Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

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Pitcher Wins on the FA Market – 2014 edition with bWAR

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Kershaw's new $30M/year contract will be tough to live up to.  Photo via wiki.

Kershaw’s new $30M/year contract will be tough to live up to. Photo via wiki.

One of my pet projects of recent years has been to track “major” Starting Pitcher free agent contracts and then to do analysis of how they turned out, on a Dollar per Win basis.  This post is an updated version of this analysis to determine some of the “best” and “worst” free agent contracts ever awarded to starting pitchers.  It is updated for 2014 from last year’s version of the post by my putting in all the 2013 data for pitchers, plus putting in the significant 2014 FA contracts.  And, per requests I have added in bWAR and $/bWAR for analysis (though, as we’ll soon see, $/bWAR can be tricky to interpret for really poor performing pitchers).

The raw data spreadsheet is available in Google Docs at this link, or along the side of this blog window in the NAR Creation links section.  I havn’t cut and pasted any of the data here because the spreadsheet is too “wide” for the blog; I suggest opening it up in a separate tab while reading this post.

Data Taxonomy/caveats: For ease of analysis, I depend on the Average Annual Value (AAV) of the contracts as opposed to trying to figure out exactly how many wins were earned in which year of a varying contract amount.  Therefore (for example), Gio Gonzalez‘s contract may have only paid him $3.25M in 2012 but I’m using the full AAV of $8.4M for the purposes of the analysis (it would just be far too difficult to calculate each pitcher’s dollar per win on an annualized basis otherwise).  This analysis focuses heavily on dollars per pitcher Win, despite the known limitations of the win stat.  There is also dollars per Quality Start and now dollars per bWAR (baseball-reference’s version of WAR).

Here’s some interesting facts, that come out of this analysis (some of these points can also be seen at the amazing Cots Salary database, now at Baseball Prospectus, and are confirmed in my spreadsheet tracking the same):

Largest total Starting Pitcher Contracts ever signed

  • Clayton Kershaw‘s new 7yr/$214M deal signed this past off-season.
  • It beats out the previous record holder (Felix Hernandez‘s  7 year, $175M extension) by nearly $40M in total value.
  • CC Sabathia (7yrs/$161M in 2009) was the longer-time previous record holder before that.
  • Zack Greinke (6yr/$147M)  and Cole Hamel‘s 6yr/$144M contract deserve mention.
  • Masahiro Tanaka signed one of the biggest ever deals (7 year $155M) before he ever threw a MLB pitch.

Largest Single-Season AAV

  • Kershaw’s new deal finally beats out Roger Clemen‘s long standing single season record 1yr/$28M deal in 2007 as the largest AAV pitcher contract.  
  • Justin Verlander‘s new deal gives him an AAV of $28M, a 10% jump up from the $24-$25M/year threshold deals we saw a number of pitchers sign in the last couple of years.

What are some of the Worst Deals ever made?  Lets talk about some of these awful deals on a $ per win or $ per bWAR basis.  Most of these contracts are well known to baseball fans and are commonly thrown around when talking about the worst historical FA contracts, but they’re fun to revisit.  Thanks to the bWAR inclusion, a number of new/more recent contracts now pop up on this list.

  • Kei Igawa‘s 2007 deal with the Yankees, which was 5yrs/$20M but included a $26M posting fee, is generally speaking the worst $AAV per Win contract ever signed.  Igawa went 2-4 in 13 starts over the life of this 5 year deal, equating to $23M per win for his team.  He made exactly one quality start, meaning the Yankees paid $46M per QS.He spent the last two seasons of this contract buried in AAA.   For their $46M, the Yankees got a combined -0.6 bWAR out of Igawa.
  • Chris Carpenter signed a 2yr/$21M extension in St. Louis before the 2012 season that seemed like a good deal at the time; unfortunately for both sides Carpenter hurt his shoulder, only made 3 starts in 2012, went 0-2 and contributed a -2.3 bWAR in that time.  So his dollars per win is infinite and his $/bWAR is uncalculatable.  I still rank Igawa’s deal as worse though since it cost his team more than double the dollars, and since Carpenter’s troubles were injury related while Igawa’s was mostly due to performance.
  • Jason Schmidt‘s 3yr/$47M contract with the Dodgers.  Schmidt made 10 total starts and went 3-6, equating to $15.6M per win.  He totaled a -0.5 bWAR during this 3 year contract.
  • Oliver Perez made just 21 starts (and got 3 wins in the duration of his 3 year/$36M contract with the Mets.  He was released in March of 2011, the final year of the contract, causing the Mets to eat $12M in salary.  The Nats picked him up and carried him on their AA roster all year before dumping him as well; he’s now trying to remake himself as a loogy and is in Arizona’s bullpen.
  • Matt Harrison‘s current deal (so far) has been pretty expensive for the Rangers: for $11M in salary in 2013 they got just two starts and two bad losses before he hit the D/L and missed the remainder of the season.  He still hasn’t returned.  Odds are he recovers and has a chance to earn this contract, but you never know with shoulder injuries (though to be fair the injury that cost him 2013 was a ruptured disk in his back).
  • Tim Lincecum‘s recently completed 2yr/$40.5M contract was pretty ugly for San Francisco; he went 20-29, had just a 43% Quality Start percentage and contributed -2.3 bWAR over those two seasons for his $40M.
  • Barry Zito signed a 7yr/$126M deal.  In those 7 years he went 63-80 and contributed just 3.0 bWAR in the lifetime of the contract.  That’s $42M per win.  By way of comparison, Tanner Roark‘s 5 weeks of effort for the Nats last summer totaled 2.0 wins.
  • Mike Hampton‘s injury plagued/ill conceived 7yr/$121M contract resulted in two full missed seasons and just a grand total 3.0 bWAR of value.
  • Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren both managed to put up negative bWAR for their 2013 seasons (for which they were both being paid $13M a piece).  But those are just one-year deals; they aren’t the multi-year disasters that these other contracts can be.
  • Chan Ho Park signed a 5yr/$65M deal with the Dodgers; for those $65M the Dodgers got precisely 0.2 total bWAR in 5 seasons.  That’s right; for that money they could have fielded a 4-A pitcher and gotten comparable value.  Park was 33-33 during that time and missed significant time with injury.
  • Darren Dreifort (6.1M/win and 0.2 bWAR in 5 seasons), Russ Ortiz (4.7M/win and -3.2 bWAR in 4 seasons), Carl Pavano ($4.4M/win and 0.4 bWAR in 4 seasons), and Carlos Silva ($4M/win and -0.7 bWAR in 5 seasons) all had pretty infamous contract disasters too.

How about some of the Best Contracts ever signed?  Lots of players have signed small one year deals and won double-digit games, so those really cannot count.   Starting with an arbitrary floor of a $50M free agent contract, here’s some of the best value FA contracts ever signed:

  • Pedro Martinez: 7yr/$92M, during which he went 117-37 for the Red Sox for a $786k/win total.
  • Justin Verlander‘s 5yr/$80M deal from 2010-2014 will be a steal for Detroit: he’s already contributed 25+ bWAR and is at about $888k/win.  The same probably will not be said about his mammoth $140M extension.
  • Mike Mussina went 92-53 in his 6yr/$88.5M contract for $961k/win.
  • Chris Carpenter‘s 4yr/$50.8M deal from 2008-2011 was a steal for St. Louis: He may have missed some time but he still went 44-23 during that contract, contributed 13.6 bWAR and his $/win number was just $1.1M.  He’s the only guy who appears in both the “best contracts” and “worst contracts” section in this post.
  • Mark Buehrle‘s 4yr/$56 deal from 2008-2011 resulted in about a $1M/win and just $3.2M/bWAR, great value for his team despite his mediocre looking 54-44 record.
  • Jered Weaver, Yu Darvish, and Hyun-Jin Ryu deserve  mention here; they’re all in the early stages of their long-term contracts and are easily providing value in terms of $/win.

So what does this data mean?  Here’s some conclusions when talking about Dollars per Pitcher Win.

  1. Up to perhaps the mid 2000s, if you got about one (1) pitcher Win per million dollars spent on a player in the Free Agent market that you were doing great.
  2. Now, if you’re getting anything under $1.5M per win, you should be happy.  Especially if you’re paying an ace $25-$30M/year.
  3. Anything over $2M/win is usually considered a bust.  Nearly every contract in the $2M/win in AAV and above has been mentioned and criticized as being a bad contract; the list of “worst ever” above starts at $4M/win and goes higher.
  4. If you pay a starter anything more than about $25M/season,  you’re really going to have a hard time getting value back.  There’s only been a handful of 20-game winners over the past 5 years or so, but paying a starter $24M like Greinke is getting is almost certainly going to be regretted at some point.  An injury or a lost season completely blows the $AAV/win.
  5. It illustrates more clearly than anywhere else the value of a top-notch, pre-Arbitration starter.  Take Clay Buchholz for example; in 2010 he was 17-7 while earning the league minimum of $443k.  That equates to $26,059/win on the same staff that was busy paying Daisuke Matsuzaka $2.06M per win (when adding in the $52M posting fee).  Buchholz has struggled with injuries since then, but teams that  lock down and depend on these pre-arb starters save untold amounts of FA dollars as a result.
  6. This analysis is nearly impossible to do across baseball eras because of the general inflation of contracts and especially because of the bonanza of FA dollars being thrown out there right now.  Pedro Martinez at the top of his game signed a 7yr/$92M deal.  Imagine what he’d get today?  It could be three times that considering how good he was in comparison to his counterparts in the mid 90s.  He was coming off a 1997 season in which he struck out 305 batters, had a 1.90 ERA, a 219 ERA+ and won the Cy Young award.  So going forward a general $1.25M/win is a more accurate barometer for whether or not a pitcher has “earned” his contract.  But there’s no easy way to draw a line in the free agency sand and say that before yearX $1M/win was a good barometer while after yearY $1.25M/win is a good barometer.
  7. A caveat to the $1M/win benchmark; there are different standards for obtaining wins.   If you sign a $3M 1 year deal and then subsequently go 3-12 with a 6.00 ERA … while it looks like you reached the $1m/win threshold in reality you were, well, awful.  This analysis only really holds up for major FA contracts paying in excess of $10M/year.

And here’s some discussions on Dollars per WAR, since we’ve added that in for this 2014 analysis.

  1. The general rule of thumb is that “wins” in terms of WAR “cost” is somewhere between $6M and $7M on the open market.  Did $6M/win work out in this analysis?  Yes and no; it is sort of difficult to do this analysis with players badly underperformed.  Take for example John Danks: he’s two years into a 5yr/$65M contract where he’s gotten hurt in both seasons and has just 7 wins and a 0.7 bWAR.  Well, $26M in total salary paid so far for 0.7 bWAR equals a $37M/war figure.  Well that’s not quite right.
  2. The best you can do is look at player-by-player examples.  Johan Santana‘s 6yr/$137.5M contract cost his team $9M/bWAR.  That’s unquestionably bad.   Cole Hamels went 17-6 in 2012 on a 1yr/$15M deal, which turned out to be just $3.2M per WAR for his 4.2 bWAR season.  That’s great.
  3. The $/bWAR analysis gets worse if the bWAR is negative; our own Dan Haren came in with a -0.01 bWAR for 2013; how do you decide how much the Nationals paid on a dollar-per-bWAR basis for Haren?  If you divide 0.01 into his $13M salary you get a non-sensical -$1.3 billion figure.

