Happy Holidays


…and all I want under my tree is for the Reds or Angels to do us a solid and turn their supposed interest in Scott Podsednik into a real signing, thus taking the never-ending temptation away from Ned Colletti.

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We all like to act as though our favorite team doesn’t get the respect it deserves, I know. Yet Buster Olney’s poll of baseball executives about the top starting rotations in the game seems a bit off, no?

The Phillies got all 16 first-place votes, and the San Francisco Giants — with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner — were an overwhelming pick as the second-best rotation. The results (a first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote was worth four points, etc.):

1. Philadelphia Phillies — 80 points (16 first place votes)
2. San Francisco Giants — 61 points (14 second-place votes, one third-place vote, one fourth-place vote)
3. Tampa Bay Rays — 24 points (including five third-place votes)
3. Boston Red Sox — 24 points (including two second-place votes).
5. Oakland Athletics — 14 points
6. St. Louis Cardinals — 12 points
7. Milwaukee Brewers — 10 points
8. Chicago White Sox — 6 points
9. Atlanta Braves — 5 points
10. Detroit Tigers — 2 points

You’ll get no argument here that the Phillies are the top of the class. Yet shouldn’t the Dodgers, with arguably the deepest rotation in the NL, at least place in the top 1/3 of the sport?

Last week, in the aftermath of the Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum deals, Milwaukee blog The Brewers Bar tried to rank where the new-and-improved Brewer rotation would rank in the league by 2010 WAR (which is admittedly not perfect, as 2011 performances won’t be identical, but close enough). They actually omitted the Dodgers at first as well, until it was pointed out that the 16.7 WAR of the expected LA top five is actually superior to everyone except for the Phillies. That’s right, higher than St. Louis’ 16.0 and San Francisco’s 15.7. You know why? Because while Clayton Kershaw & Chad Billingsley may not be Tim Lincecum & Matt Cain or Chris Carpenter & Adam Wainwright (though you could certainly argue they’re not far off), it takes five men to have a rotation, not two or three.

I mean, Detroit? Sure, I’d love to have Justin Verlander fronting my rotation, and Max Scherzer‘s a quality young arm. Beyond that they have… Rick Porcello, a talented prospect who had nearly a 5.00 ERA last year? Converted reliever Phil Coke?

There’s plenty of reasons to bag on the Dodgers – believe me, I know. Let’s at least give credit where credit is due, and from 1-5 (and even 6), the Dodgers look to have one of the most solid rotations in the big leagues.

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Totally unrelated: we all loved Orel Hershiser, right? The 1988 season that still ranks among the greatest of all time, the scoreless inning streak, the ’88 playoff performance, the 19-3 1985, several quality seasons and postseasons with Cleveland after leaving the Dodgers; put it all together, and it adds up to 51.5 WAR, good for 58th all time among pitchers.

Orel Hershiser’s one of the best pitchers in Dodger history. But he’s not a Hall of Famer, I think we can all agree. That WAR total looks a lot less impressive when you realize that some of the comparable totals around him belong to guys like David Wells, Kevin Appier, Dave Steib, and Andy Pettitte. Those are pitchers who were very successful over a very long period – at times amongst the best in the game – yet fall just short of immortality. The Hall of Fame agreed; Hershiser received 11.2% of the vote in his first year of eligibility in 2006, and that fell to 4.4% in 2007, after which he was removed from the ballot.

The only reason I bring this up is because someone on Twitter – and I completely cannot remember who, so apologies – pointed out that Hershiser is a very similar, and in many ways superior, pitcher to Jack Morris. They each pitched in parts of 18 seasons, and they each are known for superlative playoff performances (Hershiser in 1988 and 1995-97, Morris in 1991). They had identical winning percentages and K/9 rates, and while Morris had more wins, Hershiser beats him in WHIP, ERA+, BB/9, and postseason stats (Morris had quite a few stinkers in October). Despite pitching 700 more innings, Morris gets destroyed in career WAR, at only 39.3 to Hershiser’s 51.5. That puts him in the range of Al Leiter, Tom Candiotti, and Brad Radke.

Orel Hershiser, a superior pitcher, fell off the ballot after just two years. Yet Jack Morris, a lesser performer, made it up to 44% last year in his 10th year, and seems likely to get even closer to induction – if not all the way in – this year. Just remember that when the results are announced.

Hershiser was a very good pitcher who falls short of the Hall of Fame standard. If Morris makes it in, what do you say to Orel?

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