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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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4) arguing for the sake of arguing
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Free Agent Pitchers of 2004, Reconsidered
2006-10-13 12:15
by Jon Weisman

Following the 2004 season, I evaluated the top free agent pitchers. Looking back at it today doesn't bring much pleasure.

Here's a peek at 28 pitchers available on the free-agent market. Though it leaves off such players like hometown loyalist Roger Clemens and reclamation projects like Hideo Nomo and Shane Reynolds, and of course doesn't consider players available in trade, it still should give you a good idea of what's out there.

SNLVAR is a Baseball Prospectus statistic that measures the team wins the pitcher provides in comparison to a replacement-level pitcher, accounting for the quality of the batters faced by the pitcher.

Wilson AlvarezL34120.2109311024.031.1Still a top swingman
Kris BensonR30200.1202611344.282.9This guy was a primo July trade target?
Paul ByrdR33114.112319793.941.8Has his good moments and his injured ones
Matt ClementR30181155771903.683.2Good numbers, still underrated
Shawn EstesL312022231051175.84-0.1Somehow survived Colorado, somehow only 31
O. HernandezR3584.27336843.302.9Best-looking potential bargain?
Al LeiterL39173.2138971173.214.6Better version of Ishii: high walks but low hits
Cory LidleR32211.1224611264.901.3Durable in '04 – that's about it
Jon LieberR34176.2216181024.332.6Improved as season went on in comeback
Jose LimaR32170.117834934.072.7You're paying for spirit and magic, here.
Esteban LoaizaR32183217711175.701.5Probably not salvagable
Derek LoweR31182.2224711055.420.7Postseason success obscures truly lousy year
Pedro MartinezR33217193612273.905.5Still freaking good if not great, asking for moon
Kevin MillwoodR29141155511254.850.5Recovery potential, will poor 2004 lower price?
Eric MiltonL29201196751614.751.4Also gets Ks, but pricy and hittable (43 HR)
Matt MorrisR30202205561314.721.8Inconsistent
Russ OrtizR30204.21971121434.133.9Long overrated, people may be catching on
Carl PavanoR28222.1212491393.005.6Control good, Ks average. Too hip a choice?
Odalis PerezL27196.1180441283.255.0Stats similar to Pavano's
Brad RadkeR32219.2229261433.486.9Best season of 10-year career
Glendon RuschL30129.212733903.472.1Hmm … an older Odalis or younger Alvarez?
Ismael ValdezR3117020249675.190.2Cue the talkshows if he signs. Ug-lee K numbers
Ron VilloneL3411710264864.080.4Reliever who could spot start
David WellsL41195.2203201013.734.2Wily and wooly - great control gets him by
Woody WilliamsR38189.2193581314.182.4Another oldie but somewhat goodie
Paul WilsonR31183.2192631174.362.6Mediocre
Jamey WrightR2978.28245414.121.6Decent season in pitcher's park possible
Jaret WrightR28186.1168701593.284.1Another Leo Mazzone success – great comeback

Here are, in alphabetical order, the best-looking targets:

Top targets, regardless of salary
Matt Clement
Jon Lieber
Pedro Martinez
Carl Pavano
Odalis Perez
Brad Radke
Woody Williams
Jaret Wright

Top bargain candidates
Wilson Alvarez
Orlando Hernandez
Glendon Rusch

There really isn't enough pitching to go around, is there?

(Comments on the original post can be found here.)

Okay, so now, allow me to present the 2005-2006 stats of my top picks.

Pedro Martinez: 349 2/3 IP, 3.45 ERA, 8.9 K/9
Brad Radke: 363 IP, 4.17 ERA, 5.0 K/9
Woody Williams: 305 IP, 4.28 ERA, 5.3 K/9
Jon Lieber: 386 1/3 IP, 4.52 ERA, 5.8 K/9
Carl Pavano: 100 IP, 4.77 ERA, 5.0 K/9
Orlando Hernandez: 290 2/3 IP, 4.86 ERA, 7.9 K/9
Jaret Wright: 204 IP, 4.99 ERA, 5.2 K/9
Matt Clement: 256 1/3 IP, 5.09 ERA, 6.6 K/9
Odalis Perez: 235 IP, 5.44 ERA, 5.9 K/9
Glendon Rusch: 211 2/3 IP, 5.44 ERA, 7.2 K/9
Wilson Alvarez: 24 IP, 5.62 ERA, 6.0 K/9

Not too impressive, huh? Admittedly, I was only interested in most of these if I were desperate and salary were no object, but still ...