 


Lastly, for comparison purposes, here’s the above analysis looks for the 2013 Nationals pitching staff.  Keep in mind that the $/win figures for pre-arbitration pitchers vastly skew the analysis (apologies if this bleeds off the side of the browser screen)

Last Name First Name Total Value (includes guaranteed $) $$/year AAV Contract Term Years Into Contract Starts QS QS % W L $ per start $ per QS $ AAV per win Total bWAR $ per bWAR
Strasburg Steven $19,000,000 $4,750,000 2009-13 5 75 46 61.3% 29 19 $316,667 $516,304 $818,966 8.5 $2,794,118
Gonzalez Gio $42,000,000 $8,400,000 2012-16 2 64 43 67.2% 32 16 $262,500 $390,698 $525,000 7.9 $2,126,582
Zimmermann Jordan $5,350,000 $5,350,000 2013 1 32 21 65.6% 19 9 $167,188 $254,762 $281,579 3.7 $1,445,946
Detwiler Ross $2,337,500 $2,337,500 2013 1 13 6 46.2% 2 7 $179,808 $389,583 $1,168,750 0.1 $23,375,000
Haren Dan $13,000,000 $13,000,000 2013 1 30 15 50.0% 10 14 $433,333 $866,667 $1,300,000 0.0 (0 war)
Maya Yunesky $8,000,000 $2,000,000 2010-13 4 10 1 10.0% 1 4 $800,000 $8,000,000 $8,000,000 -0.8 ($10,000,000)
Karns Nathan 490,000 490,000 2013 1 3 0 0.0% 0 1 $163,333 (0 QS) (0 wins) -0.4 ($1,225,000)
Jordan Taylor 490,000 490,000 2013 1 9 3 33.3% 1 3 $54,444 $163,333 $490,000 0.0 (0 war)
Ohlendorf Ross 1,000,000 1,000,000 2013 1 7 3 42.9% 3 1 $142,857 $333,333 $333,333 0.9 $1,111,111
Roark Tanner 490,000 490,000 2013 1 5 4 80.0% 3 1 $98,000 $122,500 $163,333 2.0 $245,000

The counting figures for Starts/QS/Wins/Losses are cumulative for the life of whatever contract the player is on.  So for Strasburg, he was basically in the 5th year of his original 5 year deal, hence the 75 total starts in those 5 years.

The 2013 Nats have $AAV per win and $/bWAR mostly on the good side:

  • Yunesky Maya and Nathan Karns both contributed negative bWAR for 2013, so their numbers are meaningless.
  • Taylor Jordan and Dan Haren both came in at zero (or close enough to it) bWAR, so their numbers are also meaningless.  Well, not “meaningless” in Haren’s case: basically he gave the team replacement performance for his $13M in salary; the team could have just called up a guy from AAA and let him pitch all year and gotten about the same value.  Thanks for the memories!
  • The best $/win guy was Tanner Roark, who got 3 wins for his MLB minimum salary … and that’s not even taking into account the fact that Roark’s 2013 salary probably should be pro-rated for this analysis.
  • The worst $/win guy was  Maya; who demonstrated yet again that his $8M contract was a mistake.
  • Nearly the entire staff has $/win values under the “you’re doing well” threshold of $1M/win.  And nearly the whole squad is doing $/bWAR well below the $6M/bWAR range.

 

Opening Day Starter Trivia – Updated for 2014

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CC Sabathia continues to be the active leader in Opening Day starts. Photo via wiki/flickr.

Some of my favorite trivia questions  revolves around Opening Day Starters.  With another Opening Day in the books, here’s some useless trivia related to Opening Day starters.  I’ve updated my Opening Day Starters spreadsheet to Google Docs and created a link in the “Nationals Arm Race creation” section along the right.  Fyi, on a team-by-team basis you can query Baseball-Reference.com for the opening day lineups (here’s the Washington/Montreal franchise’ opening day lineup history as an example).

Current Active Leaders in Opening Day Starts

11 CC Sabathia
9 Mark Buehrle
7 Felix Hernandez
7 Justin Verlander
6 Bartolo Colon
6 Tim Hudson
6 Jered Weaver
6 James Shields
5 Josh Beckett
5 Yovanni Gallardo
4 Jake Peavy
4 Tim Lincecum
4 Clayton Kershaw
4 Jon Lester
3 Strasburg, Cueto, Wainwright, Price, Masterson, Nolasco
2 Lee, Samardzija, Liriano, Dickey, Sale, Feldman

Those players bolded in the list above had 2014 opening day starts and added to their totals.   (Note; there’s plenty of guys out there with 2 or 3 opening day starts but who did not extend their count in 2014; they are not included here).  With the retirement of Roy HalladayCC Sabathia extends his active lead in this category.  Mark Buehrle has given over the reigns of opening day starter possibly for good, based on his standing in the Toronto rotation.  Meanwhile the next closest competitors (Justin Vernalder and Felix Hernandez) could eventually supplant Sabathia, especially if he continues to struggle and gets replaced as the Yankees’ ace.

Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander continue to be the best bets to broach the all-time records (see below) based on their ages, their current counts and their new long-term contracts.

Answers to other Opening Day start trivia:

Current Active Leader in consecutive Opening Day Starts: Sabathia with 9 consecutive, split among two teams.  Second is Verlander with 7 straight, albeit all with the same team.  There was talk about how his Cy Young-winning rotation mate Max Scherzer should have gotten the ball this year, given Verlander’s 2013 struggles.

Most ever Opening Day Starts all-timeTom Seaver with 16 in his career.

Most ever Consecutive Opening Day Starts: Hall of Fame lightning rod Jack Morris, who made 14 straight such starts.

Number of first-time opening day starters in 2014: Ten (10) guys got the ball on opening day for the first time, slightly down from last year’s 13.  Injuries gave some pitchers the ball on opening day over other expected rotation mates (this is definitely the case with the likes of Julio Teheran, Tanner ScheppersSonny Gray, Dillon Gee, Jorge De La Rosa), and its probably the case that others got the ball on opening day thanks to their own personal ascention to the “lead-dog” spot on their teams (Jose Fernandez, Madison Bumgarner).  The other three newbies (Andrew CashnerWade Miley, and Chris Tillman) probably fall somewhere inbetween these categories.

Who seems most likely to break Seaver or Morris’ Records at this point? Still Sabathia, who already has 11 opening day starts (and 9 straight), is the #1 in New York, is only 32 and still has four years on his current deal. However, he took a big step backwards in 2013 performance-wise, and the Yankees spent a ton of money on Masahiro Tanaka, and there could be a passing of the torch if Tanaka blows it out in 2014.  Meanwhile Hernandez already has 7 opening day starts, just signed a deal that takes him through 2019 with a relatively easy option for 2020.   That’s many more seasons under contract and he’d only be 34 years of age by its end.   He could be the standard holder if he stays healthy and continues to pitch like an ace.

Most Inconsisent team using Opening Day Pitchers: Oakland.  They’ve used 9 different opening day starters in the last 9 seasons, and that’s likely to continue since both the candidates for this year had injuries that forced them to go to a rookie for 2014.  Pittsburgh is right behind them;  they have used 7 different opening day starters in the last 7 seasons, and 13 different starters in the last 15 seasons. The Nats have at some point employed no less than three former Pittsburgh opening day starters: Ron Villone, Oliver Perez and Zach Duke.   Colorado, Baltimore and Minnesota have also struggled for most of the past decade to find a dominant, reliable “Ace” and constantly cycle through new opening day starters, and once again each is using a different guy in 2014.

 

Ask Boswell 8/19/13 edition

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Arod, the greek tragedy figure. Photo John Munson/The Star-Ledger via nj.com

Arod, the greek tragedy figure. Photo John Munson/The Star-Ledger via nj.com

With somewhat of a lack of topics to write about lately, I turned to find a relatively deep Ask Boswell discussion on the Washington Post website 8/19/13.  Tom Boswell takes baseball questions, I provide my own answers.

As always, I’ll write answers here before reading his, and edit questions for clarity.  All stats quoted are as of 8/19/13.

Q: Leave it to the Red Sox to make A-Rod into a sympathetic figure!

A: Agree.  I wouldn’t normally have tuned into the expected 4.5 hour 8pm Sunday night game between Boston and New York, but just happened to see the first Alex Rodriguez at bat last night.  My immediate thought: Ryan Dempster‘s actions were pretty gutless and he should have been immediately ejected.   You throw at a guy once and miss?  You’ve made your point.  You had your chance to make a statement and missed.  But then throw two more balls inside then blatantly drill the guy on 3-0?  Sorry; that’s just bush league.  The umpires badly mismanaged that situation; Dempster should have been immediately ejected.  Joe Girardi had a very legitimate point at the time, and continued with very intelligent observations afterwards (where, paraphrased, he said that Dempster was a union rep, should have known better, and if he had a problem with the process of his own players’ union the time and place was elsewhere, not on a nationally televised game).

So, yeah, Alex Rodriguez did earn sympathy there.  How poetic was his home-run later in the game?  Were it me, I would have milked it for everything it was worth, making it a poster child for every egregious home-run celebration.  Bat flip, slow trot, kisses to the stands, fist pumps and multiple pointing to the sky.  But that’s just me.

Boswell doesn’t really say much about the question other than stating the obvious about the athlete and the situation.

Q: Wouldn’t it be better to show up the Braves by actually beating them once in a while, rather than throwing at them?

A: Not the point.  As I posted in this space over the weekend, there’s a code in the game that the Nats, for some unknown reason, were not keeping to.  Kudos to Stephen Strasburg for finally standing up for his own.  It has nothing to do with wins or losses on the field, it has to do with protecting yours.  Boswell says the Justin Upton plunking was done perfectly, but then questions the ejection for what a lot of people thought were just very wild pitches to Andrelton Simmons.

Q: Why did the Nats not keep Oliver Perez?

A: Who said it was just the Nats decision?  Oliver Perez piched as a starter for our AA team in 2011 and then signed another minor league deal with Seattle for 2012.  Only then he converted to a reliever and has had success since.  We don’t really know what happened; maybe the Nats offered to keep him but wouldn’t promise a AAA spot or a spring training invite.  Maybe Perez saw our rotation for 2012 and thought Seattle would give him a better shot at a MLB job.  Honestly I don’t remember a single word at the time indicating that either side wanted a 2012 deal.  Perez was good but not great in AA for us in 2011 (3-5, 3.09 ERA. 1.3 whip in 15 starts), far less than a guy who was once a very effective MLB starter.  Maybe we just though he was washed up.  Boswell questions whether a guy with a 4.25 ERA is even worth discussing.  Fair point

Q: Who would the Nationals “third-string” catcher be? If, for instance, Suzuki got injured and Ramos pinch-hit. -Who would be the preferred position player to pitch if they ran out of pitchers? 

A: Great question.  3rd string catcher?  I have no idea, maybe Steve Lombardozzi.  I do remember the team saying that despite Bryce Harper‘s youth position being predominantly catcher that he was not an option.  Pitcher?  Boy, another who knows.   I can’t remember a single positional player who has taken the mound for the Nats since they moved here.  The best guess would be a utility guy, either Lombardozzi or Scott Hairston.  Boswell guesses the same names I do.

