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Tier 2 Starting Pitchers

Jason Jennings certainly isn't a free agent, but he may be the best starter available through trade.  Let's take a look at how he stacks up against some of the other "Tier 2" guys being bandied about by half the clubs in baseball.  Stats are from 2006 except for Randy Wolf, for whom I used '05.

Strikeouts per nine innings:

Ted Lilly - 7.93
Gil Meche - 7.52
Vicente Padilla - 7.02
Randy Wolf - 6.86
Jason Jennings - 6.03
Jeff Weaver - 5.60
Jeff Suppan - 4.93
Miguel Batista - 4.80
Woody Williams - 4.46

Lilly, Meche, and Padilla are probably the three who might be considered power pitchers.

Walks per nine innings:

Woody Williams - 2.17
Jeff Weaver - 2.46
Randy Wolf - 2.93
Vicente Padilla - 3.15
Jeff Suppan - 3.27
Jason Jennings - 3.61
Miguel Batista - 3.66
Ted Lilly - 4.01
Gil Meche - 4.05

Wolf, as you can see, ranks well in both categories.  He will need to regain his pre-TJ control though.

K/BB (a measure of command):

Randy Wolf - 2.35
Jeff Weaver - 2.28
Vicente Padilla - 2.23
Woody Williams - 2.06
Ted Lilly - 1.98
Gil Meche - 1.86
Jason Jennings - 1.67
Jeff Suppan - 1.51
Miguel Batista - 1.31

This is where Jennings suffers, as he does not put the ball where he wants to.

Expected home runs per nine innings (each pitcher normalized to a 10.8% home run per flyball rate):

Miguel Batista -  0.93
Jeff Suppan - 0.99
Vicente Padilla - 1.05
Jason Jennings - 1.09
Randy Wolf - 1.13
Gil Meche - 1.15
Ted Lilly - 1.17
Jeff Weaver - 1.33
Woody Williams - 1.38

This is where the groundball pitchers rule.  So far Padilla is looking like the best overall pitcher.

Bill James ERA projections:

Woody Williams - 4.04
Vicente Padilla - 4.23
Ted Lilly - 4.35
Randy Wolf - 4.31
Miguel Batista - 4.37
Jeff Weaver - 4.40
Jeff Suppan - 4.46
Jason Jennings - 4.77
Gil Meche - 4.76

Nobody under 4, but a few guys will probably sneak in if they move to the NL.  I like how Padilla grades well across the board; I think he could really help a team like the Cubs.  Wolf is the upside play, but he may have enough suitors that he doesn't have to take a discount despite throwing just 136 innings over the past two seasons.  Williams is a bit like Greg Maddux, in that he's a helpful control artist who won't require a long-term commitment.  One difference is that Maddux has fewer teams for which he's willing to play, it appears. If only Weaver hadn't excelled in the playoffs, I could see him being a mild bargain.


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That Sucks for Suppan to win the NLCS MVP, and still be considered 2nd tier

Well when you are signing a guy for four years, you should probably look past 25 good playoff innings.

Suppan is lucky to be considered 2nd tier. He has Duncan to thank for it too.

If he parts from the Cards, Suppan is going right back to his mediocre self.

Both Meche and Lilly are vastly overrated too.

They both suck, have always sucked and will always suck.

I'd take a shot with Lilly if I had an awesome pitching coach, but for the price he is giong for, I wouldnt touch him.

Thank you Roto,

Beckett was a Wrold Series MVP because the Yankees had never seen him and they forgot that you get awarded 1B after 4 balls.

Beckett has sucked ever since.

Would you give Suppan the Cy Young for two good games in the NLCS?

Why am I the only one thinking Meche is waiting to break out? I thought he had so much promise when he started.


Perhaps because you shoot heroin before watching baseball games?

That's right.

I've never been the same since Trainspotting.

Thank bsox...Im a jays fan here...but I think many of these guys suck. Lilly could actually be amazing in the National League in a big park...he's pitched well in the AL East and has good stuff....But he also throws tons of pitches and balls and doesn't go deep into games, he lets up homers, he hasn't thrown 200 innings in a year, etc etc...so it all depends on the price, I'd go high if I was an NL team.

I'm not wild about Meche, or Mulder's return (anyone know how guys with his injury usually come back..wasn't Wade miller like taht?)...But I think Vicente Padilla is solid, but with his aolcohol who wants a nut like him? And Randy Wolf could be decently solid, at best. THe Jays need one bad but I hope JP weeds his way out a good option.

I think Lilly is probably the best choice here for an NL Team, the ERA could easily drop signifigantly if he goes to a Pitchers park in the NL. Getting him out of the brutal AL East would really help his value, I think for an NL Team, he is the best clear possible choice

Padilla is going to suck, Padilla is going to suck, Padilla is going to suck, Padilla is going to suck, Padilla is going to suck ... I want to say this enough times that I got sole credit for predicting it would happen. 4Y $40MM for him is such a mistake I can barely wrap my mind around it.

I dont think any GM in baseball would committ 40 mil to Padilla, he is shaky at best, would be a terrible mistake, hopefuly no1 is that stupid

Why do u think he'll suck?

What does "suck" mean? Like +5.00 ERA suck? Or mid 4 ERA suck? Cause i coulda used one of those on my team last yaer.

Too bad chicago doesn't have Chris Speier still. Him and Vicente could hang out in wrigleyville after games.

Random late-night comments:

1. I could have gone the rest of my life without recalling Trainspotting again. Ugh. Not a bad movie, but (at least) one disturbing scene that's tough to forget. I retaliate with a "Reservoir Dogs" mention!

