Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coal for the Hot Stove

The frigid weather around the northern part of Earth has been so cold lately that we feel it's only right to huddle around the hot stove.

To open the discussion, here are a few players recently recently rumored to be available by trade: Mark Teahen, Joe Blanton, Fausto Carmona, David Aardsma, Mike Cameron, Aaron Rowand, and Ryan Spilborghs.

Below is our suggestion for a 25-man roster comprised solely of current free agents, as of Dec 29, 2010.

Pos Player
SP: Jeff Francis
SP: Carl Pavano
SP: Brad Penny
SP: Freddy Garcia
SP: Justin Duchscherer
Swing: Bruce Chen
Middle: Chris Capuano
Middle: Micah Owings
LOOGY: Brian Fuentes
Setup: Rafael Soriano
Closer: Grant Balfour

C: Gregg Zaun
1b: Adam LaRoche
2b: Nick Punto
SS: Edgar Renteria
3b: Adrian Beltre
LF: Johnny Damon
CF: Frederick Lewis
RF: Lastings Milledge

Vladdy Daddy ain't done, yet.
C: Bengie Molina
IF: Willy Aybar
OF: Willie Harris
PH Rt: Jorge Cantu
PH Lt: Jim Thome
Bench: Manny Ramirez
Bench: Vladimir Guerrero

Is Fred Lewis really the best current available Outfielder?  Where will Willie Harris end up?  Nick Punto?  Really?  The bullpen on this team looks pretty solid.  What is your reaction?  Thoughts?  Opinions?

With Osh and Amy coming to visit for new year's tomorrow, we're likely done posting until 2011.

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Least & Most Run Support

So, on Christmas, I went to Madison Square Garden for the Knicks/Bulls matinée game.  One of my very good friends invited me to the game by scalping a couple of tickets off craigslist, but they turned out to be a counterfeit scam.  Can you believe it?  On Christmas Day?  In an unrelated note, the good people at MSG really need to do something about the long line to get to the suites.

I'll pick Leo and Bale in Oscar our pool
Later in the day, I went to see the Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit, and wound up seeing The Fighter.  The movie was pretty good.  At times, I was not really liking it, but performances by Christian Bale, Melissa Leo really stood out.  Although there are many movies from this year I still have to see, there should at least be Oscar nominations for Bale and Leo.

Before this turns into a pseudo ghost of siskel post, who wants to talk about run support?  More like who doesn't?, right?

A pitcher's run support has always been a bit hazy to me.  First and foremost, it is plain to see that the best offensive teams provide the best run support, by definition and common sense.  For pitchers on average offensive teams, or for pitchers on the same team, we could attribute variances in run support to luck.  Is that correct, however?

Big-Z's the best hitter
Is it mostly luck?  How much does a pitcher's ability to hit affect run support?  Even then, how much of a pitcher's hitting "ability" is actually a function of luck.  Many, many hits for pitchers are bloopers and bleeders.  I like to think that luck will even out in the end, and anyone who's been unlucky for a season, or longer, should be able to reasonably expect a rebound in the future.

Let's forget about hitting right now.  How about a pitcher's ability, or inability, to bunt?  Sorry, but this is going to get very personal in about a minute.  As a fan, I get infuriated when the Cubs' pitcher cannot successfully lay down a sacrifice bunt.  Call me unreasonable, a curmudgeon, or worse, but unless the pitcher is throwing the ball at your Major League pitcher in the upper 90's, a professional baseball player should be able to lay down a clean sacrifice bunt almost every time.  It's the lack of fundamentals that's really sickening and saddening because they are very easy to learn.  Again, we aren't talking about you and me, these are professional athletes, coordinated enough to pitch for a Major League baseball team.  They get paid lots and lots of money to play a game we all love.

Brett Butler is the best
bunter I've ever seen.
The fundamentals are so precise and clear that a deviation from them drives me up the wall.  Basically, you are supposed to keep the barrel of the bat up high near the letters on your jersey; try to keep the bat level and always on the top part of the ball, so you don't pop it up.  Hold your arms out in front of the plate, so that the ball lands in fair territory, and during the moment of contact, you move the bat backwards as if you were catching the ball with soft hands.  Just like generations before me, I will never believe that professional pitchers should be excused from being able to do this because the rarely practice it.  I feel similarly about shooting below 66% at the free throw line.