Q: Do you think the Nats will make a serious effort to keep him next year? (I’m already writing off 2013) I’m sure he wants to play every day, but given Ramos’ physical issues that isn’t out of the question.

A: Kurt Suzuki is gone.  His $8.5M option for next year is way, way too much for what he has become; a once-a-week catcher.  Even given Wilson Ramos‘ fragility, you just can’t waste money at the backup catcher position.  Look for a 2014 spring training fight between Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano for the #2 catcher spot, and look for the team to add a lot of depth in the minor league ranks in the off-season.  Boswell notes the horrific catcher ERA of Suzuki compared to Ramos, and predicts a minor FA signing this coming off-season.

Q: Is there a more insincere human being in sports than A-Rod? Has he always been like this?

A: The above answer was my weekly quota of Alex Rodriguez discussion.  I will say this though; how do you really KNOW that A-rod is an “insincere human being?”  Do you know him personally?  Or are you just following the media narrative?  Boswell makes a good point; the damage he’s done to the game outweighs any sympathy you could have for him.

Q: You’ve said in the past the Nats would return to their career averages…eventually. Are the Nats reverting to their mean, or is this the new mean?

A: If 2012 was the high, maybe 2013 is the low.  Lets hope for somewhere in the middle for 2014.  Hell, i’ll settle for league average.  I did a quick little runs-scored analysis at the end of June that showed where the Nats record would have been if they had a league-average offense (tied for 1st place) or their 2012 offense (best record in majors).  You could quibble with the math, but I think we all know what has let down the team this year.  Boswell summarizes many of the same points I made … and then has some great stats isolating the bench’s collapse this year.

Q: Given Haren’s performance since returning from the DL, does Rizzo make him a qualifying offer for 2014?

A: Good question.  I just don’t see how you can give Dan Haren a qualifying offer.  The Q.O.  amount is going to increase; lets assume its $14M/year.  Would you give a guy with this stat line $14M?  7-11, 4.79 ERA?  Probably not (those are his season numbers).  His last 8 games (since coming off D/L?)  3-2, 2.25 ERA.   Yeah, that’s worthy of a Q.O.   Maybe the team avoids having to make a decision and flips him to someone needing a starter for September, since he passed through waivers.  That’d be advantageous to Haren too, meaning his signing next off-season won’t have compensation associated with it.  In any case, I think the performance of Taylor Jordan has clearly made Haren expendible, giving as good as or better performance for 1/26th the cost.  Use that $13M towards some hitting.  Boswell says no.

Q: When does Drew Storen replace Soriano as the Nats closer?  (After another blown save).

A: When Soriano’s contract is over.  You bought him, you’ve gotta use him.  Rafael Soriano‘s m.o. was always “good when he’s the closer, sullen underperformer when not.”  He was a poor signing when they got him, and continues to be wasted money.  But hey, its not my money.  Boswell agrees.

Q: When Magic Johnson’s group purchased the Dodgers, he was going to fire Mattingly, whom you said would be a very good manager. Does he still want to fire Donnie, now that the Dodgers have gone 42-8, the best MLB win stread in 100 years? Would you like to see him managing the Nats?

A: Well of course Don Mattingly isn’t going to be fired; he’s now neck and neck with Clint Hurdle for manager of the year.  I don’t have a good sense for what kind of manager he is; after Davey Johnson‘s laissez-faire attitude I know what kind of manager I do want; I want someone with some emotion.  Girardi proved a lot to me last night; lighting into an umpire who failed to control the game.  That’s the kind of emotion I want in my skipper.  Boswell gives some good managerial candidates.

Q: Who are the young pitchers the Nats thing are coming soon?

A: From AAA on downwards, here’s a few starters to keep an eye on: Nathan Karns, A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray, Taylor Hill, Sammy Solis, Matthew PurkeBlake Schwartz, Jake Johansen, Austin Voth and Lucas Gilioto.   Almost every guy on this list has performed well and/or earned a promotion in 2013.   Boswell points some of these guys out and then mentions that we need to produce some hitting too.

Q: Should I be worried that the Nats are going to become the new Caps, a talented team who just lacks the discipline to get it done when it matters?

A: No, because at its heart this is still the same basic team of guys who nearly won 100 games last year.  They need a new voice in the skipper’s office, one who reverses the course of Johnson and who properly motivates them.  Boswell says not to judge a team because of 3/4’s of one disappointing season.

Q: Zim’s surgically-repaired shoulder clearly affected his throwing this year — whether physically or mentally. However, his power numbers at the plate are down too, and we haven’t seen his usual late summer hot streak. Do you think his shoulder affected his hitting? If so, what’s the prognosis for next year for Zim’s hitting?

A: If his shoulder really is/was as bad as everyone seems to think, then yeah you can derive all sorts of bad performance indicators from it.  Next year?  Who knows; he should be healthy.  Of course, he was promised to be healthy by spring training of THIS year.  It takes me back to what I now perceive as disinformation from the team about the whole shoulder issue from the onset.  Either way, I think he’s playing 3B for this team in 2014 no matter what (well, unless the team somehow unloads Adam LaRoche).  Boswell shows some good stats showing Zimmerman’s consistency over the years, then goes on to rave about Jayson Werth.

Q: Will baseball be ruined by the addition of instant replay or have the times changed?

A: I think times have changed.  But from all accounts, the implementation will be typical of everything MLB does; half-done, ham-handed, inefficient and not going nearly as far as its counterparts.  Boswell isn’t a fan.

Q: With two years under his belt, he has a 3.00 ERA and a pretty good 27-19 record. He doesn’t hit 100 mph anymore. He hasn’t proven so far to be anything better than mediocre in the clutch. Not a bad track record, of course, but not anywhere near great. He’s 25 years old now. Is it time to adjust expectations?

A: Is this a baiting question?   Quotes ERA and W/L record as the sole ways to evaluate a pitcher (especially a pitcher who hasn’t yet pitched a full season).  What proof is there that he’s “mediocre in the clutch?”  He’s still the highest or 2nd highest average fastball of any starter in the league despite dialing it down, he’s still a league leader in K/9.  His ERA+ is still significantly above average both for this year and for his career.  What more do you want from the guy?  Ask any baseball pundit to give you a list of his top 5 starters in the league and he’s still on it.   Boswell gives some great historical stats, putting Strasburg in pretty elite company thus far.

Q: Why has Bryce Harper not made the 20 year old leap we expected him to? Did the collision with the wall in LA derail his entire season?

A: A fair point; everyone saw his splits pre and post-LA wall.  His lefty splits are abhorrent.  But he hasn’t been the second coming of Mike Trout.  Maybe we just need to appreciate him for what he is right now.  Boswell mirrors what I said.

 

Johan Santana to miss 2013; a cautionary tale

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Santana to miss 2013 and end his Mets career on a sour note. Photo via wikipedia/flickr user slgckgc

Earlier this month I published an updated version of the “Starter Dollar per Win” analysis that I maintain and update on an annual basis.  In that post, I listed some of the worst free agent starter contracts ever signed (among them Kei Igawa, Jason Schmidt, Oliver Perez, Darren Dreifort).  However I did not mention Johan Santana among these awful deals because it looked like he could at least finish out the last year of his deal and increase his per-win values.

Last week we learned that Santana has a torn shoulder capsule and is likely to miss the entire 2013 season.  This is the last guaranteed year of the 6 yr/$137.5M contract that he signed with the Mets after his fantastic early-career stint with Minnesota and it seems almost certain that he’ll be looking for work elsewhere in 2014, if he continues to play at all (this being a re-tear of the same Anterior Capsule that sidelined him for all of 2011 and his third arm/shoulder surgery overall).

In his 6 years in New York, he had one great season (the first), two entirely missed due to injury, two with good results but still injury curtailed, and one (2012) that was entirely mediocre and injury curtailed after he (foolishly?) threw 130+ innings to chase a no-hitter.  That’s not entirely a great return on $137.5M.

Looking at my “Dollar per Win” analysis spreadsheet, and assuming that the Mets are going to pay him a $5.5M instead of his $25M option for 2014 (the $137.5M number only includes guaranteed money and thus already includes this $5.5M buyout), here’s how he ended up performing on a per-dollar basis for the life of this contract:

  • 109 starts over 6 years: $1,261,468 per start.
  • 72 Quality Starts: $1,909,722 per QS
  • 46 Wins: $2,989,130 per Win.

This contract is now officially “Worse” than the infamous Denny Neagle deal (19 wins for a 5yr/$55M deal) and significantly worse than the even more infamous Mike Hampton deal (56 wins for an 8yr/$121M deal) on a dollar per win basis.

The cautionary tale is a familiar one: we all know that pitchers are health wildcards to begin with.  But guaranteeing many years and tens of millions of dollars to these injury wildcards is lunacy.  (Ken Rosenthal wrote a similar story on 3/29/13 on this same topic).   I now count Thirteen 9-figure contracts that have been given out to starting pitchers in the history of the game, and of the contracts that are closer to the end or finished its hard to find any of them that the signing team would do over again.

  • Santana, Barry Zito, Hampton, Kevin Brown and Daisuke Matsuzaka were all 9-figure deals that did not live up to the money (Matsuzaka’s 9-figure haul includes the posting fee).
  • Matt Cain, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Yu Darvish (again, including his posting fee) are all 1-2 years into longer term 9-figure deals with (admittedly) satisfying levels of performance thus far.
  • Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and now Justin Verlander as of 3/29/13 are all starting 9-figure deals in 2013 or later.  Adam Wainwright just missed the cutoff; his new deal totaled $97.5M.

How does this affect the Nationals?  Well, in 2017 Stephen Strasburg is likely to become a free agent (lets be honest with ourselves; his agent is Scott Boras, his agent is aggressive to the max, wants to explore every possible free agency aspect, and rarely if ever allows his clients to agree to contract extensions, team friendly or otherwise; Strasburg is going to hit the FA market).  Based on the list of arms above, and assuming Strasburg doesn’t get re-injured in the next few years you have to think he’s going to be in line for a 9-figure deal of his own.  What do you do if you’re the Nats?  Do you pay the man, knowing that the likelihood of a 9-figure deal being a good deal for the team is very slim, or do you let him walk and let some other team pay him that money and assume the franchise crippling risk?

At least it isn’t a problem we have to deal with for a few years :-)

Pitcher Wins on the Free Agency Market; an analysis

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Is Greinke's big new deal going to pay off for the Dodgers? We'll see. Photo Jeff Golden/Getty Images

One of my pet projects of recent years has been to track “major” Starting Pitcher free agent contracts and then to do analysis of how they turned out, on a Dollar per win basis.  This post is an analysis of this work along with some interesting conclusions to determine some of the “best” and “worst” free agent contracts ever awarded.

This is mostly an analysis of past performance; there’s plenty of pitchers right now on major contracts that are just too soon into the deal to really draw any conclusions.  I’ve included in the spreadsheet all the major contracts signed this past off-season and will continue to do so if these guys get significant deals.  But we’ll have to wait a year to see how the first year of the contracts play out.  For all contracts that are in the middle of being played out, I’ve calculated how that contract is faring thus far.

