Who Starts in 2008?

What a difference a year makes. During the 2007 spring training, the starting rotation discussion centered around which of these three candidates would be our number five starter: Wade Miller, Mark Prior, and Angel Guzman. Combined, they started six times (three apiece for Miller and Guzman) Trachsel also started four games, with the next smallest total belonging to Sean Marshall, at nineteen.  Congrats to Marshall for grabbing the "Ruben Quevedo Fifth-Man" mantle, and running with it.

This year? Carrie Muskat gives the rundown on the candidates for the two open spots in the rotation. The first bit of news is this notion that the fourth spot is open, that Marquis evidently has to apply for his old job. The other applicants being Dempster, Lieber, Marshall (also applying for his old job) and Gallagher.

Among the more interesting observations from the Muskat article is that Marquis has a history of fading in the second half. A quick check of ESPN's stats page shows Marquis with a 4.41 ERA pre-All Star break for the last three years, 5.54 after it. How stupid and unrealistic would it be to let him have the fifth spot for the first half of the season, then ship him off to some unsuspecting foe, and bring up Gallagher for the second half?

Assuming no trades are made and everyone is healthy enough to pitch five innings every fifth day, who do you go with? My own preference, irrespective of contracts, options, and sweet promises covertly whispered into players' ears, would be for Marshall and Lieber to start out 4 and 5, with Gallagher in AAA and Dempster and Marquis doing.... well... something. Lieber's recent injuries haven't been arm-related, he had a bit of an unusually high BABIP last year, and he'll throw strikes. Marshall's performance last year simply was encouraging enough that I'd like to see what he can do as a follow-up. Interestingly (and perhaps tellingly?) all four are strong ground-ball pitchers: Dempster and Marquis each checking in last year at 1.63 ground balls per fly ball, Marshall at 1.55, and Lieber at 1.52.

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