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So, Jason Hammel Might Be The Rays Fifth Starter

Jeff Niemann, who pitched just two innings out of the pen Saturday, isn’t slated to make another start this week.

Tampa Tribune

People are going to make a big deal about this, but really it's not. Why is not, because, it's just not. Take a piece of paper and write down your following predictions:

A) How many starts until Price is ready.

B) How many runs better (per nine) is Niemann better than Hammel?

Okay, I get something like 5-10 starts, and Niemann is about a half run better per nine than Hammel. So we're talking a ~4.5 starter versus a ~5 starter. Feel free to adjust those two numbers as you see fit.

If you simply do non-leveraged runs saved versus replacement, here are your results:

IP 25 35 45 55 65 75
Niemann 2.8 3.9 5 6.1 7.2 8.3
Hammel 1.4 1.9 2.5 3.1 3.6 4.2

So even with 75 innings, we're talking a difference of less than half of a win. Obviously Niemann could be better than a 4.5 type, and Hammel could be better than 5. If you feel I'm under or overrating either of them, simply adjust the numbers as you see fit by plugging your numbers into this formula:

(5.5 - Pitcher's Run Average) * (Innings Pitched/9)

I understand why people are going to be disappointed with Hammel starting. His performances last year were at times quite trying and tedious, but odds are he's not as bad as his numbers show. Maybe he's an organizational whore who just has to know when he's going into ballgames and suffered because of it. I don't know.

The only part of this that concerns me is Niemann potentially pigeonholed as a reliever without ever receiving a chance at starting. I do not know if he's better than Sonnanstine, and there's little chance he would replace Kazmir, Shields, or Garza. Throw in David Price -- who almost certainly will not be down all season -- and Niemann's best chance of sticking on this team for the long haul is becoming a reliever.

Niemann's injury history almost certainly has to be taken into account as well. Throw in a potential trade value boost for Hammel and there's enough perks about this move to cause the sting to subside.

Plus, if nothing else, the Rays are gaining a damn good reliever. Niemann's fastball is going to gain a few ticks in relief. His fastball/curve combo is going to look sexy in short stints. Let's put the over/under on Niemann's relief FIP at 3.5 and his season ending pLI at 1.

Now, watch the Rays put Niemann in the rotation and make all of which I wrote go to hell.