Reconciling Disappointment, Part 10

Position: Starting Pitcher

2011 Innings breakdown: Bronson Arroyo - 21%

                                            Mike Leake - 17%

                                           Johnny Cueto - 16%

                                            Homer Bailey - 14%

                                           Edinson Volquez - 11%

                                           Travis Wood - 10%

                                           Dontrelle Willis - 8%

                                           Sam LeCure - 2%

                                          Chad Reineke - 1%

                                          Matt Maloney - 0%        

2011 Composite pitching line (over 32 starts):

W

L

ERA

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

10

11

4.47

32

1

0

191.3

194

101

95

27

62

136

8

5

WHIP

BABIP

Opp BA

Opp OBP

Strand Rate

xERA

1.338

.290

.266

.326

70.3%

4.40

2011 Composite NL average starting pitcher pitcing line (over 32 starts):

W

L

ERA

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

11

11

3.94

32

1

0

192

190

92

84

20

61

147

6

5

WHIP

BABIP

Opp BA

Opp OBP

Strand Rate

xERA

1.310

.298

.260

.320

72.5%

3.95

2012 Contract status:

Arroyo - signed through 2013

Leake - not yet arbitration eligible

Cueto - signed through 2014

Bailey - arbitration eligible (1st arb year)

Volquez - arbitration eligible (2nd arb year)

Wood - not yet arbitration eligible

Willis - free agent

LeCure - not yet arbitration eligible

Reineke - free agent

Maloney - with Minnesota

Advanced minor league depth:

Pedro Villarreal - age 23, 4.39 ERA at A+, AA

Daryl Thompson - age 25, 4.26 ERA at AA, AAA

Tom Cochran - age 28, 3.55 ERA at AAA

Scott Carroll - age 26, 5.39 ERA at AAA

James Avery - age 27, 4.70 ERA at AA

Kyle McCulloch - age 26, 5.25 ERA at AA, AAA

Matt Klinker - age 26, 5.50 ERA at AA, AAA

Relative win increase, 2011 vs. 2010: -5

Brief summary of 2011: Well, it was certainly bad, but there's some room to read between the lines, perhaps.  First, of the 5 win drop-off for this group, 3 of those lost wins can be attributed to Bronson Arroyo.  Arroyo was pretty terrible while leading the team in innings, and Volquez was equal to the task in roughly half the playing time.  The other three primary starters either improved (Cueto & Leake) or stayed pretty flat while throwing more innings (Bailey). 

Also, while perhaps not quite reaching the level of "concerning", the team's vaunted depth proved to be overblown.  The primary backup starters (Wood and Willis) were not quite as bad as Arroyo/Volquez, but were not much better than replacement.  In short, depending on who was healthy at the time, the team could place any level of confidence in the day's starting pitcher about half the time.

Way too early knee-jerk outlook for 2012: Health is always a concern for pitchers, so let's put that to the side for a moment.  Also, let's take it as a given that Cueto will regress to some degree, and I will ever-so-briefly argue that Leake and Bailey will improve in a way that will offset Cueto's step backwards.  The fate of the arms, then, seems to rest of three primary questions:

  • 1) Was Arroyo's season more a function of a natural loss of effectiveness, or was he affected by issues related to mono/back trouble? I will accept that he wasn't quite right all year; I'm not all that convinced that he will be back to the solid #3 guy he once was. Put me down for a mild bounceback; the reality of his contract and rubber arm seem to dictate that he'll be given the ball every 5th day regardless of the answer.
  • 2) Is Chapman really going to be placed in the starting rotation? Early reports from winter ball seem to contradict the even earlier reports that Chapman was indeed moving towards a starting role in 2012. Combine that fuzzy bit of news with the unlikelihood of Francisco Cordero's return, and my gut response is "no".
  • 3) Will Uncle Walt pick up a front-line starter? Watch me waffle, and say that the answer depends on your definition of front-line. I'm confident Walt will make a move; I'm less convinced it will be for what anyone would consider an ace, or even a strong #2.

In sum, the net outcome for this group in 2012 will roughly equal 2011 plus the new improvement of new guy over Volquez/Willis.  While that might seem disappointing at first glance, a 4-5 win improvement would not be out of the question, which would put this group roughly where they were in the division-winning 2010 season.

Comparable industry: The story may be apocryphal, but supposedly the airline industry, as an aggregated whole since its inception, has failed to turn a net profit.  This, of course, makes no sense.  All those airlines, all those customers, no truly comparable means of travel...and they can't break even?  It gets even more mind-boggling when one considers the scaled-down model that airlines have instituted over recent years, what with the cutback on peanuts and half-full flights.  The appeal of the business is rather obvious of course: the infrastructure and demand are apparent, and every few years we see a new company ready to take on the challenge, convinced they have the answer.  And so it goes, year after year, decade after decade, with no breakthrough.

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