Why am I making a case for Bruce Chen...?

OK, OK.  Long time reader, first time poster... you know the story.  I've posted on the cardinal's main message board, but at times it gets a little low-brow... so for some reason i'm starting here with a bruce chen support thread...why?

OK, OK, this season is almost certainly a wash... so lets get this started...

*of the 5-man cardinals pitching rotation, only chris carpenter is signed for next year.  even if wainwright and reyes join the rotation, that still leaves two spots.  and its no gaurantee that wainwright makes the rotation next year...who knows what they have planned.

*the cardinals have the need/desire for one more ace/ impact pitcher... and they be better served with a 1-2 punch than with carpenter and 4 league-average-to-worse guys like this year.

*saving money for an ace means cheaping-out on the 5th starter... so no tomo ohka, gil meche intermediantes... the 5th starter needs to be a straight-up dave duncan rehab job.

*enter bruce chen.  he's having a miserable year.  his worst ever.  mulder-esque... but there are many reasons why he may not be as bad as ERA/ wins/ losses indicate...


*His strikeout rate (K/9) is a healthy 6.48 this year, higher than last years, and is about league average.  so that's not a problem.

*His walk rate is almost exactly what it's been the last 2 years, and is much lower than it was before that.  It's at a healthy, league-average 3.00/9.  so that's not the problem.

*He is giving up more home runs... so maybe that's the problem...  i still don't really think so.  He's giving up more fly balls at a higher rate, and groundballs at a lower rate than in previous years... a little time with the dave duncan sinker-school and this should straighten out.  his line-drive percentage is down from last year... so its not like he's getting crushed any more.

*THE BIGGEST PROBLEM with bruce chen this year seems to be phenominally bad luck.  The batting average on balls in play against him is .339 this year.  compare that to .267, .238, and .291 in the proceeding years.  league average is .300.  Chris Carpenter has had a BABIP of .279, .284, and .286 over the past years.  THESE THINGS ALMOST ALWAYS EVEN OUT.  BABIP( a VEB favorite) is generally a luck statistic... or a result of a bad defense (read: baltimore).  More balls are getting through the infield/ getting down in the outfield this year... i don't think this is all bruce's fault.

*MORE BAD LUCK... Chen's Left-On-Base percentage this year is 68.8%... down from 77.5% and 79.6% in previous years.  so unless you believe that chen's "cracking under pressure" at a rate tremendously higher than previous years... this number should come down.  his career number is 74.2%... that would even be a marked improvement.


without any stats-too-fancy... it seems like the time to buy on bruce chen is now.

*he's a free agent this offseason

*he's 29...still room for upside

*he's demonstrated his ability to produce before (3.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in 2004)

*he's coming of an atrocious season... should be happy to grasp on to a contender... and would be willing to accept fewer years/ lower dollars per than he would ordinarily.

*also he's a lefty...which for some reason la russa pretends to put a premium on... so whatever.

*He's young... he'll be cheap... he can be effective...

Or sign Jeff Suppan.  I don't care, really.