Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thoughts on Free Agency

In the past week, two of the Nats "target" free agent pitchers have signed contracts. Javier Vazquez signed a 1 year/$7mil deal with the Fish and, late on Monday, Jorge De La Rosa signed a 3 year/$32-33mil deal with the Rockies. Naturally the Natosphere has gotten a little crazy over these two developments. The usual refrains of "Lerner's are Cheap", "We can't evaluate talent", blah, blah, and blah.

I agree that it would be really nice to have picked up one of these guys to bolster our young rotation, but I'm certainly not crying that we didn't. Lets start with Jorge de la Rosa...

In the past 2 years his WAR (wins above replacement - from Fangraphs) went from 3.7 in '09 to 1.7 in '10. Before that makes sense to you, you should know that WAR is a complicated sabermatric statistic which uses all sorts of stats to calculate how many more wins per year a player is worth. So what this means is that in one year de la Rosa was worth 2 less wins than before. Which, calculated into dollars, is $13.6mil in '09 down to $7mil in '10.

His K/9 (Strikeouts per 9 innings) was down an entire strikeout, from 9.39 to 8.36. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching - reads like ERA, essentially only things pitchers control; HR, BB, K) went from 3.91 up to 4.30. And his BABIP (Batting Average of Balls In Play - basically how lucky a pitcher is) went down from .316 to .281 - which is pretty lucky.

On to Vazquez...

ALARM BELLS!!! This is a pitcher who is 34 years old, whose fastball went from an average of 91.1mph in '08 to a Livan-esque 88.7mph in '09. Ouch. To me this screams Scott Olsen as loud as possible. Based on zero stats, I am not taking this guy at a ridiculous $7mil/year, BTW Fangraphs had his value last year at NEGATIVE $800k.

Let's look at Vazquez bullet point style:

  • '08 WAR - 6.5 -- '09 WAR - -0.2 (Yes, that means he was .2 BELOW a replacement player)
  • '08 HR/9 - 0.83 -- '09 HR/9 - 1.83 (1 more HR every 9 innings...)
  • '08 BABIP - .297 -- '09 BABIP - .276 (He was luckier last year than in '08!)
  • '08 WHIP - 1.03 -- '09 WHIP - 1.40 (That's (BB+H)/IP )
  • '08 FIP - 2.77 -- '09 FIP - 5.56 (WOW!)
  • '08 K/9 - 9.77 -- '09 K/9 - 6.92 (I don't have words for this...)

So, what are we to glean from all this information? Sure, the Rockies and Fish could find lightning in a bottle, but they could also continue their obvious downward trends into Daniel Cabrera-ness. I am definitely not losing any sleep over going into next year with Zimmermann, Detwiler, Livan, a resurgant Marquis, and (hot spring training kid) as our rotation. I think I'll take my chances with the young guns.

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