to mention all of the innings he’s eaten up so far). A few of those scouts claim that Sabathia could very well be the 2nd coming of Bartolo Colon and will ultimately fall apart. The assessment is a little unfair because in reality, any pitcher could fall apart… even the most conditioned and biggest workout freak of them all. 
The real problem here is offering any pitcher that much money over that many years. The last time the Dodgers gave a “true ace” a long term deal, we were stuck with Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort for way too long. Granted, Sabathia hasn’t shown any injury problems whatsoever but the mere fact that he contorts his arm up and down in such a violent motion time after time after time means that he, like all pitchers, could break down. That’s an acceptable risk being that there’s no way around that BUT is that a risk the Dodgers are willing to take for more than half a decade? Maybe, maybe not. 
With all that being said, I’d take a chance on Sabathia if I were the Dodgers’ GM… even if it meant saying goodbye to Manny. Yes, we’d miss Manny’s bat but we have replacements for him on the bench and in the minors (even though they cannot hold a candle to him). The fact of the matter is, with Lowe, Maddux and Penny possibly leaving in free agency, we DON’T have adequate replacements for them in the minors or on the bench. If those three pitchers were to leave and we were to sign Manny instead of Sabathia, our pitching staff would be in trouble. Sure, we could make an effort to sign a lesser pitcher like Ben Sheets or AJ Burnett but they are both huge injury risks already and would likely command money similar to Sabathia’s. You tell me, which team looks better:
Team A
1. Rafael Furcall, SS
2. Russell Martin, C
3. Manny Ramirez, LF
4. Andre Ethier, RF
5. Matt Kemp, CF
6. James Loney, 1B
7. Blake DeWitt, 3B
8. Chin-Lung Hu, 2B
1. Chad Billingsley, RHP
2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
3. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
4. Scott Elbert, LHP
5. James McDonald, RHP
Team B
1. Rafael Furcal, SS
2. Juan Pierre, LF
3. Russell Martin, C
4. Andre Ethier, RF
5. Matt Kemp, CF
6. James Loney, 1B
7. Blake DeWitt, 3B
8. Chin-Lung Hu, 2B
1. CC Sabathia, LHP
2. Chad Billingsley, RHP
3. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
4. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
5. Scott Elbert or James McDonald

