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I can't think of a subheading, right now.

 

(strand rate = (Hits + W – ER) / (Hits + W – HR))

(hit rate = (Hits – HR) / (Ing. x 2.82 + Hits – HR – K))

 

Starters:

 

Roger Clemens – How many times have we underestimated this pitcher? I can tell you when my first perpetual Scoresheet league started 16 years ago, I was still impressed enough with the 7 year veteran with a supposedly burned out arm to list him 15th overall and 4th amongst pitchers after younger aces Eric Hanson, Ben McDonald, and Chuck Finley. Clemens won the Cy Young Award that year. That was his third one, but his first in four years. The first starter I picked was Kevin Appier – who turned into one of the finest pitching stars himself - five years younger than Clemens. I traded Appier for Clemens. Two of the next four seasons, Clemens’ ERA slipped above 4.00. The Red Sox let him sign with the Blue Jays. I think even the Blue Jays underestimated Roger Rocket. He became the first pitcher to win the pitcher’s triple crown (Wins, ERA, & Strikeouts) since 1930. Then he did it again the next year. Those were his fourth and fifth Cy Youngs. Well, the Steinbrenner Yankees have to have the best, so they sent a package to the Blue Jays for Clemens and his salary, which considering the Canadian dollar and the Blue Jay popularity both descending, it was the proper thing to do. How many of you even remember Clemens pitched for Toronto let alone pitched two of his best years there? Clemens is remembered more as a Yankee due to his five seasons,  five division titles, and four World Series there. He did sneak in another Cy Young in the middle year, too. That’s six. Roger’s ERA during his last two years as a Yankee were 4.35 and 3.91 after which he announced he would likely retire. Was it safe to let go of Clemens on the off chance he would come out of retirement? Well, the 41 year-old was no longer the dominant pitcher he used to be, right? So, I gave him away for an R#15 pick. Wrong. Clemens came back with the Astros and an ERA under 3.00. And, he won his seventh Cy Young Award. Then he retired again. Then he came back again. For twenty million dollars. That was just because he is such a draw, right? He couldn’t have another Cy Young type year with an ERA in the twos. Of course, not. He would be 42. He didn’t. No, his ERA was in the ones!!!!!

 

Bartolo Colon – was always considered to have the stuff of an ace, but didn’t pitch as an ace until his 6th Major League season at 29. That was four years ago. Three years ago with his 3rd team in a year he pitched a career high 242 innings after slowly establishing himself as a workhorse. He certainly had the build for it – well, perhaps, too much build – blubbery build. The following season in 2004 with yet a new team again, Colon was not very effective and his fabled fastball almost disappeared. The Angels stuck with him for 2005 and at age 33, Colon won the Cy Young award.

 

Aaron Small – perhaps even more of a surprise than Clemens, Colon, or anyone else. Here was a 34 year-old pitcher who had been given up on 11 times by 10 different teams in 10 years: Blue Jays, Marlins, Mariners, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Devil Rays, Rockies, Angels, Braves, Cubs, then finally the Marlins again. His last major league ERA was 8.27 (in 16 innings). Even his 2005 ERA on the Yankees AAA team was 4.96. Was their any indication Small was capable of going 10-0, 3.20 in 9 starts and 6 relief appearances for 76 innings? He did have one impressive stat: a 21:8 K:BB in Columbus and 109:29 the year before in Albuquerque. When you consider the other ugly AAA stats were falsely colored dark by both a high hit rate and a low strand rate and that the air in New Mexico highly favors batsmen, you see surviving a couple months in the Majors was actually not unreasonable. Then on the Yankees, Small benefited from a low hit rate and a high strand rate as well as the top notch Wall Street firm of Gordon & Rivera to hold & save his games. That is combined with a whopping 7.22 runs of support per start. Voila! Aaron Small of 2005 was not a miracle at all.

 

Zach Greinke – was the mostly highly touted AL pitching prospect in the time between Rich Harden and Felix Hernandez. He looked right on target his rookie season in 2003. Closer inspection, however, reveals a 27% hit rate. In 2004, it jumps to 34%, so his 5.80 sophomore season at age 21 was not as bad as it looks. Greinke’s home run rate went down, while his walks increased. Likely with maturity Greinke will approach the promise of his rookie hyperbole.

 

Roy Halladay – in 2003 established himself as one of the top aces in the league – even winning the Cy Young award. Yet, he pitched 505 innings in two seasons from ages 24-26. His shoulder prevented him from pitching much more than half of that these past two seasons combined.

