May 7 MLB Stat Dump

White Sox 1B, Jose Abreu, leads the MLB with 12 home runs.  Angels 1B, Albert Pujols, has hit 10 home runs.  Pujols did not hit his tenth home run last season until June 9.
Marlins OF, Giancarlo Stanton, leads the MLB with 38 RBI.
Dodgers 2B, Dee Gordon, leads the MLB with 19 stolen bases.
Among batters with at least 110 plate appearances; Jays OF, Jose Bautista, leads the MLB with a 22.5 percent walk rate.  Brewers OF, Kris Davis, has the lowest walk rate in the MLB at 0.8 percent.  Brewers teammate and SS, Jean Segura, has the second lowest rate at 1.7 percent.
Recently optioned demoted to AAA Mariners OF, Abraham Almonte, has struck out at the highest rate in the MLB – 35.4 percent.  Tigers DH/1B/C, Victor Martinez,strikes out at the lowest rate of plate appearances in the MLB at 4.2 percent.
Rangers OF, Shin-Soo Choo, currently leads the MLB with a .443 BABIP.  Choo’s career BABIP is .353, so one would expect some regression.
Indians 3B/DH/C, Carlos Santana‘s .148 BABIP is currently the worst in the MLB.  Santana’s career .273 BABIP is a relatively low batting average on balls in play to start with.  Santana’s struggles look like more than just bad luck however.  His line drive percentage has dropped to a career low 10.8 percent.  That is a 54.4% drop from his career best line drive percentage in 2013 of 21.8 percent.
Rockies SS, Troy Tulowitzki, leads the MLB in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.  His line looks like .421/.522/.794.  Therefore his 1.317 OPS obviously is the best in the MLB.  That OPS is .259 better than second place Jose Bautista. Just to describe how big of a lead that is:  Diamondbacks OF, Cody Ross, has a .268 OPS on the season by himself.  So basically, Tulowitzki leads second place Bautista by a whole MLB player.
For those who prefer wOBA to OPS – Tulowitzki’s .549 is also best in the MLB.  Bautista is second again with a .458 wOBA.
Tulowitzki also leads the MLB with a 3.3 fWAR (Fangraphs WAR).  Second place is Angels OF, Mike Trout at 2.6.
White Sox OF, Adam Eaton, leads the MLB with 9 infield hits.
Nationals OF, Denard Span, currently has seen the highest percentage of pitches that are fastballs in the MLB at 77.2 percent.  Pirates 3B, Pedro Alvarez, has seen the lowest percentage of pitches that are fastballs at 45.6 percent.
Mariners SS, Brad Miller, has swung at the highest percentage of pitches outside of the zone – 42.9 percent.  Shin-Soo Choo, at 14.7 percent, has swung at the lowest percentage of pitches outside the zone.
Kris Davis at 16.9 percent has swung and missed at the highest rate of pitches.  Victor Martinez on the other hand has only swung and missed at 3.0 percent of the pitches he has seen – the best rate in the majors.
Base runners have stolen 22 bases with Wellington Castillo catching.  That is the most off any one catcher in the MLB.  Only 3 base runners have been caught with Castillo catching.  In comparision base runners have only stolen 8 bases with Yadier Molina catching.  Molina has thrown out 9.
Reds RHP, Johnny Cueto, has pitched 55 innings on the season to lead the majors.
Stephen Strasburg‘s 13.05 K/9 rate is the best among innings qualified pitchers.  Twins RHP, Kevin Correia, at 3.97 K/9 has the lowest strike out rate in the majors.
Cardinals RHP, Shelby Miller, at 5.26 BB/9 has walked the highest rate of batters among innings qualified pitchers.  Second place is Red Sox RHP, Jake Peavy, at 5.02 BB/9.  Somewhat surprising to me is the two pitchers with the highest BB/9 rate have have pretty good ERAs.  Miller has a 3.20 ERA and Peavy has a 2.87 ERA.  The lowest walk rate in the MLB belongs to Giants RHP, Tim Hudson, with a 0.50 BB/9 rate (3bb in 54.1ip).
The highest BABIP allowed in the MLB is .388 by Stephen Strasburg.  Johnny Cueto has only allowed a .188 BABIP, which is the lowest in the MLB.  Cueto also has a 1.31 ERA, which is best in the MLB.  Kevin Correia’s 6.09 ERA is the highest in the majors.
Among pitchers, the highest fWAR is Red Sox RHP, Jon Lester, at 1.9.  Shelby Miller has a -0.5 fWAR which is worst.
