Saturday, December 27, 2008

Randy Johnson signs with Giants. What exactly does this mean?

I can tell you what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that the world is ending. It doesn't necessarily mean that the Giants will win the World Series. In fact, it doesn't necessarily mean that the Giants will be any better.

Let's take a look at what happened the last time that one spot in their rotation improved drastically (and I'm not saying that's what will happen with Johnson).

In 2007, Noah Lowry led the team in wins (14) and Matt Cain—refrain from making political jokes, please—led the starters in ERA (3.65) and strikeouts (163). In 2008, Tim Lincecum led the team in wins (18), ERA (2.62), strikeouts (265), and pretty much everything else, on his way to winning the NL Cy Young award—but if you're reading this post, then you probably already knew that. In 2007, the Giants were 71-91 and finished last in the division. In 2008, they were 72-90, finishing 4th (ahead of the 99-loss Padres and behind the 74-win Rockies).

Lincecum was about as good last year (7-5, 4.00 ERA, 146.2 IP in 24 starts) as Johnson was this year (11-10, 3.91 ERA, 184 IP in 30 starts), if in smaller quantity. But unfortunately for the Giants, Johnson isn't due for any sort of crazy stat improvement.

Barry Zito showed some improvement after the All-Star break—he was 4 and 12 with an ERA of 5.62 in the first half, but improved to 6-5, 4.59 in the second half—and Noah Lowry will probably be back from his injury. I would still start Zito and Lowry in the 4 and 5 spots, though, simply because of Lowry's recent injury and the fact that although Zito was better after the All-Star break last year, his performance was worse this year.

So here's my rotation for the Giants in '09:
  1. RHP Tim Lincecum
  2. LHP Randy Johnson
  3. RHP Matt Cain
  4. LHP Noah Lowry
  5. LHP Barry Zito
Of course, those bottom 4 spots would almost certainly shuffle around a bit as players' performances changed.

Cain is one of the more interesting pitchers on the list. He lost 14 games last year, but gave up 3 or fewer earned runs in 6 of those games, and he gave up 2 or fewer earner runs in 3 of his losses. If, by some strange miracle, the Giants' offense had managed to scrape together the extra few runs in each of those three starts, he would likely have gone 11-11, with marginally better peripherals (ERA and SO) than Johnson had on the offensively capable Diamondbacks.

Jake Peavy and the Shortstop Prospects

Now that C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have signed with the Yankees, it seems like the Dodgers are essentially right back where they started with regards to pitching. They still have three starters with various degrees of experience starting in the majors, and they have James McDonald, who was a starter in the minors and who was brought up in mid-September for a few scoreless innings of relief work (and whom I inexcusably forgot to mention in Dodgers pitching needs this offseason). But they've made some other signings that should give them more flexibility in navigating the free-agent market—namely, with Casey Blake at third base, Rafael Furcal at shortstop, and Mark Loretta available to fill in whenever the need arises, they have an entire infield. These signings likely block the Dodgers' top infield prospects (shortstop Chin-Lung Hu and shortstop/second baseman Ivan DeJesus) from their major league team for at least three years. Here's one way to solve this problem:

The San Diego Padres have Jake Peavy, and they don't really have a shortstop.

The Dodgers have shortstops and they desperately need starting pitching.

I hope I'm not the only one seeing a pattern here. Obviously it would take more than a shortstop prospect to bring Peavy to L.A., so let's look at players that the Padres have lost to free agency: Two relief pitchers, including closer Trevor Hoffman, and two starting pitchers. As I'm sure I've pointed out before, the Dodgers should keep all the pitching they have, and then add some—but of course, pitching only helps you if it's good for the situation you need. Case in point: RP Jonathan Broxton, who was the closer for the Dodgers after Takashi Saito injured his elbow this season. Broxton blew 8 of his 25 save opportunities, but he held right-handed hitters to a paltry .181 batting average, with an astonishing 12:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Lefties hit .270 against him with a 1.27:1 SO to BB ratio. He'd be a wonderful right-handed specialist for a team like the Padres that can afford to have specialized relievers.

