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Rotation depth

With the news yesterday that Izzy signed w/ the Rays so ends Izzy’s Cardinal career. By and large, it was a good one. For several years, Izzy was one of the better closers in the game. He certainly wasn’t among the elite closers in the game – Rivera, Wagner, Nathan, etc – but he was just a notch below. He took far too much abuse in St. Louis for not being Billy Wagner or one of the elite closers. While Cards’ fans are generally pretty knowledgeable and, if anything, overly homer-ous, I think that Izzy has been largely underappreciated while in St. Louis. He loved the team, loved the town and the fans and deserves to be remembered for his career w/ the team and not for what he did last year.

That said, it was time for him to depart. I don’t really blame those who thought he ought to return just to add a little depth. If Carp falters (or Tony kills Pineiro) and McClellan assumes a starting role, we might need a little more depth. But not Izzy. It’s not like I don’t think there’s any way he might truly be healthy and able to be a decent pitcher. I just think it’s time to move on and the temptation to restore him to the closer’s role as soon as Perez has a 9th inning meltdown will be too strong. Perez will fail sometimes (or Motte, whoever). They’ll blow a save, sometimes in epically disastrous fashion. That’s part of it. It may happen against the Cubs in the rubber game of a weekend series in June or something on Sunday Night Baseball. Oh well. It happens. It’s time to turn the page. I wish Izzy the best of luck and hope that he can become a solid reliever and maybe solidify the closers role in Tampa. FWIW, the guys at draysbay aren’t particularly sanguine.

The other news is that Orlando Hudson signed a 1 year deal w/ the Dodgers. He’s going to get just $3.4 M this season – less than Kennedy will make from the Cards to play for the Rays AAA team – plus $4.6 M in incentives for playing well. This is a ridiculously good contract for the Dodgers. I realize he’ll also cost them their 1st round pick and that’s the only thing that really casts a shadow on this deal. I’m not sure giving up a 1st round pick, particularly one in the middle of the first, is worth a 1 year deal for anyone. Wouldn’t you have to get more than 1 year out of Hudson in order to justify this? He’s probably a $10-12 M player in ’09 that they’ll pay $8. The difference is probably right in the range of the value of a 1st round pick. Still, I’d rather have done the 2 year, $14 M deal I suggested last week than a 1 year, $8 M deal if I’m giving up a mid 1st round pick.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of all this Colby in the 9 spot stuff. First of all, I’m on record many times as saying that batting order, though it matters a little, doesn’t really make that much difference. Still, we ought to make the most of it and get every run we can out of the batting order. That’s why I like the idea of hitting the pitcher 8th and Pujols 2nd. But we know that Pujols is never going to hit anything but 3rd as long as he’s the best hitter in the game and yet, 3rd is probably the worst spot, of the first 4 spots in the order, for him. Whatever.

So, if Rasmus hits 9th, that means Skip is batting 1st. I guess Ankiel is hitting 2nd – despite a .337 OBP in 2008. This is a little mystifying to me. Chone has Rasmus and Skip pegged for nearly identical .330 and .328 wOBAs (respectively) and Rasmus’ upside is greater than Skip’s. I guess if Rasmus performs better than expected Tony could always switch the order and maybe it makes more sense to have Rasmus’ speed in the 9 hole – further from Pujols – than in the 1 hole. From the article, doesn’t it sound as though Tony’s made up his mind as to who the 2nd baseman’s going to be? It even sounds like, if Skip can’t play 2nd, he’s going to play the OF ahead of Rasmus which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If Colby hits well this spring, he’s a better player than Skip and deserves to play the OF. Skip needs to win the 2B job which, considering his competition, may not be that difficult. Maybe this is a good place to start after all.

Finally, Dan’s post yesterday got me thinking about what we can expect from our rotation and, maybe more importantly, what we should expect from the likes of McClellan, Boggs, Todd, Hawksworth, et al in filling in for injured/ineffective starters. Below is a table comparing the Cards to the other teams in the NL in terms of number of games started by their top 5 starters (as measured by # of starts), their starters’ IP for the season and the # of IP by their relievers.

Starts Starters IP Relief IP
SF 147 954.2 487.1
NY 145 971 493.1
Phi 145 966.2 483
StL 143 955 499
Ari 141 978.2 456
Cin 140 917.1 525
Mil 137 983.1 472.1
Chi 137 955 495.2
LA 135 927.2 519.2
Wash 131 880.2 553.1
Hou 129 908.1 517
Col 126 910.1 535.2
Pit 125 887.1 567.2
Fla 118 916 519.1
Atl 115 886.1 554.1
SD 112 912.2 545.2

So, with Wainwright on the shelf for nearly half a season, and with us getting next to nothing from Carpenter, the Cards’ top 5 made the 4th most starts in the league. Considering the fact that the plan is to replace Looper’s 33 starts w/ Carpenter's ????? starts, that worries me a little. Of course, if Looper’s 33 starts are replaced by Wainwright’s 33 starts and Wainwright’s 20 starts are replaced by Carp’s 20 starts, we’re probably better off, right? That’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

In any case, we’re looking at 20 starts, minimum, from the likes of McClellan, Boggs, Todd, and whoever we can pull off the scrap heap. If we can’t get more than 12-15 starts from Carp, and no more than 25 or so from Wainwright, then we’re looking at needing 33-35 starts from those guys – basically a full season from a replacement level starter. Adding 15 starts at a 5.50 era (up from 3.75) at 6 innings per start adds about 1.17 runs per starts for a total of 17.5 runs. That’s nearly a 2 win difference in the standings assuming it has no detrimental impact on our bullpen. With any luck McClellan, Boggs, and Todd would be slightly better than replacement level but it would still probably cost us a win and a half over the course of the season. Ask San Diego how important it is for their starters to stay healthy.