Top 200 Pitchers in ’08

Based on ’08 Production

1. Cliff Lee, CLE

2. Roy Halladay, TOR
3. Dan Haren, ARZ
4. Brandon Webb, ARZ
5. Cole Hamels, PHI
6. Justin Duchscherer, OAK
7. Tim Lincecum, SF
8. CC Sabathia, MIL
9. Ben Sheets, MIL
10. Ryan Dempster, CHC
11. Ervin Santana, LAA
12. Johan Santana, NYM
13. Edinson Volquez, CIN
14. Jake Peavy, SD
15. James Shields, TB
16. Joe Saunders, LAA
17. Tim Hudson, ATL
18. Rich Harden, CHC
19. Chad Billingsley, LAD
20. Carlos Zambrano, CHC
21. Aaron Cook, COL
22. Mike Mussina, NYY
23. Scott Kazmir, TB
24. Josh Beckett, BOS
25. Jair Jurrjens, ATL
26. Felix Hernandez, SEA
27. Andy Pettitte, NYY
28. John Danks, CWS
29. Ricky Nolasco, FLA
30. John Lackey, LAA
31. Jon Lester, BOS
32. Derek Lowe, LAD
33. Gavin Floyd, CWS
34. Shaun Marcum, TOR
35. Kyle Lohse, STL
36. Jeremy Guthrie, BAL
37. Armando Galarraga, DET
38. Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS
39. Scott Baker, MIN
40. Matt Cain, SF
41. AJ Burnett, TOR
42. Zack Greinke, KC
43. Paul Maholm, PIT
44. Adam Wainwright, STL
45. Ted Lilly, CHC
46. Mark Buehrle, CWS
47. Jered Weaver, LAA
48. John Maine, NYM
49. Tim Wakefield, BOS
50. Justin Verlander, DET
51. Joba Chamberlain, NYY
52. Kevin Slowey, MIN
53. Jamie Moyer, PHI
54. Matt Garza, TB
55. Wandy Rodriguez, HOU
56. Nick Blackburn, MIN
57. John Lannan, WAS
58. Gil Meche, KC
59. Jonathan Sanchez, SF
60. Todd Wellemeyer, STL
61. Ubaldo Jimenez, COL
62. Manny Parra, MIL
63. Mike Pelfrey, NYM
64. Javier Vazquez, CWS
65. Tim Redding, WAS
66. Randy Johnson, ARZ
67. Vicente Padilla, TEX
68. Oliver Perez, NYM
69. Andy Sonnanstine, TB
70. Erik Bedard, SEA
71. Greg Smith, OAK
72. Dave Bush, MIL
73. Chien-Ming Wang, NYY
74. Roy Oswalt, HOU
75. Scott Olsen, FLA
76. Johnny Cueto, CIN
77. Braden Looper, STL
78. Dana Eveland, OAK
79. Jesse Litsch, TOR
80. Dustin McGowan, TOR
81. Greg Maddux, SD
82. Jose Contreras, CWS
83. Hiroki Kuroda, LAD
84. Jon Garland, LAA
85. Edwin Jackson, TB
86. Chris Sampson, HOU
87. Randy Wolf, HOU
88. Justin Masterson, BOS
89. Glen Perkins, MIN
90. Seth McClung, MIL
91. Aaron Harang, CIN
92. John Smoltz, ATL
93. Sean Gallagher, OAK
94. Jason Bergmann, WAS
95. Zach Miner, DET
96. Jarrod Washburn, SEA
97. Brandon Backe, HOU
98. Bronson Arroyo, CIN
99. Josh Banks, SD
100. Jason Marquis, CHC
101. Brian Moehler, HOU
102. Yusmeiro Petit, ARZ
103. Aaron Laffey, CLE
104. Brian Bannister, KC
105. Kyle Kendrick, PHI
106. Matt Albers, HOU
107. Paul Byrd, CLE
108. Doug Davis, ARZ
109. Daniel Cabrera, BAL
110. Micah Owings, ARZ
111. Chris Young, SD
112. Kenny Rogers, DET
113. Jake Westbrook, CLE
114. Chris Volstad, FLA
115. Bartolo Colon, BOS
116. Sean Marshall, CHC
117. Cha Seung Bak, SD
118. Claudio Vargas, NYM
119. Max Scherzer, ARZ
120. Eric Stults, LAD
121. Odalis Perez, WAS
122. Darrell Rasner, NYY
123. Scott Feldman, TEX
124. Horacio Ramirez, KC
125. Joe Blanton, PHI
126. Shawn Estes, SD
127. Luke Hochevar, KC
128. Yovani Gallardo, MIL
129. Jeremy Bonderman, DET
130. Livan Hernandez, MIN
131. Anthony Reyes, CLE
132. Kyle Davies, KC
133. Joel Pineiro, STL
134. Jason Hammel, TB
135. Sidney Ponson, NYY
136. Dallas Braden, OAK
137. Nate Robertson, DET
138. Kirk Saarloos, OAK
139. Clay Hensley, SD
140. Robinson Tejada, KC
141. Esteban Loaiza, CWS
142. Mark Hendrickson, FLA
143. Shawn Chacon, HOU
144. Brian Burres, BAL
145. Jo-Jo Reyes, ATL
146. Jeff Suppan, MIL
147. Rich Hill, CHC
148. Fausto Carmona, CLE
149. Josh Johnson, FLA
150. RA Dickey, SEA
151. Billy Buckner, ARZ
152. JA Happ, PHI
153. Tom Glavine, ATL
154. Garrett Olson, BAL
155. Scott Elarton, CLE
156. Glendon Rusch, COL
157. Kameron Loe, TEX
158. Andrew Miller, FLA
159. Nelson Figueroa, NYM
160. Brett Myers, PHI
161. Carlos Silva, SEA
162. Eric Hurley, TEX
163. AJ Murray, TEX
164. Kevin Millwood, TEX
165. Tyler Clippard, WAS
166. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
167. Juan Morillo, COL
168. Randy Wells, CHC
169. Eddie Bonine, DET
170. Ty Taubenheim, PIT
171. Tony Armas Jr., NYM
172. Collin Balester, WAS
173. Jeff Niemann, TB
174. Casey Fossum, DET
175. Jeff Francis, COL
176. Zach Duke, PIT
177. Enrique Gonzalez, SD
178. Brad Penny, LAD
179. Zach Jackson, CLE
180. Pedro Martinez, NYM
181. Sean Burnett, PIT
182. Clayton Richard, CWS
183. Clay Buchholz, BOS
184. Justin Hampson, SD
185. Garrett Mock, WAS
186. Burke Badenhop, FLA
187. Mark Mulder, STL
188. David Pauley, BOS
189. Boof Bonser, MIN
190. Jack Cassel, HOU
191. Micah Bowie, WAS
192. Kevin Correia, SF
193. Rick VandenHurk, FLA
194. Kason Gabbard, TEX
195. Sean Henn, SD
196. Brett Tomko, SD
197. Matt Harrison, TEX
198. Edgar Gonzalez, ARZ
199. David Purcey, TOR
200. Lenny DiNardo, OAK

Rotations of the Future

Players born in ’81 or below not included

NL West


1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Chad Billingsley
3. Chris Withrow
4. Scott Elbert
5. James McDonald
-Runners Up
  • Jonathan Meloan
  • James Adkins
  • Bryan Morris
1. Jarrod Parker
2. Max Scherzer
3. Micah Owings
4. Billy Butler
5. Juan Gutierrez
-Runners Up
  • Brooks Brown
  • Esmerling Vazquez
  • Wes Roemer
1. Franklin Morales
2. Ubaldo Jimenez
3. Mark Reynolds
4. Casey Weathers
5. Chaz Roe
-Runners Up
  • Brandon Hynick
  • Pedro Strop
  • Juan Morillo
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Matt Cain
3. Jonathan Sanchez
4. Tim Alderson
5. Henry Sosa
-Runners Up
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Clayton Turner
  • Wilber Bucardo
1. Jake Peavy
2. Mat Latos
3. Drew Miller
4. Cesar Carillo
5. Wil Inman
-Runners Up
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Steve Garrison
  • Josh Banks

