Oakland Raiders select Terrelle Pryor in Supplemental Draft

On Monday, the Oakland Raiders were awarded a third-round selection for former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the NFL’s Supplemental Draft (ESPN News).

As a result, the Raiders will lose their rights to their 2012 third round pick. The Raiders will now be without a second, third or fourth round pick in the 2012 draft. Oakland traded their second-round pick in a draft day trade last year, and the Washington Redskins own the right to their fourth-round pick as part of the Jason Campbell trade.

 Pryor elected to forgo his senior season at Ohio State after allegations of further NCAA violations arose in the midst of the Jim Tressel situation that led to the coach’s resignation.

Pryor will be forced to serve a five-game suspension that will take place start Week 1. Pryor will, however, be eligible to participate in all pre-season practices and the Raiders two remaining preseason games.

In theory, this is a positive move for the Raiders on two fronts. The first and most obvious is it gives the Raiders their quarterback of the future they coveted entering the 2011 draft. Unsatisfied with the available talent in the draft, the Raiders failed to select a quarterback and decided to wait on it until a future date.

Lost in the controversy of the NCAA investigation is the fact that Pryor was a very successful quarterback that contained a large amount of athletic gifts. Last year, he threw for 2,772 yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for over 700 yards as well. Furthermore, he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash on his pro day.

The Raiders have been trying to find a winning quarterback since the days of Rich Gannon. The likes of Jeff Garcia, Bruce Gradkowski, Aaron Brooks, Duante Culpepper, former first overall draft bust JaMarcus Russell and, most recently, Jason Campbell have tried to solidify the position. None have been very successful at it. In the case of Russell, he may have single-handedly put the organization back three years.

Pryor will be allowed to groom and learn, with the Raiders committed to Campbell for this season. Given a full year to practice and learn under Huey Jackson’s offense will be beneficial and will put the Raiders back onto the right track in the long run.

However, there could be another positive that needs to be mentioned from the drafting of Terrelle Pryor. A lot of scouts and experts have said that Pryor may be best used as a wide receiver at the next level. If that’s the case, then he is still in a fantastic situation in Oakland. The Raiders do not have a true number one receiving option with the corps currently made up of a mixed bag of underachievers and bargain bin pick-ups.

Darrius Heyward-Bay, a former seventh overall draft selection, has been a phenomenal bust as well, but not quite on the same level as Russell. When healthy, former Florida Gator Louis Murphy has flashed premium talent. And Raider officials are enamored with the abilities of Jacoby Ford and his dynamic speed.

The Raiders love speed and size. At 6’5″ and with his 4.36 40-time, Pryor provides both of those attributes. Could he follow the likes of college quarterbacks-turned-receiver alums Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle-El and Brad Smith? That remains to be seen.

For now, the Raiders will give Pryor every chance to be their quarterback of the future. As for Ohio State?

Well, at least their future looks brighter than that of the University of Miami.

Greg Kaplan is a co-founder of Home Field Advantage

Making Sense of the MLB Trade Deadline

Whoa. Ok. That was a lot of movement. Between the new players on new teams in the NFL and now MLB, my head is spinning.

Naturally, when there is any sort of mass player movement in any of the major sports leagues in the United States, we must pick ourselves some winners and losers. So, why should we be any different?

We will break this down into three categories: winners, losers and those in limbo. That’s right. You came for two, and we’re giving you a third on top of that. Take that, ESPN!

WINNERS:

Texas Rangers:

-Acquired RP Koji Uehara from BAL for SP Tommy Hunter and 1B Chris Davis

-Acquired RP Mike Adams from SD for 2 pitching prospects

The Texas Rangers are the best team in the American League not playing in the East. They had a clear weakness on their ballclub: the bullpen. They can mash with the best of them and they have solid starting pitching thanks to All-Stars C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando. However, their bullpen ranked 11th in the league and outside of Arthur Rhodes, the unit was under-performing.

One American League official went as far to say that if the Rangers were able to trade for Uehara (1.71 ERA, 62 Ks in 47.0 innings), they would play in the World Series. Ok, maybe that guy got ahead of himself. But, the Rangers did pick up the most dominate reliever available for their eighth inning, then got Mike Adams (1.13 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 49 Ks in 48.0 innings) to shorten the game even more. Starters need only to go six innings with Adams, Uehara and Neftali Feliz to round out the ‘pen.

