Blue Jays Starting Pitching 2006-2007

Blue Jays Starting Pitching Situation

The Toronto Blue Jays pitching situation is not as weak as one may think and with certain tweaking could put the Jays over the threshold and into the playoffs. The one intangible that teams such as the Blue Jays depend on is health. The money that they shouldn’t spend on pitching should be spent on glaring needs at SS and locking down a catcher. All of these predictions and ramifications go out the window as soon as a star goes down. The Jays do not have the funding to be able to get an Abreau, Javy Lopez or Greg Maddux when someone is hurt. As we saw in 2006, the situation in Syracuse has to stay in Syracuse and there is very little there worth bringing to the north shore of the lake. Players at replacement level are harder to find in Syracuse than they should be. This is something that JP needs to address on his own.

First of all the Jays have arguably the best bookend pitchers in the Major League. Roy Halladay is in rarified air as a truly dominant starting pitcher and only the bullpen seems to think they won’t win when he takes the mound. Also, BJ Ryan is probably the best closer in the game today.
With a crust like that the filling of the pie isn’t so sweet. Now, AJ Burnett should be a solid No.2 starter and that is what he is being paid to do. Chacin is going to blow his arm out but until then I think he can be counted on as a No.3. The rotation in 2006 was not that bad before the injuries. In spring training the 5 starters and their respective records were; Halladay 16-5, Towers 1 –10, Burnett 10-8, Chacin 9-4, Lilly 15-13. Add them up and the Jays are 11 games over .500. Low and behold the Jays finished the season 12 games above .500, making the opening day starting 5 pretty dependable for giving the team a chance to finish second and compete for a playoff spot.
The middle three, of the Jays to say the least, were disappointing due to both injury and ineptness. Lilly, a solid 15-13 from the mid/end of the rotation becomes average when he in fact became the No. 2 man after Doc. Lilly probably won’t be back with the Jays after fist fighting with John Gibbons. Chacin and Burnett will hopefully be healthy. Jays also have a lot of cash invested in Josh Towers so he might get a shot at redemption if he can prove he is worthy. So, let’s say the Jays top three spots are Doc, AJ and Chacin.
A simple projection for next year, based on last year’s winning percentages.
1. Doc 76%
2. AJ 55%
3. Chacin 68%
In a best case scenario where each of these three start 31-35 games, Doc pitches 225 innings and the others pitch 200 we can expect 25 decisions from Doc and 22 for each of the others. Using my winning percentages we can see:
1. Doc 19-6 – he is a stud and records like this are automatic
2. AJ 12-10 – very modest
3. Chacin 15-7 – this may be high but Doc could also easily win 23 games
If your three top starters you can get 69 of 162 decisions at 46-23 for a winning percentage of .667 this eases the burden of the rest of the staff and they only have to be mediocre. Last year, the rest of the staff (other than the opening day starting rotation) was one game over .500. If, the rest of the rotation and the bullpen can match the Top 3’s projected 46 wins, the Jays would be in a better position to make the playoffs. Asking for 46 wins from the rest of your staff in the 93 decisions by others than your Top 3 starters is asking them to go a very modest 46-47.
Now, if 92 wins is going to get you into the playoffs (which it didn’t in 2006) the other 2 spots in the rotation (and the bullpen) need to merely pitch .500 ball, I do not believe that is too much to ask.
That said, getting 40-50 decisions at the .500 mark out of Towers, Marcum, Taubenheim, Janssen etc may be asking too much based on last years performance. However, a free agent in the form of Zito is overkill to reach a .500 mark. A free agent in the class of Lilly, Woody Williams or Mark Redman would be a perfect fit.
Someone like Lilly who has been almost perfectly .500 over his career should earn between $4-$5 million. While a stud like Zito would demand Halladayesque 10mil+++.
That said, the Jays could spend $10mil on two players like Ted Lilly and get into the playoffs instead of paying Zito a huge contract, have a hole at short, a huge hole opening in centre field next year and Josh Towers and Co. still going 5-20 in the fifth spot. This situation does not seem stable. Also, having two .500 veterans eases the burden that the Jays regrettably had to put on Janssen, Marcum, Downs, Taubenheim throughout the entire year when Doc, AJ or Chacin were missing starts. Rushing these pitchers in and excepting them to perform in place of Doc and Burnett had terrible results.
I believe the Jays have something in Marcum, he has actually performed well in the AL at times last year, he is only 25 and earns around $350,000. So, Marcum may be a good fifth starter and if he were only expected to win 50% of his games, a 10-10 record would be perfect. There should be no pressure on him if he is expected to fail as much as is expected to succeed and any improvement would be a welcome surprise. All they need from the 4 and 5 man combined is 40 or so decisions and 18-20 wins. Also the Jays would want about 350-375 innings from those two spots. This would in fact help the bullpen, which would sometimes rack up 15 innings in 3 games last year picking up for troubled starters.
Instead of piling cash at the top of an already cash loaded pitching staff in Halladay and Burnett is a mistake. The Jays cannot afford to replace either one of these pitchers with what they have and both have been injury prone over their career. They need to spread their money out and put their young guns in positions where there is no pressure, these are not hot prospects and they cannot expect to be great. The Tigers let their staff dredge through terrible seasons where the pressure to compete is off to by mid-May – and look at them now. The Jays have two solid homegrown pitchers and one lucrative free agent, all they need are Ted Lilly’s or Woody Williams’ to pick up the pieces and log a lot of innings in the 4th spot and to have an average prospect pitch average in the 5th spot to improve their starting staff.
The pressure should not be on Marcum and Janssen to perform this year. Burnett and Doc are paid to win a lot of big games. They have proven they are capable of this. The pressure is on them, to stay healthy and in turn protect the Marcum’s and Janssen’s and keep the expectations of their young teammates to a minimum. If they become injured and someone as mediocre as “Tunnel Time” Ted Lilly isn’t around to step up but still play within his expectations, the summer of 2007 could be a huge disappointment for the Blue Jays.

