29 September 2003


Not that I'm really any good at this (I picked the Angels to win the World Series over the Giants last year, and by "Angels" I mean "Yankees." Oops.) but I'm going to give you my three and a half cents on the 2003 postseason anyway. Because what the hell, you're here anyway, might as well do something productive, like read. Let's take the playoff series one at a time, because four at a time is just too messy, and I'm too lazy to clean up after myself.

Yankees vs. Twinkies

You can probably guess what I think about this one. The Yankees will certianly not allow themselves to be embarassed in the first round of the postseason for a second consecutive year. No sir, we're waiting until at least the second round before we start playing like bench-warmers from an American Legion team. Overall, it's hard not to like the Yankees' chances with Mussina & Pettitte (81-30, 3.46 ERA career at home) at The Stadium and then Clemens and Mussina (20-2 career against Twins) in the Dome.

Besides, how hard can it be to beat only two guys?!!? WITH THE SAME DNA??! They're twins!

Seriously though, kudos to the Twins for winning them when they counted, playing hard and pulling out all the stops when they needed to, but they're not getting past the Yanks. The Twins took advantage of a mostly soft schedule down the stretch, and it took them until the last week of the season and collapses by the WhiteSox (only 8-10 since Sept 10th) and Royals (13-15 in Sept) to wrap up a very weak division.

Sure, anything can happen, but it won't. Yankees in 4.

Oaklands vs. Bostons

Normally, this would probably be billed as Boston's vaunted offense against Oakland's vaunted pitching, but Mark Mulder is on the shelf, and nobody from the Athletics is really hitting like they'll need to in order to get past the RedSox starting pitching. As for the rest of you, well, if you can't be an Athletic, be an Athletic Supporter!

I'll give this one to the Wild-Card-Winning BoSawx. But I won't like it.
Red Sox in five.

Braves vs. Cubs

This should be interesting. The Braves had, uncharacteristically, the best offense in the National League, while the Cubs' pitching was among the best in the Senior Circuit, including setting a new record for team strikeouts in a season. But in the end, I'll give Atlanta's wonderful offense and decent pitching the edge over Chicago's "Team of Destiny (and Strikeouts)" and mediocre offense. Dusty Baker is great at getting whatever he can out of aging veterans during the regular season, but's he's hamstrung himself with older, slower and less on-base prone hitters in the lower lineup and bench, and he won't get what he needs out of them.

All over North Chicago, businessmen will skip out early to watch the Braves put the nail in the Cubs' coffin.
Braves in 4.

And last, but not finally...

Marlins vs. Giants

This is one of those series that would scare the crap out of me if I were a Giants fan, and if I hadn't just gone already. The marlins, frankly, are not that good a team, but they deserve credit for winning the games they had to win, and the Phillies (13-13 in Sept) don't. The Marlins were 8th out of 16 NL teams in both ERA and runs scored, decidely mediocre on both counts, but they won the close games, and with their pitching, they're usually close. Bonds and the Giants are pretty good at taking walks, but the Marlins don't give a lot of them up, so it might not matter.

Also, the Marlins' offense isn't built around walks, so the fact that SanFran is good at preventing these doesn't necessarily help them. I hate to say it, but I really think that the Marlins could ride their hot pitching and timely hits to a quick defeat of the Giants, whose offense gets extremely thin after Barry Bonds.

Marlins in 5. But I hope I'm wrong.

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23 September 2003

CYA, Wouldn't Wanna BYA...

It feels a little disingenuous writing a column about the American League Cy Young candidates now, since the front-runner for the award a month ago, Esteban Loaiza, has gone 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA in his last four starts and essentially pulled the trigger for his White Sox teammates as they shot themselves in the collective foot in the AL Central race. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Loaiza’s primary competition, Roy Halladay, rattled off four consecutive complete games, two of them shutouts (including a 10-inning gem!), and allowed only one earned run in those 37 innings. He leads the AL in starts (35), innings pitched (257), K/W ratio (6.03) and wins (21), is 2nd in the AL in complete games (8), walks/9 IP, and strikeouts (195), 3rd in baserunners/IP (1.07) and tied for 6th in ERA (3.22) with Barry Zito.

