In all walks of life, it’s sometimes fun to play the “What If?” game.
This is especially true in sports (see also: www.whatifsports.com), and even further true when you’re looking to see how something bad could’ve worked out.
Which, based on last week’s trade wire and this season’s developments led me to wonder something strange: What if the Yankees had re-acquired Carl Pavano last week?
If you’re a Yankee fan, you probably want to kill me right now. I understand. I loathe the mere mention of Pavano as much as anyone that bleeds pinstripes.
But you can’t ignore facts, and facts say that (at least so far) Pavano is better than any other option the Yankees have to fill out their rotation.
Work with me here.
Yes, I know the line on Pavano. The four-year, $40-million contract he signed in December 2004—which was then, and later rightfully so, thought to be a lot for a guy with a career record below .500 and a career ERA north of 4.00—was one of the biggest busts in history.
In four years in the Bronx, Pavano spent more time in the trainer’s room than in the dugout. The Yankees got just 26 starts (and only nine wins, or approximately $4.5 million per) from Pavano, and minus two starts in April of 2007, he missed almost three calendar years thanks to his various maladies.
But Cleveland thought he was still worth something, and when he was finally no longer an albatross on the Steinbrenners’ bankroll, Pavano signed an incentive-laden one-year contract with the Indians that has already earned him over $2 million.
That certainly worked out well for them, no?
This season, Pavano is 10-8 with a 5.09 ERA in 22 starts and has a 4 to 1 K/BB ratio in 132 2/3 innings pitched. Not terrible for a fourth of fifth starter, and Cleveland—who, once again, knew they were going nowhere—traded him to Minnesota for a player to be named later.
Now, the key to that story is that the Twins claimed him on waivers, meaning he didn’t even get a chance to be looked at by the Yankees. But had he, would he have been a bad choice?
Yes, he only made 26 starts, won nine games and pitched 145 2/3 innings in four years. Yes, his ERA was exactly 5.00. And yes, he was nicknamed “American Idle” for his lack of appearances.
But his pitching down the stretch in 2008 was decent, and more importantly than his record, ERA or WHIP was the fact that he actually pitched 34 innings in seven starts. If anything, he was a stopgap and working to stretch out his arm after nearly three years off—but he did it.
And again, his stats this year prove that while he may not be the All-Star he was in 2004 in Florida, he’s at least healthy and capable of pitching innings.
He’s averaging 6 IP per start – which is more than Joba Chamberlain and only slightly less than Andy Pettitte – and compared to the Yankees’ other options, he’s Cy Young.
Chien-Ming Wang was 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA, and it was only that low because he had a couple of good relief outings. Alfredo Aceves – who has been good out of the pen – gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings in a spot start for Wang before the All-Star Break.
And as for current starter Sergio Mitre, well…the most positive thing you can say about him is that he’s 1-1 and the Yanks are 3-2 in his starts. Of course, you can also talk about how he hasn’t gotten through the sixth inning at all (which taxes the bullpen), can’t turn a double play, has faced one team over .500 (and they’re currently 58-56) and has an ERA over 7. So really, he’s not exactly ideal.
Phil Hughes was the best of the bunch, and he was only 3-2 with a 5.45 ERA in 34 2/3 innings over seven starts. He only made it past the sixth inning once in that stretch, an 11-1 win over Texas where he could’ve come out well before the eighth.
Combined, that ‘s less wins, innings and effectiveness—and a much, much hugher ERA—than Pavano in just as many starts. And there’s no one in the system who is any better.
Russ Ortiz, recently signed to a minor league contract, was 3-6 with a 5.57 ERA in Houston; he was so bad that he was demoted to the bullpen and eventually released. Jason Hirsh, Kei Igawa and Josh Towers haven’t thrown a major league pitch in 2009, and even recent acquisition Chad Gaudin was 4-10 with a 5.13 ERA in his time with the Padres.
Which makes you wonderVif he had gotten that far down waivers, would the Yankees have been wise to make a claim on Carl Pavano?
Because we all know that at best, he’s better than anything else they’ve got…and at worst, he’d just clog up room on the DL anyway.
Think about it.