Monday, December 18, 2006

Mariners Starting 5

After Horacio Ramirez came to the Mariners (and I'll reserve judgment on that trade until . . . well, no, I'll speak my mind now - Bavasi, if you are listening, go to general manager school please - I actually thought that might have been Bavasi's worst trade, until the Snelling/Fruto for Vidro trade), I decided that the Mariners had no hope of competing in the AL West this year given their meager pitching staff. Really, when you look at the staff, Hernandez (off a down year, but very very young and raw), Washburn, Batista, Ramirez and Baek do not inspire a lot of confidence. Looking at the numbers a little more closely, however, I realize that the Mariners starting staff is only one of the worst staffs in the major leagues. Let's take a closer look at the numbers and what we might expect in terms of fantasy production.

First and foremost, let me begin with a caveat. The Mariners bullpen is in flux - their best arms, Fruto and Soriano, are gone. Putz had a good year last year, particularly in terms of fantasy numbers, but the interiors are not indicative of a long closer career. My assessment of the Mariners staff from a Roto-perspective, therefore, is influenced by what I consider a negative bullpen.

Felix Hernandez

Hernandez took the AL by storm, but had a coming back to earth party last year. In 84 innings in 2005, he gave up a mere 61 hits. In 2006, however, in 191 innings, he gave up 195 hits. What is interesting about Hernandez are the splits. 91 IP at home - 78 hits and only 9 HR. Hitters hit a mere .230 against him. The road was not nearly so kind - 100 IP, 117 Hits, 14 HR and a lusty .288 average. Left-handed and right-handed hitters took an almost even number of ABs against him - lefties hit .280 with 18 of his 23 HRs. 91 IP at home - an ERA under 3.30 and only 72 hits.

This is a maturity issue. He pitches better in the comfort of home than on the road. He pitched significantly better after the All-Star break than before it (almost a full run of ERA). He does not yet know how to get lefties out consistently. Based on the numbers I see before me, and assuming his workload is kept in check, I see good things for Hernandez this year.

RECOMMENDATIONS: If you go into the draft with an expectation of $15 earnings, you are in a reasonable position. In most keeper auction leagues, I assume he is kept - this might be a good time for the buy low sales pitch.

Jarrod Washburn

First, please don't expect 200 IP from Washburn - he won't give it to you. The 103/55 K/BB ratio is nothing to write home about either. Moreover, he is another beneficiary of Safeco, though, in Washburn's case, it is definitely not a maturity issue. He gave up hits to right-handers; he gave up homers to left-handers. He only threw 199 ABs to righties - .321 average. Lefties hit 19 HR off of him. He wasn't good during the day or at night; before the break or after it.

RECOMMENDATIONS: I would stay away from Washburn - he tends to earn $4-$7, but I see a pitcher, even at 32, that is in decline. Someone will own him between $5-7 - make sure it isn't you.

Miguel Batista

The best place to start with Batista is WHIP. A 1.53 WHIP is not very good. Period. In the National League, I cannot begin to tell you how bad it is. A 110/84 K/BB ratio in 206 IP is also not very good. In fact, it is also very, very bad. Some very bad offenses combined to hit .288 off Batista last year - those offenses will not get any easier this year. More troubling is the combination of age, 35, and his innings last year, the most of his career. That spells trouble for Batista, and, more importantly, Batista owners.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Again, like Washburn, I would stay well away from Batista. While Washburn could earn you positive dollars because of his neutral WHIP, Batista could be a significant negative, offsetting all WHIP gains from your high priced and/or high profile pitchers.

Horacio Ramirez

My disucssion of Ramirez is brief (I will not blame him for Bavasi's poor judgment). 29 starts in 2003, injured in 2004. 32 starts in 2005, injured in 2006. This is a pretty simple pattern, but I wouldn't count on it. Ramirez is fragile at best. His K/BB is brutal; not bad, but brutal. Moreover, he isn't striking anyone out - they are getting hits at more than a hit per inning. So what is the upside. Ramirez, at his young age, has the potential to be a decent 5th starter. I am not sure if Seattle is a good place for him to grow, and the K/BB and WHIP scare me off if I am taking a flier at the end of a draft.

RECOMMENDATIONS: If you come back in the middle of the year when he has 8 wins and a decent ERA and Ratio and brag that you took a $1 flier on him, I will tell you that you made a fine decision. I cannot see myself, however, taking that risk on a pitcher without a significant upside, with an injury history, and without a pitch to strike a batter out when necessary.

Cha Seung Baek

A pleasant surprise at the end of last year for some fantasy owners that picked him up out of the FAAB pool. The small smaple size makes him difficult to assess, but I can tell you that his numbers in the minors were pretty good. In the tough PCL, he put up a 4.21 ERA at the age of 24, but gave up an awful lot of hits. He is not quite ready yet, and this is the second injury he has suffered in two years.

RECOMMENDATIONS: I would try to tuck him away - he, of all the pitchers other than Hernandez that we talked about, has the potential to earn beyond the $1-2 you will pay for him.

That is the Mariners staff in a nutshell. As you can see, I am not a big fan of anyone in this rotation other than Hernandez. Also hurting this rotation is the fact that it averages between 5.2 and 6.2 innings per start, putting a significant burden on a weak bullpen, eating up your well-deserved wins. This may hurt Putz as well, from a durability and saves perspective. If you are in a 5x5 league with strikeouts, I would almost tell you to ignore the staff other than Hernandez. Overall, there is not a lot of quality here. On draft day, make sure you don't walk away with more than 1 of these starters, and his name better be Hernandez.

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