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Consistency and Winning

That's the word that comes up when people say that Edwin Jackson is better than Andrew Sonnanstine. It's the word thrown out there without any backing, other than a thought that Jackson is probably close to an approximate measure of his talent more consecutive times out than Sonnanstine. Here's the problem; if you're using that term to say Edwin is better, you should probably research whether Edwin's performances are consistent or not before stating it.

As you all know I like judging pitchers by their innings thrown, strikeouts, walks, homeruns, groundballs, liners, swinging strikes, and strike percentage. Pitch usage is also important, but for this piece's sake less important. What is the time frame for consistency? Over this season Sonnanstine's numbers are better in every meaningful regard, isn't that more important than a five or ten game stretch in the middle of season? Baseball is a game of streaks and slumps, starting pitchers are not immune to trends despite playing once every five days, in fact, they may be more prone to it. One disastrous start can ruin the numbers that the media and casual fans will look at (ERA).

Pitchers like James Shields and the great Roy Halladay are extremely consistent because they have the meaningful core components down. Do you know when the last time Halladay walked more hitters than he induced stringing strikes? July 12th, 2007 at Boston. Since that game he's started 43 games with 13 complete games. That's consistent. Shields hasn't been knocked out before going five since he tried knocking Coco Crisp out and only four times in his career.

Of course pitchers like Sidney Ponson are also consistent, consistently bad. Which raises the obvious point: consistency means nothing compared to the overall quality. If Sonnanstine has been the better pitcher over 28 starts, and he has, why would we put him in the bullpen for the playoffs based on a small sample size? On average Sonny goes more innings, strikes more out, walks less, gets more groundballs, and is shockingly only gets a tad less strikes swinging (Jackson has 7.19, Sonny has 6.79).

Make no mistake that we're talking about solely heading forward this season, you can argue Sonnanstine's ceiling is what we're seeing, and that's possible, although that's not necessarily a bad thing whether he ends up in the bullpen or another team. Edwin has an extremely high ceiling, and the "ifs" have existed since 2003. At some point Edwin's potential needs to show otherwise his arbitration status is going to leave the Rays likely paying more than one million dollars for a pitcher who isn't a million dollars better than the other available talent.

This season Sonnanstine has the best chance to give the Rays good starts because he has the best core talents. To win this season we need to make the right choice for the fourth starter in the playoffs, and that choice is undoubtedly Andrew Sonnanstine.