 

Curt Schilling – was 38 this year and a fantastic pitcher for the ten previous seasons. He made it through the World Series championship last year with his leg barely sewn together. This year he could only give the Red Sox 93 sub-Major League innings.

 

Randy Johnson – even older (41) during the season the Unit finally showed clear signs of aging. He had his first start of no strikeouts and an alarming number of bad outings. However, he did manage to sprint the Yankees to a division championship at the end of the season. He also finished second only to Santana in strikeouts. What more could you hope from some one his age (other than Roger Clemens).

 

Kevin Brown – the Dodgers singed Brown to a long term record contract at the age of 33. They got three Cy Young type seasons from him in his five years there. At 38, he was traded with much bally-ho to the Yankees for the recent Tigers ace Jeff Weaver (27) and a couple of minor leaguers. His first year in New York 2004 was a large disaster (4.09 ERA, 132 innings). His fastball was limp. His strikeout rate was anemic. In 2005 he should have stayed in bed. At 41 his chances for a comeback are a speck.

 

Brad Radke – at 31 Radke had his best season ever. This was no hit rate mirage, he just kept the ball in the park better, while making incremental improvements in strikeouts and walks. This year his home run rate flew right back up worse than ever. Then, in September his shoulder wore out and he threw around the R word (retirement).

 

David Wells – how could this proudly out-of-shape controversial pitcher of not Cy Young Award caliber, changing teams 9 times 14 years be still one heck of a solid starting pitcher at age 42? His best season was in 1995 in which he pitched for both Detroit and Cincinnati, but as his strikeouts have slowly decreased since then. Fortunately, his control has improved at a faster rate. I know there’s a difference between being a head case and being controversial, but I’m not sure where Wells fits.

 

Kenny Rogers – this geezer was 40 in 2005, but had his best season in the last seven. His hit rate was 32% in ’03 & ’04 when his ERA was in the mid 4.00s. His hit rate was in the high twenties in ’02 and ’05 when his ERA was in the mid 3.00s. It appears as though Rogers’ relative effectiveness is an exaggeration of his hit rate. Make of that what you will. Rogers’ strikeout rate fell a strike and a half per 9 innings to a career low.

 

Jose Contreras – after a lot of hype in signing this Cuban refuge, the Yankees were not able to turn Contreras into a star, so they traded him for Estaban Loaiza, who the White Sox had turned into an actual star the previous year, but was only a dim planet in 2004. Lo and behold, after two years in Chicago by the second half of 2005 at age 33 the White Sox ignited the star in Contreras and a championship along with it.

 

Dan Haren – after a mediocre 14 start rookie stint with St. Louis in 2003, Haren was sent back down to Memphis for improvements. Man, did they come: striking out 153 batters in 128 innings while allowing only 33 to walk. His propensity to give up the long ball though kept his ERA in the fours, which is where it stayed when given 5 more starts and 9 relief appearances after his recall. So, the Cardinals included him in a package to Oakland for Mark Mulder. In 2005 at 24 Haren continued to give up home runs, but the A’s stuck with him all season and were rewarded with a 3.73 ERA and 217 innings. What’s the difference? It could be just that Haren had a very good strand rate – that is fewer earned runners scored in ’05 than you would expect from his home run, walk, and hit totals. Part of it could be that this is a pitcher who keeps on improving.

 

Wil Ledezma – was still a teenager when he pitched less than 60 innings in his first two years of a professional baseball. At 20, Ledezma didn’t pitch at all due to injury. Back in action in ’02, Ledezma blossomed into a serious pitching prospect with a 24 inning stint in a lower A club pitching 38 K and only 8 walks. The Tigers selected him in the Rule V draft from the Red Sox. Ledezma wasn’t horrible pitching a career high 84 innings – all in the Major Leagues, but he was a bit overmatched. In 2004 he pitched 111 innings for Detroit’s AA team (2.42 with nice peripherals), then back in the show for another 53 innings (4.39). He looked to many of us as though he was on his way to being a fine no. 2 starter. There was just one problem – no, likely two problems: he was rushed and/or overworked too suddenly. The 24 year old Venezuelan just doubled his previous high mark of innings. His 2005 finished with an impressively bad 7.07 ERA in Detroit and 5.29 in Toledo. Ledezma’s strikeouts in the majors remained about the same. It was his walks that went way up and the isolated power against him rocketed from .089 to .214! The home runs against him in Toledo remained low.

