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As I mentioned before, just going to be throwing up quick updates over the next 29 hours and counting. Despite their 3-1 weekend against first place Milwaukee, it looks like the St. Louis Cardinals will be sellers. Several teams have scouted the defending champs’ pen and both the Rockies and Indians appear to be interested in Troy Percival. Several other teams would be interested in Jason Isringhausen but he "has told the Cardinals he isn’t going anywhere."
Just because the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox hasn’t been what we expected in terms of the standings so far this year, doesn’t mean the two AL East power houses aren’t competing. The latest battle ground is reportedly Colorado Rockies first baseman, Todd Helton. If you remember, the Red Sox were rumored to be interested in Helton during the offseason but nothing ever came of those. Helton’s contract makes him no bargain but of course the Yankees might be coming into some extra money if they have their way with Jason Giambi’s contract. Of course, that’s assuming they can offer the Rockies enough value in return. It’s hard not to think that the Yankee’s renewed interest in voiding their deal with Giambi isn’t affected by Helton’s apparent availability. Helton’s .360 batting average would look mighty nice in the struggling Bombers’ lineup. The Red Sox on the other hand, already have a first baseman that’s performing pretty well right now and would be dealing form a position of strength. However this plays out, it’s nice to see the Yankees competing with the Red Sox on some level this year.
The Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies have agreed to swap troubled pitchers. The Rockies will send Byung-Hyun Kim to the Marlins in exchange for Jorge Julio. The deal certainly won’t be inspiring much hope in either fan base as the two pitchers each have ERAs over 10.00 (Kim at 10.50 and Julio at 12.54). No word yet on whether or not Rockies GM, Dan O’Dowd has been told ERA is like golf, the lower the score the better.
*Update at end of article
This article comes in response to some of the best discussion and analysis of a trade that I’ve been a part of lately, (read the discussions, here and here). I’ve decided to dive into some stats in hopes of projecting Jason Jennings’ 2007 performance as well as find out how much Coors Field actually does affect a pitcher’s ERA.
First of all let me say that despite popular belief, the infamous humidor was actually installed at Coors Field in 2002. This apparatus received a lot of press last year due to the Colorado Rockies pitchers’ amazing performance at home. However, as I said, the humidor has been in place since 2002. To be honest, I think the Rockies simply finally had a pitching staff that suited their stadium, not the other way around. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into some of the stats.
I’ve gathered a somewhat small list of pitchers who have pitched in Colorado and looked at their ERA before, during, and after their time spent with the Rockies. While the list is far from complete, it’s the best I can do while still holding down my day job. I’d love to do this stuff for a living but we’re not there yet. Without further ado, the pitchers and their stats…
Joe Kennedy – in 2003 with Tampa Bay he posted a 6.13 ERA. In 2004 with the Rockies, that dropped to 3.66. And oh, by the way, his ERA was 0.14 BETTER in Colorado than away from it. In 2005 Kennedy’s ERA ballooned up above 7 with the Rockies. He was then dealt to Oakland where his ERA dropped to 4.45 after the A’s converted him to a reliever. His career ERA now sits at 4.79.
Pedro Astacio – In 1997 Astacio went from the Los Angles Dodgers to the Colorado Rockies. His ERA with the Dodgers was 4.10 compared to his 4.25 ERA with the Rockies. Over the next 4 years Astacio’s ERA with the Rockies averaged about 5.50. He then dropped his ERA to 3.14 when he went to Houston, however that was only over the course of 4 starts. The next year with the Mets, Astacio’s ERA rebounded to 4.79, much closer to his career average of 4.67.
Daryl Kile – Kile had the best year of his career in 1997 with the Houston Astros. It should be noted however, that for the three seasons before ’97, Kile’s ERA averaged 4.57 with the Astros. In 1998, Kile went to Colorado and proceeded to put up ERA’s of 5.20 and 6.61. In 2000, Kile went to the St. Louis Cardinals and resurrected his career averaging an ERA of 3.57 for two and a half years, before his life and career were tragically cut short by heart problems. His career ERA was 4.12.
