Friday, December 7, 2007

You learn Something New Every Day, Last Friday of the Semester

(A thanks to Jay Destro for the idea, and to Baseball Reference for being the G-d of baseball statistics!)

Right, for this week's YLSNED, I thought I'd take a look at some historical teams that had started a rotation with three or more pitchers under thirty, perhaps as some food for thought given the Yankees' probable rotation next year.

First of all, you have what I consider the 'classic, best scenario example', the 1993 Atlanta Braves, with John Smoltz, Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine.

Maddox and Glavine were both 27 and Smoltz was 26.

The Braves won 104 games. Glavine was 22-6, Maddox 20-10 and Smoltz 15-11. The Braves only made it to the NLCS that year, but the year before they had made it to the World Series, and in 1995 (with no WS in 1994), they won it all.

I consider the Braves the classic success story because of the fourteen straight chances at a World Series, and the team they were able to build around their 'big three' that lasted nearly all of the nineties and into the beginning of the new millennium.

Right. Next example:

The 2003 Chicago Cubs. They are a great example of having something great...and then having it go way, way astray.

Kerry Wood, at 26, was 14-11. Mark Prior, at 22 was 18-6. Carlos Zambrano, at 22, was 13-11.

The team went to the NLCS, and if not for a fan's interfering with a foul ball (and a curse of some sort of goat thingie) would have likely met either the Yankees or Red Sox in the World Series (THAT would have been some series!)

Of those three starters, however, only Carlos Zambrano now still pitches on a regular basis, having just signed a massive $90 million contract extension. Wood has not won more than 10 games since, and Mark Prior has battled serious injury concerns, going just 1-6 in 2006.

The culprit? Overuse of the young pitching arms, which has had almost immediate effects with other teams across the league, which for Yankee fans will be familiar with two words: "Joba Rules"

Third example:

The team that beat the Cubs, AND the Yankees in 2003. Also known as 'why Loria will never be my friend'.

The Florida Marlins in 2003 won the World Series with a pitching rotation that included Dontrelle Willis, Mark Redman, Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano and Brad Penny.

At 21, Willis went 14-6. At 23 Josh Becket was only 9-8, but came up huge in the postseason. At 27, Carl Pavano was 12-13, but the next year 18-8. At 25 Brad Penny was 14-10.

The rotation was largely kept in tact through the 2004 season, but by 2006 Dontrelle Willis was the only one still left, and as you probably know now, he has been traded to the Detroit Tigers.

So, as you might have guessed, there is no way to tell exactly how a rotation of young studs could pan out--for every Maddox, Smoltz and Glavine, there's a Mulder, Hudson or Zito, or Wood, Prior, Zambrano.

There is no question that Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy have the talent to be a Maddox, Smoltz, Glavine (or, who knows, even better...), but there are so many unknowns as well.

So, basically the message regarding the Trinity/the Three Musketeers is thus: hope for the best, but keep your feet on the ground.


  1. Great Job...

    Consider that the Yankees potential 2008 rotation could have 3 under 25, which is even more a reason to wonder, how important is veteran leadership as a majority? can a group of kids take you to the playoffs with as little MLB experience as they have.

    I must disagree with your Braves comparison simply because they might be under 30, but there was a strong veteran aspect to the trio.

    Glavine was in his 9th year
    Smoltz was in his 8th year
    Maddux was in his 10th year

    The three of them were basically established veteran pitchers. but they essentially peaked their performance at this time and lead the braves with one of the most potent rotations of the last 25 years.


    2003 Marlins, yeah the situation is a little closer

    Beckett had come into the league in 2001 with a limited amount of work

    Willis was a straight out of minors rookie

    But Pavano had been in the league since 1998, so he was really an established veteran by 2003.

    Penny was in his 3rd year, i might be able to give you that one, but he had logged almost 400 innings in the majors before 2003.


    2003 cubs -

    Prior debuted in 2002 and did log over 100 inning pitched, so he did have some experience coming into the 2003 season, but i wouldnt call him a veteran.

    Zambrano debuted in 2001 and almost has the same situation as Prior, had at least over 100 IP going into 2003.