 

John Lackey – his career looks very symmetrical right now. His MLB ERAs have been 3.66, 4.63, 4.67, and 3.45. He’s 27 now. Will he go back to 4.60-something? I believe likely not, but you’d have to pay me to tell you why, because I don’t have him on any of my teams and I’m keen to trade for him. I don’t feel 100% about that. He doesn’t have the blinding stuff of consistent ace, but he does have the Ks. So, bet on it, but don’t bank on it.

 

Carlos Silva – in 2005 just his second season as a starting pitcher, the 26 year-old Silva suddenly developed super-human control. Over the last three seasons his BB/9 have dropped from 3.8 to 1.6 to 0.4 – only 9 walks in 188 innings. Naturally, his ERA dropped last year from 4.21 to 3.41.

 

Carl Pavano – signed by the Yankees for $9 millions a year – plus,  after finally putting it all together in 2004 with Florida (18-8, 3.00 and his second year in a row with over 200 innings.) Woops, the oft-injured 29 year-old Pavano suffered a shoulder problem and gave the Yankees only a 100 innings of 4.77 ERA (with a large number of unearned runs). That’s $30,000 per batter retired, while allowing almost 6 of them to score per 9 innings. Any call-up from Columbus could have done that for about $1,000 per out. With Pavano’s injury history, general inconsistency, and unimpressive isolated power and strike-out rates, this wasn’t such a big shock to some of us as it was to the Steinbrenner Yankees and the ss-talk voters who placed him 12th amongst all starters.

 

Sidney Ponson – in 2003 had his best season: 17-12, 3.75, and 216 Innings. Ss-talk voters ranked him 14th amongst AL starters. In 2004, although, only 27, but badly out of shape, Ponson lost his forkball. In 2005 it got worse, with little stamina, a thumb injury, a calf injury, then a DUI charge, the Orioles released Ponson ending a miserable season early and voiding his contract (due to the DUI charge). I’d say (and often have) be mindful of out-of-shape head cases, but with Bartolo Colon and David Wells, who will?

 

Joel Pineiro – after two fine full seasons, in 2004 at age 26 Pineiro struggled with his shoulder and his effectiveness. After surgery, he was much worse.

 

Kevin Millwood – elbow troubles at 29 led to Millwood’s worse season of his Major League career in 2004. Trying his wares in the stronger hitting American League he turned around and had his best season in the last six.

 

Ted Lilly – has never quite put it together, but his first season with the Jays (4.06 ERA and 197 innings) should be considered a success. 2005 at age 29 was not. Lilly did some DL time in August with a bicep injury, but I’m not sure if that was responsible for his poor season (5.56 ERA).

 

Matt Clement – at 30-31 Clement had a season perfectly in the middle of his career accomplishments – especially considering he had to face the stronger American League pitcher-less line-ups. Somehow, with all the things that went right for the Red Sox and Theo Epstein in 2004, we expected that to continue in 2005, but it didn’t quite happen that way.

 

Wade Miller – before 2005, finished in the ss-talk poll just above Lackey, Contreras, Lee, and Haren. Neck and shoulder problems had reduced Miller’s pitching load in half in 2004, but his ERA was still 3.35. Coming to Boston as a free agent, the 28 year-old Miller once again was only available for half his usual work load. Only this time his ERA was close to 5.00. I don’t think that was in Boston’s plans. Reports were his mechanics are high risk for injury and the Red Sox are not interested in giving him another chance.

 

Bruce Chen – once at age 20 expected to step right into the most illustrious rotation in the world (Atlanta’s), Chen was first broken in as a reliever, traded to Philadelphia where he did start and pitched decently for a year. The next year at age 23 he struggled and was traded to the Mets. That lasted less then a year. The next season he was tossed around from the Mets to the Expos to the Reds. He was released from there then played for Houston briefly, then Boston for the balance of that season. Next, it was Toronto’s turn to kick the can, and kick him they did to Baltimore. Finally playing for his 10th organization in four years (and 15 teams), the Orioles unlocked something in him. He pitched quite well with their International League Ottawa franchise, then impressively in 7 starts with the big club. That was a clue that only 2 of ss-talk’s 40 voters latched on to. At 27-28 Chen had an entire good season (197 Innings, 13-10, 3.83, 133 SO, 63 BB).

