My blog co-author and I went through an exercise where we picked the pitchers from other teams we would most like to have for the Yanks. While (of course) we don't really agree, below is my list of the top 10 pitchers I would like to have.
First, I discounted National League pitchers some. I figure that the difference in line-ups and the DH inflates AL pitcher's ERA and likewise deflates an NL pitcher's ERA about a half a run each; so an AL pitcher with a 4 era would have a 3.50 in the NL, and an NL pitcher with a 4 ERA would have a 4.50 in the AL. A look at Roger Clemens' numbers is a good place to start when judging this.
For pitchers like Jake Peavy (2.54 in '07 and 2.88 so far in '08) Brandon Webb (3.24 career ERA) and Tim Lincecum (2.54 this year) it doesn't exclude them from the list, but they fall due to this league adjustment.
Another consideration is what I call pressure performance. Having some post season success was also factored into the equation. Many pitchers have come to the Yanks only to see their performance fall apart under the bright lights of NYC and pressure of being a Yankee (this applies to guys like Burnett and Bedard).
I have also included a subjective discount for those pitchers I deem an injury or performance risk (CC and Oswalt, for example).
Youth is an obvious positive, but a having proven their skill is paramount (meaning pitchers like Volquez don't make the cut).
Some of those not making the top 10 -
Joshy (Blisters) Beckett - No, this is not simply a case of hating anyone calling Fenway home. The last 7 seasons Beckett's ERA+ has been 98, 138, 108, 118, 95, 145, 115. One very good to excellent year followed by a rather ordinary year. Until and unless Blisters can show consistent dominance he will not make this list.
Roy Oswalt - In addition to being over 30, Oswalt has only had 2 seasons (out of 8) where he struck out 200 batters. He is still a very good pitcher, but I don't want a guy whose best statistical performance was 7 years ago.
Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum- Will both make the list with 1 or 2 more seasons like last.
Ben Sheets - Much like Harden (injuries), but has spent his career in the pitcher-friendly NL.
All of that being said, my 10 :
10. Erik Bedard - At age 28 Bedard had his first truly great season last year. 221 Ks in 182 IP and a 1.088 WHIP in the AL East. Bedard's ERA has gone from 4.00 to 3.76 to 3.16 the past 3 years.
9. Rich Harden - If he could only stay healthy! In 531 career IP he has 514 Ks and only 432 hits allowed with a 3.42 ERA. This year at age 26, Harden has allowed 47 hits and has 83 Ks in 67 ip.
8. Roy Halliday - The 2 things keeping Doc from being higher on the list is his age (31) and some injury issues. Aside from that, Doc is definitely one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball.
7. Jake Peavy - Being a NL guy with the majority of his starts in spacious Petco Park and other cavernous NL west stadiums, and pitching (pretty poorly) in only 2 post season games keeps Peavy down a little at #7.
6. CC Sabathia - Still only 27, CC is a workhorse. Failing to make 30 starts only once in his career (28 in 2006) I am a little concerned about the combination of high innings and a bad body. In 2006 CC threw 192 innings; in 2007 (including the playoffs) that number ballooned to 251 for an increase of 59 innings year over year. When coupled with his rough start to 2008, I believe some caution is called for.
5. Scott Kazmir - Still only 24, the lefty lead the AL with 239 strikeouts, allowed only 196 hits in 206 innings and has a career 3.49 ERA pitching in the AL east. To top it off, Kaz has dominated the Red Sox with a 2.82 ERA and 123 ks in 105 ip. The only negative to Kaz is a career 1.356 whip.
4. Felix Hernandez - King Felix has allowed 562 hits in 573 innings with an ERA of 3.73...and he's still only 22!! The pressure on hm to be an ace from the time he was 20 has made him mentally tough enough to handle NY.
3. Johan Santana - Has been the best pitcher in baseball the past 4 years pitching in the AL. Only minus is a downward trend in some key numbers and a very high HR rate.
2. John Lackey - At this point quite possibly the most underrated pitcher in baseball. 29 years old, an ERA+ of 123, 128, 151 and 239 the past 4 years, a 3.63 post season ERA and 33 starts per year like clockwork. The ONLY negatives to Lackey are a career 6.27 ERA vs the Red Sox and a fairly pedestrian 7.20 k/9.
1. Brandon Webb - Also 29, Webb has a career ERA+ of 143. Webb's dominant sinker produces a career gb/fb rate of 3.71 and translates well in any league. Webb is a more effective CMW with much better K numbers.
Did I leave anyone out? Is my ranking just off-the-charts wrong? Let me know your thoughts.