Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Scratch that Litsch

I was caught in that fucking awkward position of kinda cheering against the Jays last night. Not to lose the game, but just for maybe Jeremy Accardo to give up a couple of runs on his way to the save. It’s crunch time in Fantasy Baseball and Accardo’s blip helped my chances. When the game got dicey I was hard on myself for letting it get to that point. Was I a fucking traitor? I didn’t want them to lose but you know, you waste so many valuable hours on Fantasy Sports that a maybe asking for a Jays pitcher to give up a few when the team is comfortably ahead is no big deal. But it was a big deal, and I was doomed. How was I to sleep with this guilt on my head? Thank god I checked my email and found this gem passed along. After watching it a few times and literally laughing out loud my spirits rose and I quickly forgave myself. Instead I focused on what the Jays did right to win this game.

The answer, like it has been all year, is pitching. Jesse Litsch pitched another fucking gem. Litsch’s story is as follows; He is a pitcher in his early 20’s who came out of nowhere, was promoted from AA and has become a pleasant surprise in the rotation this year. In fact, he has been so impressive that gingerfuckwad Jamie Campbell and (“the if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all”) Rance Mulliniks were calling him a main stay in the Jays rotation for years to come. Fucking hell! Remember Gus Chacin? He followed a similar career path as Litsch. He was praised the same way by many of you idiot fans. Now Gus never fooled me, and unfortunately his recent injury will never allow us to know how bad (or good as Dr. K might suggest) he really is. But trust me, he’s shit. Winning games is not a skill. There is no such thing as a winner, there is just lucky (Jack Morris) and unlucky(Dave Steib).
Anyway, to get an idea what to expect from Litsch in the future let’s compare him to Gus’s first (and only) full season.

Litsch/Chacin first year comparison
Player Year W GS IP H R ER HR BB SO
Litsch 2007 5 14 79.3 84 39 30 8 26 33
Chacin 2005 13 34 203.0 213 93 84 20 70 121
Player G/A K/BB BB/9 K/9 BAbip ERA *lgERA *ERA+ WHIP
Litsch 1.63 1.27 2.95 3.74 .293 3.40 4.63 136 1.387
Chacin 0.99 1.73 3.10 5.37 .299 3.72 4.45 119 1.394

They look scarily similar. Despite Litsch being superior in one category, which is the huge edge in GB%, their HR’s look pretty even when averaged out over a full season. Chacin’s weak K/9 is vastly superior to Litsch’s. I would have expected for Litsch to have a better BB/9 but is almost equal. K/BB goes to Chacin by a good margin. You also have to be wary of the 9 unearned runs Litsch has allowed. It is very similar to the 05 Josh Towers year when he allowed 24 unearned runs and scratched more than .5 of a run of his ERA. Remember, not all unearned runs are created equal.
BAbip looks close but there is a bigger discrepancy than it appears. This years league average BAbip is .302, so Litsch is .09 under. (Read marginally fortunate). In 2005 the league average was .293 so Chacin was actually .06 over. (Marginally unfortunate). Overall, I would have to give the edge in “numbers” to Chacin.

So, what happened to Chacin the following year?

Well in Chacin’s 2006 year his stats were almost the same except his high fly ball ratio caught up to him and he allowed 19 HR’s in 17 GS, rising his ERA from a very good 3.72 in 05 to a more reasonable 5.05 in 06. This is the one things that people who were not fooled by Chacin (myself, Canate, BP) were pointing out. Others (Dr. K, JP Ricciardi, maybe John Brattain- it wouldn’t surprise me) chose to ignore it.

So what’s in store for Litsch next year? Unlike Chacin, his high ground ball ratio should ensure there is no dramatic spike in HR’s. He should manage to stick around but his other indicating stats are pretty horrible, making the best-case scenario Litsch becoming a serviceable fifth starter. I think if he could pitch 170+ innings with an ERA between 4.50-.5.00 the Jays would have to be happy with that.

Otherwise it may be smart to “sell high” on him and see if you can get a SS with Litsch as a part of the package.