 

Gil Meche – just when it looked as though this 95 mph pitcher with a good slider, curve, change-up and large variety of fastballs had found his stride – the last couple months of 2004, Meche gets as hittable as ever and his strikeouts decline. He’s still only 27, but with another injury last year (shoulder), it’s time to write him off as a Scoresheet option.

 

Ryan Drese – ranked by the Scoresheet fanatics at ss-talk ahead of Ryan Franklin, Jason Johnson, Lyle Lohse, Erick Bedard, Wil Ledezma, Paul Byrd as well as prospects Adam Miller, Brandon McCarthy, Ervin Santana, Scott Baker, Gustavo Chacin, and Justin Verlander – Drese had a very solid season in 2004: 4.20 ERA, 208 innings, 14-10. Drese turned 29 of 2005. By early June his ERA was 6.45 and he was released. He wasn’t much better in his 11 starts for Washington. Moral: never trust a pitcher with fewer strikeouts than half his innings and well more walks than half his strikeouts. Shame on those who did!

 

Prospects:

 

Gustavo Chacin – signed as an 18 year-old from Venezuela, Chacin stalled at the Blue Jays AA franchise for four seasons starting with a taste of it as a 19 year-old and ending last year with two starts at AAA Syracuse as well as a couple of Major League starts. In 2004, he kept his ERA under 3.00 at all three levels – however brief they were. Still, he comes armed with only a low 90s fastball and a change-up. It was a mild surprise that he even made the Jays rotation out of spring training in 2005 at age 24. Even more surprising he continued to keep the American League from scoring more than 4 runs per 9 innings all season long (3.74) ending up a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.

 

Chris Young – was passed around the minors from the Pirates to the Expos to finally the Rangers who figured out how to turn this 6’10” native of Dallas, Texas with a 95 mph heater into a pitcher. When he finally reached AAA in 2004, he showed enough in 5 starts (3-0 1.48, 34 SO, 9 BB) that they continued to move him up all the way. His seven start mild performance with the Rangers kept him under the radar. He registered barely a blip on the ss-talk radar. However, the 26 year-old turned in a fine rookie season in the homer friendly home park in Arlington (12-7, 4.26, 137 SO, 45 BB)

 

Joe Blanton – with a fantastic K:BB in the minors, Blanton (24) was not a prospect to be dismissed. Yet, with no overwhelming pitch, many were pessimistic about his chances of strong success in the Majors. Even in AAA (Sacramento) Blanton’s 2004 ERA was 4.19 and it was 5.63 in his 8 inning taste of the Majors. However, the A’s coaxed a 3.53 ERA out of him in 2005. Perhaps, their stellar infield should get much of the credit for Blanton’s low 26% hit rate.

 

Chien-Ming Wang – this Taiwanese missed his second professional season in the U.S. in 2001 due to shoulder problems and didn’t regain his 95 mph fastball until 2004. Wang’s major prospect alarm wasn’t loud enough to reach the ears of the ss-talk voters dis’ing the dismal dearth of Yankee prospects. At 25 in 2005, Wang handled the promotion to the mighty Yankees with aplomb. He posted a 4.02 ERA in 116 innings. Just to warn you, though: Wang’s shoulder became inflamed enough to miss two weeks in July and most of September. In other words, it doesn’t look as though he’s going to be a workhorse.

 

Eric Bedard – I couldn’t find Bedard’s small hometown of Navan, Ontario in Map Quest. He went to a small vocational college in Connecticut. Yet, the Orioles drafted him in the 6th round of 1999. He pitched in all three levels of A ball – one year at a time with huge strikeout totals and low ERAs. In 2002, he took the next step: AA and pitched well enough to get a cup of coffee with the Orioles. However, his arm couldn’t handle it. He missed almost all of 2003 returning to the low minors for a few outings. Yet, except for two starts in Ottawa, Bedard had a respectable rookie Major League season in 2004 at age 25, although his walk totals were very high. In 2005, Bedard improved his control and kept his Home Runs and ERA down.

 

Dan Meyer – of all the young pitchers the As acquired from their trade of Hudson and Mulder, Meyer was supposed to be the biggest prize. Speeding through the Atlanta farm system at a half season per level, Meyer struck out more than a batter an inning (although, missing that mark in his stint at Richmond by one strike out) and keeping his ERA well below 3.00 at each level. His walks were few and home runs against him were rare. Bothered by shoulder troubles, 23 year old Meyer pitched only 89 innings for Sacramento – and not very well either.