Free-agent closers Trevor Hoffman and Brian Fuentes are still unsigned, and if the Dodgers really feel desperate, they can always try to pick up Takashi Saito again on the chance that he'll be fully recovered in time to help them tumble into the postseason. Either way, they have their Major League infield locked up for a while, but they need to make their offer quickly before the Padres sign a new shortstop.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Arkham's Child Awards - 2008

This is one of my many annual traditions. Since my agreement with the actual results of the MLB awards voting is usually dubious at best, I put together my personal list. (I use "Best Pitcher" rather than "Cy Young award" just because I feel like it).

Stats for pitchers are (W-L, ERA, IP) for starters and (SV-SVO, ERA, IP) for closers; stats for position players are (BA, RC/G, PA).

National League:
  • Most Valuable Player: CL Brad Lidge - PHI (41-41, 1.65, 69.2)
  • Best Pitcher: SP Tim Lincecum - SFG (18-5, 2.62, 227)
  • Rookie of the Year: SP Chris Volstad - FLA (6-4, 2.88, 84.2)
American League:
  • Most Valuable Player: C Joe Mauer - MIN (.328, 6.9, 633)
  • Best Pitcher: SP Roy Halladay - TOR (20-11, 2.78, 246)
  • Rookie of the Year: 3B Evan Longoria - TBR (.272, 6.6, 508)
If you disagree, please leave a comment with some specific details as to the differences between your opinions and mine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Um, Happy Holidays.

The title pretty much says it all. Happy/merry Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa or whatever other cheery events I've forgotten.

I'd like to dedicate this particular holiday season to A.J. Burnett and his $82.5M contract. You might ask why I'm not dedicating it to Sabathia or Teixeira, and there's a simple answer: At least for the Yankees, their contracts don't seem anything other than necessities. But Burnett's contract seems mildly unreasonable, which makes him special. (Oh—and there's also my automatic inability to dislike most guys who are or have been on the Marlins.)

The consolation footnotes go to Pat Burrell and Manny Ramirez, who probably thought that they'd have fairly lucrative contracts by now. Good luck.

The admiration footnote goes to Rocco Baldelli, whose persistence paid off when he found out that he apparently doesn't have a mitochondrial disorder after all. Not only is that pretty awesome, but it means that he'll probably be looking at a much better contract offer. Let's just hope it's not with the Red Sox.

Oh, and I couldn't write this post without inserting a little "Christmas came early for Phillies fans" comment, so here it is: If you're a Phillies fan, then Christmas came early this year.

I'll have a post up soon about Jake Peavy and the Dodgers Shortstop Prospects.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dodgers pitching needs this offseason

With Greg Maddux's retirement and Derek Lowe and Brad Penny's impending departure, the Dodgers starting rotation is halfway gone. Although Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and Clayton Kershaw are a strong starting core, I have yet to see a team make it through a season with only three starters (based on his 1.3+ WHIP and .434 WL% this season, I don't consider Eric Stults to be a viable fourth starter). This means that the Dodgers need at least two starting pitchers this offseason - and if they want to make it to October again, they're going to need two good starters.

C.C. Sabathia, Jake Peavy, and A.J. Burnett have all been discussed half to death, so let's take a look at some of the pitchers whom the columnists haven't already obsessed over for hours and days on end. At the beginning of November, I firmly believed that the Dodgers should sign Ryan Dempster and trade for, well, someone. Obviously, Dempster is out of the equation, but in the recent weeks, I've had time to think about that 'someone' they should get in a trade, and I've come to the somewhat tentative conclusion that Ricky Nolasco fits the team's needs very well. He's young (he'll be 26 next week), he pitches well on the road (3.82 career ERA away vs. 4.12 career ERA at home), and he has already improved substantially since his last full season (2006: 11-11, 4.82 vs. 2008: 15-8, 3.52) - plus, he had the second lowest WHIP in the National League (1.102 - behind only Cole Hamels's 1.082), and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.43:1. He has never made more than $400,000 in a season, which means he probably wouldn't make too much of an impact on the Dodgers payroll.