To finish, I don’t want to be a Dick (Griffin) so I will give you the other side of the coin. Unlike Chacin, who was pegged as the number three starter coming into this season,the Jays are not going to be depending on Litsch to be more than a fifth starter next season. So even if he does stink it up they are not hurting as much as they otherwise would have been (without the emergence of Marcum and McGowan). A Rotation of Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum and Litsch/other is still very solid.


Portnoy said...

I'm too lazy to find out where or look at the numbers myself, but I've read some shit that suggests Marcum might not be the second coming of Maddux either -- his peripherals don't support that absurd ERA.

It seems likely that Litsch isn't this good. Unfortunately, I don't think there'll be too much of a market for him. He's a soft-tosser, he was never a top prospect, and it's pretty easy to see that he's been lucky this year.

Luckily, we already have our 5th starter: Casey Janssen. League and (later on) Ryan, will allow Casey to leave the pen for next season.

Razzer said...

Marcum's problem is similar to Chacin's. His GO/AO is an even 1.01. And he has allowed 22 jacks this year plus his BAbip is a ridiculously low .255. Still, I think Marcum will be a solid #4 starter.

Portnoy said...

Agreed. I'm happy to have him in the rotation going forward. Good article by the way, Razzer, despite the title.

p.s. How much do I fucking love Matt Stairs?

Razzer said...

I thought the tittle was the best part! Matt Stairs is awesome and serious consideration needs to be made for him being our LF next year. We have holes at 1b, 3b, Cf, SS, C and LF (aside from Stairs this year. The first three can be expected to be much, much better but we need to get more production from LF next year. Either Lind has to step up big or Stairs should get the bulk of the playing time. As for SS and C, magic needs to be made.

Canate said...

Well done Razzer. (Poor John Brattain - he's now M.O.E's Ashley - "John take off your blindfold ... Careful, John. Stop!")

So If I had to guess for next year; Halliday worse, Burnett same in IP and ERA, Marcum worse, McGowan better?, Litsch worse. The future does not bode well in terms of treading water in the SP department - now before I jump over to the Allies I do realize the SPs have been lights out this year so a decline is acceptable, but Mama Mia we better score 150 more runs next year or even the Ethiopians will kick our ass.

Portnoy said...

Canate: I'm with you on Burnett (about the same), Marcum (worse) and McGowan (better), but why do you think Halladay will be worse? He had appendix surgery mid-season, and he has been unlucky this year on BABIP. I expect more innings and better number out of him next season. If Litsch struggles, he'll get booted. I think Janssen's our guy.

Also, remember that we took a pounding like Jenna Jameson when we had Ohka, Victor Zambrano and (to some extent) Towers on the mound. Our pitching numbers this season reflect that. So even if the starting pitching declines somewhat in quality (and I'm not even saying it necessarily will -- Marcum looks to me like the only outlier), we should still be better overall. I think 150 runs is overstating it, particularly since there's no reason to expect major declines from the pen.

Dr. K said...

Christ almighty Razzer - when I read the first few lines (about favouring your fantasy team over the Jays) I thought surely the post had been penned by Canate - seeing that sort of nonsense from you is dispiriting to say the least.

And the last thing I need in life is a lecture on player projection from a guy who thought Gabe Gross was the second coming of Mickey Mantle. I've been preaching the gospel of "winning is not a skill" since the early days of the sainted Jimmy Key.

Now maybe I was somewhat blinded by Gus's good looks and didn't see him for the complete waste of space he quickly became. One thing I would point out with respect to Litsch and Chacin - I have no idea how many innings Litsch threw in the minors this year (my computer's broken, so I can't check), but I'll always believe the Handsome One was horribly overworked in his first season, and has paid the price ever since.

On the whole, I'm not particularly convinced by the argument that "A's first year stats look like B's, so A's career path will follow that of B" (especially in this case, where you seem to suggest that the principal cause of Chacin's decline was his fly ball ratio, which you point out is the one area in which Litsch doesn't resemble Gus). So is it really all about the K/9 or is there more to it than that? And weren't we all saying the same sort of thing about Casey last year - namely, that his peripherals did not support his record and ERA?

Canate said...

