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Thread: What makes a 5th starter?

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    What makes a 5th starter?

    Just a curiousity as Livingston goes and throws another tolerable game... Can a guy be successful as a 5th starter by simply not giving up very many walks or homers? Sure, he's rarely throw a gem, but he's also much less likely to have those bomb, no chance at all, sorts of starts. Where do those thresholds lie?

    If a guy manages to keep his HR/9 under 1, and his BB/9 under 2, you're basically looking at a game of somewhat standard BABIP. He'll end up with an ERA around 5, but won't often kill you and will have some nice starts when balls find gloves. Not saying we shouldn't continue to look for better alternatives, but it seems that simply keeping the ball in the yard and not giving away free passes can carry a guy pretty far.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    Just a curiousity as Livingston goes and throws another tolerable game... Can a guy be successful as a 5th starter by simply not giving up very many walks or homers? Sure, he's rarely throw a gem, but he's also much less likely to have those bomb, no chance at all, sorts of starts. Where do those thresholds lie?

    If a guy manages to keep his HR/9 under 1, and his BB/9 under 2, you're basically looking at a game of somewhat standard BABIP. He'll end up with an ERA around 5, but won't often kill you and will have some nice starts when balls find gloves. Not saying we shouldn't continue to look for better alternatives, but it seems that simply keeping the ball in the yard and not giving away free passes can carry a guy pretty far.
    So far, Livingston's pitched more like a #4 IMO. Belisle and Lohse have been the #5s in the rotation. Really, of late, Belisle's turned into a #5a level pitcher.

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    Making sense of it all Matt700wlw's Avatar
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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    Quote Originally Posted by Falls City Beer View Post
    So far, Livingston's pitched more like a #4 IMO. Belisle and Lohse have been the #5s in the rotation. Really, of late, Belisle's turned into a #5a level pitcher.
    I agree with FCB....I better have my head examined...

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    I'm less interested in the specific case of Bobby Livingston and more interested in the general question of an ability to succeed despite the standard indicators. Are we too likely to dismiss the guy who doesn't suck in favor of the guy who might be great if he just learns to throw strikes and keep the ball in the yard?

    I think we're pretty much looking at Bobby Livingston's ceiling. But if you can get 180 IP like this, that's a pretty darn valuable guy, even if he'll never be better than a 4/5 type starter. Are the guys toiling in other teams' systems who can't break through because of a bias against guys of his type?
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I'm less interested in the specific case of Bobby Livingston and more interested in the general question of an ability to succeed despite the standard indicators. Are we too likely to dismiss the guy who doesn't suck in favor of the guy who might be great if he just learns to throw strikes and keep the ball in the yard?

    I think we're pretty much looking at Bobby Livingston's ceiling. But if you can get 180 IP like this, that's a pretty darn valuable guy, even if he'll never be better than a 4/5 type starter. Are the guys toiling in other teams' systems who can't break through because of a bias against guys of his type?
    To your first question it depends: if you're smart enough, it isn't an either/or situation.

    But I much favor production over potential, when forced to make a choice.

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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    It's funny, how our standard indicators have changed, would guys like Greg Maddux, or Tom Glavine fit the mold of the standard indicators that we see used today?

    Not calling Livingston either of those but it's food for thought, what future Maddux or Glavine is the baseball world missing because of the standard indicators?
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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    The question though is that can a guy have sustainable production given those peripherals, or is it simply a case of living on a low BABIP until reality catches up with you?
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    Most #5 starters have issues. They're either on their way out because of problems, or on their way back in after problems, physical or otherwise. Does any team have a #5 starter who can be said to have a solid grip on the role?

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    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    As of before today, Livingston had a DIPS ERA of 4.55, and has even managed to overperform that with a massive BAPIP. To date that 4.55 DIPS ERA doesn't seem flukish. His numbers in AAA were good, and his improved control this season leads me to believe that his middling success could continue.

    To answer the original question, I would say that if Livingston continually pitched like this than he would be a very good #5. If he could duplicate this success over a full season I would be more than comfortable with him and Belisle as the bottom 2 guys (albeit I seem to be about the only Belisle supporter left).

    It really dones't take a whole lot to be a back of the rotation starter. You basically need the ability to keep the ball over the plate, keep the ball low, and strike out the odd guy. As of now Livingston has done that, and I don't see anything in his numbers this season to suggest that it can't continue. The one problem with these types is that if he loses even an ounce of his ability to throw the ball over the plate with consistency, then he's back to being AAAA fodder. These types are pretty volatile. It's why you see players of similar skill level (ex. Germano) are tossed around for nothing before proving themselves as worthwhile players.

    So I wouldn't count on guys like Livingston for more than short stints because he could lose things pretty quickly, but he can be a useable pitcher during his cheap years.

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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    The question though is that can a guy have sustainable production given those peripherals, or is it simply a case of living on a low BABIP until reality catches up with you?
    I'm not an enormous fan of a stat like BABIP. I think I've said that before. Any stat that tells me that X or Y player has been basically "lucky" for an entire season has to be called into question. Not that it has to be chucked, necessarily, but it has to examined a bit more closely.