Even if you are a 7'9" Encino Man who's sole purpose on the floor is to block shots, a professional player should practice enough to at least make 2 out of 3.

Okay, that probably weeded out any casual readers at this point.  Getting back to a pitcher's run support, how much does his bunting ability matter?  Has someone already figured this out?  How about his ability to inspire his teammates?  That could be a big one, but I doubt that hitters are actually trying to score more runs because they're more friendly with tonight's starting pitcher than last night's.  That sounds really silly; I would buy the argument that maybe they could be more alert on defense if they like the pitcher a bit more.  People say all the time that pitchers who work quickly get better defense behind them.  Does liking the starter get the guys more fired up on the bench, which may increase all the batters' focus just enough to start more rallies?  I'm open minded to that argument.

There is also the superstar pitcher shutdown psychology thing that I don't know what it's called thing going on.  I'm refering to the psychological feeling that goes something link, "Well, our Ace is pitching today, so we really only need to score 1 or 2 runs to win."  That could happen in someone's sub-conscience, I guess.

I'm willing to take a relatively irresponsible leap, more like a skip, and say that run support could be a function of luck.

Anyone who had a bad season, on a "not-terrible" team, should expect much better support in future games.  Let's look at the 2010 numbers.  In the "Worst Rus Support" categories, some of these players were just on lousy teams, and may still be on those lousy teams in 2011.  We're looking for guys on good teams, who just had bad years of run support.  Either that, or they're Zack Greinke, moving from the Royals to the Brewers.  If there is time, and I don't think there will be (!), we'll look back at the last 3 years, and stuff like that.  The statistic quoted below is RS/9 (Run Support per 9 innings) per Fangraphs.

2010 Least Run Support (NL)
Lilly pitched well last year, but he
needs more than 2.9 runs/9 IP.
2.88: Ted Lilly
3.16: Roy Oswalt
3.17: Johan Santana
3.43: Randy Wells
3.49: Cole Hamels
3.57: Livan Hernandez
3.68: Barry Zito
3.92: Jon Garland
3.95: Mat Latos
3.99: Chad Billingsley

Seeing Randy Wells on this list, and mentioned in our last post about missing bats in the strike zone, makes him seem like we could have a bit more confidence in his future than we've been feeling lately.

Cole Hamels is the name that should be jumping off this list.  He was fourth in all of baseball last season at creating swings and misses in the strike zone.

2010 Least Run Support (AL)
How many games would Felix win
with Phil Hughes's run support?
3.26: Kevin Millwood
3.46: Jason Vargas
3.60: Dallas Braden
3.80: Zack Greinke
3.83: Jeremy Guthrie
3.84: Doug Fister
3.94: Gavin Floyd
3.97: Brad Bergesen
3.98: Fausto Carmona

With his move to Milwaukee, Greinke looks assured to not be on this list next season.  Braden and Floyd should see better days next spring, too.

Max Scherzer was right behind Fausto Carmona, with 4.05 RS/9.  He was also mentioned last night as a player with rare swing and miss ability.

Besides the ten pitchers from each league listed above, all other starting pitchers, who qualified for the ERA title last season received at least 4.0 RS/9.  Which brings us to our lists of pitchers with the best run support.

2010 Most Run Support (NL)
The '11 Brewers will score runs.
6.01: Randy Wolf
2010 Most Run Support (AL)
Adrian Gonzalez will keep
Red Sox pitchers happy
6.13: C.C. Sabathia
5.41: Matt Garza

Most of these teams are actually good, and maybe even getting better offensively.  We don't expect players on these lists to have their luck reversed much because these teams will be good again.

These numbers reinforce the idea that Detroit's Scherzer and Philly's Hamels should probably bounce back a bit in the run support column next season.  We'll be targeting them in rotisserie baseball 2011.

If your area was hit with this Boxing Day blizzard, try to stay inside and stay warm.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Week 16 NFL Picks

Merry Christmas, everyone.  Yesterday was pretty interesting, to say the least.  More on that in our next post, coming soon.  For now, here are our picks for the rest of Week 16.

Breaking news:
  • Mo Jo Drew is Out.  Rashad Jennings is In.
  • The Vikings @ Eagles game may be postponed.
Rashad Jennings may win some
fantasy championships today.