So if he's what the Dodgers need, then what would they have to give up to get him? Marlins free agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez played in 136 games this year, and will likely return to the Diamondbacks (where he was a one-time Silver Slugger and a five-time All-Star) for '09 - and with only one player (Hanley Ramirez) stealing more than 10 bases this past season (Ramirez was 35-for-47 in stolen bases), the Marlins need speed. Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre seems like an obvious choice here (he stole 40 bases in 52 attempts this year), but he has 3 years and $28.5M remaining on his contract, and he is signed with limited no-trade protection. Matt Kemp is also an option; he doesn't have a big contract like Pierre's and he batted .290 with 35 stolen bases in 46 attempts this season. There's also catcher A.J. Ellis, who batted .321 and fielded .996 with an OBP of .436 for Dodgers Triple-A Las Vegas this year, and although he doesn't have the speed which the Marlins might need (he's a career 5-for-15 in stolen base attempts), he could still be a valuable addition to the Marlins roster, especially with Matt Treanor's fielding and hitting on the decline (he made 8 errors this year and only batted .238, a dropoff from last year's .267 with only 3 errors that, while not a smoking gun, could be indicative of a continuing decline in performance on the part of the 32 year old catcher).

Of course, even if they did trade for Nolasco, the Dodgers would still be one pitcher short of a complete regular-season rotation, and considering that they need to keep all the infielders they currently have, it would probably be best for them to acquire that pitcher through free agency. At this hypothetical point, they would have a rotation consisting almost entirely of righties (out of the current Dodgers rotation plus Nolasco, Clayton Kershaw is the only left-hander). Two-time All-Star southpaw Andy Pettitte is the first choice here - he spent 9 of his 14 major league seasons with Joe Torre's Yankees, he holds the all-time record for most starts and innings pitched in the postseason (218.2 innings in 35 games - essentially, a full regular season's worth of pitching), and he has never had a losing season - but he's expensive. Very expensive. His $16M salary this year ranked 7th highest in the American League, and the only reason he doesn't have a new contract yet is because even the Yankees think that's too high a price.

The other potentially affordable good lefties on the market are Randy Wolf (a Canoga Park native who has already spent the 2007 season with the Dodgers, going 9-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 18 starts), Tom Glavine (who, despite 10 All-Star games and two Cy Young awards, hasn't been doing particularly well recently), Randy Johnson (also a 10-time All-Star and a five-time Cy Young winner), Jamie Moyer (who has actually been getting better over the last few seasons - last year he was 14-12 with an ERA of 5.01 and this year he was 16-7, leading the Phillies in wins and keeping his ERA down to 3.71, and pitching just under 200 innings and recording 123 strikeouts), Odalis Perez (who had his one All-Star season - 15-10, 3.00 ERA, 0.990 WHIP, 222.1 IP - with the Dodgers in 2002, and might not be looking for too big a salary after his statistically mediocre, $0.85M one-year stint with the Nationals), and Oliver Perez (who was a reasonable 10-7 this year but had a 422 ERA and led the league with 105 walks allowed, and might be asking for more than the $6.5M he made this year). My favorites from these are Moyer and Wolf - why? Because they tend to go somewhat deep into games (Moyer pitches an average of 6.2 innings per game started and Wolf goes an average of 6.1 innings), which sometimes takes a little bit of pressure off the bullpen.

