SI Tom Verducci- Starting point: stability

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SI Tom Verducci- Starting point: stability

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:11 pm

SI Tom Verducci- Starting point: stability
Schilling's right: The durable rotation has the edge

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling last March correctly predicted, in theory, the winner of the American League East when he said, "The rotation that makes the most starts wins the division. It's that simple." Boston's projected five-man rotation made 140 starts, tops in the division; the Red Sox won the division. The Yankees' season-opening rotation made 105 starts.

In 2006 it was New York that won the battle over Boston for most starts by its top five starters, 125-107 -- and also won the division.

The Schilling Theory got me thinking that its applications go beyond the Boston-New York rivalry. As players are better trained than ever before and as front offices make better use of available information than ever before, the difference between going home or to the playoffs may rest more on rotation stability than any other factor -- which means pennant races might well be decided by the happenstance of injury. In other words, you can pour enormous resources and planning into team building and yet you're left to the mercy of when the alarm clocks that are ulnar collateral nerves or rotator cuffs decide to go off.

In coming weeks I'll get to what this means for the 2008 Red Sox and Yankees -- and the seven most at-risk young starters in baseball -- but let's just say for now that New York would be much better off in the short run, though not as certainly in the long run, to trade for Twins ace Johan Santana before spring training. The Yankees can build years of success around young starting pitchers Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, but just not this year without some risk. The Yankees know they can't push any of those starters to 200 innings this year -- not at their ages and not given the risky leap in workload it would require. And remember, the Yankees' mission is to get to the World Series, which requires a seventh month of starts for three young pitchers who aren't ready for even six full months yet.

Without Santana, New York must plan for rotation instability in 2008. It can be done, but the odds begin to work against a team the more second-tier starters it has to plug in. ("Second tier" is not a blanket evaluation of talent -- sometimes a replacement is better than the original -- but a marker of stability.) Indeed, rotation stability has been one big reason why Boston has been winning the titles that used to belong to New York. This chart (above, right) offers a quick look at the number of starters used by AL East teams from 2004 through '07.

The Yankees have needed 10 more starting pitchers over the past four seasons than Boston and are well outside the range of every other team in the division. That's only part of the story, though. Look at the starts needed from second-tier pitchers -- that is, all starts made by everyone other than the five most-used starters each year:

Here the difference in rotation stability is even more apparent. Over the past four seasons the Yankees have handed the ball to second-tier starting pitchers 60 more times than did Boston. The Red Sox have done a better job identifying reliable starting pitchers and, by a combination of luck and design, keeping them healthy.

O.K., so what? How important is that? The Yankees were 23-18 in those 41 second-tier starts last season. And every team needs depth, right? After all, the average team uses 10 starting pitchers per year. But each of the past six world champions have been below that average, while the Yankees have been worse than average every year since their last World Series appearance, in 2003, when they needed only nine. (Since then New York has used 12, 14, 12 and 14 starters. It's the equivalent of a golfer having to scramble often to save par; it can be done, but with a higher degree of difficulty.)

Starting Pitchers Used, 2004-07
Blue Jays 25
Red Sox 26
Devil Rays 26
Orioles 28
Yankees 36

Games Started by Second-Tier Starters
Team 2004 2005 2006 2007 Total
Yankees 36 51 26 41 154
Red Sox 5 19 48 22 94


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Re: SI Tom Verducci- Starting point: stability

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:13 pm

Giants have chance to tilt Boston/NY rivalry
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports

Oct. 20, 2004, was a cold, dark night in the South Bronx even before Johnny Damon started hitting home runs and changing everything. The Boston Red Sox would defeat the New York Yankees that night 10-3, marking one of the most painful losses in the long sports history of New York City.

It wasn't just to whom New York lost (the mouthy little brother up the road) and it wasn't just how they lost (in a spectacular collapse that saw them become the first baseball team to ever blow a 3-0 postseason series lead).

It was the sea change the event turned out to represent.

Boston was suddenly sporting gold, cemented as a modern-day title town. The Red Sox were now keeping up with the suddenly dynastic New England Patriots in ringing up championships. New York, the city that forever had kicked sand in the face of Bostonians, was a fading superpower struggling to find any serious success.

Since 2001, Boston's three major professional sports teams (NFL, MLB, NBA) have won five championships, with the Patriots locked in on another and the basketball Celtics a rebuilt contender again.

