Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Armed and Dangerous

Good pitching beats good hitting.

At least that’s what has been said for years, whether it be 1995 as the Braves’ Three Aces shut down the historically great Tribe lineup, or watching the D-Backs ride Schilling and the Big Unit to a 2001 championship over a stacked Yankees’ lineup, or even the Cardinals’ riding a suddenly, and inexplicably, hot rotation to a 2006 World Series Championship.

Conventional wisdom dictates that a team receiving consistent, and consistently excellent, starting pitching puts the aforementioned team in a position to win most games, regardless of offensive output in the regular season and particularly in the playoffs.

So, if strong starting pitching truly is what carries a team into the postseason and dictates the postseason success of that team, how do the Tribe starters stack up against the rest of the AL contenders’ rotations?

Considering that much of pitching is recent performance (to wit, Jake Westbrook is 4-7 on the season, but is the hottest pitcher in MLB), the August statistics for the top 4 starters on contending teams in the AL with more than 20 IP in the month break down like this:
Jake Westbrook – 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
C.C. Sabathia – 2.50 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
Fausto Carmona – 2.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
Paul Byrd – 5.35 ERA, 1.49 WHIP

Josh Beckett – 2.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Tim Wakefield – 2.45 ERA, 0.97 WHIP
Curt Schilling – 3.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
Daisuke Matsuzaka – 3.81 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Los Angeles
Kelvim Escobar – 2.38 ERA, 1.12 WHIP
John Lackey – 3.63 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
Joe Saunders – 4.22 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Jared Weaver – 4.85 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

Jeff Weaver – 3.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Felix Hernandez – 4.09 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Jared Washburn – 4.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Horacio Ramirez – 7.00 ERA, 1.78 WHIP

New York
Andy Pettitte – 2.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Chien-Ming Wang – 5.46 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
Phil Hughes – 6.11 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
Mike Mussina – 8.87 ERA, 2.01 WHIP
* Roger Clemens does not make the cut for the qualifications having pitched less than 20 IP in his 4 starts in August averaging less than 5 IP per start, but is sitting on a 5.79 ERA with a 1.66 WHIP in those 4 starts.

Nate Robertson – 3.97 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Justin Verlander – 5.08 ERA, 1.48 WHIP
Chad Durbin – 6.53 ERA, 1.60 WHIP
Jeremy Bonderman – 7.11 ERA, 1.71 WHIP

Not too surprising that Boston’s talented rotation is the class of the AL in terms of how deep the quality of starters goes, but the Tribe’s Big 3 of C.C., Carmona, and Jake compares extremely favorably against all of these teams.

Out West, it looks like the Angels have a deeper rotation with more consistency than Seattle, but the Mariners’ rotation looks like the Tribe teams of the early 1950’s compared to what their Wild Card rivals New York and Detroit have been trotting out to the mound in the past few weeks.

Looking at the numbers for the Yankees and Tigers, both of those teams appear to be banking on bludgeoning their way into the postseason because of the dearth of quality or consistency in their rotations.

Back to the Tribe though, as throwing Carmona, Sabathia, and Westbrook (in that order, to break up the RHP and the sinkerballers with a pretty vicious LHP) would have to be seen as a distinct advantage in any playoff series. Whether the Tribe went with a 3-man rotation in the playoffs (the games are very spaced out and sinkerballers have historically been better on short rest) or they added the Byrdman (who had great playoff success with the Angels in the 2005 ALCS) or hoped that Aaron Laffey channeled his inner Jaret Wright (circa 1997, not 2007) as part of a 4-man rotation, one would have to like the Indians’ chances in the playoffs, based on their starting pitching.

Of course, getting to the playoffs is the focus right now as it doesn’t matter how well your starting pitchers are going if they’re sitting at home or on the golf course when the playoffs start.

But, the way the rotation is going, where the “weak link” (Paul Byrd) is 4-1 in the month of August, the Indians have momentum going and a legitimate shot to go on a sustained run to pull away in the AL Central. That momentum could carry into the playoffs, due to the phenomenal performances of the Tribe starters, for this team that seems to be cresting at the right time.


Baltimoran said...

here we go ROYALS

didn't look like much of a crowd tonight either

Cy Slapnicka said...

wow, the big borowski is gonna give me ulcers.

Paul Cousineau said...

24,784 paying customers tonight after 23,178 last night.

It's not the confusion over tickets or rescheduled games - it's a lack of interest in a 1st place team that has 14 home games after tonight until the end of the season.
But the Browns look great...right?
455 is dead.

I'll be there tomorrow for the C.C.-Johan duel.

t-bone said...

Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Olney [Print without images]

Monday, August 27, 2007
Indians pitching coming together

The Indians got the kind of win that helps to define a season, coming back to beat Kansas City, with Grady Sizemore putting together a huge at-bat.

