DENVER—Since the advent of a third round of the postseason in 1995, there has been a sudden outcry about the demands it puts on a pitching staff, and a popular theory has been that teams don’t repeat because the pitching staff is worn thin by the heavy-duty postseason demands, and the arms don’t rebound for an encore.
The Giants, however, have every reason to feel that their strong-armed rotation handled the 2010 demands of claiming the franchise’s first World Series championship in 55 years without compromising their future.
To begin, the reliability of the theory that pitching staffs don’t rebound from the extended postseason is sketchy, at best.
Of the 20 teams to advance to the World Series in the first decade of this century, just five had a lower ERA in the year after advancing to the World Series. However, the difference overall between the ERA of teams advancing to their World Series and the ERA compiled the following year is only an average of 0.11.
And it’s not like the Giants abused their starting rotation last October.
Matt Cain, who will pitch at the age of 26 this season, worked 245 innings overall in 2010, which was just 27 innings more than his career-high. Tim Lincecum, who will pitch at 27, finished at 248 innings, 23 innings more than his previous career-high. Jonathan Sanchez, who will pitch at 28, worked 213 innings, 20 innings over his previous high.
The pitcher to watch will be Madison Bumgarner, who will open the season at 21. After working 142 innings and 131 innings in his first two pro seasons, Bumgarner wound up on the mound for 214 innings in 2010: 83 at Triple-A Fresno, 111 in the regular season for the Giants, and 21 in the postseason.
Bumgarner certainly did not appear to be struggling at the end. He had a 1.53 ERA in his final six regular season starts, and a 2.18 ERA in three starts and a relief appearance in the playoffs.
Lefthander Barry Zito will be the most intriguing member of the rotation. Heading into the fifth year of his record-setting seven-year, $126 million contract, Zito wasn’t even included on the postseason roster. Is there enough competitor remaining in Zito for that to provide a spark for him entering 2011?
While he has given the Giants plenty of innings, he has pitched more like a marginal fifth starter than a staff ace during the first four years of his contract. After seven consecutive winning seasons in Oakland, where he was 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA, Zito has compiled four consecutive losing seasons in San Francisco. He went 9-14, 4.15 during last year’s championship drive, leaving him 40-57 with a 4.45 ERA as a member of the Giants.
Feeling A Draft
Tampa Bay has a scouting and player development department that has proven to be among the best in baseball. It’s how the Rays built the team that has won the American League East in two of the last three seasons, despite having less than one-fourth the payroll of the Yankees.
And it’s how the Rays will rebuild, in a hurry.
In addition to trading away some of its high-priced talent to stock the farm system with more prospects, the Rays witnessed a free-agent migration that resulted in the losses of first baseman Carlos Pena, outfielders Carl Crawford and Brad Hawpe, closer Rafael Soriano, and relievers Chad Qualls, Grant Belfour, Randy Choate and Joaquin Benoit.
The Rays will have 11 of the first 79 selections in the June draft: their own, which will be No. 32 overall, and 10 compensation picks. That will include Boston’s first-round selection, 24th overall, for Crawford, along with seven sandwich picks, and Oakland’s second-round pick, No. 75, for Balfour.
Given the astute efforts of scouting director R.J. Harrison’s staff in past drafts, the Rays have reason to be optimistic, although it will be an expensive adventure to get all those picks under contract by the signing deadline.
The 10 players selected in the same slots of the 2010 draft received $11,014,500 in signing bonuses. Throw in the idea of inflation, and the Rays could spend more in signing players out of the first two rounds of the 2011 draft than any team has ever spent on an entire draft.
Only five times has a team exceeded $11 million in total signing bonuses, including Washington in 2010 ($11,927,200) and 2009 ($11,511,500)—two drafts that were built around the signings of premium No. 1 overall picks overall in both years; catcher Bryce Harper in 2010 and right-hander Stephen Strasburg in 2009.
A year ago, the Pirates ($11,900,460) and Blue Jays ($11,594,400) also passed the $11 million threshold, and the Royals did it in 2008 ($11,148,000). It’s worth noting that Pirates president Frank Coonelly was commissioner Bud Selig’s draft bonus enforcer before moving to Pittsburgh.
Now that Coonelly is on the other side, he has become the biggest spender on the draft. The Pirates have spent more money signing draft choices the last three years ($30,599,800) than any team in baseball, according to figures compiled by Baseball America.