As I mentioned, it’s a little late to be writing a “debate” column about this “race” as most experts have likely made up their minds in favor of Halladay at this point. But let it be said that I was supporting Halladay three weeks ago, when he and Loaiza were both 19-6, and Loaiza’s ERA edge was 2.60 to 3.42. ERA is probably the most significant means of measuring a pitcher’s effectiveness, but it’s not the only means. When you consider that ERA titles have been won by the immortal likes of Joe Magrane, Allan Anderson and Atlee Hammaker, it doesn't seem quite so important. Hell, Steve Ontiveros once won an ERA title, but there weren’t many folks picketing outside the offices of their favorite BBWAA members when the AL Cy Young award was bestowed upon David Cone.

The major factor that Halladay has going for him is quantity. He’s got more wins (as antiquated and potentially useless a stat as it may be) than anyone else in MLB, and has almost 20 more innings than his closest AL competitor, Tim Hudson. His eight complete games trail only Mark Mulder’s nine, who sadly had his season cut short by a hip injury last month. In an age when pitchers rarely complete what they start, when Roger Clemens won the first ever Cy Young Award for a starter without a complete game to his credit (2001), it’s refreshing to see a pitcher go the distance at least a few times.

I understand, in terms of actual wins and losses, that run support has a lot to do with a starter's record. I'll be the first to tell you that Loaiza has lost or gotten no decision for six Quality Starts (6+ IP, 3- ER) this year, while Halladay has had only four such experiences. Halladay's run support, over 6 runs/game, has been very good, 6th in the AL, but Loaiza's is over 5 runs/game as well, thanks to playing in front of Chicago's (until recently) great offense.

Ironically, some people will tell you,

"For the Cy Young award, I don't factor in a team's performance, because I see it as a best pitcher or pitcher-of-the-year award."

...immediately after telling you that the first thing they consider is the number of Wins a starter has. Which is a lot like a movie critic saying that he only considers individual performances, right after he tells you that he thinks that Keanu Reeves ought to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Matrix Resuscitated.

So Wins can't be the only metric, nor should it even be the first. The main problem with only looking at ERA, or even Support-Neutral Wins and Losses, as Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan pointed out here, is that the pitchers don’t all face the same teams, thanks to the newly unbalanced schedule. The fact that Loaiza has won four games in six starts, with a Bob-Gibson-esque 1.21 ERA against the woeful Tigers (helps to blow up his record’s appearance. Overall, Halladay’s average opponents have hit to the tune of .265 BA/.336 OBP/.430 SLG/.766 OPS, which is in the Tino Matrinez, Wes Helms, Randy Winn, Craig Biggio, Mike Cameron, Torii Hunter Neighborhood. Loaiza’s opponents have hit only .261/.327/.411/.738, which is akin to Juan Encarnacion, Eric Young, Casey Blake, and Adam Kennedy.

Clearly a notable drop in quality. Sheehan described the difference as being worth less than ten runs over the course of a season, but then he dismisses its influence out of hand. Actually, if you look at the difference in average batter quality, it works out to about 5 runs/450 outs, which doesn't sound like much for a batter, because it's not. But Halladay’s 257 innings pitched yielded 771 outs, which extrapolates the difference between (roughly) Mike Cameron and Casey Blake to about 8.5 runs over the course of Halladay's season. If you take away eight earned runs from his season total, do you know what his ERA becomes?


Which suddenly is not so different from Loaiza’s 2.92, trailing only Hudson (2.74) and Pedro (2.25, but in only 183 innings). Heck, even if you only take off seven runs, it’s still 2.97, and I’d say that’s more than fair given the difference in the qualities of the batters these two have faced.

And now, when you’re looking at two pitchers who allow earned runs at almost exactly the same rate but one of them has forty more innings to his credit, which one do you say was better? Hallady becomes the clear winner.

Tim Hudson probably has a better case for the Award than Loaiza does, if you consider how well he's pitched and not how well the team's hitting and defense have done on his behalf. But Hudson won't get much support from the writers, with his mere 15 wins, so it comes down to Loaiza and Halladay.

I'll take Roy.

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16 September 2003

Quien Es Mas Valioso?

There seem to be two great debates raging currently in the world of Major League Baseball. The first is who should be voted the NL MVP, with Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols as the main contenders, Gary Sheffield, Todd Helton, Eric Gagne and others following a distant third, fourth and so on. The second debate regards the AL Cy Young Award, with Esteban Loaiza and Roy Halladay the main contenders. We’ll take these one at a time, since trying to read a column about two different issues would be almost as hard as trying to write it. I'll get to the AL CYA argument in a day or two.