Pirates RHP, Charlie Morton, has hit the most batters in the MLB with 7.  Diamondbacks LHP, Wade Miley, has thrown the most wild pitches with 6.  Twins RHP, Samuel Deduno, has balked the most times in the majors with 3.
Angels LHP, C.J. Wilson, has received the most run support in the majors, with an average of 8.5 RS/9 (Runs support per nine innings).  Pirates LHP, Francisco Liriano, has recieved the least amount of run support at 1.67 RS/9.
C.J. Wilson has thrown 814 pitches so far in 2014 – the most in the majors.
Mets RHP, Bartolo Colon, has thrown the highest percentage of pitches being fastballs in the MLB at 88.1 percent.  Jays RHP, R.A. Dickey, has thrown the least percentage of fastballs in the MLB at 14.6 percent.  Dickey’s fastball is also the slowest average fastball so far in the MLB among innings qualifiecd pitchers at 82.0mph. Royals RHP, Yordano Ventura, at 96.7mph has the fastest average fastball velocity.
Batters have swung at 39.9 percent of Yankees RHP, Masahiro Tanaka‘s pitches outside the zone to start 2014 – the most in the majors.
Rays LHP, David Price, has thrown a first pitch strike 74.1 percent of the time – the most in the MLB.  Angels RHP, Garrett Richards has thrown the least amount of first pitch strikes – at 45.8 percent.
Among innings qualified pitchers Rays RHP, Chris Archer, takes the most times between pitches – 26.6 seconds.  The pitcher who take the least amount of time between pitches is Jays LHP, Mark Buehrle at 16.0 seconds.
As a team the Colorado Rockies have hit the most home runs in the majors, with 49.  The Kansas City Royals have hit the least with 14.  The Rockies have scored the most total runs as well with 206.  The San Diego Padres have scored the least amount of runs so far with 91.
The most stolen bases as a team belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers with 37 (19 by Dee Gordon).  The Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals each have 9 stolen bases as a team – the lowest in the MLB.
The Minnesota Twins have a 11.5 walk percentage to lead the majors.  The Padres have the lowest walk rate at 6.1 percent.
The Atlanta Braves have struck out at a major league high 24.2 percent of plate appearances.  The Royals at 15.4 percent have struck out in the least amount of plate appearances.
With a .354 OBP the Rockies lead the MLB in OBP.  The Padres and their .265 OBP bring up the rear in this category as well.
The Cleveland Indians and Dodgers each have committed 33 errors on the season to lead the majors.  The Toronto Blue Jays have committed 11, which is the least amount in the MLB.
Washington Nationals pitchers have struck out the highest rate of batters with a 9.34 K/9.  Minnesota Twins pitchers at 5.58 K/9 are the worst staff at racking up the strikeouts so far in 2014.  The Chicago White Sox are walking 4.41 batters per 9 innings – the most in the MLB.  The San Francisco Giants are best at not allowing free bases at 2.45 BB/9.
The best ERA as a team belongs to the Braves at 2.64.  The Houston Astros pitching staff has been the worst with a 5.04 ERA.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have blown the most saves as a team so far in 2014, with 9.  The Padres however have only blown 1 save.
White Sox pitchers have thrown the most pitchers as a team so far with 5,436.  The Detroit Tigers have only thrown 4,144 pitches as a team so far – the least in the majors.
Cardinals pitchers have thrown the highest percentage of fastballs so far in 2014 at 66.8 percent.  The Giants on the other hand have thrown fastballs at the lowest rate in the majors at 51.5 percent.  Florida Marlins pitchers at 93.4mph average the fastest fastballs thrown as a team.  The only team that does not average over 90mph on their fastballs is the Arizona Diamondbacks at 89.5mph.
As a team the Pirates are throwing the most first pitch strikes at 62.6 percent.  The Angels are throwing the least first pitch strikes at 54.4 percent.
The pitchers with the slowest pace in the MLB are the Rays at 26.6 seconds between pitches.  The Blue Jays at 21.4 seconds as a team average the least amount of time between pitches.
Follow @DavidCoatsII on Twitter