Meanwhile, the New York metro region, despite having more than twice the number of franchises (six), has done nothing but lose everything from regular season games to playoff series to sexual harassment lawsuits.

Ultimately, just a couple hundred miles of mostly Connecticut speed traps away, Boston has become a cottage industry to remind New Yorkers of this reversal of fortunes.

But there is a simple way for New York to return the favor, perhaps return to the old days and certainly have something just as vicious and painful to hang over every Bostonian's head as that historic baseball comeback in the fall of 2004.

The Giants just have to ruin the Patriots' perfect season in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

New York is everyone's rival in virtually every way (sporting or not). Boston, its colonial neighbor in the Northeast, is no different. But there are significant ties that bind.

New York kids go to Boston for college, Boston kids go to New York for jobs (and vice versa). There are mixed marriages, family feuds and forever bragging rights over rankings ranging from designated hitters to hospitals.

There is no lack of hubris, either. New York likes to refer to itself as the "Capital of the World." Boston goes one better as "The Hub of the Universe."

In sports, with the exception of the mighty Boston Celtics, the winners have mostly resided in Gotham. At least until this decade, until, truly, that night in the Bronx the Red Sox finished off the Yankees.

Since then, the two cities haven't had a direct competition as meaningful as the upcoming Super Bowl.

A return playoff engagement between the Yankees (or the Mets) and the Red Sox has not emerged. In basketball, the Celtics are back, and the Knicks won't be as long as James Dolan runs the organization.

The Patriots did beat the New York Jets in the playoffs last year part of a heated rivalry between New England coach Bill Belichick and his former assistant, Jets coach Eric Mangini. That battle grew even more intense when New England was caught illegally filming the Jets' sideline during an opening week game and believed the Jets snitched them out to NFL security about the crime.

But as the Jets sunk back into losing play, that rivalry has faded into the kind of relationship that for so long characterized the Yankees and Red Sox that of hammer and nail. New England has kept churning (even completing its 16-0 regular season in a come-from-behind victory over the Giants, 38-35) and stands one victory away from the first undefeated NFL season in 35 years and the first 19-0 one ever.

Which is why this isn't just a Super Bowl clash but something bigger. Fair or not, New England's quest for perfection changes the stakes for this game. The Patriots either win and enjoy immortality or lose and suffer infamy.

This is either the crowning of arguably the greatest team in league history or the springing of arguably its greatest upset.

New England is now the old Yankees, an immoveable juggernaut that expects dominance and demands championships. The Giants are the new Red Sox, a loose franchise of why-not dreamers that needed three road victories just to reach the Super Bowl.

But the Giants, like the Red Sox when they trailed 3-0, have nothing to lose now. They're two-touchdown underdogs with a puncher's chance and a world of gumption.

For Boston, it seems history goes through New York, and for New York, glory goes through New England. Just as it always has, just as it always will.


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Re: SI Tom Verducci- Starting point: stability

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:24 pm

Will Carrol of BP made a FASCINATING post on Abraham's guest blogging month...



magine climbing a mountain only to find someone else standing at the summit. That's a rough approximation of the feeling I got last year when I learned that my "Rule of 30″ work was a mere duplicate of Tom Verducci's near-decade long tracking of what he calls the Year After Effect. In deference, I've begun referring to the "rule" that a younger pitcher struggles with jumps of 30 innings or more, year over year, as the Verducci Rule. Only Friday, 'Travis' posted a piece in this space using the Verducci Rule to take a look at the Yankees pitching staff. It was well-written and well-researched . . . but wrong.

Travis did something that I've been trying to do for a couple years and have yet to figure out. Travis is probably smarter than me and may figure out a way to do it yet, but he hasn't yet and it's very important, especially for the '08 Yanks. The problem is that the Rule is based on Major League innings only, not a combination of Major and Minor League innings. I wish I could explain why this is so, but my best efforts to find a translation for minor league innings remains just a dream. Using the best translation in the business, the Davenport Translations, the ones that are at the heart of Baseball Prospectus' efforts over the last 13 years, doesn't work for translating workload. Adjustments to the translations haven't come up with consistent results either, leaving me with this corrolary to the Rule: Minor league innings are somehow not the same as major league innings.