Comments (52)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2006-10-13 12:26:50
1.   regfairfield
Dang it, Jon, that's pretty much the exact same post I was about to put up :).

I found it interesting that Lowe has been the best starter from the 2004 class, not just on a dollar for dollar basis, but on pure performance (in terms of WARP). Not bad for a guy that was almost universally panned when we signed him. I liked the deal, but didn't think he'd be any better than a 3rd or 4th starter.

2006-10-13 12:28:28
2.   natepurcell
Interesting that Derek Lowe would be second best to only Pedro.
2006-10-13 12:42:19
3.   Jon Weisman
1 - I'll link ya.
2006-10-13 13:03:03
4.   Benaiah
I wonder if this should teach us a hard lesson about free agent pitching? Perhaps this is the perfect reason not to spend 50-70 million dollars this offseason on one of the big three. Also, it is funny that the contract that was universally panned at the end of the off season (D Lowe for 4 years at 36 million) has turned out to be by far the best signing of the off season (Pedro: 349.2 IP, 3.45 ERA. Lowe: 440 IP, 3.62 ERA, but for 4.25 million less a year). Score that one for Depo at least.
2006-10-13 13:05:54
5.   DodgerHobbit
We really need better quality relievers.
The bullpen sucked mainly because of innings pitched by relievers the dodgers got back in trade from the mets and d-rays. Injuries really hurt the dodgers pen.

I'd love it if they could coax Alvarez out of retirement to be a long reliever/spot starter. I would consider him an upgrade to Dessens.

Despite the glass and slash incident, I think the club really needs to consider re-signing Joe Camel Beimel. Out of all the mets and devil ray castoff relievers, Beimel turned out the best.

Lance Carter is already gone I think.
Hamulack should be jettisoned.
Have to assume Brazoban is rusty or still hurt. Ditto for Gagne. Osoria is still too wild. Cararra tires quickly, he can only be used sparingly.

Sorry for the ramblings.

2006-10-13 13:12:37
6.   DodgerHobbit
Your list underscores why the dodgers should re-sign Maddux. The grass really is not greener unless you are willing to spend 15mil+/yr for 5 years.

If the dodgers had to sign a big name starter I would prefer Zito because of Schmidt's durability issues and I would rather the Dodgers face Schmidt when they play the Giants than Zito.

2006-10-13 13:15:47
7.   Jon Weisman
5 - The inconsistency of middle relievers is precisely why I'd be wary of banking on Beimel for next season - having nothing to do with the (playoff) exit wound.
2006-10-13 13:35:40
8.   DXMachina
I'm just amazed Pavano made it to triple digits in innings.
2006-10-13 13:52:06
9.   Xeifrank
5. Bullpens minus the closer and setup man for most teams are usually stocked with starting pitcher rejects. Players not good enough to start or without the durability to do so. Like it was mentioned on here the other day, just try to get some young live arms and hope one or two of them work out. Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you believe in the old addage that the playoffs are a crapshoot all we really want to do is be good enough to win the NL West or take the wild-card. This years team was very efficient in that we just barely had enough wins to get into the playoffs AND just barely had enough wins to co-win the division. I don't see any other NL West team making any "earth-shattering" moves.
vr, Xei
2006-10-13 13:54:35
10.   Fallout
4 Benaiah
Score that one for Depo at least.

I agree, and with Kent he gets a total of two.

2006-10-13 14:08:18
11.   CanuckDodger
I have a terrible feeling that Billingsley is going to be in the bullpen in 2007. That might actually be a good thing for the bullpen (Billingsley looked fanatastic against the Mets in thwe post-season), but it would be a personal set back for Billingsley, and when Billingsley is finally a great starter, we will look back on Billingsley's reliever days much the way Twins' fans look back on Johan Santana's brief career as a Twins' reliever: a waste of a great talent's valuable pre-free agency time.

Why do I see Billingsley in the bullpen? The article about the Dodgers' off-season plans made it pretty clear that the Dodgers want to bring in a new starter in ADDITION to re-signing Maddux, so that seems to rule out going with both Kuo and Billingsley in the rotation. Some fans are saying trade Penny, but I just don't see that happening. I think Colletti simply does not believe it to be wise giving two-fifths of the rotation to pitchers with as little MLB experience as Kuo and Billingsley have.