NL Central

*Chicago Cubs
1. Rich Hill
2. Donald Veal
3. Sean Gallagher
4. Jose Ceda
5. Kevin Hart
-Runners Up
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Chris Huseby
  • Larry Suarez

*Houston Astros
1. Felipe Paulino
2. Bud Norris
3. Brad James
4. Sergio Perez
5. Chad Reineke
-Runners Up
  • Polin Trinidad
  • Samuel Gervacio
  • Wesley Wright
*Cincinnati Reds
1. Edinson Volquez
2. Homer Bailey
3. Johnny Cueto
4. Kyle Lotzkar
5. Matt Maloney
-Runners Up
  • Josh Roenicke
  • Pedro Viola
  • Sean Watson
*Milwaukee Brewers
1. Yovani Gallardo
2. Manny Parra
3. Jeremy Jeffress
4. Robert Bryson
5. Mark Rogers
-Runners Up
  • Luis Pena
  • Zach Braddock
  • RJ Seidel
*Pittsburgh Pirates
1. Ian Snell
2. Daniel Moskos
3. Brad Lincoln
4. Tom Gorzelanny
5. Zach Duke
-Runners Up
  • Paul Maholm
  • Duke Welker
  • Romulo Sanchez
*St. Louis Cardinals
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Chris Perez
3. Adam Ottavino
4. Jaime Garcia
5. Tyler Herron
-Runners Up
  • Clayton Mortenson
  • David Kopp
  • Jess Todd
NL East

*Florida Marlins
1. Andrew Miller
2. Scott Olsen
3. Chris Volstad
4. Brett Sinkbeil
5. Ryan Tucker
-Runners Up
  • Sean West
  • Gaby Hernandez
  • Hector Correa
*Philadelphia Phillies
1. Cole Hamels
2. Carlos Carrasco
3. Joe Savery
4. Kyle Drabek
5. Josh Outman
-Runners Up
  • Kyle Kendrick
  • Drew Carpenter
  • Julian Sampson

*Atlanta Braves
1. Jair Jurrjens
2. Jo-Jo Reyes
3. Cole Rohrbough
4. Tommy Hanson
5. Julio Teherans
-Runners Up
  • Chuck James
  • Jeff Locke
  • Jamie Richmond

*New York Mets
1. John Maine
2. Mike Pelfrey
3. Eddie Kunz
4. Jon Niese
5. Oliver Perez
-Runners Up
  • Robert Parnell
  • Brant Rustich 
  • Nathan Vineyard

*Washington Nationals
1. Ross Detwiler
2. Josh Smoker
3. Jordan Zimmerman
4. Collin Balester
5. John Lannan
-Runners Up
  • Jake McGeary
  • Colt Willems
  • Shawn Hill

AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
1. Nick Adenhart
2. Jered Weaver
3. Jordan Walden
4. Ervin Santana
5. Joe Saunders
-Runners Up
  • Sean O’Sullivan
  • Jose Arredondo
  • Stephen Marek

*Oakland A’s
1. Rich Harden
2. Gio Gonzalez
3. Fautino De Los Santos
4. Brett Anderson
5. Greg Smith
-Runners Up
  • Trevor Cahill
  • Dana Eveland
  • James Simmons

*Texas Rangers
1. Neftali Feliz
2. Michael Main
3. Eric Hurley
4. Blake Beaven
5. Matt Harrison
-Runners Up
  • Kasey Kiker
  • Kason Gabbard
  • Doug Mathis

*Seattle Mariners
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Chris Tillman
3. Brandon Morrow
4. Phillippe Aumont
5. Juan Ramirez
-Runners Up
  • Tony Butler
  • Ryan Feierabend
  • Robert Rohrbaugh

AL Central
*Chicago White Sox
1. John Danks
2. Aaron Poreda
3. Gavin Floyd
4. Jack Egbert
5. Lance Broadway
-Runners Up
  • Brian Omogrosso
  • Nick Masset 
  • Kyle McCulloch

*Minnesota Twins
1. Francisco Liriano
2. Deolis Guerra
3. Tyler Robertson
4. Nick Blackburn
5. Anthony Swarzak
-Runners Up
  • Scott Baker
  • Glen Perkins
  • Kevin Slowey

*Cleveland Indians
1. Fausto Carmona
2. Adam Miller
3. Aaron Laffey
4. Chuck Lofgren
5. Tonny Sipp
-Runners Up
  • Jensen Lewis
  • Scott Lewis
  • Jeff Stevens

*Detroit Tigers
1. Justin Verlander
2. Rick Porcello
3. Jeremy Bonderman
4. Casey Crosby
5. Armando Galarraga
-Runners Up
  • Dontrelle Willis
  • Brandon Hamilton
  • Yorman Bazardo

*Kansas City Royals
1. Zack Greinke
2. Luke Hochevar
3. Daniel Cortes
4. Brian Bannister
5. Blake Wood
-Runners Up
  • Julio Pimental
  • Danny Duffy
  • Carlos Rosa

AL East

*Tampa Bay Rays
1. Scott Kazmir
2. David Price
3. Matt Garza
4. Wade Davis
5. Jacob McGee
-Runners Up
  • Andy Sonnanstine
  • Jeremy Hellickson
  • Edwin Jackson

*Boston Red Sox
1. Clay Buchholz
2. Jon Lester
3. Michael Bowden
4. Justin Masterson
5. Nick Hagadone
-Runners Up
  • Kris Johnson
  • Daniel Bard
  • Dustin Richardson

