Peter Gammons: Quick notes for a Wednesday in January

There’s been a lot of discussion as to whether or not Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds will creep up to the necessary 75% with five more shots on the ballot.

But it may not be that easy, because despite their increases, it’s difficult to ascertain how fixed hard-liners that did not vote for them will hold. For instance, next year Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Scott Rolen could get in on their first try. Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero should make it in. And what we’ve learned is that as players get close to their year ballot term limit, there are campaigns, such as for Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, or, in the past, Bert Blyleven and Jim Rice.

Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez will likely get strong support growth as they get within five years of going off the ballot. My guess is that next year’s biggest jump will be Mussina, whose numbers are skewed by pitching his entire career in the American League East in the Steroids era. Mussina made 342 starts in four great hitters’ parks: Camden Yards, Fenway, the old Yankee Stadium and Toronto’s Skydome. In the meantime, Schilling deserves a similar path to Cooperstown and voters should just ignore his victim pose.

Check Mussina’s numbers against fellow candidates, one Hall of Famer and three of the division’s future candidates:

Accompanying graphic from MLB Network Research

STARTS AT FENWAY, THE “OLD YANKEE STADIUM”, CAMDEN YARDS, SKYDOME:

Mussina:    342, 170-99, 3.66

Schilling:    74, 37-21, 4.09

Pettite:       236, 136-57, 3.73

Martinez:   132, 75-27, 2.69

Halladay:   191, 105-49, 3.30

Lester:        147, 67-38, 3.46

With starters’ career wins lessening, check Roy Halladay and Jon Lester. They’re going to get more discussion than you may now realize.

Mussina never pitched for a team in a division where there were a majority of pitchers’ parks. His annual consistency, nine top six Cy Young Award finishes and post-season brilliance against four extraordinary offense teams—Oakland, Seattle, Cleveland, Boston—make him one of the 25 best starting pitchers in the sport’s history.

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Every year at this time teams line up their five starting pitchers and we rate them. Problem is…the last time a team got through a season with five starters was 2003; the Mariners’ five starters—Jamie Moyer, Ryan Franklin, Joel Pineiro, Freddy Garcia, Gil Meche—posted for all 162 games, and Seattle won 93 games, finished 2nd the American League West, and would have made the Wild Card Game under the current playoff format. Since 1990, two other staffs—the 2012 Reds and 2012 Giants—got 161 and 160 starters from their five regular starters.

In the last five years, the average staff has used 10.54 starters, and in those five years the only team that used less than an average of 9 a season are the Giants, who, not coincidentally, won two world series in that time.

Which brings three key figures in 2017:

Aaron Sanchez. Aaron Sanchez is an emerging ace, possibly the best starter in the division. But at the age of 24, here is the question:in three seasons he’s jumped from 0 to 11 to 30 starts, 33 to 92 1/3 to 211 innings. Now how will he physically bounce back. He was recently checked out in Toronto and told the club he feels better than ever before. But the club will watch him, closely. Steve Avery remains on the mind of Sanchez’s agent, Scott Boras.

Jordan Zimmerman

If the Tigers are going to compete for a post-season berth, they need Jordan Zimmerman to bounce back and join Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer at the top of the rotation. The career line is not encouraging: his earned run average has risen from 2.66 to 3.66 to 4.85, his strikeout-walk ratio has slid from 6.3 to 2.5. The whiff rate has lessened The Tigers hope he rebounds. He’s been really good, they have to hope he climbs back to where he was.

Drew Pomeranz

When the Red Sox traded one of the ten best pitching prospects in the minors, Anderson Espinoza, for Drew Pomeranz after he made the All Star Team, they found out he had an elbow issue. Little was made of it, although Pomeranz was 3-5, 4.59 in 1 starts for Boston. But this weekend, Pomeranz told reporters that he had a stem cell shot for that elbow in the off-season, which raised a red flag about Boston’s depth.

Granted, Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price and Steven Wright were 1-2-5-6 in the league in innings pitched per start, but the only other major league starter is Eduardo Rodriguez, who had knee problems last season, and had to leave winter ball with a problem with the same knee. Without 145-150 starts from that group of six starters and a farm system already gutted by trades geared to winning in this three season window, they could have some serious issues.

Comments

  1. Actually, Seattle in ’03 won 93 and finished second to Oakland in the West and 2nd to Boston in the wild card. Still, I get the point . . .

  2. sanchez possibly best starter… sale possibly best starter

  3. Steve from Ct says:

    I understand that the issues with Pomeranz and ERod gives him pause, but quite honestly, I can’t recall the last time that the 4-5 starters made a huge difference in a divisional race. That said, if ERod and Drew Pom can pitch to their talent level, we could be talking about a special season here. This is the year I’d expect ERod to pitch well and quite frankly I’d prefer Steven Wright as the 5 due to the fact the a knuckleball pitcher not only is rare, but he screws up the timing of hitters for a game or two. DPom has ‘pen experiance (actually was very effective) and is an excellent fall back option. Lastly, I’d prefer to have only three southpaws in the roatation, as four can actually help a team set up totally right-handed. Great article as always from the HOF writer Mr Gammons.

  4. Sad that people didn’t vote Vlad Guerrero in 1st ballot, but Chipper Jones gets so many accolades. How many RF are in the Hall? How many in the last 20 years? 30?

  5. Peter…

    Don’t have time or ability….But didn’t 2004 Sox have some ridiculous number of starts by “Starting 5″…Martinez, Wakefield, Schilling, Lowe, Arroyo…161/162?…Abe Alvarez the lone wolf?

    • I checked – almost correct! Those 5 started 157, with BH Kim starting 3 and Alvarez and Petey Astacio starting 1 each. Good work.

  6. Juice or no Juice says:

    I’ll say this once and only once, you can try to pretend like Barry Bonds was not the greatest hitter you have ever seen, you can try to pretend like Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa didn’t save baseball, you can try to pretend like there arn’t guys in the HOF right now that have used steroids, and you can try to pretened that the entire league had an accepted steroid abuse problem…. but that is all you would be doing, trying to pretend. Stop pretending that the best ball players of the last generation were not the best ballplayers of the last generation… that is all