Did I fall asleep for three months?

Posted by Steve

Or did we somehow skip January, February and March and jump right to opening day? It must be one or the other, otherwise why would John Donovan write an article rating teams’ off-seasons in early January?

Donovan lists the Brewers number two on his list for worst off-seasons so far. I’ll get into why I think this is totally wrong, but first I’d like to dwell some more on how stupid it is to write this column when there are still two months before spring training begins.

Sure, teams have been pretty quiet lately. There aren’t many new rumors, which, incidentally, is why I haven’t posted much lately. But it seems obvious that the Brewers are not done making moves. I believe they will still find a third baseman, but even if they don’t, it seems obvious that the Brewers will not keep all of Ben Sheets, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, Carlos Villanueva, Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, Claudio Vargas and Manny Parra, all of whom are worthy of starting in the big leagues. Surely many teams are in similar situations, so why pass judgment when more moves are certain to be made?

You may remember my post about another John Donovan article in which he wrote his “obituaries” for 2007 playoff contenders–the same article where he declared the Brewers dead while sitting in first place and also wrote off the Phillies and Rockies. At least this latest column is not as strange/cheezy, but I can make a good case against about half of the points he makes in this article.

Take this blurb about the Brewers, for instance.

Eric Gagne signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Brewers. This for giving up 26 hits in 18 2/3 innings with Boston last season. He had a 6.75 ERA after his trade from Texas. I’m not saying he’s as bad as he was with the Sox. I’m saying he’s not worth anywhere near this deal.

There is so much wrong with this”assessment.” He has the Gagne signing as the #1 worst risk among pitchers. How can anyone say that about a one year deal? The Gagne signing is in fact low-risk because if he bombs the Brewers aren’t stuck with him past ’08. Sure, ten mil isn’t cheap, but when that money is off the books after next season and it won’t affect a possible Sheets extension, arbitration raises for Fielder, Hardy, Weeks, Hart, etc., there’s really nothing alarming about it. They’ll also get draft picks out of it, as he’ll likely be a Type A. I’d actually say that the Riske signing was… more perilous.

Second wrong point in that paragraph: He admits that Gagne is not as bad as he showed with the Red Sox, but he still uses his numbers with Boston as his main reason against the signing. The most humorous part is that he even mentions that his stint in Boston was just 18 2/3 innings. Of course it’s assinine to pass any serious judgment off 18 2/3 innings.

Even worse is the fact that he used ERA to evaluate him. ERA for a relief pitcher is only more revealing than pointless stats like wins, losses and saves because of the small amount of innings they pitch. I’m using extreme examples for effect, but here’s why you can’t use ERA in this situation:

Example 1: A reliever could come in with two guys on and two outs, give up three straight line drive hits and have a 0.00 ERA for that outing when the pitcher who comes in to clean up his mess retires the side.

Example 2: A reliever comes in with nobody on and records two strikeouts and then allows a bloop single. He’s replaced with two outs for a lefty-lefty match-up, but the lefty surrenders a home run. Now that first reliever has an ERA of 13.50 for that outing. See how misleading that can be?

If Mr. Donovan would have done some actual research, he would have seen that Gagne’s performance in Boston was really not much different than in Texas last season. Let’s take a look at some of the more telling numbers.

IP K/9 BB/9 HR

Texas 33.1 7.83 2.42 2

Boston 18.2 10.61 2.44 1

Looks pretty similar, right? So why the difference then? Well, it was mainly luck. Gagne’s opponent batting average on balls in play (BABIP) with Boston was an astronomical .439.

So basically, even though it’s almost pointless to evaluate a pitcher over 18 innings, Donovan didn’t even do it. He just looked at his ERA. And this signing, the one-year signing, is riskier to him than 4 years/$48 mil for Carlos Silva, or 3 years/$19 mil for Scott Linebrink.

There are plenty more gems in Donovan’s piece. He contradicts himself by saying the Reds need to overpay for pitching to compete in their tiny park, then he ridicules them for paying Francisco Cordero too much.

He lists Andruw Jones’ contract (2 years/$36 million) among the riskiest, even though it’s only two years and $18 mil is nothing to the Dodgers. I actually liked the Jones signing a lot for the Dodgers.

He says the Mets need to do more to compete for the division, even though they’re returning the same team who had a huge lead in said division on September 1.

Here’s another blurb:

The Diamondbacks traded for A’s starter Dan Haren, who could give new Arizona teammate Brandon Webb a run for the Cy Young as the two go back-to-back for the next three years. Maybe by the end of the 2010 season, the A’s and a couple of the six mostly no-name players they received in this swap will be back to competing.

I love this. “Six mostly no-name players.” I’m guessing these players are “no-name” because John Donovan has never heard of any of them. Could that be because… None have reached the majors yet? Dan Haren is great, but Donovan conveniently fails to mention that the A’s acquired what Baseball America considers Arizona’s #1, 3, 7 and 8 prospects all for one person. All signs indicate Haren will dominate in Arizona, but I’d argue that the Diamondbacks are actually taking the bigger risk by giving half their farm system for one player.

There are even more disputable things in his column, but I don’t have any more time to spend on this. I need to start work on my next post: Grading the careers of Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun.

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4 responses to “Did I fall asleep for three months?

  1. Wait, wait. Back up a second here. Are you saying that Dave Bush isn’t as good as his 0.00 ERA as a RP indicates?

  2. In fact, I’m saying he is much worse than that number indicates. You just looked at his ERA for 2007. If you would have done actual RESEARCH you’d have seen that Dave Bush has a 7.88 CAREER ERA as a reliever (in 8 innings, of course).

    So he’s clearly terrible.

  3. Pingback: Did I fall asleep for three months? - FanHome

  4. Pingback: Did I fall asleep for three months? - TheScoreBoards

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