Strolling Through The Starting Pitching Hospital

Coming into the 2009 season, the Twins were sure that starting pitching was an area of depth. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins had all posted solid seasons despite being rather young, Francisco Liriano appeared that his return from Tommy John surgery would be successful, and this didn’t even include all of the options in the minor leagues. But during this past season, it became clear that these guys weren’t as reliable as we first thought. Baker struggled with allowing home runs, but eventually settled down. Slowey missed a significant part of the season due to wrist surgery. Blackburn see-sawed between greatness and mediocrity, while Liriano and Perkins didn’t pitch very well at all, eventually making room for Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, and Jeff Manship.

Due to these struggles, GM Bill Smith has mentioned that the Twins are looking for 1-2 veteran pitchers to add to the 2010 rotation. Although there are many options available and the Twins do have some money to spend, it doesn’t look like they will chase after a guaranteed success for 2010. I also feel that despite the quantity of pitching options for next season’s rotation, the Twins are clearly lacking a #1 starter. So, I will take you on a tour as we check in with some pitchers that have struggled to stay healthy over the past couple seasons, but likely are on the Twins’ radar.

Note: This is not a list of all the starting pitchers that I expect to be possibilities for the Twins. These are just some pitchers that have succeeded in the major leagues but have missed time over the past 2 seasons due to injuries. Also, here are the averages that I’m using to determine each player’s worth:

4.33 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 1.39 WHIP, .263 AVG, 6.99 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9

I used probability tests (I knew my beginning level statistics class would come in handy this semester!) to decide if a player’s statistics were below, at, or above the major league average. I then assigned a value to each of these (below = 0, at = 1, above = 2) and then scaled them to a 10 point “Quick and Dirty” rating (highest raw rating is 14, so divide a pitcher’s raw score by 1.4 to get to a 10 point scale). This number is not representative of their true value in any way, I know that these statistics that I included are not equal in value. It was just something fun for me to do.

Carl Pavano

Type B free agent, offered arbitration
14-12, 5.10 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 199.1 IP, 1.37 WHIP, .295 AVG, 6.64 K/9, 1.76 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9 in 33 starts
ERA, AVG below average, WHIP, K/9, HR/9 average, BB/9, FIP above average
Quick and Dirty rating = 5.00

This is the guy that caused me to create this picture after he completed 7 shutout innings in his Twins debut. I’m sure he turned off many fans when he was first acquired due to his 5.37 ERA with the Indians and his injury history from the past 4 years with the Yankees (26 starts, whereas he had 33 in 2009 alone), but many bloggers cited Pavano’s 4.28 FIP, thus saying that he had simply been unlucky while he was in Cleveland. This turned out to be true, as Pavano had a 4.64 ERA with the Twins, but a 3.50 FIP suggested that he still could have gotten better results. Although Pavano was offered arbitration by the Twins, it appears that he will be looking for at least a 2 year contract. Pavano is not at the top of my list to be in the 2010 rotation, but I would definitely prefer him over Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak, or Jeff Manship.

Chance of being a 2010 Twin: B+

Rich Harden

Type B, not offered arbitration
9-9, 4.09 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 141.0 IP, 1.34 WHIP, .235 AVG, 10.91 K/9, 4.28 BB/9, 1.47 HR/9 in 26 starts
BB/9, HR/9 below average, ERA, FIP, WHIP average, AVG, K/9 above average
Quick and Dirty rating = 5.00

Harden is one of the guys that I want the Twins to pursue this offseason. His K/9 is off the charts, but an issue from the high amount of strikeouts is his high pitch counts (just over 5 1/3 IP per start last season) and high walk rate (perhaps from trying too hard to get a strikeout). But, it has been noted that the Cubs were also trying to reduce the chance of injury, thus controlling Harden’s workload as well. Even if the Twins only got 25 or so starts out of Harden, I would consider signing him a success. His home run rate is also a bit of a concern, but early comments on Target Field are suggesting that it might suppress home runs, which would neutralize this problem a bit. His ability to get strikeouts and avoid giving up hits makes him a popular target for many teams. Lastly, we can all speculate as to why the Twins claimed Harden off waivers last season, but even if this was to block a better team from claiming him, the Twins must have had some interest in him to claim him in the first place.

Chance of being a 2010 Twin: C

Jarrod Washburn

No type
9-9, 3.78 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 176.0 IP, 1.19 WHIP, .244 AVG, 5.11 K/9, 2.51 BB/9, 1.18 HR/9
K/9, FIP below average, HR/9 average, ERA, WHIP, AVG, BB/9 above average
Quick and Dirty rating = 6.43

Here’s how I feel about Jarrod Washburn.

No, no, no, no no, no no no, no, oh god no.” – Robin Scherbatsky, “How I Met Your Mother”

Does that get my point across? His good ERA was aided by Safeco Field and the great outfield defense led by Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez. His poor play after joining the Tigers was well publicized, and although some of it was caused by his knee problem, a 3.80 FIP (compared to his 2.64 ERA) suggested he wasn’t pitching as well as we thought he was while he was with Seattle. However, the Twins have been pursuing Washburn for a couple years now and I’m sure that they would still love to get him. He would be a slightly better, lefthanded Livan Hernandez. I don’t care if “slightly better” is in that description, it still means that you should avoid him. I’m hoping the Twins are scared off by his perfomance as a Tiger, instead of increasing interest because of his time with the Mariners.

