Jeremy Guthrie

Rockies add an underrated arm in Jeremy Guthrie

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There’s nothing sexy about a 47-65 career record. Jeremy Guthrie has led the AL in losses twice and in homers allowed once. He’s never won even a dozen games or struck out more than 130 batters in a season. Still, the Rockies should be very happy to have him, especially for the modest price of Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.

From 2009-11, nine full-time starting pitchers have left the AL East for greener pastures. All nine of them improved their ERAs immediately, and eight of the nine finished the next year with a superior ERA+, which adjusts for league and ballpark.

Here’s the list:

2008 Edwin Jackson (TB) – 4.42 ERA, 100 ERA+
2009 Edwin Jackson (Det) – 3.62 ERA, 126 ERA+

2008 Garrett Olson (Bal) – 6.60 ERA, 67 ERA+
2009 Garrett Olson (Sea) – 5.60 ERA, 77 ERA+ (11 starts, 20 relief appearances)

2009 Roy Halladay (Tor) – 2.79 ERA, 159 ERA+
2010 Roy Halladay (Phi) – 2.44 ERA, 167 ERA+

2009 Scott Kazmir (TB) – 5.92 ERA, 73 ERA+ (20 starts)
2009-10 Kazmir (LAA) – 5.12 ERA, 80 ERA+ (34 starts)

2009 Brad Penny (BOS) – 5.61 ERA, 84 ERA+ (24 starts)
2009-10 Penny (SF, STL) – 2.96 ERA, 141 ERA+ (15 starts)

2010 Matt Garza (TB) – 3.91 ERA, 100 ERA+
2011 Matt Garza (CHC) – 3.32 ERA, 118 ERA+

2010 Javier Vazquez (NYY) – 5.32 ERA, 81 ERA+
2011 Javier Vazquez (FL) – 3.69 ERA, 106 ERA+

2010 Shaun Marcum (Tor) – 3.64 ERA, 115 ERA+
2011 Shaun Marcum (Mil) – 3.54 ERA, 110 ERA+

2010 Kevin Millwood (Bal) – 5.10 ERA, 82 ERA+
2011 Kevin Millwood (Col) – 3.98 ERA, 113 ERA+ (9 starts)

Now, granted, there are some huge sample-size issues here. It might be worth throwing out Olson and Millwood entirely, given that Olson lost his spot in Seattle’s rotation and Millwood got only nine starts for the Rockies. But I didn’t try to further my point by including John Smoltz or Ian Kennedy, since they had received only limited action with Boston and New York, respectively.

Anyway, pitching in the AL East is simply a different beast, in my opinion. That’s especially the case for Orioles hurlers. Not only do they often have to face four offenses that have tended to range between good and great, but they have to do it half of the time in one of the league’s toughest home run parks.

Guthrie, for what it’s worth, had a 4.33 ERA and a 95 ERA+ last year. In 2010, he finished with a 3.83 ERA and a 119 ERA+. As a modest flyball pitcher going to Coors Field, his numbers probably aren’t in for much of a boost. In fact, in adjusting his Rotoworld projection today, I merely dropped his ERA from 4.38 right back to 4.33.

Still, that makes him a substantial upgrade in Colorado. The Rockies got a 4.73 ERA from their starters last year, and the group averaged only 5.8 innings per start. Guthrie has averaged 6.3 innings per start in his career, and he’s been doing it against the Red Sox and Yankees, not the Padres and Giants.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.