With the 2010 season complete now that the San Francisco Giants are having their victory parade down Market St. (they are taking the same route the organization took in 1958 when the team arrived from New York), it’s time to start looking ahead to 2011. To that end, Ted Carlson asked the baseball staff at Fanball to give their early thoughts on the top-20 hurlers for 2011 (you can read the results at Top-20 Starting Pitchers for 2011). In that piece, Ted called me out for not having Mat Latos in the top-20, and for dropping Ubaldo Jimenez to 15th (no one else had Ubaldo lower than 10th). So let me get to defending myself (to be fair, Ted had Latos at 20 and he was the lowest of the five voters placing Jimenez at 10, so we actually weren’t that different with our views of the two hurlers).
Latos had a wonderful 2010 season, his first full year in the big leagues (more on that in a moment). Latos was:
10th in the NL in ERA (2.92)
6th in WHIP (1.08)
5th in BAA (.221)
11th in Ks (189)
Given those numbers you could, rather easily, make a case for Latos being in the top-20 starting pitchers for 2011. Why didn’t I include him?
(1) I went with Yovani Gallardo (#14) and Jonathan Sanchez (20) in the group – only one other voter included either arm – so someone had to be left out.
(2) Latos was great at home (2.45 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .193 BAA), but only good on the road (3.58 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .248 BAA). He’ll continue to toss his home games in a great pitcher’s park, but the home/road splits are something to monitor.
(3) My biggest concern is his late season failure, and that should have been written with a capital “F.” Not only was he 1-5 in his last seven starts, but his ERA soared to 5.66, while his WHIP went up to 1.51 while batters hit well over .310 against him. Was it a mere regression given how good he was early in the year? Possibly. Did he wear out given that he threw only 56 innings in 2008 and 123 in 2009? Should we be worried about the Verducci Effect – being under 25 years of age and seeing an increase of 30 innings from one year to the next – given that he added 67 innings to his ledger in 2009 and 61.2 in 2010? Apparently I’m more worried about that than others on staff are, but I will tell you this – given that he had health issues during the 2010 season, coupled with the fact that he has had them in the past, I’m concerned about his ability to stay healthy all season long in 2011.
Jimenez had a season that was even more valuable than the one produced by Latos. Jimenez was third in the league in wins (19) and strikeouts (214), while his ERA was 8th (2.88). Ubaldo also posted a 1.15 WHIP, 9th in the league, and his total of 221.2 innings was 7th in the Senior Circuit. So, why did I list him #15 for 2011?
(1) I still worry about Coors Field. With all the talk that the team might have been fudging things a bit with the humidor, will Rockies’ pitchers see a slight regression in 2011? Jimenez was 9-2 at home with a 3.19 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP at home, and it can be argued that he is the best home pitcher in Rockies’ history (27-14, 3.34 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in 56 games). I’m still a bit nervous though.
(2) Jimenez saw his ERA drop for the third straight year from 4.38, to 3.99, to 3.47 to 2.88. I have a hard time thinking a Rockies pitcher will be under 3.00 year to year.
(3) He was so great early on that a regression was always gonna happen. At the same time, he was the pitcher he has always been in the second half with a 3.80 ERA an a 1.30 WHIP which leads me to think that his 18 starts before the All-Star break was the outlier, not his “struggles” in the second half.
(4) His stuff is great, he had a career best 8.69 K/9 mark, but he still walked 3.74 batters per nine innings, below major league average. In addition, his GB/FB ratio dipped to a 3-year low at 1.40. That’s still a tremendous number, but the dip from 1.94 and 1.88 the previous two years is a concern.
Given Jimenez’s K potential maybe I should have had him higher than 15th. He might move up a bit before I finalize my 2011 rankings, but I have a hard time envisioning him sneaking into my top-10.
By Ray Flowers