*Toronto Blue Jays
1. Dustin McGowan
2. Brett Cecil
3. Ricky Romero
4. Jesse Litsch
5. Trystan Magnuson
-Runners Up
  • David Purcey
  • Tracey Thorpe
  • Marc Rzepcynski

*Baltimore Orioles
1. Chorye Spoone
2. Radhammes Liz
3. Matt Albers
4. Troy Patton
5. Jake Arrieta
-Runners Up
  • Brandon Erbe
  • Garrett Olson
  • Pedro Beato

*New York Yankees
1. Joba Chamberlain
2. Phil Hughes
3. Ian Kennedy
4. Alan Horne
5. Dellin Betances
-Runners Up
  • Andrew Brackman
  • Jeff Marquez
  • Ross Ohlendorf

Call of the Kershaw

The big question being asked around the greater Los Angeles area today is not whether the Lakers can win game 3 in San Antonio… it’s whether it’s really “time” for the Dodgers to call up their uber pitching prospect, Sir Clayton Kershaw Esquire the III. This question really irks me. Yes, it’s true that Kershaw is only 20 years old. Yes, it’s true that he was drafted straight out of high school and has spent limited time in the minors… That’s all well and good but none of that matters. The implication here is that Kershaw will either implode or hurt himself if he pitches in the majors at this age. People really believe that something magical happens to a pitchers’ arm once he enters the big leagues, as if they hadn’t been throwing just as hard throughout their entire lives. If the kid’s going to get hurt, he’ll get hurt in the minors just the same. Why not get something out of him while you can if he’s destined to go down that road (which I don’t believe he is)? Young arms are often much stronger than older, beleaguered, veteran arms anyway. If the kid throws a 95 mph fastball with movement, why not have him throw it to big league batters instead of developing minor leaguers who have no business getting in the batter’s box against him? 

Here’s the major issue that I take with today’s line of thinking as far as preserving pitchers is concerned… it’s somehow believed that the less you throw, the better off your arm will be. In other words, the less arm strength you build up, the better. I don’t know where this idea came from and don’t believe it has any merit whatsoever but that philosophy is widely practiced in the MLB today. Why would throwing less pitches make a pitcher’s arm healthier? Throwing more pitches should build up strength and endurance in your arm which in effect should make your muscles, tendons and ligaments more durable and accustomed to the repeated, awkward motion that is involved in throwing a baseball. The example I often use is the old-timers who used to throw up to 200 pitches per game. Throwing a complete game used to be commonplace and there were nowhere near as many injuries as there are today. Ask Sandy Koufax or Jack Morris how their arms feel… If the “Mark Prior Theory” were true (the idea that throwing too much will kill your arm), how do you explain the old-timers who used to throw twice as many pitches, twice as often as the pitchers do today? Guys like Koufax and Drysdale would pitch complete games on three days rest, which is something that’s unheard of in today’s game. They’d literally throw 400+ pitches a week. I think if a pitcher is going to get hurt, there’s little anyone can do to stop it. Think about it, if pitch counts were to blame for injuries, the pitchers I previously named would’ve thrown their arms off long ago. If an awkward motion were to blame for arm troubles, Bret Saberhagen wouldn’t be a Cy Young Award winner and Dennis Eckersley wouldn’t be a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Some pitchers just can’t take the strain on their arm and will likely get hurt no matter what precautions they take. Let’s face it… pitching is a pretty freakish thing when you think about. How any of them are able to preserve their arms, I don’t know. We do know that everyone’s physiology is different and people respond to things in different ways. What can be applied to one case can’t necessarily be applied to the next. 
As far as performance is concerned… when a player has nothing left to prove in the minors, you bring him up to the majors. Why should age matter if he has the ability to punch out major league talent? The real reason teams care about age is because they don’t want the arbitration clock to start ticking too soon; meaning, it’s about the money. They would rather not pay their young talent millions of dollars more than they have to and lose them to free agency years sooner than they would’ve otherwise. That mentality may be financially prudent but does it really help the team? As a GM, If you leave a quality player that can help your team in the minors to rot, you’re essentially ripping off your team, your fans and the player himself. If the idea is to win the game, why not give your team the best chance to do just that? 
As far as experience is concerned… sometimes a baptism by fire is the best way to go with a young player. I assume experience at the major league level is far more valuable than minor league experience if the main objective is to have a career in the major leagues. Why not let a pitcher cut his teeth against some of the best hitters in the game rather than some equally inexperienced kids who aren’t up to par in the minors? If you let a pitcher sit in the minors and dominate for several years, just because you don’t think he’s “ready”, he’ll eventually grow a false sense of security and will become complacent. Once that happens, the call to the majors ends up as more of a rude awakening than a positive addition to the team. It basically comes down to this, if you want to get a pitcher who is destined for the major leagues experience… why not let him pitch against major league batters? Or is that just too logical? 
Obviously, I’m not a doctor, scout or pitching coach but I don’t have any problem with calling things as I see them. Many things in today’s society fly in face of logic and reason and this is just another example of that… in my humble opinion. I could be totally wrong about this, it may actually make pitchers’ arms stronger if they build up less arm strength; it may be better for a pitcher to waste away in the minors until he’s 25 for no good reason at all and it may be better for pitchers to face minor league scrubs instead of the actual major leaguers they plan on facing for the rest of their careers… After all, who I am to question the status quo? Just an old, dead, ancient Roman general…

