Tag Archives: C.C. Sabathia

Revisiting the Sabathia contract

Posted by Steve

Since the only Brewers-based topic worth writing about now is the baffling fact that Casey McGehee still has a spot in the lineup, and since I just can’t bring myself to write about that anymore, I thought I’d change things up and go back three years to look at the contract CC Sabathia got from the Yankees. Seems timely with the Brewers facing him this afternoon.

After an otherwordly run leading the Brewers to the playoffs, the team tried everything they could to retain him. In the end, it was no contest, as the Yankees’ offer blew them out of the water by $60 million or so.

Basically, I wanted to take a look at whether Sabathia has been worth the money so far, and whether he’s likely to be worth his huge contract going forward.

In 2008, between Cleveland and Milwaukee, Sabathia put up a 7.6 WAR. His K/9 was 8.93, and his BB/9 was 2.1. He threw an incredible 253 innings.

Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t approached that performance in New York (it was such a good year that it was very unlikely to be duplicated). He’s still been very good, especially in 2009, but overall, he’s been a very good pitcher, not an elite one.

xFIP, K/9, BB/9

2008: 8.93 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

2009: 7.71 K/9, 2.62 BB/9

2010: 7.46 K/9, 2.80 BB/9

2011: 6.86 K/9, 2.21 BB/9

Basically, his peripheral stats have declined in each year since leaving the Brewers (except his walk rate has been very good this season). Normally, that would be an alarming trend and a warning sign that he’s in decline. Sabathia is a unique case, though, because of his incredible durability.

Those numbers alone aren’t great, but when they come over the amount of innings he provides, they end up being very valuable. Let’s take a look now at his innings total and how it affects his total value.

Innings total, WAR, Fangraphs Dollar Value (Ranks in baseball)

2008: 253 innings (1st), 7.6 WAR (1st), $34.4 million (1st)

2009: 230 innings (6th), 6.3 WAR (8th), $28.4 million (8th)

2010: 237.2 innings (3rd), 5.1 WAR (13th), $20.4 million (13th)

2011: 122 innings(7th), 3.4 WAR (6th)

Cumulative rankings from 2009-2011

Sabathia ranks 4th in innings pitched, 7th in WAR and has been worth $62.5 million, meaning he’s actually outperformed his contract to this point.

He’s really an incredible pitcher in the sense that he repeatedly logs huge inning totals and never gets injured.

Of course, we’re only halfway through year 3 in a 7-year contract. Here’s where I think the difference between the Yankees and Brewers comes into play.

It’s easy to sit here in hindsight and say the Brewers should have matched the Yankees’ offer, because Sabathia has outperformed his contract to this point. Even if he falls off a cliff, it’s very difficult to see him accumulating anything less than $100 million in value over the seven years unless he gets injured.

For the Yankees, paying $160 million for $100 million worth of production is no big deal. They have the assets to make that possible. For the Brewers, that would be a franchise killer. If they pay $160 million, they need very close to $160 million in production, because that amounts to a much higher percentage of payroll than New York. The Brewers simply couldn’t take the risk of 7/$160, while the Yankees could afford to.

Sabathia should have been expected to outperform his contract over three years. I don’t expect him to over seven years, however, and that’s just fine for the Yankees. It was a good move for both teams–a good signing by the Yankees given their situation, and a good non-signing by the Brewers given theirs. It will be interesting to see whether CC opts out of his contract after this season, which he has the right to do. He may think he can get a better deal than 4 years, $92 million he’ll have remaining on his contract. I think he probably could (most likely from the Yankees, a la A-Rod a few years back). Either way, it was a colossal move that the Brewers were right not to match.

Overpaying for the win!

Posted by Steve

The Cardinals made a big move today, trading three players for Matt Holliday.  They gave up last year’s first round pick and Baseball America’s 21st ranked prospect according to their mid-season rankings, third baseman Brett Wallace.  They also got AAA pitcher Clayton Mortenson and AA outfielder Shane Peterson.

I’m not going to act like I’m happy that the Cardinals made this move, because as of today this makes them the favorites in the NL Central.  But I definitely wouldn’t be pleased if I was a Cardinals fan.  They gave up at least as much as the Brewers gave up for CC Sabathia, except they’re getting back a player who won’t have nearly the same impact.  Holliday is a free agent at the end of the season, so he’s a rental just like Sabathia.  If Wallace can stick at third, he’s more valuable than Matt LaPorta, the centerpiece of the Sabathia deal.

Here’s some pretty revealing analysis by fangraphs.  You’ll notice they have this trade as very lopsided in Oakland’s favor, and that’s when they assumed it would be just Wallace going for Holliday instead of two additional players.  Fangraphs had the Brewers trade for CC as a wash last year.  Again, that’s because an ace pitcher is that much more valuable than a good but not great corner outfielder.

This is exactly what Billy Beane had in mind when he traded for Holliday in the off-season.  He took a shot at having a winning team, but you know he figured he’d end up flipping Holliday at the deadline.  He definitely came out ahead because he got back more value than he gave up to get Holliday in the first place.

Again, this is bad news for this season.  If the Brewers don’t make a pretty big move for a pitcher, they probably won’t win the division.  If you listen to ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, we should really be worried.  He says this is a great trade for the Cards because Matt Holliday “is a real baseball player.  He’s going to a real baseball town.  He is a perfect match.  He’s playing for Tony LaRussa.  He’s the son of a coach.”

This is of course in direct contrast to Brett Wallace, who is the son of a traveling salesman, from a town more inclined to embrace football and is, in fact, a virtual baseball player.

