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Phillies Looking for Rotation Depth

Posted By Bill Baer On December 12, 2012 @ 1:36 pm In MLB,Offseason,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 27 Comments

Via Matt Gelb:

So forget the Ryan Dempsters, Edwin Jacksons, and even Shaun Marcums on the market. They will sign for at least two – maybe three – years, given the demand. The Phillies are looking for a one-year deal having already invested $71.75 million in 2013 salary for their four starting pitchers.

No, there won’t be a fourth ace to bring back memories of 2010, but there are still some quality arms available that could be very helpful to the Phillies in 2013. Here’s a big ol’ table full of potential targets, showing data from 2010-12. I’ve taken the liberty of excluding some unlikely names, such as Aaron Cook, Brett Myers, and Roy Oswalt.

Name K% BB% K%-BB% BABIP LOB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Carlos Villanueva 21.3% 8.3% 13.0% .280 75.6% 4.20 4.30 4.08 3.76
Tim Stauffer 17.2% 7.1% 10.1% .278 77.5% 3.19 3.75 3.69 3.77
Francisco Liriano 23.0% 10.5% 12.5% .310 69.2% 4.59 3.73 3.77 3.80
Erik Bedard 22.1% 9.5% 12.6% .305 68.4% 4.31 3.85 3.80 3.86
Derek Lowe 14.3% 7.9% 6.4% .320 68.8% 4.68 3.95 3.87 3.94
Justin Germano 16.4% 6.5% 9.9% .302 64.8% 5.28 4.42 4.48 4.07
Jeff Karstens 15.0% 4.8% 10.2% .289 72.9% 4.02 4.23 4.05 4.15
Kyle Lohse 14.9% 5.6% 9.3% .286 70.2% 3.76 3.74 4.14 4.30
Dallas Braden 15.0% 5.6% 9.4% .274 71.8% 3.46 3.79 4.19 4.31
Freddy Garcia 15.6% 7.1% 8.5% .292 73.0% 4.42 4.51 4.30 4.39
Rich Harden 20.9% 11.7% 9.2% .293 74.3% 5.36 5.54 4.73 4.41
Jonathan Sanchez 22.2% 13.6% 8.6% .275 72.9% 4.31 4.55 4.51 4.43
Kevin Millwood 15.7% 7.4% 8.3% .308 69.8% 4.61 4.41 4.33 4.43
John Lannan 12.2% 8.7% 3.5% .306 71.6% 4.12 4.30 4.33 4.56
Carlos Zambrano 17.4% 11.1% 6.3% .294 71.7% 4.24 4.27 4.48 4.57
Daisuke Matsuzaka 19.1% 11.2% 7.9% .289 64.7% 5.48 4.56 4.79 4.58
Joe Saunders 13.4% 6.8% 6.6% .294 72.3% 4.07 4.50 4.38 4.58
Randy Wolf 15.0% 8.1% 6.9% .296 73.4% 4.39 4.63 4.58 4.60
Jair Jurrjens 14.4% 7.7% 6.7% .295 73.2% 4.18 4.31 4.47 4.60
Mike Pelfrey 12.7% 7.6% 5.1% .303 71.9% 4.10 4.05 4.38 4.61
Dustin Moseley 12.6% 8.1% 4.5% .269 70.3% 4.02 4.71 4.41 4.61
Chien-Ming Wang 9.5% 6.6% 2.9% .309 68.8% 4.94 5.00 4.60 4.63

I’ve mentioned Carlos Villanueva before, and he still looks pretty good compared to others in the same tier of pitching. He has under-performed his peripherals over his career due to a propensity to allow home runs. These heat maps shouldn’t be surprising:

Aside from that, Villanueva has great, underrated stuff. He leads the above free agent class in K%-BB% as well as SIERA. SIERA is very good at predicting future success for pitchers, so as long as Villanueva continues what he’s done recently, the results should catch up with the performance sooner rather than later.

Another interesting name on the list is Jeff Karstens. Having spent his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his transformation into replacement-level dreck into average starter has gone mostly unnoticed. 2012 was his biggest stride forward as the right-hander boosted his strikeout rate to a career-high 18 percent and his walk rate down to a career-low four percent. In fact, his aggregate sub-five percent walk rate from 2010-12 is the lowest in the aforementioned table.

Oddly, over 26 percent of batted balls put in play against Karstens were line drives, a ridiculous rate. It was the second-highest total among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched, behind Mike Fiers at 28 percent. Typically, Karstens has an even split of ground and fly balls — he is very Kyle Kendrick-esque in nature (Kendrick circa 2012, anyway).

Of course, the Phillies could always go with a #4-5 of Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd. Despite a 4.91 ERA, Cloyd pitched well in a small sample between the end of August and the end of the regular season, striking out 22 percent of the batters he faced while walking five percent. However, because nearly one in every two batted balls was put in the air, Cloyd allowed eight home runs in 33 innings.

Cloyd will not be able to rely on missing bats to succeed at the Major League level. This was former contributor Bradley Ankrom’s scouting report from back in August:

twitter.com/BradleyAnkrom/status/240841903652888576

twitter.com/BradleyAnkrom/status/240842207022702592

Unless the Phillies reach for an over-the-hill veteran like Kevin Millwood, it won’t be hard for them to grab an arm that can put up an ERA in the 3.75-4.25 range and solidify the back end of the rotation on the cheap. Villanueva and Karstens, at this moment, seem to be the best bets, but the Phillies have shown already this off-season that they are willing to go beyond the obvious.


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