2006-10-13 14:08:34
12.   Benaiah
8 - Pavano was the prize of the off-season that year. He had a tiny 3.00 ERA that year, despite peripherals that were nearly identical to 2003 when he had a 4.30 ERA. He struck out 5.96 per 9 in 03 and actually struck out less, 5.62 per 9 in 04. He walked slightly less batters in 04 (1.98/9 down from 2.194 in 03) and gave up less HR (.65/9 down from .85/9 in 03), but not enough to explain how his ERA dropped a run and a third. So even though that isn't what his downfall with the Yankees, there were warning signs that 2004 was an aberration.
2006-10-13 14:11:10
13.   Benaiah
10 - Not signing Beltre makes three.
2006-10-13 14:11:37
14.   Linkmeister
SI tells me that Kenny Rogers (starting for the Tigers today, mind you) spent the first four years of his MLB career as a reliever. So if Billingsley did that next year it might not be all that much of a setback.
2006-10-13 14:15:38
15.   Benaiah
14 - It does waste a pre-arbitration year by placing a great arm in the least valuable position (middle relief).
2006-10-13 14:21:00
16.   Jon Weisman
11 - Despite what you may have read (one article does not count as gospel), I really don't see Billingsley starting the season in the bullpen unless he has an awful spring. (Exception: if the team had off days in April and only needed four starters, then maybe.) Not that Spring Training should be a dramatic factor in a team's plans, but that's how I perceive they'd react.

I think the Dodgers will have to have at least six viable starting candidates in Spring Training, but one could be a Sele/Alvarez/Lima insurance type.

In any case, if Billingsley were to start the season in the pen, it's not like it would be a prison for him if he pitched well. Colletti and Little have certainly shown the inclination to go with the hot hand. I'd be more worried about what happens if Billingsley starts the season in the rotation and gets bombed a couple times in April.

2006-10-13 14:30:59
17.   Xeifrank
It would be disappointing if Billingsley were to pitch out of the bullpen. The only reason I could see for doing so was what Jon mentioned about the rare need for a 5th starter early on in the season. The only positive would be a bolster to the bullpen and perhaps a few less innings pitched. I just can't see it happening for more than the first month of the season. He shouldn't be handed a spot in the rotation on a platter, but I think most of us have confidence enough in him that he will earn that spot. vr, Xei
2006-10-13 14:57:49
18.   Bluebleeder87
Matt Clement imo is not a thinking mans pitcher

ps if your a Dodger fan you know what i'm talking about, even though it worked out for us Alex Cora

2006-10-13 15:04:38
19.   caseybarker
18 That was certainly an interesting moment.
2006-10-13 15:06:44
20.   caseybarker
The Tigers really look unstoppable.
2006-10-13 15:13:16
21.   Bluebleeder87

just look at the pitching sequence, wow, wow, wow!

2006-10-13 15:14:05
22.   Bluebleeder87

there on a mission

2006-10-13 15:16:48
23.   underdog
5 I agree with most of Hobbit's post here - except for the idea of signing Wilson Alvarez. He really seemed "done" to me last time out and would make me no less nervous out there than Carrara. I just think he should be on a golf course somewhere at this point.

I wouldn't mind Beimel coming back if his teammates don't, but wouldn't count on a repeat performance. The more options to try out in spring the merrier. One thing about the 2006 Dodgers and management is that as bad as their bullpen was to start the season after Gagne and Yhency were out, they weren't afraid to completely blow it out quickly, getting rid of or sending down a lot of the worst culprits. Not that the bullpen was that reliable in the playoffs, but it was overall a lot better after they tinkered with it. I'd like to see a mix of youth and veterans in the bullpen, and don't think Billingsley will end up there. But a combination of young players, and even younger players (minor leaguers given a chance) with a few solid vets should be workable. The question will be who, exactly. (Without even getting into the Gagne debate.)

