Recently, in a blog post on the SweetSpot Blog, David Schoenfield ranked the five best rotations in baseball. The Giants did not make the cut, even though Dave did acknowledge that the rotation is talented.
Dave had this to say on the rotation:
Yes, the Giants had the second-best rotation ERA in the majors last season, but I’m not sure I believe in Vogelsong, I definitely don’t believe in Zito, and soft-tosser Eric Surkamp is the only insurance depth.
I don’t totally agree with Dave’s assessment, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable, either. And the comment on the Giants’ pitching depth — or lack of — got me thinking a little: What exactly is the starting pitching depth situation for the Giants?
It seemed like a question that deserved an answer, so I decided to look at the Giants’ organization and highlight some potential SPs that the team could use as “depth” at the position.
Ranked in order of least terribleness:
1. LHP, Eric Surkamp
Surkamp should start the year in Fresno after he ascended to the majors in 2011. Surkamp’s biggest problem last season consisted of two things: 1) his excellent control in the minors evaporated once he reached the majors (Surkamp walked 17 of the 126 batters he faced; that’s a 5.7 BB/9) and 2) his strikeout rates plummeted (Surkamp struck out just 13 batters out of the 126 he faced). But, as we’ve noted here on BCB in various places, it’s hard to place too much stock into 26.2 innings. When it comes to a starter with moderate upside in the Giants’ system, Surkamp stands alone.
ZiPS projects: 3.85 ERA, 142.7 IP, 137 H, 61 ER, 11 HR, 59 BB, 116 K, 101 ERA+
2. LHP, Dan Runzler
I don’t really believe that Runzler has a future as a starting pitcher. He walks too many hitters. He’s been a reliever for nearly his entire career. And the most games started, at any level, in his career are the 10 starts he had last year in Fresno. But, depending on the injury/reason for need, Runzler could be a Band-Aid solution. He’s already on the active roster, which is a plus for his candidacy, and it’s hard to deny the stuff. Just don’t let him swing the bat too much. His knees will thank you for it later.
ZiPS projects: 3.80 ERA, 64.0 IP, 56 H, 27 ER, 4 HR, 38 BB, 63 K, 103 ERA+
3. RHP, Yusmeiro Petit
Petit is an interesting case in the scouts-vs-stats debate. For years it seemed like Petit was posting gaudy strikeout rates in the minor leagues while simultaneously boring scouts with what most considered pedestrian “stuff”. His early seasons in the minors are very impressive. Go ahead, look.
Then, 2006 happened and it hasn’t been pretty since. Petit’s biggest problem while pitching in the majors has been the longball. In 229.1 innings pitched he’s given up an unbelievable 50 home runs. That’s almost two home runs for every nine innings pitched. Baseball-Reference is telling me that Petit is tied for the worst home run rate of all-time (minimum of 200 IP) with Kris Wilson.
Rk Player HR/9 IP From To Age G GS 1 Yusmeiro Petit 1.96 229.1 2006 2009 21-24 71 36 2 Kris Wilson 1.96 243.1 2000 2006 23-29 95 20 3 Mike Johnson 1.94 218.0 1997 2001 21-25 81 32 4 Ruben Quevedo 1.93 326.1 2000 2003 21-24 66 58 5 Luke Prokopec 1.87 231.0 2000 2002 22-24 56 37 6 Brian Powell 1.84 219.2 1998 2004 24-30 59 34 7 Denny Stark 1.80 265.0 1999 2009 24-34 73 42 8 Rocky Coppinger 1.79 241.2 1996 2001 22-27 82 32 9 Brian Rose 1.77 284.1 1997 2001 21-25 68 54 10 Dave Stevens 1.76 251.0 1994 2000 24-30 183 6
Yeesh. That’s an ugly list. Pitching in AT&T should dampen teams’ power against Petit, but he really hasn’t done much in the majors to be considered an option for any team. He’s still young-ish at 27-years-old. Maybe Righetti can lend some of his flyball magic to Petit.
ZiPS projects: no projection
4. LHP, Brian Burres
Confession: I used to big a pretty big Brian Burres fan, and I’m not sure why.
Burres, originally drafted by the Giants in the 31st round of the 2000 Draft, has bounced around from minor league rotation to minor league rotation over the past few years. He’s a soft-throwing lefty that turns 31-years-old in April. He hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.00 in the minors since 2006 when he pitched in Baltimore’s AAA affiliate. Burres has made 56 career starts in the majors with a career ERA of 5.75 to go along with a BB/9 of 4.0 and a K/9 of 5.6.
In short: He’s a left-handed human that can pitch baseballs.
ZiPS projects: no projection
5. RHP, Andrew Kown
Andrew Kown has the dubious honor of being a AAA All-Star last season for the Fresno Grizzlies. Kown, 29, is a minor league veteran that has made 153 career starts in the minor leagues. He has never appeared in a major league game. I’m not sure what about his season with the Grizzlies made it All-Star worthy, but the thing is it happened.
ZiPS projects: 5.02 ERA, 118.3 IP, 135 H, 66 ER, 15 HR, 42 BB, 66 K, 78 ERA+
6. RHP, Shane Loux
From last year’s NRI post:
RHP Shane Loux, 31-years-old: The most interesting thing I can say about Loux as a major league pitcher is that he doesn’t strike out anyone. In 118.2 career major league innings, Loux has struck out just 38 batters. That’s a 2.9 career K/9 in the majors. Yikes. His control appears to be good, but he seems ultra-hittable. He gave up 84 hits in 2009 when he pitched 58.1 innings for the Angels. His pitch data (courtesy of PitchF/X) from 2009 suggests that he primarily throws a 90mph 2-seam fastball about 73% of the time. He might want to develop an eephus pitch or perhaps a knuckleball.
Loux then went out and made 28 starts for the Grizzlies, throwing 179.1 innings of 4.67 ERA baseball. Loux doesn’t appear to do anything exceptionally well. He’s unlikely to see the majors this season.
ZiPS projects: 5.12 ERA, 117.7 IP, 145 H, 67 ER, 12 HR, 30 BB, 49 K, 76 ERA+
Dave’s original comment above seems pretty spot-on to me. The Giants just don’t have a lot of depth past Surkamp, who had mixed results in his brief time in the majors last year. Petit is an interesting-ish arm, but his days of prospectdom are way, way in the rear view mirror. After that, it’s an unexceptional deluge of AAA arms and guys that really shouldn’t pitch in the majors. No team can 100% protect itself from injuries, but the Giants are, once again, going to lean exceptionally hard on their rotation in order to succeed and win games.
One of my biggest fears in 2012 is an injury to the front of the rotation. No rotation can replace Lincecum, Cain, or Bumgarner, but for the Giants, and the way their team is constructed, it’s going to hurt really, really bad if a key pitcher goes down. The team doesn’t have the depth, or an up-and-coming prospect, to fill the gap if an injury occurs.
Let’s all keep our pitching fingers (and tendons/elbows/bones/ligaments) crossed.