A Quick-and-Dirty Fifth Starter Study

Saturday, April 30 2005 @ 05:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: Rob

Jordan Furlong postulated the following in the April 27 Game Thread:

Hey, here's a project for anyone interested in doing the legwork -- rank the Blue Jays' best and worst 5th starters in franchise history...I'll bet you'll find Josh Towers has been one of the best the Jays have sent out there.

Legwork and pitchers in the same sentence? A rapier-like wit, this one. Letís get right to it.

There are some rules we need to establish. In order,

  1. A Fifth Starter must make at least 15 starts.
  2. A Fifth Starter must pitch at least 90 innings.
  3. A Fifth Starter must not be in the top four in Games Started on any given team.
  4. If more than one pitcher qualifies in any given year for the same team, the one with fewer relief appearances is designated the fifth starter.

We started with 507 pitcher-seasons, and the 14 remaining pitchers are shown below, ranked by ERA+.


Fifth Starter   Year   GS   ERA    K/9   WHIP   ERA+  IP
Halladay	2001   16   3.16   8.2	 1.17   150   105
Candiotti	1991   19   2.98   5.6	 1.26   142   130
Bush	        2004   16   3.69   5.9	 1.29   132    98
Stottlemyre	1994   19   4.22   6.7	 1.45   114   141
Alexander	1983   15   3.93   3.5	 1.31   110   117
Guzman	        1998   22   4.41   7.0	 1.41   106   145

Stewart	        1993   26   4.44   5.3	 1.37    99   162
Stottlemyre	1989   18   3.88   4.4	 1.46    97   128
Alexander	1986   17   4.46   5.3	 1.30    95   111
Moore	        1979   16   4.84   3.3	 1.59    90   139
Cerutti	        1990   23   4.76   3.2	 1.54    83   140
Moore	        1978   18   4.93   4.7	 1.57    80   144
Hamilton	1999   18   6.52   5.1	 1.63    75    98
Stottlemyre	1988   16   4.34   6.2	 1.62    69    98

Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, possibly the greatest site in the world, for the historical statistics.

The best fifth starter in Blue Jays history? None other than Roy Halladay in 2001, one year removed from his terrible season and two years before his Cy Young season. (Aside: Is anyone surprised that Joey Hamilton is at the bottom of this list?) Dave Bush is the top-rated Rookie Fifth Starter (now there's a worthy title) and I was surprised to see so much of Todd Stottlemyre, since he shows up three times out of 14 pitchers.

What about Jordanís Josh Towers query?

Well, Towersí 2003 season was right in the middle, with a 105 ERA+ but the second-lowest WHIP, 1.21. However, that wasnít a Fifth Starter year because he didnít pitch 90 innings. He barely cleared 60. If you want to consider him a fifth starter in 2003, then he was, at best, in the middle of the pack.

In 2004, Josh Towers was not very good. He wasnít considered the fifth starter because only three pitchers, Roy Halladay, Miguel Batista and Ted Lilly, "out-started" him and the Bush-Hentgen-Miller mix behind him all took starts away from each other in one way or another. Anyway, his 2004 would have been 10th out of 15, so...no, not good.

Jordan said: I'll bet you'll find Josh Towers has been one of the best [fifth starters] the Jays have sent out there.
Rob says: Sorry, Jordan, it looks like Towers wasnít one of the best. Now, as for that bet...oh, I'm just kidding. Maybe 2005 will be the year for Control Towers.

Then I decided to check out every team in 2004, to determine the best fifth starter in the American League. Using the same qualifications, we end up with 10 pitchers from 14 teams:


Fifth Starter	 Team  GS   ERA    K/9   WHIP   ERA+  IP
Tim Hudson	 OAK   27   3.53   4.9   1.26   133   189
David Bush	 TOR   16   3.69   5.9   1.23   132    98
Bronson Arroyo	 BOS   29   4.03   7.2   1.22   121   179

Aaron Sele	 ANA   24   5.05   3.5   1.62    91   132
*T Mulholland	 MIN   15   5.00   4.4   1.59    91   123
Joaquin Benoit	 TEX   15   5.68   8.3   1.40    89   103
Gary Knotts	 DET   19   5.25   5.4   1.48    86   135
Jason Davis	 CLE   19   5.51   5.7   1.74    82   114
Jose Contreras	 NYY   18   5.64   7.7   1.41    80    96
Mike Wood	 KCR   17   5.94   4.9   1.40    75   100

Dave Bush shows up again. He was beaten by just one pitcher for the 2004 American League Todd Stottlemyre Award, and that man was not your typical Fifth Starter. Tim Hudson missed a few starts, so Zito-Redman-Mulder-Harden all passed him in Games Started. Otherwise, he wouldn't show up here. Very close, Mr. Bush, but not quite.

(Note: A new rule came into play here -- if a pitcher shows up as a Fifth Starter for two different teams, he is removed from the study. Freddy Garcia made 15 starts for Seattle and 16 starts for Chicago after being traded for Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed on June 27. I took Garcia out because the very idea of a fifth starter means you're the fifth-best pitcher on your team, not on two different teams at once.)

I'll do the same for the 2005 American League once the statistics are available in the off-season.

What do the Bauxites notice in these stats? Anything stand out at you? Wondering why a certain pitcher isn't listed? I ignored the National League because I generally ignore the National League. I hate watching pitchers hit.

Oh, and it's perfectly possible that I missed a qualified Fifth Starter somewhere. Feel free to point out any errors and ask any questions.

I'll start this off by asking everyone who they think will be Toronto's Fifth Starter this year, and what his ERA will be. Remember, you can answer "nobody," if you think whoever makes the fifth-most starts will pitch less than 90 innings.

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