2. Hey Jeff, if we all chip in to cover the $50 you're getting, would that speed up the work on getting the minor league split data available on spreadsheet/database sooner? :>

3. Jeff's really smart (did I mention how cool having minor league split data is?) and it's tough to argue with his logic on which pitchers are the best risks. That said, as a Cub fan, it's hard to envision a happy ending coming from signing an oft-injured pitcher such as Wolf or Padilla (or Lilly). Still, if it was my FA money, I'd probably consider it too. But part of me thinks it's just some nefarious Brewers plot to see the Cubs wallow in misery some more. I got a Brewers cap, and am going to try to sneak into the next SABR event up there and find out.

D (or 4). For the rumored salary he'd command ($12MM/2), I'd jump to sign Toma Ohka. Sure, his 2006 wasn't hot, but in the 4 years before then, his ERAs were 3.18-4.16, with 180+ ip in 3 seasons (so, that's 3/5 if you count 2006). His peripherals support his ERA, and I've always felt he was underrated... he isn't a GB pitcher, and gives up both hits and power. But he is flat (i.e. gets lefties out as well), destroys the running game (about 1 SB/75 IP), and pounds the strike zone.

5. Why isn't Maddux on this list? Is he considered "top tier", or "tier 3", or "re-tiered?"

There's a lot of love for mediocre pitchers here. Gil Meche is not good. The thing about free agents "waiting to break out," they've had 6 years to break out already. This Gil Meche talk reminds me of the Kris Benson talk from a few years ago. Anyone else tired of the talk of Meche's "fantastic stuff?" How does a pitcher with "fantastic stuff" go 6 years without posting a K/9 over the mid 7s for a career best? Even if he doesn't know what to do with it, Daniel Cabrera has "fantastic stuff" and doesn't know what to do with it, and he still posts the high K/9s.

This Gil Meche stuff has gotten to be a joke. What's he going to sign for? With all the teams interested, could it be in the 4/40 range? For a guy with a career 4.65 ERA, perpetually bloated WHIPs, pitching in a pretty nice pitcher's park in Seattle, in an AL West that generally doesn't have the most stacked lineups in baseball. If he hadn't pitched some easy games against some punchless NL West teams his ERA could be over 5. And this is his career year! But for 4/40, let's hope he "breaks out." Give me a break.

Jason Jennings is fine, but he's gone from being underrated to being overrated in a short space of time, sort of like what happened to Garrett Anderson a few years ago.

All of these stats are great: K/9, BB/9, K/BB, HR/9 etc. What really matters is what it TRANSLATES INTO which was a 3.78 ERA for Jennings last year at COORS FIELD! Granted, he was 8-13 (or something like that), but I'd take my shot at trading for Jennings (depending on price) over these other guys. If the Cubs get the right line up going, a 3.78 ERA could get you 14-15 wins.

Just for fun, let's add another pitcher in:

K/9: 6.15 (rank 5 out of 10)
BB/9: 4.03 (rank 9 out of 10)
K/BB: 1.53 (rank 8 out of 10)
Expected HR/9: 1.29 (rank 8 out of 10)

I don't know what Bill James projects Barry Zito's ERA to be, but with these other numbers, should we really care?

Good point bobo. Excellent post.

Thanks jballgame. People around here may hate me for my constant Zito-bashing, but it's just amazing to me, given the amount of research that's been done into the randomness and variability of ERA, that (some) people still consider him a top-tier starter.

Also I'm hoping that somehow my thoughts will prevent the Yankees from getting any bad ideas about him ;)

I could not agree with more Bobo. I am a Mets fan so hope Zito goes to the Yankees. Kidding aside, last night I was reading Baseball Prospectus' profile on Barry Zito, so his peripherals were fresh in my mind when I was going through the tier two figures. Zito's figures fall in the middle to high end for all these catagories k/9, K/B, BB/9 and HR/9 in comparison with the tier two pitchers.

and he is going to make how much?

Jennings's peripherals don't indicate a 3.78 ERA. He was heavily reliant on a low hit rate.

Don't forget that Zito excels in an area I left out, H/9. Most pitchers don't have a lot of control over this but Zito seems to.

"Don't forget that Zito excels in an area I left out, H/9. Most pitchers don't have a lot of control over this but Zito seems to."

Do you really believe that (an honest question)? I really only believe it in a few cases - extreme GB pitchers, or guys like Rivera with a "trick" pitch.

I mean, someone's got to be above average on BABIP for 5 years in a row, right? That's just basic probability.

Are you basing that statement just on the fact that he's consistently been good in that regard, or on something specific about him and his pitching?

"or Mulder's return (anyone know how guys with his injury usually come back..wasn't Wade miller like taht?" They said he were "Just cleaning out his Arm" whatever that means, they expect him to start rehab pitching in Jan, but doubt he will be ready for opening day.

AS far as Zito he is Durable, which is HUGE, but not worth what he's going to get.

Lilly is probably the largest signer in the "tier 2" pitchers. Remember everyone will pony up more for a Lefty. NL teams will likely jump on him and hope to get a 3.5-4 ERA out of him. I could see the Padres, Dodgers, and the DBacks try to lure him into the NL West.

Zito's H/9 have been steadily increasing. If his h/9 inning gets to average or above league, the team that signs him to the huge multi-million dollar deal will pay dearly because his BB/9 is on the higher side of average.

Bobo, its believed that his H/9 is good because his curve ball is really really good which might qualify as a "trick pitch". Additionally, his h/9 has been increasing steadily, which might be due to the fact that the league is onto his curve.

The Cubs should get Barry Zito and/or Ted Lilly.

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