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Thread: #4, #5, Long Reliever, AAAA or AAA Pitcher

  1. #1
    Owner MVP Seth Stohs's Avatar
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    #4, #5, Long Reliever, AAAA or AAA Pitcher

    This is a topic that I have been trying to figure out how to put into a blog, but I just can't. I think it's a good forum topic though.

    What is the difference between a #4 or #5 starter, a long reliever, a AAAA pitcher or a AAA Pitcher?

    As the Twins have gone from some veteran #4 and #5 starters to guys like Scott Diamond and PJ Walters and Cole DeVries, I can't help but think about this question. Diamond is a prospect in that, until last year, he really had put up very good minor league numbers. Walters is considered a AAAA pitcher who hasn't had a ton of success in AAA and very little in the big leagues. He's already 27. De Vries is 27 and just made his major league debut. Nick Blackburn was projected to be a back-of-the-rotation starter and has been just that. His first two big league seasons, he was very solid, very league average. Anthony Swarzak has been a decent-at-times big league starter and a solid-enough long reliever. So, what happens?

    These are just some current examples. Every organization has these types of pitchers. So, again, what is the difference?

    1.) Is it just about opportunity or lack of opportunity? There is a team need, a guy gets a chance and either takes advantage of it quickly or doesn't.
    2.) Is there a difference in stuff? Maybe a #4 has one really good pitch and two average pitches, whereas a AAA or AAA may have 3 average pitches?
    3.) Draft status? Obviously signing bonuses create opportunities, but they still have to be taken advantage of.


    Can anyone help me out? I don't think it's an unimportant question because a guy who could be a #4 pitcher can still get a long-term, multi-million contract. AAAA and AAA guys are generally looking for jobs every off season.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer Boom Boom's Avatar
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    When you're talking about #4 starters, the difference varies by team. A #4 pitcher for the Phillies is very different than a #4 pitcher for the Royals. Therefore the position on the team's depth chart has less to do with value than their actual performance.

    #5 pitchers are typically replacement level, and are mostly synonymous with AAAA starter or long relievers. The last guy in a 5-man rotation doesn't usually stay in that spot for more than one season, and typically doesn't even last in the rotation for that long. These are fringe starters.

  3. #3
    Senior Member All-Star Thrylos's Avatar
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    Actually it depends on the team... On a contending team the likes of Pavano and Blackburn would be their #4 or #5 starters with possibly some high ceiling almost MLB=ready prospects making occasional strarts (the Twins' have only one of those arguably in Hendriks.) That's for a contending team that looks at contending well into the post-season.

    As far the Twins go, that's a different story. And their problem is not their #4 or #5 starters, is that their best starter is a #4/5 starter.
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  4. #4
    Twins Daily Writer All-Star Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
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    I have my opinions about what those labels mean. I would say that #4/#5 starters are the same. Guys that can give you a lot of innings, but not have a great strikeout rate and struggle with consistency. Guys like Nick Blackburn. I also think that these types of guys, who are able to maintain over a long time - like Pavano - can become #3 starters.

    AAAA pitchers are pitchers that are just too good for AAA or have played AAA ball for a long time, but when they've been given shots at the major-league level, just can't get it done. (If Slama gets another chance and doesn't have success, he would fit this label).

    Long-relief guys, in my mind, are those that are stretched out and have been given the opportunity to start, but just haven't had success over multiple innings and don't seem to help out in the bullpen in short stints. ('Tweeners?)

    AAA pitchers are those guys knocking on the door, but have never been given an extended look.

    And then there are those that really fit into multiple levels.


    Liriano (when not mentally handicapped) - #2
    Baker (when healthy) - #2/#3
    Pavano - #3
    Blackburn - #4/5
    Swarzak - long-relief
    Walters - AAAA (not enough experience to be considered #4/#5 yet)
    Diamond - AAA (but on his way to becoming #4/#5)
    De Vries - AAA

    Duensing is a unique case and I think he ends up going the way of Perkins and becoming a late-inning LOOGY-type pitcher. But that stems mostly from the fact that he's not good against RH batters.

  5. #5
    A long reliever someone who can successfully get through the batting order once, meaning that they can throw strikes and mix pitches enough to keep hitters off balance for a first at bat - but don't have the stuff to dominate. A four or five pitcher is a strike thrower, pitches to contact and can mix pitches enough to keep a team close through 6. They don't dominate, but they eat innings. I don't think there is much difference between a four or five other than one may be better at all of the above and maybe have more experience.

    AAAA pitchers are pitchers who are essentially 4-5 starters at the AAA level. They don't have the stuff to achieve at MLB level. The difference between a long reliever and AAAA is that a long reliever can miss bats, meaning they have at least one pitch that can generate strikeouts.

    How many cliches did I get in there?
    Last edited by MileHighTwinsFan; 05-26-2012 at 12:45 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member All-Star
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    What's the difference?

    Not enough to merit giving a long term contract to a back end starter like Blackburn.

    Not enough to merit signing of decline phase veterans like Marquis.

    Ultimately there are 150 jobs for starting pitchers at any given time. Spend money when you need to on a pitcher in the top half of that 150. Their performance is worth the risk of decline or injury. Don't spend money on the others. Replace.

  7. #7
    Senior Member All-Star IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
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    The thing that makes a difference in my mind (and I confess I am by no means an expert) is dependability. Even if the pitcher only has average stuff, if he can deliver it regularly and you can count on it, that makes the difference for me between a #4 and a #5. They're never going to blow the other side away, but they won't often get blown away themselves. Maybe they go out and you know it's only 50-50 that you win and they're not going to handicap the other team's bats, at least you're not in the dugout wondering if this will be a "good start" or a "bad start."

