a little followup on yesterday's looper post:
first, i sent an e-mail to david gassko, who wrote the Hardball Times article about julian tavarez's prospects as a starting pitcher. how about looper? i asked; here's his response:
I'd be extremely skeptical of Looper being able to make a transition to the starting rotation.
As a reliever, I would project his run average (ERA plus unearned runs) to be 4.09 next year, maybe a little higher because of aging (this is just a quick-and-dirty projection). Using the same method (well, slightly altered) I employed in the Jonathan Papelbon article, it seems to me that to make a successful switch Looper would have to post an RA below 5.30 (or a ERA below 4.80). According to "The Book," the average pitcher sees his RA go up about a run when he goes from relieving to starting, and if Looper could match that, it would probably be a good switch. However, there is a selection bias in The Book's research because guys who go between relieving and starting are generally used to both. Given that Looper has always been a reliever, I think he would experience a bigger learning curve than most, and thus his ERA would end up somewhere north of 5.00, making this a bad idea.
the looper stuff still has the whiff of idle off-season talk. about five years back, la russa spent all winter explaining that he was gonna have pujols switch positions with placido polanco --- make albert the regular 3d baseman and move polanco to left field. what he was really saying was, "i need more power production out of my 3d baseman." but when the games started, pujols was still in left and polanco was still at 3d --- until midseason, when the cards traded polanco and others for scott rolen. l'affaire de looper is likely a similar type of smoke signal, but if the intent (as has been speculated) is to increase the cards' leverage in trade negotiations by making the team seem less desperate, or to make looper seem more attractive as a trade chip . . . . . . well, there are some stupid gms out there, but this
i also heard yesterday from pzonehitter, who has sent me accurate information in the past. he relays the following:
Last weekend I had a chance to talk to Brad Penny. Asked him about the rumors that the Dodgers were shopping him and that one of the possibilities was the Cards. He said that he had just talked to his agent and in fact the Cards were one of the teams interested but was told that what the Cards had to offer didn't fit well with what the Dodgers would want. Penny is a life-long Cards fan and would love to come to the Cards. Also, at least 2 American League teams have inquired about the availability of Rolen. He's probably not going anywhere, but one of the teams was the Angels and they've got some pieces that would work for the Cards. No talk of trading Duncan anywhere. It's been really quiet, meaning that the Cards are satisfied with what they have unless somebody offers something special. Only time will tell.
it doesn't surprise me that the angels would inquire about rolen, given their aggressive pursuit of ramirez, tejada, and crede. i surmise that the "pieces that would work" include ervin santana and chone figgins, both of whom the angels have offered around. rolen-for-santana would be a bold gamble, but if it was going to happen it probably would've gone down earlier, when the free-agent field was still wide open and the cards could have applied the payroll savings toward the signing of an impact hitter to replace scotty (as fantasized here
). if they were to pull the trigger at this point, the best hitter they could sign would be aubrey huff . . . . .
my SB Nation colleague jeff sackmann, who writes the brewers blog Brew Crew Ball, had an awesome idea last week about how the Nationals could fill out their thin rotation: "If Bowden fails to sign enough mediocre starting pitching, he can always just put a tee out at home plate." a batting tee, sackmann explains, would be expected to have a fielding-independent ERA of about 3.20 --- a run or more better than what eaton and meche and their ilk are likely to record. "Do you realize what a breakthrough this is?" sackmann concludes. "In a year with a lot of offense, a tee could win the Cy Young Award! Why trade for Jon Lieber when you could just buy a tee?"
hey, it's only slightly more off-the-wall than the looper initiative . . . .