The fifth starters that weren’t

The unreliable Brian Bruney
A health-ful perspective

Think back to July oh, say, 28th. The Yankees were streaking after the break, but still had a few holes to fill. Namely, adding another starter. With their preseason sixth starter, Phil Hughes, holding down the back end of the bullpen and with Chien-Ming Wang done for the season following shoulder surgery, the Yanks had but one in-house option for the fifth starter role: Sergio Mitre. Many fans weren’t happy with that, and clamored for Cashman to reel in another arm.

Leading into the trade deadline, there were a few names bandied about, but most were tossed out. By the time July 28th rolled around there were basically two options left: Jarrod Washburn and Brian Bannister. Neither was a perfect option, but both had been pitching better than what many expected from Mitre. So why not trade for one and see if he could fill the fifth starter role?

After a horrible 2008, Bannister had rebounded in the first half of 2009. After his start against the Orioles on July 28, Bannister held a 3.80 ERA and a .684 OPS against. As usual he hadn’t struck out many, just 72 in 116 innings, but he had allowed less than a hit an inning and had kept his walks in check. There were certainly concerns about his ability to sustain this success, but there were some indicators that he was worth the gamble.

At a $1.7 million salary for 2009, the remainder of Bannister’s contract was eminently affordable. In addition, he had just 2.158 years of service time heading into the season, and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season. Despite these factors, the Yankees turned away from a deal when Kansas City refused to eat the remainder of Banny’s 2009 salary. That might seem crazy for the Yankees, the richest franchise in baseball, but it’s what happened.

Washburn was a bit more interesting from a 2009 standpoint. He also pitched on July 28, spinning a seven-inning, one-run gem against the Blue Jays. That lowered his ERA to 2.64. For a guy who had been around a 4.50 ERA over the last three years, this was incredible. Some opined that the Mariners stellar defense was a big reason for Washburn’s rejuvenation, but there was an issue of a new pitch that was devastating opposing hitters. At the very worst, he’d probably be an upgrade over Mitre.

The issue of Washburn’s salary was a bit weightier than Bannister’s. Washburn is making $10.35 million this year, so even a third of that is a sizable sum on top of a payroll already over $200 million. On top of that, there was an issue of Seattle’s return on the deal. Reportedly they wanted Austin Jackson, which just wasn’t going to fly (though I suspect if Jackson’s name came up it involved Seattle picking up a good portion of Washburn’s salary).

In the end, the Yankees acquired neither. Instead they decided to go with Mitre in the fifth spot and see what came up in August. That yielded Chad Gaudin. While he didn’t come with the track record of Washburn or the success of Bannister, he represented a solid addition to the staff. That was all the Yanks did, and as it turns out it might have been the best possible tactic.

Washburn has been spectacularly bad in his six starts with the Tigers. He had one gem, an eight inning shutout against the Royals (the Royals) and a six-inning, three run performance against the Angels, but other than that has allowed five or more runs in his other four starts. His total line since joining Detroit’s playoff push:

37 IP, 41 H, 28 R & ER, 11 BB, 18 K, .924 OPS against, 6.81 ERA

Bannister has experienced a market correction since the calendar flipped to August. He started the month strong with seven innings of shutout ball against the Rays, which included seven strikeouts. After that he’s been downright atrocious. In five of those six starts he allowed four or more runs — including a stretch of three games in which he allowed seven runs. The only start in which he allowed fewer than four he allowed three in just 1.1 innings of work. His line since the Tampa Bay start:

31 IP, 42 H, 34 R, 32 ER, 11 BB, 19 K, .861 OPS against, 9.29 ERA

Just for comparison, Sergio Mitre’s line in seven starts this season (so not counting his relief appearance against Boston):

34.2 IP, 46 H, 23 R, 19 ER, 9 BB, 20 K, .801 OPS against, 4.93 ERA

So, just to be clear, Sergio Mitre, to this point, has pitched better as the Yankees fifth starter than both Jarrod Washburn and Brian Bannister have since the trade deadline. (Oh, and Banny’s hurt.) Brian Cashman caught his share of crap over the non-deals, and while it was tough to forecast exactly how bad Washburn and Bannister would be, it turns out, in hindsight, that no move was the best move.

The unreliable Brian Bruney
A health-ful perspective
  • Benjamin Kabak

    I’m going to put this out there for the fun of it. There’s this guy who’s made three starts over the last few weeks. In those starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA. He has thrown 16.2 innings, allowing 12 hits while walking 4 and striking out 14.

    His name: Brett Tomko.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Those three starts: vs. NYY, vs. DET, @ LAA

      • Mike Pop

        Ha, that’s funny. But….