Jose Mesa – In 2005 Jose Mesa put up a 4.77 ERA with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last year with the Colorado Rockies, Mesa finished the year with a 3.86 ERA.
Kevin Ritz – From 1990 to 1992, Kevin Ritz had an average ERA of 9.46 with the Detroit Tigers. Ritz then went to Colorado and over his first three years there averaged an ERA of 5.03.
– In 1999, Mike Hampton had a career year for the Houston Astros. He
compiled an amazing 22-4 record with a 2.90 ERA. The year after,
Hampton had a 3.14 ERA with the New York Mets. Similarly to Kile,
Hampton then put up two horrible years with the Colorado Rockies.
Hamptons ERA’s over 2001 and 2002 were 5.41 and 6.15 respectively.
Hampton then escaped Colorado, moving to the Atlanta Braves putting up
a much improved ERA of 3.84 and 4.28 over the next two years. It’s
undeniable evidence that Coors Field kills pitchers right? Hampton gave
up career highs in home runs over those two years, so that has to be
Coors right? Not so fast. Hampton also had career lows in strike outs
per 9 innings as well as walks per 9 innings pitched.
AND, the clincher is that Hampton’s ERA was actually 0.76 WORSE away
from home in 2002 (his 6.15 ERA year). Even more astonishing is the
fact that 12 of Hampton’s 15 losses that year came away from home. By those numbers, Coors Field actually HELPED Hampton’s ERA.
So, what have we learned? Well, Daryl Kile and Mike Hampton sure seemed to suffer from pitching in the thin air of Coors Field. However, as we saw with Hampton, you can’t attribute their inflated ERA’s merely to where they pitched. Mike Hampton would have had a horrible year in 2002 if he had pitched at sea level. To top it off, I have the stats to back that statement up! As we just saw, Hampton’s ERA was three quarters of a run better at home than when pitching away from Coors Field. So, let’s go back and take a look at the pitcher who inspired this whole article, Jason Jennings.
Jennings is coming off a career year in terms of ERA. His 3.78 ERA was nearly a run better than his career average. So, will leaving Coors behind for the spacious center field of Minute Maid Park help Jennings’ stats? Before you answer take a look at Jennings’ stats over the last three years. His ERA has averaged 4.71 but is nearly half a run (0.43) better away from Coors Field. But wait, his ERA was only 3.78 last year, if he drops half a run off that he’d have a very good 3.25 next year for the Astros. Well, if you only look at last year’s stats, I’ve got some bad news for you. Jennings’ ERA was actually nearly half a run (0.41) worse away from home.
So, where does all that leave us (besides probably half asleep)? We’ve learned that you can’t simply subtract a run or more from a pitcher’s ERA just because he pitches half his games at Coors Field. In fact, several pitchers, including Mike Hampton, performed BETTER at Coors field than away from it. Last year, the Houston Astros’ newest pitcher, Jason Jennings, fell into that category. So, using last years numbers, his ERA for Houston should be around 4.00. If you look at Jennings’ stats for the previous three years, his ERA will be about half a run better away from Coors but that is only good for an ERA of about 4.25. So, looking at those numbers I’ll let you decide whether you’d want Jennings as your team’s #2 pitcher.
Update: I just found Kile’s split stats for his two seasons with the Rockies. His ERA was nearly 1.5 and 2.0 runs better AWAY from Coors than in it for his two season with the Rockies. It would certainly appear that Coors field had a negative impact on his ERA. However, Kile appears to be the only pitcher who’s stats support the idea that Jennings will be a drastically better pitcher away from Colorado. I’m still digging into the stats but I’ll post more when I have it.
ESPN.com is reporting that the Houston Astros have acquired starting pitcher Jason Jennings from the Colorado Rockies. The Astros will receive Jennings and pitcher Miguel Asencio for center fielder Willy Taveras along with pitchers Taylor Burchholz and Jason Hirsh.
