Tag Archives: Roy Oswalt

Top 5: Pitching Rotations

These are heady days for baseball fans.  Every team is undefeated, and hope springs eternal.  With the first games of Spring Training set for Friday, it seemed like it was time to start blogging about baseball again.

A question that seems to be on every baseball fan’s mind is  - who has the best starting pitching staff in baseball?  Below is my humble attempt at answering that question.  Let me know if you agree/disagree.

The Phillies boast a rotation that would make any team jealous. (photo from the4aces.net)

1. Philadelphia Phillies – While this might seem like a homer call, the Phillies have to be considered the best collection of starting pitching in the league.  After pulling off one of the major surprises of the off-season by signing Cliff Lee, the Phillies have four legit #1 starters.  The Phillies (on paper) have the best pitching rotation since the Braves of the early 1990s (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Steve Avery).  This is my initial reaction to the pitching staff – taken from my post Merry Cliffmas and Happy Halladays!:

Think about this, Lee, who won the Cy Young in the AL in 2008 joins a staff that includes: reigning Cy Young winner Roy Halladay; 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels; and 3-time All-Star Roy Oswalt. What other team can match that pitching depth?  The answer – NONE!

Just look at their numbers from last season:

I know that Lee, Hamels and Oswalt did not have great records, look at the other stats! Ridiculous. Also keep in mind that when Oswalt was with the Phillies he was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA. The Phillies now have the best pitching staff in the league.

It doesn’t matter who takes the fifth starter spot (though I think it will be Joe Blanton), the Phillies have the most formidable starting rotation in baseball.

Tim Lincecum anchors the rotation for the defending World Series champions.

2. San Francisco Giants – As seen in last year’s NLCS, the Giants’ pitching staff can hang with the Phillies.  Tim Lincecum, who struggled at times last season, found his form in the playoffs. Matt Cain made the Phillies’ offense look pedestrian. Jonathan Sanchez looks like he is ready to take the next step toward becoming an elite lefty. Madison Bumgarner developed over the course of the season and looks set for a big year.  The only question mark is Barry Zito as the fifth starter, but if he even has an average year (10-14, 4.45 ERA in his time with the Giants) he will be a pretty decent 5th starter.

If Beckett and Lackey can bounce back, the Sox will be tough. (Image from CBS local/Credit: Dan Roche/CBS)

3. Boston Red Sox – Some might question the Red Sox being ranked this highly, especially after the poor performance last season of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and the enigma that is Daisuke Matsuzaka, but I believe that at least one of the aforementioned pitchers will rebound this year.  If more than one can return to the form all have previously exhibited, the Red Sox will have a formidable rotation.  Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (17-7, 2.33 ERA), two guys I thought deserved more Cy Young consideration last season, anchor the rotation.  Even if Beckett and Lackey turn in career average years – 15-10, 3.96 ERA for Becket & 15-10, 3.89 ERA for Lackey – the rotation should be good enough to win the AL East.  Any positive contribution Dice-K can give will be an added bonus.

Trevor Cahill and the Athletics could unseat the Rangers in the AL West. The A's certainly have the pitching.

4. Oakland Athletics – This selection might surprise some, as the Athletics toil in obscurity in Oakland, but the A’s have a legit rotation.  I think this excerpt from a post on pitching rotations sums up the A’s:

Check out these stats and compare them with any pitching staff in MLB: Brett Anderson 7-6 2.80 ERA  75 K’s, Trevor Cahill 18-8  2.97 ERA  118 K’s, Gio Gonzalez 15-9 3.23 ERA  171 K’s, Dallas Braden 11-14  3.50 ERA 113 K’s and a perfect game. Average age…25!!  Oakland led the AL with a 3.56 era, 17 shutouts and held opponents to a .245 batting average.  Question mark is 5th starter but they have many young guys to choose from in the minors and they also signed Rich Harden. If they can get any hitting they could be a team no one would like to play come October.

Clayton Kershaw is my early dark horse for the NL Cy Young. This kid is for real.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers – Four of the Dodgers’ starters finished last season with ERAs under 3.60.  Not too shabby.  Clayton Kershaw led the way with a 13-10 record and an ERA of 2.91 and will be just 23 at the start of the season.  Forming the rest of the rotation behind Kershaw are Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.39 ERA), Chad Billingsley (12-11, 3.57 ERA), Ted Lilly (7-4, 3.52 ERA w/ the Dodgers), and Jon Garland (14-12, 3.47 ERA w/ the San Diego Padres).

