November 6, 2013

Free agent pitching options: Top-of-the-rotation starters

Dating back to the 2011 season Twins starting pitchers have posted a combined 5.08 ERA for the worst mark in baseball and the only other rotation with an ERA above 4.80 during that three-year span plays half its games at Coors Field. In those three seasons Twins starters ranked 26th, 29th, and 30th in ERA. They also ranked 28th, 30th, and 30th in strikeout rate, including a pathetic 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings this year while no other team was below 6.0.

To figure out their options for addressing the dreadful rotation via free agency I've grouped the available arms into three categories: Top-of-the-rotation starters, middle-of-the-rotation starters, and back-of-the-rotation starters. First up are the top-of-the-rotation starters, which I view as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter on a contending team. By definition there are only around 40 of those guys across baseball, but a decent number of them are hitting the open market at the same time.

2013 Chicago Cubs Photo DayMatt Garza - RHP - 155 innings - 3.82 ERA - 3.73 xFIP - 136/42 K/BB

There are less likely Twins reunions (Kyle Lohse, for instance), but not many. Garza was misguidedly traded away for Delmon Young as a 23-year-old in 2007 and has gone on to post a sub-4.00 ERA in every season since. He never quite developed into an ace, but has been a solid No. 2 starter with good strikeout rates and mediocre control. He bounced back fairly well from an injury wrecked 2012 campaign and at age 30 is likely in line for a huge payday.

2013 New York Yankees Photo Day

Hiroki Kuroda - RHP - 201 innings - 3.31 ERA - 3.60 xFIP - 150/43 K/BB

For the second straight offseason Kuroda is one of the elite free agent pitchers available and for the second straight offseason no one seems to think there's any chance he does anything but re-sign with the Yankees. Kuroda will be 39 years old before Opening Day, but showed zero signs of slowing down this year in terms of workload, raw stuff, or effectiveness and has posted a sub-3.50 ERA in each of the past four years. He'd cost the Twins a second-round draft pick to sign.

Pittsburgh Pirates Photo DayA.J. Burnett - RHP - 191 innings - 3.30 ERA - 2.92 xFIP - 209/67 K/BB

Burnett was written off as a bum thanks to three ugly seasons in New York, but the Pirates gladly let the Yankees pay them to take him for two seasons and got 393 innings of a 3.41 ERA. Among the 81 pitchers to qualify for the ERA title this year Burnett ranked fourth in strikeout rate, second in ground-ball rate, and eighth in xFIP, but at age 37 it's possible he'll retire and if not the Pirates seem confident he'll re-sign.

2013 Toronto Blue Jays Photo DayJosh Johnson - RHP - 81 innings - 6.20 ERA - 3.58 xFIP - 83/30 K/BB

Johnson has always struggled to stay healthy (150-plus innings four times in eight seasons) and always pitched like an ace when not hurt (3.40 career ERA), but this year he was injured and ineffective. However, his secondary numbers were vastly superior to his bloated 6.20 ERA, including more than a strikeout per inning, and his fastball averaged 93 miles per hour. At age 30 no free agent pitcher has more upside, but Johnson's injury history is impossible to ignore.

2013 Kansas City Royals Photo DayErvin Santana - RHP - 211 innings - 3.24 ERA - 3.69 xFIP - 161/51 K/BB

No free agent pitcher improved his stock more than Santana, who went from the Angels dumping his $13 million salary on the Royals to throwing 211 innings with a 3.24 ERA at age 30. It's perfect timing and his horrible 2012 now looks out of place next to sub-4.00 ERAs in 2010, 2011, and 2013, but Santana remains very homer-prone and hasn't topped 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings since 2008. And he'd cost the Twins a second-round draft pick to sign.

Cleveland Indians Photo DayUbaldo Jimenez - RHP - 183 innings - 3.30 ERA - 3.62 xFIP - 194/80 K/BB

Jimenez emerged as a young ace for the Rockies and was acquired by the Indians in a mid-2011 blockbuster, but his raw stuff steadily declined and he was a mess in 2012. He got back on track in a big way this year, throwing 183 innings with a 3.30 ERA and 194 strikeouts, but his average fastball velocity actually fell even further to a career-low 91.7 miles per hour and he's always been extremely wild. He'd cost the Twins a second-round draft pick to sign.

Atlanta Braves Photo DayTim Hudson - RHP - 131 innings - 3.97 ERA - 3.56 xFIP - 95/36 K/BB

One of the best, most underrated starters of this generation, Hudson was having another effective year at age 37 when a fractured ankle ended his season in July. Hudson is overlooked because he doesn't rack up tons of strikeouts, but among all pitchers with at least 1,000 innings as starters since his debut in 1999 he ranks fourth in ground-ball rate and fifth in homer rate. It seems doubtful that he'd want to finish his career on a non-contender, but Hudson is a helluva pitcher.

