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Beware Verlander, The Future Starting Rotation, Munson and Teixeira HOF Credentials



By Mike Silva ~ August 4th, 2011. Filed under: Hall of Fame, Morning Digest.

The dog days of August start to build separation in the standings. In the AL Central, both Detroit and Cleveland made deadline deals. Cleveland made the big splash landing Ubaldo Jimenez, who will start Friday versus Texas. It may not be soon enough as the combination of newly acquired Doug Fister, and Jacoby Ellsbury‘s walk off home run in Boston over the Indians, increased the Tigers lead in the Central to 4 games. The Yankees should pay particular attention to this race because it’s likely they will face one of these teams in the first round. They should be rooting for Cleveland, or somehow Detroit moving ahead of Texas in the standings, because a first round matchup against Motown will bring baseball’s best pitcher in 2011: Justin Verlander.

Verlander (15-5, 2.24) is having a career year. He leads the American League in strikeouts, innings pitched, and WHIP. He pitched a no-hitter earlier in the year, and nearly threw another one during his last start. Jered Weaver and Josh Beckett may have lower ERAs, but Verlander is clearly the most dominant pitcher in the sport. How dominant? The Hardball Times did an analysis on Wednesday that show’s Verlander’s season is right up there with the all-time greats.

Verlander has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning or later four times this season. This includes the May 8th no-no against Toronto. Since 1960, only two pitchers have carried a no-hitter for 5+ innings or more than Verlander’s four this season: Nolan Ryan with Texas in 1989 and Ron Darling with Oakland in 1992. Ryan also did it four times in 1973 and 1974. Doyle Alexander did it four times in 1976.

We have seen pitchers take over short series in the postseason before. Orel Hershiser did it to the Mets and Oakland in 1988. Randy Johnson (with a little help from Curt Schilling) dominated the 2001 postseason. Clearly, Justin Verlander is having the type of season that could see him achieve something similar this year. It becomes a worry for the Yankees, who may face him in a dangerous five game series.

Of course, the Yanks can counter with their own ace, CC Sabathia, who is having a career year as well. The rest of the Tigers rotation isn’t great, but it can compete with the Yankees. Verlander could become the difference maker in a short series. That’s why the Yankees should be rooting hard for Cleveland to start to close that deficit. Right now, it appears Detroit is taking over and we may be headed for a Detroit-Yankees showdown; a rematch of 2006.

***

Rob Neyer wonders at Baseball Nation whether the six man rotation is here to stay. He cites the Royals, Yankees, White Sox, and Mariners as team’s that have employed the strategy. He goes on to say:

The obvious reason is that teams are more concerned than ever about wear-and-tear on their starting pitchers. They’re always on the lookout for a chance to give a pitcher — particularly a pitcher who’s maybe a little gimpy — an extra day off, here or there. And if you happen to have six at-least-competent starting pitchers … well, why not?

The not-so-obvious reason is that baseball players are more sensitive, their agents and their union more powerful, than ever before. If you read between the lines a little, you might get the impression (as I have) that some of this stuff about six-man rotations is about not wanting to offend the sixth-best starter at hand

Five years ago, some of us were still arguing for a return of the four-man rotation.

Five years from now, some of us might be fighting a rear-guard action in defense of the five-man rotation.

I understand Neyer’s point, but I disagree this will become a trend. Why? Because even the best teams can’t find a competent five man rotation, so how can you ask them for six? The teams mentioned are the exception, mainly because of quantity, not quality. Seattle was going to do it to showcase Erik Bedard. Kansas City for some reason was worried about getting Kyle Davies work, probably to showcase him ala Bedard. The White Sox will try anything to turn their season around. The Yankees are doing a mini tryout in trying to figure out whether to choose Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova. No one in the organization sounded thrilled about going the six man route.

Typically you need 8-10 starters as depth to get through a season. The drop-off after five is significant where teams just hope to survive starts from 6 through 8. If you get deeper than that you might be staring at your season ending. Look at last year’s World Champs. The Giants needed only six starters throughout the season. The drop-off between Barry Zito (4) and Madison Bumgarner (5) to number six, Todd Wellemeyer (3-5, 5.68) is extreme. Would it be worth giving someone like a Wellmeyer extra starts to save Tim Lincecum?

Let’s look at the AL pennant winners. Ten pitchers started at least one game for the Rangers in 2010. Scott Feldman and Rich Harden had ERAs approaching six. Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Dustin Nippert are promising arms, but not enough to sacrifice a start from Cliff LeeC.J. Wilson, and Colby Lewis.