Source:  Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. Fangraphs stats accurate as of 4:54 AM ET, May 7, 2014. Baseball-Reference stats accurate as of 7:17 PM ET, May 7, 2014.

Clay Buchholz 2012 vs. 2013

Wednesday night, Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris started the debate that has got the baseball world talking.  Buchholz pitched a good game – 7ip 2h 8k 3bb 0r – Hayhurst and Moris began questioning if Buchholz was “cheating”.

He very clearly kept going to touch his left forearm with the index and middle fingers on his pitching hand.  There was also a certain shine to that left forearm that was not there on his right arm, and that shine was not on his left arm during 2012 or Spring Training this year.

Here he is during Spring Training in 2013:
Here is a screenshot I took from that video:

clay spring training 2013

Click for Full Size.

This is Clay Buchholz, again pitching in Toronto, on September 15, 2012:

Here is a screenshot I took from this video:

clay 2012

Click for Full Size.

Here is the video that started the discussion from Wednesday.

No great spot to clearly point out the shininess in a screenshot here.  So I went to Twitter and found a picture:

Clay Wednesday

Source: Twitter

This picture is a much better close-up than the best screenshot I tried to take from the video.  But they are from the same start.

Buchholz has offered a response and many have speculated.  My opinion is that there is a very apparent shine to that arm.  But the questions “What really is it?” and “Is it cheating?” are not up to me to decide.  If I were to speculate, I would most likely be wrong too.  Is it baby lotion?  Is it pine tar?  Is sun tan lotion?  Is it something else?  Is it a combination of things?  Or is it simply that his left arm sweats more than his right arm out of the blue this season?

Here is Tom Verducci’s take on SI.com.
Here is the story by Gordon Edes on ESPN.

Here is Buchholz’s 2012, 2013 and career statistics to compare.

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP R ER HBP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 27 BOS 11 8 4.56 29 2 1 189.1 104 96 12 1.326 8.9 1.2 3.0 6.1 2.02
2013 28 BOS 6 0 1.01 6 0 0 44.2 5 5 0 0.963 5.4 0.2 3.2 9.5 2.94
7 Yrs 52 32 3.73 111 5 3 681.0 311 282 24 1.314 8.3 0.9 3.5 6.8 1.95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2013.

No matter what is going on, cheating or not, Buchholz is pitching at a very high level.  There are also a few things that need to be remembered, again cheating or not.  The first thing to remember is Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second career start, on September 1, 2007, against the Baltimore Orioles while striking out nine batters.

Buchholz was also named the No. 51 prospect in baseball at the end of the 2006 season by Baseball America.  This is before he threw the no-hitter. Then at the end of 2007, coming into 2008, Baseball America ranked him as the No. 4 prospect in baseball — only behind Jay Bruce, Evan Longoria and Joba Chamberlain.

The third thing to take into account is that before an injury plagued season in 2011, he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010.  He was an All-Star and finished sixth in the American League Cy Young ballot.  Which leads me to my final thing to be taken into account — he entered this 2013 season at age 28.  This is about the age where many players begin to reach their peaks.

He had the potential to be a dominate pitcher all along.  Then when he was just 25 he put up the above mentioned 2010 numbers.  So the fact that he is really good should be no surprise to anyone.  He had injury issues in 2011, only starting 14 games. Then in 2012, there was the well-publicized Boston scenario that led to their manager, Bobby Valentine, being fired after one season and them trading away star players.

Now let’s look at some interesting sabermetric differences, while keeping in mind that the sample size is pretty small – at only 44.2 innings pitched so far in 2013.

Buchholz is having a career year in terms of striking out batters.  He is currently striking out 9.47 batters per nine innings.  His career, which includes the 2013 numbers has him averaging 6.85 batters per nine innings.

Batters have also only hit a .176 average off of Buchholz so far in 2013. This is not just a “lucky” fluke because of the small sample size either.  If you add thirty-two points to his batting average allowed, which is  the difference in his career BABIP and his 2013 BABIP, hitters would still be only hitting .208 off of him on the season. That is an average allowed, that over a season most any starter would take in a heart beat.

Buchholz has also left 91.4 percent of baserunners on base so far in 2013.  Fangraphs also has him speeding up his pace, taking less time between pitches than he ever has.

Buchholz has been getting more movement on his pitches this year which is where the substance really is playing into in the minds of people and leading to the above mentioned results.
Vertical MovementHorizaontal Movement
Click for Full Sizes.

That’s it.  I have given you all the tools.  Pictures, videos and statistics.  Now you should better be able to come to a conclusion about what is going on with Buchholz and the effect of recent allegations.

Follow @DavidCoatsII on Twitter

Quick Look at Players in the Dodgers, Red Sox Trade

According to Dodgers LA Times beat writer, Dylan Hernandez, the trade sending Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers from the Red Sox is official.  I am not going into the winners or losers of the trade, what the trade might mean for Bobby Valentine’s future with the Red Sox, money, etc.  I am just going to give a little information on the players involved, according to MLB Trade Rumors, in the trade.

