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Fun with Numbers: AL starters

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I continue my tour around the diamond with a glimpse into American League starting pitchers. The arms race picked up this offseason in the American League, with both the Red Sox and Yankees revamping their starting rotations. Veteran hurlers David Wells and Randy Johnson headline the moves, with familiar names Clement, Miller, Pavano and Wright also joining the fray.

To get the ball rolling and to frame the discussion, here's a number out of the final 2004 stats. Of the top 10 performers in ERA last season, only one pitched in the American League (Johan Santana at 2.61).

Let's start the discussion with Aruba's former favorite son ...

AL East
Sidney Ponson, Bal
The Orioles brought Ponson back in 2004 after his 10-game stint in San Francisco. He responded with the worst season of his seven-year career, setting career lows in ERA (5.30) and WHIP (1.55). Hitters racked up a composite .305 average against Ponson. He allowed four or more earned runs in 18 of his 33 starts, At least he takes the ball every fifth day.

Rodrigo Lopez, Bal
Lopez was unhittable in his first 12 outings in relief, compiling an 0.33 ERA. He struck out just over six hitters per nine innings and was at his best in the second half, with an 8-3 record. Lopez got the hang of the starting gig in September, where he went 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP.

Daniel Cabrera, Bal
The 23-year old hurler started strong, then faded miserably in the second half. He was 6-3 with a sub-3.00 ERA before the break; dropping to 6-5 with a 7.33 ERA and 2.00 WHIP thereafter. The rookie managed a mere 4.65 strikeouts per nine innings.

Erik Bedard, Bal
Bedard contributed positively to one fantasy category last season in his 26 starts. He averaged a shade under eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched. The 4.59 season ERA he posted seems downright tiny compared to the exploits of Ponson.

Curt Schilling, Bos
The World Series hero looked good on Celebrity Poker Showdown, playing the straight man to Ray Romano and Brad Garrett. Ironically, Romano passed a Yankees hat to Garrett, who later finished off the ace.

Schilling enjoyed pitching at Fenway, posting a 12-1 record with 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Schilling dominated down the stretch, winning nine of his final 11 starts with a 2.88 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP.

David Wells, Bos
Wells relishes pitching in big games and will be called upon to vanquish his former squad. In 31 appearances at Fenway Park, Wells holds a record of 10-10 with a sizable 4.87 ERA. However, he's 44-18 at Yankee Stadium with a 3.64 ERA. His WHIP at Yankee Stadium is 0.27 lower than at Fenway.

Matt Clement, Bos
Despite a far better than average ERA (3.68), Clement failed to crack double-digit wins. He boosted fantasy owners' strikeout totals, averaging better than 9.4 per nine innings. After the All-Star break, Clement's ERA soared to 5.09.

Randy Johnson, NYY
The Big Unit moves to the Bronx, where run support will not be in short supply. His low ERA and WHIP totals (2.60 and 0.90, respectively), if compiled with the Yankees, would have meant at least another five wins last season. Seventeen of his 88 runs allowed (19%) were unearned. Surprisingly, he allowed four or more earned runs in seven of his 30 starts. Of course, those rough outings were offset by 16 appearances with either zero or one earned run.

Mike Mussina, NYY
Mussina produced the second-lowest win total of his career. Not coincidentally, he also posted his second-highest ERA and highest WHIP marks. Mussina did maintain his ability to get the big K, taking down over seven hitters per nine innings.

Carl Pavano, NYY
Pavano's 18-8 effort brought his career record to within one game of .500. He put up career marks in every fantasy category, dropping his ERA a full 1.30 from 2003. Despite an ERA of 3.20 at Pro Player, he was a .500 pitcher. On the road, he recorded 12 victories with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Kevin Brown, NYY
There were enough questions about Brown's ability to hold up over a full season without him punching a wall. His 4.09 ERA and 1.27 WHIP were his highest in a full season since 1994. Even his K/9 total fell to a mediocre 5.66.