        He wasn’t really given a shit in NY, but this is understandable. Whatever, I’m not going to lose sleep over him putting up those lines.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Oh it’s not the biggest deal in the world, for sure… But I think it’s reasonable to ask the question: Why wasn’t Tomko given a shot before he was released if the next best options were Mitre and, later, Gaudin?

          Actually… Someone refresh my memory, who was added to the MLB roster when Tomko was DFA’d? I guess we forget that they needed the roster spot for some reason, right? It may have just been a timing and roster construction issue.

          Again… I agree, it’s not so important. It’s a 5th starter for a couple of months.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      :: head explodes ::

      • Bo

        Tomko is terrible. He could finish with 2 no hitters and that wouldnt change.

        He had plenty of chances to earn more innings and a spot on the team. he didnt take them.

        • Rick in Boston

          I actually want to agree with you Bo, but I can’t say he was given a similar chance in New York. He started the season as the AAA closer, then was given a back-end of the bullpen role when the ‘pen was in total flux. I wonder if he got a chance to start in New York, if he would’ve been half-way decent.

          • Chris

            Tomko threw 20.2 innings in 15 games for the Yankees. In that time he gave up 5HR, 7BB and only 11K. His ERA was 5.23. If he had been effective in the roles that he was given, then he would not have been released.

            • Makavelli

              It was an entirely different role.

              Sporadic bullpen mop up appearances and being relied on as a 5th starter are apples and oranges.

              • Ed

                If someone can’t pitch well in short, low pressure outings, why would anyone think they could pitch well in longer, more important outings?

                Especially so with someone that’s always been bad over a long career.

                I’d agree with you on the sporadic usage hurting, but, he was used fairly regularly.

                • Makavelli

                  I’m not disagreeing with anybody but it’s almost impossible to tell…especially from our point of view.

                  Who knows if the guy was pissed off that he was a mop up guy in the pen…where it was affecting his play? Again, I’m not saying this is the case.

                  Who knows that he was ‘relieved’ or felt a new beginning when he was asked to become or was told he’d be given a legitimate chance to start in the 5 spot?

                  You have a significantly different outlook/morale for yourself and on things when you’re feeling good rather than when you’re not.

                  But I could be absolutely wrong and it could be something entirely different? Who knows?

                • Salty Buggah

                  Meh, I expect him to come down to Earth soon. Everyone goes on runs. He does have a 3.69 FIP in OAK, which isnt bad at all but his ERA is 1.62

                • Makavelli

                  More than likely.

              • Salty Buggah

                True but that’s still his fault. He is a 36 yr old journeyman who was never that good. He should have known he would have to earn the job because of the circumstances. Also, we had better relievers so it put him that much more at a disadvantage. He didn’t do much to get more playing time at the time and we had some depth so he was expendable. I expect him to regress to the mean soon.

                In hindsight, yea it would have been nice to keep him but then again, at the time, he was struggling and we had some depth.

        • Makavelli

          ::head also explodes::

  • Matt ACTY/BBD
    • Mike Pop

      You have the gift.

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        To paraphrase Percival Cox:

        “Mo, my brilliance is beginning to become a burden.”

  • vin

    Cashman seems to be riding a hell of a hot streak this year.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Despite these factors, the Yankees turned away from a deal when Kansas City refused to eat the remainder of Banny’s 2009 salary. That might seem crazy for the Yankees, the richest franchise in baseball, but it’s what happened.

    I thought that rumor was debunked? That it wasn’t just a salary haggle, that the Royals also asked teams for a real prospect.

    1:47pm: ESPN’s Jayson Stark says the price for Bannister is similar to that of Jarrod Washburn – “big league-ready starter, pitching prospect with upside.” He says the Yanks maintain mild interest.

    10:16am: Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports say the Brewers made an offer for Bannister but the Royals chose not to counter it. The Royals would have to be bowled over to move the 28 year-old righty.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


      Apparently the Royals never got close to a deal on Bannister or anyone else Friday. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin made one last call to counterpart Dayton Moore on Thursday and was told the Royals weren’t motivated to move Bannister.

      “At 28, a pitcher is just coming into his own,” Melvin said. “I think it shows you the value of pitchers. He has a 3.60 ERA. If you’re going to trade a pitcher who’s 28 years old with a 3.60 ERA, you had better get overwhelmed.”

      • A.D.

        With that note the player price, let alone salary, was much to high for both of those players.

  • andrew

    that seattle gm is grinning like an idiot right now because he just swindled the tigers bad. luckily for the tigers they didnt give up much to get him, even though lucas french isnt doing that bad.