Barry Bonds has already won five (!) NL MVP Awards, while no one else in NL history has more than three (Stan Musial, Roy Campanella and Mike Schmidt shared this record until 2001, when Barry won his fourth). Some would argue that it’s time for Barry to step aside and let some younger blood in to share the glory. This is just about the dumbest argument I can imagine for naming Pujols the MVP instead of Bonds. But are there any cogent arguments for Pujols over Bonds? Let’s look at their overall numbers:

Pujols 626 547 127 199 48 42 122 69 .364 .441 .686 1.127
Bonds 512 361 104 123 20 42 84 142 .341 .534 .751 1.285

This happens to be something of a convenient time to analyze these two players, as they both hit their 42nd home run of the season on Monday night, but in most other respects, their numbers are quite different. The most glaring differences you should observe are those between their at-bats (AB) and plate appearances (PA), as well as Barry’s edge in the walks (BB) category. Pujols has over 100 more plate appearances than Bonds, and nearly 200 more at-bats, because Bonds has played 26 fewer games than Pujols has, and has walked over twice as many times.

Now the question arises: What do we do about such disparities? How do we compare players with different skills and with different amounts of playing time? Well, let’s try normalizing for playing time. We’ll project Barry’s numbers out over the same number of plate appearances that Pujols has and see what the differences look like then.

Pujols 626 547 127 199 48 42 122 69 .364 .441 .686 1.127
Bonds 626 441 127 150 24 51 103 174 .341 .534 .756 1.276
Diff 0 106 0 49 24 -9 19 -105 .023 -.090 -.065 -.158

With more playing time, the theory goes, Bonds would have nine more homers, 105 more walks, and just as many runs scored as Pujols, but would still have almost 20 fewer RBI, half as many doubles, and almost 50 fewer hits. Bonds’ edge in the “rate” stats (on-Base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS) remains, as does his 23-point deficit in batting average. A 158-point advantage in OPS, largely due to Bonds’ penchant for walking, is nothing to sneeze at. It’s roughly the difference between Alex Rodriguez and Mark Loretta, at least this year. So don’t let the relatively small percentage increase fool you: It’s huge.

Still, though, two problems remain:

1) Bonds still has a lot fewer RBI than Pujols, even with his additional projected plate appearances.

B) Bonds doesn’t have any additional projected plate appearances.

Bonds has only what he has, which is a lot less playing time than Albert Pujols. ESPN.com’s Jim Butler has made a good case for Bonds as the MVP, citing his runs created per 27 outs as significantly above Pujols’s number in that stat. RC/27, in case you don’t know, is a measure of how many runs a team of nine Barry Bondses or nine Albert Pujolses or nine Travis Nelsons would score, given average pitching and defense. Bonds blows Pujols away in this category, about 15 to 11. (For perspective, no one else in MLB has a mark higher than Todd Helton’s 10.05, which he owes largely to the Greatest Hitter’s Park Ever.)

Bonds, it seems, is the better player. I can’t really argue with that. But who’s more valuable?

I heard Bobby Valentine on the radio the other day discussing Bonds,

“…the walk is a very powerful play in baseball…Bonds is the best player I’ve ever seen…there are pitches that Barry could hit, I think sometimes Barry takes a walk in a close spot by taking a close pitch just to prove how good he is…”

Bobby V. did not seem to notice the irony in his statement: He acknowledges Bonds’ greatness and the utility of the Walk as a hitter, but then says essentially that Barry would somehow be better if he walked less often. Sounds a little like saying that Tiger Woods might be a better golfer if he didn’t hit the ball so darn far all the time, doesn’t it?

Ted Williams realized, a long time ago, that the batter’s eyes were the key to his success. Specifically, not giving the pitcher anything that the rulebook didn’t allow him. Swinging at a pitch just two inches off the plate increases the size of the strike zone roughly 20%, depending on how tall you are. This means that the pitcher has an area 20% larger at which to aim in order to get you out. (Note: If Eric Gregg happens to be umpiring, the area jumps to about 150%. If Alfonso Soriano is at-bat, this number increases to something like 200%. If both are true, I think Soriano’s out as long as they can find the ball at the end of his at-bat.) So Barry knows that giving the pitcher anything more than what he absolutely has to give will work against him, and against the team, much more often than not. So he doesn’t swing at those pitches. Which is why he’s so great.