This was an important week for the Indians, who went to Detroit and dropped the first game of a three-game series -- and then took two of three. They went to Kansas City, dropped the first game, and then took two of three. And now they're starting to get more depth in their pitching.

Fausto Carmona and C.C. Sabathia are part of the 10-man conversation for the AL Cy Young Award, of course. But Jake Westbrook has an ERA of 1.50 this month, and he said over the phone the other day that he feels like his sinker -- the pitch that he must have -- has gotten much better. "I'm in a much better rhythm now," said Westbrook, who got hurt early and spent seven weeks on the disabled list.

Paul Byrd is 3-1 this month, and middle relievers Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez continue to throw well.

If the Indians are to do any damage in the postseason, they will need Sizemore and Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez to haul the offense of their backs. But they will get to the postseason only if their pitching continues to progress.

Next up for the Indians, in the AL Central grind -- three games at home against Minnesota.

• David Wells was well aware of what his victory meant last night, as Kevin Kernan writes -- he tied Whitey Ford with 236 career wins. Wells impressed his new teammates, writes Helene Elliott, and made a big pitch to Moises Alou. His next start will be against ... the Padres. He's got a chip on his shoulder with the Padres' name on it, but they also know that he has a tough time maintaining his delivery past five innings. Should be a fascinating game.

Scott Proctor is struggling, and there is baseball-wide speculation that he is simply worn out.

• The D-backs' Chris Young clubbed a couple of homers, and Arizona added to its lead in the NL West. The D-backs must declare their true status in San Diego this week, writes Dan Bickley -- pennant chasers, or posers.

• The Reds are now closer to the leaders in the NL Central than the Yankees are to the Red Sox, or the Braves are to the Mets, after their latest blowout victory. Tom Shearn got his first chance on a big league mound, after more than a decade in the minors, and won. David Weathers has evolved into the Reds' closer, writes Hal McCoy, and has done a terrific job.

• Alfonso Soriano kept telling everybody that he would be back earlier than expected, and it turns out that he was right. It is likely he will be curtailed in his base-stealing, writes Paul Sullivan. The Cubs are in first, but seem to have lost their killer instinct.

• The White Sox are playing like they've shut it down, and if you were a player and you read the comments that were made by Ozzie Guillen in this morning's paper, you might be pretty annoyed. "It's not easy to be managing this ballclub," Guillen had said a day earlier. "It's a struggle. It's not easy to make those guys go out and play every day." Unless you were in the room, you can't be sure exactly what he meant by these words, but in newsprint, they will read like he is separating himself from the White Sox failure.

Josh Fields has been shifted to left field, to pave the way for Joe Crede to return to third for next season.

The White Sox accomplished something -- sort of -- that had only been accomplished four times before.

• Phil Hughes got knocked around early by Detroit, and the Yankees could never catch up, as Mark Feinsand writes. Hughes could have a great future, but he hasn't wowed anybody yet. He basically is a two-pitch pitcher at this point, and if he is having trouble throwing his curve for strikes, well, he's going to get hit.

Derek Jeter embraced a chance for a day off, which tells you that his sore knees are bothering him, writes Tyler Kepner. Within the same notebook, there is word that Ian Kennedy, one of the Yankees' top prospects, will probably not be called up after Sept. 1 -- which means that he's probably not a candidate to replace Mike Mussina in the rotation if Mussina throws badly tonight.

• Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones were out of the lineup Sunday, and the Braves lost, again, with Jo-Jo Reyes on the mound. That's 0-7 and counting with Reyes on the mound, as Carroll Rogers writes.

• You have to wonder if the Mariners are getting a little weary, playing every day on the road, but there is no rest for the weary -- the Angels visit Safeco, starting tonight. "We're ready to take the Angels on," says manager John McLaren. There is word at the end of this notebook that the Mariners' starter for tonight's game was sent home early. Jarrod Washburn made one serious mistake in the Mariners' loss Sunday, writes David Andriesen.

• The Padres missed Chris Young Sunday and got blown out, but all things considered, they had a good road trip -- and now have a couple of home series this week. Milton Bradley and the Philly fans got into it again, writes Chris Jenkins.

• Detroit has drawn a line in the sand against the Yankees, and Curtis Granderson has had a lot to do with that. The Tigers did lose a starting pitcher to the DL, and within the same piece, there is word that Kenny Rogers is not close to coming back.

Gary Sheffield is not close to coming back; he may not even travel with the team on its upcoming road trip.

• The Orioles' tailspin has become serious -- that's six straight losses and counting; even Erik Bedard got hit around, on Sunday, which isn't going to help him in what is a very, very tight Cy Young Award race. Ramon Hernandez took extra batting practice. Talked with a couple of talent evaluators about Hernandez recently, and they said his regression this season has been striking, that he's not playing with nearly as much energy as he had in the past. Within the same notebook, there is word that someone wants to buy the record-setting ball from the 30-3 loss -- but the party interested in buying the ball can't find the person with the ball.

