Starting Pitching in the NL Central

A Closer Look At This Year’s NL Central Starting Pitchers

As of January 22nd, 2006, according to, these are the cadidates for starting pitchers in the NL Central. The Depth column is where considers where each pitcher falls in the rotation. When playing fantasy baseball, I try to put every starting pitcher into 3 different groups. I deem the top third as quality starters, the middle third as average starters and the bottom third as shaky starters. For this comparison, I’m only using last year’s statistics as the basis for grouping these pitchers. To be honest, a better comparison would have been to take an average of each pitcher’s last 3 Major League seasons. In future article(s), I want to examine another way of trying to project how successfull each pitcher may be based on thier age and how many years of Major League Experience.

I use the scoring system set by the fantasy games which is as follows for pitchers:

  1. 30 points for each win and/or save.
  2. 5 points for each third of an inning pitched.
  3. 3 points for each strikeout.
  4. -3 points for each walk.
  5. -5 points for each hit allowed.
  6. -10 points for each earned run allowed.
  7. -15 points for each loss.

The TOT column are the total fantasy points accumulated for the season and the last column PPG is the fantasy points per game average for the season. This is the statistic I use to group the pitchers.

Quality Starters
Name Team Depth Throws W L ERA G TIP H ER BB SO TOT PPG
Chris Carpenter Cardinals 1 R 21 5 2.83 33 725 204 76 51 213 2886 87.45
Andy Pettitte Astros 2 L 17 9 2.39 33 667 188 59 41 171 2570 77.88
Paul Maholm Pirates 4 L 3 1 2.18 6 124 31 10 17 46 467 77.83
Zach Duke Pirates 1 L 8 2 1.81 14 254 79 17 23 58 1020 72.86
Carlos Zambrano Cubs 1 R 14 6 3.26 33 670 170 81 86 202 2368 71.76
Ben Sheets Brewers 1 R 10 9 3.33 22 469 142 58 25 141 1568 71.27
Roy Oswalt Astros 1 R 20 12 2.94 35 725 243 79 48 184 2448 69.94
Mark Prior Cubs 3 R 11 7 3.67 27 500 143 68 59 188 1717 63.59
Doug Davis Brewers 2 L 11 11 3.84 35 668 196 95 93 208 1920 54.86
Chris Capuano Brewers 3 L 18 12 3.99 35 657 212 97 91 176 1870 53.43
Mark Mulder Cardinals 2 L 16 8 3.64 32 615 212 83 70 111 1668 52.13

Average Starters
Name Team Depth Throws W L ERA G TIP H ER BB SO TOT PPG
Aaron Harang Reds 1 R 11 13 3.83 32 635 217 90 51 163 1661 51.91
Jeff Suppan Cardinals 3 R 16 10 3.57 32 583 206 77 63 114 1598 49.94
Greg Maddux Cubs 2 R 13 15 4.24 35 675 239 106 36 136 1585 45.29
Tomo Okha Brewers 4 R 11 9 4.04 29 541 189 81 55 98 1274 43.93
Jason Marquis Cardinals 4 R 13 14 4.13 33 621 206 95 69 100 1398 42.36
Anthony Reyes Cardinals 5 R 1 1 2.70 4 40 6 4 4 12 169 42.25
Brandon Claussen Reds 1 L 10 11 4.21 29 500 178 78 57 121 1157 39.90
Dave Williams Reds 2 L 10 11 4.41 25 416 137 68 58 88 940 37.60
Rick Helling Brewers 6 R 3 1 2.39 15 147 39 13 18 42 557 37.13
Brandon Backe Astros 3 R 10 8 4.76 26 448 151 79 67 97 965 37.12
Jerome Williams Cubs 4 R 6 10 4.26 22 368 119 58 49 70 758 34.45

Shaky Starters
Name Team Depth Throws W L ERA G TIP H ER BB SO TOT PPG
Dave Bush Brewers 5 R 5 11 4.49 25 409 142 68 29 75 778 31.12
Oliver Perez Pirates 2 L 7 5 5.85 20 309 102 67 70 97 581 29.05
Wandy Rodriguez Astros 4 L 10 10 5.53 25 386 135 79 53 80 696 27.84
Victor Santos Pirates 6 R 4 13 4.57 24 425 153 72 60 89 652 27.17
Kip Wells Pirates 3 R 8 18 5.09 33 546 186 103 99 132 839 25.42
Glendon Rusch Cubs 5 L 9 8 4.52 46 436 175 73 53 111 899 19.54
Ezequiel Astacio Astros 5 R 3 6 5.67 22 243 100 51 25 66 328 14.91
Eric Milton Reds 3 L 8 15 6.47 34 559 237 134 52 123 498 14.65
Ian Snell Pirates 5 R 1 2 5.14 15 126 43 24 24 34 205 13.67
Sidney Ponson Cardinals 6 R 7 11 6.21 23 391 177 90 48 68 275 11.96
Paul Wilson Reds 5 R 1 5 7.77 9 139 68 40 17 30 -51 -5.67

Now, I know, a few adjustments are probably in order.