2013 Washington Nationals Photo DayDan Haren - RHP - 170 innings - 4.67 ERA - 3.67 xFIP - 151/31 K/BB

Haren's health status made him a big question mark last winter and he chose a one-year, $13 million deal with an eye on resurrecting his value and hitting the open market again. Things went horribly for him early on, but from July 1 through the end of the season he started 15 games with a 3.29 ERA and 84/18 K/BB ratio in 88 innings. Injuries and diminished raw stuff make Haren a risk at age 33, but his secondary numbers were much more impressive than his ERA.


For a lot more about the Twins' free agent pitching options, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

August 3, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• If you thought Tom Hardy was hard to understand as Bane, wait until you hear the original.

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Aubrey Plaza seems nice.

Delmon Young is back in court and looking for a plea deal in his hate crime case. Mazel tov!

Lew Ford is 35 years old and back in the majors for the first time since 2007.

• My mom sent me this link and wrote "could be trouble."

• And then about three minutes later she sent me this link and wrote "sorry."

• Let this be a lesson to local mainstream media: Being nice to bloggers is good for business.

• Nine rejections, one chip on your shoulder, and zero other ideas can make you do something for 10 years. Thankfully.

• Speaking of which, can I use all you guys as references? Fingers crossed!

• My blogging debut on August 1, 2002 was about the Marlins overworking A.J. Burnett. One day short of exactly 10 years later Burnett threw a one-hit shutout.

• This is the perfect tweet, obviously.

Vin Scully + Twitter = adorable:

I still tune into Dodgers games almost every night just to hear him, at age 84.

• Maybe things get polished a little bit in translation, but Andrei Kirilenko comes across as incredibly smart in this interview about signing with the Timberwolves.

• Guess who leads the AL in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS since May 15?

Amanda Dobbins examined if The Cutting Edge holds up 20 years later, which reminded me that I watched it at least 10 times on television as a kid and had a crush on Moira Kelly.

• Speaking of movies I've seen on TV double-digit times, Super Troopers is getting a sequel.

• I never know what topics Paul Allen has in mind when I show up to KFAN's studio and this week we ended up talking about our respective food issues and my weight loss quite a bit.

• For anyone who heard the aforementioned weight loss discussion on KFAN yesterday and wants to know more about my story, click here.

• My bourbon-drinking buddy Cee Angi has a very interesting article about the role of gender in baseball writing.

• I'm ashamed and disgusted to admit how charmed I was by this conversation between Carson Cistulli and Dayn Perry.

Parker Posey had a great guest role on Louie and did an interview with Grantland about the experience which she ended by asking: "Why isn't there more ping-pong on television?"

Glen Perkins shared some unique insight into the trade deadline experience.

• If you missed my analysis of the Francisco Liriano trade, I wrote a bunch of words about it and also talked a bunch about it on the radio.

• I'm convinced Paul F. Tompkins deserves a talk show, but these videos will have to suffice:

Zach Galifianakis is pretty good too, of course.

• My all-time favorite podcast guest, Chelsea Peretti, was predictably great on Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend.

• I was way too excited for Sunday's season premiere of Bar Rescue, which is my favorite cheesy reality show. You can watch the episodes online and fall in love with Jon Taffer.

• As someone who attended the annual National Sports Collectors Convention a handful of times as a kid, I can only imagine the crazy scene there as this happened.

• I got a nice e-mail from Steve Braun after he read my profile ranking him as the 35th-best player in Twins history. Now if only I had enough free time to finish the series. (Sorry.)

• UFC fans will enjoy watching Tito Ortiz's informal, two-hour conversation with Joe Rogan. It really changed the way I think of him.

• Netflix instant recommendation: Goon, which charmed me despite a shaky start.

• In terms of great Jon Hamm guest roles, this might be even better than his 30 Rock stint.

Artie Lange, Todd Barry, and Greg Fitzsimmons was podcasting magic (and also filthy).

• Having dealt with them in the past, Metro Magazine closing up shop is sad but not surprising.

• Back by popular demand, this week's most amusing, weird, and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Aaron Gleeman fat"
- "Dick Bremer salary"
- "Binge once a week weight loss"
- "Aaron Gleeman chicken"
- "Jerome Felton girlfriend"
- "Hormel chicken packaging"
- "Rob McElhenney exact weight"
- "Yuengling in Minneapolis"
- "Mustache dresser games"
- "Back hair baseball jersey"
- "Jason Kubel's sister"
- "Jon Rauch tattoos"
- "Paul Charchian versus Karl Pilkington"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is a live version of "I Can't Hear You" by The Dead Weather:

This week's blog content is sponsored by the local B&B Blog, a top 20 accounting blog and "the most fascinating accounting blog in the world." Please support them for supporting AG.com.

October 6, 2010

Twins Notes: Before the storm

I'll be in attendance at Target Field tonight--in the stands with a Twins hat and a beer rather than in the press box with a laptop--so while anxiously counting down the seconds until 7:37 p.m. here are some notes before Game 1 of the ALDS ...