A Penny-less, Lowe-ly, Sack of Schmidt

A few years ago, when Ned Colletti signed starting pitcher Jason Schmidt to a 3 year, $47 million contract, we were led to believe as fans that he’d help ace, Brad Penny, anchor the staff for the foreseeable future. Of course, since then Schmidt has hardly played at all and looks like he’s knocking on retirement’s door…but we already knew that. I’m not revealing anything new here. Coming into the ’08 season, the team wasn’t even relying on him to fill the 5th starter’s role, let alone anchor the staff. The real surprise so far this year has been the utter ineffectiveness of last year’s NL Cy Young Award runner up, Brad Penny and innings-eating workhorse, Derek Lowe. 

After starting 11 games and racking up 66 innings pitched (which happens to equal 6 innings pitched per game), Penny has posted a lackluster 5.32 ERA, an uninspired 1.48 WHIP and a measly 35 K’s. It was already readily apparent that Penny has never been a strikeout pitcher but these other numbers are a far cry from where he was at this time last season. In April ’07 he posted a 1.95 ERA and a 2.15 ERA in the following month of May. Comparatively, he’s posted a 3.52 ERA in April ’08 and a mind boggling 8.48 ERA in May. At this point, it doesn’t look like he’ll make many Cy Young ballots this season. His ERA currently stands at 5.38 which doesn’t look anything close to the 3.03 ERA/16-4 record he posted just last season. So what’s going on? It’s hard to say. He’s actually walked less batters and has given up only 10 more hits than he did at this time last year. Why it is happening is far from obvious but he has given up 39 ERs compared to this time last season when he only gave up 16. That’s more than double the amount of runs teams scored on him last year! The fact of the matter is batters have been feasting on his pitches this season, hitting .289 against him in April and an all-star like .318 against him in May. Batters hit nearly .100 points lower against him last year, as he was able to hold them to a .256 average in April and an amazing .216 average in May. For whatever reason, bats are making solid contact against Penny-pitches this season where as last year they were coming nowhere close. 
To add to that, Derek Lowe hasn’t been very far behind Penny in terms of awfulness. In 62.1 IPs so far this season, Lowe has posted a 5.03 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. The difference may not be as drastic as Penny’s but this is a guy who did win 12 games last year and post a 3.88 ERA with 147 K’s. He’s been an extremely efficient pitcher throughout his tenure with the Dodgers so this year’s production is quite a departure from the norm. He’s been tagged for 35 ERs so far this season and batters hit .278 against him in April and .310 against him in May. 
The problem that I see with pitchers like Penny and Lowe is that they are not strikeout pitchers. Some baseball fans often wonder why I place so much importance on the K. It’s simple really, strikeout pitchers are far less risky than a groundball/flyball pitchers because they are single-handedly able to get themselves out of jams and keep the ball out of play far more often than a GB/FB pitcher. For example, if the bases are loaded with one out, chances are a run will score on the GB/FB pitcher because the opposing batter is much more likely to put the ball in play. On the other hand, a strikeout pitcher has a much better chance of putting that batter away and changing the scenario completely…transforming the situation from a 1 out count into a 2 out count, which makes a world of difference with the bases loaded. Pitchers like Penny and Lowe don’t have this kind of a luxury. When they get into jams, they have to rely on the play of the fielders behind them to get them out of it rather than taking care of it themselves. Lowe is far better off in that respect because he’s a groundball pitcher compared to Penny who is a flyball pitcher. A lot of breaks have to go their way in order for a flyball pitcher to post Cy Young-caliber numbers. In all actuality, Penny got fairly lucky posting such a low ERA last year because he is not able to strike batters out and is by no means a placement-pitcher like Greg Maddux. I’ve always been confused by Penny because pitchers who can throw 98 mph can generally strikeout quite a few batters. A little more movement on the ball would probably go a long way. Until he figures out how to sit batters down, he’ll continue to be an up and down pitcher throughout his career. Some seasons he’ll look great and others…not so much. 

Best Young Starting Pitchers in the Majors

Ages 18-26
Relievers included project as starters (at some point)
All rankings reflect current performance. 

