There was a game last night between San Diego and Baltimore that featured two starting pitchers that were waiver claims this past offseason, both of whom are havaing outstanding years: Justin Germano and Jeremy Guthrie. It made me wonder how many of these guys there are this year, contributing to the ML roster. When we talk about the scarcity of talent available among free agent starting pitching last offseason, we shouldn't ignore these guys.
Justin Germano, San Diego - 24 years old.
5-1 record, 2.63 ERA, 0.958 WHIP
Originally drafted by San Diego out of high school, was later traded to the Reds for Joe Randa, then to Philly for Rheal Cormier. Pitched full seasons in the minors in 2005 and 06, with a brief callup last year with Cincy. Has pitched in 9 games in the majors prior to this season. I'm not sure why Philly released him, though it's likely his number wouldn't be as good if they had kept him. He's not a high strikeout guy (4.5 K/9), and he's essentially a flyball pitcher (49% GB rate) who doesn't give up a lot of home runs (0.63 HR/9) and hardly any walks (better than 3/1 K/BB).
Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore - 28 years old
4-1 record, 2.42 ERA, 0.894 WHIP
Drafted by Cleveland out of college in 2002, appeared in 16 games at the major league level before this year. He has been called up and down so many times that he is now out of options, and has had to pitch his way into a major-league job. Since joining the rotation in May, he has only had two starts where he failed to go at least 7 innings... his first two. Like Germano, he is a fly ball pitcher who doesn't walk anyone (1.7 BB/9, vs 7 K/9) and doesn't give up home runs (0.62 HR/9). Looks like Mazzone may not have lost his touch altogether.
Jorge Sosa, Mets - 30 years old
6-3 record, 4.09 ERA, 1.181 WHIP
Released by the Redbirds, and signed by the Mets in January, and was sent to the minors after spring training. His success may be fleeting, as his K (5.1/9) and BB (3.2/9) ratios are essentially the same as they have been over the past three years. But his hits allowed have dropped sharply, and his home runs allowed has fallen off the shelf, from 1.99/game in '05 to 2.99!/game last year to 0.88/game this season. HR allowed will dictate his success or failure, since he's a marked fly ball pitcher.
Rodrigo Lopez, Colorado - 31 years old
3-0 record, 2.90 ERA, 1.240 WHIP
Not a waiver claim, but acquired for pennies on the dollar from Baltimore in winter meetings - for minor leaguers Jason Burch and Jim Miller, neither of whom was a top-10 prospect withn the organization. (Burch was originally drafted by St Louis in the 23rd round, and included as part of the Larry Walker deal in 2004). Has improved his ground ball rate (50.6%) this year, a must for pitching at Coors, and has cut one full walk per game off his rate and also dropped his HR allowed. Currently outpitching Roger Clemens as we speak.
There are more out there that haven't seen the same kind of success - Buddy Carlyle with Atlanta, Jerome Williams (still only 25) and Jason Simontacci with the Nats, the immortal Sidney Ponson (since DFA'd) with the Twins, and Tomo Ohka (since DFA'd) with the Blue Jays. But nonetheless, these are examples of "unsexy" guys who were out there this past offseason. Any critique of the free agent pitching crop, and our inability to find quality, shouldn't ignore these players.