The Red Sox Receive:
RHP Rubby De La Rosa
RHP Allen Webster
INF Ivan De Jesus
OF/1B Jerry Sands
1B James Loney

Rubby De La Rosa was the Dodgers minor league pitcher of the year in 2010.  He was their third highest rated prospect in the Dodgers organization in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook in 2011.  He did not qualify as a prospect in the 2012 edition.  De La Rosa started 10 games and appeared out of the bullpen 3 times for the Dodgers in 2011 pitching to a 3.71 ERA.  Coming off Tommy John he has pitched 12 minor league innings in 2012 and 0.2 innings in the majors.  He has not allowed a minor league earned run in 2012.  He allowed 2 earned runs in his 0.2 innings with the Dodgers.  The Baseball America Prospect Handbook in 2011 his fastball sits at 95-96 mph and has registered as high as 102 mph.  He is able to hold the velocity deep into games & can find an extra gear when needed.  He has two promising secondary pitches in his changeup and slider.  The changeup sits at 85-89 mph with late fade.  The slider has sharp, late break when he stays on top of it.  Baseball America says he has the potential to become a No. 2 starter or a closer.

Allen Webster is a converted shortstop.  The Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2012 has Webster as the second highest rated Dodger prospect with a 55-Medium grade.  According to them his repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball that peaks at 97 mph with plenty of sink.  He also throws a slider and a curveball that are plus pitches at times, but he can get caught between the two because he has trouble staying on top of his curveball.  A changeup that features sink and fade at 79-83 mph might be his best pitch.  Some scouts argue that he tips it by slowing his arm speed however.  He compares to Derek Lowe and has the potential to become a No. 2 starter according to one Dodgers official in the Prospect Handbook.  So far in 2012, Webster has pitched all season at Double-A Chattanooga and over 121.2 innings he has a 6-8 record with a 3.55 ERA.

Ivan De Jesus is ranked as the 26th best prospect in the Dodgers organization according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2012.  They graded him as a 40-Low.  De Jesus has spent time in 2012 between AAA Albuquerque and the Dodgers.  According to the Prospect Handbook he has an inside-out swing producing line drives from gap to gap with solid bat speed and he fits best at second base.   He has gone 9-33 (.273) with 3 walks in his limited plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2012 scoring 5 runs and knocking in 4 RBI.

Jerry Sands lost his prospect title for the 2012 edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.  In the 2011 edition he was ranked as the sixth best prospect in the Dodgers system.  He set multiple school records for NCAA Division II Catawba before being drafted in the 25th-round of the 2008 draft.  He hit 35 homers between Low A Great Lakes and AA Chattanooga in 2010 on his way to being named as the Dodgers’ minor league player of the year.  The 2011 Prospect Handbook says he has had some trouble laying off high fastballs at times, but he shows an aptitude for handling breaking pitches so he shouldn’t just be a one-dimensional slugger.  He has spent time in the majors in 2012, but has spent the majority of his time at AAA Albuquerque batting .303/.380/.531 with 24 homers.

James Loney being sent to Red Sox has by far spent the most time in the majors of any player being sent the Red Sox way.  He has never been a big time power threat at first base, but had a respectable .346 OBP from 2006-2011 for the Dodgers.  But he has struggled in 2012 at the plate with a .646 OPS.  From 2006-2011 he had a .778 OPS.

The Dodgers Receive:
RHP Josh Beckett
1B Adrian Gonzalez
OF Carl Crawford
INF Nick Punto

Josh Beckett has taken the mound for the Red Sox since 2006.  He went 89-58 with a 4.17 ERA in his Boston career.  In 2012, however he has gone 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 127.1 innings.  When looking at his PitchFx (Fangraphs) you can notice a sharp drop in his average fastball velocity between 2011 and 2012.  In 2011 his fastball averaged 93.1 mph, which has dropped to 91.6 mph in 2012.  He also has gone away from throwing his fastball as much as he has done over his career.  Over his career he has thrown his fastball 62.1 percent of the time, and in 2012 he has gone under 50 percent for the first time at 47.6 percent.  Given, he has developed a cutter and has begun throwing it more.  I just point it out because I think the drop in velocity has contributed a more prominent role for his cutter.

Adrian Gonzalez has had a productive and respectable 2012 season, but it has not been up to his standards set the past few years.  His batting line from 2009-2011 was .306/.403/.536.  In 2012, it has dropped to .300/.343/.469.  This has led to a Fangraphs WAR drop from 6.6 in 2011 to 2.7 in 2012.  He still offers possible gold glove defense at first base when healthy.

Carl Crawford was not the same player with the Red Sox that he was in Tampa Bay.  That has been well documented.  Part of that is injury, some say Boston was not a good fit for him, but for whatever the real reason the result has been a lower performance with the Red Sox.  Crawford had a 7.6 Fangraphs WAR in 2010, his final year with the Tampa Bay Rays.  But he had a combined 0.6 WAR in his year and a half in Boston.  When playing a full season with the Rays he never stole less than 46 bases.  He only totaled 23 stolen bases in his time with the Red Sox.  I like sabermetrics in general, but one I do not completely side with are the defensive sabermetics.  That being said it is worth noting his UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) saw him lose a great deal of range in the outfield.  His UZR was never lower than 15.8 from 2008-2010.  His UZR in 2011 was -2.2 and -1.7 in 2012.  I question what role the Green Monster played in this, but either way I am just throwing the stat out there for you.