With that said, I still think that Pujols will, and perhaps even should, win the NL MVP. The awards voters like RBIs, they like Runs, they like batting average, and Pujols has a big lead in all three. But more importantly, Pujols has played a lot more. Twenty six games is a lot to miss when your team is jockeying for position in a pennant race. Granted, the Giants have had their division locked up since July, but they could have gotten home-field advantage in the NL playoffs instead of the Braves, and they probably won’t. The step down from Bonds to Jeffrey Hammonds or Trever Linden or whomever plays left field when Barry's not around is a huge step down, especially when the Giants don't have another regular with an OPS over .800. He leaves a gaping hole in the lineup whenever he's not in it, and Neifi Perez can't swing at enough extra pitches to ocmpensate for it.

I understand that with his injuries and his father’s illness and death, Bonds had every right to miss those games. I don’t begrudge him that. But I (and the BBWAA) have every right to count those against him in deciding whether he or Albert Pujols has been the more valuable player over the course of the season.

I mentioned earlier that Bonds has a significant edge in RC/27 over Pujols, and he does. But Pujols, thanks to his 26 extra games, actually has more Runs Created overall, 151 to 140, which is not a huge advantage, but it’s something. If you like Baseball Prospectus’ numbers better, you get the same story: Bonds has an enormous edge in their rate stat, Equivalent Average, .424 to .366, but Pujols actually has a slight edge in their counting stat, Equivalent Runs, 142 to 140. Obviously this is a lot closer, but it’s still an edge.

The analogy goes like this: If you have a stack of $100 bills, say, 50 bills tall, it’s worth $5000. If you have another stack of $50 bills, only this stack is 101 bills thick, its worth, its value, is $5050. You can argue all you want that the $100 bills are worth more, and you’ll win that argument, because that’s not the contention I’m making. I’m arguing that the stack of fifties is more valuable, if only slightly.

And so is Albert Pujols. At least this season.

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09 September 2003

No Sense of History...

This Thursday, the second anniversary of the Worst Day In American History, I plan to take a friend to Yankee Stadium. What better way to stick it to the evildoers?

This date will be historic for a number of other reasons as well. For one thing, my friend (we'll call him "Cary" since that's what his parents named him) has never been to Yankee Stadium, so it is quite a privelige for me to be able to take him, a man who has been a Yankee fan in some sense for his whole 56-year life, to his first game.

As far as I can tell, this will be the fifth person for whom I've been able to do this, including my mom and my wife, and it never gets old. I cannot even describe the look of pure joy on my mom's face as she crested the stairs on the way to the tier section ('tier' comes from the French word for "entirely too high") to see her first game, at age 51. My mom is, frankly, a much more rabid Yankee fan than Cary is, but I'm sure he'll have a honkin' good time nonetheless.

Another reason that this Thursday may be historic in nature is that Roger Clemens is scheduled to start. This isn't really that big a deal, since he's done that over 600 times in his career already. But there's an excellent chance that this Thursday, 11 September 2003, will mark the last regular season home start of Clemens' career.

His next two starts should be at Baltimore and at Tampa Bay, and then his final start of the season could be at home, against Baltimore again, on the second to last day of the year. But if the Yanks have wrapped up the division by then, they'll likely sit Clemens to rest him for the playoffs and start some poor schmo in his place. And if they do that (I know, that's a lot of 'if's) then Cary and I will be present for the last regular season home start of the Rocket's illustrious career. Of course, Rocket hasn't exactly blasted off this year at home, going only 5-7 with an ERA over 5.50, but hey, it's only the Tigers, right?

The other reason that this could have been an historic occasion, but probably won't, is that Mike Maroth should have been scheduled to start against Clemens. Maroth, as you may know, is the newest member of the 20-Game Losers' Club, and the first since 1980, when Brian Kingman paid his dues and joined up.

