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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Joe's Free Agency Preview: Part 2 

As promised, here's my look at the pitchers on the free agent market, and where I think they will wind up:

Pedro Martinez: his numbers for last year were a record of 16-9, 3.90 ERA, and 227 K’s for the WCBRS last year. Made $17.5 million in 2004
The Good: His numbers dipped from the previous year, but that’s not too hard to do; the previous 7 years or so for Pedro was among the best 7-year stretches for any pitcher in any era. From 1997-2003 he had a 2.21 ERA and an average of 251 K’s a season. Plus, he’s held opposing hitters to a .209 batting average for his career. In addition, he’s been notorious as a Mariner killer over the years (13-0, 1.30 ERA against Seattle in his career).
The Bad: the past year may have indicated that, at 33, he may be past his prime. He had the highest ERA of his career this past year, and also allowed a career high in hits (193) and issued more walks (61) than any year since 1998. He also has a reputation as a moody player, and he looked rattled when playing the Yankees during the regular season and postseason.
The Skinny: This past year could have been a hiccup, but it could also have proven that Pedro really is mortal. That said, he’d really be a boost for the rotation, and at the very least the Mariners wouldn’t have to face him during the season. Expect the WCBRS to retain him, though Anaheim and the Yankees will make a push. Personally, I think having him end up in Washington would be the ultimate in poetic justice, as well as a high-profile move to get that organization some footing.

Derek Lowe: Another member of the WCBRS rotation, his stats last year were 14-12, 5.42 ERA, and 105 K’s. He is also the other half (With Varitek) of the biggest mistake the Mariners ever made.
The Good: A sinkerball pitcher who gets lots of groundouts, Lowe tends to not put up flashy stats, but still gets hitters out. He was only average during the regular season, but was spectacular in the postseason, throwing dominant games against both the Yankees and the Cardinals. He is also low-risk for injury, and one of the most versatile pitchers in baseball (42 saves in 2000).
The Bad: He is the type of pitcher who is not going to dominate a game by himself, relying on his defense much more than other pitchers such as Pedro. He also only really has one great season (2002) and one good season (2003) as a starter. For his career, his K-BB ratio is only about 2.1-1.
The Skinny: the Mariners are known for having an airtight defense, but that area of the team is expected to take a backslide this next year. Lowe may not be the best type of pitcher for the Mariner’s future. Expect either Detroit or Baltimore to sign him.

Brad Radke: the no. 2 guy on Minnesota’s staff (after Johan, of course), he had a very solid year last year, going 11-8, 3.48 ERA, and 143 K’s. Interestingly, both he and Lowe were 8th round picks in the 1991 draft.
The Good: he’s been one of the most consistently good pitchers in baseball since 1995, winning at least 10 games every year but one (due to injury). He also has outstanding control, allowing just 54 walks in 432 innings over the past two years. He’s also thrown 200+ innings in 8 of the past 9 years. His mechanics are considered textbook, so he’s fairly low risk for injury.
The Bad: he tends to give up a lot of hits (229 last year, and not a career high), which is surprising, considering the defense he’s had behind him the past few years. He is also not a dominant strikeout pitcher, averaging about 127 per year for his career. Lastly, he gives up his share of homers; averages 27 per season for his career.
The Skinny: he’s the type of pitcher who could really thrive in Seattle’s ballpark, but I can’t see his numbers improving too much, especially when you consider the difference between Minnesota’s defense last year and Seattle’s this year. Expect the Twins to try to keep him, with the WCBRS and Yankees also interested.

Jon Lieber: Had a solid comeback season for the Yankees last year, going 14-8, 4.33 ERA, and 102 K’s
The Good: he showed last year that the Yankees had great wisdom in giving him a two-year contract even though they knew he would not be playing during one of those seasons. He is a similar pitcher to Radke, displaying excellent control and a 5-1 K-BB ratio last year.
The Bad: A lot of players tended to improve their batting averages while he was pitching last year; opposing hitters batted .301 against him. He simply is not dominant enough to be considered a great pitcher. Oh, and there is the fact that he missed the entire 2003 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery.
The Skinny: The Yankees will overpay for him, though I’m not sure why. He’d be a much better fit being the ace of a small-market team such as the Pirates.

