Some Thoughts on Diamond, Crawford and sub-2.75 ERA's

Just a few quick thoughts to pass the time as the Cubs' offense awakes against Milwaukee.

Could the Cubs have found another good, cheap starter in right-hander Thomas Diamond?

First the Cubs unearthed Randy Wells (3.81 xFIP this year, 5.9 WAR in 2009-2010), and then they managed to revive Tom Gorzelanny (3.41 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, 2.1 WAR in 2010) after adding him from Pittsburgh last summer.

Factoring in his minor league numbers and strong performance in his MLB debut against the Brewers last night, could the 27-year-old Diamond emerge as another solid starter for Chicago? He was regarded as one of the top-75 prospects in all of baseball by Baseball America before both the 2005 and 2006 seasons. But major elbow injuries and subsequent surgeries caused him to miss the 2007 season and pitch just 109 total innings in 2008 and 2009.

The Cubs claimed him off Texas' roster though, and he thrived in Triple-A before his debut. In 21 starts, he pitched 108 innings of 3.16 ERA ball with 104 strikeouts and 46 walks. He's continued his track record of being a flyball pitcher though, inducing grounders only 33% of the time. He's going to have to miss bats and limit walks at the next level to be a solid starter, but he showed the potential to do that last night. He induced swing-and-misses on 13.1% of his pitches, and was aggressive in getting first-pitch strikes slightly over 70% of the time. If he can keep pitching the way he did last night, the Cubs could have three rotation spots filled cheaply for the next few years in Wells, Gorzelanny and Diamond. And that's a really good thing when you're shoveling money to Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster.

Carl Crawford's UZR is a tad ridiculous

No, I'm not saying he's this good. And no, I'm not saying he's not good.

What I am saying, though, is that Carl Crawford probably isn't 36.6 runs above average per 150 games, as his current UZR would indicate. UZR appears to be grading his range at a similar level to previous peaks, but his arm his being graded by UZR like never before.

From 2005-2008, UZR had Crawford's arm at 6.9 runs below average, with a negative mark in every year. In 2009, UZR graded his arm at 1 run above average in 150 games. This season, UZR has his arm at 3.1 runs above average in 109 games, which comes out to 4.3 runs above average per 150 games. That accounts for almost the entirety of the increase in Crawford's UZR.

I don't watch enough the Rays enough to say whether Crawford's arm has actually been better this year, and it wouldn't surprise me if this was merely something weird going on with sample size and ball distribution. But Crawford's having a truly insane defensive season right now, if you ask UZR.

There are a lot of sub-2.75 ERA's this season.

This season, 11 pitchers have sub-2.75 ERA's and enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Only three of them are AL pitchers, Cliff Lee, Clay Buchholz and Trevor Cahill, while the other eight are NL pitchers: Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Tim Hudson, Mat Latos, Jaime Garcia, Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo.

Last season, six pitchers accomplished the feat, and it was the most pitchers that had done it since 1997, and the second-most since 1992. In 1992, an astonishing 14 pitchers put up a sub-2.75 ERA while qualifying for the ERA title.

Even if two or three of these fall off the pace, we're still looking at the highest number of pitchers with a sub-2.75 ERA since the final summer of the first George Bush's presidency.

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