First off, Zach Duke and Paul Maholm were late callups last season for the Pirates and basically mowed down the September schedule. I really can’t say for sure that Duke and Maholm will remain quality starters heading into the 2006 season.

Secondly, we see a few pitchers who, only last year, were shaky starters. Paul Wilson spent a good deal of the season on the disabled list. When he was finally activated, he did not perform well. I doubt that he will be shaky this year unless he continues to spend time on the DL. Oliver Perez had a great 2004 season but had a very bad start to 2005 and wound up on the DL for the majority of the season. Both Wilson and Perez would be considered as average starters, Perez could even be considered a quality starter if he finds that electric stuff he had in 2004. Fantasy players should keep an eye on Perez because he will fall into the later rounds of your draft and could become a steal.

Glendon Rusch (I’ll admit, I hate him), a.k.a. "The Launching Pad" numbers are a bit skewed as he went from short relief to long relief, to even a spot-starter. Honestly, he probably rates at the very edge of what I would consider to be an average starter. You notice that Kerry Wood is not in any of these tables. The news out of Chicago is that they are going to use Wood out of the bullpen.

I want to say Eric Milton is a better pitcher than what he did for the Reds last year. But to pitch so bad and to have the Reds continue to send him out there for 34 starts, his numbers are downright scary. An ERA of 6.47, he gave up 237 hits and 134 earned runs. Yikes! As you can see, the only new starter in Cincinnati is Dave Williams who came over in the Sean Casey deal from Pittsburgh. Clearly, Cincinnati will again have the worst starting pitching in the NL Central.

Good luck to St. Louis with Sidney Ponson. His numbers last year is just about what you’ll get from him. One of the most over-hyped starting pitchers the majors have seen the last 3 seasons.

Some teams have six pitchers listed. That is because they are not certain what 5 they will use heading into the season. Spring Training will be used to answer rotation questions. I believe in most cases, any pitcher listed 1 through 3 is pretty safe to not losing their job. Number 4 starters are on close watch but most of them will remain in the rotation. Number 5 and 6’s are clearly on the bubble and need good springs in order to get into their team’s rotation.

Finally, I averaged the points per game for each staff of the players listed and the results are as follows:

  1. Milwaukee Brewers 48.62 PPG.
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 47.68 PPG.
  3. Chicago Cubs 46.93 PPG.
  4. Houston Astros 45.54 PPG.
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates 41.00 PPG.
  6. Cincinnati Reds 27.68 PPG.

What does this study tell us? Nothing much on January 22nd but it’s interesting to look at the numbers and draw a few conclusions. First off, 5 of the 6 Brewers who made up that number above all pitched for the Brewers last season. Chicago’s decision to put Wood in the bullpen hurts their starting rotation. Last year, they were considered to be the best staff of the division. Houston probably should have tried to keep Roger Clemens. Had they signed him for 2006, the Astros would clearly be the best staff in the division. Unless the young arms in Pittsburgh continue the hot pace they ended last season with, and if Perez should find his form of 2004, I still do not think they will be as good as the four teams above them. I believe that the top 4 staffs are very close. I also believe that its important to put your hitting shoes on when Cincinnati comes up on your schedule.

All of this work means nothing without comments from my viewing audience so as always, your comments are greatly appreciated…



    A lot of numbers there. A couple of comments though. Chicago did not decide to move Kerry Wood to the bullpen, his injuries/injury prevent him from starting. Houston did not decide to try and not sign Clemens. It would have been stupid to sign him for what he was asking/demanding and I bet he signs with them anyway after the signing deadline passes. Sidney Ponson is a quality pitcher with off the field issues. If he gets his act together and also watches his weight, St. Louis will have the best staff in the division to go along with that awesome everyday line-up. That being said, I am more jacked up for this Brewer season than any other in more than 15 years. PS, if you worked as hard on your bowling, as you do for this web log you might be somebody…..


    I think you owe Daron an apology, he gave you props right on his blog… That is pretty sweet, that means he checks into your blog. He probably has to bite his tounge on the Lyle trade, so he acknowleged you for your points made. PS… if anyone of you are in the Madison area and want a lesson in bowling, just let me know, I’d be happy to show you how.

  3. Rob


    Daron posted my web address and advised his viewers to check it out. I didn’t read where he acknowledged my point about the Overbay trade. It was nice of him to give this site some exposure.

    I don’t need any bowling lessons thank you very much. I shot my 2nd sanctioned 300 game right before Christmas and have twice went for 11 in a row in the last 3 months.