Nick Punto can play multiple defensive positions, but his hitting skills have never really stood out.  He has a career .649 OPS.  In 2011, he had a nice stink with the Cardinals on his way to a .809 OPS in 63 games.  But in a comparable amount of plate appearances so far in 2012 he has seen his current .573 OPS.  He has proved to be a nice utility player to have on a roster.  He will fill in to the role Jerry Hariston Jr. had before getting injured.

 

Follow @DavidCoatsII on Twitter.

From Spring Training: My Pitching Rotation Rankings (1-5)-National League Edition

It is never too early for a little baseball talk.  Given that, I am going to rank every MLB team’s 5 man Pitching Rotation.  Some teams might have a dominate ace, but a poor three through 5 (Mariners), and others might not have had an All Star from their rotation, but depth one through five (Reds).  But I am trying to be as fair by balancing the complete rotation one through five in my opinion.
National League
1.) Philadelphia Phillies
Roy Halladay
Cliff Lee
Roy Oswalt
Cole Hamels
Joe Blanton

2.) San Francisco Giants                                                               3.) Cincinnati Reds
Tim Lincecum                                                                                   Bronson Arroyo
Matt Cain                                                                                            Johnny Cueto
Jonathan Sanchez                                                                            Edinson Volquez
Madison Bumgarner                                                                        Travis Wood
Barry Zito                                                                                             Leake/Bailey/Chapman/LeCure/Maloney/Thompson

4.) St. Louis Cardinals                                                                  5.) Los Angeles Dodgers
Adam Wainwright                                                                                  Clayton Kershaw
Chris Carpenter                                                                                     Chad Billingsley
Jaime Garcia                                                                                          Ted Lilly
Jake Westbrook                                                                                     Hiroki Kuroda
Kyle Lohse                                                                                             Jon Garland/Vicente Padilla

6.) Milwaukee Brewers                                                                 7.) Chicago Cubs
Zack Greinke                                                                                        Carlos Zambrano
Yovani Gallardo                                                                                    Matt Garza
Shaun Marcum                                                                                     Ryan Dempster
Randy Wolf                                                                                            Randy Wells
Chris Narveson                                                                                    Carlos Silva/Andrew Cashner

8.) Florida Marlins                                                                            9.) Atlanta Braves
Josh Johnson                                                                                      Tim Hudson
Ricky Nolasco                                                                                      Tommy Hanson
Anibal Sanchez                                                                                     Derek Lowe
Javier Vazquez                                                                                      Jair Jurrjens
Chris Volstad                                                                                        Mike Minor/Brandon Beachy

10.) San Diego Padres                                                                     11.) Arizona Diamonbacks
Mat Latos                                                                                                Joe Saunders
Clayton Richard                                                                                     Daniel Hudson
Wade LeBlanc                                                                                       Ian Kennedy
Aaron Harang                                                                                         Zach Duke
Dustin Moseley/Tim Stauffer/Cory Luebke                                       Barry Enright

12.) Colorado Rockies                                                                     13.) Pittsburgh Pirates
Ubaldo Jimenez                                                                                     Ross Ohlendorf
Jorge De La Rosa                                                                                  Paul Maholm
Jhoulys Chacin                                                                                      James McDonald
Aaron Cook                                                                                             Scott Olsen
Jason Hammel                                                                                       Kevin Correia/Jeff Karstens/Charlie Morton/Brad Lincoln

14.) New York Mets                                                                          15.) Houston Astros
Mike Pelfrey                                                                                            Brett Myers
R.A. Dickey                                                                                             Wandy Rodriguez
Jonathan Niese                                                                                    J.A. Happ
Chris Capuano                                                                                     Bud Norris
Dillon Gee/Oliver Perez                                                                       Ryan Rowland-Smith/Nelson Figueroa/Jordan Lyles

16.) Washington Nationals
Livan Hernandez
John Lannan
Jordan Zimmerman
Jason Marquis
Ross Detwiler/Chien-Ming Wang/Luis Atilano/Craig Stammen/Tom Gorzelanny

The Phillies were a very easy pick as my number one best rotation in the National League.  There is lots of talk that they might have the best rotation in the history of baseball.  Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt would be a nice one-two combo if I offered it to you right?  Well that is Philadelphia’s third and fourth pitcher in the rotation.  Cliff Lee has some of the best all-time postseason statistics ever.  Also in 2010 he had the second best strikeout per walk ratio in MLB history at 10.27 strikeouts per walk.  I have yet to even mention the staff ace, Roy Halladay.

