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A Not-So-Quick Comparison of One-Two Punches in the AL West

SEATTLE - AUGUST 12:  Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches during the game against the Chicago White Sox on August 12, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Taylor HContributor IJanuary 17, 2010

Oakland Athletics

1) Brett Anderson

Age: 22

2009 FIP: 3.69

2009 tRA: 3.66

2009 K/9: 7.70

2009 BB/9: 2.31

2009 IP: 175.1

2009 WAR: 3.8

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 4.5

2) Dallas Braden

Age: 27

2009 FIP: 3.73

2009 tRA: 4.38

2009 K/9: 5.33

2009 BB/9: 2.77

2009 IP: 136.2

2009 WAR: 2.9

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 3.0

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I love Brett Anderson and his potential, but Dallas Braden is pretty boring.  The A’s have the ability to shock the AL West this season, but a lot of that rests on Brett Anderson’s shoulders.

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1) Ervin Santana

Age: 28

2009 FIP: 5.02

2009 tRA: 5.60

2009 K/9: 6.89

2009 BB/9: 3.03

2009 IP: 139.2

2009 WAR: 1.1

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 3.5

2) Jered Weaver

Age: 28

2009 FIP: 4.04

2009 tRA: 4.32

2009 K/9: 7.42

2009 BB/9: 2.82

2009 IP: 211.0

2009 WAR: 3.9

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 4.0

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In all likelihood, Weaver’ll pitch to about the level he did last year, and Saunders will return to form, at least somewhat. The Angels just don’t scare me that much, and I’m a little underwhelmed by their starting pitching.

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Texas Rangers

1) Rich Harden

Age: 29

2009 FIP: 4.35

2009 tRA: 4.92

2009 K/9: 10.91

2009 BB/9: 4.28

2009 IP: 141.0

2009 WAR: 1.8

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 3.0

2) Neftali Feliz

Age: 22

2009 FIP: 2.48 (2.88 in AAA)

2009 tRA: 1.55

2009 K/9: 11.32 (8.73 in AAA)

2009 BB/9: 2.32 (3.49 in AAA)

2009 IP: 31.0 (77.1 in AAA)

2009 WAR: 1.1

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 3.0

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There are too many “if’s” with these two.  If Harden stays, if Feliz can stay in the rotation, if this, if that. This pair has a lot of upside, but that upside comes with the most risk of any No. 1 or No. 2 I’ve covered so far. Plus Harden isn’t suited to the Arlington ballpark at all, so it’s unlikely his peripheral numbers (like ERA and win-loss record) will be very pretty.

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Let’s take a breather.  So far we’ve looked at ones and twos of varying quality. Brett Anderson is probably the best of the bunch so far, with Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver close behind. Harden could be great if he avoids injury, but he hasn’t done that successfully for over five years. Dallas Braden is pretty weak for a No. 2 starter, but he’s probably a decent enough three-win pitcher. And, of course, Neftali Feliz has the potential to be absolutely terrifying—if the Rangers are smart enough to keep him in the rotation. His fastball averaged almost 96 mph, his monstrous slider checked in at 78.5, and his changeup at 85 (all pitch results garnered in a small sample size).

These six pitchers are about to be blown completely out of the water.

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Seattle Mariners

1) Felix Hernandez

Age: 24

2009 FIP: 3.09

2009 tRA: 3.31

2009 K/9: 8.18

2009 BB/9: 2.68

2009 IP: 238.2

2009 WAR: 6.9

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 6 .0

2) Clifton Phifer Lee

2009 FIP: 3.11

2009 tRA: 3.69

2009 K/9: 7.03

2009 BB/9: 1.67

2009 IP: 231.2

2009 WAR: 6.6

(Taylor’s projected) 2010 WAR: 6.0

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Felix Hernandez would be a strong bet for the 2010 Cy Young. Problem is, the man most likely to beat him to that honor plays on the same team. Ladies and gentlemen, the Seattle Mariners have the best one-two punch in baseball, at least in 2010. They’ve managed to align their young ace with a man who has arguably the best approach to pitching of any pitcher currently in baseball. Cliff Lee throws strikes, misses bats, and barely walks anyone. He gets ahead in the count, induces more ground balls than fly balls, and pitches deep into games. And the best part about my description of Lee is that I could easily have been talking about King Felix. They’re both that good.

True, Santana could have a season of 2008 proportions (5.8 WAR), Jered Weaver could return to his 2006 (lucky) form, and Neftali Feliz could realize his full potential and rain absolute destruction down upon the American League. But therein lies the beauty of the whole thing. For any of those things to happen would be unexpected and, well, for all of them to happen would be extremely unlikely; but for Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee NOT to both put up close to 6 WAR seasons would be even less likely.

Dream big, Mariners fans.  Your top two starters combined for over 13 wins above a replacement-level pitcher last season, and neither is showing any signs of slowing down.

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