With the trade deadline coming Saturday, I will focus on different components of the AL contending teams. I will take a look at what their current rosters look like if they make the playoffs and how it should affect what the Twins do between now and Saturday.
I will first focus on the starting staffs. I have named a probable ace for each team, based on knowledge of the team and the pitcher's numbers. I will then identify a #2 and 3 starter and a #4 or wild-card, if needed starter. I will rank the aces, the top 3 starters and the potential #4s. I only included starters for the Twins, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, White Sox, Tigers, Rangers and Angels.
#1 Cliff Lee - Texas Rangers. Lee is 9-4 with a 2.40 ERA between Seattle and Texas. He strikes out 7.38 batters per 9 innings and walks .45 .... yes .45!!!! His 2.40 FIP and 3.30 xFIP says Lee is an ace. With his current production and his past history (2008 Cy Young and 2009 playoff performance), there is no pitcher in the AL I'd rather have start a playoff game.
#2 Francisco Liriano. Yes, in the ace department the Twins are in good shape. He is 9-7 with a 3.35 ERA. He strikes-out 9.7/9 and walks 2.51/9. some say he is not even the ace of the Twins, but they aren't looking deeper. His .348 BABIP has been unlucky. He's only given up 2 HRs. His FIP of 2.13 and xFIP of 2.91 suggest he's probably been the AL's best overall starter.
#3 John Lester - Boston Red Sox. Lester is having another great year. He's 11-5 with a 2.92 ERA. He strikes out 9.49/9 and walks 3.18/9. His FIP/xFIP of 2.89/3.22 suggest he'll continue his great year.
#4 Jered Weaver - California Angels. Weaver is having a great year and he has been the ace that the Angels supposedly didn't have. He is 9-7 with a 3.19 ERA. He strikes out 9.89 and walks 2.04/9. He has a 3.07 FIP and 3.38 xFIP.
#5 C.C. Sabathia - New York Yankees. Sabathia is 13-4 with a 3.15 ERA. He strikes out 7.37/9 and walks 3.09/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.61/3.91 showing he has been a little lucky. He hasn't been as good as he has in past years, but the 2007 AL Cy Young is still a workhorse and solid #1 starter.
#6 Justin Verlander - Detroit Tigers. Verlander is 12-6 with a 3.74 ERA. He strikes out 8.52 K/9 and walks 3.21/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.22/3.95.
#7 John Danks - Chicago White Sox. This was a tough pick. Gavin Floyd may be having a better 2010 and Ozzie may still go with Mark Buerhle as his #1 starter. If I was the manager, I'd take Danks. Danks is 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA. He strikes out 6.8/9 and walks 2.96/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.31/4.11.
#8 David Price - Tampa Bay Rays. Price started the all-star game and is 13-5 with a 2.90 ERA. He strikes out 7.63/9 and walks 3.60/9. A .275 BABIP and 76.6% LOB rate suggests he's been lucky. His FIP/xFIP suggests some regression. 3.71/4.15.
Best playoff 3:
#1 The Chicago White Sox:
Gavin Floyd is 6-8 with a 3.66 ERA. He strikes out 7.39/9 and walks 2.55/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.09/3.65.
Mark Buehrle is 9-8 with a 3.96 ERA. His K rate is really low at 3.96/9. He walks 2.05 BB/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.93/4.78.
#4 Minnesota Twins:
Carl Pavano is 13-6 with a 3.21 ERA. He strikes out 5.02/9 and walks 1.33 BB/9. His .257 BABIP has been lucky. His FIP is 3.85 and xFIP is 3.93.
Scott Baker is 8-9 with a 5.00 ER and, as I spoke of here, he has been very unlucky. He has a .337 BABIP rate. He strikes out 7.76/9 and walks 1.72/9. His 3.97 FIP and 3.77 xFIP say Baker has been a very good pitcher who has been very unlucky.
#5 New York Yankees:
C.C. Sabathia.Andy Pettitte is 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA. Has had a good, but a little misleading season. He strikes out 7 K/9 and walks 2.96/9. His 80.7% LOB rate and .274 BABIP suggest he has been very lucky. His FIP/xFIP at 3.96/4.06 are over a run above his ERA.
The Yankees have a decision on their 3rd starter. All indications are, that Hughes will be in the bullpen by the playoffs, to keep his innings down. He's had a good year. He is 12-3 with a 4.04 ERA. He strikes out 7.76/9 and walks 2.59/9. His FIP of 4.00 and xFIP of 4.12 mirrors his ERA. The Yankees could use him. I'm picking Burnett over Vazquez with Hughes in the bullpen.