    Livingston's not likely to keep it up (because of his peripherals), but one tends not to regard a fifth starter as a building block--so you ride the guy till he falls apart, IMO.

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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    My frame of reference is this: Based on what the MLB averages are for each rotation spot (I think you've posted it before, RMR), the typical #5 pitcher is a guy about to lose his job. Almost by definition, if you're holding down your rotation spot you're pitching better than a #5. So I guess the trick is to find five guys who are at least #4s.

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsFan75 View Post
    It's funny, how our standard indicators have changed, would guys like Greg Maddux, or Tom Glavine fit the mold of the standard indicators that we see used today?
    There would be some skepticism, maybe, because neither was a high-velocity bat-misser, but their early-career stats have to be viewed in context -- both made it to the majors very quickly (Maddux at 20, Glavine at 21). They had the foundations of their success in place -- superior command and the ability to keep the ball in the yard -- and the strikeouts came around later. Things haven't changed that much; pitchers who can keep runs off the board while moving fast through the minors will get their chances.
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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    What makes a #5 starter?

    If we're being literal, then the requirement is that you be the 5th best starter on your team.

    What you need from your #5 starter probably works in an inverse relationalship with what you get from your 1-2-3 starters, your bullpen and your offense. The more you get from those departments, the less you need from your #5 guy.

    Ideally what you probably want is a guy who can give you 5 or 6 decent-enough innings on a regular basis and then hand the ball over to a competent bullpen, a guy who may not win you a ton of games, but who doesn't get beaten silly with any sort of frequency.

    However, in the Reds' situation -- small market team that needs to give some younger pitchers the time and space to grow -- I'd be using the #5 slot for apprenticeships. What I'd want is a kid in his mid-20s who needs to learn the ropes in the majors. I'd have a guy in that role pretty much every season. At times it's going to be ugly, but that's the down payment you've got to make on "develop your own pitchers." They don't come ready-made.

    Aaron Harang was that guy in 2004. It paid off. Brandon Claussen was that guy in 2005. It didn't pay off. Elizarado Ramirez was sort of that guy in 2006, but he got injured and I'd argue he wasn't quite ready for the gig. Matt Belisle is that guy this year. He's going to make us wince at times, but the goal is that he stays healthy and bounces back stronger in 2008.

    It doesn't have to be one guy. For instance, the Reds aren't winning anything this season so why not start an apprenticeship for Bobby Livingston too? Aside from everything else, he literally is the club's fifth-best option. Given that not everyone you try in an apprentice role will pan out, it might make sense for the Reds to try two at a time until the rotation fills up.

    What makes a #5 starter for me, at least in the Reds' situation, is a kid who can take the ball every fifth day and learn from his mistakes.
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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    I'm opposed to stratifying starting pitchers as 1-5.

    What you're looking for in the back of the rotation is guys who can generally give you 5 innings per game with an ERA just under 5.

    Ideally, it's a young guy who has a chance to get better. I love having guys like Matt Belisle and Bobby Livingston in the back of the rotation. But realistically, it's a Mark Redman type who is just happy to have a job.
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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    Maybe #5 is the wrong moniker. Take that out of the equation. Can a guy like Bobby Livingston stick as a starting pitcher doing what he's done to date? I think the answer is yes. Jamie Moyer made a career out of it. Tom Glavine has been pitching successfully that way for the last 5-6 years.

    I think AK hit the nail on the head. The second a guy with that skill set loses it just a little bit, he's toast. The implication I'm making of course is that some teams seem to prefer filling those 4th and 5th spots with guys that have higher ceilings, but never really produce. You end up with 30-40 starts from guys who have a collective ERA of 7.50 and pitch your way out of competition.

    Sure, you never count on Bobby Livingston. You don't sign him in FA and you don't give him a multi-year contract. That said, don't underestimate the value of a guy who goes out there and doesn't suck. While all the attention is paid to the top of the roster, if you look at the best teams in baseball, you find that they aren't wasting spots on deadbeats. They don't have sub-replacement guys on their roster.

    Too often we equate a fungible, replaceable, but non-sucky guy with that guy who sucks out loud. We think "what's really the difference between Bobby Livingston and Joe Mays". Well, you saw the difference today. The difference between being replacement level, or marginally above, and being below replacement matters. It matters a lot. Just as Jeff Keppinger is a better bench option than Juan Castro, those spots on a roster matter.

    Getting decent value out of a few Bobby Livingstons, guys who aren't great and never will be, but are cheap and above replacement level, can have the same impact as adding another superstar. While I'm frustrated with the lack of top end talent on this roster, my biggest complaint about the Krivsky 25 man is the complete waste of the last 5 spots in the name of leadership, experience, or reputation. Stop giving millions to Saarloos, Castro, Cormier, Stanton, or even just wasting a spot on a Chad Moeller and realize that not every young player has to be a future all-star to provide value.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: What makes a 5th starter?

    I personally just think it is all relative to your team. If you are the 5th best option to be a starter, you are a #5. I hate a league wide label of a #5 starter. If he is your 4th best starter, then he is your #4.


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