This is an important point. Why are minor league innings any different than major league innings? There are only theories, but the best and most testable center around a selection bias. A pitcher good enough to go over 100 innings in the major leagues is almost by definition a quality pitcher. We know that major league hitters are harder to get out than minor league hitters, not to mention the stress of pitching in front of big crowds. The type of pitcher that can get over 100 innings in the majors is likely to be coasting through the minors on less than his best effort. He's seldom taxed. He's seldom forced to bear down or throw long innings. Granted, we don't know this is the reason why and mathematically and physiologically, it shouldn't be the case, but until someone can develop a working model for translation, we have to simply ignore those minor league innings. It should be noted that Verducci includes minor league innings in his formula.

click the link to read the whole article

and then we come to this:

The Yankees face seeing a Rays-like list in 2009. With Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain all likely to see increases, their handling will be one of the key tasks facing Joe Girardi, who it should be noted was responsible for two of the injured players (Sanchez and Scott Olson) from the Verducci list. Hughes was limited by injury to just 72 innings. The 100 inning threshhold is a minimum expectation for the Yankees No. 3, making him a very high risk player for the future, especially when he starts the season at age 21. The usage of Hughes is almost impossible to avoid, so the options seem to be use him and hope he holds up - or include him in a package for Johan Santana, who's proven he can handle that kind of workload.

Granted, Santana will cost about $20m a year more over the next few years, but he's also a known risk. Kennedy is easier to deal with. Ideally, he won't make the rotation, letting that slot be held down in much the same way it was last season in Hughes' absence. A combination of 6,7, even the 8 starter could serve to save Kennedy until June 1.

Chamberlain's usage is more difficult and there's little precedent. Adam Wainwright, who had a giant increase in innings shifting from World Series closer to ace starter, is likely the best comp, though they're hardly similar players in build, style, or perhaps most importantly, age. We can also take a lesson from Jonathon Papelbon, who conditioned in the spring to start, then shifted without issue back to the bullpen. I'd suggest a similar usage with one important twist. If the Yankees ask (and they haven't), I'd use Chamberlain in the four starter slot for the first half of the season (15 starts or so, or about 100 innings), then shift him to the bullpen. Ideally, there would be someone of comparable quality to shift in there. Perhaps someone from that 6/7/8 usage steps up and earns a slot or perhaps Brian Cashman has to make a trade. And perhaps you throw caution to the wind and risk Chamberlain's future on the hope that he can beat the odds and stay healthy.

Wow. Simply fascinating stuff. These young guys need a HANDLE WITH CARE sign on them until 2010.


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Re: SI Tom Verducci- Starting point: stability

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:26 pm

I have a hard time believing that minor league innings are so much different that they are TOTALLY thrown out in the calculation. Like Joba didn't throw 95 mph fastballs in the minor leagues or something.
Good points by Mr. H. The top minor leaguers are pushing as hard in the minors to get the call up to the next level. They are under intense scrutiny, both internal (by their own competitiveness) and external by the expectations of the club and the extra scouts that are there to see them. We did see Hughes give it a little extra in his no hit bit to Texiera and he did injureu his hammy, but overall the minor league inning have to account for something.

Hughes, Joba & Kennedy will have to be monitored and not abused.


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Re: SI Tom Verducci- Starting point: stability

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:27 pm

01/22/2008 10:00 AM ET
Where will Santana pitch this season?
Twins ace likely gone, but no one knows the destination

Bill Smith sits at the table, waiting for one of the three other teams under the glaring light to say, "All in."

The Yankees, the Red Sox and the Mets lean back in their hot seats with passive expressions, waiting for the Minnesota Twins general manager to fold.

Neither has yet happened. So Johan Santana remains in the pot. The offseason potboiler keeps dishing the suspense, as the baseball world and its subjects muse endlessly about the pitcher's destination.

And the Santana Reel remains in the tape deck.

A week ago, the Twins embarked on their annual winter caravan toting two promotional videos, one featuring Santana, the other omitting him.

Club broadcasting director Andy Price explained, "We did it out of necessity, in case a deal were to happen while we're out on the road. This is the first time we've ever been in a situation like this."

A "situation like this" results when an exceptional young talent's peak coincides with the last, fraying strands of his team's tether. When the team is financially limited as are the Twins, making a profitable trade is the only option.

But, where?

The Mets need him the most. The Red Sox need the Yankees to not get him, and vice versa.

The cards have been on the felt for six weeks now. They aren't changing.

Smith's quandary: Bet on the flop, with a package of four upside young Mets prospects; or go with the Majors-ready players topping the offers by the Red Sox (Jacoby Ellsbury, or Jon Lester and Coco Crisp) or the Yankees (Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera).

