Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2006 In Review Part 2: The Pitchers

Final letter grades, like we did for the hitters:

Chien Ming Wang -- A: Went 10-2 with a 3.13 ERA in the second half, was absolutely the Yanks' most reliable starter. It's a pleasure to watch the Wormkiller work, despite the fact that he just about never strikes anyone out. Outlook for 2007: Seems like everywhere you look, someone's saying that Wang's due for a big regression to the mean. I have to admit that I have my doubts, too. Still, the good news is that unlike with Shawn Chacon, last year, "regression to the mean" still makes Wang out to be a solid mid-rotation guy; which is more than we were expecting coming into 2006. I still hold out hope that he'll remain much, much better than an average innings-eater.

Mariano Rivera -- A: Ho hum, more excellence. The only chink in Rivera's armor was the elbow trouble that took him out of service for much of September. Still, overall Rivera notched 34 saves in 37 opportunities, and pitched well despite heavy use prior to the injury. Outlook: Will Rivera slow down, now that he's 37 years old? A lot could depend on the Yanks getting some reliable arms to back him in the bullpen. Off-season acquisitions Wayne Britton and Kevin Wheelan could be play a huge role in avoiding the kind of innings crunch Rivera faced last year.

Mike Mussina -- A-: The Moose didn't maintain his first half performance, but then again, that was hardly expected. Like Rivera, he had to take a breather late in the season. Gets an A- rather than a B+ because his 2006 performance was both surprisingly good and really beautiful--every fifth day, Mussina gave a clinic on pitching, despite his diminished stuff. Outlook: On board for another two years, he may not manage a 3.51 ERA again, but he should be able to hold down that #2 spot in the rotation, and pass the 250 win mark in 2007.

Scott Proctor -- B+: Most improved player of the second half--jumped up by more than a grade from the mid-season report card. Proctor cut his ERA in half after the All-Star Break; he also dramatically reduced his walk and home run rates. Outlook: He'll be Rivera's primary setup man in 2007; hopefully Torre won't take his rubber arm for granted, causing it to snap.

Brian Bruney -- B+: A revelation after being picked up on waivers in the second half. He's wild (15 BB in 20 2/3 IP) but he's also cookin' with some heat (25 K). Good things happen when you shop for bargains. Outlook: Twenty innings is a very small sample, so it's way too early to declare Bruney the next big thing. A darn good bet to see his ERA rise, if only because it was 0.87 in 2006. Still, the possibility is open that he could wind up providing the kind of pitching the Yankees expected to get from Kyle Farnsworth.

Matt Smith -- B+: Didn't get a chance to louse up his perfect Yankees season, going over as the major league portion of the Bobby Abreu trade. Just what you want from an unheralded prospect--have a few good weeks, then bring back a star player while your trade value is at its highest. Outlook: He should be the second lefty in the Phillies' bullpen; like Bruney, ERA inflation is a given.

Jeff Karstens -- B: Called on to fill in during Mussina's injury, Karstens provided four quality starts in six opportunities. Yet another decent return from what some people regarded as a bankrupt minor league system. Outlook: He's a scary flyball pitcher, which means that this nice performance could be his ceiling. Still, it's not the end of the world if he winds up as the fifth starter.

Jaret Wright -- B-: Did a solid job in the #4 spot, which was way more than anyone expected coming into the season. Then he got traded for a living, breathing young pitcher, which was way more than anyone expected coming into 2006. Outlook: Wright won't exactly be a stranger, given how often the unbalanced schedule matches up the Yanks and Orioles--unless, that is, Wright's shoulder acts up on him again. Still, his outlook should be strong, now that he's been reunited with Leo Mazzone. Trading him was still the right thing to do.

Darrell Rasner -- B-: Rasner has a better pedigree than Karstens, but wound up not having as much playing time or success. Still, he contributed some good innings down the stretch, and his total performance is skewed by his final, awful start against the Orioles. Outlook: Like Karstens, there are worse fifth starters in the league; there are a number of barriers, and a lot of competition before he'll get that shot.

Kyle Farnsworth -- C+: Big disappointment, particularly with all the hothouse flower rules that were applied to his usage--Kyle doesn't like to pitch back-to-back days, doesn't pitch well when he comes in with guys on base, and he has a balky back that sometimes keeps him from being available at all. The fact that he was so often unavailable put extra pressure on Rivera, Villone, and Proctor.

