February 23, 2007
The 2007 Transient All-Stars, Starting Pitchers
Last week we covered the Transient All-Star position players. I appreciate all the letters I got on that column, and yes, there a couple of things I could have done differently. Johnny Estrada would have been just as viable a candidate for National League catcher as my choice, Bengie Molina. Also, I listed Moises Alou as the rightfielder on the National League squad when, in reality, he will be seeing most of his playing time in left. I do stand by my decision not to include Gary Sheffield, however, as he does not rate in either right field (his old position) or designated hitter (his new one). Obviously, if everything goes right for him, he could have a better season than the man I did choose, Frank Thomas.
Any starting pitcher who finds himself on a new team to begin the 2007 season is eligible for inclusion on this select group, although I pretty much limited it to pitchers who made at least 20 starts in 2006. The selections are based on 2006 performance, along with a heavy dose of their chances for success in 2007 based on PECOTA projections.
National League Starters
Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers
A wise choice in employers. As Will Carroll points out, Schmidt likes the trainer in Los Angeles. Plus, it's another pitcher's ballpark for him. It's nice to be able to shape one's own destiny.
Freddy Garcia, Philadelphia Phillies
The big story among the 2006 Transient All-Star starting pitchers was the talent drain from the National League to the American. Not only did talent leave the Senior Circuit for the Junior, a better class of pitcher was staying put as well. That trend has been reversed this year. What follows are the average PECOTA VORP projections for the transient pitchers who made at least 20 starts last year. The number in parenthesis represents the same figure for last year:
AL to NL: 23.0 (8.8)
NL to NL: 15.1 (9.2)
NL to AL: 13.0 (28.0)
AL to AL: 3.7 (14.5)
Overall, the National Leaguers projections are twice those of the Americans on average. Granted, this is a fairly small group of men (24) split four ways.
Jason Jennings, Houston Astros
Jennings' Stuff jump last year is something to give Astros fans cause for hope. But what happened to Jennings' bat? He had a 700 OPS his first full season in the majors, and last year he barely cleared 300. And it's not that up-and-down thing that decent-hitting pitchers do owing to small sample sizes-he's going steadily downhill. An indication of this is that he had 68 plate appearances in 2002, and was only credited with two sacrifices. Last year he came to the plate 75 times, and sacrificed on 10 occasions.
Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants
Garcia, Zito, Randy Johnson, and Ted Lilly are the four big league-jumpers coming into the National League this year. (No, Rodrigo Lopez of the Rockies doesn't rank with them.) The general consensus is that Zito will pitch decently enough that you'd be happy to have him on your team, but not well enough that you'd want to do what the Giants did and give him the deluxe omelet made from Fabergé eggs to get his name on a contract. PECOTA certainly bears witness to this assessment. How many innings will the Giants get out of Zito for the duration of his seven-year contract? Let's start the bidding at 1,000, and you can bid up or down.
Greg Maddux, San Diego Padres, or Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Did you ever think you'd live to see the day when the career win totals of Warren Spahn, Christy Mathewson and Grover Cleveland Alexander would be within range for a modern pitcher? Maddux's five-year PECOTA projection does not have him getting from his current total of 333 up into the 370s, but if he can win 13 or 14 games for the next three years, he's there. He's certainly in better physical condition than pitchers like Johnson and David Wells, who have pitched well into their forties. Johnson has a particularly volatile projection-his Beta is 1.26. Check out what that means before rushing to add him to your fantasy team.
Lilly of the Cubs would have been a viable fifth choice here as well. Doug Davis of the Diamondbacks rates mention because he ranks higher than all but one of the American League Transient starters.
American League Starters
Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
As mentioned above, in marked contrast to last year, the movement of starting pitching talent is toward the National League and away from the American. Pettitte is the only transient starting pitcher with a solid track record that jumped to an American League team durin the Hot Stove League just past. Of the 109 men who started at least 20 games last year, 24 find themselves with new teams this spring. Of those 24, only eight are in the American League, and of those eight, the drop-off in expectations is pretty steep once you get past Pettitte and Jeff Weaver. The PECOTA projections for the other 20-start men with new teams in the American League make for grim reading:
17.0: Jeff Weaver, Mariners from Cardinals
8.2: Jaret Wright, Orioles from Yankees
6.9: Miguel Batista, Mariners from Giants
6.0: Steve Trachsel, Orioles from Mets
5.1: Joel Pineiro, Red Sox from Mariners
3.9: Gil Meche, Royals from Mariners
-2.3: Runelvys Hernandez, Red Sox from Royals
Pineiro's projection is as a swingman; it will obviously have a different upside if he does end up as the Boston closer. As if you needed further proof that the Gil Meche deal was silly, he doesn't even make the American League Transient All-Star staff, in spite of its deeply discounted bottom end.
Jeff Weaver, Seattle Mariners
In the position player Transient All-Stars, I got desperate and used Japanese import Akinori Iwamura at third base for the American League. I haven't done that with the pitchers, although if I had, obviously, Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox and Kei Igawa of the Yankees would have both made it-probably ranking first and third, respectively. Adding them to the mix of new American League pitchers does much to increase the quality of new blood in the loop. Roger Clemens landing with the Yankees or Red Sox would also go some distance towards closing the gap with the National League.
Brandon McCarthy, Texas Rangers
McCarthy goes from making two starts for the White Sox to being the number three man in the Rangers rotation. He's got a fairly alarming home run rate (a little less than two per nine innings) which can't possibly get better at Ameriquest. That 40 percent groundball rate isn't going to do him any favors, either-if ever anyone had a choice betwee developing a sinker or getting sunk, it's McCarthy.
Jaret Wright, Baltimore Orioles
It's looking like another year of sameness at the Yards. The projected won-loss record of the five Oriole starters is 36-45, with Wright coming in at 6-8. His extreme upside (90 percent) is just 9-7. Sorry, Baltimore fans-you'll always have 1983, except for those of you too young to remember it. You can try to recreate it in your minds, though.
Miguel Batista, Seattle Mariners
Yes, this is as good as it gets. Last year's fifth starter for the American League Transients was Kevin Millwood, today's number one starter on the Rangers. This year, none of the five choices are currently depth-charted higher than the third slot (Batista, for instance, is currently the number four man), although Pettitte would be higher on a team other than the Yankees, and probably deserves to be ahead of Chien-Ming Wang.