Not counting mail that addressed other topics, 100 percent of the letters I received in the wake of my last column wanted to know one thing: how could I possibly have picked A.J. Pierzynski over Jason Kendall for the Transient All-Stars American League catcher? The answer is a simple one: if I hadn’t spaced and forgotten to include Kendall on my spreadsheet, then I would have definitely picked him. I apologize for this oversight on my part. As so many of you pointed out, Kendall is clearly the better choice.
Had this oversight not occurred, this is what Kendall’s entry would have looked like:
Jason Kendall, Oakland A’s
Of all the players on the Transient All-Star teams, only three had longer runs with their previous clubs than Kendall’s nine years with Pittsburgh. Of those three, only Carlos Delgado (12 years in Toronto) had been with just one team for his entire career the way Kendall has. The other two–Sammy Sosa with 13 years with the Cubs and Omar Vizquel with 11 in Cleveland–both played for other clubs prior to joining what would have to be termed their “memory club;” that is, the team with which they will always be associated.
While it is too late for Sosa and Vizquel to change the perception of their memory club, Kendall is just young enough (30) that he could, at least, create a second memory club situation for himself. Although this is harder for catchers to do than others, we need look only to Carlton Fisk for a precedent. He was 32 in his last year with the Red Sox and he managed to give his legacy a very split feel between Boston and Chicago. Of course, he played until he was 45; Kendall doesn’t have to go that far, just thrive in Oakland for seven or eight years. A.J. Pierzynski, now of the White Sox, would be the back-up catcher on this team.
Last time we covered the transient positional All-Stars. Today we get around to the pitchers. We’ll start with five-man rotations for each league:
American League Starters
Randy Johnson, New York Yankees
I’m beginning to think this Johnson fellow is going to stick. Sure he had a rough start to his big-league career, but it looks as though he’s put that behind him now. I also think Johnson qualified for the Hall of Fame with his 200th victory. Everything since then has been gravy because of his excellent career winning percentage. Prior to the last two seasons, Johnson had one of the ten best winning percentages of all time. The 22-22 of 2003-04 has dropped him down to 20th, though. Going to the Yankees will help him climb back up that particular ladder. He’ll need to maintain a high winning percentage if he has any hopes of reaching 300 wins. He needs 54 to get there. Over the last four years, he’s gotten decisions in 82 percent of his starts. If he wins two-thirds of his decisions (approximately his career and recent, four-year average), that should give him about 18 wins per season. That would put him there at age 43, provided there are no injuries or significant drop-offs in performance.
Matt Clement, Boston Red Sox
Of the 86 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title last year, three of the bottom ten in terms of run support find themselves on the Transient All-Star staffs. Al Leiter was 80th at 3.99 per game, just slightly behind Johnson. Clement got just 4.03 runs per start from the Cubs, putting him in 78th place. In 2003, he was 80th out of 92. As has been well-publicized, the Red Sox supported the heck out of Curt Schilling and the departed Derek Lowe. If they could find it in their hearts to give Clement a run or a-run and-a-half more per game, I’m sure he’d be much obliged.
Carl Pavano, New York Yankees
This is going to be an interesting side bet between the Yankees and Red Sox: which of the trios of new starting pitchers is going to total the most VORP. Will it be Johnson, Pavano and Jaret Wright, or Clement, David Wells and Wade Miller? Obviously, the presence of Johnson tips the balance greatly in the favor of New York, but if you factor in dollars, the Red Sox are in a position to get more bang for the dinero. Of course, does that really matter when discussing the Yankees?
David Wells, Boston Red Sox
Most 42-year old guys who look like David Wells couldn’t throw a party, let alone a baseball. I think he gets points just for showing up these days. That he’s still above average is even more amazing. He allowed just 20 walks (again) last year. Couple that with Schilling’s famous control and you have to wonder if the Sox can’t challenge the 2003 Yankees for recent walk stinginess. That team, aided greatly by Wells, allowed just 375 walks.
Wade Miller, Boston Red Sox
This slot could just as easily be taken by Kevin Millwood, now of the Indians. While the projection for Millwood is slightly better, Miller is coming a better 2004. The results don’t have to be spectacular for Miller for this to be considered a successful signing. 180 innings and an ERA of 4.00 should be enough.
National League Starters
Pedro Martinez, New York Mets
At least the Mets know this much going in: 30 starts is about the upper end of Martinez’s limit. Last year was the first time since 1998 that he exceeded that amount. His strikeout rates have dropped since those crazy-ass numbers he put up from 1999 to 2001, but he’s still at more than a man per inning.
Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves
Yes, winning percentages are not especially enlightening, but you have to admit that a career figure of over .700 is pretty cool. Hudson has pitched for six years now and has yet to lose in double figures. That, to use the most over-used word on eBay, is rare. Here are the only men to do it who were predominantly starters and who had career winning percentages over .600. The second figure is their career-high in losses:
Spud Chandler: 11 seasons (really nine), eight losses in 1946
Sal Maglie: 10 seasons, nine losses in 1953
Carl Lundgren: eight seasons, nine losses four times (1902-04, 1908)
Hudson: six seasons, nine loses twice (2001-02)
Can Hudson keep it up? Well, there are worse places to end up in order to try. This is the team that helped Russ Ortiz to a two-year record of 36-16, after all, and Hudson is miles better than him.
Mark Mulder, St. Louis Cardinals
The A’s lost his last four starts by the score of 35-9, so he certainly has the worst trajectory of anybody on this list. How relevant is that to his chances in 2005? Not very–unless he was hiding an injury.
Al Leiter Florida Marlins
One would assume that trading Todd Zeile for Carlos Delgado as your first baseman is going to give you at least a quarter-run per game more. After the run boycott the Mets were on when Leiter pitched last year, any and all donations will be accepted.
Javier Vazquez, Arizona Diamondbacks
Vazquez has the opposite problem of Leiter in his new home. While the Yankees were far more generous with some of his teammates, they still spotted him 5.13 runs per start which was almost a full run higher than that afforded his new teammate, Brandon Webb, last year.