This rat cheer: POTD Kevin Millwood 2
Precious few 37-year-olds can still slice off a cut fastball. Kevin Millwood's elbow ligaments are made of leather, and his pitches still break two ways, left and right. He still has (had, at last sighting) the plus command.
Combine 4-5 pitches with command, and with MLB(TM) moxie and you've got a pitcher who WILL be effective. We're not talking about a #6 finish in the Cy, but if Millwood comes to camp throwing 88-89 mph, you can bank the 2.7 WAR.
=== Rode Hard, Put Away Wet Dept. ===
If you ax an MLB insider what is going on here, this is what he'll say. The thing about both Iwakuma and Millwood is that they were both down to 84 at times last year. It's more than possible that either, or both, is kaput, that's all she wrote. SOME spring will come in which they're clocking 84 mph, lousy command, just done done done when your daddy takes your fastball awayyyyy...
The M's bring them into camp to see how much juice they have in the tank. If either one is throwing a consistent 88-90, that pitcher is in there, period. If one or both of them comes to camp with a thrashed arm, 85 mph, he or they are gone. It's all about finding out where their arms are at in March.
If by some stretch you get both Iwakuma and Millwood with some life in the arm, 89 mph fastballs, then BOOM you've got Felix plus four 100-110 ERA+ pitchers, and the youngsters in the wings. I'm sure Matt can add up the staffwide ERA if that occurs: Hint: top four in the league.
=== Not Sure What This Has To Do With Anything, But Thought We'd Say It Anyway Dept. ===
Millwood did in fact average 89.2 mph for the Rockies in 2011: that is, for every 87 mph fastball he threw, he threw one 91 mph. This after the 84-86 minor league ballgames that had him shut down by the health department.
=== MLB(TM) Innings Eater 101 Dept. ===
Kevin Millwood, the 89 mph version, would benefit more from Safeco than would the average pitcher. Why? Because at this stage of his career, Millwood gets 9,000 kinds of strike zone when the count is 3-and-1.
Here is "Here It Is, Hit It" from the word Go. That means no walks -- about 2.5 per nine the last five years -- but it also means gopheritis -- about 1.3 per nine the last couple years. Several times a game, the ump will miss a pitch and Millwood will go 2-and-0. When it is, it's a fastball-slider coming; you could look it up. The batter plants the back foot, starts the bat early, and it's a question of whether the park can hold the ball.
That's Innings Eater 101. Your 33-year-old Freddy Garcias and Bartolo Colons are not going to walk people. They stay in the league by not beating themselves.
Ergo, a big park makes a bigger difference for them. If Safeco holds eight fly balls on the warning track, over the course of the year, well, that's 20% off your ERA; you've allowed 72 earned runs rather than 88.
=== Dr's Prognosis, Dept. ===
The really intriguing thing will be to see whether Iwakuma and Millwood have both bounced back. You can take it for granted that Vargas and Noesi will throw well. It's true that the Rangers and Angels have fearsome rotations, but there have been a whale of a lot of playoff rotations also that went 150-100-100-100-100. The Boston Red Sox have created about twenty of those, the last thirty years :- ) and the Yankees seem inadvertently cursed with them, the last ten...
Am not expecting 12 wins from Millwood, but compared to a Jeff Suppan move, this one leaves us smelling like roses. As Sandy put it, Millwood is still capable of one more magic season, the kind he had in Cleveland in 2005 and in Texas in 2009, years in which he was approximately the #15 starter in the league. He didn't throw anything in 2009 that he doesn't throw now.
Zduriencik goes about his business, creating 8-to-make-5's everywhere he can.