    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      French has an absolute ceiling of a mid-rotation guy from what I hear from my Tigers “source”*. It wasn’t that great of a trade for either team.


      • Mike Pop

        Remember when Lester had the ceiling of a mid-rotation guy?

        (Not saying French is as good or has as good stuff as Lester, but you never know with these projections.)

        • Matt ACTY/BBD

          That’s true. But I think Lester has stuff more conducive to beating a projection than French.

        • Thomas

          I believe a lot of the Lester mid-rotation ceiling came out when he had limited success at the big league level, because he had cancer, which the scouts were unaware of.

          • Ed

            I always got the impression it was because of his lousy WHIP at most stops in the minors. He had a great season in AA, but at the other stops his stats didn’t look great.

            • Mike Pop

              I remember noMaas bashing the Sox for not dealing him for Johan.

              Looks good now, though. Lester is just filth.

            • Rick in Boston

              I believe you are correct. Lester’s WHIP improved from back-end starter to front-end starter once he hit the majors. It wasn’t that impressive prior to the cancer diagnosis and it seems like while he was rehabbing from the treatment the Sox either fixed something mechanically or something just ‘clicked’ for him.

              • Thomas

                That’s true, since becoming a major leaguer Lester has cut his walks in half.

                As minor leaguer, I think many scouts still thought Lester had the ceiling of an ace (ranked 22 by BA), base on strikeout numbers, but was more likely to end up mid-rotation, based on the number of walks he allowed. The difference is Lester mid-rotation was the real world expectation and front-rotation was perfect world, conversely for French mid-rotation is perfect world and back end/long reliever is real world. This discrepancy can be seen by French’s higher WHIP, Hit/9, and lower K/9 compare to Lester at that age.

        • Accent Shallow

          So all French has to do is get cancer, be successfully treated, and gain 5+ MPH on his fastball?


    • Rick in Boston

      I’m actually surprised that Washburn is pitching as poorly as he is in Detroit. He’s made six starts as a Tiger, five at Comerica. As a Tiger at home, Washburn’s given up 10 homers.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Comerica’s smaller than Safeco, no? Further in the corners and dead center, but shorter in the power alleys.

        Left Field – 331ft / 101m
        Left-Center – 390ft / 119m
        Center Field – 405ft / 123m
        Right-Center – 386ft / 118m
        Right Field – 326ft / 99m

        Left field – 345 feet (105 m)
        Left-center – 370 feet (113 m)
        Center field – 420 feet (128 m)
        Right-center – 365 feet (111 m)
        Right field – 330 feet (101 m)

        Also, Seattle’s OF defense >>>>>>>>> Detroit’s OF defense. Doesn’t matter on homers, but it would on singles, doubles, and triples…

        • Chris

          While I generally trust these data, remember that the same comparison done between the old and new Yankee stadiums say they’re the same size, and we all know that is BS.

          • Mike Pop

            tommie, may I ask what site did you get that from?

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


            • Makavelli

              Wikipedia I’m going to guess…

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Right, because the wall is also closer at numerous intermediary points between those 5 key measurements.

            Which means that Comerica may play even smaller than the above data indicates.

            (Yes, it means it may also play bigger. I know that. Shutup.)

            Compare the visuals of Safeco:

            to Comerica:

            • Rick in Boston

              I flipped through a few years worth of Park Effects data. Until this year, Comerica actually favored hitters on the home run. Now, this could be based on how teams are built since the calculations factor in the difference in road numbers vs. home numbers. Or, it could be the regression to the mean.

              I’m in the regression to the mean category. But, if Washburn is still giving up home runs in a balanced-to-slight-hitter’s park, then how bad would it be in a definite hitter’s park like Yankee Stadium? I’m still saying it would be ugly.

        • Sam

          Also, on one’s talking about how Mitre did his best Roy Halladay impression on the White Sox last time out.


          -TJ Houshmazilli
          -That’s what I said, TJ Whoseyourmama…Championship…

  • Mike Pop

    Another starter would of been nice, but I didn’t want a marginal upgrade while giving up good prospects. Cash made the right move, as said in the post.

    If the Yankees made a move, I wanted a game changer like Halladay or Lee. But once again, that would of cost a boatload.

    Just have to hope A.J. puts it together for the postseason and Joba can rattle off some good starts. As for Pettitte and CC, just keep up what ya’ll been doin’. Not to much to ask, is it?

    • Rick in Boston

      Think of the firestorm on this board if Halladay had been traded to the Yanks and pitched the same way he’s pitching in Toronto? The fire Cashman bangwagon would be filled right now.

      • Mike Pop

        At the deadline, Cash trades Z-Mac, Romine, Nova, WDLR, and Melancon for Halladay. Steal of the century, and he has a string of bad starts. People STILL bash him.