The Rangers did part with a youthful arm in Tommy Hunter (13 wins as a 23-year old in 2010), but the team had given up on fixing Chris Davis (24 Ks in 76 at bats this season). As for the pitching prospects, they weren’t the best the team had to offer, which is always good to hear from an organizational stand point. The Texas Rangers had the best deadline, dare I say.

New York Mets:

-Acquired two players to be named later from MIL for RP Francisco Rodriguez

-Acquired SP Zack Wheeler from SF for OF Carlos Beltran

Whoa! Before you go calling me a homer, understand something. First, the Mets escaped from what was going to become a vesting option of $17.5 million to Francisco Rodriguez if he finished 55 games this season. Emphasis on finished. He could’ve lost 55 games this year and it wouldn’t have mattered, the option would’ve kicked. All he had to do was be the last pitcher to appear in the game. Literally, my grandmothers could be the players to be named later in that deal with Milwaukee, and it won’t matter. That money is going right to Jose Reyes, thankfully.

Second, you need to realize that had the Mets held onto Carlos Beltran, they would not have been able to offer him salary arbitration. In fancy talk, that means the Mets wouldn’t have gotten any draft pick compensation for Beltran had he left in free agency. He would qualify as a Type A free agent, which normally means the team that signs him surrenders their first round pick to the Mets, plus a compensation pick at the end of the first round. But, none of that would’ve gone to the Mets due to a loophole in his contract (damn you, Scott Boars!).

Third, while the Mets had offers from teams to either A) bring home a truck of B-level prospects, B) pay off Beltran’s remaining $6 million+ or C) both, Sandy Alderson and company held firm on getting the best available player they could. And, you know what? They did just that. Wheeler was the Giants’ best pitching prospect (out of a system that has produced Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, among others) and Baseball America had recently rated Wheeler as high as 35th out of all prospects in baseball. Wheeler immediately slots into one of the top four Mets pitching prospect slots (along with Matt Harvey, Jenrry Meija and Jeurys Familia) and projects to be a power, top-rotation type pitcher.

Getting value for Beltran was key for Alderson. He accomplished that, and that makes the Mets winners at the deadline even though they probably aren’t competing for a playoff spot. Hooray!

Houston Astros:

-Acquired OF Jordan Schafer and 3 pitching prospects from ATL for OF Michael Bourn and cash

-Acquired SP Jarred Cosart, 1B Jonathan Singleton and 2 prospects from PHI for OF Hunter Pence

Alright, another team that isn’t competing for a playoff spot. You think I’m crazy. Hey, you may be right. But, you need to look long-term here.

Remember, the Astros are stuck in the king of rebuilding projects and have a new owner coming into office. They need a franchise makeover. Does it hurt to trade away the face of the franchise and the one productive player on the team? Absolutely.

But, what does that say about your franchise if Hunter Pence is your keystone guy? Is he a good player? Absolutely. Should he be the best player on your team? No way.

In Cosart and Singleton, the Astros got the Phillies two best prospects not named Dominic Brown. That’s a win right there. From the Braves, they got 3 pitchers that project into productive parts, but not necessarily stars. However, they sold Bourn when his stock was highest, so that should be commended.

San Francisco Giants:

-Acquired OF Carlos Beltran from NYM for SP Zack Wheeler

-Acquired INF Orlando Cabrera from CLE for player to be named later

We already covered the Beltran trade from the Mets angle. The Giants angle is a lot easier to understand. They needed immediate pop in the middle of their order. Well, that’s Beltran.

What I love even more is the acquisition of Orlando Cabrera. This man IS playoff baseball. I understand the Indians traded him because their second baseman of the future has been playing well, but Cabrera is a lock to make the playoffs on whatever team he is on. I don’t know why, it’s just the truth. Expect Cabrera to play the 2010 Edgar Renteria role on this team.

Oh, and by the way, remember that it was Renteria who was named World Series MVP last year.