Patriots -7.5 @ Buffalo
NY Jets +2.5 @ Chicago
Ravens -3.5 @ Cleveland
Chiefs -4 vs Titans
Rams -2.5 vs 49ers
Lions +3.5 @ Miami
Redskins +6.5 @ Jacksonville
Colts -2 @ Oakland
Broncos +2.5 vs Texans
Bengals +8 vs Chargers
NY Giants +3 @ Green Bay
Buccaneers -6.5 vs Seahawks
Eagles -14 vs Vikings
Saints +2.5 @ Atlanta

Locks this week are the Ravens, Lions, and Giants.

Season Record: 78-65-4 (.545 W%)
Locks: 14-13-3

I'll be watching the Jets @ Bears, with NFL RedZone channel during commercials.  Good luck to the Giants; beat Green Bay!  Thanks for reading, don't gamble, and enjoy the games.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Missing Bats in the Strike Zone

Here are just a couple of views at one distinctive pitching statistic we don't often talk about but is pretty telling.  Tonight, we are going to look at two leaderboards for the percentage of swings and misses inside the strike zone (from fangraphs).  Personally, I think it's pretty awesome if a pitcher can throw a pitch for a strike and hitters still can't hit it.

2010 Z-SwStrike% (Starting Pitchers)
20.3%: Jered Weaver, Angels
17.1%: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
17.0%: Josh Johnson, Marlins
16.4%: Cole Hamels, Phillies
15.7%: Roy Oswalt, Astros/Phillies
15.4%: David Price, Rays
15.3%: Shaun Marcum, Blue Jays (now Brewers)
15.0%: Clay Buchholz, Red Sox
14.7%: Ted Lilly, Cubs/Dodgers
14.5%: Max Scherzer, Tigers

What is that, a gang sign?
I knew Jered Weaver had an outstanding season last year, but wow.  He's way ahead of the rest of the league.

As if the Phillies fabulous rotation needed any more publicity, how about the fact that the supposed #3 and #4 starters on that team are actually in this Top 10 leaderboard, while Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are not.  Is anyone else feeling 106 Wins for next year's Phillies.  Is that too many to predict?  Whatever it is, I think I'm going with the Over.

Shaun Marcum may be better
than we've ever feared.
Shaun Marcum also makes a nice, unexpected appearance on this leaderboard.  The Brewers with a 1-2-3 of Gallardo, Greinke, and Marcum are definitely going to finish ahead of the Cubs, and probably even the Cardinals.

The Reds, Brewers, and Cardinals all look better than the Cubs.  I'd actually rather have the Pirates' 40-man roster right now, than the Cubs.  The Astros have problems and a lot of youthful exuberance, but they are not looking much better than the lovable losers from Wrigley Field.

Where did it all go wrong, guys?
The Pirates don't have much pitching, at all, and it's all about pitching.  But, if they get lucky somewhere, find a couple of arms in the low minors that can help the Major League club, they could win games the way they should score runs.  Basically, it's going to be a rough season for Cubs fans.

Thank goodness they sell beer and have Kerry Wood again.  Oh, and Carlos Marmol...  Cub fans can still be excited about Carlos Marmol.  Exhibit A is the next leaderboad:

2010 Z-SwStrike% (Minimum 30 IP)
25.8%: Carlos Marmol, Cubs
24.9%: Tyler Clippard, Nationals
24.2%: Ernesto Frieri, Padres
24.0%: Octavio Dotel, Pirates/Dodgers/Rockies/FA
24.0%: Matt Thornton, White Sox
22.7%: Micah Owings, Reds/FA
22.6%: Takashi Saito, Braves/FA
22.5%: Ryan Madson, Phillies
22.1%: Rafael Betancourt, Rockies
22.1%: Sergio Romo, Giants

I want to be in a rotisserie league where someone named Ernesto Frieri is relevant.  It's as solid a name I've seen since Amaury Telemaco and Heathcliff Slocumb were around.

Micah, sign with the Cubs.
You can make a difference!
How about that Micah Owings, huh?  Go Tulane!  And, Micah Owings is still a free agent?  Maybe I should represent him.  I'd only take 3/5th's commission, since we're both Tulane Alums.  If we may foreshadow another post that should be up in a few days, Micah Owings can also hit well enough to add to his expected run support.  Octavio Dotel and Takashi Saito are free agents, as well.  I guess I'd rep them for 3/5th's commish, too.  What the heck.