The point is most teams don’t have enough quality starting pitching to make this a trend. Out of the teams mentioned by Neyer only the Yankees have the kind of depth to justify a quality six man rotation. With a workhorse like CC Sabathia at the top it probably is unnecessary.

Even the best team’s have trouble developing pitchers. Unless there is a trend towards giving 4-A arms 20 starts a season for fun I doubt we see the six man rotation stick.

***

Tuesday was the 30th anniversary of Thurman Munson‘s death. A site called VoteThurmanIn.com is asking fans to send a letter to the Veterans Committee, urging them to vote Munson in the Hall of Fame. Some of the credentials listed by Vote Thurman In are:

1. AL Rookie of the Year in 1970

2. 1976 AL MVP

3. Was in 3 World Series where he hit a combined .329

4. Was the first Yankee since Joe DiMaggio to have three straight years where he hit .300 and drove in 100 runs.

5. 7 time All Star

6. Hit over .300 five times in his career

7. 3 time Gold Glove winner

8.  Became the Yankees Captain in 1976

9. Has his number retired in Monument Park

10. Lifetime batting average of .292

It’s very hard for me to fully evaluate Munson since I never saw him play. He sounds a lot like Don Mattingly who played on better Yankees teams. Using Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Munson’s 43.4 ranks him eighth among current Hall of Fame catchers. He is actually higher than Roy Campanella. Through his death at age 32, Munson had a higher WAR than Carlton Fisk.

The issue I have with Munson’s career is he really didn’t have a long Hall of Fame stretch. Seasons that stand out to me are 1973 and 1975-1977. He was already in decline before his death, and many speculate he wouldn’t have stayed behind the plate into his late thirties.

Personally, I think this is a discussion because he played for the Yankees. I don’t have a problem with Munson getting voted into the Hall, but I don’t see him as someone I would support.

***

Someone that is trending towards getting my support way down the road is Mark Teixeira.

Teixeira set a record Tuesday night by homering from both sides of the plate for the twelfth time in his career; a big league record. Eddie Murray and Chili Davis previously were tied for the record with 11.

Teixeira’s 306 career home runs have him sixth all-time as a switch hitter.  Ahead of him is Reggie Smith, Chili DavisLance BerkmanChipper Jones, Eddie Murray, and Mickey Mantle.

First base is a hard position to get into the Hall of Fame. There are only 13 members since 1901 in the Hall that played over 1,000 games at the position. He certainly has a Hall of Fame glove, and offensively he is right there with other greats such as Murray, Willie McCoveyTony PerezHank Greenberg, and Bill Terry.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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4 Responses to Beware Verlander, The Future Starting Rotation, Munson and Teixeira HOF Credentials

  1. Stu B

    “Has his number retired in Monument Park”

    I saw Munson play, and he was a great, hard-nosed player. But having one’s number retired by the Yankees is hardly a reason that a player deserves HOF enshrinement. With all due respect, the Yankees are kind of whorish with retired numbers – Ron Guidry, Billy Martin, and Elston Howard had their moments but were not all-time greats, but they have their numbers up in Monument Park.

    Had Munson played another 5-6 years at his level, he might have deserved it, but, tragically and unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

  2. DJH

    Right now NY would play TX not DET, the Yankees are leadingg the WC so they would play the team with the best non Sox record. I would say it’s pretty unlikely DET ends up with a better record then TX even when they started leading they were just a few over 500, right now they got a little hot but it’s most likely they go into postseason with the worst AL record.

    The only way I think NY ends up playing DET round one is if they beat BOS for the ALE crown but I still would bet on BOS at this point.

  3. Frank Russo

    Mike,

    It has actually been 32 years since Thurman passed away. I am not going to get into the HOF debate with you here since it;’ a moot point. Maybe we can dsicuss it on a future show. The HOF is a very political place, as we all saw when they elected Bill Mazeroski. I saw Thurman play in person and his career shoudl be looked upon with more than than just raw statistical analysis. He was a great player, leader and catcher, period.

    Stu, I think the term “whorish” is a harshi term to describe the Yankees with the retired. Guidry, Howard and Billy Martin all deserved to have their numbers retired for various reasons. The one player I have a real problem with is Reggie Jackson. He only played 5 years, and definately does not deserve to have his number in Monument Park.

  4. Stu B

    OK, call it what you like, but they and some other teams (the Rays with Wade Boggs come immediately to mind) overdo it.

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