Matt Clement: Pitching for the Cubs last year, he had a solid year of 9-13, 3.68 ERA and 190 K’s.
The Good: he’s a power pitcher who gets a lot of strikeouts and doesn’t allow a lot of hits (opponents hit .229 against him last year). He is also one of baseball’s more durable pitchers, getting at least 30 starts each of the past 6 years. At 30, he’s reached the age where pitchers of his type tend to start putting it all together.
The Bad: Control has always been his issue; he gets a lot of strikeouts, but his career K-BB ratio is only 1.89-1. He has already pitched in the bigs for 3 different teams, which is a possible indication that teams aren’t willing to wait for him.
The Skinny: If the Mariners are truly going for a youth movement, they can expect some shoddy defense, and he is not a pitcher whose record is affected by horrible D; the past 3 years, he’s only allowed 15 earned runs (by comparison, Randy Johnson has allowed 35 in the same span). He could be the power pitcher the M’s desperately need (at a reasonable price), but expect him to have a number of suitors.

Carl Pavano: Had a career year last year for Florida, going 18-8, 3.00 ERA and 133 K’s and gaining a few votes for the Cy Young award.
The Good: He throws mid-90’s heat and has a terrific hard slider. He’s got solid control (49 BBs in each of the past 2 years), and has gone over 200 innings each of the past 2 years. Most importantly, Pavano keeps the ball in the park (only 16 HRs allowed last year, partly due to playing in Florida). He will be 29 on opening day next year.
The Bad: He may be another case of a good player becoming great in a contract year. For a power pitcher, he doesn’t strike out many. And with the exception of the past 2 years, he’s had a history of elbow trouble. And, of course, he’s due for a big pay raise next year, which might not be warranted.
The Skinny: He’s the pitcher’s equivalent to Adrian Beltre, and may be the most sought-after pitcher on the market this year. The former Red Sox farmhand has publicly stated a desire to pitch with Curt Schilling. Expect the Yankees and Orioles to put their names in, too. I’d love to see him stay with the Marlins, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see him in a Mariner uniform next year.

Oladis Perez: Pitching for the Dodgers last year, he went 7-6 with a 3.25 ERA and 128 K’s in 31 starts.
The Good: Don’t let the record fool you: Last year, Perez was the hardest-luck pitcher this side of Randy Johnson. He consistently had some of baseball’s worst run support (but so did the rest of the Dodger’s staff). His numbers are similar to Pavano, with excellent control (46 BB’s last year) and a reasonably low opponent’s batting average (.250). He’ll be 27 on opening day.
The Bad: Like Pavano, he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters. He also missed all of 2000 with elbow problems. He’s also very small for a pitcher (6 ft, 150 lbs), but another example of how being left-handed can make up for a lot of things in baseball. A good pitcher, but not dominant (yet).
The skinny: The left-handed Carl Pavano, only without the gaudy won-loss record. He could be the steal of this offseason. Seattle should take advantage before someone else does.

Kris Benson: He split last year between the Pirates and the Mets, going 12-12 with a 4.31 ERA and 134 K’s. He was the top pick overall in the 1996 draft.
The Good: He keeps the ball in the park, allowing only 15 HRs last year. Played injury-free last year, achieving a career-high in wins and going over 200 innings for the 2nd time in his career.
The Bad: Where to begin: history of injury trouble (Tommy John surgery in 2001); only had one season (2000) where his ERA was below 4.00; only average control, with a K-BB ratio slightly below 2-1; was unaffected by the trade to the Mets last year, pitching with a 4.50 ERA after the trade; made $6.15 million last year, and is likely to get a raise this year.
The Skinny: Benson suffers from the fate that most top picks suffer from: inability to live up to expectations, and unwillingness of organizations to give up on a top pick. Let the Mets overpay for this guy, and focus your attention elsewhere.