Rafael Betancourt justified the first season of the big 4-year contract he got from the Rockies.  I recall, at the time, I was one of the few who appreciated that move by the Rockies.  It is still likely that during the 3rd or 4th year of the deal, it will be regrettable.  Very few three and four-year deals to set-up relieves have been worthwhile for the teams cutting the checks.

As Ron Artest likes to say, big ups to a few guys who just missed out on the starting pitcher Top 10.  Studs, Lincecum, Liriano, and Verlander were ranked 11th, 12th, and 13th, respectively.  I was really surprised by Kyle Davies tied with the outstanding Mat Latos for 17th (13.6%).  Randy Wells placed 22nd (13.1%), one click ahead of Phil Hughes and Mr. Fastball Ubaldo Jimenez at 13.0%.

Instead of honrable mention, we will send a big hearty Mazel Tov to the 11th and 12th placed pitchers in the 30 IP minimum group, Hong-Chih Kuo and Jeremy Hellickson.

If Hellickson goes into 2011 as the
6th starter, he'll be on our roto team.
Don't sleep on Hellickson, he will be starting for the Rays next season and helping fantasy teams along the way.

I hope the Rays do not trade a starter until after the season starts, so that Hellickson could possibly fly enough under the radar to make it on our team when we take pitchers in rounds 12's and teens.

To bring this somehow, miraculously, relatively full circle, Jered Weaver placed 13th in all of baseball with just a 30 IP minimum.  It is outstanding for anyone, remarkable for a starter, and extremely impressive that Hellickson finished right ahead of him.  While his stint in the big leagues last season was certainly a small sample size, Jeremy Hellickson compiled his positive statistics in his starts, not relief appearances.

If you want to have some fun with numbers, check out the full statistical leaderboards on Fangraphs.  What we've been looking at tonight is in the "Plate Discipline" tab for pitchers.  We can do more quick posts like this if y'all like them.  Feel free to suggest other stats or in-game occurrences you'd like us to jump into.  Thanks again for reading.  Happy Festivus.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Popping Your 20 HR Cherry

In the past week, I had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Bracco and Greg Kelly at separate occasions.  They were both very nice, even after I may have allegedly ganked Lorraine Bracco's seat at Diane von Furstenberg's holiday party.

We live in exciting times.

A couple of days ago, we asked a riddle and received some beloved and colorful responses.

What do Jose Bautista, John Buck, Tyler Colvin, Carlos Gonzalez, Kelly Johnson, Casey McGehee, Colby Rasmus, Mike Stanton, Drew Stubbs, Rickie Weeks, and Delmon Young have in common?

At the risk of being pitifully anticlimactic, the trivially correct answer is that they all hit 20, or more, Homeruns last season for the first time in their careers.

Through some research on Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, we selected a group of candidates who could potentially create their own 20+ HR club during the 2011 season.

This can be beneficial to us during bar stool conversation as well as finding up-and-coming sluggers for rotisserie baseball.

First, a few notes on the 20+ HR class of 2010.

  • The average Minor League PA/HR ratio for the eleven players, from Bautista to Young, is 33 plate appearances per Homerun. (Best: Mike Stanton 15.7 and Delmon Young 26.3 PA/HR, Worst: Drew Stubbs 66 and Rickie Weeks 44.6 PA/HR)
  • Best Minor League OPS: Mike Stanton .939, Rickie Weeks .897
  • Lowest Minor League OPS: Casey McGehee .741, and Drew Stubbs .765
  • Mike Stanton and Tyler Colvin were the only players who debuted in 2010.
  • Jose Bautista and Carlos Gonzalez joined the first-time 30+ HR club with Corey Hart and Joey Votto.  Bautista, of course, would have a table for one at any 2010 parties for the first-time 40+ or 50+ celebrations.
  • Rickie Weeks just needed to stay healthy to reach 20 HR's.  He hit 29.
  • Drew Stubbs entered the year with 8 career HR's from 2009.  He hit 22.
  • Everyone on the list, besides Stanton, Colvin, and Stubbs had hit at least 13 HR's in a season before.

Now, onto our suggestions for players likely to look towards for 20+ HR power next season.  We have spent a few days simply trying to figure out how to present this group.  Would we do a straight up ranking based on who we feel is most likely to crack 20 HR's (Buster Posey), but we're sick of boring ranked lists.  We thought of dividing them up by position, but it's mostly first basemen anyway.  I was pretty sure we were going to place them in groups, but here were too many overlapping classifications, so I decided to list a team of guys, by position, and then rank/group the other guys later.  Hang on, let's see how this goes.

