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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Escape from the Bronx... 

I heard the news about the Phillies signing Yankees hurler Jon Lieber to a three-year, $21 mil deal on ESPNews last night before I went to bed. My reaction? A shrug. Ed Wade & Co. probably over-paid for Lieber, but I think they might be getting a decent-to-very good pitcher for next year. Here’s what Lieber did in 2004:

14-8 W-L / 4.33 ERA / 1.32 WHIP

Not great, but a closer look into the numbers reveals some interesting stuff … Lieber’s FIP ERA declines to 3.94 due to the fact that the Yankees didn’t play good defense behind him (.677 DER, vs. a .686 team average). Lieber’s control is pretty impressive too: a roughly 5-to-1 career strikeout-to-walk ratio. Last year he walked just 0.9 batters per 9 innings. This guy doesn't give free passes batters, which is a quality I like seeing in a Phillies pitcher.

Can he pitch at Citizens? Sure: his 1.43 G/F ratio is better than any ’04 Phillies starter aside from Cory Lidle. He only gave up 20 home runs in 27 games in 2004: 1.0 per nine innings pitched. Pretty manageable stuff: a solo shot here and there won't hurt him.

That said, I’m not wild about how much the Phillies committed to a guy who didn’t even pitch in 2003: $21 million bucks? It seems like a lot of dough to toss around for a 35 year-old pitcher, but Lieber might be worth the risk. He pitched well for the Yankees in 2004 and if his arm holds up he could be a great money pitcher.

With Lieber, I'd say that at a minimum the Phillies 2005 rotation will be more economical than it was last year. Lidle and Lieber will make about $10 million in 2005, compared with the combined $20 million Millwood and Milton made in 2004. How do the old and new rotations stack up?

Old Rotation:
Wolf: 4.58 FIP ERA ; 0.81 G/F; 1.3 hr/9
Padilla: 4.65 FIP ERA; 1.16 G/F; 1.2 hr/9
Myers: 5.21 FIP ERA; 1.39 G/F; 1.6 hr/9
Milton: 5.39 FIP ERA; 0.57 G/F; 1.9 hr/9
Millwood: 3.83 FIP ERA; 1.12 G/F; 0.9 hr/9


New Rotation:
Wolf: 4.58 FIP ERA ; 0.81 G/F; 1.3 hr/9
Padilla: 4.65 FIP ERA; 1.16 G/F; 1.2 hr/9
Myers: 5.21 FIP ERA; 1.39 G/F; 1.6 hr/9
Lieber: 3.94 FIP ERA; 1.43 G/F; 1.0 hr/9
Lidle: 3.70 FIP ERA; 1.48 G/F; 0.4 hr/9


I think the new rotation is going to be better in 2005. They’ve added two groundball pitchers to the staff in Lidle & Lieber who are cheaper than the guys they are replacing. Better, more economical … can’t beat that …

Naturally, the Phillies decision to sign Lieber means that David Wells, Carl Pavano and the rest of the top-flight starters aren’t possibilities anymore for the team. I’m slightly disappointed that the Phils won’t be signing a “stud” pitcher to be the team’s ace, but I’m also thrilled they didn’t do something stupid like throw $12 million at Eric Milton. The decision not to offer Milton arbitration was crafty and took real guts. Regular sports columnists called Milton the Phillies best pitcher in 2005, a statement that is outrageous to make to the bloggering community, but generally accepted by most fans as conventional wisdom. I would have figured that the pressure to bring Milton back would have been overwhelming for the team. That they let Milton and his fourteen wins walk to the Bronx (probably) is heartening to see. Wade & Co. haven’t made decisions we in the blogging world have always liked, but these few deals (Lidle, Lieber, Cormier, etc.) have been savvy work. It almost makes you have optimism for next year.

Almost.

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