Al Leiter: Another free-agent starter from the Mets organization, he went 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA and 117 K’s last year.
The Good: Leiter has been one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers since 1995, never finishing below a .500 winning percentage. He was especially tough to hit last year, holding batters to a mere .218 avg. He’s pitched in the world series with 3 different organizations, and can provide excellent veteran leadership to a young staff.
The Bad: He’ll be 40 on opening day. And while the recent track record for pitchers in their 40s is getting better, he’s no Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens. And control actually is becoming more of an issue with age; he allowed 97 walks in 173.2 innings last year, and put up similar numbers the year before. Not good for a guy whose strikeouts have gone down from 172 in 2002 to 139 in ’03 and just 117 last year.
The Skinny: The Mariners already have a veteran starter to lead their young staff in Jamie Moyer. Let the Yankees or Mets overpay for him and continue developing the young pitchers.

Kevin Millwood: Injuries reduced him to 141 innings last year for the Phillies, going 9-6 with 125 K’s and a 4.85 ERA.
The Good: He gets a fair amount of strikeouts with a good K-BB ratio (2.69-1). Has had only 1 non-winning record in his career. If his normal statistical pattern holds true, he should clear 200 innings in each of the next 2 years.
The Bad: He is looking more and more like a product of Braves Pitching Coach Leo Mazzone each year. Last year’s ERA was a career high, though that may partly have been due to injury. He’s surprisingly hittable; last year opponents hit .278 off of him. He was unable to become the ace that Philly needed when they acquired him 2 years ago.
The Skinny: I’ve never been sold on Millwood, especially at the $10 million price tag that he had last year. This guy should probably go back to Atlanta and let Mazzone work his magic again.

Eric Milton: Made a nice comeback from knee surgery with the Phillies last year, going 14-6 with 161 K’s and a 4.75 ERA.
The Good: A classic innings-eater, Milton has cleared 170 IP in every season of his big league career except for 2003. His control is not exceptional and he does not strike out a ton of hitters, but his K-BB ratio is about 2-1. He’ll be 30 on opening day.
The Bad: Milton does little more than eat innings; he’s never had an ERA below 4.00, has not given up fewer than 96 runs in a full season, and gives up a lot of Homers (43 last year). He’s no more than a back-of-the-rotation lefty who has benefited from great run support during his career.
The Skinny: At the right price, Milton may be worth it. But he’s being sought-after by the Yankees, so expect his price to skyrocket past where it should be. The Mariners may be better off with their young guys in his spot.

Woody Williams: His numbers for the Cardinals last year include an 11-8 record, with 153 K’s and a 4.18 ERA.
The Good: over the past few years, Williams has quietly developed into one of baseball’s most reliable starters. With the exception of 2002, he’s been around 200 innings every year since 1997. His control is solid, with a 2.6-1 K-BB ratio. In 2003, he was the ace of the Cardinal’s staff, going 18-9 with a 3.87 ERA. He also does a pretty good job keeping the ball in the park (20 HRs allowed in each of the past couple years).
The Bad: He’s 38, though he seems to be aging well. He does not strike out a large amount of batters (career high: 153). His overall numbers do not scream out at you, and mainly say he’s a number 2 guy at best.
The Skinny: Williams is one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers, and he should take advantage of that by staying in the national league. Expect him back with St. Louis next year, but the Phillies could get involved. If he goes to the AL, figure the Orioles and Tigers to be interested.


Comments:
Hey Joe, I agree with you on most of your points, but I have to totally disagree about Odalis Perez. That guy should be avoided.

Signing starting pitchers away from LA is like signing sluggers away from Coors field (Chan Ho Park = Dante Bichette). Especially when it comes to a lefty who doesn't strike guys out, I'd be very suspicious.
 
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