who am i?

david freese, shown here enjoying his off-season in a comic book shop, is expected to rejoin the cardinals as their full time third baseman in the spring.

below you can compare and contrast the outputs of pitcher A and pitcher B, arranged by their age-seasons. got any guesses?

Pitcher A

Age-years

Pitcher B

FIP

xFIP

WAR

 

FIP

xFIP

WAR

4.57

4.74

2.7

Age -30

4.53

4.35

1.5

4.50

4.12

2.3

Age -31

4.70

4.66

1.7

4.78

4.56

1.7

Age -32

4.42

4.90

2.5



now i will show you pitcher A's most recent season and pitcher B's last three seasons. i bet some of you have figured at least pitcher B out.

4.61

4.60

1.7

Age -33

5.51

4.79

-0.2

 

 

 

Age -34

5.70

5.26

-0.7

 

 

 

Age -35

4.89

5.05

0.0

last chance to guess before the jump . . .

 


yes, pitcher B is jeff suppan. pitcher A is of course bronson arroyo. arroyo took home a 3y/$35m contract from old friend walt jocketty yesterday, for reasons best known to walt and the little men who live inside his head.

i am obliged by reds honks to note that the contract was of course an extension of the 2011 option for $13m that the reds already exercised. so, it's more like a $22m pile of shit that's heaped on top of a $13m pile of shit than just one steaming $35m pile. both decisions were made by walt jocketty within the past month or so, and, to the best of anyone's knowledge, neither decision involved a remote detonator and arroyo strapping a vest full of plastic explosives to one of jocketty's family members. i'm not sure how saying that walt made two very expensive mistakes is better than him making just one, but there it is.

of course, what i have posted above is deeply unscientific and unfair. it draws an equivalency between two pitchers who are different in some ways -- though not, i would submit, in ways that are terribly meaningful. some pitchers of similar talent will not drop off the face of the earth. maybe arroyo coasts along for the next three years putting out average value. sure. it's not a good bet, though, that he will maintain value. and $35m would be an overpay even for his LAST three seasons, which were worth about $25m in total. $35m is a bet that he will get better in the next three seasons, which is just an awful proposal for a pitcher entering his age 34 season.

the baseball world is and has been for several seasons a walking object lesson on the hazards of offering only-okay pitchers in their mid-thirties large, multi-year deals. walt was overheard to wonder why, for three nights prior to signing the deal, he'd been having dreams in which randy wolf, enwrapped in chains, kept appearing.
in december 2010, any GM who sends a thirty-something mediocrity that kind of money for 3+ years deserves what he gets. (a tear just came to mozeliak's eye as i wrote this. then he put another pin in his boras voodoo doll. mo used to put the pins in his lohse doll, until kyle suddenly needed motocross surgery the day after a very frustrating budget meeting. the substitute doll is not as satisfying, but putting pins in it fills the empty place inside him - even if only for a few minutes.)

what makes the deal even more perplexing is that the reds had maybe the best cheap starting pitching depth in the majors. they have room in their starting eight for improvement: in the outfield, for instance, where a chunk of money could have made a big difference. $12m/yr would get you most of the way to jayson werth, say. i think it's fair to say that even if their fifth pitcher is replacement value, werth would supply more value than laynce nix or whatever corner outfield they end up cobbling together, relative to the 2 wins arroyo nets them (if that). more likely, their fifth starter would have performed comparably to or better than arroyo and cost league min. mike leake, edinson volquez, homer bailey, johnny cueto, and travis wood all had a better FIP than arroyo last year; except for volquez who was recovering from injury, they all pitched at least 100 innings.

potential in the field acquisitions: third base

edwin encarnacion has been nontendered. he is consistently worth a win or two at third despite godawful defense. toronto put him out in a corner outfield spot to keep his bat in the lineup. both options are useful to the cards, and good spots to hide a pinch-hitter/spot starter, given our untested platoon in RF, and our glass-ankled third baseman. his personality would be likely to irritate the hell out of la russa.

andy laroche is a perplexing third base talent, whose potential never materialized: he now looks like an average fielder with terrible hitting, suited for a utility role. He had a stellar 2009, but has otherwise been at or below replacement level. i can't tell the story better than fangraphs already has, so I won't try.

encarnacion

years

laroche

wOBA

UZR/150

WAR

 

wOBA

UZR/150

WAR

.350

-16.4

1.4

2007

.300

6.4

0.3

.351

-14.4

1.9

2008

.236

-1.8

-1.0

.322

-15.2

0.2

2009

.324

5.1

2.6

.339

-2.3

1.8

2010

.252

-5.9

-0.6

.344

-11.5

5.3

total/avg*

.287

1.7

1.3

 
* showing WAR totals over four years, 2007-10; UZR and wOBA's are lifetime averages.

to me, encarnacion has clearly demonstrated more value, even if it is of the bat-first variety. laroche's only edge might lie in an outside chance that he finds his potential; well, that and avoiding the chris carpenter aneurysm when he sees his infield is encarnacion-theriot-schumaker-pujols. i don't see what the interest in laroche is, even as depth. matt carpenter's MLE's suggest he could hit better than laroche right now, and i think being an average defensive talent is reasonable for carpenter.

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