 

David Bush – jumped ahead of schedule in 2004 into the Blue Jays’ rotation after only a half seasons in AAA, AA, high A, and low A each. He pitched well enough to command a 3.69 ERA in 16 starts. Yet, this was not good enough to stick. Bush (25) was sent down for 9 starts before returning to a passable 136 innings and 4.49 ERA.

 

Adam Miller – the second most highly praised pitching prospect (at least, in the AL) a year ago felled by elbow troubles at 20.

 

Kyle Sleeth – the Tigers probably lead the Majors in disappointing pitching prospects over the last two decades – probably by a very wide margin. Sleeth was their top pick of 2003. The college pitcher fared well in his high A debut in 2004, but was wacked around after his mid-season promotion to AA. Still, ss-talk voters remained high enough on him to keep him ranked amongst the best AL pitching prospects and even made some overall starting pitcher lists. The 24 year old Sleeth didn’t make one pitch in 2005 opting for Tommy John surgery in June.

 

Kris Honel – a top 20 pitching prospect on probably everyone’s list knocked down by – I forget what – early in 2004. His 2005 comeback attempt at age 22 was dismal.

 

Relievers:

 

Keith Foulke – at 32 in 2005 had knee problems that apparently prevented him from pitching his fastball fast and was ineffective all season. For the 6 years in a row previously Foulke kept his ERA in the 2.00s and averaged 87 relief innings doing so. I can’t recall anyone throwing that amount of relief work since Mike Marshall, who in a six year period (1971-1976) averaged 137 innings of relief a year. The following season Marshall spent mostly on the DL. However, he came right back as good as ever averaging 121 innings and a 2.57 ERA the next two years in an AL hitter’s park. Marshall tacked on an average 79 innings the two seasons before this Herculean streak, so Foulke’s workload is feeble by comparison. It illustrates that relievers aren’t overworked compared to some excellent careers of not so long ago and that we shouldn’t be too concerned that Foulke was overworked. Neither pitcher took on the heavy workloads until they were 26. Marshall was 5’10” and threw a fastball, screwball, and slider. Foulke isn’t tall either, but he’s 6’0” and throws a change-up and slider with his fastball. Perhaps, the comparison is too far off, but it gave me an excuse to talk about Marshall, uh, excuse me, Dr. Marshall http://www.drmikemarshall.com/. I could have talked about Rollie Fingers a Hall of Fame contemporary of Marshall who averaged 117 innings of relief a year for 10 seasons (’69-’80) adding two years of 79 innings afterwards to no ill effect. Fingers was a tall gent of 6’4”, but as with the other two, a fastball and slider were major components of his repertoire. He stepped into his heavily used pure relief role at 24.

 

Shingo Takatsu – signed away from Japan at age 36, Takatsu – the 2004 runner-up Rookie of the Year - had a better season with the Major League White Sox than any of his previous 6 seasons in Japan taking the different Leagues’ statistics at par. Perhaps, Japanese stadiums are a little smaller, but you wouldn’t expect him to tally better stats in North America. 2005 was a whole different story as 35 year-old Takatsu was battered around before Chicago released him at the end of July. I could say he was suddenly effective again with the Mets (2.35), but that was only 8 innings. The fact is in those 8 innings, Takatsu gave up 9 hits that were not homers and three walks – and none of those runners scored! Which was the real White Sox Takatsu? The 2005 less effective Takatsu was the real one. In 2004, he had a very high strand rate and miniscule hit rate.

 

Below is the honor role of relievers who were surprisingly good in 2005. You are not going to protect or trade for any of these relievers except probably Huston Street, so I’m not going to get into detail at this point as to whether or not we should have seen their improvement coming or whether it is likely to be sustained. However, I will try to squeeze some time out of the ridiculously busy family month to come up with some broad observations, if not specific ones. In the meantime I’ve split them into two groups:

 

Comebacks:

Mike Timlin

Arthur Rhodes

Cliff Politte

Bob Howry

Bob Wickman

Dustin Hermanson

David Riske

 

First outstanding seasons:

Justin Speier

Mike MacDougal

Rafael Betancourt

Neal Cotts

Fernando Rodney

Huston Street

Bobby Jenks

Fernando Cabrera

Chris Ray

Andy Sisco

John Carter