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11 replies on “Blue Jays Starting Pitching 2006-2007”
  1. says: Callum

    This article is out of control.
    “Low and behold the Jays finished the season 12 games above .500, making the opening day starting 5 pretty dependable for giving the team a chance to finish second and compete for a playoff spot.”
    Finishing second and competing for a playoff spot are not one and the same. The Jays were 8 games out of a wildcard and 10 games out of first (mostly because they had a hot streak after being eliminated as they like to do). I wouldn’t exactly call that competing for a playoff spot.

    Next, we have your man crush on Chacin. Where is this coming from? He was able to sneak his mediocre little cutter past the league the first time around the circuit, but since then he gets rocked and his WHIP has hovered in the 1.40’s. He has as good a chance of going 15-7 as Kelly Gruber does coming out of retirement and winning the MVP. Doc going 19-6 is far from automatic. He has had 19 wins twice in his 8 year career, not exactly automatic.

    Going for free agent Zito is not “overkill”, considering your 1-2-3 punch for the playoffs would be Halladay, Zito, Burnett. Pitching + defense win championships. Chacin ain’t gonna get the job done.

    I am surprised to hear the love for Marcum from someone who got to witness his talents on the road first hand. Expecting this guy with the 5+ ERA and the 1.60 WHIP to go 10-10 is foolish.

    And Ted Lilly has as much a chance of making 5mil this year as Gregg Zaun does. Due to his inflated win total, the thin market for starters and his ability to throw the ball with his left hand, expect Lilly to command much more than that, something similar to Jarrod Washburn’s 4 year 37.5 million dollar dealio.

  2. says: Kman

    I think that you have been overly optimistic about the starting staff. It’s a lot to ask your 4 & 5 pitchers to go .500.

    Last season, the Cleveland Indians had all 5 of their starting pitchers with records greater than .500, but the team finished under .500! Now the Jays bullpen isn’t this bad, but you get the picture.

    I think that the Jays are geared up to spend some money. But I think Zito would be a bad fit. I won’t give away much, as this is an article idea and I’ll explain later.

    I’m not sure if Lilly wants to come back, unless he needs more tunnel time in his life.

    But I can see where your going to a point. You expect the hitting to carry the load next season, and that adequate starting pitching should carry the day.

    Here’s a question. With the history of injuries that the top 3 have, are you more inclined to grab depth in the free agent/trade market? Last year the top 3 combined for 70 starts, leaving 92 to the rest of the staff.

  3. says: D.A. Humber

    I agree with Callum in the Lilly contract scenario. Lilly is, by most, assessed as the best of the mid-tier starting pitchers available. I’d expect him to rake in something like 4 y 30 mil from somebody. If someone is dumb enough to floor out that nuts contract to Washburn, there’s little doubt that Lilly should find a desperate team that lost out on their bid for rotation help.

    I think the leash will still be short on Towers. Despite his close to 3 million dollars in money owing for 2007, the Jays have shown, for the most part, to make decisions based on preformance rather than monetary obligations. They cut Billy Koch after signing him weeks before to a 1 million dollar deal, and they cut Kerry Ligtenberg with 2.5 million remaining on his salary. Corey Koskie and Eric Hinske are other examples of the Jays cut and run decisions as well. I think Towers has an outside shot at the number five spot in the rotation, but I don’t think the financial obligation will have any impact on their decision. If a guy like Marcum or Taubenheim is even slightly better in Spring Training, the Jays will dump Josh to Triple A without thinking twice.

    I’m hopeful the Jays actually try to package a prospect deal for an arm this offseason. I know Ricciardi had high regard for Paul Maholm last offseason, and wonder if he’ll re-up talks with the Pirates in an exchange of prospects for an arm. (ie. throwing a couple farmhand arms, and bats for a young starter). Unfortunately for the Jays, there isn’t much in the well down in the farm to utilize in such a transaction.

  4. says: Kman

    I agree with DA that Towers salary isn’t too much of a burden. At around $3 million, I think the Jays will give him a little extra rope, but if he can’t produce he’ll be down in AAA or cut.