In making this list, several teams just missed the number 5 spot (I feel like the top 4 are pretty set).  The St. Louis Cardinals would likely have made the top 5, but with concerns about the health of Adam Wainwright‘s elbow, the rotation is weakened.  Some have been touting the Milwaukee Brewers with Zack Greinke joining Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo at Miller Park.  I think the Brewers have the beginnings of a very good rotation, but it remains to be seen how Greinke will adjust to the NL and whether Marcum is for real.  A third team that many have in their top 5 are the Padres.  Mat Latos and Clayton Richard are two studs at the top of the rotation but after the top 2 there are more questions than answers.  Also, could Latos be in for a sophomore slump? Lastly, the Atlanta Braves are in the discussion as well, especially if Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens can rebound from subpar 2010 seasons.  Looks like I could have found one more team and written a top 10.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment.

Merry Cliffmas and Happy Halladays!

The Philadelphia Phillies gave their fans an early Christmas present by signing Cliff Lee!

Wow!  Just as I am trying to finish the semester (only one more day!) another can’t miss story comes along.  Like the results of the World Cup voting, how can I not comment on the Philadelphia Phillies signing one Clifton Phifer Lee for $120 million over 5 years (with a vesting option for a 6th year)?  I mean seriously!  Did this really happen!?  Things like this never happen to Philly teams.  Generally, free agents have spurned teams from Philadelphia, especially the Phillies.  I guess the winning culture developed over the last several years has started to pay dividends beyond the World Series title and 4 straight years in the playoffs.  The Phillies are now a destination for free agents.

The most interesting part of the Phillies signing Cliff Lee is that he left money on the table to sign with them.  Both the Yankees and the Rangers offered more cash and more years.  According to Phillies beat writer Randy Miller, Lee’s wife played an important role in him signing with the Phillies.  She was reportedly spit on and harassed during the ALCS.  Looks like the stupid New Yokr fans may have cost the Yankees.  All I can say is thank you Yankee fans!

I am almost too excited by Lee joining the rotation to write anything coherent! Think about this, Lee, who won the Cy Young in the AL in 2008 joins a staff that includes: reigning Cy Young winner Roy Halladay; 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels; and 3-time All-Star Roy Oswalt. What other team can match that pitching depth?  The answer – NONE!

Just look at their numbers from last season:


I know that Lee, Hamels and Oswalt did not have great records, look at the other stats! Ridiculous. Also keep in mind that when Oswalt was with the Phillies he was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA. The Phillies now have the best pitching staff in the league.  The only other team that could even make an argument would be the Red Sox with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and John Lackey, but a couple of those guys have some questions marks and underperformed last season.

Assuming the Phillies can score runs for their Big Four, a problem at times last year, they have to be considered the early favorites to win the National League and the odds on favorite to win the World Series.

For more information on Lee’s signing with the Phillies check out:

Todd Zolecki with MLB – Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff …
Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley – Cliff Lee Signs with Phillies
Jeff Fletcher at FanHouse – In Spurning Millions, Cliff Lee Shows Value
Jayson Stark at ESPN – Cliff Lee’s return simply stunning

Roy: Part Deux

Well, I had a snappy beginning to this post all set but then Jayson Stark over at ESPN had to go an take my idea.  I should have expected a professional would hit on the Phillies cornering the market on starting pitchers named Roy and gotten this post up faster.  With the addition of Roy Oswalt, who the Phillies got in return for J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar, (an absolute steal in my opinion), the Phillies significantly upgraded their rotation.  They were able to accomplish this without trading their best prospects and GM Ruben Amaro rectified the mistake of trading Cliff Lee to Seattle in the off-season.  While Oswalt doesn’t have the sterling numbers of Lee this season, he’s no slouch.  As Stark reports:

[Oswalt] ranks among the league leaders in quality starts (15 — as many as Ubaldo Jimenez), WHIP (1.11 — better than Chris Carpenter), opponent OPS (.652 — better than Tim Lincecum) and strikeout/walk ratio (3.53 — better than all but a half-dozen pitchers in the league). So that kind of gets your attention.

He’s allowing a lower opponent batting average (.229), on-base percentage (.280) and OPS (.652) than he has in any season in his fabulous career. His strikeout ratio (8.4 per 9 IP) is his best since his rookie year.

And his swing-and-miss percentage (20.7 percent) is almost identical to that of Halladay (20.8), Carpenter (20.6) and Jimenez (21.0), according to our friends at FanGraphs.