Team that went in the right direction, but didn’t impress: Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks

LOSERS:

New York Yankees:

-No major acquisitions

Absorb that sentence for a little bit, Yankee fans. Your general manager has pretty much informed you that he feels the mix of Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes will be good enough for a long run in the October. To me, that seems a little bit optimistic. And by optimistic, I mean delusional.

This team needed a starting pitcher in the worst way. C.C. Sabathia would be the likely Cy Young Award winner for the American League if Justin Verlander didn’t exist. But, after him, A.J. Burnett? And that’s really all you can trust? Wait, we’re trusting A.J. Burnett now? Oh, brother.

Hey, in their defense, it’s not like the Yankees didn’t try. They really wanted Hiroki Kuroda, but he refused to waive his no-trade clause and chose to stay in Los Angeles. They tried to get Ubaldo Jiminez (I’m not done with him) from Colorado before the Indians package trumped the Yankees. And, its not like the Red Sox and the Rays broke the bank in their trades either. But, the Red Sox did improve their rotation (Erik Bedard) and they added infield depth (Mike Aviles).

The Yankees didn’t do anything, and that hurts.

Cleveland Indians:

Acquired SP Ubaldo Jiminez from COL for SP Drew Pomeranz, SP Alex White and 3 prospects

-Acquired OF Kosuke Fukudome from CHI for 2 prospects

-Acquired a player to be named later from SF for INF Orlando Cabrera

The Cleveland Indians feel that they are in the thick of the race for the AL Central. And, less than three games out of first certainly means they are in the race. The Twins held firm at the deadline, the White Sox appeared to be sellers, and the Detroit Tigers added a nice piece in SP Doug Fister, but he doesn’t necessarily put them over the edge.

So, kudos to the Indians for putting in the effort to try and win this division. Now, time for my problems with both of these trades. Starting with Fukudome.

Ok, I understand their offense needed a bit of an upgrade. Not a full upgrade like the Giants needed, but enough of one where the Indians offered to pay Beltran’s entire remaining salary to the Mets plus prospects. So, why did they go after a guy that is ranked behind the likes of Ryan Theriot and Brian Schneider in terms of his career production rate on BaseballReference.com? Fukudome’s beautiful triple slash (average/on-base/slugging) for 2011? .273/.374/.369

Yikes. Not sure where I should be seeing an upgrade. Luckily, I’m not overly impressed with the prospects they gave up for the aging outfielder. So there’s that.

But, believe it or not, I had a bigger problem with their trade for Rockies ace Ubaldo Jiminez. In his first 16 decisions of 2010, Jiminez went 15-1 and looked like the shoe-in for NL Cy Young. Since then, however, Jiminez has gone 10-17. This year, he sat at 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA, a far cry from his 2.88 in 2010, and that was even lower in the first half of 2010.

Furthermore, does anybody else find it strange that the Rockies were so quick to trade Ubaldo Jiminez? He’s under team control until 2014, and its not like the Rockies are cheap when it comes to locking down their home grown talent (see: Tulowitzki, Troy and Gonzalez, Carlos). So, I smell something that the Rockies are seeing that maybe the Indians are not. The shine on Jiminez seems to be fading in the sense that Francisco Liriano is not the pitcher we all thought he’d be, either.

Also, the Rockies made out like bandits here. They acquired two of the Indians last three first round picks (Pomeranz and White). In fact, those two picks were both Top-10 selections. Pomeranz was such a recent selection that you see his name in the transaction column as “player to be named later” because the Indians aren’t allowed to trade him since he hasn’t been a member of the organization for a full calender year yet.

The Rockies are exceptionally good at rebuilding on the fly. They now have two controllable power arms that may be ready by next year or 2013. And the Indians? They traded for the market’s largest questionmark. You can be aggressive to a fault at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, that’s what the Indians were.

San Diego Padres:

-Acquired a prospect from PIT for OF Ryan Ludwick

-Acquired two prospects from TEX for RP Mike Adams

Ok, the Padres got the most out of what they could for the players they traded. The problem in San Diego is more of who they didn’t trade: closer Heath Bell.