Some caveats to the data:  For ease of analysis, I depend on the Average Annual Value (AAV) of the contracts as opposed to trying to figure out exactly how many wins were earned in which year of a varying contract amount.  Therefore (for example), Gio Gonzalez‘s contract may have only paid him $3.25M in 2012 but I’m using the full AAV of $8.4M for the purposes of the analysis (it would just be far too difficult to calculate each pitcher’s dollar per win on an annualized basis otherwise).  Also, I focus on dollars per Win, despite the known limitations of the “Win” statistic.  I have gone through and added in Quality Starts to the analysis, but that stat is also flawed in some respects (though it does do a pretty good job of indicating whether or not the starter has done his job).  Unfortunately the $/QS doesn’t work out as nicely as $/Win, since Pitcher Wins are still so prevalent in our player analysis.  I mean, after all, the goal of the game is to WIN the game, right?

Here’s a quick cut-n-paste from the spreadsheet (which is also available in the Links section to the right and on Google Docs) of some selected fields.  See the Google xls for everything.  Apologies if this doesn’t present well online.  The table is listed in descending order of $/year AAV.  Blanks in the Wins and $AAV per win indicate that the contract has yet to begin.  I also threw in a couple of non-FA contracts at the end to show what a MLB-minimum successful starting pitcher looks like in comparison.

Last Name First Name Total Value (includes club options) $/year AAV Contract Term Wins $ AAV per win
Clemens Roger $28,000,022 $28,000,022 2007 6 $4,666,670
Greinke Zack $147,000,000 $24,500,000 2013-2018
Sabathia C.C. $122,000,000 $24,400,000 2012-16 15 $1,626,667
Lee Cliff $120,000,000 $24,000,000 2011-15 23 $2,086,957
Hamels Cole $144,000,000 $24,000,000 2013-18
Sabathia C.C. $69,000,000 $23,000,000 2009-11 59 $1,169,492
Santana Johan $137,500,000 $22,916,667 2008-13 46 $2,989,130
Cain Matt $127,500,000 $21,250,000 2012-17 16 $1,328,125
Lincecum Tim $40,500,000 $20,250,000 2012-13 10 $2,025,000
Halladay Roy $60,000,000 $20,000,000 2011-13 30 $1,333,333
Darvish Yu $111,700,000 $18,616,667 2012-18 16 $1,163,542
Zambrano Carlos $91,500,000 $18,300,000 2008-12 50 $1,830,000
Zito Barry $126,000,000 $18,000,000 2007-13 58 $1,862,069
Clemens Roger $18,000,000 $18,000,000 2005 13 $1,384,615
Peavy Jake $52,000,000 $17,333,333 2010-12 25 $2,080,000
Matsuzaka Daisuke $103,000,000 $17,166,667 2007-12 50 $2,060,000
Beckett Josh $68,000,000 $17,000,000 2011-14 20 $1,700,000
Weaver Jered $85,000,000 $17,000,000 2012-16 20 $850,000
Lackey John $82,500,000 $16,500,000 2010-14 26 $1,903,846
Burnett A.J. $82,500,000 $16,500,000 2009-13 50 $1,320,000
Verlander Justin $80,000,000 $16,000,000 2010-14 59 $813,559
Sanchez Anibal $80,000,000 $16,000,000 2013-17
Schmidt Jason $47,000,000 $15,666,667 2007-09 3 $15,666,667
Hernandez Felix $78,000,000 $15,600,000 2010-14 40 $1,170,000
Wilson C.J. $77,500,000 $15,500,000 2012-16 13 $1,192,308
Hampton Mike $121,000,000 $15,125,000 2001-08 56 $2,160,714
Brown Kevin $105,000,000 $15,000,000 1999-05 72 $1,458,333
Lowe Derek $60,000,000 $15,000,000 2009-12 49 $1,224,490
Hamels Cole $15,000,000 $15,000,000 2012 17 $882,353
Kuroda Hiroki $15,000,000 $15,000,000 2013
Mussina Mike $88,500,000 $14,750,000 2001-06 92 $961,957
Oswalt Roy $73,000,000 $14,600,000 2007-11 61 $1,196,721
Buehrle Mark $58,000,000 $14,500,000 2012-15 13 $1,115,385
Peavy Jake $29,000,000 $14,500,000 2013-14
Buehrle Mark $56,000,000 $14,000,000 2008-11 54 $1,037,037
Martinez Pedro $54,000,000 $13,500,000 2005-08 32 $1,687,500
Halladay Roy $40,000,000 $13,333,333 2008-10 58 $689,655
Martinez Pedro $92,000,000 $13,142,857 1998-04 117 $786,325
Danks Jon 65,000,000 $13,000,000 2012-15 3 $4,333,333
Park Chan Ho $65,000,000 $13,000,000 2002-06 33 $1,969,697
Dempster Ryan $52,000,000 $13,000,000 2009-12 48 $1,083,333
Haren Dan $13,000,000 $13,000,000 2013
Jackson Edwin $52,000,000 $13,000,000 2013-16
Colon Bartolo $51,000,000 $12,750,000 2004-07 46 $1,108,696
Carpenter Chris $50,800,000 $12,700,000 2008-11 44 $1,154,545
Arroyo Bronson $25,000,000 $12,500,000 2009-10 32 $781,250
Dickey R.A. $25,000,000 $12,500,000 2013-14
Perez Oliver 36,000,000 $12,000,000 2009-11 3 $12,000,000
Silva Carlos $48,000,000 $12,000,000 2008-12 15 $4,000,000
Millwood Kevin $60,000,000 $12,000,000 2006-10 52 $1,153,846
Kuroda Hiroki $12,000,000 $12,000,000 2011 13 $923,077
Pettitte Andy $12,000,000 $12,000,000 2013
Haren Dan $47,750,000 $11,937,500 2009-12 54 $884,259
Kuroda Hiroki $35,300,000 $11,766,667 2008-10 28 $1,260,714
Arroyo Bronson $35,000,000 $11,666,667 2011-13 21 $1,666,667
Lincecum Tim $23,000,000 $11,500,000 2010-11 29 $793,103
Mussina Mike $22,141,452 $11,070,726 2007-08 31 $714,240
Dreifort Darren $55,000,000 $11,000,000 2001-05 9 $6,111,111
Meche Gil $55,000,000 $11,000,000 2007-11 29 $1,896,552
Lilly Ted $33,000,000 $11,000,000 2011-13 17 $1,294,118
Jackson Edwin $11,000,000 $11,000,000 2012 10 $1,100,000
Harrison Matt $55,000,000 $11,000,000 2013-17
Carpenter Chris $21,000,000 $10,500,000 2012-13 0 (0 wins)
Ryu Hyun-Jin $61,700,000 $10,283,333 2013-18
Neagle Denny $51,000,000 $10,200,000 2001-05 19 $2,684,211
Lilly Ted $40,000,000 $10,000,000 2007-10 54 $740,741
Darvish Yu $60,000,000 $10,000,000 2012-18 16 $625,000
Kuroda Hiroki $10,000,000 $10,000,000 2012 16 $625,000
Pavano Carl $39,950,000 $9,987,500 2005-08 9 $4,438,889
Wolf Randy $29,750,000 $9,916,667 2010-12 31 $959,677
Johnson Josh $39,000,000 $9,750,000 2010-13 22 $1,329,545
Greinke Zack $38,000,000 $9,500,000 2009-12 67 $567,164
Washburn Jarrod $37,000,000 $9,250,000 2006-09 32 $1,156,250
Igawa Kei $46,000,000 $9,200,000 2007-11 2 $23,000,000
Cain Matt $27,250,000 $9,083,333 2010-12 41 $664,634
Lowe Derek $36,000,000 $9,000,000 2005-08 54 $666,667
Matsuzaka Daisuke $52,000,000 $8,666,667 2007-12 50 $1,040,000
Beckett Josh $42,000,000 $8,400,000 2007-10 55 $610,909
Gonzalez Gio $42,000,000 $8,400,000 2012-16 21 $400,000
Guthrie Jeremy $25,000,000 $8,333,333 2013-16
Ortiz Russ $33,000,000 $8,250,000 2005-08 7 $4,714,286
Schmidt Jason $40,000,000 $8,000,000 2002-06 71 $563,380
Buchholz Clay $30,000,000 $7,500,000 2012-15 11 $681,818
Lester Jon $43,000,000 $7,166,667 2009-14 58 $494,253
Hamels Cole $20,500,000 $6,833,333 2009-11 36 $569,444
Wainwright Adam $36,000,000 $6,000,000 2008-13 64 $468,750
Ryu Hyun-Jin $36,000,000 $6,000,000 2013-18
Webb Brandon $28,000,000 $5,600,000 2006-10 56 $500,000
Lee Cliff $23,000,000 $4,600,000 2006-10 67 $343,284
Igawa Kei $20,000,000 $4,000,000 2007-11 2 $10,000,000
Jimenez Ubaldo $23,750,000 $3,958,333 2009-14 53 $298,742
Jimenez Ubaldo $10,000,000 $2,500,000 2009-12 53 $188,679
Price David $9,750,000 $1,950,000 2007-11 41 $237,805
Buchholz Clay $555,000 $555,000 2011 6 $92,500
Buchholz Clay $443,000 $443,000 2010 17 $26,059

Here’s some interesting facts, that come out of this analysis (some of these points can also be seen at the amazing Cots Salary database, now at Baseball Prospectus, and are confirmed in my spreadsheet tracking the same):

  • Largest total Starting Pitcher Contract ever signed: Felix Hernandez‘s brand new 7 year, $175M extension, beating out the previous record-holder CC Sabathia (7yrs/$161M in 2009).   Zack Greinke‘s just signed 6yr/$147M would be the 2nd biggest ever signed, and Cole Hamel‘s 6yr/$144M contract the third.  Will our own Stephen Strasburg come close to broaching these limits when he hits the FA market?  We’ll see.
  • Largest Single-Season AAV: Roger Clemen‘s 1yr/$28M deal in 2007.  The next closest are Hernandez’s $25M/year, Greinke $24.5M/year and Sabathia’s $24.4M figures.

(A couple of quick caveats to the above lists: CC Sabathia subseqently opted out of his 7/161 deal, so it basically got turned into a 3yr/$69M deal.  And, techncially Hernandez’s deal ripped up the last two years of his previous deal to replace it with the 7/175 deal; lots of people are looking at the new deal as a 5  year extension with an even higher AAV.  I don’t see it the same way; I see it as a replacement of the existing contract years).

What are some of the worst deals ever made?

  • Worst Ever Starting Pitcher Contract: Kei Igawa‘s 2007 deal with the Yankees, which was 5yrs/$20M but included a $26M posting fee, is the worst $AAV per Win contract ever signed.  Igawa went 2-4 in 13 starts over the life of this 5 year deal, equating to $23M per win for his team.  He spent the last two seasons of this contract buried in AAA.
  • Worst non-Posting fee Starting Pitcher Contract: Jason Schmidt‘s 3yr/$47M contract with the Dodgers.  Schmidt made 10 total starts and went 3-6, equating to $15.6M per win.

