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i ran some more numbers to get a comparative basis for assessing the looper signing. this time went back three seasons, 2003-2005, and looked at four guys: looper tavarez farnsworth and howry. (howry hardly pitched in 2003, so i swapped in 2002 to get his 3-year set.) this survey did not change my mind about the merits of this contract. looper looks for all the world to me like a slightly weaker version of julian tavarez. looper yields a higher batting avg than julian, strikes guys out at about the same rate, and had a higher era in each of the three seasons in question. his ops allowed is 40 points higher than julian's -- and 55 points higher than brad thompson's, for that matter. despite the high-90s fastball, looper is no power pitcher -- no more so than tavarez was. he yields more than a hit per inning, and that's no aberration born of his sore shoulder last year -- he yielded more than a hit per inning in all three seasons. the data:

era whip k/9 h/9 avg ops
farnsworth 3.38 1.22 10.9 6.9 .212 .633
howry 2.92 1.07 6.8 7.3 .227 .642
tavarez 3.20 1.24 5.6 8.9 .253 .653
looper 3.39 1.35 5.8 9.4 .267 .690

remember, these are three-year totals --- they include looper's healthy and effective 03 and 04 seasons. la russa/dunc will prob'y improve looper's stat line by shielding him from left-handed hitters -- but if a guy is only a partial setup reliever, why pay him the full-time rate? they're paying bobby howry money for a pitcher who's only equipped to do 2/3 of howry's job. it's safe to project that looper will more or less match tavarez's numbers, which is good -- he'll be rendering a much-needed service. but as i said at the outset, this is about the money. if jocketty had re-signed tavarez for 3 yrs / $13.5m, who would have applauded that deal? not many of you, i bet. but that's essentially what the cardinals have done.