Halladay threw a no hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 postseason.  In Halladay’s first complete season in the National League he went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA while throwing 250.2 innings, while never failing to get through 5.2 innings.  The biggest question in the Phillies rotation is the dreaded choice between Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton.   That right there shows you are in very good shape if it is coming down to them two for the final rotation spot.

San Francisco also has a very deep rotation.  Tim Lincecum is a 2 time Cy-Young winner in his young but successful career.  Lincecum is followed by Matt Cain in the rotation.  Cain has a career 57-62 Win-Loss record but yet a 3.45 ERA.  His win-loss  is not a clear cut sign of how good he has been in his career.  In Cain’s 170 career games started he has received little run support.  San Francisco batters have only gotten him a career 3.8 runs/game.  The major league average over that time is 4.7 runs/game.

After the Giants’ top two pitchers the rest of the rotation is filled out with Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito.  Sanchez might have led the majors free passes, but a the same time he allowed the least amount of hits per nine innings allowed.  Sanchez already has a no-hitter to his name and Bumgarner pitched 111 innings in his rookie season.  He was a crucial part of the Giants comeback to win the NL West.  In September he had finished the regular season with a 1.13 ERA in his final five starts.  Then pitched 20.2 innings with an ERA of 2.18 in the 2010 postseason.

Barry Zito also had a relatively good year too, although he seemed to fad in the 2nd half; his ERA in the second half of the season was almost a full run higher than his first half.  He did not make the playoff roster but still Zito is a valuable commodity in baseball (maybe not to the contract he has).  He probably will never gain back the Cy-Young winning stuff he had in the early 2000s, he is one of the most durable pitchers in the Majors.  He goes out and eats eat innings.  From 2001 through 2010 Zito never pitched less than 180 innings.

I have the Reds third.  If five years ago you told me the Reds would have this much young pitching depth I would have thought you were crazy.  The Reds are full of not just good pitching, but good young pitching.  I believe the Reds could become the dominate team of the National League over, whatever you call this next decade.  This is centered around all their young position and pitching players, who are already winning at a fairly young age.

The Brewers also acquired Zack Greinke which skyrocketed their ranking.  I believe Greinke is the 2011 Cy Young favorite in the National League.  They also have added Shaun Marcum to go along with Yovani Gallardo.  This top three is very good.  The Cubs also brought in Matt Garza; at the expense of their minor league hitting and pitching players of the year.  The NL Central might have the best group of rotations in the Majors at the top, if you take away Houston and Pittsburgh.

I also look for the Padres to pitch and field their way into playoff contention this year even without Gonzalez.  It might be hard, but I think this added pressure will help their pitchers pitch to a little higher level.  The New York Mets are a complete mess right now.  This does not exclude a horrendous pitching staff.  After Mike Pelfrey they will be piecing a lot together and it should be a tough year.

But no team in the National League is worse off than the Washington Nationals right now, starting pitching wise.  They do have a fairly decent bullpen on paper, but bullpen success is hard to predict on a team level.  Their rotation just is in shambles without Stephen Strasburg.  Even with Stephen Strasburg they would still be lower tier team in this ranking.  But I find it hard to believe that they will not finish last place in the National League East this season behind their poor pitching staff.

From Spring Training: My Pitching Rotation Rankings (1-5)-American League Edition

It is never too early for a little baseball talk.  Given that, I am going to rank every MLB team’s 5 man Pitching Rotation.  Some teams might have a dominate ace, but a poor three through 5 (Mariners), and others might not have had an All Star from their rotation, but depth one through five (Reds).  But I am trying to be as fair by balancing the complete rotation one through five in my opinion.
American League
1.) Chicago White Sox
John Danks
Mark Buehrle
Gavin Floyd
Edwin Jackson
Jake Peavy-Out until around Memorial Day

2.) Oakland Athletics                                                                3.) Tampa Bay Rays
Trevor Cahill                                                                                     David Price
Dallas Braden                                                                                 Wade Davis
Gio Gonzalez                                                                                   James Shields
Brett Anderson                                                                                Jeff Niemann
Brandon McCarthy                                                                         Jeremy Hellickson

4.) Boston Red Sox                                                                   5.) Los Angeles Angels
Jon Lester                                                                                        Jered Weaver
Josh Beckett                                                                                    Dan Haren
Clay Buchholz                                                                                  Ervin Santana
John Lackey                                                                                    Joel Pineiro
Daisuke Matsuzaka/Tim Wakefield                                            Scott Kazmir

6.) Detroit Tigers                                                                        7) New York Yankees
Justin Verlander                                                                            CC Sabathia
Max Scherzer                                                                                  Phil Hughes
Rick Porcello                                                                                  A.J. Burnett
Phil Coke                                                                                        Ivan Nova
Brad Penny                                                                                    Garcia/Colon/Mitre/Chamberlain/Betances/Prior?