Bell is a very good closer and a huge fan favorite in San Diego (as he was at Shea Stadium when he was the conductor of the old Norfolk Shuttle). But, the Padres probably did themselves a disservice by not trading him away. This was the highest his trade value would ever be, and now the team has put themselves in a situation where they will have to pay the big bucks to keep their stopper long-term.

Now, hindsight is always 20-20. This non-move could turn out to be great for the franchise. But, I honestly do not like it when teams invest in relievers not named Rivera. So, I will let this one play out a little bit. I just don’t understand why a team in full fledged rebuild mode wouldn’t move their most valuable asset that could be replaced rather quickly from within.

Other teams that disappointed, but not as poorly: Oakland A’s, Washington Nationals

Teams in Limbo

Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals:

Basically I group all three teams together because they conducted the largest, craziest trade of the deadline period. Stay with me here:

White Sox acquired RP Jason Frasor and SP Zach Stewart from the Blue Jays

Blue Jays acquired INF Mark Teahan from the White Sox, OF Colby Rasmus, SP Brian Tallet, RP Trevor Miller and RP P.J. Walters from the Cardinals

Cardinals acquired SP Edwin Jackson from White Sox, RP Octavio Dotel, RP Marc Rzepczynski, OF Corey Patterson and three players to be named later from Blue Jays

Have you digested all that? So, how do three teams conduct a huge trade and seemingly stay in the same place they were pre-trade? I’ll explain.

For the White Sox, General Manager Kenny Williams just confuses me to no end. When the team should be sellers, he buys. When the team should be buyers, he sells. He gave Adam Dunn a four-year contract when no team was willing to go more than two. He picked up Alexis Rios from the Blue Jays when the team was bound to release him anyway. I don’t get it.

Edwin Jackson was having a good year, and the White Sox did well to sell him when his value was high because Jackson has been an up-and-down talent his entire career, hence why he’s played for six teams in eight years. Mostly, the White Sox stay in limbo with this trade because while Zach Stewart is a promising pitching prospect from Toronto, he is no Daniel Hudson, who is the player the White Sox traded to get Jackson in the first place.

For the Blue Jays, I think I understand this trade. I think. The big prize they picked up is OF Colby Rasmus, who was once one of the best prospects in all of baseball while he was maturing in the St. Louis farm system. He hit .276 with 23 home runs for the Cardinals in 2010 as a 23-year old, but has been marred in a season-long slump in 2011, dipping his average to .240 with only 11 home runs. Apparently, Rasmus wore out his welcome with manager Tony LaRussa for seeking outside help for his hitting woes, which is a no-no for the Cardinals. When push came to shove, the team stuck with management and not Rasmus.

 However, he’s still young (24). He could easily figure out this funk and blossom into the well-rounded centerfielder experts had predicted he’d become. Here’s my problem with the trade: the Blue Jays didn’t need the help with their offense.

In the American League East, you will not win with a powerful line-up. Look at the Rays. Their line-up is below average for the American League, but they’re constantly competitive in the East because they have pitching depth very few other teams have. The Blue Jays dealt Stewart, one of their better pitching prospects, to get Jackson who enabled them to get Rasmus. In their system, they still have Kyle Drabek, their prize in the Roy Halladay trade. But, he struggled in his first stint of Major League action. The Jays will need a massive amount of pitching to catch up to the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox. I don’t see how this trade helps them, at all, in the long run.

Lastly, for the Cardinals, here’s why I don’t quite get it. I believe they are a team that has become in love with the notion that pitching coach Dave Duncan can fix any pitching problem. Edwin Jackson shows flashes of brilliance, and the Cardinals will try to harness those flashes into sustained excellence. And with Duncan’s track record, that very well could happen.

The team’s biggest hole was at shortstop, which they feel they answered by acquiring Rafael Furcal from the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, we will see if Furcal can stay healthy for any long period of time to actually help the team. They felt they could afford to trade Rasmus now because Lance Berkman has played so well in right field, and Jon Jay has exceeded expectations from all outfield positions.

My problem with this deal really comes back to Rasmus. I feel the team gave up on him much too early. He was their youngest player starting every day and, more importantly, was under team control on the cheap for at least another two years. With Albert Pujols soon to get a new contract, cheap, reliable talent is a major point of salary relief the team will need. Jon Jay has hit over .300 in his 600+ Major League at-bats thus far in his career. But, is he really your long-term centerfielder in St. Louis? I’m just not certain.