2006-10-13 15:17:37
24.   caseybarker
So are the A's, but the Tiger's offense is really clicking now. Even Verlander had an off game, and the Tigers won handily.
2006-10-13 15:17:51
25.   CanuckDodger
16 -- Jon, if you don't see Billingsley going to the bullpen (outside of the start of the season), do you see Lowe, Penny, Kuo, and Billingsley all being in the rotation? If so, then you are saying (1) Maddux won't be re-signed (I think he re-signs for sure), or (2) Maddux re-signs and we don't make any effort at all to sign the "top of the rotation" starter that both Colletti and Little have been insisting we need, or (3) we make the effort but fail. Which scenario do you see playing out? And I don't think you can say "I'll just wait and see what happens," because you have already ventured an opinion about Billingsley's 2007 fate, which you would not have done if you wanted to steer clear of playing the speculation game at this point.
2006-10-13 15:26:29
26.   Uncle Miltie
25- I don't think there's any guarantee that Penny will be back. I could see the Dodgers packaging Penny with a few prospects for a big bat, re-signing Maddux, and then going after a #1 (like Schmidt)

So the rotation could look like this next year
#1 (Schmidt, Zito, etc)

2006-10-13 15:26:31
27.   caseybarker
The Dodgers will probably try to get six starters like they had in 2006.

Tomko is replaced by Maddux
Seo is replaced by Billingsley
Perez is replaced by Kuo
Sele is replaced by ?

I think Billingsley is ahead of Kuo in the minds of Little and Colletti because Billinsley has almost a half-season more experience than Kuo.

2006-10-13 15:29:34
28.   Bluebleeder87
I'd be more worried about what happens if Billingsley starts the season in the rotation and gets bombed a couple times in April.

i think Ned & Grady know what Bills has to offer in the rotation to let that question bother them,IMO. i'd really question them if they were unpatient with him.

2006-10-13 15:39:02
29.   Jon Weisman
25 - I don't think resigning Maddux is an automatic - we have no idea what his demands are. So I think 1, 2 and 3 are all viable possibilities - though I don't know if (2) really exists out there - who is that top guy? Anyway, I don't know how one could pick just one of your options.

I do think it's possible, though hardly definite, that the April 2007 rotation will be Lowe, Penny, Kuo, Billingsley, Maddux, with Hendrickson or his ilk on the roster as well. And I really would bet that with his overall good fortune in signing Sele, Saito and Beimel that we'll see some non-roster contenders.

2006-10-13 15:41:37
30.   Xeifrank
25. I will play for kicks and giggles. :)
(1) We don't sign a "top of the rotation" starter. Arguably, there aren't any available. Schmidt, Zito, Matzu(sp?)... perhaps but I bet we don't take the bait.
(2) That leaves us with Lowe, Penny, Guo, and Billingsley.
(3a) We will either sign Maddux or a FA #4 level starter, therefore filling out the rotation.
(3a) We will either sign Maddux or trade for a #3 or #4 level starter, therefore filling out the rotation.
(4) At worst Billingsley is the #5 starter and spots starts the first month+ of the season.

Note: Any unforseen injuries could change this plan.
vr, Xei

2006-10-13 15:43:16
31.   dzzrtRatt
19 I'm thinking Bluebleeder gets some of his posts from:

a) Those little refrigerator magnets with words on them, or

b) Boggle.

I kid, I kid! ;)

2006-10-13 15:45:40
32.   Uncle Miltie
If Ned wants Maddux back, then he will be back. Ned knows that Maddux isn't going to take a pay cut, so he's going to cost the Dodgers $7-8 million for a 5-6 inning pitcher. Ned has been quoted as saying that he wants a top of the rotation pitcher in addition to bringing back Maddux.
2006-10-13 15:47:14
33.   Bluebleeder87

Bills curve makes a guy like me very excited, mix that in with his 94+ screamer i really think Bills is in the rotation for the '07 campain.JMO.

2006-10-13 15:47:16
34.   trainwreck
Didn't Ned say he wanted a power hitter at the deadline and we got Lugo?
2006-10-13 15:48:39
35.   Jon Weisman
32 - Who doesn't want a top-of-the-rotation pitcher? Whether or not he can bring one in, whether or not there is one for him to bring in, remains to be seen.
2006-10-13 15:49:54
36.   D4P
Didn't Ned say he wanted a power hitter at the deadline and we got Lugo?

Didn't Lugo lead the Dodgers in HRs upon being acquired...?

2006-10-13 15:50:10
37.   caseybarker
Lugo has surprising, albeit warning track power.
2006-10-13 15:51:03
38.   Xeifrank
32. What is the definition of the term "top of the rotation" that we are talkinga bout here? And then... which "top of the rotation" starters are available? I would think by "top of the rotation" we are talking about a #1 starter. I'm hesitant to believe that Schmidt, Zito and even the Japanese pitcher are such. Sure, there is always the "trade for one" option... but #1 who are you going to trade, and #2 who is willing to trade a #1 starter away? There are probably about 20-25 teams that could use a "top of the rotation" guy, so good luck Ned. Not that it's impossible... but good luck doing so in a reasonable fashion. vr, Xei
2006-10-13 15:51:51
39.   Bluebleeder87

did you see the pitch sequence?? IMO not to clever, what's you're take on that at bat??

