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ok, sidney ponson . . . gettin' used to the idea. baseball think factory's item on the signing is headlined "cardinals sign sir lush-a-lot" . . . szymborski adds, "Personally, I think Ponson's arm is shot, but I guess it's worth a flyer since the Cardinals won't have to pay much for him."

having looked at some recent history, i'm inclined to agree. i did a quick look at similar reclamation projects the cards have taken on in recent years -- surprisingly high number on'm. and the results have been surprisingly good.

i limited this brief survey to guys whose performance (cumulative) for the two previous seasons fell at or below replacement level. in one case, circumstance (the death of darryl kile) forced them to activate an idled has-been hurler (andy benes); another guy (sterling hitchcock) was a stretch-run acquisition made out of desperation. here are the last-chance pickups, and their stats from the two years prior to their appearance in the cards' rotation:

age ip w-l era whip
kile 98-99 31 421 21-30 5.84 1.63
benes 01-02 34 273 19-16 5.86 1.56
stephenson 02-03 31 45 2-5 5.40 1.62
j hamilton 02-03 32 264 10-20 5.62 1.60
hitchcock 02-03 32 89 2-5 5.46 1.65
ponson 04-05 29 346 18-26 5.64 1.62

and here's how those guys fared, cumulatively, for the cards in the year of acquisition:

ip w-l era whip
541 37-27 3.93 1.26

the lion's share of the credit for this fine record accrues to darryl kile, who went 20-9 in 232 innings the year st louis acquired him. he's a bit of a special case, insofar as he was recovering not from injury or age but rather from coors field; other pitchers, once released from that penitentiary, have achieved similar improvements (andy ashby, john thomson, mike hampton to name a few). but andy benes also pitched very well, as did sterling hitchcock -- 5-1, 3.79 era in 38 innings for a team that desperately needed reliable starts. indeed, the only outright failure was joey hamilton, who was cut during spring training and never pitched an inning for the cards. the worst performance was turned in by garrett stephenson, who went 7-13 with a 4.59 era and a 1.30 whip. if st louis got that same output from ponson as a #5, they'd have to be thrilled -- and with the 2006 bullpen likely to be better than the '03 disaster, those same era / whip numbers might translate into a 9-11 or 10-10 record. of course, the 03 team could hit better than the 06 one will, so maybe it's a wash. . .

bottom line is that the benchmarks provided by recent history are encouraging. there is reason to believe that ponson will prove to be a bargain, contributing a bunch of league-averagish innings at the very least. for whatever it's worth, szymborski's ZIPS projects him to an 11-12 record, 4.57 era, 1.38 whip.

Update [2005-12-21 14:12:21 by lboros]: the contract calls for a $1m base and $1.5m in incentives based mainly on starts/innings. so if he meets the ZIPS projection above, he'd be paid $2.5m . . . makes the "bargain" threshold a tad more difficult to meet.