added 2/21/2008 by Scott Barzilla
Last time I talked about the projection business and normally I don't shrink from offering my own. After all, most of us end up being wrong anyway. The problem is that the landscape is still a little more than murky. The Astros just signed Shawn Chacon to a one year contract while the Reds signed Josh Fogg. The Pirates signing of Hyun-Byung Kim is a little less of an impact, but it leads one to wonder where the other impact veteran starters will go.
Casual experts love to talk about players meaning five or ten games in the standings. That kind of talk is hilarious at this point. Shawn Chacon will give the club an extra game or two out of the pen or in the rotation. Normally, that wouldn't mean much, but with parity comes the possibility that these late moves will have a legitimate impact.
The Reds lost out of the Erik Bedard sweepstakes and seem to have cooled on Joe Blanton. Picking up Fogg doesn't seem like a sexy move, but he has hurled at least 165 innings in each of the last four seasons. Coupled with the other additions to their club, it suddenly makes the Central a four team race. The Cards fell out when Matt Clement turned out to be further away from pitching than they thought. These guys always bring risk. So, who are the remaining starters that could impact the pennant race? As of press time, I could identify seven guys that could wind up in someone's rotation before the end of the season.
Bartolo Colon is the first (at least alphabetically). He is coming off of two injury plagued seasons, but he has had at least a two to one strikeout to walk ratio in three out of the last four seasons. Yet, only 2005 registered as a good season for him out of those last four seasons. Still, he might end up helping someone out at the end of a rotation.
Freddy Garcia had three straight two hundred inning seasons before he went down with a shoulder injury last year. The medical reports indicate that he will not be back until at least late May. Still, a team like the Astros (with questionable pitching) may welcome an addition in the middle of the season. Some teams have kicked the tires, but no one seems to be biting on Garcia yet. It will happen before the end of the season. The team that gets him could get a solid number three or four starter.
Kyle Lohse is the sexiest free agent on the list. ESPN.com rated him as the 11th best free agent this off-season. Carlos Silva ranked 13th and got a 48 million dollar deal from Seattle. Lohse's presence on the market is puzzling. From this vantage point it shows that there is still some sanity in the market. Lohse has never posted a sub 4.00 ERA in any season. Still, he is relatively young and relatively healthy. He doesn't deserve Silva money, but Silva didn't deserve Silva money. Three or four million sounds about right.
Rodrigo Lopez is a relatively forgotten pitcher on the market, but he posted a 3.59 ERA in 2004. All of fielding independent pitching figures registered below 5.00. That includes his time in the mile high city. Like Lohse, he is relatively young and was healthy until last season. He will likely land somewhere at some point.
Remember Eric Milton? I know Astros fans are sad to see him leave the Reds. Milton had a way of padding everyone's home run stats. Still, he was good for 160+ innings until he got hurt in 2007. His home run rate actually dropped to 1.09 per game in 2007. Of course, that was in six starts, so maybe we can't trust those numbers. His 4.64 FIP could be encouraging for someone out there and if you have a stadium with spacious dimensions it could be a good fit.
John Thomson had been a top-notch as far back as 2004. Injuries have riddled his career since. Still, he has impeccable control and he is adept at keeping the ball in the ballpark. Those are two characteristics that will keep a pitcher successful. Not coincidentally, Thomson has had sub 4.00 FIPs in three out of the last four seasons. Is he healthy enough to go another year? We may not know now, but expect a team to take a look.
Last, but certainly not least you have Jeff Weaver. One of the heroes of the 2006 World Series had a 2007 to forget. He and Scott Boras gambled that going to Seattle would boost his value. Oops. Pitchers with a 6.20 ERA usually don't have much of a market, but that didn't hurt Jason Marquis last year. Weaver's 5.11 FIP shows that he wasn't nearly that bad. However, all is not rosy with Weaver. His strikeouts per game rate has fallen in each of the last three seasons. He has good control, but low strikeout rates and high home run rates are a dreadful combination.
Sportscenter isn't going to do a huge feature when these guys sign. You won't see a Weaver category on the ESPNews ticker like we saw with Santana. Kyle Lohse will not have his press conference recorded on the national news. Rodrigo Lopez jerseys aren't going to sell like hotcakes. Still, I will bide my time before making any firm predictions in this forum. Any of these guys could potentially tip the scales one way or another.