The Phillies received Oswalt, a man who since 2001 leads the NL in wins (143, 28 more than the 2nd place guy), strikeouts (1593), is 2nd in innings pitched (1958.2) and 5th in ERA at 3.24, for relatively little.  While Happ was 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting last season, after posting a 12-4 record with a 2.93 ERA, his ceiling is just not that high.  Happ is already 27 years old, so he isn’t as young as many Phillies fans think, and his peripheral stats indicate that Happ could be in for a fall.  His walk rate this season is incredibly high (7.04 BB/9, though to be fair he has only pitched 15.1 innings) and his ground-ball percentage is low (32.7%) for a pitcher that was pitching in a home run friendly park, and his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) was .250 (lower than the .300 average, signifying an increase in ERA, etc. could have been on the way).   The numbers point to Happ being at best a middle of the rotation starter.  Baseball Prospectus predicts that Happ would be at best a .500 pitcher with a decent ERA (between 3.98 and 4.23 over the next several years).  To be the centerpiece of a trade that lands a player like Oswalt, the numbers should be better.  Oswalt, whose numbers at Citizens Bank Park are excellent (4-0, 2.60 ERA, 1 HR allowed in 27 2/3 innings), is clearly an upgrade.

With the addition of Roy Oswalt, the Phillies now have a nasty rotation. Will it be enough?

The two prospects the Phillies traded are both in A ball and while they are showing some promise, are not locks to be productive big league players.  It is difficult to project MLB numbers for prospects as young as Villar and Gose, both 19.  Gose, an outfielder and #6 prospect in the Phillies system according to Baseball America, was hitting .263 for with 4 home runs, 20 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases at Clearwater;  however, he had also been caught stealing 27 times.  Villar, a shortstop and #22 prospect, hit .272 with 2 home runs, 36 RBI and 38 stolen bases for Lakewood.  Defensively, Villar is still a work in progress, committing 42 errors this season.  Both have shown flashes, but are years away from contributing in the bigs. What may be the most important part of the trade is who the Phillies did not trade to get Oswalt.  The Phillies were able to keep Jonathan Singleton, one of their best fielding prospects and did not have to give up any minor league pitching talent.  Singleton, an 18 year-old first baseman for single-A Lakewood, has played 70 games this season and is hitting .312 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs.  The Phillies see him as the heir apparent to Ryan Howard.

As I mentioned above, this move clearly indicates that Amaro realizes the mistake he made in trading Lee.  Many fans would rather see Lee pitching in South Philly, but I think this deal actually makes more sense for the Phillies in the long-term.  Oswalt is under contract for next season, at a “reasonable” price of $16 million and has an option for 2012 for the same amount.  Houston has kicked in $11 million in the trade, which means that the Phillies are only on the hook for $1o million of the $21 million owed to Oswalt for the remainder of this season and next season (Oswalt has a $2 million buyout if the Phillies don’t exercise the 2012 option).  Lee, due to hit free agency at the end of the season, will command a lot more than $16 million next season, and will likely want a long-term deal.  By not keeping Lee and essentially replacing him with Oswalt, the Phillies gain financial flexibility.  The 2011 season is the last year on several current Phillies contracts, including Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez.  Several other contracts come off the books following 2012, including Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino.  The Phillies clearly made this deal knowing that the core of the team will be intact for at most the next 2 seasons.  They did not want to take on any more long-term liabilities (such as a potential 4 or 5 year contract for Lee) that would make it difficult to reshape the roster once the current set of contracts have expired.  While I would have liked to see Lee stay here for this season, and see the Phillies deal for a pitcher over the winter to replace him, replacing him with Oswalt isn’t as bad a deal as it initially appears.

The one negative I see with the Oswalt trade is that the Phillies likely will not want to take on more payroll this season, meaning they are unlikely to add reinforcements to a bullpen that doesn’t inspire much confidence.  The ‘pen currently ranks 17th in the majors with a 4.04 ERA and has 13 blown saves in 34 opportunities (in 2008, the Phillies only had 15 blown saves in 62 opportunities, and last year they had 22 in 66).  Not exactly the type of numbers that inspire confidence, and the worst performance for the Phillies relievers since 2007.

Despite the shaky bullpen, this trade make the Phillies the team to beat in the NL.  With a rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Oswalt, a 1-2-3 combination that ranks with the best in the league (for my money it could be the best) and an offense that finally looks like it has remembered how to score, the Phillies will be dangerous.  Watch out Braves.

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