Kingman was, amazingly, not that bad a pitcher in 1980. Despite the 20 losses, 1980 was the best season of his career. His 3.83 ERA, eight wins, 211 innings pitched, 32 games (30 starts), 10 complete games and 116 strikeouts were all career best numbers for him. He didn't even pitch on a particularly bad team, as the 83-79 Oakland A's had five starters with at least 210 innings pitched, a combined AL-best 3.46 ERA and no other starter with a losing record. Sadly, they scored only enough runs to rank 10th inthe then 14-team American League, and Kingman got only about 2.9 runs of support per game. Jim Rome apparently doesn't think that Kingman had anything of which to be proud, but then...

A) ...for a guy whose voice sounds like Jacob Silj with a head-cold, I'm not sure I'd be criticizing "losers" if I were Jim. And besides...

2) How many games has Jim Rome lost in the major leagues? Thought so.

Maroth is a different story. He's a bad pitcher on a bad team. A really bad team. The worst team in Tigers history, and they've had some doozies, having lost 100 games five times in their history, and without a winning season since 1993. Kudos to Tigers manager Alan Trammell for continuing to trot him out there as much as he has, in spite of the 20-loss stigma, but why suddenly the thought of losing 21 is so daunting I can't figure out.

So instead of watching the classic matchup of the Immortal Roger Clemens vs. the (now) Infamous Mike Maroth, we'll get to see Immortal Rocket vs. the Inconsequential Nate Cornejo.

At least the tickets were half-price.

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04 September 2003

The Gammons People Play

Peter Gammons' ESPN column from last week is full of the head-scratching, incoherent babbling that we've all come to know and love from 'Ole Pete. Like this:

"People win championships," said Joe Torre, and so it is that through all the Yankees have faced -- serious injuries (Jeter, Williams, Nick Johnson and Mariano Rivera), bullpen roulette, public spats with Raul Mondesi, David Wells and Jeff Weaver, the unraveling of Jose Contreras -- they came out of the Labor Day Weekend series in Boston with not only a safe six-game lead in the loss column but the final family reunion of Roger Clemens, who effectively buried the Red Sox's chances of catching the Yankees as he exchanged a figurative hug with New Englanders that reminded one and all how much they meant to one another."

Wow. That’s one sentence. 107 words, one sentence. Gammons sometimes writes as though preparing for when the Commies take over the world and make periods illegal.

I've already written about the Yankees bullpen in another column, so I won't go into that again.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that Contreras has “unraveled”. He’s been injured, like a lot of guys, but he’s actually pitched pretty well when they’ve used him as a starter. It’s only when they tried to get him to do long relief that he’s sucked. As a starter he’s 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA, 20 hits and 30 strikeouts in 31 innings. On the other hand (where I have four fingers and a thumb) the teams he’s beaten don’t exactly scream “Clutch October workhorse”: Detroit (37-102), Cincinnati (60-79), Toronto (69-70) and Baltimore (63-76).

Gammons also wrote:

"We know what we have to do," Giambi said. "[...]You learn to fight through it all."

Including Pedro Martinez. On Saturday, Martinez was still weak from his bout with a flu bug and threw one pitch above 89 mph, but the Yankees forced him into an early exhaustion with their patience.

Listen, Peter: The word "but" is what's called a logical connector, which serves to establish a contrast between what follows it and what preceeded it. For example:

"I was going to go wax my bronze statue of myself in the portico, BUT I decided that I would rather stay inside and practice looking menacing to opposing basestealers."

In this sentence [extra points if you can name the speaker!] used the word 'but' to show that one activity was excluded by the other. It was different from what had been expected.

In your sentence, (paraphrasing) "Pedro was still weak...couldn't throw hard..." shows that he should have been easier to beat than usual, which means that when the Yankees wore him out early, it was not unexpected, and so the logical connector 'but' does not belong. 'And', 'so', or 'therefore' would all have been better choices. Now, I'm going to have to start charging you for these grammar lessons if you don't start improving.

"Over the entire weekend, there were few obscenities, few of the "Yankees (----)" that usually litter the city. It was as if Red Sox's fans were getting over Roger, appreciating what it means to watch Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter play their hearts out with dignity, understanding that even when Pedro doesn't win he leaves his soul on the mound and that, indeed, these guys named Williams and Giambi, Jeter, Posada, Johnson, Pettitte, Mussina and Rivera will never stop trying to overcome all the shrapnel that surrounds them."

How exactly does one "overcome shrapnel"? Don't you just duck and hope for the best? Oh, and Pete's getting better: That sentence only contained 89 words.

