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The future of the Giants' farm system will largely depend upon the team's most recent draft.

Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

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You might not know it from watching the World Series, but it often makes sense for a manager to pinch hit for his starter before the late innings.

Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

Mitchel Lichtman, or MGL, has been doing sabermetric research and writing for over 20 years. He is one of the authors of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, and co-hosts The Book blog, www.insidethebook.com. He consulted for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2004 to 2006, as well as other major-league teams. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from the University of Nevada Boyd School of Law. Most of the time these days you can find him on the golf course.


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Your starter goes eight scoreless, and your closer is available. Who pitches the ninth? There's only one right answer.

“If Jose Valverde is not better in the ninth inning than Rick Porcello after eight innings, and Jose Valverde's a top closer, then we might as well not have a closer.”—Jim Leyland

 “Never is (Colon) your best chance, because on his best day, he’s never as good as Rivera.”—Mike Francesa

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March 3, 2011 9:00 am

Overthinking It: Opening Acts

6

Ben Lindbergh

How often do teams' Opening Day starters live up to their top billing?

“He deserves it. He earned it. He should have made the All-Star team last year. Right now, I think Mike Pelfrey should be the No. 1 guy on this staff.”—Terry Collins

The quote above is a variation on a theme repeated exactly thirty times per preseason. At some point before 25-man rosters are finalized and the games start to mean something, each manager makes a show of anointing his team’s Opening Day starter. The names change—in most cases, they’re more impressive than Pelfrey’s—but the platitudes stay the same.

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February 14, 2010 11:58 am

Give and Take

9

Marc Normandin and Tommy Bennett

Discussing Jonathan Papelbon's decision to go year-to-year on his contracts rather than sign a long-term deal.

Marc Normandin: Jonathan Papelbon once again waited until the last minute to avoid arbitration and signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. His reasoning for delaying the proceedings has been pointed out in the past, by Papelbon himself-it boils down to the fact that Paps, a closer, feels monetarily slighted after being removed from a career path as a starting pitcher. The following quotes come from early in the 2007 season, his second full campaign as a reliever, and the first in which it was guaranteed by the Red Sox that it was his role for the future:

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December 18, 2009 12:11 pm

Checking the Numbers: Swinging Role Reversals

5

Eric Seidman

Sorting out the odder types among pitchers asked to start and relieve.

Last week, we took a look at swingmen, those pitchers that spend a decent amount of time in both the rotation and bullpen during the same season, doing so as a means of gauging the true expected performance differential when a pitcher shifts roles in either direction. The number of pitchers of this ilk have declined over the last few decades, but they still surface from time to time for one reason or another. Some are young prospects who, when called up, are instantly installed in the pen, to develop confidence, to get exposure, just help out in middle relief, or a combination of the three. At other times, putting young starters in the pen aids the team's efforts to limit their workloads. In certain situations, the ability to serve as both a specialist and emergency starter provides some additional utility to teams, as they don't need to sign Josh Towers to take a start, or dip into the farm system in the event of a doubleheader or an injury.

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October 28, 2009 11:55 am

Changing Speeds: Smoltz, SOMA, and the Series

15

Ken Funck

Do the Yankees and Phillies stand a better chance of laying into the starting pitchers the third time through the order?

For the first time since 1926, the most powerful offenses in each league will be facing off in this year's Fall Classic, and fans and media have been busy pondering the ability of either pitching staff to hold up. Both the Yankees and Phillies boast deep and powerful lineups that can easily convert a few mistakes into crooked numbers on the scoreboard, and Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel have surely spent anxious hours trying to determine the optimal way to ensure their best available arms pitch the most and, most important, innings. The countdown to Game One has included speculation on whether the Yankees will stick with a three-man rotation, how much gas Pedro Martinez has in his tank, whether CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee can be effective through three starts in a seven-game series, and whether Manual will continue his careful use of volatile "closer" Brad Lidge.

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Usage defines the future for hurlers.

To read Ken Funck's Unfiltered post following up on one of the audience's suggested topics, surf here.

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June 6, 2009 12:23 pm

Future Shock: Draft Class '09 Top 50

31

Kevin Goldstein

Taking the teams out of the equation to answer who the best talents are in this year's draft.

To be clear, this is not a prediction of how the players will be selected, nor is it any kind of mock draft. Instead, this is a pure ranking of talent based on a combination of ultimate ceiling and the probability of reaching it after numerous conversations with scouts, cross-checkers, scouting directors, and front office officials.

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February 12, 2009 11:29 am

Future Shock: Royals Top 11 Prospects

24

Kevin Goldstein

GM Dayton Moore's watch has involved the slow assembly of premium talent, but how soon until it changes the KC's fortunes on the field?

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November 3, 2008 11:07 am

Future Shock: Diamondbacks Top 11 Prospects

18

Kevin Goldstein

Fewer prospects in Arizona's inventory is made bearable by the presence of so much young talent already on the major league roster.

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June 3, 2008 12:00 am

Future Shock: The Top 50 Talents

0

Kevin Goldstein

Setting aside the teams doing the picking, who are the players who rate best in terms of talent and projection?

To be as clear as possible, this is not a prediction of how the players will be selected or any type of mock draft--you'll see that tomorrow. Instead, this is a ranking of talent in a similar vein of my off-season team-by-team rankings, based on the combination of ultimate ceiling and the chances to reach it.

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