Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pitchers Aplenty

Yesterday I looked at the hitters still available on the open market.  Today I will look at pitchers.  Once again, I have provided their ages in parentheses.

Zach Duke (28)
The 2009 All-Star (who led the league in losses that year; proving that too many players get to go to the Midsummer Classic) has always been too hittable, but when healthy he's a number five starter who can give you 200 innings. His inability to miss bats suggests that he would probably fare better on a superlative defensive team such as the Angels or Rays, but I don't think anyone's looking to add a guy with a career 4.56 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.  His few supporters can argue that he suffered the misfortune of playing for the Pirates, but he was pretty brutal with the division-winning D-Backs last year, too.

Jon Garland (32)
Mark Buehrle's sidekick in Chicago started at least 32 games each year from 2002 to 2010 for good teams, allowing him to accumulate solid win-loss totals despite posting a cumulative 4.28 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over that span.  He made just nine starts for the Dodgers last year and didn't pitch well for them.  Like Duke, he's too hittable and would need a good defense around him to be effective, but I think and NL team should take a chance on him.  Best case scenario--he wins 15 games and gives you over 200 innings--and who wouldn't take that? He could be this year's Bartolo Colon/Freddy Garcia for a GM that digs him out of the bargain bin.

Rich Harden (30)
Like Erik Bedard, Harden possessed obvious talent but had his career derailed by injuries and inconsistency.  He hasn't pitched well since 2008, and has flamed out in Chicago, Texas, and Oakland in the subsequent trio of seasons.  He would come cheaply after making just $1.5 million that Billy Beane paid him last year, but unfortunately he's just too much of a risk without enough reward. 

Livan Hernandez (36)
Outside of a brief stretch of excellence from 2003-2005 that earned him a couple trips to the All-Star game and a Silver Slugger, Hernandez has been nothing more than durable four or five starter.  The Nationals don't need him now that they have a solid, young rotation headline by Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and newcomers Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez.  He's been a below average pitcher for more than half a decade now, so it's probably a good time to hang up the spikes.

Kevin Millwood (37)
His career arc looks much like Garland's, for he was durable for a long time with a few decent seasons but broke down and made only nine starts.  The difference is that Millwood was actually solid in those nine starts, and performed well despite being older and playing for Colorado.  Outside of 2009 his last five seasons have been dreadful, though, and he's just too old at this point.

Roy Oswalt (34)
A bad back plagued him last year and produced the worst season of his stellar career, but Philadelphia overcame his struggles thanks to superb seasons from Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Hamels.  His K rate dipped and his hit rate jumped, but I'm convinced that a healthy Oswalt will bounce back. He has plenty of interested suitors so someone will sign him, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the pitching-thin Red Sox pull the trigger and use him to flank Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

Javier Vazquez (35)
Is reportedly considering retirement, but redeemed himself last year after bombing in his second stint in the Bronx in 2010.  After a sluggish start bloated his ERA to over seven and earned him unflattering comparisons to A.J. Burnett and John Lackey, he turned his season around shortly thereafter by posting a tidy  1.92 ERA and whiffing 115 batters in 126 and two-thirds innings over his last 19 starts (from June 16th onwards).  He clearly has some gas left in his tank, but if he doesn't commit to playing in 2012 soon then he won't be ready when spring training rolls around.  If he decides to keep playing, he must avoid the American League at all costs.

Tim Wakefield (45)
It was great to see him win his 200th game last season, but he's done more harm than good for the Sox over the past two years (-2 bWAR).  The longest tenured member of the Old Towne Team is just too old (did you hear that, Jamie Moyer) and should go out with longtime batterymate Jason Varitek.

Brandon Webb (32)
It's hard to remember now, but from 2006 to '08 Webb was one of the best pitchers in baseball.  He won the 2006 NL Cy Young award, finished runner-up to Jake Peavy the following year and finished second again in 2008 behind Tim Lincecum.  Then he blew out his shoulder in 2009 and hasn't pitched in the majors since.  He's coming off a rotator cuff surgery that might scare many teams away, but a drop in velocity won't cripple the sinkerballer as long as his pitches still retain that sharp bite.  If they don't, he'll get creamed, but if he comes anywhere close to form he'll be an incredible bargain.  Buyer beware; Webb is high risk, high reward.

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