    BowlHL300 is a Bowling Owner in the Milwaukee area who bowls for a drink a game against me every Monday night. Last Monday, he finally won 2 of 3 from me and had the first nine in our final game and then threw a Sally-Ball and left the ten pin. Did I forget to mention I was celebrating my 39th birthday and had my share of beverages. I did not drive knowing what was waiting for me last week! The two prior Monday’s, I ran around his establishment looking for a broom to wave in his face !!!


    I will post the very unimpressive career numbers of Sidney Ponson and then you can explain to me how this guy would ever be considered a quality starter. I read what the Cardinals signed him for this season. 1 YEAR, 1 MILLION DOLLARS. Isn’t that close to the veteran’s minimum? What a steal for the Cardinals LOL


    Unless your a stud closer, who pays $9.5 million for a setup guy? Let’s be honest, Kerry Wood is in the bullpen because he has trouble with his location! Teams picked up on it last year and he landed up walking everyone. Then, he tried to overpower hitters and blew out his shoulder…again !!!

    Lastly, your right, they could have signed Clemens. I predict Clemens gets more from them on May 1st then they would have had to pay him this off-season. When the Astros run Backe, Rodriguez, and Astacio out there 3 straight days !!!

  4. Rob


    Look for my name once this year’s State Bowling Tournament is over. I can’t say that I’ll take first, but I should be able to hit the board !!!


    fair enough…I was just giving you a hard time, you are most definately better then me. My high is 285, I have twice bowled that… I have only bowled ten in arow. I am only 20 and started bowling with a hook three years ago. Maybe you could give the lesson. Take it easy.



    Just a note… while watching CSI Miami on tape since when it was on live I was kicking Rob’s *** with the sweep, they have a web log going on in their department. If only the people on this blog were as hot as the chicks on that show. One man’s opinion-I’d take Ponson, O Perez and E. Astacio on our staff any day. Astacio has electric stuff which you can’t see when you just look at numbers.


    Astacio HAS good stuff, does he bring it to the ball park every day…. NO…. Ponson is a loose cannon from what I have heard and I would take Odalis Perez…


    While waiting for the next blog, I noticed in your rating system(albeit,you got it from each 3rd of an inning is worth 5 points. Does that mean that 2 innings pitched equal the points a pitcher gets for a win/save. That’s ludricrous. It’s almost as bad as deducting AI or Kobe for field goal percentage. I wonder what Bill James would think about that…….


    I was just wondering where Clemens was….if he does come back there is no doubt he is a quality starter and improves that Astro’s staff…while in all reality their problem will once again be an aging offense. Love the Blog, and can’t wait for opening day.

  10. Rob

    A response from bowlhl300…

    2 innings pitched meaning 6 up, 6 down = 30. That is correct. You failed to mention that every walk, hit and earned run, the pitcher is penalized (As he should be).

    It’s my opinion that you should never just look at the positives in statistics, you need to weigh in the negatives. If you have a 15+ game winner with a high earned run average but received unbelievable run support the prior year, as a GM or manager, can you trust a 2nd year of good fortune with your offense or do you call on your pitching coach to iron out the kinks?

    See Sidney Ponson’s career numbers. That should change your thinking…


    You said:

    “First off, Zach Duke and Paul Maholm were late callups last season for the Pirates and basically mowed down the September schedule.”

    First of all, Duke came up in July.. not September. And while Maholm came up in September, he threw a 4 hitter over 8 innings against the Brewers in his MLB debut while the Brewers were fighting for their .500 life. Not exactly ‘mowing down a September schedule’.

    Paul Maholm’s 2005 rookie debut put him as the highest rated rookie pitcher in many years. His AGS (Av Gm Sc) was off the charts and better than Dukes and any Brewer pitcher had in 2005.

    You need to go read what this guy has about the NLCD teams this year:

    It might open your eyes to the Brewers AND the division some.

  12. Rob

    Good to hear from a Pirates fan. I didn’t even know they existed! Anyway, being called up in July is still considered to be a late call up in my book. We will see how Duke fares when he goes around the league for the 2nd and 3rd time. Right now, all we know about Duke is that he had a rookie season much like Cal Eldred had for the Brewers back in 1992 when Eldred went 11-2 with an ERA of 1.79. The following season, Eldred went 16-16 with a 4.01 ERA. Can the Pirates score enough so Duke can win 16 games? I doubt it.

    From a fantasy perspective, According to, Duke is ranked as the major’s 66th best pitcher behind Sheets, Davis, and Capuano. Among their comments about Duke, they say, “Duke will figure it out eventually, despite playing for a poor team, but the results this year won’t look like those from 2005”.


    The Pirates are irrelevant but Zach Duke is not. If has him ranked 66th then they are knuckleheads. I’s take him tomorrow for any Brewer starter except Sheets and that’s even a question with Big Ben’s history of breaking down. Duke is 22 for God’s sake and has got unbelievable upside. Don’t barrage us with numbers Mr. Stat. You can just tell this guy has it……

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