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Republished: Final 2008 Report Card, Starting Pitchers

Roy Halladay:  What more needs be said?  Doc was incredible, having one of his best seasons.  246 innings of 155 ERA+ (more than 50% better than the average pitcher in the league), going the distance 9 times, and striking out a whopping 206 while walking only 39.  Doc was just dominant, with a 1.053 WHIP, and lead the league in Whip, complete games, shutouts, and strkeouts to walk ratio, while finishing second in ERA.  That he lost 11 games can only be blamed on the Jays lousy offense, as he gave up 3 or less runs in 6 of the 11 losses.  Find me another pitcher who gave up 3 or less runs in more than half the games he lost.  Okay, find one who's not on the Jays.  He once again anchored the pitching staff and seemed to rediscover his strikeout stuff, while still getting just as many ground balls.  Masterful.  The only concern is that he was throwing less fastballs and sinkers and more cutters this season, and I hope that doesn't come back next season.  A+

A.J. Burnett:  Despite what you may have heard, it hasn't been a career year for A.J., except perhaps in one sense:  his health.  A.J. pitched the most innings of his career, and put together a quality season, leading the league in strikeouts (231) and strikeouts per 9 innings.  A.J. gave up a few too many baserunners, though, with 86 walks and 211 hits (which isn't a lot at all for his 221 innings, but A.J. is usually a lot more hit stingy).  For all the ink that's been spilled, A.J. wasn't all that much better than a league average pitcher this season (106 ERA+) but he was good enough and healthy enough to win 18 games, which all but assures he will opt out of his contract and become a free agent, though the Jays have made an honest effort to resign him.  In A.J.'s defense, he seems to have gotten rather hit unlucky (a .328 BABIP accompanying a big reduction in his HR rate is a bit tough to swallow) and his peripherals were as good as they've ever been, with a Fielding Independent ERA a nice 3.45.  B+

Dustin McGowan:  McGowan only made 19 starts before a labrum injury ended his season and cast his career into doubt.  Dusty was almost exactly league average (ERA+ of 99), but mostly he was just inconsistent in his results, though his peripherals weren't bad.  He also put up a FIP lower than his ERA, at 3.81 (weird that he and A.J. had poor FIP/ERA results when the Jays defense is so good), and was unlucky both with hits and runners left on base, though not ridiculously so.  McGowan's K numbers were down, and he was also giving up more fly balls and less ground balls, but it's hard to judge him too harshly since he really only pitched half a year and it's not clear whether the injury affected his performance (he had four mediorcre starts in a row before getting hurt).  A healthy McGowan for half the season next year would be a big boost for the team.   C+ but Incomplete

Shaun Marcum:  Marcum had a strange year.  For most of the season, he was lights-out when he pitched, finishing with a 127 ERA+ and generally serving as the Jays de facto number 2 starter when A.J. was scuffling.  It wasn't luck either, as Shaun posted excellent peripheral numbers (7.31 K/9, 2.97 BB/9) and improved his home run rate measurably, which was great to see.  Marcum's 1.16 WHIP probably was helped by some luck with batted balls, since his FIP was only about league average.  Marcum hit the DL with some elbow issues, and his return seemed rushed by the Jays.  He had a few good starts, and then after one mediocre start against Boston, he was suddenly sent down to AAA.  Reports were that the Jays had slowed down Marcum's delivery temporarily with the goal of improving the consistency of his mechanics and command.  Anyway, Marcum was great when he returned, with lights out starts against the Rays and the White Sox.  And then, the sadness.  TJ and the best we and Shaun can do is hope for 2010.  I love the guy and can't wait to see him pitch again - he's a blast to watch as he drops any pitch at any count and gets strikeouts despite having a fastball that rarely gets above 90.  A-

Jesse Litsch:  I'm not sure what people expected of Jesse Litsch, who came out of nowhere last season, but I think it's fair to say that he exceeded almost everyone's expectations.  Litsch posted a 13-9 record and a very fine 3.58 ERA.  Even more impressively, Litsch increased his strikeouts (by a whole strikeout per 9 innings), decreased his walks (ditto) from 2007 and did it all without too much luck on balls in play (though he certainly was helped by the Jays fine defense).  A 120 ERA+ from a second-year, 23 year old pitcher is very impressive, and Litsch also seems quite durable, which is great for a rotation with so many question marks going into 2009.  Litsch will have a lock on a rotation spot going into 2009, and there's no question but that he deserves it.  Really, the only blip on his season was a few bad starts, which the Jays felt necessitated a short trip to AAA, and Litsch was great upon his return.  Jesse is the kind of pitcher who will have to prove himself again and again, but so far, so good.  A-

David Purcey:  Purcey's overall numbers are not very impressive, but he showed flashes of briliance in 12 starts this season, with a couple of clunkers in there too.  Purcey's K numbers (better than 8 per 9 innings) are excellent for a starter but he walked too many (4 per 9) and those kind of walk numbers will kill you unless you are truly dominant, which David wasn't.  On the bright side, his FIP was almost a run better than his ERA, so he was a little unlucky with runners left on and the like.  Indeed, just pitching to his FIP this season would make him an acceptable, though not great, 5th starter.  However, this was Purcey's first taste of the bigs, and though he's not a kid, pitchers develop at different times.  It's nice to have a lefty in the rotation, and if Purcey can cut down on his walks, he certainly can contribute.  The Jays may be forced to hand Purcey a rotation spot next season, so let's hope he's ready.  C-

Scott Richmond:  Richmond only started 5 games, but he may be a contributor next season so let's take a look, with the usual small sample size caveats.  Richmond started 5 games, and never stunk up the place, which I actually find quite impressive for a rookie pitcher, and his overall numbers were quite good (108 ERA+).  Richmond's last two seasons were his best, even throwing a shutout in his last start (ok, rain-shortened, but still an impressive showing).  Richmond's walk numbers were absurdly low (.67/9 innings, and he was nowhere near that stingy in the minors) so that's  not going to continue, but you have to love a 10/1 K/BB ratio, even Doc didn't manage that.  Richmond wasn't at all lucky on batted balls, so there's room for improvement in that area that could partially offset the increase in walks that would be expected.  Richmond basically throws fastballs and sliders (his fastball has some pop and his slider has a nice tight break), with the occasional changeup and the very occasional curve, so if he doesn't work out in the rotation I think he could be a very good late-inning righty reliever with that combo, coupled with his proclivity for pounding the strike zone. Incomplete, but if I had to give a grade, it'd be a solid B. 

John Parrish actually started one more game than Richmond, but since he was good as a reliver and stunk as a starter, and certainly doesn't fit into the Jays long-term rotation plans, I'll do him a favor and evaluate him there.  Stay tuned for the pen and for management, and of course post your comments and criticisms below!