Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Elarton, Johnson, and Millwood

I'm sure that many Indians fans are very upset about the fact that Kevin Millwood is not a Ranger, but I am not one of them. Sure, I would love to have Millwood back. But as I have written here before, he did not pitch as well this year as his ERA would indicate, and he is a big injury risk(the only reason the Indians had him to begin with was the injury risk), and sixty million over five years is simply ridiculous. Even if you assume he'll stay healthy, I'm not sure a normal aging progression would justify that kind of contract.

Then the Indians let Scott Elarton walk and have chosen to replace him with Jason Johnson. This is another move that I have no problem with. First, the Indians are hoping that a young pitcher like Jason Davis, Fausto Carmona, or Jeremy Sowers will step up and take over the fifth stater spot by the All-Star break. Secondly, Elarton got a $8 million, 2 year deal from Kansas City, who think that they will be respectable after adding tons of veteran mediocrity. Johnson signed with the Indians for a one year guaranteed contract with an option for next year. So if a youngster steps up and takes his spot, he can be jettisoned, and if he pitches well, he can stay.

If you look at Elarton and Johnson in 05, they were very similar pitchers. Elarton pitched 181 innings with +18 RAR, -6 RAA, a 5.09 eRA and a 4.37 G-F. Johnson pitched 210 innings with +18 RAR, -10 RAA, a 4.78 eRA, and a 4.46 G-F. Elarton is younger and has a better G-F, but Johnson had a lower eRA...it's a pretty close call, both for last year and for an expectation for next year. In 2004, Johnson had a 5.32 eRA in 196 innings. I think it's pretty clear that you should expect around 200 innings with an eRA twenty five points around 5 as a baseline for him. For the contract, I think he is clearly a superior choice to Elarton.

Don't get me wrong, I think Cleveland's starting pitching will be worse this year then it was a year ago, unless Sabathia or Lee can take a step forward or Westbrook returns to his 2004 form(very unlikely). But I would feel the same way if Millwood was still here. As a Tribe fan, I am much more concerned about the fact that it looks like we will go into the season with the three killer Bs (Broussard, Boone, and Blake) still firmly in corner positions.

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