A.J. Burnett is in the second season of a five-year, $82.5 million contract, but he's been so bad while going 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in 12 starts since August 1 that the Yankees have decided to bump him from the playoff rotation. Instead of using Burnett in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium they'll bring back CC Sabathia to start on short rest, followed by Andy Pettitte on full rest in Game 5. Here are the new game-by-game matchups:

Game 1: CC Sabathia (238 IP, 3.78 xFIP) vs. Francisco Liriano (192 IP, 3.06 xFIP)

Game 2: Andy Pettitte (129 IP, 4.05 xFIP) vs. Carl Pavano (221 IP, 4.01 xFIP)

Game 3: Phil Hughes (176 IP, 4.33 xFIP) vs. Brian Duensing (131 IP, 4.11 xFIP)

Game 4: CC Sabathia (238 IP, 3.78 xFIP) vs. Nick Blackburn (161 IP, 4.68 xFIP)

Game 5: Andy Pettitte (129 IP, 4.05 xFIP) vs. Francisco Liriano (192 IP, 3.06 xFIP)

Sabathia was scheduled for two starts either way, so the rotation shift mostly just alters his matchups, but by giving Pettitte a second start in place of Burnett the Yankees dramatically increase his role in the series. Pettitte is MLB's all-time leader in playoff wins and innings, but he's also 38 years old and has allowed 11 runs on 22 hits in 13.1 innings since spending two months on the disabled list with a groin injury.

So far New York and Philadelphia are the only playoff teams committed to using a three-man rotation in the first round, although thanks to an extra off day in the NLDS schedule the Phillies can do so without starting anyone on short rest. Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1995, pitchers starting games on short rest are 21-31 with a 4.65 ERA. Sabathia has made just six career short-rest starts, but he's 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA.

• Burnett getting bumped from the Yankees' rotation means the Twins will face a left-handed starter in four of five games, which is a definite advantage for New York. In the regular season the Twins had a .776 OPS versus right-handers compared to a .736 OPS versus left-handers, in large part because Jim Thome and Jason Kubel both struggle against lefties and the Twins don't have a good right-handed bat to sub for them.

Sabathia and Pettitte starting four times lessens Thome's likely impact, because for as great as he's been this season his OPS is 400 points lower versus lefties than righties. Thome just isn't JIM THOME against southpaws, and that's been true for his entire career. Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, and Danny Valencia need to step up as the lineup's top right-handed bats with Thome, Kubel, and Joe Mauer all at a big disadvantage in four of five games.

• On the other hand, the Yankees' lack of southpaw relievers plays into the Twins' strengths in the late innings. New York's bullpen has the potential to be extremely good, but Boone Logan is the lone left-handed option. He's held lefties to a .190 batting average and .501 OPS this season, but also has a 5.10 career ERA. Even if Joe Girardi trusts him in key spots the Twins' lefty heavy lineup will eventually get opportunities to face righties late in games.

• As expected, the Twins are going with 14 position players and 11 pitchers on the first-round roster. They don't have to submit an official list until this afternoon, but Scott Baker reportedly will be the odd man out in favor of Kevin Slowey unless Jon Rauch is deemed unavailable due to his knee injury and they both make the cut.

Matt Tolbert, Jose Morales, and Ben Revere were the candidates to fill the final bench spot and Tolbert is expected to get the nod. I think that's a mistake, because he's redundant with Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla on the roster and Revere offers far more playoff uses as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for Young in left field. With that said, because the Twins are unlikely to pinch-hit for anyone in the lineup the bench's impact figures to be minimal.

• Last week Justin Morneau expressed a bit of optimism about potentially being available for the ALCS or World Series, but after some of his post-concussion symptoms returned following vigorous workouts the Twins have officially shut him down until 2011.

Francisco Liriano was named the Comeback Player of the Year for the American League, as voted by MLB.com's beat writers. Tim Hudson won the NL version over R.A. Dickey.

• Twins fans will be happy to see that Phil Cuzzi is not umpiring the ALDS and in fact is absent from MLB's first-round assignments along with Joe West and Bob Davidson. Jerry Crawford, Hunter Wendelstedt, Greg Gibson, Brian O'Nora, Gary Darling, and Chris Guccione are the crew for the Twins-Yankees series. Ron Gardenhire has a history of run-ins with Wendelstedt.

• I received a lot of e-mails, comments, and tweets from Twins fans upset about the New York Daily News' front page Monday, but the whole thing seems pretty silly to me. Don't confuse the people who write headlines for newspapers with the people who play for the Yankees.

• Released by the Indians in July after hitting .206 in 22 games, Mike Redmond announced his retirement. He's long been touted as a potential future manager and surely has a job waiting for him with the Twins if he wants it.

Terry Ryan is said to be on the Mets' initial list of targets to replace general manager Omar Minaya, although given his stated reasons for stepping down as the Twins' general manager in September of 2007 it seems unlikely that Ryan would want the same gig in New York.

• My primary regret about choosing to attend Game 1 sans press pass? Not getting a copy of the Twins' postseason media guide and its awesome cover photo.

• I'll have some Game 1 thoughts posted here by tomorrow morning, but if you're interested in reading my real-time babbling live from the Target Field stands tonight follow me on Twitter.