In a month, Spring Training camps will be humming. Those tuned to this theatre all agree: By then, Santana may not necessarily have a new address (the Twins and Red Sox both train in Ft. Myers), but he will have a new uniform.

Speculation about holding onto Santana for his walk season right now gives the Twins trade-talk leverage, but actually doing so is not a valid option.

Retaining the ace for an American League Central title run may not be realistic against beefed-up Detroit and formidable defending champion Cleveland.

And Santana's full no-trade clause undermines the typical strategy of spiking the market approaching the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline: At that point, Santana would likely veto any deal and wait to hit the open market two months later.

Logic levies the pre-Spring Training deadline, but no one has expressly laid down any ultimatums. You can't rush enormity.

Bowing to the pitcher and his agent, Smith recently told Minnesota media, "Peter Greenberg and Santana have been phenomenal through this whole process. They've been patient. They understand it's a big deal to them and it's a big deal to the Minnesota Twins."

Still, Smith is having quite a honeymoon as Minnesota's general manager. Whenever his path crosses Terry Ryan, who opened the door for his long-time aide with his September resignation but who remains an advisor to the team, he must mutter under his breath, "Thanks a lot."

Smith has already watched free agent Torii Hunter leave to the Angels, and now must devise a better exit strategy for Santana, who in four seasons in the Twins rotation (for four years prior to that, he worked primarily out of the bullpen) has won 70 games and two Cy Young Awards. Furthermore, before a weakened cast contributed to his 15-13 record of last season, Santana had been 55-19 the previous three.

That's a needle that sticks out of the pitching haystack. A pricey needle. So the three teams that can afford Santana's neighborhood -- he will seek a $20 million-a-year extension for at least six seasons atop the $13.25 million he will make in 2008 -- are predictably bidding for him from the team that can't.

The key players in this drama? Besides, that is, the poker faces of Smith, Mets GM Omar Minaya, Boston GM Theo Epstein and the Bombers triumvirate of GM Brian Cashman and Hal and Hank Steinbrenner?

From the Mets, it's a teenage outfielder, Fernando Martinez. He is considered New York's top prospect and, at 19, is projected to play in Triple-A this year. Smith wants him, added to a package that already includes 22-year-old outfielder Carlos Gomez and three pitching projects -- 18-year-old Deolis Guerra, 22-year-old Kevin Mulvey and 25-year-old Phil Humber.

From the Yankees, it's Ian Kennedy, the 23-year-old right-hander who wowed scouts in three September starts. Smith wants him, alongside Hughes -- even an early offseason in-house determination that he was the single best available arm not making him enough.

From the Red Sox, it's Ellsbury. The fleet, impressive outfielder has been made available, headlining a lesser package separate from another headlined by Lester. Smith wants both headliners.

And he waits. He waits for this drama to play out on the star attraction's merits, not through any grandstanding.

"Anybody who makes a trade for him is going to do it because it makes them better," Smith said, with Midwestern simplicity. "We're not talking about a fourth starter here. We're talking about the best pitcher in the game."

He waits for Minaya to relent, while the Red Sox and Yankees play their little game of keep-away.

As currently constituted, the Mets rotation includes Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and Orlando Hernandez. Among injuries, growing pains and unexpected revelations, that quintet won 45 games in a 2007 season that fell a game short.

On the surface, there would appear to be a greater tangible need for a No. 1 arm on that staff than in either Boston or the Bronx -- nevermind the added factor that Santana would bridge the credibility gap Mets opened up with their late-season collapse.

The Red Sox are intact after their World Series triumph, the Yankees feel comfortable with the young cream that rose to the top through 2007's many crises.

But ... Boston's rotation includes a pair of 40-somethings (Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield) next to Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Lester. And further regression by 39-year-old Mike Mussina would leave Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang as the only veteran anchors around Hughes, Kennedy -- and likely Joba Chamberlain.

You aren't going to mitigate the impact of a Santana, however. Last season, no one on any of those three staffs logged as many innings (219), and only Beckett's 3.27 ERA was lower (slightly: even at a five-year "high," Santana's ERA was 3.33).

Of course, Santana isn't all about 2008. He is long-term commitment and, ideally, solution, as his new contract will reflect. And beyond 2008, all three teams have an equal need for a quality top-of-the-rotation hurler.

So the poker game goes on, and it's for high stakes. In the blink of an eye, Santana will have a new home, and three division races will have new angles.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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