One very important aspect in a starting pitcher is the ability to go deep into games. Teams can avoid resorting to inferior middle relievers if the starter can consistently pitch seven innings.
Only two starters this year - Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay - are averaging seven innings per start. Neither of those guys will be available this winter. Let's take a look at some starters who are available and can save bullpens.
Jason Schmidt, in addition to being one of the NL's best this year, has averaged 6.83 innings per start. The 33 year-old is destined for one of the offseason's biggest contracts; perhaps similar to the deal Pedro Martinez signed.
Roy Oswalt's name has been popping up in trade rumors. Oswalt has averaged 6.78 innings per start this year; he'll turn 29 soon. Oswalt has been worked hard, throwing almost 270 innings last year and 256 the year before. We see how that type of workload has affected Mark Buehrle. Oswalt's strikeout rate has slipped to a career low 6.2 per nine innings in 2006.
Dontrelle Willis could be made available by Florida. He's 15th in baseball with 6.61 innings per start. The 24 year-old has been abused by Joe Girardi; he leads baseball in starts with 110-121 pitches (14). In case you're curious, Carlos Zambrano leads in starts with 122-132 pitches (5).
Groundball specialist Jake Westbrook has also been mentioned in trade rumors, with the Diamondbacks surfacing as a possible suitor. Westbrook turns 29 in September and has increased his innings per start to 6.55 this season. Westbrook is underrated; he'll make just $5.6MM next year and is a model of consistency and durability.
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