Sunday, January 07, 2007

What If?!? Josh Towers

I have been quite critical of the Jays for not getting a starter this off-season. I understand that the price, through free agency or trades, is much too high. You look at the examples with the contracts given to Eaton, Meche and Lilly and the trades of Johnson and Jennings. But, looking at the roster it seems that, unfortunately, the team has taken a step backwards. If Josh Towers is the 5th starter, it could be a complete disaster! But what if, what if he returns to his 2005 form or even his 3 year 2004-2006 form? Let's investigate...
Towers' career took a horrible turn last year with no true explication...a look at one article shows how even the pitching coach was dumbstruck about the lack of success:

"I've run out of ideas to try and help him get better," pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said of Towers, "but it really comes down to his ability to pitch on the plate when he needs to and on the edges when he has to.

"It's frustrating for all of us to see him have such an extraordinary year last season and be so on top of his game and then not be able to get close this year," Arnsberg said.

Towers was 2-10 last season in 62 innings with an ERA of 8.42, ERA+ of 56 and VORP of -18.9. He avged just over 4 innings per appearence (12 starts and 3 relief appearances). According to a BBTF article, the ERA+ of Toronto's 5th starters was a combined 71; the third worse in the AL (after NYY and Baltimore). Another article on Hardball Times has the 5th starter ERA for Toronto at 6.44; good enough for 5th worse in the AL. The lack of optimism for this year's pitching staff from Blue Jay fans can be well understood...
So WHAT IF Josh Towers re-discovers his 2005 form?
This version of Towers threw over 200 innings with an ERA of 3.71, which corresponds to an ERA+ of 120. That ERA would be over 2.5 runs per game better than last year's "composite 5th starter". His VORP for that season was 34.1 or about 53 VORP better than last year's. It's a difficult stat to split up and therefore it's hard to make a composite VORP for the "2006 5th starter" but let's split up the starters per starts (33 for the first two, 32 for the latter three)
  • 1st starter: Roy Halladay 32 starts, Francisco Rosario 1 start
  • 2nd starter: Ted Lilly 32 starts, Brian Tallet 1 start
  • 3rd starter: AJ Burnett 21 starts, Scott Downs 5 starts, Shawn Marcum 6(of 14) starts
  • 4th starter: Marcum 8 starts, Chacin 17 starts, Janssen 7 (of 17) starts
So according to this 10 of Janssen's starts should be considered for the 5th starter spot, and his VORP is 6.1, it goes down from there. So, to rough estimate that the rest of the pitchers who contributed to the 5th starting role's VORP is around 0 isn't too far fetched...But to have a nice round number, I'll say that their VORP was 3. That means that if Towers somehow finds his 2005 form, his improvement is worth approximately 5 wins to this team. That makes up for the 4.5 wins that the Jays have lost this off-season according to my previous little research. In essense, if he somehow finds that form...the Jays are about the same team they were last year with Lilly in the rotation. However, this does not include possible imporvements from young players or regressions from older players.

If he somehow finds his 3 year (2004-2006) form, his avg VORP for those years was 8.5, the improvement over last year's numbers would be good for approximately 2.5 wins, not enough to cover the losses the Jays have suffered this off-season.

So what? Well essentially, the Jays are hoping that Towers somehow re-finds his form to help compensate for the loss of Lilly. If Towers is in the rotation whichever starter takes the other empty spot also has to perform better, and they have to hope that Chacin can at least bounce back to give them 200 IPs, and a league average ERA+. If not, it could be a long season.

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