Fearless Prediction: Starters Will Out-Perform Relievers in '06
I think there is reason to believe that this will happen. As we all know, the rotation had unprecedented failure last year because of Wilson's injury, Milton's ineffectiveness, Ortiz's mediocrity, and the growing pains of any number of young replacements. The lone bright spots were Harang (good pretty much all year) and Claussen (good after a rough spell in the first half). With Harang and Claussen returning with more experience, Milton unlikely to under-perform his '05 season, and the addition of underrated Dave Williams (who is at the same career plateau as Harang and Claussen... right around 90 starts when things start going better for most young pitchers), I see a front four with the following stats:
Harang 200+ IP, 13 W, 4.10 ERA
Claussen 180+ IP, 11 W, 3.90 ERA
Williams 150+ IP, 11 W, 4.50 ERA
Milton 200+ IP, 10 W, 4.90 ERA
If Wilson returns to form (a big if, I admit), then we're likely to get at least three (if not four) major league average starters out of this group. That combined with the offense on this team should produce a better outcome in the standings. I also think these pitchers are starting to learn how to pitch in GABP by keeping pitches down in the zone to coax groundouts. Ruhle seems to understand something that Gullett didn't, and it showed in the second half of '05. All of this has me feeling, well, okay about our starters.
The bullpen is like a brigade of human batting tees. It may actually keep my conservative starter W projections from hitting the mark. Long gone are the days of Jim Bowden bullpens with endless depth and replaceable parts.
Here is who we seem to have back there right now:
Mercker (our one solid option at this point)
Standridge (I was pleased with his performance last year in places)
Belisle (Best chance to be the closer I think)
White (mediocre innings eater)
Weathers (an injurty question)
Wagner (erratic at best, may be in AAA)
Coffey (not convinced about him either)
Even if Mercker, Standridge, Belisle and Weathers all show up, there are stil a few places left to be filled, and I just don't see the other players providing the starters with any kind of consistent support.
Yes, I'm not afraid to say that I think Harang and co. may be a bit better than advertised... but I don't think they'll get the bullpen back-up needed to provide them with W's.