        • Tom Zig

          Don’t worry Pop, AJ will be fine.

          • Mike Pop

            Burnett brothers for life.

            Nice pic, yo!

        • Rick in Boston

          Oh, most definitely. As a fan base in general, Yankee fans want results ASAP. It’s the 80’s Steinbrenner model cast across the tri-state area. While a number of posters on here will defend Cashman and look towards the long-term value of the trade (yourself and me included), a number of others will be armed with pitchforks and trying to bash down the door of Cashman’s office.

  • Bo

    I’d still rather have Washburn than Mitre. No matter what his starts have been like for Det.

    One good start against a team that has quit doesnt make Mitre good.

    • Rick in Boston

      Washburn’s given up 10 homers in his five starts at home in a Tigers uniform. Given that Comerica doesn’t play as a home-run favoring park like Yankee Stadium, it could/would be ugly.

    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      Washburn’s giving up home runs in the homer unfriendly Comerica park. What do you think his starts would look like in the very homer friendly home of our favorite team? Cashman definitely made the right move here.

    • Ed

      One good start against a team that has quit doesnt make Mitre good.

      No one is saying Mitre’s good. Just pointing out that the possible alternatives at the trade line also haven’t been good.

      Cheap bad player you already have > More expensive bad player that also requires giving up players to acquire

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        True. Also, while it’s true that one good start against a team that has quit doesn’t make Mitre good, it’s also true that 20 good starts against various teams from April to July doesn’t make Jarrod Washburn good either.

        Mitre could have turned a corner, or he could have just faced a weak opponent and lucked out. Washburn could have been a great starter, or he could have benefited from a buttload of luck and an amazing defense that made him look way better than he actually was.

        A concept that his recent struggles in Detroit would seem to lend credence to.

        • Matt ACTY/BBD

          I think it’s just coincidence.

  • Makavelli

    Smaller sample size…but look at guys like Smoltz and Penny who went to new teams and have been successful (albeit in less starts).

    Who knows if any of these pitchers came to the Yankees that their stats would be as good/bad or worse/better than? You can’t tell. It’s impossible.

    Am I fine with the decision not to get anybody? Sure. But my main concern wasn’t that we technically needed a 5th outfielder as much as it was being fearful that if another starter went down…we’d have a severe problem on our hands.

    • Salty Buggah

      Of course you cant tell but I would think they would be similar and still suck. They went to the NL and Smoltz played weaker teams while Penny only got 2 Ks.

      • Makavelli

        Agreed, but he did face the reigning World Series Champions…while Smoltz has 15 K’s and 1 walk in 11 innings…albeit against San Diego and Washington…but still.

        They probably would have both still stunk on the Yankees…

  • Mac

    Washburn’s knee is acting up again – he’s missing his next start vs. the Rays

  • JMK

    I’m on company time, so I need to make this quick, but I was really hoping for Bannister. I was certain Washburn would get creamed (and for a top prospect, not worth it) without the dimensions of Saefco and the outfield. If the Royals only demanded salary and not a solid prospect, I thought it would have been a good idea. Still, looking at his performance and injury, I’m glad Cashman stood pat. I was very wrong, he was right. I feel better now.

  • MOBoy

    Wheres Jon Garland?

    Of course this site fails to put a pitcher who can stay at least .500 with this offense and has given he’s teams 32 starts for the past 7 years.

    But Mitre is better then Garland.Joba pitching like a long man reliever and CC is gonna go to far in innings pitched.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      Jayson Stark on Jon Garland:

      Deals That Never Happened, Chapter 3: Before the Dodgers dealt for Jon Garland, the Yankees were also in on him — but decided Garland wasn’t a big enough difference-maker in a division as ferocious as the AL East.

      Considering that the D-Backs wanted, based on some rumors, Melancon and/or Kroenke, that would have been a terrible trade. I’ve never understood the Jon Garland obsession people have. He’s an average, overpaid pitcher who wouldn’t do well in the AL East.

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        I’ve never understood the Jon Garland obsession people have. He’s an average, overpaid pitcher who wouldn’t do well in the AL East

        I have nothing to add, I just wanted to say this more loudly for others to read.


  • pc

    some of the best trades you make are the ones you don’t.

  • steve (different one)

    i’m surprised no one put up these numbers…

    pitcher C since the trade deadline:

    42 IP, 54 H, 27 R, 22 ER, 5 BB, 36 K, .860 OPS against, 4.71 ERA

    i’ll give you a hint, he (probably) would have cost either Joba or Hughes plus Montero

    here’s another hint: Hoy Ralladay

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