For me, the Cardinals will have to show me they have a viable solution in center before I move them out of limbo.

Other teams who tried to improve, and may have improved, but didn’t impress: Pittsburgh Pirates

Giants’ catcher Buster Posey out for the season

After an ugly home-plate collision with Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins, Buster Posey’s season is over before it fully got started. Posey break a bone in his left leg and tore multiple tendons in his ankle that required season-ending surgery, though the catcher is expected to make a full recovery in time for the 2012 season (ESPN Link).

With the score tied at six in the top of the 12th inning, Cousins tagged up from third on a shallow fly ball to right centerfield. With the speed of Cousins, he was able to reach home a little before the ball had and collided with Posey to make sure that he would be ruled safe on the play. The collision knocked the ball loose from Posey’s grasp, Cousins was ruled safe and the Marlins would go on to win the game by the score of 7-6.

Though collisions at home in baseball these days are uncommon, especially to the extent in which Cousins charged into Posey. However, the play was absolutely clean even though the result of the play was an unfortunate injury to one of the game’s rising stars. Since the play at the plate, there has been plenty of conversation in the media in regards to if baseball needs to institute a rule to prohibit these kind of plays. Posey’s agent was one of the many voices trumpeting the need for a rule change. It is uncertain if baseball would undertake such a rule change, with many of those who play the game and scouting the game stating that no change to the rule is necessary and that if a lesser-known catcher had received the injuries Posey had, nobody would think of it as anything more than somebody playing the game hard.

For the season, Posey was hitting .284 with four home runs and 21 runs batted in with a .368 on-base percentage. The 2010 National League Rookie of the Year posted a .305 average with 18 home runs and 67 runs batted in 108 games after being summoned from the minor leagues. The already soft-hitting San Francisco Giants will miss his bat in the middle of the line-up. But, the Giants have always been built on pitching and will continue to either succeed or fail behind the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

Entering play today, the Giants were 28-24, a half-game behind the scorching hot Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the National League West and were two-and-a-half games back of the Wild Card leading Florida Marlins.

Greg Kaplan is a writer and co-founder of Home Field Advantage

Bay Area Update: A’s Best Rotation in American League?

A few weeks ago, we covered the current group of pitchers that compromise the Oakland Athletics starting rotation. Some of that coverage was overshadowed by the young, dominant rotation sharing the Bay Area with the A’s, the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

However, in a recent article for ESPN.com, Jerry Crasnick tackles the question: do the Oakland A’s have the best rotation in the American League? (Link)

It’s a valid question, and we covered the A’s extensively here. In what is beginning to look like a very pedestrian American League West, the A’s key to winning the division relies solely in their starting rotation.

Recently, the team lost closer Andrew Bailey to an injury that will sideline him for the first couple weeks of the season. However, the team still has the likes of Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to anchor down the late innings. With the four-headed beast of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden, expect the A’s to be every bit as dominant as people are saying they will be.

I fully expect the Oakland A’s to steal the West away from the Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels.

Bay Area Update: The Brett Anderson Situation

Last week, Steve Berman and I stressed one pitcher in particular when we talked about the promising and youthful Oakland A’s pitching staff:

Brett Anderson.

The young lefty has been struggling with injuries and motivation for the last two years, and in a new ESPN column properly named “30 Questions”, Tristan Cockcroft examines the Anderson question (ESPN Article).

Berman and I both agreed that, when healthy, Brett Anderson could arguably be the best pitcher in the deep Oakland stable, which includes Trevor Cahill and his 18-win 2010 season. The possibilities are endless for the A’s if they have a duo of Cahill and Anderson at the top, then the likes of Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden towards the bottom of the rotation.

This article from Cockcroft is a great read, and it elaborates on the coverage we’ve given Brett Anderson this last week.

Also, there will be posts a-plenty tomorrow on all of the Miami news, especially CryGate and Hanley Ramirez. Keep your eyes out for both those pieces.