Gammons' next segment:

Marlins get tougher with Conine

Tougher? Maybe. Better, probably not much.

"We felt," said Beinfest, "that we've come this far, so we owe it to our fans and to the players to do whatever we can do to win."

"But then we decided to trade two of our best prospects for Jeff Conine instead." Right? Look, Conine's not the worst player around, and there's something to be said for versatility, but Jeff's only had one season in the last seven when he was worth more than 3.5 wins more than a replacement level guy at his position. Which means that, even in the midst of a decent season (for him) he's not likely to be worth more than half a win over the last month of the season. But with the wild-card race as close as it is in the NL, it might just come down to that. I guess we'll see.

Conine is actually having a pretty decent year, right around his career average, and the Marlins needed something when they lost Mike Lowell, but don't make it out like they got some kind of steal in giving up two good pitching prospects for an aging, overpaid mediocrity. They were hard-pressed to make something happen and they did the best they could in a bad situation. Kudos for that, no more.

Regarding NL Manager of the Year candidates, Gammons had this to say:

"But has anyone faced more adversity than Felipe Alou? While holding a significant lead in the NL West, Alou has had to use more than 100 lineups and employ 13 starting pitchers. The Giants moved their two innings horses, Russ Ortiz and Livan Hernandez. They lost Rob Nen. Kirk Rueter has been injured. They've had J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia, Benito Santiago and Ray Durham on the DL, and seen Edgardo Alfonso struggle at times."

The Giants have had their issues, and Alou may very well deserve the Managers' highest honor, but the fact that he has had an enormous lead with which to work is an advantage. Sure, there's pressure to stave off those chassing you, but nobody's been closer than about five games since the middle of July. Give him credit for patching together a winning lineup in spite of the persistent inneptitude of J.T. Snow and Neifi Perez at the plate, the surprising struggles of Alfonzo and Rich Aurilia, and Barry Bonds' personal distractions. Heck, you can even give him credit for winning despite having only one pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title (Jason Schmidt) and patching a rotation together with untested rookies, but don't tell us that he had this huge lead and present it as though it somehow worked against him.

And finally, Peter Gammons' trademarked...

News and notes

One NL executive suggests that if the Cubs could find one more starter to go with Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano and Clement, that Kerry Wood could be their answer to Eric Gagne and John Smoltz.

This is my absolute favorite item from this particular column. Gammons doesn't really comment on it, but the fact that he included the statement without ridiculing it outright is perhaps an indication that he actually finds the possibility intriguing. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why anyone who runs a baseball team with Kerry Wood on it would be interested in making him a closer.

I thought that this was something of a curious statement from a man who seems to understand as much about baseball as Peter Gammons does, but then I did a search of some of his previous columns and found the following:

"One State Department Official suggests that if the President could find one more Cabinet Member to go with Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, that Condoleezza Rice could play a mean mariacci guitar at state department picnics."

"One Hollywood executive suggests that if the Universal Studios could have found one more actor to go with Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Ed Harris, that Tom Hanks could have been a great "LEM Controller White" in Apollo 13."

"One baseball historian suggests that if the '27 Yankees could find one more outfielder to go with Bob Muesel and Earle Combs, that Babe Ruth could have been one heck of a pinch hitter."

So maybe Peter's viewpoints are a little skewed.

Here you've got a pitcher who's had some injury issues, yes, but who has been pretty healthy for the last two years, can pitch 200+ innings per year when healthy, and strikes out more than 10 batters per nine innings and allows only about 7 hits in that span. Why the hell would you want to relegate such a talent to pitching only 65 innings per year? So he can make some impressive looking stat lines? 120 strikeouts in 70 innings looks nice in the history books, but it doesn't help win games like starting 34 times and mowing them down the way Wood can when he's on. The fact that he's yet to win more than 13 gemes in a season is more a function of his team not providing run support than it is an indictment of his abilities as a starter.

The problem is that pitchers like Eric Gagne and John Smoltz and Mariano Rivera were once starters who have become great closers, but people forget that they were bad starters. Or often-injured starters. Or superfluous to the starting rotation. You'd be hard pressed to pick up another pitcher somewhere who would be good enough to relegate Kerry Wood to a relief role. Besides, what the heck is wrong with Borowski?

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