Mike Myers -- C:+ Ugly second half; some question whether the Yanks have the luxury of carrying around a pitcher who won't break 40 innings for the year. Still, it was nice having someone to pitch to David Ortiz in a tight spot. Outlook: Should be doing his LOOGY thing once again next year.

Jose Veras -- C: Probably the guy who loses the most from all the righty relief prospects the Yanks have picked up. Eleven good innings weren't quite enough to give him any priority in the pecking order. Outlook: We hear the new AAA site in Scranton is just a two-hour drive away from the Stadium.

Cory Lidle -- Pass

Randy Johnson -- D+: Put the seventeen wins on one side of the scale, then put the supposed "ace" of the staff with a below-league-average 5.00 ERA on the other. The image that we came away from 2006 with was that Johnson was a big surly guy who couldn't pitch when he didn't have his good stuff. Outlook: If the stories are to be believed, he'll be headed out of town soon for dimes on the dollar, complete with the legacy of being the second coming of Kevin Brown.

Ron Villone -- D+: Villone's godawful second half is well-documented. Given the fact that he couldn't get anyone out down the stretch, it was a total shock when the Yankees offered arbitration. This may have been one of those matters where player and team agreed that Villone would refuse arb, which he did. Outlook: Under the new rules, Villone's standing as a type B free agent won't have a negative impact on any team that signs him--the Yanks will just get a sandwich pick.

Tanyon Sturtze -- D: Sturtze's Yankee career, which started under bizarre circumstances in 2004, ended with shoulder pain in 2006. There's no evidence that he was ever actually, y'know, good at any point during this tenure, even though he got a fair number of high-leverage innings from Joe Torre. Outlook: Picked up by Atlanta, which isn't as promising as it was back when Mazzone was the pitching coach.

TJ Beam -- D: What went for Veras, goes twice as hard for Beam, who showed nothing in his major league tryouts despite good performance at Columbus. Outlook: There are two paths in front of Bean right now: one that says "Scott Proctor" and another that says "Colter Bean, among others." At stake is a nice summer spent touring the International League, or another shot at the Show.

Sidney Ponson -- D-: Allowed 20 runs in 16 1/3 Yankee innings, which is an awful, awful performance. Ponson's reign of terror in the Bronx lasted only a month, but the repercussions will be felt for...who am I kidding? A year from now, will anyone remember that this bloated scofflaw wore pinstripes? Outlook: Only just turned thirty, and still throws pretty hard--I have a feeling someone will give big Sidney a few more chances to prove he can't pitch.

Shawn Chacon -- D-: Okay, so 2005 turned out to be a fluke, right? Chacon was traded for Craig Wilson, and performed better as a Pirate than he had as a Yankee. Just because he performed better doesn't mean he performed well. Outlook: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a darn.

Octavio Dotel -- D-: a/k/a, the Human Torch. Dotel was the pipe dream we were fed all summer, the guy who would come back from injury any moment now to make things right in the Yankee bullpen. That didn't work out--Dotel showed no sign of being major league ready, but was brought up to the Show anyway because he was on a one-year contract while he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. Outlook: Signed on as closer for the Royals, may Lord have mercy on his and their souls. Seriously, full recovery from TJ surgery usually takes a year and a half or more, so Dotel's awful performance at the end of the year is not necessarily the last word on his career.

Aaron Small -- F: Every fairy tale ends, and the sports ones almosy always end with someone eventually being unable to hack it at the highest level of competition. Outlook: Not sure where he's hooked on, if anywhere, but I think I can speak for most Yankee fans in wishing him well. Unless he joins the Red Sox, that is :)

Incompletes: Sean Henn (lefthanded and has a pulse), Kris Wilson (righthanded, check him for a pulse), Colter Bean (must have cheated Cashman at cards some time--just absolutely buried in this organization, needs to go to Japan or something), Carl Pavano ("You're dead to me, Carlo").


BubbaFan said...

Alas, poor Beam. I like the kid, but I don't think he was ready for prime time. His laser-straight fastball blows right by minor leaguers, but is a home run waiting to happen in the big show. But I think he'll be Scott Proctor, not Colter Bean, if only because they seem to like him.

Shawn Chacon will probably end up staying in Pittsburgh. I wonder if his poor performance this year was due to injury? He's reportedly having knee surgery during the off-season.

Aaron Small was considering retirement a couple of years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if he retired now. It's been a rough year for him. He was a boyhood chum of Cory Lidle's; his dad presided over Lidle's funeral.

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