200 innings seems to be a favorite line in the sand for evaluating the durability of a starting pitcher. One thing the Cardinals have shown a plethora of this season is pitchers who are on the cusp of being ready for the majors. Replacement level guys like Mitchell Boggs or Mike Parisi as well as someone like Brad Thompson who seems capable of making 6-8 effective spot starts a year. One way to leverage a situation like this, as I alluded to yesterday in the comments, is to sign a very dominant pitcher like AJ Burnett who probably isn't going to give you more than 160-180 innings.
What's the break even point for Burnett versus someone like Kyle Lohse who may be better able to give you 180-200 innings but with an inferior run prevention ability. To be clear, I'm not looking to layout true talent levels for any of the pitchers I've named rather to see what prices would be equivalent factoring in some innings from another pitcher. Let's assume Burnett is good for 160 innings with a FIP of 3.75. To supplement those 40 innings, let's use Brad Thompson with a FIP of 5.00. So over 200 innings, those two players will allow around 89 runs or a FIP of about 4.00. For his career, Lohse has a FIP around 4.50 although this season it's currently below 4.00 although recent outings might indicate he's tapering back toward his career numbers.
So if those assumptions are accurate, Lohse would allow around 10 more runs than our Burnett-Thompson hybrid, i.e. he's about 1 win worse. On the free agent market, a win is worth around 4-5M dollars a year. That means that if the difference between Lohse for a season and Burnett-Thompson for a season is less than 4M, it's probably better to buy the Burnett-Thompson hybrid. The beauty of this for the Cardinals is that the salary difference is almost exclusively in the FA contracts since their replacement level arms are free.
There's some ancillary arguments to be had about the costs of using 2 roster spots when you could get similar production from 1 and the potential to luck into healthy season from a pitcher like Burnett (who would then be closer to 2 wins better than Lohse), but there's a real value to be weighed on limited dominance versus extended sufficiency.
Historical baseball guru is not a title I would ever attribute to myself. I'm not enamored of baseball's history or past players beyond using them as comps for prospects or other current individuals. "Greatest of _____ era" arguments inevitably bore me to tears. Just not an area that's ever piqued my curiosity.
That said, it seems to me that we've seen a pretty significant change in the last week. The Cardinals are, for all intents and purposes, now closing the book on the Izzy era and stepping bravely into the Chris Perez era. Perez should have a nostalgic streak for a while as his proclivity for walking batters may be eerily reminiscent of our previous closer over the last 7 years. Baseball in general seems to be gradually gettting past the idea that closers need to be a grizzled veteran as players such as Bobby Jenks, Huston Street and Jonathan Papelbon grow in number.
It would be an unmitigated mistake to re-sign Izzy beyond this year for a variety of reasons. The Cardinals minor league system is ripe with RH relievers like Jason Motte, Mark Worrell, Fernando Salas, Franscisco Samuel, etc., etc. It's also a huge risk that Izzy could become a veteran hero of TLR despite wanning talent crippled by injury. We've seen the requirements needed to "baby" an older arm like Russ Springer and it can, at times, leave the team with a psuedo-depleted bullpen. Izzy did tremendous things for the Cardinals but it's time for a different approach to the pen.
Kelvin Jimenez for closer, anyone?
Adam Wainwright is headed into a starters role -- thank the stars. He was surprisingly vocal about his desire to start during the PR debacle that the front office created with their inability to make a decision or figure out who the decision maker really is (a seemingly ongoing problem for this team). It's often interesting to me to see how fans will react to players that voice their own opinions about what their role should be. Sometimes those players can be critized for "whining" while other times we laud their honesty. I suspect that the reaction is often tailored by what each fan thinks the proper question is to the answer; I'm much more likely to praise someone that agrees with me.
In a more general sense, I think the need to keep core, critical players pleased is underrated. It's often met with derisive "if so-and-so is gonna whine, I don't even want them on my team" comments that, while understandable, don't seem realistic to me. We've seen what schisms between players and management can do to the Cardinals in the Scott Rolen incident and while we've (probably) come out on top in that case, it still isn't a road I'd like to tread. Rolen left Philly after similar problems and I'm sure they would have liked his peak years of offense just fine.
It's not a matter of coddling players necessarily. I'm the first person to attempt to strip as much humanity from the game as possible but even I'll acknowledge that there's a tipping point. An interesting case study will be Rick Ankiel, whom the club has done a great deal for, and his looming free agency. There's an element of scratching each others backs that's not to be underestimated when it comes time to meet at the negotiating table. It's one thing to yank a player like Brad Thompson between the minors and majors who, while useful, is hardly irreplacable as a player but Adam Wainwright is a core part of the team for the next 4-5 years. Keeping players like Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and perhaps even Colby Rasmus happy to be a part of the St. Louis Cardinals can pay monetary dividends down the road.
Whatever fool put together our schedule with 4 offdays in 15 days and 2 in 4 days, should be fired.
Have a happy Friday. Braves vs. Cardinals @ 7:15CDT tonight.