July 22, 2009

In last week's column, we ran through the NL teams and assessed whether they were buyers or sellers and whether their starters had any value for you in the second half. Let's do unto the younger league this week what we did to the older one.


1. BOS: With Boston and New York tied in a hot division race, both will be active buyers this month, with Boston not as pitching-rich as it once was. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are likely good for 18 more wins between them, but Tim Wakefield is headed to the DL (old), John Smoltz (also old) just got rocked, Brad Penny (fat) has been nothing more than a placeholder, and while everyone is "pleased" with Daisuke Matsuzaka's (broken) progress, I imagine it's akin me being "pleased" to have Pancake on a Stick for breakfast instead of kitty litter. Clay Buchholz is coming up to take Wakefield's place, and shouldn't be available in any league (yes, he'll have that much value). And even if the Red Sox decide they don't need the pitching, they may pick up a starter just to keep him from wearing pinstripes.

1. NYY (tied with BOS, plus AL Wild Card by 4.5 Games): The Yankees score about a third of a run more per game than the Red Sox, but their pitchers give up about a third of a run per game more than Boston does. In addition, the Yankees' rotation creates more unearned runs, gives up more homers, and hits more, walks more, and strikes out less hitters. So while the two rotations are close in ERA (BOS: 4.46; NYY: 4.61), they are miles apart in wins (BOS: 41; NYY: 34). That also means the Yankees have had to rely on their bullpen more (BOS: 267.1 bullpen IP; NYY: 292.1), which destroys a rotation quickly. All this is a long way of saying the Yankees need a reliable starter and another reliever. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain have been good but not great, but will continue to win. Andy Pettitte is showing his age (note to New York front office: don't pitch him in day games where he has a 6.14 ERA) but is likely good for another six wins. I know I said Chien-Ming Wang had some starts left in him, but his time is up. I'm guessing the Yankees won't win the Roy Halladay sweepstakes being in the same division, but Jarrod Washburn (SEA) or Gil Meche (from the Yankees' farm team in Kansas City) would be nice additions.

3. TB (4.5 GB): The Rays' July is a good illustration of their team. They can beat up on bad teams (7-2 against TOR, OAK and KC), but are at the mercy of strong teams (1-4 against TEX and CWS so far), which makes them at best a .500 team. Only one of their starters is above .500 (Jeff Niemann, 9-4), which makes them a team to mine for pitching for AL-only leagues, but not in mixed. Seeing the almost one-third of a billion dollars in team payrolls ahead of them in the standings, the Rays may make a token move to keep fans happy, but they won't be strong buyers. That also means they won't be a seller, despite spending most of their existence in one. David Price likely keeps doing what he's doing, which means he has more value as a keeper than as an '09 starter. Keep in mind he's much better at home (3-1, 3.04 ERA) than on the road (0-3, 6.94 ERA).

4. TOR (9.5 GB): Playing the other AL East teams woke up Cinderella (wait, I have my princess metaphors mixed, don't I?) and the Jays took a nose dive. The Jays are claiming they likely won't trade Roy Halladay because no one is offering enough. Expect that negotiation tactic to work and for him to go to the NL where they won't have to face him all that often. Keep in mind injury and ineffectiveness have forced this team to try 12 different starters before August. This team will likely shed some of its offense as well, which means you don't want to be holding one of its pitchers after the trade deadline unless you're in a keeper league. I say this despite being a Ricky Romero fan. Expect it to be harder for him to win.

5. BAL (14.0 GB): There's nothing to mine here, but with their pitchers being relatively young, they're probably not trading away any starting pitching. Jeremy Guthrie showed a lot of promise last season, but he's tied for the AL lead in HRs allowed and the second half is going to be brutal for this team unless it can figure out a way to clone Adam Jones. Guthrie and Brad Bergesen are worth keeping in AL-only, but unless the structure of MLB itself is radically changed during the offseason, the prognosis for the Orioles will be the same next year: Can't do better than fourth in the AL East.


1. DET: You feel the Tigers wished the season ended today as they're limping toward the finish line. Suddenly this is a three-team race, and even more suddenly, the Tigers are in need of pitching help. Armando Galarraga had a bad May but is likely a 4.00 ERA pitcher the rest of the way. Rick Porcello will hit the rookie wall in August (or sooner). And can anyone tell me who their SP5 is? It's my experience that teams with shaky bullpens get worse after the All-Star break, so don't put all your chips on this team. And while I have faith in Justin Verlander to keep pitching well, he's on pace to hit 200 IP for the third season in a row. Add that to a bad bullpen and a DL stint wouldn't be out of the question.

