clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sweet Relief. . .for a Price

The Cardinals accumulated an absurd number of blown saves this year.  We've heard the stat quoted time and time again on broadcasts, and it's hard not to wonder where the team would be if they could have held it together.  Rumors abounded at the trade deadline of the Cardinals' interest in Colorado lefty Brian Fuentes.  That trade never materialized but it's safe to say that the team was making inquiries.

Several writers have tossed out the Cardinals as being one of the teams that will be interested in Francisco Rodriguez as he arrives at free agency this offseason.  He's going to get a lot of ink in the press having tied the single season saves record.  Rodriguez is primed for a big payday despite having one of his "worst" years statistically.  I put that in quotes because he still has a FIP of 3.22 which is hardly something to sniff at.

While I want to believe that the Cardinals are going to hand the job to the player they drafted specifically to be their closer (i.e. Young Pitcher), all the troubles they've had and Tony's propensity for wanting a veteran in that role makes me wring my hands a bit.  The addition of either Fuentes or K-Rod isn't, necessarily, a bad acquisition.  They're both good players but the question is always what value they provide relative to other options.

The ninth inning has belonged to Jason Isringhausen, Ryan Franklin and Chris Perez for the majority of they year.  They've pitched 18, 34 and 28 times in the ninth respectively.  Obviously, there's a ton of games where a long man or lessor pitcher is finishing a blow out or even a few when our starters held on to pitch in the 9th.  Those three, however, are the prime suspects this season.  This season they've posted FIPs of 3.92, 4.81 and 4.84 respectively.  In the 9th inning, we're looking at a weighted FIP of 4.62 from those three this season.  (Note: I'm playing a little loose and fast with these numbers -- I'm aware of that.  I don't think there's anything terribly out of sync yet.)

You'd expect Chris Perez might struggle a bit over the course of the season and K-Rod/Fuentes are going to be closer to career numbers.  The addition of either of those players really isn't going to bump Perez from the roster.  It's more likely to remove some of those replacement level innings from guys like Jimenez, Flores, etc.  Still, let's see what the differences are in terms of runs for some eyeballed projections for next year.

Name FIP Runs
Young Pitcher 4.00 27
K-Rod 3.00 20
Fuentes 3.75 25
Replacement Level 6.00 40

We're not talking about a significant difference in terms of run prevention when these relievers are only going to throw about 60 innings.  Some very smart people (Tom Tango, for one) will argue that the leverage of the innings should be included in the valuation of the innings.  That is to say that the higher leverage situations (often times late innings) are more valuable in terms of run prevention than other innings.  I'm not part of that bandwagon but there's a reasonable argument to be made that these players are far more impactful than a 2 win upgrade.

Baseball Prospectus' primary stat for reliever's value is WXRL (Win Expectation above Replacement, Lineup-adjusted).  For 2008, K-Rod is currently at 5.6 wins and Fuentes is at 3.4 wins.  If we use 4 million dollars as our baseline for the cost of each win when purchasing a free agent -- a number that Tango has calculated based on total wins and the amoung of $$$ in baseball players, which I think is now at 4.4/win -- it's easy to see those contracts getting big quickly.  Mariano Rivera inked a 3/45M dollar deal with the Yankees making him the highest paid reliever to date.  It's not inconceivable that both Fuentes and Rodriguez could surpass that number.

Again, I'm hopeful the Cardinals aren't going to pursue these players.  I don't think the cost is going to be close to the marginal value (espcially since I don't agree with leverage theory).  That said, it's possible that they will and certain that writers will speculate that they will.  With pitchers like Perez, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan, the Cardinals have options but will they put their faith in the kids (or even Ryan Franklin) or look for external options to an area that has been, without question, a significant problem for the Cardinals in 2008.

Friday News 'n Notes:

  • The Cardinals have agreed to a deal with Memphis that will keep the team as their AAA affiliate for 4 more years.  This is somewhat of a surprise to me in terms of length when they could have signed a 2-year commitment.  Seems like a good idea for both sides though.
  • Wouldn't this be cool. . .
  • Brad Thompson's getting the start tonight after the Cardinals had Lohse drop his suspension appeal.  Joe Strauss, on Team 1380 yesterday afternoon, wondered if Lohse wasn't a bit miffed by being bumped back in the rotation.  Wonder if this impacts the Cardinals' interest in Lohse this offseason.\
  • In that same link, Carp is being shutdown for the season.
  • You'll forgive me for not buying the company line on Rasmus' knee.  Either the Cardinals sent him back to play minor league baseball before he was cleared for baseball activities or they're trying to use his knee as an excuse now.  Can't have your cake and eat it too.