Chance of being a 2010 Twin: B

Erik Bedard

Type B, not offered arbitration
5-3,  2.82 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 83.0 IP, 1.19 WHIP, .217 AVG, 9.76 K/9, 3.69 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9 in 15 starts
BB/9, HR/9 average, ERA, FIP, WHIP, AVG, K/9 above average
Quick and Dirty rating = 8.57

Well the Quick and Dirty comparison to the average MLB starting pitcher labels Bedard as being one of the clear-cut winners in this post. But before you jump to conclusions, I’d probably hint towards the Jarrod Washburn effect: How much credit can we actually give Bedard? That is where FIP comes into play; since it is significantly higher than his ERA, we can assume that Bedard’s 2010 ERA will be closer to 3.55 than 2.82.  Safeco Field also is known for suppressing home runs (6th fewest in 2009) but Bedard’s home run rate has remained average or above average for his whole career despite spending most of his career at Camden Yards (5th highest in 2009). Despite this, the Twins have not been linked to Bedard at all, so I don’t think that he’ll be wearing a replica throwback in 2010.

Chance of being a 2010 Twin: C-

Ben Sheets

No type
(2008 numbers)
13-9, 3.09 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 198.1 IP, 1.15 WHIP, .244 AVG, 7.17 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, 0.77 HR/9 in 31 starts
K/9 average, ERA, FIP, WHIP, AVG, BB/9, HR/9 above average
Quick and Dirty rating = 9.29

Sheets is probably the most consistently good pitcher on this list, but he also is the oldest after Carl Pavano and Jarrod Washburn. Despite the repeatedly sub-4 ERA, it concerns me that his K/9 has dropped from over 10 in 2004 to just above 7 in 2008. If it wasn’t for the fact that the Rangers and Sheets showed mutual interest before he decided he couldn’t pitch in 2009, I would have him as my first choice for the Twins to sign. Because of this, I don’t see him being a Twin next year.

Chance of being a 2010 Twin: D

Justin Duchscherer

Type B, offered arbitration
(2008 numbers)
10-8, 2.54 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 141.2 IP, 1.00 WHIP, .211 AVG, 6.04 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 0.70 HR/9 in 22 starts
K/9 below average, ERA, FIP, WHIP, AVG, BB/9, HR/9 above average
Quick and Dirty rating = 8.57

Duchscherer is my personal favorite from this list simply because of his unique skill set and ability. He throws like Livan Hernandez (career average of 86 MPH on his fastball) but with success.* However, an added caveat is that Duchscherer also suffered from depression last year. His lack of velocity does worry me a bit, but he’s turned in 4 seasons with an ERA at 3.27 or less, so he does appear to know what to do with his stuff (FanGraphs credits an above average rating on most of his pitches. That 14.8 rating on his cutter is considered great). Duchscherer is most notably being pursued by the Boston Red Sox, so that instantly worries me with the Twins’ chances of signing him. His depression also is an added concern, but Zack Greinke is an example of a pitcher that had mental issues and was able to overcome them. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that Duchscherer will probably be the cheapest of all the pitchers mentioned here.

Chances of being a 2010 Twin: D+

* I suppose I should actually mean “recent success” here. Also, I apologize that I compared Washburn to Hernandez in a negative manner, but then compare Duchscherer to him in a positive light. To be fair though, unlike Washburn, Duchscherer is not “slightly better.”

In order, here is my wish list for the Twins with their Quick and Dirty ratings:

1. Erik Bedard (8.57)
2. Rich Harden (5.00)
3. Ben Sheets (9.29)
4. Justin Duchscherer (8.57)
5. Carl Pavano (5.00)
6. Jarrod Washburn (6.43)

Harden, Bedard, and Sheets are the top three because of their ace potential, while the bottom three certainly are not. Duchscherer and Pavano would be improvements over whatever young #5 pitcher the Twins might find during Spring Training, and Washburn is truly a grab bag of quality. I personally feel that Harden is much better than his Quick and Dirty rating suggests, but I already mentioned that this calculation is a rather rough way to estimate a player’s value.

All of you are welcome to add some names in the comments section that you believe the Twins may pursue as a starting pitcher. Remember though, I’m only looking at starting pitchers that were injured in either 2008 or 2009.

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2 Responses to “Strolling Through The Starting Pitching Hospital”

  1. Pavano To Accept Arbitration « Off The Mark Says:

    […] Off The Mark « Strolling Through The Starting Pitching Hospital […]

  2. Old School vs. New School « Off The Mark Says:

    […] future ERA in the first post of this series, and I hinted that I used statistical tests in the Starting Pitching Hospital post to see if each pitcher’s stats were above, at, or below the major league average. These […]

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