1. Jake Peavy, SD

Age: 26
2. Cole Hamels, PHI
Age: 24
3. Tim Lincecum, SF
Age: 23
4. Carlos Zambrano, CHC
Age: 26
5. Scott Kazmir, TB
Age: 24
6. Edinson Volquez, CIN
Age: 24
7. Yovani Gallardo, MIL
Age: 22
8. James Shields, TB
Age: 26
9. Felix Hernandez, SEA
Age: 22
10. Adam Wainwright, STL
Age: 26
11. Joba Chamberlain, NYY
Age: 22
12. Justin Verlander, DET
Age: 25
13. Shaun Marcum, TOR
Age: 26
14. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Age: 20
15. Fausto Carmona, CLE
Age: 24
16. Jair Jurrjens, ATL
Age: 22
17. Chad Billingsley, LAD
Age: 23
18. Ervin Santana, LAA
Age: 25
19. Micah Owings, ARZ
Age: 25
20. Matt Cain, SF
Age: 23
21. Rich Harden, OAK
Age: 26
22. Zack Greinke, KC
Age: 24
23. Max Scherzer, ARZ
Age: 23
24. John Danks, CWS
Age: 23
25. Joe Saunders, LAA
Age: 26
26. Aaron Laffey, CLE
Age: 23
27. Jon Lester, BOS
Age: 24
28. Dustin McGowan, TOR
Age: 26
29. Gavin Floyd, CWS
Age: 25
30. Johnny Cueto, CIN
Age: 22
31. Dana Eveland, OAK
Age: 24
32. Scott Olsen, FLA
Age: 24
33. Francisco Liriano, MIN
Age: 24
34. Clay Buchholz, BOS
Age: 22
35. Jered Weaver, LAA
Age: 25
36. Greg Smith, OAK
Age: 24
37. Hong-Chih Kuo, LAD
Age: 26
38. Edwin Jackson, TB
Age: 24
39. Armando Galarraga, DET
Age: 26
40. John Lannan, WAS
Age: 23
41. Ubaldo Jimenez, COL
Age: 24
42. Daniel Cabrera, BAL
Age: 26
43. Justin Masterson, BOS
Age: 23
44. Luke Hochevar, KC
Age: 24
45. Greg Reynolds, COL
Age: 22
46. Scott Baker, MIN
Age: 26
47. Matt Garza, TB
Age: 25
48. Glenn Perkins, MIN
Age: 25
49. Oliver Perez, NYM
Age: 26
50. Brandon Morrow, SEA
Age: 23
51. JP Howell, TB
Age: 25
52. Nick Blackburn, MIN
Age: 26
53. Jeremy Bonderman, DET
Age: 25
54. Ian Snell, PIT
Age: 26
55. Kevin Slowey, MIN
Age: 24
56. Andrew Miller, FLA
Age: 23
57. Matt Albers, BAL
Age: 25
58. Phil Hughes, NYY
Age: 21
59. Manny Parra, MIL
Age: 25
60. Jesse Litsch, TOR
Age: 23
61. Andy Sonnanstine, TB
Age: 25
62. AJ Murray, TEX
Age: 25
63. Taylor Buchholz, COL
Age: 26
64. Jose Arrerdondo, LAA
Age: 24
65. Nick Masset, CWS
Age: 26
66. Chad Gaudin, OAK
Age: 25
67. Sean Gallagher, CHC
Age: 22
68. Franklin Morales, COL
Age: 22
69. Dallas Braden, OAK
Age: 24
70. Yusmeiro Petit, ARZ
Age: 23
71. Zach Duke, PIT
Age: 25
72. Jeremy Sowers, CLE
Age: 25
73. Dontrelle Willis, DET
Age: 26
74. Scott Feldman, TEX
Age: 26
75. Boof Bonser, MIN
Age: 26
76. Nick Adenhart, LAA
Age: 21
77. Sean Marshall, CHC
Age: 25
78. Jo-Jo Reyes, ATL
Age: 23
79. Jim Johnson, BAL
Age: 24
80. Jason Bergmann, WAS
Age: 26
81. Tom Gorzellany, PIT
Age: 25
82. Mike Pelfrey, NYM
Age: 24
83. Ian Kennedy, NYY
Age: 23
84. Kyle Kendrick, PHI
Age: 23
85. Ricky Nolasco, FLA
Age: 25
86. Paul Maholm, PIT
Age: 25
87. Jason Hammel, TB
Age: 25
88. Garrett Olson, BAL
Age: 24
89. Josh Rupe, TEX
Age: 25
90. Burke Badenhop, FLA
Age: 25
91. Kason Gabbard, TEX
Age: 26
92. Chuck James, ATL
Age: 26
93. Brad Thompson, STL
Age: 26
94. Phil Dumatrait, PIT
Age: 26
95. Kevin Hart, CHC
Age: 25
96. Adam Loewen, BAL
Age: 24
97. Ross Ohlendorf, NYY
Age: 25
98. Kameron Loe, TEX
Age: 26
99. Carlos Villanueva, MIL
Age: 24
100. Justin Germano, SD
Age: 25
101. Anthony Reyes, STL
Age: 26
102. Jeff Niemann, TB
Age: 25
103. Matt Chico, WAS
Age: 24
104. Dustin Moseley, LAA
Age: 26
105. Zach Miner, DET
Age: 26
106. Rick Vandenhurk, FLA
Age: 23
107. Luis Mendoza, TEX
Age: 24
108. Enrique Gonzalez, SD
Age: 25
109. Doug Mathis, TEX
Age: 24
110. Sean Burnett, PIT
Age: 25

From Kuo to Kershaw

Heading into the season, many Dodger fans expected that starter, Jason Schmidt, would be healthy enough to claim his role as the team’s 5th starter. Due to a few setbacks in training camp, his return is not on the horizon. He may prove to be healthy at some point during the season but it’s not something the team is counting on. So far, Esteban Loaiza has been taking the hill in his place. A once former all-star starter, Loaiza has regressed in recent years and is now heading to the bullpen (where he probably belongs). 