Furthermore, if you so find it interesting, the NCAA Women’s Selection Show is due to start at 7PM tonight on ESPN. Is this a shameless plug for the Lady Foxes of Marist College? Absolutely! Let’s Go Foxes! And hopefully, the committee recognizes the talent and brilliance that leads this squad!

The Great Debate: Baseball’s Best Rotation

This off-season, the Philadelphia Phillies emerged as that “mystery team” in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, and the team gobbled him off the free agency market to a tune of five years, $120 million. Immediately, insiders around baseball deemed Lee’s addition to the Phillies’ stable of starters the “greatest signing in recent baseball history”. Lee, alongside Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, scouts said, comprised such a dominant starting rotation that this team could go up against any pitching staff from any era.

Uhm, have people forgotten which team won the World Series in 2010 behind a dominant pitching staff of their own?

On HFA Radio this week, Steve Berman and I talked extensively about the strength of the San Francisco Giants pitching staff and how many people throughout baseball were overlooking them. One must remember: each pitcher on this “vaunted” starting rotation lost at one point to the Giants in the playoffs last year. The Giants handled Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels in the National League Championship Series, then dusted off Cliff Lee TWICE in the World Series.

But, for the sake of an argument, let’s break down these pitchers in a head-to-head match-up and see what we can come up with in regards to whose starting rotation is better.

#1 Tim Lincecum (SF) vs. Roy Halladay (PHI)

2010 Lincecum line: 33 starts, 212.1 innings, 16-10, 3.43 ERA, 231 strikeouts (league high) 1.27 WHIP – 10th in NL Cy Young Voting (two-time winner)
2010 Halladay line: 33 starts, 250.2 innings (league high), 21-10 (most wins in NL), 2.44 ERA, nine complete games (league high), 219 strikeouts – 2010 NL Cy Young (2nd time)

Choosing between Lincecum and Halladay is like choosing between a Monet and a Picasso. You can’t really go wrong with one or the other. Lincecum, known as “The Freak”, is only 26 years old and already has two Cy Young awards plus three All-Star appearances in his first four seasons. He’s lead the NL in strikeouts in each of the last three seasons, and even in what many considered a down year for the righty last year, he won 16 games while having a sub-3.50 ERA.

However, Doc Halladay may be the best pure pitcher in all of baseball. In five of the last six seasons, Halladay has led the league in complete games. He’s also won 16 games or more in each of the last five seasons, with four of those five seasons coming while he was on some poor Toronto Blue Jays teams. Not to mention, he’s managed to strikeout 200+ batters in seven separate seasons, including the last five. He’s won two Cy Young awards himself, but he’s played on signficantly worse teams than Lincecum has. Oh, he also threw a perfect game and a no-hitter last season.

EDGE: Phillies

#2 Matt Cain (SF) vs. Cliff Lee (PHI)

2010 Cain line: 33 starts, 223.1 innings, 13-11, 3.14 ERA, 177 strikeouts, 1.08 WHIP – 12th in NL Cy Young Voting
2010 Lee line (split between SEA/TEX): 28 starts, 212.1 innings, 12-9, 3.18 ERA, 185 strikeouts, 18 walks, 1.00 WHIP (league-best) – 7th in AL Cy Young Voting

This is Cliff Lee’s second tour of duty in Philadelphia. His last time in the City of Brotherly Love, he posted seven wins and a 3.39 ERA, but did his best work in the playoffs. Last year, Lee was significantly better pitching in the spacious Safeco Field in Seattle then he was pitching in the bandbox in Arlington. He is the best control pitcher in baseball, and has a solid track record of success playing in Philadelphia, so there shouldn’t be too much concern that his game won’t translate to the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Ballpark.

But, Matt Cain is the best pitcher in baseball that you’ve probably never heard about. Cain should easily win 18 games a year, but continues to get the worst run support in baseball. People are quick to judge Cain by his win-loss figures, but those don’t do justice to the talent and ability that the 26-year old right possesses. He is dominant, and unlike Lee, who uses pitch placement and breaking balls to fool hitters, Cain has no problem unleashing his 95-mph fastball to offset his devastating 12-6 curveball. Give Cain a pedestrian four runs per game, and he’s a 20 game winner with serious Cy Young potential.