This is a Dodgers bullpen that currently has exactly one competent lefty reliever; a closer whose recovery is dubious at best; and a backup closer who blew 8 of his 22 save opportunities this year. FOX Sports is reporting that the Dodgers may be looking to sign all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, but is this really a good idea? Maybe, maybe not. Unlike many in the media, I've assigned the phrase 'Barry Zito principle' not to salary-induced collapses, but instead to change-of-scenery-induced collapses, and Hoffman's 15-and-a-half season career with the Padres makes him a prime candidate for one of those nasty little failures. This could just be my automatic cynicism about anything having to do with the Dodgers bullpen, though, so I guess we'll have to wait and see - and of course there are plenty of players who have made a successful switch from one team to another…

…Which finally brings me back to my original point about the Dodgers starters - that they need more good ones. My favorite set of starters for the Dodgers in 2009 would be Billingsley, Kuroda, Kershaw, Nolasco, and Moyer (see the above point about staying successful no matter where your contracts and trades take you), but really, when was the last time something ideal happened in baseball-land (besides Brad Lidge's 48-for-48)? The Marlins probably wouldn't be willing to trade their best starter, at least not for anything the Dodgers would be willing to give them; but of course, it wouldn't be too bad to sign Moyer (who is currently rather unhappy with the offers the Phillies have been making) and Wolf , which would give the Dodgers a primarily left-handed rotation to contrast with their almost completely right-handed bullpen.

Once again, we just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yes, THE PHILLIES WON THE WORLD SERIES! And yes, I was too lazy to update my blog.

I'm not exactly sure how I managed to go for so long without updating this blog, but as I suffer from a dearth of lame excuses (or even non-lame excuses—unless NaNoWriMo counts as an excuse), I'm just going to say a few simple sentences about the 2008 World Series. Here we go!

The Rays made a valiant effort, but the Phillies deserve every inch of that trophy and Cole Hamels deserves his MVP award just as much. Joe Blanton shocked all of us, and I hope we'll all remember that home run for a long time (I know I will). Evan Longoria shocked us too… but in a very different manner (let's just say that despite his brilliant performance through the rest of the season, we may hear "Eva, Eva!" elsewhere than Citizens Bank Park in the first few games of '09).

…That's basically everything I have to say about the World Series, except that now that work has theoretically begun on the horror film 28 Months Later (the sequel to 28 Weeks Later, which was the sequel to 28 Days Later), will we eventually be seeing 28 Years Later, a horror film directed specifically at people with 'All The Way Rays' signs and other overambitious paraphernalia?

And of course, let us not forget the awards! The Most Random Home Run award is securely in the domain of Joe Blanton (congrats, Joe) and the Other Team MVP award goes to Carl Crawford. If you have any complaints about the allocation of these awards, feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Phillies smash Rays' pitching, take 3-1 lead in Series

I'm so sorry for not posting last night, but I hope this is epic enough to make up for it: Joe Blanton became the first Phillies pitcher ever to hit a home run, and (as the odds against Scott Kazmir going deep are nearly incalculable, and Cole Hamels had a regular season batting average of .224) I'm almost totally sure this has earned Blanton the Arkham's Child Most Random Home Run award for the World Series.

Pat Burrell received a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 1st for the first run of the game - and a walk from Andy Sonnanstine is a rare event no matter what the circumstance - Chase Utley had two walks, and to top it all off, Ryan Howard is back, with two homers and 5 RBIs in Game 4. Jayson Werth had a double and a home run, and (just to mention something positive about the Rays) Eric Hinske launched a ball really far into center to continue the strange Postseason '08 tradition of pinch-hitters doing theoretically important things. But it didn't do them much good, as it was their final run of the game (Carl Crawford had hit a solo shot to right field in the top of the 4th).

The Rays' bats didn't do a lot to help out their unfortunate pitchers - Peña and Longoria seem to be perpetually hovering on the brink of a "combined 0-for-infinity", and the Tampa Bay box scores are starting to look like one bad joke. (I hate bad jokes.) But I'd be willing to assume that Joe Maddon is quite aware that his situation is about as un-funny as you can get, although I can't really see how he's going to successfully deal with his newfound problem (which, by the way, has a name: Cole Hamels).

Hamels and Kazmir are scheduled to pitch Game 5 tomorrow, and for anyone who cares enough to read this blog post, you have to watch that game, (actually, everyone in the world should watch the game, but obviously that's not possible,) for although it seems like an obvious final win for Cole "undefeated-in-postseason-starts" Hamels and the Fightin' Phils, there is, um, only one October. Or something like that.