    Wood had been in the league since 1998, so he was by then most definitely a veteran. he had logged 213 innings in 2002 and had a sub 4 ERA showing he was most likely hitting his peak, but really he's never beem the same after 2003 showing a decline in total innings pitched and obvious health issues.

    Matt Clement also came into the league in 1998 and had tons of innings pitched under his belt prior to 2003.


    now consider this re: 2008 Yankees rotation.

    Ian Kennedy has a total of 19 IP in the major leagues

    Phil Hughes has 72.7 IP in the major leagues

    Chamberlain who was used strictly as a reliever has a total of 24 IP in the majors, granted they were extremely dominant and crucial appearances it still is a very little time and experience in the majors.


    Wang and Pettitte bring something to this rotation that it lacks. Veteran knowledge and leadership. While Pettitte may be more of the leader than his counterpart in the rotation neither bring a dominant #1 ability to the rotation which is pretty much proven a big need.

    Mussina is the obvious wild card, where he lands in this big mess remains to be seen, but he does have the knowledge to help these kids. His gamesmanship and attitude can be questionable at times, but he is a student of the craft.


    If all 3 of the "tri-force" are part of the 2008 rotation, the yankee brass could take a lot of heat if they do not perform up to expectations, going in with 3 rookies with a 200M payroll is a big gamble. i was one of the ones who felt that Santana's ability was something that was worth moving one of the kids for, and if Hughes under performs in 2008 it could be the world second guessing cashman's player evaluation ability once again.


  2. One thing we definitely need to do is decide on what to call the Phil, Jaba, Ian group. Trinity, Trilogy, Three Musketeers, are all going to start getting annoying if we don't unite and settle on one.

  3. Rebecca, I am a Red Sox fan...a happy one, too! But I enjoy reading your blog.....thank you for that. Good luck at school. Boy, you write well!

  4. Somebody has to come up big, in addition to the veterans leavening the kids. This is the transition year, and while we'll see glimpses of a bright, shining future, there's probaby going to be some bumps on the road as well.

    I think that both Wang and Pettitte could have huge years in 2008. Wanger's won 19 twice now, time to break the 20 barrier. If Andy can get good run support [and BP help!!], then he could be right up there, again. Don't count Moose out, yet. With innings caps and injuries, we will need AT LEAST six starters [so Messrs Karstens and Rasner, stay loose!]

    Becca, got any good Hebrew Rap from the Middle Ages? Or would that be middle-aged Hebrew Rap? ;-)

  5. Good work, Rebecca.

    Personally, I’m happy with the rotation of Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain. And Moose if he returns to 2006 form.

    For the 2008 Season, Wang will be 28, Pettitte 35 (turns 36 in June), Hughes, 21 (turns 22 in June), Kennedy 23 and Chamberlain 22. Reminds me of a certain World Series winning team of my youth: The 1969 “Miracle” Mets.

    That year Tom Seaver was 24 years old and won 25 games; Jerry Koosman was 26, Gary Gentry was 22 and Nolan Ryan was 22. Don Cardwell was the senior member of the staff at 33.

    Slightly older was the staff of the 1970 World Series winner, the Orioles. The 1970 Orioles featured three 20-game winners. Mike Cuellar was 33 that season and won 24 games; Dave McNally was 27 and won 24 games; Jim Palmer was 24 and won 20 games. The other two starters Phoebus and Hardin were 28 and 26.

    The 1986 Red Sox who fell in shame in the 7th game of the World Series to the Mets featured a young staff as well. That year the Rocket was 23, Oil Can Boyd was 26, Al Nipper was 27, Bruce Hurst was 28 and Tom Seaver provided the wisdom of age at 41.

    As you point out, there are many examples of great staffs composed of young arms.

    It's all about team. The 2008 Yankees have all the components a great team. They have experience and most of the players have played together for many years. They will score something in the neighborhood of 950 runs. By way of comparison the 1969 Mets scored 632 runs and the 2007 Red Sox scored 867.

    If the combined Yankee staff can keep the opposition to under 5 runs a game, they should easily win the 95 - 100 games necessary to win the division.

  6. Peter N--Thank you =)

    Charles: Medieval Hebrew Rap? Oh man, that would be AMAZING.

    Giles: Wow, I did not know that about the 1969 Mets, and given I worked with Mets fans last summer, that's surprising!