July 27, 2000
The Daily Prospectus
Yesterday's article on pitcher stress inspired a lot of great responses, more than I can possibly cover here. The main thrust of many of them, though, is a point I want to emphasize: we actually don't know what kind of stress an individual pitcher feels in an individual situation. What we were measuring was innings pitched in close games, and while the data is interesting, to extrapolate too much from it would be folly.
I'd once again like to thank everyone for their interesting feedback. While I can't reply to every e-mail, I do read and consider each and every one, and often bounce them off the rest of the BP group for their input. This is why many of them don't speak to me, by the way.
Anyway, while I was reading a bunch of e-mail, the National League West got a lot more interesting. The Diamondbacks picked up Curt Schilling from the Phillies and the Dodgers reacquired Ismael Valdes from the Cubs. While the Schilling deal got a lot more press (for an analysis of the Phillies' side, see Jeff Hildebrand's NL East Notebook) the Dodgers helped themselves significantly as well, and at a much lower price, acquiring Valdes for journeyman Jamie Arnold and non-prospect Jorge Piedra.
The moves don't exactly cancel each other out, as Schilling is a better pitcher than Valdes, but the difference between them over two months is probably much less than people realize. Here are their Support-Neutral Wins above Replacement for the past three years:
1998 1999 2000
Schilling has a reputation as a horse, while Valdes as a reputation as a head case who never reached his potential. The enormous workload Schilling has carried has definitely had an impact, though. His performance has declined since his big 1998 and he's missed parts of the last two seasons to shoulder damage.
Given the relative cost, the Dodgers probably made a better deal, but it's hard to argue with what the D'backs are doing. They have a very old team with a narrow window for success, and really have to pull out all the stops while their core players are still playing well. They didn't give up anyone who was going to contribute to their 2000 campaign, and all four players dealt leave with at least some doubt about their ability to contribute in the future. It's a short-sighted move, but remember: flags fly forever.
The real advantage for Arizona will come in the postseason, should they advance that far. The prospect of facing Schilling and Randy Johnson three or four times in a five-game series and up to five times in a seven-game series should send chills through fans of the Braves and Cardinals.
One final note: those of you who play roto and other fantasy baseball games are encouraged to visit RotoNews. In addition to their typically excellent material, there's an article by one of the better-looking members of the BP staff on late-season strategy.
Joe Sheehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.