Statistics used to compile these rankings include:

Minor Leagues: PA/HR, K/BB ratio, and OPS
Major Leagues: PA/HR, K/BB, OPS+ and wRC+
Bill James 2011 Projections: PA/HR and OPS

Here's our take on who we think will hit 20+ Homeruns next season for the first time in their careers:

Buster Posey is most
likely to succeed.
C: Buster Posey, Giants
1b: Ike Davis, Mets
2b: Neil Walker, Pirates
SS: Reid Brignac, Padres
3b: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
CI: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
MI: Sean Rodriguez, Rays
OF: Alex Gordon, Royals
OF: Adam Jones, Orioles
OF: Carl Crawford, Red Sox
DH: Kila Ka'aihue, Royals

The middle infield is a bit iffy on this team.  We don't really expect Reid Brignac to hit 20 homeruns next seasons, but out of any shortstop who has yet to do so, he has the best chance.  Starlin Castro is certainly a few years away, if he ever gets there.  Barring injury, everyone on this team is at least guaranteed playing time, aside from maybe the Royals.  It's very difficult to predict what Ned Yost will do with the cards he's dealt.  (I don't think that's a compliment in this case although, at times, it can be.)

2011 could be the
Year of LaPorta
The Other Guys...

Best Bets
Carlos Santana, Indians
Matt LaPorta, Indians
Justin Smoak, Mariners
Brett Wallace, Astros

Barring injury, the four fellows above are locks for playing time and have shown enough power in the minor leagues, at least, to be expected to produce 20+ HR's.  Santana is coming off a knee injury, which makes him the riskiest of this group.  We're still optimistic because he had such a fabulous debut last year, and reports are that he'll be ready for Opening Day.  LaPorta is also someone we are very high on, as his Minor League PA/HR was the highest of everyone we studied: 18.5.

Good Chance
Mitch Moreland, Rangers
Chris Iannetta, Rockies
Freddie Freeman, Braves

As long as the Rangers, Rockies, and Braves do not add any significant competition for these players, they should make it over 20 HR's.  Mitch Moreland has not been a homerun monster to this point, but his ballpark and quality lineup protection really helps.

Question Marks
The World Champions
are waiting on B. Belt.
Chris Johnson, Astros
Brandon Belt, Giants
Gordon Beckham, White Sox
Brandon Allen, Diamondbacks

Brandon Belt is a very big question mark on the playing time issue, but his Minor League numbers are close to the best in the business.  Out of the 34 players considered, he ranked 8th in PA/HR (25.9), 7th in K/BB ratio (1.06), and 1st in OPS (1.075).

Brandon Allen would be higher on the list, if I hadn't heard rumors of a platoon with Juan Miranda.  That would not be very exciting for me, if I were a Diamondbacks fan.  Let Brandon Allen Play!

Toolsy Longshots
Travis Snider, Blue Jays

These guys were big time prospects who have yet to really take their Major League game to thrilling levels.  We give them a chance, though, because they have the tools, are still young enough, and their managers will probably be giving them some at bats.

Need Playing Time
We're all waiting for big
Chris Carter to get his shot.
Chris Carter, A's
Dayan Viciedo, White Sox
Tyler Flowers, White Sox
Yonder Alonso, Reds

There should be no doubting the hitting ability and/or power of the players listed above.  They just are not guaranteed playing time on their current big league clubs.  A trade could open the door to playing time, especially for Viciedo, Flowers, and Alonso.  The A's seem content allowing Chris Carter to season a bit longer in the Sacramento River Cats' dutch oven while attempting to win now with guys like David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, and Josh Willingham.

The White Sox also may choose to play Brett Morel at 3rd base more often than Dayan Viciedo because of his better defense.  They signed Dunn and brought back Konerko, so the 1st base/DH options for Viciedo vanished.  Tyler Flowers is someone who was supposed to take A.J. Pierzynski's spot by now, but Pierzynski just reupped for another 2 years, where he'll be making 6 million dollars in 2012.  If anyone needs a young catcher with power, they should give Kenny Williams a call.