Other names on the “Worst Starting Pitcher Contract” category include Oliver Perez ($12M/win), Darren Dreifort (6.1M/win), Russ Ortiz (4.7M/win), Carl Pavano ($4.4M/win) and Carlos Silva ($4M/win).   Most of these contracts are well known to baseball fans and are commonly thrown around when talking about the worst historical FA contracts.

How about some of the “Best” Contracts ever signed?  Lots of players have signed small one year deals and won double-digit games, so those really cannot count.   Starting with an arbitrary floor of a $50M free agent contract, here’s the best value FA contracts ever signed:

  1. Pedro Martinez: 7yr/$92M, during which he went 117-37 for the Red Sox for a $786k/win total.
  2. Justin Verlander: He’s in the middle of a 5yr/$80M contract and for the first 3 years he’s 59-22 for $813k/win.
  3. Mike Mussina went 92-53 in his 6yr/$88.5M contract for $961k/win.

Jered Weaver and Yu Darvish deserve some mention here; they’re both in the first year of $50M+ contracts and are easily earning their pay in terms of $/win.


So what does this data mean?  Here’s some conclusions.

  1. It used to indicate that if you got about one (1) pitcher Win per million dollars spent on a player in the Free Agent market that you were doing great.  Look at our own Edwin Jackson in 2012: we signed him for $11M, he went 10-11 for us, equating to $1.1M/win.  Good value frankly.
  2. If you’re getting anything between $1.25M and $1.5M/win, there may be some complaints about the value of the contract.  Not always, but most of the time it indicates that either the pitcher is underperforming or is overpaid.
  3. Anything over $2M/win is usually considered a bust.  Nearly every contract in the $2M/win in AAV and above has been mentioned and criticized as being a bad contract; the list of “worst ever” above starts at $4M/win and goes higher.
  4. If you pay a starter anything more than about $18M/season,  you’re really going to have a hard time getting value back.  There’s only been a handful of 20-game winners over the past 5 years or so, but paying a starter $24M like Greinke is getting is almost certainly going to be regretted at some point.  An injury or a lost season completely blows the $AAV/win.
  5. It illustrates more clearly than anywhere else the value of a top-notch, pre-Arbitration starter.  Take Clay Buchholz for example; in 2010 he was 17-7 while earning the league minimum of $443k.  That equates to $26,059/win on the same staff that was busy paying Daisuke Matsuzaka $2.06M per win (when adding in the $52M posting fee).  Buchholz has struggled since then, but teams that depend on these pre-arb starters (Tampa, Oakland, Washington to a certain extent) save untold amounts of FA dollars as a result.
  6. Lastly, and this is the hard part, this analysis is getting nearly impossible to do across baseball eras because of the general inflation of contracts and especially because of the bonanza of FA dollars being thrown out there right now.  Pedro Martinez at the top of his game signed a 7yr/$92M deal.  Imagine what he’d get today?  It could be twice that.  He was coming off a 1997 season in which he struck out 305 batters, had a 1.90 ERA, a 219 ERA+ and won the Cy Young award.  So perhaps going forward a general $1.25M/win is a more accurate barometer for whether or not a pitcher has “earned” his contract.  But there’s no easy way to draw a line in the free agency sand and say that before yearX $1M/win was a good barometer while after yearY $1.25M/win is a good barometer.
  7. A caveat to the $1M/win benchmark; there are different standards for obtaining wins.   If you sign a $3M 1 year deal and then subsequently go 3-12 with a 6.00 ERA … while it looks like you reached the $1m/win threshold in reality you were, well, awful.  This analysis only really holds up for major FA contracts paying in excess of $10M/year.

Lastly, for comparison purposes, here’s the above analysis looks for the 2012 Nationals pitching staff.  Keep in mind that the $/win figures for pre-arbitration pitchers vastly skew the analysis.

Last Name First Name Total Value (includes club options) $/year AAV Starts QS Wins $ per QS $ AAV per win
Strasburg Steven $15,100,000 $3,775,000 45 28 21 $539,286 $719,048
Gonzalez Gio $42,000,000 $8,400,000 32 22 21 $381,818 $400,000
Zimmermann Jordan $2,300,000 $2,300,000 32 24 12 $95,833 $191,667
Jackson Edwin $11,000,000 $11,000,000 31 17 10 $647,059 $1,100,000
Wang Chien-Ming $4,000,000 $4,000,000 5 0 2 #DIV/0! $2,000,000
Detwiler Ross $485,000 $485,000 27 12 10 $40,417 $48,500
Lannan John $5,000,000 $5,000,000 6 2 4 $2,500,000 $1,250,000
Maya Yunesky $8,000,000 $2,000,000 10 1 1 $6,000,000 $6,000,000

The counting figures for Starts/QS/Wins/Losses are cumulative for the life of whatever contract the player is on.  So for Strasburg, he was basically in the 4th year of his original 4 year deal, hence the 45 total starts in those 4 years.  For guys like Zimmermann and Detwiler, the analysis is just for 2012 since they were playing on one-year deals.

The 2012 Nats have $AAV per win values all over the road:

  • Detwiler‘s $48k per win in 2012 is an amazing bargain; he got 10 wins while pitching for basically the MLB minimum.  And, Zimmermann‘s 12-win season while on a first-year Arbitration salary also represented about 20% of what those wins would have cost on the FA market.
  • Jackson produced almost exactly at the expectations for a FA starter; $11M contract, 10 wins, and $1.1M per win.  In 2013 if we get 12-13 wins from Dan Haren, we’ll be doing alright.
  • Lannan provided just on the borderline of bust production, as you’d expect for someone who got paid $5M to give the team 6 starts.
  • Wang: $4M salary, 5 starts, zero quality starts, 2 wins and a $2M/win price tag.  Yes; he was a bust.
  • Lastly Mr. Yunesky Maya.  The team has now paid him $6M over three years.  In that time he’s gotten 10 MLB starts and has produced exactly one Quality start and one win.  That’s $6M the team has paid for each win, in the range for one of the worst dollar-per-win contracts ever signed.  Of course, the Nats only signed him for $8M (not the $46M contract Igawa got), so the downside is limited.  But it does illustrated just how badly this deal has gone for the team.

Who is going to start for Syracuse in 2012?

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Craig Stammen looks set to lead a potentially weak 2012 AAA rotation. Photo unknown via sabermetrics.com

We all know who went the other way in the Gio Gonzalez trade; A significant portion of our starter depth, especially at or near the majors.  Both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock got a few starts in September last year, and both fared relatively well (albeit against somewhat weakened or dis-interested opponents).

Prior to the Gonzalez signing, one would have thought that the MLB 2012 rotation was mostly set, with Ross Detwiler taking the 5th spot over Milone and Peacock by virtue of his (lack of) options status.  That would have left both these younger starters in AAA waiting for their opportunity.  With them now in Oakland’s organization … who is going to start for Syracuse in 2012?  Who represents our starter depth in case someone gets hurt?

At the end of the 2011 season, if one had to guess Syracuse’s 2012 rotation you would have probably guessed it to be Milone, Peacock, Brad Meyers, Craig Stammen and Yuniesky Maya.  This would essentially be the same rotation Syracuse ended their regular season with (replacing spot starter JD Martin with Milone, who by that point had departed for the majors).  Now consider this same group:

  • Milone: traded to Oakland
  • Peacock: traded to Oakland
  • Meyers: picked up by New York in the rule 5 draft
  • Martin: signed a minor league FA deal with Miami

Only Stammen and Maya now remain, and frankly I’m not sure who else the team is going to get to start in Syracuse in 2012.  Here’s a list of every one who made starts in 2011 at Syracuse: Red means they’re no longer with the organization, Blue means they were making re-hab starts or were starts by guys who are out of options for 2012 and aren’t appearing in Syracuse:

Name W L ERA whip G GS
Tom Milone 12 6 3.22 1.03 24 24
Craig Stammen 10 7 4.75 1.43 25 24
Yuniesky Maya 4 9 5 1.24 22 22
Brad Meyers 6 5 3.48 1.31 17 16
Ross Detwiler 6 6 4.53 1.49 16 16
J.D. Martin 3 7 3.93 1.13 30 14
Brad Peacock 5 1 3.19 1.25 9 9
Garrett Mock 0 3 6.28 1.67 16 4
Erik Arnesen 0 2 3.57 1.42 3 3
Ryan Tatusko 3 4 4.54 1.79 23 2
Chad Gaudin 0 2 4.38 1.62 6 2
Chien-Ming Wang 0 1 6.75 1.59 2 2
Stephen Strasburg 0 0 1.8 0.4 1 1
Tom Gorzelanny 0 1 9 1.5 1 1

So, by category of starts:

  • 69 were made by players no longer with Washington (including Rule-5 draftee Meyers, who may very well be returned but for now is a New York Yankee)
  • 20 were made by Detwiler and other MLBers on re-hab assignments.
  • the remaining 51 games made by guys who may or may not feature in 2012.

That’s 63% of your AAA starts made by guys who won’t be making any 2012 AAA starts for this organization.

Well, you may say, perhaps we should just be expecting all those AA pitchers from 2011 to be rising up.  Except that our AA rotation was filled with reclamation projects and minor league free agents in 2011.  Here’s a comparable look at those who made AA starts for the franchise in 2011 (again, with red and blue indicating the same as above):

Name W L ERA whip G GS
Shairon Martis 8 6 3.05 1.22 23 23
Tanner Roark 9 9 4.69 1.4 21 21
Erik Davis 5 7 4.79 1.61 19 18
Erik Arnesen 8 4 2.43 1.1 26 16
Oliver Perez 3 5 3.09 1.39 16 15
Brad Peacock 10 2 2.01 0.86 16 14
Ryan Tatusko 2 4 5.94 1.83 12 9
Daniel Rosenbaum 3 1 2.29 0.97 6 6
Brad Meyers 3 2 2.48 0.96 6 6
Jimmy Barthmaier 5 3 5.05 1.55 39 2
Carlos Martinez 3 4 5.34 1.42 32 2
Chien-Ming Wang 2 0 0 0.73 2 2
Garrett Mock 0 1 13.5 2.05 2 2
Luis Atilano 0 1 13.5 2.5 2 2
Stephen Strasburg 1 0 0 0.17 1 1
Evan Bronson 0 0 2.25 1.75 1 1
Henry Rodriguez 0 0 0 0.75 3 1
Doug Slaten 0 0 0 1 1 1

AA Start Summary:

  • 67 were made by players no longer with Washington (including all minor league Free Agents for the time being, even though some may re-sign eventually)
  • 4 were re-hab assignments by current MLBers.
  • the remaining 71 games made by guys who may or may not feature in 2012.  This includes a few starts by Arneson

That’s 50% of your AA starts made by guys no longer with the organization or re-hab starts.  Arneson pitched well enough, but he’s no prospect; he’s 28 and starting his 6th minor league year.  Roark and Tatusko both struggled in 2011 and seem destined for the bullpen.  Davis was demoted, Bronson only called up for a spot AA start, and Rosenbaum pitched well in 6 late season starts but needs more AA seasoning.  So not a lot of help coming up from Harrisburg.