2. CWS (1.0 GB): The White Sox tried to get Jake Peavy and failed (perhaps for the better), but of the three teams vying for a title, the White Sox have the most talent to give up for pitching. I have no doubt they will pick up an arm for the stretch run, and that arm should see good numbers as they finish the season with other AL Central teams (yes, I'm picking the White Sox to take the Central). Mark Buehrle is having a Cy Young-type year and John Danks is pitching well, but he'll be skipped to take care of a blister. Gavin Floyd was awful in April and May, great in June, and is back to awful. Expect awful Floyd the rest of the way. And as for Jose Contreras, his value may be back to "minimal" now that his hot streak is over.

3. MIN (2.5 GB): The Twins are the AL's John Kerry: We know they can make the playoffs, but they will never win the big one. However, unlike the past, the Twins' rotation is not great. Francisco Liriano is the first name that comes to mind in that discussion. He has been useful for strikeouts, but he's still killing your ratios. Scott Baker has a 5.71 ERA this month and Kevin Slowey is on the DL. However, if you had Slowey active through his last few starts, you're probably enjoying the break. Glen Perkins has been as mediocre as his 5-5 record and Nick Blackburn doesn't strike out enough batters to have value unless he's perfect (which he hasn't been lately). So these pitchers may get you wins, but probably won't help in other categories.

4. KC (11.5 GB): The Royals are sellers, and have been since May. But the question is, "What do they have to sell?" Gil Meche is on the DL and signed through 2011, Zack Greinke is signed through 2012, and the rest are either arbitration eligible or retreads. Face it, the Royals are not relevant for the rest of the season.

5. CLE (13.5 GB): But at least the Royals are ahead of the Indians (anyone know why their coaches and front office haven't been fired yet?), who on paper look like they should be better than 20 games below .500. Cliff Lee has two consecutive complete game wins, a club option for 2010 and a whole bunch of teams that want him. I can't imagine the Indians holding onto him, so this might be the time for you to trade for him. Any other pitcher on this team probably isn't worth your while.


1. LAA: The Angels' rotation is middle of the AL pack in ERA and its bullpen is second to last in ERA, so how are they in first place? Offense, offense, offense, as they have the highest batting average in MLB and have scored more runs than the Red Sox. How else can you explain Matt Palmer's 7-1 record with an ERA over 5.00? It helps to be in a weak division, but they hear the Rangers' footsteps and they've tried 12 starters already. They are likely pitching buyers, but unfortunately, the best pitching available comes from the AL, and their division-mate Seattle has a ton of it. Jered Weaver appears to be faltering, and looks more like a two-win per month pitcher than the four-win version we saw in June. Forget about anyone who is injury-prone or a reclamation project, but Sean O'Sullivan (He's what, German? Scandinavian?) is worth an immediate pickup.

2. TEX (2.5 GB): I can't say enough about pitching coach Mike Maddux, so I'll stop. For the first time in a decade (or two) the Rangers find themselves buyers. However, there's a quandary here. There's no guarantee that anyone they trade for will be able to pitch in Arlington in August and September. For now, if you really want to use Rangers pitching, try the younger ones. Tommy Hunter has pitched well (including against the Red Sox) and is worth a pickup. Brandon McCarthy is another possibility, but his GO/AO ratio is still too low for me to be enthused.

3. SEA (4.0 GB): With its starting pitching, this team should be in first. Think of them as the San Francisco Giants, without the Dodgers ahead of them. So what's the problem? How about 15 blown saves. But since David Aardsma has been one of the best closers in the AL, their problem is in the eighth inning. That means they'll either get some relief through a trade (get it?), or the starters will be pushed longer into games which will make August brutal. This team is close enough to challenge but not close enough to think they can run away with the division. They'll be on the fence about making trades and may not deal Washburn or Erik Bedard after all.

4. OAK (13.5 GB): The A's are a hard team to nail down. Brett Anderson throws a near-perfect game and they lose. They go down ten runs to the Twins, and win 14-13. The time for Oakland to make a run is gone, even in the weak AL West, but with their core of good young pitchers, they might not be sellers. If they do sell (which they shouldn't), it would be offense, not pitching, so life would be even rougher for their rotation. Bottom line is Oakland's pitchers are mostly keepers -- I am disappointed that Gio Gonzalez has been awful -- but they likely won't help you too much the rest of this season.

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