Baby Steps
Umm, I think that's LoMo.
Chris Coghlan, Marlins
Logan Morrison, Marlins

We are big fans of both of these guys in rotisserie baseball and real life, for their abilities to avoid outs and show some versatility.  Their penalized because of their ballpark, still relative inexperience, and low Major League power numbers.  Both players will likely make it into this club some day, but 2011 seems more like a year for baby steps into the teens in Homeruns.  Coghlan has hit 14 Major League HR's in 965 plate appearances (68.9 PA/HR), and Morrison hit just 2 in an otherwise wonderful 287 plate appearances last season.  As for Minor League numbers, Morrison showed much more power than Coghlan 36.3 PA/HR and 59.1 PA/HR, respectively.  Bill James projects that they will each hit 9 HR's next season.

Not Bloody Likely
Jose Tabata, Pirates
Charles Blackmon, Colorado
Starlin Castro, Cubs
Dustin Ackley, Mariners

We considered these guys because every year someone seems to come out of nowhere.  Tabata will have the opportunity, but very little power.  Blackmon will probably not play much in Denver this season.  Castro and Ackley were fruitless searches for potentially powerful middle infielders, at least for the next couple of years.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Foreshadowing: a Riddle

Alright, let's be quick.  This has nothing to do with our Baseball Managerial Trees post, which has hit a bit of a wall.  I guess it's more of a steep incline.  It's not wall, but it's a very big research project, and we're trying to figure it out for this sophisticated audience.

Back to our foreshadowing...  We have another post coming up soon, which may actually contain some practical information in the hopes of predicting future performance.

Here is the riddle: What do Jose Bautista, John Buck, Tyler Colvin, Carlos Gonzalez, Kelly Johnson, Casey McGehee, Colby Rasmus, Mike Stanton, Drew Stubbs, Rickie Weeks, and Delmon Young have in common?

If you know the answer, please feel free to write it in the comments section.  Also, please let us know if we left anyone out.

Let's add something else they have in common, such as they are each pictured below.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Week 15 NFL Picks

Before we get to our NFL picks, I just want to say that Kerry Wood passing on a 2yr/$10 million offer from the Yankees, at this stage in his career, to rejoin the Cubs on a 1yr/$1.5 million deal makes all the sense in the world.  He and many generations after him are already set for life.  Kerry is where he wants to be, and Cub fans are thrilled.  Merry Christman, Cubs fans.  This is probably as good as it's going to get for the next few years.

Um, okay, let's move on to Football.

How about that Vincent Jackson?

Carson, what are you smiling at?
Week 15 NFL Picks
49ers +10 @ San Diego (loss)
Browns -1.5 @ Cincinnati
Cowboys -6 vs Redskins
Texans +1.5 @ Tennessee
Jaguars +5 at Indianapolis
Rams -1 vs Chiefs
Bills +5.5 @ Miami
Buccaneers -5.5 vs Lions
McFadden is winning
fantasy leagues this year
Cardinals +2.5 @ Carolina
Saints +1.5 @ Baltimore
Eagles +3 @ NY Giants
Falcons -6 at Seattle
Jets +6 @ Pittsburgh
Raiders -4.5 vs Broncos
Patriots -11 vs Packers
Bears -3 @ Minnesota

Locks this week are in green.

Season Record: 64-49-3 (.566 W%)
Locks: 11-10-3

Go Bears!

Welcome back, Patrick Ramsey!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Need Starters? Who's Left?

The subtitle of this post could be "Who's left?! Who?? That's It?! Uh-Oh."  The baseball hot stove is winding down as most big time free agents have signed their new deals.  Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano are probably the nicest prizes still out there.  Really, that's about it.  When it comes to the Starting Pitching market, options are really shaky.  When Cliff Lee surprised most observers by signing with the Phillies in lieu of the Yankees or Rangers, he devastated the free agent market for starting pitchers.

Whenever I see Pavano
pitch, he hears my booing.
There is not one Free Agent Starting Pitcher remaining that a large group of people would agree is rock solid.  It goes to show, when considering that the consensus top option left on the free agent wire is Carl Pavano.  I think he missed all of Dubya's second term with injuries.

