clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

young guns

First of all, I want to say a few words about LB’s announcement from Tuesday. It pretty much echoes what everyone else has said. I have a ton of respect for Larry’s decision but, as I told him when he first told me of his decision, he has been the reason that VEB is one of the most respected baseball blogs out there. It’s not just Cards’ fans that recognize how great VEB is. VEB is universally recognized as one of the premier blogs and, while it’s not all attributable to him, he’s played a huge part in it. The substance of Larry’s daily threads set the standard and the tone for the intelligent and thoughtful baseball discussion that occurs here at VEB. We have some of the best members around and he deserves a lot of respect for fostering the sort of community that discusses the Cards thoughtfully and disagrees with one another respectfully all while the community has grown immensely. We are all a part of VEB’s greatness, but IMHO, LB set the standard and the tone for what has been expected here.

Needless to say, I was humbled when he asked me if I would be willing to take on some of the duties of administering VEB after his departure. It’s daunting but when he told me that DanUp was going to be coming on board as well, it made my decision so much easier. If you haven’t read Dan’s work at getupbaby then you’ll soon know why LB turned to Dan as well. I truly believe that, though LB will be missed around here, VEB will remain one of the premier blogs out there and I hope that you’ll all stick with us. I’ll be adding 2 days to my regular Sunday post – Thursdays and Saturdays. RB’s going to keep his regular Wednesday gig. We’re glad he’ll be sticking with us. Dan’s going to be with us on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. BTW, if you’re uneasy about LB’s departure, I think you’ll be seeing him here from time to time, perhaps even making a cameo on the main page on occasion.

Finally, in my own little tribute to LB – consider this our own little jersey retirement ceremony – I’ll be doing today’s thread, LB-style, w/ no capital letters. Here’s to you, LB!

i’m really tired. i’ve been staying up late watching the playoffs and, needless to say, took some joy last night in watching the cubs go down as quickly as they did last year. i know it sounds spiteful but, alas, i’m not a perfect man. as i’ve been watching the 4 series, one thing I’ve noticed is the large number of good, young pitchers in the 8 teams’ rotations. it’s like there’s one young gun after another taking the mound for their respective teams.

i wanted to see just how prevalent the young’uns were among the playoff teams. The conclusion: of the 29 starters who will be making postseason starts this year (counting ted lilly who now won’t be), only 11 of them are in their post-arbitration years. add in ben sheets, who would be starting if he were healthy and still might return for the nlcs if the brewers make it that far, 12 out of 30 are "veterans." the other 18 starters are still cost-controlled by their teams. a few of them have signed long-term contracts with their teams that bought out their last couple of arbitration years (kazmir, lackey, myers, sabathia) but even those have not yet reached eligibility for free agency. sabathia, of couse, does after the season ends. lackey’s in what would be his walk year if he hadn’t signed the long-term contract. still, 60% of the pitchers who would make postseason starts for their teams are in their first 6 years in the league. astounding!

would you believe that the average age among those starting pitchers is 28.17 years old – and that includes 45 year old jamie moyer! there are 5 24-year olds, 3 25-year olds, 2 26-year olds, a 23-year old (john danks), and a 22-year old (yovani gallardo – who started game 1 for the brewers and, though he walked 5, he gave up 0 er).

i divided the starters into 2 groups – those who are still cost-controlled by their teams, and those who have reached free agency. the post-free agency group of 12 pitchers (counting sheets) threw 2335.2 ip this year for an average fip of 3.91. these are the teams’ vets – buehrle, lowe, sheets, beckett, zambrano, et al – they probably pitched considerably better than the younger group, right? the younger group is filling out the rotation, pitching the 3rd and 4th games of the series, right? nope. the pre-free agency group of 18 pitchers threw more than 3354 ip this year – an average of 186.1 per pitcher – and that counts the 24 ip that gallardo was limited to due to his injury. their avg. fip – 3.92.

# of pitchers total innings innings per pitcher avg fip avg salary
vets 12 2335.7 194.6 3.91 $9 m
young pitchers 18 3354.5 186.4 3.92 $2.46 m

put another way, the best teams in the majors turned more often, during the season and during the postseason, to young pitchers rather than vets. those young pitchers have pitched just as well over the course of the season as the vets have and thrown basically the same number of innings per pitcher as the vets. (as i said, the innings per pitcher stat for young pitchers is skewed by gallardo’s injury.) most obviously, the young pitchers cost their teams considerably less than the vets do as well. in fact, if you want to divide up the posting fee the red sox paid just to negotiate w/ matsuzaka over the 6 years of his contract, the average salary for the vets rises to $9.71 m per year – more than $7 m more than the kids are paid.

again, the best teams in baseball trust young starters more than vets. they’re also, by and large, smart enough not to overpay for mediocre starters. there are a few exception, however. these teams do have several vets earning big bucks who, nonetheless, haven’t merited a starting assignment for their teams this postseason. the dodgers are paying jason schmidt $12 m, brad penny $8.5 m, and greg maddux a prorated portion of $10 m to enjoy their victories from the sidelines. the white sox are paying jose contreras $10 m to enjoy the playoffs from the comforts of his sofa. the cubs chose their 4 starters over jason marquis and his $6.375 m salary. (he’ll make almost $10 m next year, btw.) jon garland and adam eaton were paid nearly $20 m this season to pitch themselves off their teams’ respective playoff rosters. all told, that’s almost $60 m in veteran pitchers that, either b/c of injury or ineffectiveness, aren’t going to be trusted w/ starting assignments this postseason. all of them except marquis were replaced by at least 1 young kid earning less than 1/20th their salary. harden, if you can believe this, earns about 70% of jason marquis’ salary.

so what does this have to do w/ the cards? next year’s rotation, for now, includes 2 "kids" (wainwright and wellemeyer) and 2 vets (pineiro and lohse). i know lohse was really good this season, but if you look at k rates, and k/bb, he looks more like people like garland, suppan, marquis, blanton, bush, and moyer than people like billingsley, danks, shields, santana, hamels or gallardo. he does also look like kuroda, buehrle, and saunders but pitchers who win in the postseason tend to be more like wainwright than lohse.

contrary to tony’s declarations, it wasn’t our lineup but our pitching staff with the biggest holes this year. if we’re going to build great teams over the long-term, we’re going to need more good, young pitchers and less higher priced vets signed through free agency. i’m not here today to rehash the lohse signing, but it’s just a patch – a band-aid for what ails us now. he’s got a long-term contract but he’s not a long-term solution.

az stated on Friday that he thought we ought to offer looper arbitration this offseason. strangely, i agree with him. the supplemental pick we receive has value that can, hopefully, be used on a pitcher w/ big upside or, if he accepts, he provides 1 more band-aid for a team that needs another. fortunately, his would only be a 1 year contract. it’s what we should have done w/ lohse. if neither accepted, we could always come back and resign lohse then. of course, we would have run the risk that he would have signed w/ another team but, since young pitchers are the foundations of great teams (even boston’s vets are just 28 years old), how risky is that really?

whether or not looper accepts arbitration, we need to attempt to trade for a "kid" to add to our rotation this offseason. gottfather suggests the rays’ andy sonnastine here -- a fine choice as is the giants’ jonathan sanchez (3.85 FIP, 8.94 K/9) but whoever it is, it should be a much higher priority than signing mediocre pitchers to long-term contracts. all the playoff teams recognize this.

i’ll be back later w/ a playoff games thread. could we be looking at 2 more sweeps?