2006-10-13 15:52:31
40.   trainwreck
I do not see a chance for us getting a # 1.
2006-10-13 15:53:15
41.   Xeifrank
40. Yep. And there are bigger fish to fry.
vr, Xei
2006-10-13 15:55:58
42.   Bluebleeder87
Pinella is on a roll with his abvious meter
2006-10-13 15:57:14
43.   dzzrtRatt
I see Zito coming to LA. He's a Californian and wants to play on the West Coast. He is such a new age lifestyler, I would take him at his word. It's not just about the money for him. So we're up against five teams:

-- The A's can't afford him.
-- The Padres can't afford to spend money on more good pitching when their need is for hitting.
-- The Angels don't need him.
-- The Mariners are so messed up, he wouldn't make a difference.

That leaves the Giants and Dodgers. I think Ned would overpay to keep Zito away from the Giants. And anyway, it's unclear whether the Giants are going to be big FA market players this off-season anyway.


If Zito comes, I see Penny or Kuo getting traded. Penny would look great in a Yankee uniform. He's a hybrid of Kevin Brown and David Wells, with a touch of Goose Gossage.

2006-10-13 15:57:46
44.   Jon Weisman
I think even if you use my more liberal definition of a No. 1 starter (top 30 in VORP), you'll have trouble acquiring one. (Of course, by that definition, we already have one.)

I think most people's hopes on this search are destined to be dashed.

Some minor news in a new post up top.

2006-10-13 16:00:28
45.   trainwreck
Zito has openly said he would like to pitch in New York.
2006-10-13 16:02:46
46.   Steve
I heard a rumor that Julio Lugo hit the warning track on the fly once, but I refuse to jump to any conclusions.
2006-10-13 16:03:32
47.   Xeifrank
43. I guess it doesn't hurt to drrrrrream. :)
vr, Xei
2006-10-13 16:04:27
48.   CanuckDodger
34 -- I think Colletti said, before the deadline, that he wanted a starter and a hitter. He got both.

35 -- Colletti seems too PR savvy to be making the statements he is making unless he really intends to get what he is saying he is going to get, come hell or high water. And that is what scares me. You can get anything you want in baseball if you are willing to be stupid in the cost you pay. Colletti is not leaving wiggle room by making qualifying statements like "we'll have to see if it is possible to get what we would ideally like." The one area where Coletti is being frustratingly vague is with regard to the Garciaparra/Loney situation. Colletti SHOULD be shouting from the roof tops that Loney will be our first baseman next year. Garciaparra should be cut loose, no ifs, ands or buts.

2006-10-13 16:09:59
49.   dzzrtRatt
45 Does this sound like a Yankee to you?

Zito — whose hobbies include yoga, rock guitar and surfing — is known for his idiosyncrasies. His personality has made him a media favorite. He once made it a practice to buy his own autographed baseball cards on eBay; when asked why he bought them at auction for high prices rather than acquiring unsigned cards and signing them himself, Zito replied, "Because they're authenticated." In addition, Zito carries satin pillows on the road, collects stuffed animals, and burns incense to relax. Many Oakland fans first became aware of Zito when, early in his career, he dyed his hair blue. He has since earned the nickname "Planet Zito."

2006-10-13 16:16:53
50.   CanuckDodger
49 -- To the extent that he sounds like a Dodger, it makes me squirm. No more Jeff Weaver space cadets. And no Dodger should collect silk teddy bears, or wear silk teddies either.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2006-10-13 18:18:58
51.   Andrew Shimmin
50- Fascist.
2006-10-14 01:11:37
52.   william
43 - It's not "just" about the money for anyone. Predicting where Zito goes it a pretty futile game... It wouldn't shock me to see a surprise team blow him out of the water with an offer either (Baltimore? Cubs?)

48 - There are a lot of ifs, ands, or buts about Nomar. What is his injury status? What is his willingness to move to 3B? What are his salary requirements? What other options are there to improve IF depth? What can Loney get us in a trade?

49 - Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Wade Boggs, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Johnny Damon, Roger Clemens, and David Wells didn't sound like Torre-era Yankees either.

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