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
    What's the difference?

    Not enough to merit giving a long term contract to a back end starter like Blackburn.

    Not enough to merit signing of decline phase veterans like Marquis.

    Ultimately there are 150 jobs for starting pitchers at any given time. Spend money when you need to on a pitcher in the top half of that 150. Their performance is worth the risk of decline or injury. Don't spend money on the others. Replace.
    Please talk to Terry Ryan before he does something stupid and gives Diamond a 3 yr extension.......

    To answer Seth's question: A #4 starter is slightly above replacement level. #5 starters, long relief, AAAA, and AAA are all basically waiver wire fodder. Good teams have only #1-#4 starters in their rotation and hopefully no more than one #5 starter/AAAA/AAA/long relief on their mlb club including bullpen. Unfortunately for the Twins, their entire staff is made up of #5 starters and they have only 3 relievers who could be considered better than long relievers on decent teams.

  9. #9
    Senior Member All-Star Shane Wahl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
    What's the difference?

    Not enough to merit giving a long term contract to a back end starter like Blackburn.

    Not enough to merit signing of decline phase veterans like Marquis.

    Ultimately there are 150 jobs for starting pitchers at any given time. Spend money when you need to on a pitcher in the top half of that 150. Their performance is worth the risk of decline or injury. Don't spend money on the others. Replace.
    Boom. Absolutely. The Twins best starts this year are ALL replacement level pitchers at the league minimum (I swear that DeVries is going to be marginally better than Pavano). Wasted money on replaceable players like that adds up. For the Twins it adds up to Mauer dollars without ANY productions, in fact, it adds up to losses.

  10. #10
    Senior Member All-Star Shane Wahl's Avatar
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    I generally agree about the #5, AAAA, AAA similarity here, but there is something to be said about people breaking out of that given certain opportunities, environments, etc. Maybe P.J. Walters is a case of someone who has always been at that level but now is going to perform at a higher level like Diamond probably will. The Twins need to figure out the bottom three spots of the rotation this year and blow up what served as the top (Pavano, Liriano).

  11. #11
    Hey, Santana was the mop-up guy, the fellow you bring in when the game MIGHT be out-of-hand. Then he was the long relief guy. Then the spot starter or #4 or #5 starter. The #4 or #5 guy is usually replaceable. He's either too raw or on the downslide, but can give you some consistency for quite a few starts. Yes, Pavano this year is proving to be a semi-quality 4th or 5th starter to go with all the other bottom of the ladder guys.

    Basically, why pay these guys millions when you can get a comparable guy for a million.

    The 5th guy could be skipped.

    And long relief needs to go thru the order at least once with success.

  12. #12
    Super Moderator MVP ashburyjohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twinswon1991 View Post
    To answer Seth's question: A #4 starter is slightly above replacement level. #5 starters, long relief, AAAA, and AAA are all basically waiver wire fodder.
    An attitude like this will get you picked clean by competing GMs.

    To me, a #4 starter is someone you plan to give 32 starts if he remains healthy, and you accept his limitations as to his upside without getting an ulcer over it. The #5 starter is someone you don't mind bumping due to rainouts and other dislocations to your rotation, and you're quick to replace him in the rotation if he doesn't produce. A long reliever is probably your choice to move into the #5 slot in case of injury and there's no hot prospect at AAA you want to move up instead. AAAA is your replacement level of pitcher. And unless he's still young with upside, calling someone a AAA pitcher means "organization man" who might get a cup of coffee someday as a reward for loyal service.

  13. #13
    problem with the Twins are they dont define the spots, but rather pitch EVERY guy in order rather than utilizing off days to skip the 4th/5th starters.
    Sometimes depends on how many innings the first couple guys eat up in their starts so their is a strong, full bullpen to utilitze.
    That said, Blackburn is a guy Id dump today & eat his salary and start over.

  14. #14
    I'm going to start at the other end ...

    #1-3 are playoff game starters.

    #4 is (as noted above) a guy you'd be OK starting 32 times during the year.

    #5 is a guy you put out there so your #1-4 get 4 days rest between starts.

    Long relief is a guy who "could" be a starter - has more than one pitch, can (as some have noted) get through the lineup once. But, honestly .... his role is more "damage control" than anything else. Long relief gets out there because your starter got whacked around or injured early - - - - if he can can give you a few innings & save the bullpen from getting burnt up, you're happy with him.

    AAAA is a guy who "should be" better than he is. A guy who's very good in AAA 'should' be able to be decent with the big club. IMO, your AAAA has some correctable weakness in his game that he 'should' be able to solve but hasn't yet.

    AAA - - - - guy who isn't ready for the big club. Could be he never will be or "isn't yet" - needs to add a pitch, gain command over the pitches he has, etc.


    Obviously, this staff doesn't have a 1, 2 or 3 (Diamond & Walters are pitching like top of the rotation guys thus far, but it's way too early - and there's really nothing in their track record which says they're going to be that good). The rest of them really don't belong in a starting rotation.
    Last edited by BD57; 05-26-2012 at 08:05 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member All-Star
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    There is no reason the club can't be a 500 team. Sooner or later the manager and coaches will have to pay the price.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Triple-A Dilligaf69's Avatar
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    IDK if there is much difference it's just we have more then most teams.

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