Luckily, the Nats have been adding minor league free agent signings left and right, guys who probably will feature.  By my notes, here’s the arms we’ve added so far this off season:

  • Matthew Buschmann, rhp: taken in the rule5 draft (AA phase) from San Diego, he was reasonably successful in 2011 in the AA Texas league before getting pounded in 20 appearances (15 starts) in AAA.  By virtue of his rule-5 drafting, he’s pretty much guaranteed to be on the AAA roster in some capacity.  He is a starter; will be be one of Syracuse’s starters?
  • Joaquin Waldis, rhp, signed to a 1yr ML FA (former club: San Francisco) with an invite to Spring Training.  He was a reliever all of 2011 and was most likely signed to provide some depth in the middle relief phase.  Not a starter option.
  • Jeff Fulchino, rhp, signed to a 1yr ML FA (Houston), invite to ST (split contract).  Was relatively mediocre for Houston and San Diego last year, again signed for some reliever depth/spring training competition.
  • Robert Gilliam, a rhp thrown into the Gonzalez trade, is a starter but only was at Oakland’s Class-A entry in the California League last year.  He seems set to be in the AA rotation in 2012.
  • Mike Ballard, a lhp starter given a 1yr ML FA (Baltimore), invite to ST.  He was relatively effective for Baltimore’s AA affiliate in Bowie, but less so at AAA Norfolk, where he started the season.  He is a full-time starter and seems a likely candidate for our AAA rotation.

Ok, It seems like we may have our answer.  It looks like your AAA rotation will be Stammen, Maya, Arneson, Buschmann and Ballard.  Here’s a quick rundown on these 5 guy’s AAA numbers for 2011:

Name Age as of 4/1/12 W L ERA whip G GS CG SHO SV ip H R ER HR hb bb so
Craig Stammen 28 10 7 4.75 1.43 25 24 1 1 0 142 163 80 75 18 1 40 127
Yunesky Maya 30 4 9 5 1.24 22 22 1 0 0 129.2 133 73 72 14 5 28 98
Erik Arnesen 28 0 2 3.57 1.42 3 3 0 0 0 17.2 22 7 7 2 0 3 15
Mike Ballard 28 2 4 4.91 1.624 10 9 1 1 0 51.1 66 31 28 7 17 38
Matthew Buschmann 28 6 5 7.31 1.837 20 15 1 0 0 88.2 129 75 72 11 33 60

Without sounding too judgmental … that’s not a lot of AAA depth in case something happens.  Only 2 of these 5 are even on the 40-man, and those who are have either proven to be ineffective at the major league level (Maya) or seem destined to be used as middle relief/organization filler (Stammen).  If Meyers gets returned, look for him to replace Arneson one for one (since Arnesen seems destined to be the minor league utility guy, as he was used last year).

I’d have to say; if someone goes down with injury, we’ll most likely look from within the MLB bullpen (in the form of Gorzelanny or Detwiler) for starts.

Looking at our Minor League Free Agent Pitchers..

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Is this the end of the road for JD Martin in a Nats uniform? Photo via Nats news Network

I’m a bit late to this topic; Work has amped up lately and it squeezes what little free time I have in the evenings to do stuff like this.  So sorry if it feels dated.

MLB declared hundreds of minor league free agents on 11/4/11, 5 days after the end of the World Series.  The Baseball America link here has a more complete description of how a player arrives at minor league free agency, but generally speaking it happens one of two ways: either a team has kept one of its own drafted players for 6+ years but he isn’t on the 40-man, or the team signed a minor league free agent last off season and has chosen (as of yet) not to renew his contract or to add him to the 40-man.  From the BA article, here’s our FA pitchers:

RHP: Luis Atilano (AA), Jimmy Barthmaier (AA), Sam Brown (Lo A), J.D. Martin (AAA), Carlos Martinez (AA), Shairon Martis (AA), Garrett Mock (AAA)
LHP: Oliver Perez (AA)

Sean Hogan did a nice statistical review/write up on this same topic earlier, posting his ranks of these FAs.  Below is mostly cut-n-pasted from the season summary articles I did for each level, addressing each FA.  Most of these write-ups did not factor in eligibility for ML free agency at the time and assumed (from a prediction stand point) that the team would be considering their future for 2012.  I’ll add in a FA prediction as well.

  • JD Martin: Outrighted before the season and then signed a minor-league deal, Martin was AAA’s long man/spot starter.  He ended up with 14 starts and pedestrian numbers on the season: 3-7, 3.93 era in 30 appearances.  His fate was sealed in January when he was outrighted and nobody else sniffed; he’s a soft-throwing righty who is a good AAA pitcher until his spot is needed.   Outlook for next season: he could be back in the same role he was in this year, unless a numbers game forces his release.  But the franchise seems to like Martin and he pitched well all year.  ML Free Agency Prediction: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Martin sign with another team, given our current depth of pitching at the MLB level.  He’s clearly not going to get another shot at the major leagues with our team.
  • Garrett Mock: started strong in AAA, then had two incredibly bad outings and went on the DL.  His rehab travels around the low minors became some what of a joke, but when he returned he failed to impress, and was DFA’d in early September to make way for 9/1 call-ups to the majors.  Final AAA line: 0-3, 6.28 era, 1.67 whip, 32/24 k/bb in 28 innings.  His stats at all levels are worse.  Outlook for next season: There are plenty of people (including me, loudly) who openly questioned why Mock occupied a 40-man spot for so long.  His long awaited removal should indicate the end of his future with the Nats franchise.  ML Free Agency Prediction:  I’m guessing he picks up with another team and tries to start fresh with a new organization for 2012.
  • Luis Atilano only got 2 starts in AA and was hammered before hitting the DL, where he remained the rest of the season.  He’s 26 this year and was DFA’d, cleared waivers and accepted his assignment, indicating that he’s probably not in the future plans of the team.  Outlook for next season: I’m guessing he’s given his release and will be a minor league free agent.  ML Free Agency Prediction: he’ll play elsewhere in 2012.
  • Shairon Martis is an interesting case; he was in the Nats starting rotation in 2009, and by the spring of 2011 he had successfully passed through waivers and was on our AA squad despite only being 24.  Not surprisingly, he did well, posting a 8-6 record, a 3.05 era, a 1.22 whip, had 146/39 k/bb in 133 ip and threw a 7-inning no-hitter.  And this all proved, what exactly?  As I said over and again during the season’s rotation reviews, Martis getting out AA hitters with ease shows us nothing that we didn’t already know.  We need to see him at least at the AAA level to see if he’s ever going to be the pitcher that showed so much promise when he was promoted to the majors in 2008 as a 21-yr old.  There was word/rumors during spring training that the team wasn’t pleased with his conditioning or his work efforts, perhaps contributing to his being essentially in the franchise “doghouse.” Outlook for next season: He should be in at least a AAA rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was stuck in extended spring training by virtue of a numbers issue if he stayed.  We have a lot of starters at the upper levels of our system and he would be, at best, the #5 starter in AAA.  ML Free Agency Prediction: He’d be crazy to resign with this team; his lack of a promotion even to AAA signaled the end of his future here.
  • Oliver Perez was picked up in a relatively high-profile signing after he was unceremoniously released (with $12M still owed on his 2011 contract) by the Mets, who had tired of his poor performances on the mound.  The Nats, surprisingly in my opinion, installed him as a starter in AA and left him there the entire season.   Outside of a quick DL stint he mostly pitched decently, posting a 3-5 record in 15 starts, with a 3.09 Era and a 1.39 whip.  But, as with Martis above, what exactly did we learn from this?  An experienced MLB veteran *should* be getting AA guys out with regularity.  With the troubles the team had with their loogy (see Slaten, Doug‘s inherited runners and WHIP rate on the season), I’m surprised they didn’t try to feature Perez as a lefty out of the bullpen.  Now, with the season over I suppose the team has learned that Perez is now just a mediocre AA starter.  Outlook for next season: In my opinion Perez needs to realize he’s no longer a starter and embrace the Loogy role to continue his career.  Will he do it?  Ego is a difficult thing for a former successful starter.  ML Free Agency Prediction: Perez probably goes elsewhere to continue his career on a minor league deal, looking to regain a starting job somewhere in the MLB.
  • Jimmy Barthmaier got a couple spot starts but worked mostly out of the bullpen, sporting a high ERA but good k/9 rates.  Same for journeyman Carlos Martinez, albeit without the good K/9 rates.  Outlook for next season: Barthmaier and Martinez are org guys and may or may not return.  ML Free Agency Prediction: looking for work elsewhere, as we have a slew of reliever-arms percolating up from the A-ball ranks.
  • Sean Brown sported an ERA at the 5.00 level in Low-A.  That’s about as much as you need to know.  Outlook for next season: A 6-year ML FA unsuccessful in Low-A is looking at either retirement or indy ball.  ML Free Agency Prediction: looking at the independent leagues to continue his career.

Summary: I’d be surprised if ANY of these guys re-signed with the team.  Perhaps Martin and Martis are the most “desirable” arms to pursue (if the Nats pursue any of them), but both players have to see that they’re not in the team’s plans any longer.

Written by Todd Boss

November 10th, 2011 at 10:11 am

Harrisburg/AA Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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Brad Peacock was your AA pitcher of the year, and earned two subsequent promotions in 2011. Photo via bleacherreport.com

(2nd in a series.  See yesterday’s post for Syracuse).

The Harrisburg rotation started the year with two starlets, a couple question marks and a few guys who had MLB experience (either in the rotation or on the DL, waiting to get their shot).  It was interesting to see a rotation in AA that was (on average) younger and had more MLB time than the team’s AAA roster, but that’s how this season played out.  No less than twenty guys got “starts” for the AA team this year, including a number of rehab starts and even more “passing through” starts for guys on their way out of the organization.

Here’s the status of the Harrisburg pitching staff at the end of the season (ages are as of 9/30/11)

  • Starters: Roark 24, Arneson 27, Martis 24, OPerez(L) 30, Rosenbaum (L) 23
  • Bullpen: Lehman 24, VanAllen (L) 27,  Barthmaier 27, McCoy (L) 23, RMartin 27, HPena 26
  • Spot starts: CMartinez 27
  • Promotions: Mandel, Meyers, Mattheus, Tatusko, Zinicola,  Peacock, Mock (post rehab)
  • up-and-back: Arneson, Pena, CMartinez
  • demotions: RMartin (from last year), EDavis
  • DL: Atilano 26
  • Cut/released post Spring or mid-season: Leatherman, Novoa, Spradlin, Dials, CJames, Alaniz, Chico
  • Missing: JJones 29

Harrisburg starters.  The rotation started the season with Meyers, Tatusko, Atilano, Peacock and Erik Davis.  Here’s how these guys and the rest of the starters fared in 2011.

