Last weekend we needed help deciding who would be playing 3B for the AL Central All-Division team. Thanks to your support and participation (and after 169 votes) Danny Valencia came out on top of Brandon Inge.
This week we’ve been working on our pitching staff and things have gone rather smoothly. However, we are having trouble coming to a consensus for the 5th spot in our rotation. That’s where you guys come in. Once again we are putting it to a vote.
The top of our rotation consists of Justin Verlander (Tigers) and Francisco Liriano (Twins) who were both unanimous selections. John Danks (White Sox) and Max Scherzer (Tigers) also received enough support that their inclusion on our pitching staff was automatic. Our setup man and closer were also very easy decisions. Matt Thornton (White Sox) and Joakim Soria (Royals) fill those respective roles.
Now about that #5 slot … We’ve narrowed it down to 4 candidates: Carl Pavano, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and Fausto Carmona. Before you head off to Kings of Kauffman to cast your vote, I hope you will take a moment of your time to read the following as it relates to my reasoning for voting the way that I did.
When I was considering who to vote for I gave extra weight to their FIP, SO/9, BB/9 and SO/BB. I also took into consideration their age*, durability and likelihood that they could improve upon their recent track record. The last of these is especially important since we are concerned with who will represent the division best in 2011. This is not a lifetime achievement award.
*Age listed is their age on Opening Day
Carl Pavano – Twins (35)
I’ll start with Pavano because he pitches for the Twins. He suffers in this discussion because he’s the oldest of the 4 pitchers in question and is also the least durable having started 30 or more games just 4 times in his 12 year major league career. In terms of consistency, he’s also all over the map. 2010 was probably the best case scenario for him at this stage of his career and while he doesn’t walk a lot of guys he gives up a lot of hits and lacks the swing and miss stuff you’d like to see. I did not vote for Pavano on my ballot and as much as I’d like to, he just isn’t deserving of a spot on an All-Division team. In a lot of ways Scott Baker is a better candidate.
4.02 FIP (3rd)
4.8 SO/9 (3rd)
1.5 BB/9 (1st)
3.16 SO/BB (1st)
Fausto Carmona – Indians (27)
Carmona is the youngest of the group but that’s where the positives end for me. Among the starting pitchers in the AL Central I’d personally rank him 9th or so. His control, while vastly improved compared to the 2 previous seasons, still ranks dead last among this quartet. Carmona couples his control problems with an inability to put away opposing batters. He also has a propensity to give up more than a hit per inning. In five years he’s turned in one good, one average and three poor seasons and as a result he scores poorly when it comes to consistency.
4.11 FIP (4th)
5.3 SO/9 (2nd)
3.1 BB/9 (4th)
1.72 SO/BB (4th)
Mark Buehrle – White Sox (32)
If this were based on career achievement, Buehrle would obviously rank at the top of the list in the AL Central. Since his rookie year (when he was used primarily out of the bullpen) he’s been a rotation fixture and has made 30 or more starts with 200+ innings for ten straight seasons. Buehrle has certainly been synonymous with durability but he’s also paired that with above average results. This is evident based on his ERA+ which has been above 100 every season except one. Even then, in 2006, his 95 ERA+ wasn’t too far off of average.
All that aside, he just misses my AL Central rotation. I’d rank him 6th for 2011, primarily because he lacks the ability to put hitters away and gives up a ton of hits. In his 10 seasons as a starter he’s led the AL in hits allowed 3 times. Last year he made it four times but didn’t just lead the AL in 2010, he led all of baseball. I think it is safe to assume that he will continue to be around, or slightly above league average, in 2011 and probably for several years beyond that. In picking the division’s best rotation, I wanted guys that have the ability and stuff to dominate every 5th day. Buehrle is very good and while he has the guile and knowledge, he lacks the stuff and ability to dominate that I’m looking for.
3.90 FIP (2nd)
4.2 SO/9 (4th)
2.1 BB/9 (2nd)
2.02 SO/BB (3rd)
Gavin Floyd – White Sox (28)
Floyd doesn’t have Buehrle’s track record – he spent his 1st full season in the majors in 2008 – but he has made 30 or more starts each of the last three seasons. During that time, his ERA+ has been above average (119, 117 and 107). While his 107 ERA+ was down a bit, his 3.46 FIP in 2010 ranked 3rd* in the AL Central behind only Verlander and Liriano.
*He was also behind Zack Greinke but since Zack is now in Milwaukee he’s not a part of these rankings.
Floyd combines decent control with the best K rate of these four pitchers. He is young enough that it is reasonable to believe that he will take a step forward in 2011 and he has proven his durability since joining the White Sox prior to the 2007 season.
3.46 FIP (1st)
7.3 SO/9 (1st)
2.8 BB/9 (3rd)
2.60 SO/BB (2nd)
If you take the total of the 4 statistical categories I listed, Floyd comes out on top.
For me he is the best package of all the traits and measures I used in my evaluation. He lacks the warts of Pavano (durability) and Carmona (consistency) and while he can’t match Buehrle’s extensive track record, he does appear to be on that path while being 4 years younger. I can certainly understand why someone would pick Buehrle over Floyd and I’d listen to arguments along those lines. I can also understand why Buehrle figures to be the favorite to win the voting, but for me Gavin Floyd is the clear choice.
Of course I’ve already voted so now it’s your turn to make your own decision. Even though the poll doesn’t close until 11 am CST on Monday, head over to Kings of Kauffman and cast your vote right away!