The Astros found themselves needing to add a starter after Andy Pettitte decided to return to the New York Yankees and a trade for White Sox starter Jon Garland fell through.
ESPN.com summarizes the involved players’ performances like this :
Jennings, who was born in Dallas, was 9-13 with a 3.78 ERA last
season for the Rockies. He will make $5.5 million in 2007 and is
eligible to become a free agent after next season. He is Colorado’s
career leader in victories (58) and shutouts (three).
Taveras hit .278 with one home run and 30 RBI this year. He had
a 30-game hitting streak that ended Aug. 29.
Buchholz, whose medical reports may have caused the White Sox to
back off a trade, was 6-10 with a 5.89 in 19 starts and three
relief appearances. He was demoted to Triple-A Round Rock for a
spell and made seven starts there.
Hirsh, a 24-year-old prospect who is highly rated, made his
major league debut last season and was 3-4 with a 6.04 ERA in nine
Asencio was 1-0 with a 4.70 ERA in three games with the Rockies
last season and 8-7 with a 5.03 ERA in 16 starts and 22 relief
appearances at Triple-A.
Jennings is currently slotted as the Astros’ #2 starter behind Roy Oswalt and that is something that would make me a bit nervous if I were an Astro fan. While Jennings had a fantastic year last year, turning in a sub 4 ERA
while pitching half his games in the thin air of Colorado, this was his first year with an ERA under 5 since 2002 and his career ERA is 4.74. Sure, he might have turned the corner and become a much better pitcher last year, however, he could just as easily revert to the 5.51 ERA pitcher he was in 2004. Having that type of uncertainty in your number 2 starter is less than ideal and that’s before we even look at who the Astros gave up.
The Rockies on the other hand traded away a pitcher they were unlikely to resign after next year while he is at his highest value. By giving up a year of Jennings’ services, the Rockies gained three major league ready players. So, which team got the better end of this deal? As usual, only time will tell. At first blush, though, I’d have to chalk this one up to the Rockies.
As usual… time will tell.
Update: In response to this post over at Hot Stove and Beyond (you should add it to your reading list if it’s not already on it), I dove into Jennings’ stats a bit more. Here’s what I found:
I realize you (along with many Astro fans) want to feel good about this deal, however, I have to pick on your stats.
First of all, this was Jennings first year with a sub 4 ERA, EVER.
His average ERA over the last three years (including his career best
year last year) is still 4.71. That’s not exactly #2 material.
Also, you claim that leaving Coors will drop his ERA by a ********
1.5 runs. Well last year, Jennings actually pitched BETTER at Coors,
than away from it. By almost HALF a run. Granted his career numbers are
about .4 runs better on the road, but you either have to go with his
numbers from last year and add half a run for a projected ERA right at
4.25 or go with his career numbers and subtract .4 runs from his
average which would put him slighty higher than 4.25.
So, I’d say your new #2 pitcher is probably going to have an ERA around 4.25 NOT 3.25.
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Astros are set to announce a trade with the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jon Garland. To quote the Chronicle, "The rumor at the winter meetings is that Willy Taveras and Taylor Buchholz will be sent to the White Sox." Garland has accumulated 36 wins over the past two years starting 64 games and had an ERA of 4.51 last year.
If this deal goes through, Garland will be the second starting pitcher dealt by the White Sox in as many days. Further fallout of this trade would ripple across the rest of the league as the Astros are rumored to be the top suitor to trade for Colorado’s Jason Jennings and are also battling the Yankees to sign veteran Andy Pettitte.
Quick Update: FoxSports.com is now reporting on this possible deal. Here’s an exerpt: "White Sox general manager Ken Williams said no deal was close, and Sox officials left the winter meetings and returned to Chicago on Thursday morning. Most clubs were planning to leave the winter meetings Thursday as well."
They also agree with me on what this deal would mean for the Astros and Andy Pettitte. Again from FoxSports.com: "The trade, if completed, likely would signal the end of the Astros’ quest to re-sign free-agent left-hander Andy Pettitte, who is strongly considering the Yankees."