  • Brad Meyers got the season opening start and it was clear after 6 starts he was ready to be promoted, going 3-2 with a 2.48 era and a sub 1.00 whip.  Outlook for next season: (from AAA post): Begins 2012 in AAA, competes for MLB #5 starter in spring.
  • Ryan Tatusko was mediocre at best in a AA starting role, putting up a 5.94 era in 12 appearances (9 starts) before being dumped to the bullpen when Oliver Perez was ready to go.  His last couple of appearances were decent though, and he got promoted to fill an opening in AAA’s bullpen, where he played most of the season.  Outlook for next season: (from AAA post): Org guy, in AAA’s bullpen or in another organization.
  • Luis Atilano only got 2 starts in and was hammered before hitting the DL, where he remained the rest of the season.  He’s 26 this year and was DFA’d, cleared waivers and accepted his assignment, indicating that he’s probably not in the future plans of the team.  Outlook for next season: I’m guessing he’s given his release and will be a minor league free agent.
  • Brad Peacock tore up AA, putting up a 10-2 record with 129 Ks in just 98 IP.  Most questioned why he was left to languish in AA for so long, clearly having earned a promotion.  But he’s young (only 23 this year) and there was not really a hole in the AAA rotation for him until Detwiler’s promotion opened one up.  Outlook for next season: (from AAA post): Loses out on #5 starter competition, starts in AAA, possibly in MLB bullpen b/c of his arm.
  • Erik Davis was obtained in trade for disgruntled utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez, had a bunch of starts, a DL stint, and then a string of awful starts that got him demoted to Potomac (where he didn’t fare much better).  Final AA line: 5-7, 4.79 era, 1.61 whip and 93/41 k/bb in 94 ip.  He’s got great K/9 but not much else.   Outlook for next season: there’s not much use for a 25yr old right-hander who can’t cut it in High-A, though his precipitous drop in stats from 2010 to 2011 is cause for hope that this was an aberration year.  I’ll guess he features in the AA bullpen in 2012.
  • Erik Arneson started the year with 3 pretty decent AAA starts, then suddenly was in the AA bullpen.  This was his third year repeating the AA level with this franchise, clearly indicating that the team views him as an organizational guy.  Despite his all-star game appearance and stellar 2011 numbers in AA (8-4, 2.43 era, 1.10 whip in 16 starts and 26 appearances), he’s 27 this year and clearly isn’t going anywhere.  Outlook for next season: Org Guy; either a minor league FA or perhaps floating between our AAA and AA levels as he did this year.
  • Shairon Martis is an interesting case; he was in the Nats starting rotation in 2009, and by the spring of 2011 he had successfully passed through waivers and was on our AA squad despite only being 24.  Not surprisingly, he did well, posting a 8-6 record, a 3.05 era, a 1.22 whip, had 146/39 k/bb in 133 ip and threw a 7-inning no-hitter.  And this all proved, what exactly?  As I said over and again during the season’s rotation reviews, Martis getting out AA hitters with ease shows us nothing that we didn’t already know.  We need to see him at least at the AAA level to see if he’s ever going to be the pitcher that showed so much promise when he was promoted to the majors in 2008 as a 21-yr old.  There was word/rumors during spring training that the team wasn’t pleased with his conditioning or his work efforts, perhaps contributing to his being essentially in the franchise “doghouse.” Outlook for next season: He should be in the AAA rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was stuck in extended spring training by virtue of a numbers issue.
  • Tanner Roark got nearly a full season of starts in the AA rotation and didn’t have the greatest season,  In 21 starts he posted a 9-9 record, 4.69 era, 1.40 whip and pedestrian K/9 rates.  He’s younger than his trade mate (Tatusko, both received for Cristian Guzman in mid-2010) so the team will have a bit more patience.  Outlook for next season: I think his starting days are done; i’d think he’ll be converted to a reliever and start in the AA bullpen.
  • Oliver Perez was picked up in a relatively high-profile signing after he was unceremoniously released (with $12M still owed on his 2011 contract) by the Mets, who had tired of his poor performances on the mound.  The Nats, surprisingly in my opinion, installed him as a starter in AA and left him there the entire season.   Outside of a quick DL stint he mostly pitched decently, posting a 3-5 record in 15 starts, with a 3.09 Era and a 1.39 whip.  But, as with Martis above, what exactly did we learn from this?  An experienced MLB veteran *should* be getting AA guys out with regularity.  With the troubles the team had with their loogy (see Slaten, Doug‘s inherited runners and WHIP rate on the season), I’m surprised they didn’t try to feature Perez as a lefty out of the bullpen.  Now, with the season over I suppose the team has learned that Perez is now just a mediocre AA starter.  Outlook for next season: Perez will be a FA and probably goes elsewhere to continue his career on a minor league deal, looking to regain a starting job somewhere in the MLB.
  • Denny Rosenbaum got a late season call-up after pitching well in high-A all season and continued his excellent season in AA.  His stats for Harrisburg: 3-1, 2.29 era and a sub 1.00 whip in 6 starts.  These numbers were slightly better than what he posted in 20 Potomac games, and he seems to be featuring as a Tom Milone-esque crafty left-hander who is riding under the radar.  Outlook for next season: at 23 he’s still pretty young and will be in the AA rotation with a mind to get promoted after a few starts in the same way Meyers or Peacock earned their way up this year.
  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab): Jimmy Barthmaier got a couple spot starts but worked mostly out of the bullpen, sporting a high ERA but good k/9 rates.  Same for journeyman Carlos Martinez, albeit without the good K/9 rates.  Evan Bronson put in a spot start during a brief call up to provide cover for the team during one of their many rain-out induced double headers.  Outlook for next season: Barthmaier and Martinez are org guys and may or may not return.  We’ll cover Bronson in the high-A post, where he spent most of the season.

Harrisburg Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.

  • Rafael Martin and Hassan Pena split the closing duties and both put up great numbers.  Pena was a AAA demotion while Martin seems to be a bit old for the level.  Despite this, Martin is representing the franchise in the Arizona Fall League, so perhaps he’ll feature prominently next year.  Outlook for next season: both guys seem set to be part of the AAA bullpen.
  • Pat Lehman and Corey VanAllen both pitched pretty well; Lehman earned a mid-season promotion and put up a 3.71 era in AA, earning a trip to the AFL as well.  VanAllen is older, lefty and had a great K/9 ratio.  Outlook for next season: Lehman stays in the AA pen to start, while VanAllen moves up to AAA as a possible loogy.
  • Pat McCoy struggled in AA, putting up a 4.78 era in 52 innings of work, but he’s also very young and had a 9.0 K/9 rate.  Outlook for next season: he’ll start again in AA bullpen, looking to gain on his experiences in 2011.
  • The Rest not already mentioned; Barthmaier, Martinez already covered above. 

Other pitchers who appeared in AA of note (not including Rehabbing MLBers): Ryan Mattheus started the season in AA and earned two promotions, ending up with good MLB numbers.  He’ll make the 2012 bullpen as long as he stays healthy. Matt Chico was awful in 10 appearances before being demoted/DL’d and eventually released.  Zech Zinicola and Jeff Mandel started in AA before both being promoted to AAA, where they worked the bulk of the season.  Garrett Mock put in two awful rehab starts en route to his own release.

http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=P&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=572095

Minor League Rotations Cycle #14: good/bad/soso

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A.J. Cole has quietly begun to dominate low-A ball. photo: AP

(Programming Note: as you may have noticed, i’m about 3 versions of this recurring post behind.  A long weekend away and then two weeks of quick deadlines at work and todo items at home have conspired against these posts.  I hate it when life interferes with blogging!  Anyway, I’ve kept up-to-date the trends, copied over some of the “news and notes” from the older posts and will just pick up with the 14th cycle).

The time has come to add in Short-A (starting 6/17) and GCL (6/20).  There’s 15 arms assigned to the Auburn Doubledays, and it will take a bit to determine who the starters are.  I’ll do a couple of quick posts with predictions versus actual rosters (though predicting the short-season squads is really difficult, since most of the guys there are 2011 draftees).  As always, Sue Dinem has a nice post highlighting where the Auburn roster guys came from (2010 assignment or 2011 draftee).  Lastly, Byron Kerr highlighted the opening day for the Auburn affiliate.

Here are the daily links from NationalsProspects, for reference below:

Good

  • Brad Meyers rebounded from a string of sub-par to bad starts to take the win on 6/16.  Line: 7IP, 7H, 2ER, BB, 4K, HR.  Meyers has (to this point) kept up his unbelievable k/bb ratio (39 to 4 in AAA, 77 to 4 on the season), but has been struggled in AAA thus far (a 4.80 era and well over a hit per inning).
  • Tanner Roark also rebounded on 6/16, putting in a quality start (2er in 6ip).   He still seems to have taken a severe step backwards this year (with a 6.00 era on the season) and may be pitching his way out of the team’s long term plans.
  • AJ Cole struck out 9 in 5 innings on 6/16, giving him 40 (against 8 walks) in 32 low-A innings thus far.  I’ll take that from a 19yr old.
  • Ryan Demmin‘s return to starting pitching on 6/17 for Auburn went well; 5IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 4K.  He washed out of Potomac’s bullpen earlier in the year; lets see if he can stick in Auburn’s rotation.
  • Collin Bates may not have started 6/17’s Auburn game, but he went 4 innings and clearly seems in competition for the rotation (so i’ll grade him here).  Results?  Pretty dominant: 4IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 3K.    Lets see if he gets a start the next time through the rotation.
  • Brad Peacock got a bit unlucky on 6/17, turning 4 hits over 7 innings into 3 runs, but another 7Ks to pad his gaudy season numbers helped him to the victory.   Honestly, I’m not sure what he really has left to prove in AA; why do we keep Stammen in the AAA rotation if he’s being used out of the pen when he gets called up?
  • Paul Demny had his best outing of the year on 6/18, pitching 5 innings of one-hit ball before making way for his bullpen.
  • Erik Arneson put up good numbers for Harrisburg (this time) on 6/19: 3 hits and 7 Ks over 6 innings.  As i’ve said before, Arneson seems to have picked the short straw and seems to be the organization’s go-to spot starter.

