Micah Owings. Yeah, if he's healthy, I'm going with Micah Owings. The guy has solid minor league peripherals. His K/9 rate (7.9) is a bit lower than I'd like, but his HR/9 rate is very good (0.50) and his BB rate is just fine (2.8). His HR rates haven't translated to this point, but should go down after he gains a bit more experience.
His 2008 was a tale of two seasons. His first 2008 season ended on June 1st. To that point, he'd produced an ERA of 4.17 despite a bad start on May 30th (6 ER in 6.1 IP) that pushed his ERA up from 3.73. After June 1st, his ERA was an abysmal 9.36, leaving him at 5.93 for the year. So was that injury or just a statistical return to the norm? Well, that depends on what we're looking at.
Owings' FIP was 4.80 for each of his first two MLB seasons on the mound. His xFIP numbers were 4.94 and 5.06 respectively. That looks like teh suck at first glance. Yet, Owings increased his K/9 rate from 6.2 in 2007 to 7.5 in 2008. A fly-ball pitcher can survive there. Owings' Defensive Efficiency rating in 2007 was .727 and .712 in 2008. Those DER numbers were higher then the overall D'backs DER in both those seasons (.693 in 2007 and .686 in 2008). But hold on. The variance is pretty close for both seasons and we know that Fly Ball pitchers, while they may be more prone to HR overall, may also benefit from higher DER numbers due to the fact that more fly balls are caught versus ground balls. His Infield Fly rates would have placed him among the top 12 NL pitchers for both seasons. And even tossing baseballs in a hitter's park, his HR per Fly Ball rates have been right about NL average (@11%). His LOB rate for 2007 was nothing exceptional (70.9%), but his 61.1% from 2008 goes a long way to explaining the major ERA jump.
I'd suggest that xFIP may be doing Owings an injustice. I'd suggest that a guy like Matt Cain receives the same kind of negative xFIP treatment.
While I often take both James and Marcel projections with a big block of salt, they're projecting his 2009 FIP (not xFIP) ERA to be 4.39 and 4.48 respectively while also projecting his ERA to be 4.52 and 4.54. I can get behind that because they're so close (even the peripherals), and neither seem to be over-projecting. It's a league average pitcher with a decent amount of upside as he continues to learn.
And here's something that isn't often considered...
Based on Owings' offensive performance three-year splits, he's may be worth nearly 12 Runs per 60 PA (not 600) versus your average NL pitcher. To put that into perspective, if Owings produced a 4.50 ERA versus a pitcher who produced the same ERA, it would be as if Owings were producing a 3.90 ERA instead.
At an ERA of 5.00, Owings' performance would replicate an ERA of 4.40 over 180 Innings because of his bat.
"The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer
"The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”