Joe Saunders once again defied the odds to post an excellent win-loss record in 2009. But can he do it again in 2010 or will his nagging arm issues hold him back?
2009 Stats: 186.0 IP, 16-7, 202 H, 64 BB, 101 K, 4.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
2010 Bill James Projections: 178.0 IP, 10-10, 186 H, 56 BB, 110 K, 4.15 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
2010 Chone Projections: 181.0 IP, 10-10, 199 H, 56 BB, 102 K, 4.57 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
2010 Marcel Projections: 173.0 IP, 14-7, 180 H, 57 BB, 103 K, 4.37 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
2010 ZiPS Projections: 190.1 IP, 12-11, 205 H, 60 BB, 109 K, 4.68 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
2010 Monkey Projections*: 175.0 IP, 11-13, 195 H, 55 BB, 95 K, 4.40 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com except the Monkey Projections which are strictly based on my own knowledge, logic and intuition.
2009 Review: For the rest of his career, whenever we think of Joe Saunders’ 2009 season it will be remembered as the year he lied about his injured shoulder. Saunders was a much-needed steadying force in the Angel rotation early in the season as the team battled a rash of injuries to the pitching staff, but by June, Saunders’ season (and arm) started to fall apart. It wasn’t until August that Saundo finally fessed up to having a sore shoulder that had been hampering him all season long. As much as the team appreciated his effort to put the team first, the team would have been better off if he had just been honest early on. Once he finally had a chance to get healthy, Saunders came back looking sharp and even made one stellar post-season start (and a less than stellar one). But no matter what his problems were, Saunders still managed to post an impressive win-loss record (16-7) as he somehow always does.
3 Questions for 2010:
- Can Saunders avoid more arm trouble? 2009 wasn’t Joe’s first run-in with arm problems. While he hasn’t suffered any major injuries, a season can’t go by without him going battling an episode of shoulder soreness or general fatigue. Saunders always likes to call it “dead arm” but I call it chronic health issues and if it happens again this year, the team is really going to have to question how much Joe can be relied on in a long-term sense.
- Did Saunders stop throwing inside because of his arm problems or his confidence? The answer to that question is probably “both.” While Saunders definitely have arm problems, his velocity and breaking pitches never seemed to be all that affected. Saunders ran into trouble during his mid-season slump when he simply stopped pitching to the inner-half of the plate, especially against right-handed hitters. The end result was Joe allowing a career-high 29 home runs. I’m no doctor, but I don’t know an injury that has a symptom of only being able to pitch to the outside corner. The real problem was that either because of his sore shoulder or some other mental hang up, Saunders lost confidence in his abilities and started pitching scared. The Angels just need to hope that mental breakdown doesn’t get triggered again.
- Can Joe keep winning in spite of his other stats? For Joe Saunders to go 16-7 in a season where he had a 4.60 ERA, 5.17 FIP and 1.43 WHIP reeks of statistical anomaly but it is one he always seems to be able to repeat. With how much contact Joe allows, it is hard to see him performing much better next season, so the question is can he still win? Wins are really more of a team stat, but some guys just have an uncanny knack for posting strong records no matter what his personal or team situation is. Is Saunders one of those guys or will his luck run out this year?
2010 Preview: As tempting as it is to think that all of Saundo’s issues were tied to his shoulder woes, the stats paint a much different story. The only thing that was really abnormal about his season was his unusually high homer run rate, everything else was well within his career norms. That suggests to me that he is in for another sub-standard season and not another All-Star season. Saunders might be good for a few strong stretches throughout the season, but he will always allow too much contact to be anything more than a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Luck has played a big role in Saunders career record of 48-22 and I think this is the season that Joe’s luck runs out.