8.) Minnesota Twins                                                                  9.) Texas Rangers
Francisco Liriano                                                                            C.J. Wilson
Carl Pavano                                                                                     Colby Lewis
Brian Duensing                                                                               Brandon Webb
Nick Blackburn                                                                                Derek Holland
Scott Baker                                                                                      Scott Feldman

10.) Toronto Blue Jays                                                            11.) Seattle Mariners
Brandon Morrow                                                                             Felix Hernandez
Ricky Romero                                                                                 Jason Vargas
Kyle Drabek                                                                                     Erik Bedard
Dustin McGowan                                                                            Doug Fister
Marc Rzepczynski                                                                           Michael Pineda

12.) Cleveland Indians                                                            13.) Baltimore Orioles
Fausto Carmona                                                                            Jeremy Guthrie
Justin Masterson                                                                            Brian Matusz
Mitch Talbot                                                                                     Jake Arrieta
Carlos Carrasco                                                                            Brad Bergesen
David Huff                                                                                       Chris Tillman

14.) Kansas City Royals
Luke Hochevar
Vin Mazzo
Kyles Davies
Danny Duffy
Sean O’Sullivan

So why is Chicago my number one rotation and why is Boston my number three?  Especially since most people are in fact choosing Boston as having the best AL rotation!  Here is why.  Jon Lester may have my preseason Cy Young Prediction, but after that they can be extremely up and down at times.  Clay Buchholz has very good stuff, but he is still very young and I highly doubt he will repeat his 2.33 ERA.  He will still be very good and one of the better number twos in the AL, but I see his numbers slightly decreasing.

Josh Beckett is also a lot more like A.J. Burnett than people give him credit for.  Both when they get in trouble become throwers rather than pitchers.  When they do this they just start firing the cheese to the catcher and become highly predictable to the hitters, they also start losing their movement and control.  Beckett is still better than Burnett, but at the same time when Beckett gets in trouble he becomes very similar to his former teammate.

I also think John Lackey’s best days are behind him and I expect him to stay fairly close to his production of last year (14-11, 4.40 ERA).  He will still be able to get up and have a big day, but I believe him, Beckett, and Matsuzaka bring more of a name factor than they will production at this point in their careers.  Matsuzaka walks too many batters to be consistent enough, which just adds to how exceptional his ERA and W-L record was in 2009.  But eventually free passes will come back to bite you in the butt.  Tim Wakefield will be a serviceable spot starter like he has been, at worst, throughout his major league career.

But when I look at the White Sox rotation I see a very good top five.  Mark Buerle is a pitcher that any team would love to have, with his combination of pitching smarts and durability.  Also the fans like the days he pitches on hot July afternoons with how fast he gets the job done.  John Danks has surpassed Buehrle as the team’s ace.  These top two lefties are good, but probably not as good as that of Boston.

But her is the difference.  I see Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd, and Jake Peavy being a much better three-four-five than that of Boston.  Peavy will be out until about Memorial Day, so the fifth spot will be up for grabs during Spring Training.  But he should be back for most of the season, if everything goes according to plan.  He will not be his old self that people remember him from in San Diego.  But I still think he will be able to pitch to about the 3.70 ERA area, give or take a little either way.

Oakland gets the nod over Boston too.  Their pitching rotation is probably the most underrated in the Major League.  Their 3.56 ERA led the AL in 2010.  This is 0.22 better than the second place Tampa Bay Rays.  I believe the Rays will be able to, repeat a very good pitching year as well, even without Garza.  They got the Cubs hitting and pitching minor league players in return for him as well.  The Rays might take a step backward as a whole this year, but they show promise to return back to their dominate self in 2012.

Just a few days ago Andy Pettitte announced his retirement.  Many people think this makes their pitching staff a huge weakness.  But while I still do not believe it is a strength, it really is not that bad.  CC Sabathia is a top tier MLB starter and I do not expect that to change in 2011.  Phil Hughes really could be a future Cy Young winner at the two spot.

After that is where the staff gets a little sketchy.  In 2010, A.J. Burnett became the first pitcher in Yankee history with 15 losses and an ERA above 5.00.  He did have a horrendous, he takes pride in his play and should come in ready to play in 2011.  He still has arguably the best curve ball in the Majors when he is on and throwing strikes to get ahead early.  That is his major problem, because a 1-0 and 0-1 count have a totally different approach to hitters and he is pitching on the defense instead of the attack to much.   I expect him to go about 13-9 with a ERA around the 4.50 area in 2011.