• The Red Sox wrapped up the AL East with their blowout of Chicago over the weekend, writes Tony Massarotti. J.D. Drew ended a homerless streak that had lasted 166 at-bats. Bobby Kielty is off to a good start with the Red Sox, writes Jeff Horrigan.

• With one bad pitch, the Pirates' winning streak came to an end. The Pirates started scoring runs, and that ended all conversation about their fundamentals, as Dejan Kovacevic writes.

• The Brewers got swept in San Francisco; they were 11 games over .500 in late July and now they are back to .500, as Tom Haudricourt writes. And the hits just keep on coming for Milwaukee: It looks like Claudio Vargas will be sidelined with a bad back.

• Jimmy Rollins showed the way for the Phillies, writes Jim Salisbury. The Phillies must make their move now, with the Mets coming to Philly, Jim writes here. Chase Utley will be back in the lineup tonight.

• Billy Wagner's dead arm is alive again, writes Anthony McCarron. Within the same notebook, there is word that Pedro Martinez will make his next rehab start tonight.

• The Twins got out of Baltimore before the Orioles got mad. Patrick Reusse admits he never thought the Twins would be relevant in the race now. Dennys Reyes landed on the disabled list.

• Adam Wainwright was The Man. Jason Isringhausen has joined an elite group, as Derrick Goold writes. Russ Springer has decided to pitch another year.

• Joakim Soria had one of those days.

• The Blue Jays got a reminder of what could have been while facing an old teammate, writes Bob Elliott.

• The Florida rotation, so important to the team's success in 2007, continues to be a problem, as Juan Rodriguez writes. The pain and frustration is getting to Fredi Gonzalez, writes Mike Phillips.

Aaron Boone will have surgery on his knee next week, write Joe Capozzi.

• Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell could play a role in rebuilding the Astros, writes Richard Justice.

Ty Wigginton rounded out what was a good day for the Astros.

• Sammy Sosa got a chance to play and made the best of it, as Dave Sessions writes. Ian Kinsler has taken to the leadoff spot, writes Evan Grant.

• B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena took over Sunday's game. The Rays are on pace to break an AL record that they'd rather not own. Soon enough, Tampa Bay will shift Akinori Iwamura from third base to second to make room for a top prospect.

• The assessment of the Nats' starting pitcher, by his coach, was blunt. Mark Lerner is traveling around and checking out operations in other parks, to prepare for the opening of Washington's park.

Manny Acta has been The Man for the Nationals this year, writes Mark Zuckerman. Right now, he and Bob Melvin might be the front-runners for the NL Manager of the Year Award.

• Hideki Okajima has been dominant for the Sox, writes Jere Longman. As of today, Okajima would have to get very serious consideration for Rookie of the Year.

• Kelvim Escobar was The Man for the Angels.

• Barry Zito will be pitching for a season of double-digit victories tonight, writes John Shea. A Giant prayed for a home run before the game, and his prayer was answered.

• The Rockies are on a roll, again. Within this notebook, there is word that Willy Taveras could rejoin the lineup on Friday.

• Scott Ostler gives low grades to the new Bay Area managers.

• Marco Scutaro continues to feel foggy, and the weekend in Tampa Bay was lost.

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rodells said...

Joe Blowski is going to make me rip my hair out by the end of this season.

Really wished we could have picked up an arm that Wedge could trust besides the Raffy's. One of them can't hit a rough stretch.

t-bone said...

I've got quite a dilemma. I obviously want to be at the duel of the aces tonight, but also have a fantasy football draft on Yahoo at 8pm, $50 a team with 14 teams.

At this point, leaning towards drafting and then heading down Thursday for Seattle make up game.

Paul Cousineau said...

Carm ('dells),
I hear you. I'm just gripping for an injury/bad stretch by either Senor Slo-Mo or The Scarecrow.
By the way, I think that Raffy Perez is the best thing going today.

Lewis is nice looking...to a degree, and VERY green. Mastny scares me and Fultz is MIA.

Maybe they find lighting in a bottle with Koplove or Matt Miller.

If it makes you feel better, Gagne & Linebrink have been disasters and Dotel & Otsuka are on the DL.

Doesn't really make ME feel better, but at least we didn't overpay for damaged or faulty goods.

Cy Slapnicka said...

Post season tix lottery:

Cy Slapnicka said...

Regarding Buster's column, "...only if their pitching continues to progress." And then he nearly ejaculated on my computer screen today talking about some Yankees pitcher that has pitched 10 innings?

Gee, I wonder why I don't pay for insider access.