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half nelson

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espn is reporting that st louis has signed jeff nelson (as posted by willie mcgee modeling co in this morning's thread -- thanks wmmc). another economy signing for the mysteriously cash-strapped cardinals. now 39 years old, once a very tough setup man for mariano rivera and the yankees, nelson is much diminished in his dotage but can still get right-handed hitters out. here's his line against them going back to 2002:

ab h 2b hr bb so avg obp slg
371 81 7 8 49 123 .218 .316 .307

overall nelson has thrown 161 innings in that span with a 4.08 era and 10.0 strikeouts per 9. he has always walked a lot of batters, but his totals have been higher than ever the last two years -- 6.1 walks per 9 innings. i checked to see whether that figure might be inflated by a large number of intentional walks; he hasn't issued an ibb since 2003. so presumably he has become a nibbler, relying less on the nasty bite of his slider and more on pinpoint location. he is not an extreme groundball pitcher, like his ROOGY counterpart braden looper -- gb/fb ratio is 0.80, which means he gets 4 out of every 9 batted-ball outs on the ground.

here are recent his totals for win-expectancy added, courtesy baseball prospectus:

2005 -0.241
2004 0.595
2003 -1.160
2002 1.246

whatever. nelson signed a minor-league deal that will pay him $800K if he makes the opening-day squad. at that price he might be a decent pickup -- nelson still has his uses, albeit limited, and will be paid commensurately. he's also very, very tough on members of opposition grounds crews.

you might want to prepare for a lot of long endgames this year. here's the formula for a typical victorious outing:

  • starter goes 6+
  • rincon / flores / looper / nelson come on for 1 to 3 batters apiece and get some of them out
  • is'hausen gets the last 3-4 outs
and then we all go pound the budweiser.