Thursday, November 26, 2009

Halladay could be the next Schilling

Theo Epstein, as far as we know, is spending Thanksgiving this year in Brookline and not in Odessa, Fla., where Roy Halladay makes his offseason home.

But the Red Sox don't have to acquire Halladay over Thanksgiving dinner for the similarities to the Curt Schilling acquisition to surface.

Halladay will turn 33 years old early next season, after all, but Schilling had just turned 37 when he invited Epstein to his home for Thanksgiving and to work out an arrangement that would bring the ace to Boston. Particularly for pitchers with a track record of impeccable control, age doesn't seem to matter as much as it might for a hitter.

First things first: Schilling made his living off an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Halladay has led the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio in each of the past two seasons. Strikeout-to-walk ratio, as it turns out, is something many pitchers have maintained well into their 30s -- including Schilling:

K/BB ratio (MLB average this season was 2.0)
Halladay, age 29: 3.88*
Halladay, age 30: 2.90*
Halladay, age 31: 5.28*
Halladay, age 32: 5.94*

Schilling, age 29: 3.64
Schilling, age 30: 5.50
Schilling, age 31: 4.92
Schilling, age 32: 3.45
Schilling, age 33: 3.73
Schilling, age 34: 7.51*
Schilling, age 35: 9.58*
Schilling, age 36: 6.06
Schilling, age 37: 5.80*
*finished among top 5 in Cy Young voting

Schilling is a small sample with which to compare, however. Between 1995 and 2005, there were 24 occasions during which a pitcher had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 5.0 after he'd turned 30 years old. Every single one of those pitchers had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least 2.0 -- in other words, above average -- the next season, and two-thirds of them had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 3.0 three years later.

Strikeout-to-walk ratio, it appears, is something a pitcher can sustain -- and that makes Halladay a worthwhile acquisition if the Red Sox can sign him to some sort of contract extension the way they did with Schilling.

That's even, as painful as it might be, if the cost is Clay Buchholz.

(Look at it this way: If the Red Sox can acquire Halladay and sign him to a three-year contract extension, they'll have him under their control until he's 36 years old -- and a proven Halladay at 36 years old is still probably an upgrade on Buchholz. The price would be steep, but, as with Schilling, the Red Sox can afford to spend big on a front-line ace.)

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