    I think that the boat may have sailed on obtaining Maholm. He showed flashes late last season, and I think that the Pirates would like to hold on to him. The Pirates are shopping around a number of their quality releif pitchers, so there may be a deal there. But as DA said, the system is weak and the Pirates have to be looking for low-price MLB talent or top-end prospects in return.

  5. says: Early

    1. It doesn’t matter how much Lilly will make, but you have to replace him with someone of his capability for his 2006 salary.
    2. Seeing Marcum in person ruin my vacation to New York in the summer, you would think I would have a bias towards hatred. However, I also saw Boomer Wells’ ML Debut and he got beat by the Yankees, ruining my evening at Exhibiton Stadium, but he turned out OK. I saw Roger Clemens ruin my Canada Day when he lost his first game vs the Expos.
    3. I am not against the Jays getting Zito at all, but there are other holes that have to be mended, SS,C, RP. That said having a 1-2-3 punch for the playoffs is only good if you are there. Watching 2 or 3 of your starting 5 go down, as has happend in the past for the Jays, does get you into the playoffs. Having one stud pitch, whether it is Doc or Zito, doesn;t work either, ie: Blue Jays in late 1990s with a succession of aces Cone, Hentgen, Clemens, Wells and Doc. None of the pitchers had a legitimate supporting cast. By getting a dynamic duo or terrific threesome would be a strain on the purstrings and it would not solve your problems when one or more go down. By having average priced pitchers that can be counted on to log innings and show up every start is much more valuable. By spreading out the wealth you have a pitching staff with depth. And when the inevitable happens and your injury prone staff goes down, you have raal pitchers not Zito, Doc on DL, AJ on DL, Chacin on DL, Towers, Taubenheim, Marcum, Janssen.

  6. says: Kman

    Stealing my thunder. I want to write an article on a point you made in #2. The Jays have had a number of Cy Young award winners in the past 10 years but it hasn’t led them to the playoffs. As you said, they need a more balanced approach to the staff, instead of front loading it.

  7. says: Callum

    1. If you want to sign a guy like him, who has the same production as him, then it matters what he makes…. because the market dictates what that production is worth.
    2. Okay, thats all well and good, but those pitchers are good and Marcum is not.
    3. The Jays get into the playoffs when 2-3 starters go down in the past by having a team full of all-stars and the highest payroll in the league. You can’t get there by having a a back 3 of Chacin, Towers, Taubenheim.

  8. says: Early

    Kman–that is what this article is proposing, a balanced approach, ride Doc’s coattails, much like Minnesota rode Liriano’s pre-ASG and Santana post-ASG, all you need from the rest of your staff is to play average ball. You expect moderate results out of your 2-3 men and hope your 4-5 men can at least look to be major leaguers. It is all about muted expectations, and asking a ML starter to achieve a .500 pct on a contender is not alot.
    1. As I said…based on Lilly’s $4mil 2006 contract, if Jays can get a Mark Redman for $4-$5 that will replace Lilly, forget about replacing his 15 wins and 13 losses, just his starts and innings, .500 pitchers.
    2. Marcum is not the stud, noone is counting on Marcum to be the ace of the staff, Doc is, Marcum is the 5 man, no rotation in baseball has 5 starters. From what you are proposing Jays pay someone $5mil to go 10-10 when Marcum can do it for $300000. Marcum had rough outings, yes, and his ERA and WHIP are bad but he also had some quality starts down the stretch.
    3. Jays don’t need the highest payroll in the league, having the 2nd highest payroll finshed the RSox behind the Jays.

    They should take all the money they are going to spend on new players and give their existing players raises.

  9. says: Kman

    I guess I missed what you were saying. I don’t see how you can have it both ways, the Jays should either A)Balance the Rotation or B)Ride Doc’s Coattails, as they are not the same thing. It appears to me at least, that the Jays have been trying to ride Doc’s coattails for a number of years, with no playoff results. I’ll write my article on this, and you can tell me where I went right or wrong.

  10. says: Callum

    Earl, again you are living in a fantasy land. Marcum had quality starts down the stretch against teams playing out the string and teams stocking their lineups full of AAA and AA starters. If you are ready to anoint him as the next Roger Clemens because of those few starts, be my guess but you will be sorely disappointed.

  11. says: Callum

    Looks like there is little chance now that Josh Towers will get you your .500 record that you desire.

    “The Blue Jays made a series of roster moves on Thursday, leaving two spots vacant on the club’s 40-man roster.
    Toronto outrighted right-hander Josh Towers and outfielder John-Ford Griffin to Triple-A Syracuse, removing both players from the roster. ”

    Toronto then brought its roster up to 38 players by purchasing the contract of right-hander Tracy Thorpe from Double-A New Hampshire.
    Thorpe — an 11th round pick by the Jays in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft — was 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA and 18 saves in 54 games for New Hampshire this past season. The 26-year-old struck out 62 and limited opposing hitters to a .167 batting average over 55 1/3 innings.

    He is a little old but…. Futures Market???

    P.S. in the previous comment guess should be guest.

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