Jaret Wright, NYY
Wright was a great waiver wire claim for the Braves in 03 and really found his game under Leo Mazzone. His 15 wins, 159 strikeouts and 3.28 ERA in 04 marked career highs. And, his 1.28 WHIP matched a career best set his rookie year. He should win games behind the Yankees' potent offense, but the rest of his totals could be ugly.

Mark Hendrickson, Tam
Hendrickson pitched well for two months last season, but was downright awful in the others. On the whole, he was able to reduce his ERA by 0.7 from 2003, and his WHIP dropped 0.16. Hendrickson averaged 4.28 strikeouts per nine and was at his worst against the champs. The Red Sox pounded Hendrickson in four starts (0-4, 9.55 ERA).

Dewon Brazelton, Tam
The 24-year old Brazelton was recalled by the D-Rays in June and got off to a good start (2-0, 2.05 ERA). Brazelton went 6-3 at home with a solid 2.90 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. On the road, he was brutal in eight starts. His ERA reached a frightening 9.62 with a WHIP of 1.96.

Scott Kazmir, Tam
He's only 20, so there's plenty of time to get the hang of big-league hitters. One thing for sure, Kazmir will post some tremendous strikeout numbers in the interim. In his eight appearances of 04, Kazmir averaged 11.18 strikeouts per nine innings. He'll need to cut down on the walks to be successful, as he averaged 5.7 per nine innings.

Roy Halladay, Tor
The historically sturdy Halladay was limited to just four starts after the All-Star break. His first three starts after the break yielded 11 innings of work, but he finished strong with eight innings of one-run ball in an Oct. 2 start. For his career, Halladay averages 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings of work. He's at his best in September, with a career record of 12-6, a 2.47 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.

AL Central
Mark Buehrle, CWS
The Sox southpaw has averaged 16.25 wins per season over the past four years. He's also averaged a frightening 234 innings pitched per season. Buehrle posted a career-high with six strikeouts per nine innings.

Freddy Garcia, CWS
Garcia posted a solid 9-4 record with the White Sox in the second half after 5½ years in Seattle. Like Buehrle, he's a workhouse, having thrown 200 or more innings in five of the past six seasons. His 1.22 WHIP in 2004 was the second-lowest mark of his career.

Orlando Hernandez, CWS
El Duque returned to the Yankees in July and rolled to an 8-2 record in 15 starts. He averaged a strikeout per inning with a 3.30 ERA in 84 innings of work. Hernandez will miss the regular starts against Tampa Bay, against whom he posted tremendous numbers (10-3, 2.52 ERA and 0.93 WHIP).

C.C. Sabathia, Cle
It seems like Sabathia has been around forever, but he's still only 24. He posted a career-low 11 victories and saw his ERA rise to 4.12. The 6-foot-7 southpaw finds comfort on the road, where he wins at a 67 percent clip. Sabathia is only three games above .500 at Jacobs Field. While he learns on the job, Sabathia strikes out seven hitters per nine innings.

Jake Westbrook, Cle
Westbrook was rewarded with a two-year, $7.5 million deal after an outstanding 2004 season. His 3.38 ERA ranked third in the AL, but he'll need to boost his strikeout total to become a true fantasy force (4.8 per nine innings).

Kevin Millwood, Cle
After two seasons that boosted him toward the top of the draft, Millwood was a major disappointment for fantasy owners in 2004. His ERA and WHIP marks ballooned (4.85 and 1.46, respectively), and he posted the second-lowest win total of his career (though he did miss six weeks).

Cliff Lee, Cle
Lee got off to a torrid start in 2004, winning his first five decisions with an ERA of 2.87 in 10 starts. Then, the wheels fell off. His ERA from June-September skyrocketed to 7.00. Not surprisingly, wins were harder to find, as he went just 8-8 over that stretch. Fantasy owners reveled in his eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

Jeremy Bonderman, Det
The 22-year-old made great strides over his disastrous rookie season. He averaged more than eight strikeouts per nine innings and reached double-digit wins for the first time. Fantasy owners hope that his September stats (4-2, 2.53 ERA and 1.05 WHIP) are a sign of things to come.