Bad

  • Evan Bronson got hit very hard on 6/16 on the day he seemingly took over Mitchell Clegg‘s rotation spot, giving up 11 hits in 5 and a third.
  • An ugly outing for Craig Stammen, perhaps jet-lagged from his brief callup on 6/18.  Line: 3IP 6H, 5ER, BB, 2K, 2HR.
  • Carlos Martinez got a spot start to cover for a Harrisburg doubleheader on 6/18, and in doing so became the 12th starter used in AA.  The result?  He showed why he’s not in the rotation, getting peppered for 6 hits and 3 runs over 4 innings.
  • Wirkin Estevez had an interesting game in Auburn’s 2nd game of the season on 6/18: 3⅔ IP, 9H, 6R, 6ER, BB, 6K.   9 hits but 6 Ks in less than 4 innings?   Estevez pitched well in the DSL last year, but history has shown that it may not translate to the continental pro game.
  • Yunesky Maya returned to Syracuse from a 4-game stint in the bigs, and must have been depressed for his 6/19 start.  He gave up 10 hits over 5 innings.  Unfortunately, I think he better get used to living in upstate New York for a while.  Amazingly he was in line for the victory by virtue of his team’s offense.
  • Pedro Encarnation‘s first short-A start was not terrible, but wasn’t great; 3/ 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 4 walks. I’m surprised he’s in the short-A rotation, given that he’s not really shown us much during his first two pro seasons.
  • A bad short-A start for Kelvin Lopez, another guy who wasn’t exactly great for us in the GCL last year.  Line: 3⅓ IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 3K.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Shane McCatty had a run of the mill spot-start on 6/16: 4ip, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned).  It is the 2nd time in 2 weeks that one of the lesser bullpen arms in Hagerstown has been pressed into action.  Maybe they should have kept Garrett Mock down there for the playoff push.
  • Tommy Milone had a poor start (by his standards) on 6/17, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs (4 earned) in less than 6 innings.  He continues his mastery of the strike zone though, now standing at 82ks against 5 walks on the year.  Unfortunately, his ERA has been creeping up over the past few starts, leaking runs here and there.  I still think the team could make use of him in the rotation if the need arises, this year.
  • Erik Davis obviously was around the plate on 6/17, giving up 10 hits to go against 8Ks (and 0 walks) in a 6 inning effort.
  • Robbie Ray wasn’t quite as dominant as we’ve come to expect on 6/17, but only gave up one run through 5 to take a no-decision.  He gave up quite a few hits and didn’t have nearly the dominant K rates as he has in previous games.  He’s still been amazingly dominant considering his age and his lack of pro experience.
  • Trevor Holder‘s performance on 6/18 was probably better than his box score showed: 7 hits and 3 runs over 6 and a third, but all three runs came on one big homer.  It was enough to cost him the loss.
  • Taylor Jordan had a quality start on 6/18, but nothing special.  6ip, 3 runs, a couple of Ks.  He’s continued to get wins for Hagerstown with decent numbers and not-very-dominant stuff.  But he has a sub 3.00 era and doesn’t walk a ton of guys.  I don’t know how much upside that means.
  • Sammy Solis piched out the string for a Hagerstown team that was eliminated from the first half playoffs on 6/19: 4 innings, couple of earned runs, 5 ks.  Nothing bad, but nothing special.
  • Another mediocre (for him) start for Ross Detwiler on 6/20: 6⅔ IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 4BB, 3K.  I continue to maintain he’s injured in some way or another and trying to pitch through it.
  • Nathan Karns had an up-and-down rehab start in GCL (season opener on 6/20).  2⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, 2BB, 2K.  Its usually difficult to tell who the “starters” are in GCL, but we’ll do our best.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • Mark Zuckerman reports that Chien-Ming Wang is (finally) ready to leave extended spring training and go out on a rehab assignment.  This means he’s going to supplant a starter, somewhere in the system.  I’d guess he’s going to Potomac to start, as they seem to have the least-performing collection of starters right now and he’d completely overmatch the younger hitters in low-A.  The implication of his going out on a rehab assignment is this: he only gets 30 days in the minors (probably about 6 starts) before the Nats have to make a decision on what to do with him.  He has no minor league options, so in 30 days he either joins the 25-man roster, goes back on the DL or is DFA’d.  After all we’ve invested in him (and for the sake of his career), I’m hoping he still has something left.
  • The rotation in Harrisburg has proved challenging to keep up with; they’ve now used 11 different starters and we’re only about a 1/2 of the way through the season.  At the time of this writing I can’t tell any longer who is really in the rotation.  Tatusko seems back, but Arneson has pitched well out of the bullpen (though only mediocre as a spot-starter).  I guess its a good problem to have, as they’ve rolled to 10 straight wins recently and are getting pretty dominant performances out of 3/5ths of their rotation nearly every time out.
  • Jimmy Barthmaier got slaughtered out of the pen on 6/1, which broke up a decent string of appearances for him lately.  He’s got ugly season-long numbers, is old for AA, and may be on his way out.
  • Hagerstown relievers Shane McCatty and Ben Graham both got torched in a very odd 6/1 Hagerstown game.  Its the 3rd such god-awful outing for McCatty this year, sprinkled around decent ones.  Same story for Graham.  Both guys really aren’t getting the k/9 rates they need as bullpen options in the low-minors to have any shot of moving up.
  • Christopher Manno numbers, as of June 1st: 25 1/3 innings, 0 earned runs, 8 hits, FOURTY strikeouts against eight walks.  As frequent commenter Mark L might say, “what does this guy have to do to get promoted??”  He proved later on in the month that he is human (giving up a few runs here and there towards the end of the first half), but he still has dominant numbers and merits a promotion.
  • Ryan Mattheus looks like he’s fully recovered from 2009 Tommy John surgery, with 24 Ks in 21 innings and only 10 hits allowed through AA and AAA stints on the season.  If anything his numbers have improved at AAA.  His problem is 40-man status; he passed through waivers and was retained by the club, and I’m guessing they won’t want to put him back on until completely necessary (perhaps 9/1 callup?).  Update: he got his long awaited shot at the majors, having been added to the 40-man on 6/10/10. He replaces Cole Kimball, who has “right shoulder inflammation” (as nearly every major league pitcher does) and went on the 15-day DL. Kimball has been pretty effective thus far, but is walking guys far too often and the rest may do him some good.
  • Not that Bryce Harper is involved with the pitching in Hagerstown, but I thought i’d take a quick look at how he’s faring with his latest outburst.  As of 6/3, here’s his ranks in the entire Sally League in various categories: 6th in batting average (.346), 3rd in OBP (.432), t-1st in homers, 1st in RBI, 1st in Total bases, 3rd in OPS (1.055), and he’s even t-14th in stolen bases.  Not a bad set of rankings considering he’s like the 2nd youngest guy in the league.
  • Brad Peacock is starting to get noticed by some of the ESPN scouts.  Jason Grey featured Peacock on 6/2 from an NL-only fantasy perspective, noting he’s at 95mph with a “good” curve and a developing change-up.  That’s not going to be enough to be a major league starter.  Grey’s espn colleague Keith Law took a Peacock-related question on 6/2, noting that Peacock really is a one-pitch pitcher without an above-average 2nd pitch according to most scouts he’s asked about.  Neither of these reports is really that positive about Peacock’s future unfortunately.  My guess is that he will probably be told to start really working on his change-up, which reportedly has good velocity delta but not much movement and not much command.  You would have to think Peacock needs good command of that third pitch to have any shot at being a starter.
  • Interesting Harrisburg moves last week: Oliver Perez going to the DL, with Arneson continuing his pin-ball assignments throughout the organization, coming back down from Syracuse.  He seems to be the designated spot-starter/moving man this season. Erik Davis was on the DL for a quick trip and regains his rotation spot, but it remains to be seen what the rotations look like after this shakes out.
  • What is going on with Bobby Hansen??  He hasn’t appeared in a game for Hagerstown since 6/1, but isn’t on the DL.  He seems to have given his rotation spot to Sammy Solis … but hasn’t appeared since.  He wasn’t Hagerstown’s worst starter and had pretty good numbers as a 21-yr old in low-A.  Is he hurt?  Is he in the dog house?  Has he gone and hooked up with the manager’s daughter?
  • Tom Milone is starting to get noticed by the national press.  Rob Sickels had a feature on him on 6/20, as did Rob Neyer on sbnation.com
  • The busleaguesbaseball blog featured Auburn on 6/20.
  • 9-lives pitcher Garrett Mock was placed on the 7-day DL in Harrisburg after two brutal starts there.   As of 6/21, here’s the list of pitchers on the 7-day DL in AA: Mock, Perez, Atilano and Chico.  In other words, a collection of guys who are all way too old for AA and are closer to their outright release than making it back to the big club.
  • We may soon see a whole slew of 2011 draftees taking over rotation spots in Auburn.  Some of the “starters” we have there have not exactly impressed during their pro careers, and in some cases makes you wonder how they still have jobs.

Trends

Top 3 deserving promotion: Peacock, Ray, Milone
Top 3 whose jobs are in jeopardy: Mock, Holder, Grace

Baseball Salary Cap needed? Small payroll teams competing in 2010

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Sports writers and baseball analysts have been beating the drum for years for some sort of payroll system modifications in baseball.   Especially in recent years with the dominance of the Yankees and Red Sox, who have been 1-2 in total salary for a while and have both made the playoffs more often than not in the past decade.  Last year was especially bad, when most of the playoff spots went to big market, big teams.  Great for playoff rankings, bad for most of the teams in the league.   The Yankees spent nearly SEVEN times as much in payroll entering 2010 than Pittsburgh; how can that be equitable?

Well, don’t look now but if the season ended today, as pointed out in this USAToday Article, only two of baseball’s top 10 salaried teams would qualify.  Most of baseball’s current 8 playoff teams are from middle-of-the-road payrolls.  There are two notable outliers: Texas comfortably currently sits atop the AL West with the 27th largest payroll and San Diego, with the 2nd LOWEST payroll in the majors, leads the NL west.  (See this google xls I put together briefly to show teams by record rank, playoff position and salary at the beginning of the season).

Each time a team like Tampa, San Diego or Texas competes well with the big boys, it makes it harder to implement some sort of reform.  Especially since you can look at each of the top tier payroll teams that are NOT in playoff contention right now and excuse their season.

  • #2. Boston: still have the 5thbest record and would be leading most any other division.  Lots of injuries, transition year away from expensive older vets like Ortiz and Lowell, $10M in dead money.  Theo keeps talking about a transition year; he’s biding his time before he can re-do the team in the image of the 04 and 07 teams.
  • #3: Cubs: over paid for Soriano, Zambrano underperforming, Fukodome bad signing.  Just not well constructed team.  Hendry on the GM hot seat.
  • #4: Philadelphia: great team, killed by injuries and inconsistent pitching.  You wonder how badly the Lee trade bungling will hurt them in years to come.  I still think they’ll overtake Atlanta, especially now that Chipper is done for the season.
  • #5: Mets: how does Minaya still have a job?  They seem to spend money because they have it, not because they acquire good players.  Oliver Perez, Jason Bay god awful signings, and just Santana and Beltran cost more than the San Diego Payroll annually.
  • #6: Tigers: you have to hand it to the Tigers owner, who purposely over spent b/c his town was so badly hurt in the economic crash.  But he has some very expensive players tied up (Cabrera, Verlander, Guillen) for a number of years and their role players aren’t good enough.  Dark Days ahead for Detroit.

So, the #1 payroll team has the best record and the #30 payroll team has the worst record.   But the teams in between aren’t acting like we expect.  Is this Moneyball re-incarnated?  Well no.  Billy Beane’s teams success in Oakland was less about his OBP-centric stats drafting and more about the three starting pitchers (ZitoHudson, Mulder) his teams were graced with (as pointed out in this excellent Buzz Bissinger article).  What it does point out is that good GMs (even the wealthy ones in NY and Boston) are starting to value the draft pick and the young player and are becoming better and better at drafting them.  San Diego and Texas both kept payroll low, traded away vets, accumulated draft picks.  Texas easily has the best farm system in the majors and now has a powerhouse team for very little money.  This is exactly the same blueprint practiced for years by Florida and Tampa, though Texas has shown they are not afraid to buy talent at the deadline (something the panhandle state teams never do and thus one of the reasons why neither team really has any appreciable fan following).

So, what should base ball do?

1. Should there be a salary cap?  Well, yes I think so.  I think the Yankees have a totally unfair player advantage over the rest of the league and it shouldn’t be possible to have 4 times the payroll of a team within  your own division.  But i have no idea how to implement it.

2. Should there be a salary floor?  Well, no.  Because teams like Texas, Florida, San Diego, Tampa and (in years past) Oakland have consistently shown that you can build great cheap teams by depending on player development, drafting and having an entire team of pre-arbitration or arbitration-eligible guys.  You can’t force a team to spend money just to achieve an arbitrary salary floor.  Plus you have to allow teams to blow things up and start over (essentially what Toronto is doing now) and try to build for the long run.