Manager Joe Torre announced on Friday that Loaiza and his 6.75 ERA would be replaced in the rotation by young lefty, Hong-Chih Kuo. In my opinion, this switch is long overdue. Torre has a reputation for sticking with veterans for longer than he should. The NL West is going to be extremely tight this year and the team simply can’t afford to hand the ball to a struggling pitcher just because of loyalty. In 6.2 innings pitched this season, Kuo has not allowed an earned run. He’s struckout 8 batters and is allowing a .174 batting average against so far. It appears to be the right choice but Kuo has had his fair share of injuries as a starter. Many within the organization feel he’s best used as a lefty out of the pen rather than a starter because of the injuries that have befallen him in that role. If you ask me, it’s worth a shot. Besides, the team needs a lefty or two in the starting rotation anyway. 
It’s generally assumed that top prospect, Clayton Kershaw, will eventually claim the role as the 5th starter sometime around mid-season…so Kuo is essentially keeping his seat warm. That may or may not be the case depending on how everything plays out but many scouts believe he could end up being the best pitcher on the team…as soon as this season. Kershaw is a 20 year old lefty out of Texas who brings mid-90’s heat and a devastating curveball that long time Dodgers’ announcer, Vin Scully, has dubbed as “public enemy number one”. He’s enjoyed outstanding success in the minors and is ranked as the top pitching prospect in all of baseball by all of the big name scouting sites like “Baseball America” and “Baseball Prospectus”. Surprisingly, Torre announced during spring training that he would not hesitate to call up Kershaw during the season even though he isn’t even old enough to drink a beer. He compared him to one of his former Yankees, young fireballer, Joba Chamberlain. Kershaw makes sense for a number of reasons. First of all, the team is lacking lefties in the starting rotation. Other than Hong-Chih Kuo and Eric Stults, the team doesn’t even have any options to start from the left side. Secondly, Kershaw has pretty much proven everything he’s going to prove in the minors. A young pitcher can only learn so much at that level and once he’s mastered it, needs to move on to the next level in order to continue his development. It’s time to turn the kid loose on the NL and see what he has. Once he gets to Los Angeles, management will want to keep him here rather than sending him back and forth between the majors and their minor league affiliates. It’s important to make sure that he is ready and not bring him up too early because it’s really easy to ruin a young pitching prospect. Again, if the kid is ready, pitching in the majors will not “ruin” him but management will want to be 100% sure that he is ready. I expect big things from Kershaw and think we’ll see him sometime after the all-star break. 

Billingsley’s Botched Start

Weeks after a frustrating spring training wrapped up, Chad Billingsley is still struggling on the mound. During camp Bills was hit hard by opposing teams and saw his ERA rise to unacceptable levels. He claimed a new changeup was the reason for his early troubles. Veterans will often take time in training camp and exhibition games to work on new pitches that they would like to try out during the season. Sometimes the results are immediate and sometimes the results are disastrous. Unfortunately in Billingsley’s case it seemed to be the latter. Of course, spring training results are to be taken with a grain of salt. The emphasis is on getting ready for the season not playing all out for the win. Once Opening Day comes around players put their game faces on and stop experimenting with their pitches or their swings. 

That’s what’s so concerning about Bills’ first couple of starts. He hasn’t looked like the dominating pitcher that he was last season…and you can’t blame that on a new changeup. His odd workload to start the season hasn’t helped. The first scheduled start he was supposed to make didn’t turn out as planned. Bad weather forced manager Joe Torre to begin the game with a relief pitcher due to the belief the game would be rained out after the first couple of innings. After a short delay, played resumed and Bills eventually made a brief appearance. He probably would’ve been better off waiting for another day because he didn’t fare well in the limited time he was on the mound, giving up 1 run in 0.1 innings pitched. Since he didn’t pitch much when he was supposed to and did not have another scheduled start until another 5 games, he was used as a reliever in the following series against San Diego in order to keep his arm warm. That worked out better for him and it seemed as if he may have harnessed his stuff but that thought was premature. He was hit hard in his second start against the D-Backs, surrendering 4 runs in 2.1 innings. 
It’s hard to see him being this bad for the rest of the season. He finished the season last year as one of the better pitchers on the Dodgers’ staff and appeared to be heading in the right direction but at the age of 23, there’s bound to be some growing pains here and there. Control has been a problem for him early in his career and that seems to be what’s holding him back now. If you watch him pitch it’s not like he’s overly wild or anything like that. He tries to hard to paint the strike zone and rarely gets the call from the umpire. It’s frustrating as a fan because some of his pitches are so close but not close enough. I fully expect him to get his stuff together this season. When he’s on he’s one of the best young pitchers in the league. The Dodgers’ success will largely depend on how far he takes them. It could either way. We could be talking about the Cy Young award or we could be talking about a trip back to the minors. Keep your fingers crossed that it’s the former. 

