Monday, 11 February 2008

Fearless Prognostitaction #1

I am nothing if not reckless in my willingness to make a projection about an upcoming season. Some such posts are more tongue in cheek than others, but I figure a safe prediction is hardly worth making, right?

So, with all the recent movement of AL pitching talent, why not let's discuss the 2008 Cy Young Award winner, hm?

Looking over a list of last year's most successful AL starters, you can probably make a fair guess at who the top 6-10 candidates might be.

For instance, we know that Haren and Santana are now out of the league, and we have learned that already Kelvim Escobar is looking at lost innings to injury.

With all the various circumstances taken into consideration, here's my list of the top 10 contenders for the American League Cy Young award in 2008:

10. Fausto Carmona - I was REAL tempted to leave him out of the top 10. He pitched WAY past his previous career high last year and such pitchers are notorious for regression or injury in the following season. I'll probably regret that I even allowed the possibility since I think he will regress hard this season.

9. John Lackey - Call me a skeptic, but I'm guessing Lackey spiked to his career year in 2007. If you look at the average good pitcher, when that happens he tends to regress to a number closer to his career norms the next season. Few, like Santana for instance, maintain that lofty level of work. That's not to say i don't think Lackey is a talented guy, he is. But my guess is something more like 16 wins and a 3.40 ERA this year.

8. Felix Hernandez - might still be too young too pull it all together, but everyone can see it coming. I'd put the odds of him winning one over the next 5 years at near 100% if you discount the possibility of injury.

7. Dustin McGowan - call it homerism if you like, but before you do, go and look at Dusty's opponent hitting stats from last year. Check his ERC. Admittedly, this is a high risk projection, but the skills are there if the growth curve is anything like consistent. I'll take this opportunity to say that on ability, AJ is worthy of top 10 consideration too, but the injury think keeps him on the outside. If he makes 32 starts though, he should be right in the thick of it.

6. CC Sabathia - listed this low mainly because it's so difficult to win the award back-to-back. He can't afford to drop back to far if he wants to claim a Santana like deal this winter.

5. Mark Buehrle - you can consider Buehrle as the placeholder for all the talented guys on teams who likely won't give them enough wins to make a run. Guys like Scott Kazmir, and Gil Meche, and Joe Blanton or even Francisco Liriano of he rebounds to his old self this year (which I think unlikely). Any of these guys, with enough breaks, could win 18ish games even on an otherwise unimpressive team. for various reasons I figure Buehrle is the most likely of these to get lucky.

4. Justin Verlander - Like McGowan, the deeper stats show his best year is still in front of him. With an optimized offense behind him, and still just 24, he's one to watch.

3. Josh Beckett - I can't really make an argument that he pitches any worse than he did in 2007. The only reason to downgrade him a notch is the difficulty of winning 20 in consecutive seasons. Too much can go wrong. This is agrivated by the fact that the Red Sox will have to ride their front two hard in order to save their pen in order to baby the kids at the back of the rotation.

2. Eric Bedard - Unlike many of my paranoid fellow jays fans, I DON'T think Bedard makes the M's a wild card favorite, because I recognize both that they got VERY lucky last season and that they have perhaps the worst defense in the AL. However, that doesn't mean i don't see the potential for Bedard to have a big season. He MIGHT lose some on defense, certainly the O's were not world-beaters with the leather, but he should profit from a bigger ball-park and a somewhat better offense. Health might be a concern here too.

1. Roy Halladay - Homerism? Sure. But not unjustified. Halladay prides himself on maximizing the efficiency of what is available to him. For a man who has already rethought the whole process of starting pitching to eschew the gaudy strikeout total in favor of less glamorous but more efficient groundball outs, giving him a gift like Scott Rolen's glove is of tremendous value. Quibble if you will about what the Jays lose at SS (while you sloppily compare McDonald's outlier best season to Eckstien's outlier worst) but mark my words, Halladay will maximize the best defense in the AL to his advantage and have a season which reaffirms him as one of the games best RHP.

Now you know,

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