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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Issues, Pitching Issues

Player predictions are starting to pop up around the web. Looking at ZiPS, Fungoes notices that Pujols is an early favorite for the Triple Crown. At the Birdwatch, Rob notices more reason for concern in around the pitchers than the offense. I have to express my agreement with that sentiment. Outside of Carpenter or Reyes, the ZiPS projections surrounding the other starting pitchers aren't much to get excited about. Suppan looks to again be Jeff Suppan, and that's a really good thing. As you may have discerned from posts here, I think the steady fourth and fifth starters are a point of pride for the Cardinals over the last two years, especially when they carry economical price tags. Having said that, my intention of this post wasn't to offer a late entry into the ZiPS discussion, rather it was to express some frustration about a couple issues we have around our starting rotation. Issue #1 Mark Mulder Mark Mulder posts stat lines respectable to fourth and fifth starters; this is not acceptable for a number two starter. Of course I realize that these are just predictions, to be taken with a grain of salt, but you can't help but feel that frustration creep back into your thoughts when you see these numbers. 2006 ZiPS projection: 207 IP, 4.22 ERA, 70 BB, 128 K, 205 HA, 19 HR, 1.64 K/BB, 5.57 K/9 2006 Roto Authority: 206 IP, 4.21 ERA, 73 BB, 101 K, 209 HA, 21 HR, 1.38 K/BB, 4.41 K/9 I know Mulder has never been a high strike out, "power" pitcher, but he used to have the ability to strike out hitters when necessary. The walk totals would indicate (at least in the predictors' minds) that we'll be seeing more Mulder painting the outside of the plate, and also that his ability to throw fastballs in the lower-mid 90s is long gone. What I would like to see is Mulder get back to his 2001-03 form, where he walked fewer than 55 batters in each season, and had a K/9 north of 6. Now, his ZiPS is a little better, but it's still not enough to wow you, especially from a number two starter. Another thing to consider is that he's a number two starter in a division where Roy Oswalt, Zambrano/Wood (?), and Chris Capuano are also number two starters. I'm not going to rehash the old "should have never traded"argument; in fact, even though I'm unhappy with the results, I supported the trade. I would still support it, if we could have used those players to grab another true, power pitching number two pitcher. Even so, Mulder does give us an innings eater, and he may well find his way back to his 2001-03 form. He's also a bargain for us in the current market for pitchers; at $7.5 million for 2006, he could have easily garnered $9 million a year as a free agent this winter, probably for four years too. With a contract expiring after this season, I think the Cards should try to work out a deal with him. If they can get him at a reasonable rate (say $32M/ 4 years, contract by Pollyanna there, but still...) and get the kind of number two starter I'm talking about through trade/FA or via Reyes working out well, then he becomes a nice number three starter for 2007. Those are big "ifs" I realize. If they do sign him and Reyes works out and they can get a power pitcher for the number two spot, then they can trade him down the road. Issue #2 Let Reyes Pitch I realize Jocketty most likely intends to use one of our extra starters to trade, so this may be a bit of a dead issue. However, Anthony Reyes is ready to start pitching games in the majors, and reconciling him to Memphis puts him at risk of languishing and regressing in his development. As of now, you have to think that the starting fourth and fifth spots will be taken by Marquis and Ponson, barring major meltdown by the large one. Both of them will certainly expect to start, and will not go the pen graciously. To me, sticking Reyes in the bullpen is not an option at all. He's a starting pitcher, and his importance to the organization is as a starter. Pitching out of the pen risks his conditioning and everything else the club has invested in him. Besides, given his injury history, it just makes sense to keep his body and mind accustomed to starting. I've said before that it might be a good idea to not trot him out there for 200 innings this year, and I still believe that. Therefore, bringing him up in July, after having traded one of our other starters, might be a better than nothing option. This could help him adjust physically, but if the Cards are in a tight race for the division you have to wonder how much LaRussa will be willing to use the rookie. Better to let him start the season in the rotation and adjust. His innings pitched could be held down by keeping him strictly limited to 6 per start and giving someone else (by call-up or by committee) five of Reyes' scheduled starts. I'm sure things will shake out Reyes starts games for the big club this season. If not, expect more rants on the subject as the season progresses. Those are the two main issues I wanted to share today. Sure, I've got lots of issues, some more about baseball even, but I'll save the others for those cold afternoons of the offseason.
if i were GM for a day...

edmonds (12mm) to yankees
eckstein (3.25), wang, wainwright to Os
Tejada (10) and Cano (cheap) to Cards

Marquis (~3.5) and Suppan (4) to As
Zito (7) to Cards

then PTBN to Cubs
Patterson to Cards

CF Patterson
2B Cano
1B Pujols
SS Tejada
3B Rolen
RF Encarnacion
LF Bigbie/JRod/Taguchi
C Molina

Spivey (Miles to AAA)



Might have forgotten someone... I don't think so.
Anyways, more potent offense, stronger rotation, weaker pen (than last year, not current)
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