Billed as an Ace

I’ve been a bit surprised lately to see an inordinate amount of Dodger fans debate whether Chad Billingsley will ever become the ace that he’s been billed as for so many years. Many are even questioning whether or not the team should keep him or trade him away for a veteran pitcher who has already established himself. Personally, I have no idea what numbers they’re looking at because Bills is already the best pitcher on the Dodgers’ staff at age 23. Many Dodger fans will point to Brad Penny when asked who is the Dodgers’ best pitcher. He had a remarkable season last year and rivaled Jake Peavy as the best pitcher in the NL for much of the year. Penny won 16 games and posted an amazing 3.03 ERA throughout the ’07 season. Nonetheless, Billingsley was better. A true ace is a strikeout pitcher who can control the game on his own without having to rely on his team’s defense or the park he pitches in. A strikeout per inning is generally considered a must to be considered as an elite pitcher or a staff ace. There are many other contributing factors like strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) and walks/hits per innings pitched (WHIP) that distinguish an ace pitcher from the rest. Those are all stats that a pitcher directly controls. Wins and ERA are largely dependent on the offense and defense a pitcher has behind them. A pitcher may give up 5 runs and still win the game because his offense scored 6. On the other hand, a pitcher may have a shortstop and centerfielder who don’t have much range, allow more hits to fall and cause that pitcher’s ERA to skyrocket. It’s easy to see why baseball statisticians don’t factor in those stats when gauging the true value of a pitcher.
When these peripheral stats are taken into account, Brad Penny does not compare very favorably to a rival staff ace, Padres’ Cy Young Award Winner, Jake Peavy. Although their win total and ERA is comparable, their K/9, K/BB and WHIP most definitely are not. To give you an idea of the separation between the two I’ll give you a look at the numbers. As I previously stated, Penny won 16 games and posted a 3.03 ERA. Peavy bested him with 19 wins and a 2.54 ERA but those stats are much closer than the ones I’m about to show you. Here’s the real difference:

Penny – 5.84
Peavy – 9.67

Penny – 1.85
Peavy – 3.53

Penny – 1.31
Peavy – 1.06

Need I say more? As you can see, there is quite a significant difference between the two pitchers. Peavy is able to hold his own by striking out over a batter per inning, meaning he’s good for at least one out per inning on his own; the ball didn’t get put in play, the runners didn’t get moved over, there was no chance for a defender to make an error…he put away those batters on his own, no assistance required. He struck out a prodigious 240 batters in 223 innings. Comparatively, Penny struck out a measly 135 in 208 innings. So why am I bringing this up? How does this relate to Chad Billingsley? When you look at these underlying stats, Chad Billingsley stacks up much more favorably against Peavy…and he’s only 23 years old.

Billingsley struck out 141 batters in ’07. So what’s the big deal? Didn’t Brad Penny strike out 135? That’s only 6 more batters! That’s true, Billingsley did only strike out 6 more batters than Penny did but the distinction is in the number of innings pitched. Bills struck out those 141 batters in only 147 innings compared to 135 in 208, meaning he was good for nearly a strikeout per inning. His K/9 ratio was 8.53 which is extremely good for any pitcher, let alone a 23 year old. That stat alone is enough to put a pitcher that young into an elite category. There are some pitchers who squander their strikeout ability due to control problems and a propensity to put runners on base. It was commonly perceived by Dodger fans that Bills had a wild arm and lacked control. He did walk an exorbitant amount of batters in his rookie season (58 in 90 innings) but almost cut that number in half (per capita) in ’07 after walking 64 in 147 innings; giving him a K/BB ratio of 2.20, .35 points higher than Penny’s. These stats are indicators of what’s to come. Bills WHIP was still a little high last year (1.33) but could’ve been better had he pitched more innings and had better middle infield defense. It can also be argued that umpires didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt that was given to veteran pitchers who made similar pitches. It’s well known that umpires reward players who they feel have “earned it” and give them a call that they wouldn’t have given to a younger player. For example, if Greg Maddux grazes the lower corner of the plate with a breaking ball and is on the border of a strike or a ball, the ump will likely give a future Hall of Famer like Maddux the strike. If a young kid like Chad Billingsley throws the exact same pitch in the exact same spot, the ump likely wouldn’t give him the call because he hasn’t proven anything yet. That’s what happened to Bills in ’06. He wasn’t throwing the ball over the batter’s head…he was painting the corners and wasn’t getting the call like he was used to in the minors. Control is the one question left remaining around him and the fact that he’s made such a giant leap in his walk rate in the course of one season should signal that control is no longer an issue…and really never was.

When intangibles are taken into account, Chad Billingsley is the best pitcher on the Dodgers’ staff and that’s hard to argue. At the age of 23 his future is extremely promising. If he continues to evolve as a pitcher at the rate that he has been, he’ll be an all-star in no time. He’s the type of pitcher who could strikeout 200 batters in a season and win 20 games. Teams rarely find pitchers with that kind of talent in free agency, let alone their own systems. This is a guy who can carry the staff for the next decade barring any health issues or setbacks. He’s what is called a “cornerstone for a championship team”. Any team with World Series aspirations needs a pitcher who can control the game on his own; a pitcher who relies on no one but himself to get the job done; a pitcher who can routinely get himself out of jams via strikeout. That’s the kind of pitcher the Dodgers have in Chad Billingsley. Combine Chad’s ability with some of the other younger franchise players on the Dodgers’ squad like Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and James Loney and this is a team that is well on their way to the makings of something special. I’ve said this before in relation to Matt Kemp and I’ll say it again…Chad Billingsley is the kind of player you build around, not trade away. Trading away a pitcher with that kind of ability at such a young age age would undoubtedly be a mistake that the club would regret in the long-run. It’s unwise to mortgage the future for a quick fix. The collection of young players that the Dodgers have assembled could very well put them in contention for championships for the next decade…and it all starts with an ace pitcher…and that ace is Chad Billingsley.