Really, who is out there?  There's been a bit of a run on pitchers this past week.  Other potential starters Brandon McCarthy, Dustin Moseley, Rich Harden, Chien-Ming Wang, Mark Prior, and Andrew Miller signed new deals in the past four days.  Some teams strategies, for example the Yankees, look to be refocusing free agency efforts to build as powerful a bullpen as possible, and looking for starters elsewhere.  We'll talk about "elsewhere" in a moment.

Sorry if the following information is met by disdain from anyone who finds this redundant.  We have not received any complaints, but at the same time are sensitive to your, the reader's needs.  That being said, reassessing the free agent landscape is a big part of following the hot stove.  If you happen to be one of the people we just apologized to, I hope you enjoyed it because we won't apologize for this again.

As an example of our due diligence, below are two groups of Free Agent Starting Pitchers.  One group is comprised of those we believe are worthy of guaranteed Major League contracts and spots on the 40-man roster.  The second group are those f.a.s.p.'s we believe are at least worth considering for an invitation to spring training.  The lists are ranked in order of our current preference.

MLB Contract
Is Jeff Francis the best starter left?
Andy Pettitte (117)
Jeff Francis (100)
Carl Pavano (98)
Pedro Martinez (154)
Justin Duchscherer (139)
John Maine (98)
Micah Owings (88)
How do you not at least
invite Zink to camp?

Spring Training Invite
Brian Bannister (87)
Charlie Zink (30)
Brian Moehler (93)

The numbers in (parenthesis) are their career ERA+, and that is not a typo next to Charlie Zink.  He's only pitched 4 1/3 innings in the big leagues, but he's a knuckleballer and at 31 years old may have ten good years hidden in his arm.

"Yeah, I think the strike zone is
over that way." -- Daniel Cabrera
We continue to be suckers for Daniel Cabrera, and that really makes no sense.  He doesn't even throw hard anymore, as poor mechanics lead to injuries which he couldn't fully recover from.  In fact, his Fangraphs page shows his average fastball velocity has steadily decreased from 96.2 MPH in 2006 to 90.9 MPH last season.  Still, like I said, we're a bunch of suckers for his clothes your eyes and chuck it repertoire.  Daniel Cabrera and I go way back to that 2006 season, when my patience with him was the only blemish on an otherwise outstanding fantasy team.  In reality, however, would it be so bad if he went to Spring Training for your favorite team and maybe became the AA or AAA closer, while he learned to shorten his mechanics and throw strikes?  Will any MLB team make that gamble?  We don't know, but if not, we may get to see Daniel Cabrera pitch for the Newark Bears next season.

Okay, we said we'd talk about 'elsewhere'.  Elsewhere, or 'patience', is the Yankees Plan B after Cliff Lee left them.  If Pettitte decides to retire, they're really going to be sweating elsewhere.  The rumored to be available via trade are...

Felix Hernandez (133)
Felix is the best. The king.
Zack Greinke (116)
Jonathan Sanchez (101)
Matt Garza (107)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (110)
Scott Kazmir (106)
Edwin Jackson (96)
Tom Gorzelanny (93)
Derek Lowe (116)
Carlos Zambrano (127)
Paul Maholm (95)
Kenshin Kawakami (94)
Randy Wolf (102)
A.J. Burnett (107)
Barry Zito (114)

The first four guys are on that list are highly coveted.  The next three also have well defined value.  We discussed what is up with Gorzelanny this morning, and the rest of the guys on the list are basically salary dumps.

Twice in one day, Gorzelanny
grabs the Reality Tour spotlight
Every year, we see pitching depth fade around the league due to injury and retirement.  Young pitching, good young pitching, will always be the most valuable commodity in baseball.

Looking back at the free agent list, the most rock-solid bet to stay healthy is Kevin Millwood, and he turns 36 next week and had a dreadful season for the last place Orioles last year.  Andy Pettitte is really just an option for the Yankees.  Maybe he'd go to Texas, but it sounds like we're hear in the next couple of days whether he's going to return to the Yankees or retire.  As for Pavano, I'm not a Yankee fan, but I personally dislike him.  I heard he's allegedly a bigot, and that doesn't fly around here.  We have Jeff Francis listed ahead of Pavano, but have not heard of anyone else sharing that opinion.

What would your rankings be like?  Don't forget, this is a community, people.  Please send me an email, or write it into our comments section.  Who'd you like your team to sign?  If you'd only like someone on the trade block, whom would you choose?  And, who do you realistically think your team would trade for him?  Thanks for reading, good night.