Mike Maroth, Det
Like Bonderman, Maroth took a step forward in 04, managing 11 wins in 33 starts and lowering his ERA a full 1.42 runs from 2003. He did get into the fifth inning in all but one start, but averages a mere 4.2 strikeouts per nine innings for his career.

Nate Robertson, Det
Robertson was a nice surprise during the first half of the 2004 season, running off eight victories with a 4.11 ERA. He also averaged eight Ks per nine innings during the first half. After the All-Star break, he posted an ERA of 5.79, won only four games, and served up 20 gopher balls in 15 starts.

Zack Greinke, KC
Greinke got a trial by fire with last year's disappointing Royals squad. He put up solid numbers in both ERA (3.97) and WHIP (1.17), and struck out better than six hitters per nine innings. He began the 2004 campaign at Triple-A Omaha, where he posted a stellar 2.77 ERA before being called up.

Johan Santana, Min
If you only look at the final numbers, the true magic of his efforts are lost. On June 1, he was 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA. He went 18-3 in his final 23 starts with a spectacular 1.51 ERA. He averaged more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of the campaign and enters 2005 as a first-round draft pick.

Brad Radke, Min
In his 10th season with the Twins, Radke put up the lowest ERA total of his career. He also earned double-digit wins for the ninth time and posted his best strikeout total since 1998. One key to Radke is that he takes the ball every fifth day, having averaged 31 starts per season.

AL West
Bartolo Colon, LAA
Colon made contributions to two fantasy categories in 04, racking up 18 victories (matching a career high) and a shade under seven strikeouts per nine innings. Unfortunately, his ERA and WHIP hit frightening heights (5.01 and 1.37, respectively). For the first time in his career, Colon went an entire season without a complete game.

Jarrod Washburn, LAA
Washburn tallied double-digit wins for the fourth straight season. He was significantly better away from Edison Field, winning half of his road starts and posting an ERA a full two runs lower than his home efforts.

Rich Harden, Oak
Harden ascends to the No. 2 spot in the rotation following the departures of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Harden won 11 games and finished with an ERA a hair (.01) under 4.00. Fantasy owners enjoyed Harden's strikeouts (7.95 per nine innings pitched). The 23-year-old loved pitching in the spacious confines of the Oakland Coliseum, where he compiled a 6-3 record with an ERA of 3.02.

Barry Zito, Oak
At 26, Zito assumes the role of the crafty veteran in the rebuilt A's rotation. He's coming off of his worst season, hitting career-lows in three of four main rotisserie categories. He still averaged 6.88 strikeouts per nine innings, so that was a positive measure in an otherwise mediocre campaign.

Joel Pineiro, Sea
Like everyone on the Mariners, save Ichiro, things didn't go Pineiro's way in 2004. He'd had 30 total wins and an ERA of 3.53 in the 2002 and 2003 seasons, but saw his ERA rise almost a full run before being lost for the duration of the 2004 season after a July 25 start. For his career, Pineiro strikes out 6.5 hitters per nine innings. With the additions to the offense and a full offseason to heal his injury, Pineiro will be primed for a career year in 05.

Kenny Rogers, Tex
Rogers was just shy of his 40th birthday when he won a career-high 18 games in 2004. His average of 5.37 strikeouts per nine innings was solid, but his ERA and WHIP totals were dismal (4.76 and 1.48, respectively). Rogers won 12 of his 18 games before the All-Star break with a respectable 4.21 ERA. Things went awry after the festivities in Houston, when his ERA and WHIP ran wild.

Ryan Drese, Tex
Though his ERA went up almost a full run and his WHIP rose 0.36 between the first and second halves of 2004, Drese won a half-dozen more games after the All-Star break. He won 10 games in Arlington with an ERA of 3.26. Drese's road ERA was a full two runs higher.


Next time, I'll review the world of the closer. Several teams will begin auditions when camps begin in 17 days. I'll try to handicap those races before they hit the tarmac.

Have a great weekend.