AJ Burnett is 8-8 with a 4.77 ERA. He strikes out 6.65/9 and walks 3.68/9. His FIP/xFIP 4.75/4.77 suggest he is the same pitcher his ERA thinks he is.
#6 Boston Red Sox:
Clay Buchholz is 11-5 with a 2.71 ERA and having a breakout season. He strikes out 6.38/9 and walks 3.67/9. His low BABIP of .274 suggests regression. His FIP/xFIP is 3.76/4.25.
John Lackey is 10-5 with a 4.26 ERA. He has been considered somewhat of a disappointment in Boston. He's only striking out 5.39/9 and walking 3.33/9. His FIP/xFIP of 4.19/4.80 hasn't been any better than his ERA.
#7 Tampa Bay Rays:
Jeff Niemann has had a decent year, going 8-3 with a 2.95 ERA. He strikes out 6.59/9 and walks 2.81/9. His FIP/xFIP is 4.32/4.26, suggesting he has been lucky. His .249 BABIP and 83.9 LOB% would agree with this.
Matt Garza just threw a no-hitter and he is 11-5 with a 4.06 ERA. He strikes out 6.78/9 and walks 2.87/9. His FIP of 4.52 and xFIP of 4.45 say he's only been slightly above average this year.
#8 Detroit Tigers:
Josh Beckett - Boston Red Sox. Beckett is 1-1 with a 6.66 ERA in just 9 starts. He strikes out 7.89/9 and walks a pretty high 3.86 BB/9. He has been hurt most of the season and his ERA looks ugly, but he has been very unlucky. He has a .360 BABIP and a LOB % of only 59.1. His FIP/xFIP are 4.39/4.23. Beckett is the ultimate wild-card. He may not even be healthy enough to pitch. If he's healthy and on, he represents another potential ace and increases Boston's chances if they make the playoffs.
#2 James Shields - Tampa Bay Rays. He is 9-9 with a high 4.79 ERA. He strikes out 8.11/9 and walks just 2.06/9. His BABIP is a high .337 and his 4.19 FIP 3.68 xFIP suggest that he will improve. He could be the Rays second best starter, but unless Maddon is willing to use advanced statistics over ERA, Shields is probably the 4th guy.
#3 Ervin Santana - California Angels. He is 9-7 with a 3.55 ERA. He strikes out 7.55/9 and walks 2.76/9. He's had a high LOB%, which probably explains why his ERA is lower than expected. His FIP is 4.14 and xFIP 4.32.
#4 Kevin Slowey - Twins. Slowey is 9-5 with a 4.76 ERA. He strikes out 6.37/9 and walks only 1.69/9. He has also been unlucky, as I explained here. He has a .332 BABIP. His FIP of 4.15 and 4.56 xFIP suggests he has been better than his ERA. He may be frustrating to watch, but he has been decent in 2010, if not great.
#5 Freddy Garcia - Chicago White Sox. Garcia is 9-4 with a 4.74 ERA. He strikes out 5.43/9 and walks 2.85/9. His FIP/xFIP is 4.62/4.61.
#6 Javier Vazquez - New York Yankees. Vazquez is 9-7 with a 4.54 ERA. He strikes out 7.23/9 and walks 3.45/9. His FIP/xFIP 4.92/4.62 suggests he is no where near the pitcher he was in Atlanta in 2009. Vazquez is more of a National League pitcher.
#8 Armando Galarraga - Detroit Tigers. Galarraga is 3-3 with a 4.43 ERA. He only strikes out 4.3/9 and walks 2.35 B/9. A .274 BABIP suggests he's been lucky and predictably his FIP 4.67 and xFIP 5.09 are higher than his ERA. His near perfect game was a nice moment, but he really is not a good pitcher.
What does this all mean? It means that the Twins have an ace going into the playoffs and if they make the playoffs, they have a decent starting staff to compete.
What does this mean going into the trading deadline? If the Twins can trade for a Shawn Marcum or a Brett Myers they should. If they can make a trade to improve their #3 spot in the rotation or their #4 by a lot, they should. The Twins should probably stay away from the likes of Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, Kevin Millwood. None of these pitchers are an improvement over the Twins top four starters. If one of these can be had for just about nothing, making the trade will give the Twins a decent 5th starter and allow Duensing to go back to the pen. There are starters available to improve the Twins, but no trade needs to be made, the Twins starters are pretty decent as they are.