Ivan Nova is still unproven but I do not doubt his stuff and composure.  He looked like a veteran during his 7 starts in 2010, composure wise.  He appears to be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher down the road.  But in 2011 I would see him as a very solid number 5.  But as of today it appears that he will be a number 4.  This is a little worrisome that the number four starter is so inexperienced.

Also the biggest story of the 2010-2011 winter was the “Where will Cliff Lee go” story.  The Yankees were thought to be the favorite, but after he left over $20 million on the table to go to Philadelphia the Yankees have been criticized for putting all their eggs into one basket.  This is somewhat true to a point.  With the retirement Pettitte, the Yankees are currently without a certain starter at the fifth spot in the rotation.  Possibilities include:  Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain, Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, prospect Betances, but the favorite as of now appears to be Freddy Garcia.  Garcia pitched a decent 2010 with the White Sox, but I do not see him as a long term fix.

The Yankees will probably use Garcia until the trade deadline where they will probably go after another pitcher, if they can stay in the playoff race.  Some not-huge name players I see them going after could include:  Fausto Carmona, Armando Galarraga, Scott Kazmir, Joe Blanton, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, Brett Myers, Ross Ohlendorf, Aaron Harang, Barry Zito.

The Indians should probably be out of the race so they might shop Carmona.  Same thing about Arizona with Galarraga and Livan Hernandez..  Kazmir and Zito are on good teams, but both have underperformed their current contracts.  The Yankees could take on their salaries, while the Angels and Giants replace them with less money, and similar production.  Joe Blanton could be the odd man out in Philadelphia if Kendrick takes the fifth starters spot.  This would put him on the block.

Aaron Harang could be a small risk player to trade for from San Diego.  Brett Myers’ might be the only reason Houston has to trade him at this point.  They should fall out of the race, but they could hang around the NL Central.  He also just signed an extension.  Ross Ohlendorf, former Yankee, had a 1-11 record in Pittsburgh in 2010, but received poor run support.  His 4.07 ERA should equiv late to a better record on a better team.  He finished the year with a 2.68 ERA in 2010 in his last 11 starts as well.

Zambrano has worn out his welcome in Chicago as well.  Many people fail to realize how strong he finished the year too.  He will probably be on the block if Chicago is out of the race.  Maybe someone could get a bargain for his talent, because of his baggage.

Stay tuned for my NL Rotation rankings within the next couple days.

From Spring Training: First Official Post-My Quick MLB Early Preseason Preview:

Alright first of all let me welcome you to my new web site.  I hope you enjoy it.  I have linked out to some interesting web sites that I enjoy.  For my first post I am not getting into as much depth.  I am going to pick my division winners, dark horses, and a few other things.

Now lets get started!

AL East:  Boston Red Sox
AL Central:  Chicago White Sox
AL West:  Texas Rangers
Wild Card:  New York Yankees
Dark Horse:  Oakland A’s

NL East:  Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central:  Cincinnati Reds
NL West:  San Francisco Giants
Wild Card:  Atlanta Braves
Dark Horse:  Chicago Cubs (Note:  My definition of a Dark Horse is someone most people are not picking.  If I had to select my NL Central I would say 1) Reds 2) Cardinals 3) Brewers 4) Cubs as of today.  I am just saying I believe the Cubs have a shot at coming out of nowhere and maybe making a run and/or winning a Wild Card/Division.)

AL MVP:  Robinson Cano/Josh Hamilton….injury concerns about Hamilton so I am leading toward Cano.
NL MVP:  Joey Votto/Albert Pujols….whichever wins the Division so I am leaning toward Votto.

AL Cy Young:  Jon Lester…dominate stuff and chance for lots of Wins
NL Cy Young:    Zack Greinke…Dominate stuff, fairly weak hitting division, first year in NL so many hitters haven’t seem him live.

AL Rookie of the Year:  Desmond Jennings….Pretty much guaranteed At-bats with lots of speed.
NL Rookie of the Year:  Aroldis Chapman…Arguably the world’s hardest thrower ever…105mph FB & 91mph Slider. It’s his to lose.

AL Manager of the Year:  Joe Girardi…If he can lead the Yankees to the playoffs with a rotation of :  1) CC 2) Hughes 3) Burnett 4) Nova 5) Garcia/Prior/Joba/ Mitre/Colon/Betances/Banuelos you’ll have to give him props.
NL Manager of the Year:  Mike Quade…Chicago could make a big turnaround, voters like this.