I wasn't predicting a huge drop off from Halliday, but I think he'll probably miss slightly more innings, and he'll be one year older. I think we have to expect every year from here on out a slight decline over the previous. I'd like to consider your statement that "there's no reason to expect major declines from the pen." Isn't this still one of the best Jays Bullpen ever? Aren't Bullpens one of the most unpredictable elements in baseball? If ever there was a regression to the mean waiting to happen it may be the Jays Pen. I'll look at the numbers but when a bunch of guys come out of nowhere I think there's a big chance they'll head back there (I have confidence with Accardo and Jansen).

Why Am I always the nay-sayer! Damn me, and my untinted glasses

Portnoy said...

Why do you think Halladay will miss more innings? He's had no arm trouble this year, and he had his appendix removed mid-season, for fuck's sake. The numbers show that big right-handers have fewer injuries as they move into their 30s, not more injuries. A pitcher is most at risk in his 20s. Please explain your comments.

Pen-wise, I'm talking about the anticipated return of the great B.J. Ryan, as well as Brandon League. They'll cover for some decline from the current group. Remember too, that one of the reasons this year's pen has been so good is that it has had to pitch so few innings, b/c of the performance of the starters. It's not so much that the pitchers down there are having outlier seasons, as that they are rested, and that the back-end guys don't pitch.

Who's coming out of nowhere? Downs is having a career year, but he was effective last season too. Janssen and Accardo have the minor-league track records to support their current performance, while Frasor is off this season. Are you talking about Wolfe and Tallet? Even if they regress, I expect League and Ryan to pitch more innings than those other two have this season.

Dr. K: don't forget the hand-wringing about the great (or perhaps not so great) Dave Bush.

Dr. K said...

Ah yes, Dave Bush. I still can't understand why we agreed to trade Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax to the Brewers for Lyle Overbay.

I guess the Razzer/Canate prognostication machine was broken that day.

Razzer said...

Gabe Gross' line it 06.
.274/.382/.476 OPS+ of 119
Gabe Gross line in 07.
.240/.324/.472 with a unlucky BAbip of .247.
Bring his BAbip up to league average and you get his 06 numbers.

He would look mighty nice in the black hole that is LF for us this year or at least his lefty bat could platoon with Reed. It was a stupid throw in that didn't need to be made.

I never had a problem with the Dave Bush part of the deal.

Dr. K said...

Well, he's almost 28 and has a career OPS+ of 95. And if we had his lefty bat maybe we wouldn't have signed Stairs, who has been a revelation this year.

How do we know he was a "throw in that didn't need to be made"? I can't imagine we simply handed him over to Milwaukee for nothing - I presume it was part of the negotiation and they insisted on him being part of the package.

Razzer said...

You probably hadn't jumped on the bandwagon at that point but if you remember correctly the deal was Jackson and Bush for Overbay. Then smart as Gord Ash decided to tell melvin to say they would only do it if they included Gross, and as a last minute throw in they put him in the deal. (taking back Taubenheim to make the 40 man roster shit work) That was what I was actually most pissed about. JP crumpled under the pressure.

Also his career OPS+ is hurt by his rookie year of 59, but since he left he's been over 100.

Dr. K said...

You're right about that - I wasn't even aware that Toronto had a baseball team until late last summer. I'm still hoping someone will explain who or what "Maldonado" is.

Be that as it may, your anecdote sort of proves the point that Milwaukee wouldn't have done the deal if Gross wasn't included, doesn't it?

Wow, is this ever far afield from Litsch and Gus.

Portnoy said...

It's a little misleading to cite those numbers without noting that Gross has been used exclusively in a platoon role in the NL. If he had to face the occasional left-hander, those already mediocre numbers would come down quite a bit. Also, he isn't the most durable of players. Anyway, if we had Gross, we might not have had the full benefit of Johnson's '06, or Stairs's '07.

Going forward, I'm not as convinced that LF is a black hole. Even this season, Gibbons could have fashioned a competent platoon with Johnson and Stairs, and Lind, despite his struggles this season in the bigs, has a far better minor-league record than Gross. I'm certainly not writing Lind off.

Finally, Johnson probably isn't the on-base machine of '06, but I'm not willing to say this year represents his expected level looking ahead. Many, many players struggle when they try to return from significant surgery. Just eyeballing him (and Overbay), it seems that he's not moving as fluidly as he should. That'll be better with an off-season of rest.