I just read the ESPN article about possible super teams or teams that will win 100 games. The locks listed were the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers. In the American League the Rays were the teams listed as the Prime Contender and the wild cards were the Twins and the Angels. The fact that we were listed with the Angels, a team that won 72 games last year, is a story for anther post. The question on the Twins was"if their pitching works out". Last time I checked we won 101 games last year and I don't see how our lineup is not at least as good if not even better this year with Arraez and Buxton for a whole year and Donaldson replacing Cron.
So let's discuss our pitching. We have Berrios and Odorizzi back, and I will discuss them in greater detail shortly. The next players that pitched the most innings were Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez and Michael Pineda. Pineda will miss almost exactly a quarter of the season but has a good chance of matching last years innings total of 149 or at least coming close. Big Mike also gets to pitch only in the warmer months which seemed to be his best part of last season. So the staff comparison really comes down to replacing Gibson and Perez. Those 2 combined to make 58 starts and pitch 325 innings last year. Gibson had a 5.12 ERA and Perez had 4.84. They both had WHIP around 1.5. That is what we are replacing. That is not exactly Koufax and Drysdale. Even if the Maeda trade falls thru the leading candidates to replace those 2 are Homer Bailey, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe. For Dobnak, Smeltzer and Thorpe their respective ERA's were 1.59, 3.86 and 6.18. Both Dobnaks and Thorpes ERA's were a little misleading. The respective FIP for those 3 was 2.90, 4.58 and 3.47. For comparison sake Gibson and Perez came in at 4.26 and 4.66. Thorpe takes a huge jump due to his excellent SO totals and an unsustainable .438 BABIP. Where is this huge drop-off that would cause our win total to plummet? If anything it looks like we would be slightly better if those 3 combined to eat up the innings pitched by Perez and Gibson. Homer Bailey pitched decent last year after 4 years of not pitching much or well. His 163 IP was the most he had managed since 2013. It was his 1st time with an ERA below 5.5 since 2014. Martin Perez was coming off a similar 2018 in which he didn't much but when he did he was terrible. If Bailey can repeat his 2019, his numbers across the board would be better than what Perez was able to do last season.
However you look at the candidates at the back end of the rotation I don't see how you can make any sensible argument that we are worse off then we were last year at this time. Knowing now what we received from Gibson and Perez and seeing what the peripherals were for the candidates to replace them, it would be hard to not acknowledge that we are at least as well off going into this season if not actually in a better position than last year.
Now let's look at Jose Berrios. I think he will continue his improvement and will climb to be one of the top 20 pitchers in baseball. Last year Jose's overall numbers took a slight downturn from his previous season even though his ERA ended up slightly lower. His H/9 and K/9 were both slightly better in 2018. But a big reason for this very slight downturn we due to a very bad 6 game stretch in Aug and the 1st week of Sept. His numbers during that 6 game stretch were truly awful.
6 G 31.1 IP 47 H 29 R 15 BB 36 SO 8 HR
Those numbers equate to averages of
8.33 ERA 13.5 H/9 4.31 BB/9 10.35 K/9 1.98 WHIP 2.31 HR/9
His number in his other 26 starts were ACE level performance
26 G 169 IP 147 H 53 R 36 BB 159 SO 18 HR
This lead to averages of
2.82 ERA 7.72 H/9 1.91 BB/9 8.46 K/9 1.07 WHIP 0.96 HR/9
So before Aug 1 Berrios was having a season that would have put him among the very best pitchers in baseball and would have definitely garnered him Cy Young votes. Now I know you can't cherry pick numbers and every start counts. But I do think that Berrios had a bad stretch that somewhat misleadingly brought down the rest of his numbers. This was a time when maybe his arm was tired, or he had a little bit of a confidence crisis or maybe just some bad luck. Could have been a mixture of all 3. I love Berrios' work ethic and I feel certain he sent this entire offseason working towards finding a solution for his late season fade. It really is the last step for him to becoming a truly elite pitcher. He may not be the ace of a Verlander or Cole level, but who is. There are maybe 5 pitchers in all of baseball who are at that level. Where Berrios can slide into is the next tier of the top 20 pitchers in baseball. Not sure what everyone else's definition of ace is but I think top 20 is pretty close.
If we do acquire Maeda, it isn't even comparable to last season. He would immediately be a vast improvement over Gibson and Perez.