Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Terrible 4 and 5

I know that a lot of the readers of HYD Baseball are cranking the RSS feed instead of visiting the website, and therefore they rarely get a good taste of the comments section. Therefore, to lead this one off, I'm going to re-post my thesis on the Yankees' "terrible" 4 and 5 starters that was in a comments section earlier this week:

I agree with Pat's assessment of "The Yankees do not suck this year." Here's why.

Scenario 1: Colon or Garcia absolutely suck when the actual season starts (50% likely). They get shelled during games that count and the Yankees deem it necessary to pull the plug on them. As they are making pennies, the Yankees CAN pull the plug on them and replace them with Ivan Nova - unproven but not terrible.

Scenario 2: Colon AND Garcia BOTH suck horribly (25% likely). They turn New Yankee Stadium into a launch pad and both get jettisoned by Memorial Day. As they are making pennies, the Yankees CAN pull the plug on them and replace them with Nova and Mitre.

Consider the alternative:

Scenario 1A: Matsuzaka OR Beckett blow (50% chance) and pouts about it. They're both making a sizeable chunk of change, so unless they get hurt or "hurt," the Red Sox will just lose a bunch of games due to their lack of competence. If they get "hurt," they can get replaced by Alfredo Aceves and his reconstructed arm.

Scenario 2A: Matsuzaka AND Beckett BOTH repeat their downright-embarrassing 2010 performances (25% chance). Neither of these guys are making little enough to be in DFA danger, so the Red Sox will suck it up, say it's not a sprint but a marathon, and go .500 until Flag Day. When they come up with phantom injuries, they're replaced by Aceves and Tim Wakefield.

Where would you rather be?

Look, as far as these teams' rotations go overall, we're talking about a virtual wash with spots 1-3. I'd actually give the Red Sox a bit of an edge, but this is mostly because I think AJ Burnett is worthless (this isn't what I want to argue). Whatever, that's not where the room for debate is.

The debate is spots 4 and 5 in the rotation. The Yankees have Colon and Garcia, and the main disadvantage they have is that the calendar doesn't say "2003" on it. These guys are old and are probably worse than average. Red Sox fans have had a shot to see how bad Colon can be after a month of being half-decent. He's been 14-21 in the last six years and 0-0 in 0 games since 2009. Having Colon in your rotation is not exactly an ideal situation. This is not even debatable.

Same with Freddie Garcia. He had a good won-loss record last year, but his ERA was below league average. He's averaged 71 innings a year in the last four years (compared to Colon's 51 over the last five).

You can contrast this to Beckett and Matsuzaka. These guys have name recognition and have the slight advantages of not being 36 years old and 5 years past their primes. However, they have the disadvantage of baseball being measured in outs instead of having awesome stuff. (Burnett also has this disadvantage). We know about the walks with Matsuzaka. We know about the statistical anomaly in 2008. We know that he has the occasional flash of brilliance against bad teams. But if you look deeper into the numbers, he actually walks FEWER guys per nine innings against good teams. I was surprised, too. You could pretty much say the same thing about Beckett, except when he implodes, it's spectacular. That Friday night against the Yankees last year was like listening to Charlie Sheen on the Alex Jones show. And I've already shown that he's an average six-inning starter over the course of his career, so there's no reason to re-hash any numbers. Josh Beckett is okay, but not that good. This is not an opinion. This is a fact.

At face value, given the hypothetical condition of all four of these starters pitching a complete baseball season (not going to happen), the Red Sox have a significant competitive edge.

However, where the Yankees pull right back even with them is in the depth. If the s*** hits the fan, the Red Sox have Aceves, who just had his arm put back together, and Wakefield, who is five years away from page 20 of BizTech Magazine (just look at the picture). I feel like either of these guys could pitch for 50% of the teams in baseball. The Yankees have guys who can start for 75% of the teams in baseball in Nova and Mitre. Beyond Wakefield and Aceves, the Red Sox have Michael Bowden...or maybe Jonathan Van Every. The Yankees have Brackman.

Both teams have shaky-at-best backs of their rotations. I'm not saying that the Yankees' back of the rotation is great. But the Red Sox' 4-5 (and you could even say their 3) is only "the best in baseball" in the heads of Peter Gammons, Pete Abraham, and others who straddle the line between objective analysis and fanboyism. In reality, it's like a tower toward the end of a game of Jenga. Take away a shaky block and things might come crashing down.


Anonymous said...


The back end of the Red Sox rotation, if it performs exactly as it did last year, will be worse than anything the Yankees throw out there. There are no guarantees that Beckett or Matsuzaka will be productive this year. Both have had injury issues. Both have had productivity issues.

Also, I think the Yankees can rely on Freddy Garcia to some extent. I know he hasn't been the guy he was with the White Sox in some time, but he's in shape, has had some good outings this spring, and appears to be the prime candidate for the "Aaron Small/Shawn Chacon/Jon Lieber Award" for the player who has no business being good, but still is good.

The advantage the Sox have is potential. Beckett has the POTENTIAL to win 15-18 games this year. In his five years in Boston he's been healthy in four of them. Discounting the first season (an obvious adjustment year from the NL) he's posted ERA's of 3.27, 4.03, and 3.86, and won an average of about 16 games per season. If you're getting those numbers out of your fourth starter, you're going to have a HUGE advantage over any other team.

Now, I'm not saying Beckett is going to be the 2007 Beckett. I think we can all agree that guy was an aberration. But I do think he can be a lot like the 2009 Josh Beckett (3.86 ERA--which isn't spectacular, but is quite good). If that happens, the Sox will be in great shape, because even if Daisuke implodes (I'd be surprised if he's productive this year) the Sox can throw out Wakefield, Bowden, Doubront, or any other guy off the heap they want and be fine.

--the Gunn

PF said...

Gm -

This is an extremely well conceived post, probably one of the most complete analysis we've had on here in a long time. I enjoyed this post probably more than any in 2011 to date, very well done.

Tying your points and gunn's comment together, I think this can be summed up with a statement I said on here recently: the red sox have a higher ceiling (mostly because of what beckett can give you on the high end, like gunn mentioned) and the yankees have a higher floor (mostly because of the depth you mentioned dv, between nova and their deep upper level minor league pitching talent they can better weather things not going well). You'd have to give the red sox an advantage right this second. Looking out over 162 it starts to get closer.

the gm at work said...

I work magic when not distracted by Jersey Shore. With the exception of "I'll call you Tree," last night's episode sucked. Therefore, my writing was more focused.

Gunn, I agree with Garcia being a candidate for that award. Nova or Mitre could also fill that role. And you're right about how it is inevitable. Like the Bruins slogan, "It's Called Yankees."

I mean, we could talk about Beckett's potential as a high-teens-win starter. I mean, you could also say that JD has the potential to put up big numbers this year and that the world has a potential to end on December 21, 2012. Yeah, there's that little sliver of a chance and a little sliver of evidence (2007, JD's swing, the Mayans' prediction respectively) for all three. But let's all have a few sips of reality potion. One of these two guys is going to cost the Red Sox serious games this year, and most likely so will Wakefield, Bowden, and Doubront. Those guys will cost the Red Sox as many games as Garcia, Colon, and their backups will cost the Yankees. Even if the Yankees lose a few more, their superior offense can bail them out better than freaking 46, Drew, and Ortiz can bail the Red Sox out.

Pat nailed it on the ceiling/floor comment.

And Burnett still sucks.