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D-Day for D.Davis

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Looks like Eric B will be able to ride his skateboard to the arbitration hearing, rather than sharing a taxi with Davis. Douggy D signed a three-year, $22m contract - spookily close to, but actually a bit better than, the $23m/3 yr deal mooted here yesterday. The breakdown sees Davis gets $5.5m this year, which is closer to the figure AZ wanted than the one the pitcher countered with: he then earns $7.75m in 2008, before finishing with $8.75 million in 2009.

If you've got any doubts, refer back to the chart in the last entry, and you'll see how damn good this contract is. Indeed, I can only presume Josh Byrnes called in a blood-spattered, hacksaw-wielding Jack Bauer to work "negotiations" for the D'backs. "I know you think what you're doing is right, Doug. But it's my job not to let that happen. You have no idea how far I'm willing to go to acquire your cooperation..." Davis, whimpering, scribbles frantically on the contract. [Ah, yes: soon as Mrs. SnakePit gets home from work tonight,. we'll be settling down for an evening in the company of everyone's favorite patriotic psychopath]

That gives us a nice sense of solidity, with Davis joining Johnson and Webb as inked in through the next two seasons, along with whatever rides up the I-10 from Tucson. It's particular appropriate, therefore, to mention a piece over at the Hardball Times, where fellow SB Nation blogger Jeff Sackman of BrewCrewBall has been looking at starting pitchers. He's analyzed the figures, and with his new model, here's the average starter for each of the first six rotation spots in the majors last year:

Spot        ERA      GS       IP
#1 Starter 3.91    28.5    181.2
#2 Starter 4.61    26.6    165.7
#3 Starter 4.74    27.6    167.5
#4 Starter 4.82    20.8    123.4
#5 Starter 4.96    20.6    126.8
#6 Starter 4.77    15.5     95.1

There's several things to note here. Firstly, the front five starters only came up with an average of 124 starts in total, leaving 38 for replacements. It seems like worries about which #5 to use may end up being superfluous - especially since it appears likely that Randy Johnson could miss the start of the season, sending us into the hole from early in the year. It's also sobering to note that almost two-thirds of teams (19) last year used between ten and twelve starters at some point.

Last year, Arizona was among them, with eleven; do we have the depth for that in 2007? We've lost Vargas, Hernandez 1.0, the Huge Manatee and Jarvis, who gave us 46 starts between them. Cruz's 15 starts also seem unlikely. But between picking up Johnson and Davis, and the apparent near-readiness of Owings, Eveland, and Nippert, I think we should be okay, health permitting. Sackman also points out, "The biggest difference is between the #1 and #2 starters, suggesting why having two aces catapults a team so far ahead of the pack." That's significant, because here's how the prospected AZ rotation stacks up against the expected figures, using the ZIPS predictions:

Spot        ERA  Name        ZIPS
#1 Starter 3.91  Webb        3.85
#2 Starter 4.61  Johnson     3.63
#3 Starter 4.74  Davis       4.54
#4 Starter 4.82  Hernandez   5.14
#5 Starter 4.96  EdGon       4.96
#6 Starter 4.77  Owings      4.88

The obvious area where Arizona could be way ahead of the pack is in that #2 spot. If Johnson does indeed post an ERA, even around the four mark, that would still put Arizona towards the front end of the curve. Add the fact that I expect both Webb and Hernandez 2.0 to surpass the ZIPS projections, and this team is quietly putting together something which it could be worth getting excited about. Waiting until 2008? It's vastly over-rated... :-)