EDGE: Giants

#3 Jonathan Sanchez (SF) vs. Roy Oswalt (PHI)

2010 Sanchez line: 33 starts, 193.1 innings, 13-9, 3.07 ERA, 205 strikeouts, 96 walks (league-high), 1.23 WHIP
2010 Oswalt line (split between HOU/PHI): 32 starts, 211.2 innings, 13-13, 2.76 ERA, 193 strikeouts, 1.02 WHIP (league-high) – 6th in NL Cy Young Voting

Both of these pitchers represent their respective staff’s elder statesmen. The difference: Oswalt is 33, Sanchez is 27. Oswalt’s win-loss record is inflated by playing for an atrocious Houston Astros team in the first half, and was actually significantly better in Philly, winning seven games and posting a sub-2.00 ERA. Oswalt seemed to be re-energized by playing for a winner when he came over to the Phillies, and should be able to carry that momentum into the 2011 season.

Sanchez finally came into his own last season, posting a staff-best 3.07 ERA and striking out over 200 hitters. But, walks have always been a problem for him, as evident by leading the majors in most walks issued last year. His high pitch counts tend to cost him lengthy appearances in games, which is part of the reason why he only won 13 games last year for the World Champs. But, when Sanchez can locate his pitches, he’s electric, as evident by the no-hitter he has on his resume. If Sanchez can replicate his success from 2010 into 2011, he will provide the Giants with a huge boost out of the third rotation slot. However, he’s no Roy Oswalt.

EDGE: Phillies

#4 Madison Bumgarner (SF) vs. Cole Hamels (PHI)

2010 Bumgarner line: 18 starts, 111.0 innings, 7-6, 3.00 ERA, 86 strikeouts, 1.30 WHIP – rookie season
2010 Hamels line: 33 starts, 208.2 innings, 12-11, 3.06 ERA, 211 strikeouts, 1.17 WHIP

The notion around baseball circles is that no pitcher in this Phillies rotation will benefit more from the Lee acquisition then Cole Hamels. Hamels has been an enigma for the Phillies the last two seasons, after securing post-season accolades in the team’s World Series championship season of 2008. He’s 22-22 over the last two seasons, but with the benefit of facing lower-tier starters in his match-up, Hamels wins should take a healthy rise and the 27-year old lefty should right the ship.

That brings us to the Giants best kept secret, Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner was long considered the Giants best pitching prospect since Tim Lincecum, and the 21-year old lefty did not disappoint in his first season. While his regular season numbers were average, he stepped up to the plate in the post-season, including an eight inning shut-out performance against the loaded Texas Rangers in the World Series. He has the experience under his belt and a World Series ring on his finger to boost his confidence. He, too, will benefit greatly from pitching behind the likes of Timmy, Matt and Sanchez, so his win numbers should be equally as impressive as Hamels. Both pitcher’s have question marks heading into the 2011 campaign, but the the potential of Bumgarner is too much to pass up for me.

EDGE: Giants, but by the smallest of margins.

I won’t bother all of you with paragraphs on Barry Zito and Joe Blanton. They’re lucky to be where they are and, at this point in their careers, are a wash.

If you want to look at what separates these two rotations as a whole, its the dominant Giants bullpen. Brian Wilson, as Berman mentioned on HFA Radio, is arguably the best closer in baseball today not named Rivera. Brad Lidge is mercurial, and that’s putting it very nicely. The likes of Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt aren’t found in the Phillies bullpen, which makes every Giants game that much shorter than a Phillies game. Yes, Halladay and Lee can finish their own games. But, the Giants don’t need their starters to finish. The bullpen does the job for them.

Therefore, I still believe that, as an entire pitching staff, the San Francisco Giants > the Philadelphia Phillies.

Oh, and the Giants have last year’s rings to prove it, too.

Interview with The Bay Area Sports Guy, Steve Berman

Steve Berman is the founder of the blog BayAreaSportsGuy.com

He follows are angles of the Bay Area sports franchises, and was kind enough to come on our show today. However, due to computer problems, the entirety of the interview was not recorded.

Regardless, Steve provided some gems that helped us understand the Bay Area sports scene.

Interview with The Bay Area Sports Guy, Steve Berman.