Wednesday, December 20, 2006

rich hill and mark prior

the topic has certainly been addressed here previously -- with a look at the cubs' new free agent pitchers individually here and as part of the team here -- but as this writer found himself addressing comments in a thread, the reply wound up so long as to be be barred by haloscan from posting as a comment. such is the birth of a new post on an old topic.

where commenter kt cubs wondered:

Do the Cubs understand Vorp or is the management at the Cubs just stabbing in the dark with moves that dont appear to have any chance of a positive effect . . . ie Marquis and Derosa?

the reply went as follows:

there's actually room for a plug for hendry just once here, kt -- marquis is an example of buying low, something the cubs don't do nearly enough.

plug over. why does it have to be upon marquis that they finally do this?

marquis is not a great pitcher, though that his 6.02 era in 2006 is unusually high is unquestionable. but it has to be said that his 2005 and 2004 mask significant effects that make him look a lot better than he is. he was the beneficiary of wonderful luck in 2004, and had the good fortune of allowing an unusually high number of unearned runs in 2005.

a better way of contextualizing marquis (and lilly) may be to show them not by era but by runs allowed per nine (RA) -- adjusted by delta-r to remove the benefices of good fortune that can heavily skew annual performances as measured by era. put them into a list of familiar names, and one can begin to see why the rotation shouldn't probably be considered anything like a strength.

player 2006 2005 2004 2003 career
zambrano 3.74 3.22 3.56 3.62 3.68
maddux 3.94 4.32 4.40 3.963.40
wood 5.94 4.09 4.23 3.673.92
prior 7.00 3.89 4.32 3.15 3.92
lilly 4.95 5.77 4.33 4.64 4.93
marquis 6.16 4.74 5.10 4.86 5.18

then further consider that marquis has pitched in front of quality defense all his career -- his defense-adjusted era is 0.58 higher than his actual (as opposed to lilly, whose similar difference is just 0.13). anyone who expects one of these two to just step in for wood, maddux or prior (or zambrano, god forbid) is going to be sorely disappointed -- particularly in marquis. either one is likely to surrender a run per game more than any of them.

it's hard to look at the numbers and get a good feel for where lilly and marquis might fall into our range of experience. does anyone really want to see a list that contextualizes them?

you fellow sadists. ;)

here then is the list of cub starters (or mostly starters), innings pitched in a cub uni (minimum 150, with one exception) and corresponding RA net of del-r -- with career numbers for lilly, marquis and rich hill interposed -- 2007's front four are highlighted.

player ip ra(net)
carlos zambrano 977.0 3.68
greg maddux 1 1442.0 3.74
matt clement 587.7 3.81
kerry wood 1128.7 3.92
mark prior 657.0 3.92
rick sutcliffe 1267.3 4.14
jon lieber 827.6 4.18
mike harkey 422.3 4.18
mark clark 276.7 4.23
jaime navarro 437.0 4.32
greg maddux 2 574.0 4.36
rich hill 123.0 4.39
mike morgan 575.3 4.45
mike bielecki 600.7 4.47
frank castillo 949.7 4.58
jason bere 273.7 4.64
jeremi gonzalez 254.0 4.64
terry mulholland 379.0 4.68
kevin tapani 804.0 4.78
ted lilly 936.0 4.89
steve trachsel 1146.3 4.90
jose guzman 210.7 4.91
kevin foster 485.3 4.99
julian tavarez 161.3 5.08
shawn boskie 387.0 5.12
jason marquis 910.3 5.18
jim bullinger 481.0 5.22
glendon rusch 341.3 5.24
danny jackson 183.7 5.39
willie banks 150.0 5.70
amaury telemaco 163.0 6.02
shawn estes 152.3 7.03

if you take comfort from an analysis that leagues lilly with trachsel or tapani and marquis with boskie or bullinger, you are more an optimist than i am. the more it's examined, the more it seems that hope for real performance hinges on two players:

1) rich hill
2) mark prior

if hill can deliver the kind of year maddux did in 2005 and 2004 -- particularly the 34-35 starts -- and prior can re-emerge from his shoulder problems to toss the kind of year he did in 2005 and 2004 -- 20-odd starts of sub-4 era pitching -- there's hope.

if either one fail, short of a remarkable emergence from the kids at iowa, it seems here that the cubs will suffer from inadequacies in starting pitching. there seems precious little reason to have little faith in marquis approaching anything like a 19.2 vorp projection, and lilly too is a good candidate to underperform a 23.0 projection.

if both fail, 2007 could be a year surprisingly similar to 2006, though probably buoyed by an improved offense that should keep it from the lower deep.

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