Might as well talk about Roy Halladay

Posted by Steve

I don’t feel like saying much about yesterday’s game, except that if Seth McClung is still on the roster in a month I’ll be convinced that the Brewers aren’t interested in contending this year.  Instead, let’s go for something more exciting.

The trade deadline is suddenly just a couple weeks away, and talks of where Mega-Ace Roy Halladay might end up is the hot issue in baseball.  The Brewers are one of a handful of teams who have confirmed interest in Halladay.

This is interesting, because it conflicts with the reports a couple weeks ago that Doug Melvin considers Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel untouchable.  If that’s the case, the Brewers don’t have a shot at Halladay–any trade talks for Halladay will start with at least one of them.

This must mean that the Brewers are at least entertaining the idea of moving one or even both of their top two prospects.  Melvin changed his tune just a bit the other day, instead saying that they are “as close to untouchable as you can get.”  That implies that there could be exceptions to that rule.  That’s a good thing, because Halladay definitely qualifies as an exception.

When it was first revealed a few weeks ago that the Blue Jays would entertain offers for Halladay, I didn’t expect the Brewers to be involved.  The asking price is unquestionably sky high, and I assumed the Brewers wouldn’t be willing to meet it.

Naturally, the topic of Halladay came up a lot at work, and the more I talked about it, the more I started to come around to the idea of meeting that price.

There are definitely good reasons to keep their top guys.  Gamel should be the full time third baseman by next season, and despite his unimpressive numbers so far, I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen from him both offensively and defensively.  Escobar would likely be the shortstop by 2011 at the latest, and possibly by next season if the team decides to move J.J. Hardy before then.  That’s two players who profile as above average starters who’d be under team control for six years each.  Obviously, that’s a very valuable asset.

There are also very good reasons for giving up a lot for Halladay, though.  We saw firsthand how much acquiring an ace can tip the scales in a playoff race.  Halladay is actually a better pitcher than CC Sabathia (not that anyone should be expected to match what CC did in Milwaukee last year, but Halladay is the better pitcher overall).  The key here, though, is that Halladay is not a rental pitcher.  He’s under contract for next season as well.  Acquiring Halladay would be as much about 2010 as it would be about this year.  That extra year of service adds a ton of value, and it’s why the Jays can (and should) expect a lot more than what the Brewers gave up for Sabathia last season.

The key is Alcides Escobar.  I see no way of acquiring Halladay without trading Escobar.  The Blue Jays are looking for a long-term solution at short, and from what I’ve read, they love Escobar.  I personally am not crazy about giving up both Gamel and Escobar for Halladay, but I’m not convinced the Brewers would need to.  With my usual disclaimer that I generally don’t make a lot of trade proposals, here’s what I’ve come up with for Halladay.

Brewers receive Roy Halladay

Blue Jays receive SS Alcides Escobar, 2B Brett Lawrie, SP Wily Peralta

That’s pretty much as high as I’d be willing to go.  That’s the number 1 (Escobar), 3 (Lawrie) and probably 10 or so (Peralta) prospects in the Brewers’ system.  Escobar’s praises are well known, and Lawrie was the team’s first round pick just last year, so obviously that’s a big package in itself.  Peralta is a 20 year old pitcher who’s throwing very well this year, though he’s only in A ball.

That may not be completely ideal for Toronto, as they reportedly want more pitching, but I don’t believe many teams could top that offer.  One may be the Phillies, who I see as the favorite to get Halladay if he is even traded this year.  Although Escobar is a higher rated prospect than anyone in their system, they have higher level pitching than the Brewers.  An offer of SPs Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Drabek along with OF Dominic Brown would probably top my offer, as both Carrasco and Drabek are pretty close to the majors.  I also think the Phillies are more willing to part with their top prospects than the Brewers since they’re more of a playoff team at this point.

I’ll also throw out another off the wall idea as long as we’re shooting for the moon.  If the Blue Jays didn’t take that offer, I’d take that same offer to Arizona for Dan Haren.  I see no reason for Arizona to be shopping Haren, as he’s under control long-term and I don’t think the Diamondbacks think they’ll be bad team for the next few years.  Yet, Ken Rosenthal reported a few weeks ago that Arizona might be willing to trade Haren if they received an “overwhelming” offer.  Is this offer overwhelming?  I guess I’m not sure.  It’s certainly more than what they sent to the A’s to acquire him a couple years ago, but with as good as he’s been, it might not be.

Giving up Escobar+ for an ace like Halladay or Haren would be mortgaging the future quite a bit, but it greatly increases the odds of a championship this season and next.  The Brewers would instantly become the favorites in the NL Central this year, and they’d once again be able to go for broke next season with the base of Braun, Fielder, Hardy, and Gallardo still intact.

Now that you have C.C., time to ease off Sheets

Posted by Steve

Well, it’s finally done. Those talks dragged out all weekend, and for a while it looked like Cleveland might foolishly turn down the Brewers offer, which was much better than any other they were getting. As I’ve said repeatedly, I really hate losing LaPorta for someone the Brewers won’t control beyond this season.

Since it’s done and over with, I won’t dwell too much on how much they may have overpaid, because if they make the playoffs it’s probably worth it, and if they go deep into the playoffs it will be worth it almost for sure. The Brewers do get two comp picks back for Sabathia as well.

Quick side note before I get into the meat of this post: Tom Haudricourt was absolutely awesome this weekend. He made several updates to the JS blog, and continually scooped both the national writers and Cleveland writers. Props to TH.

On to the main event. Doug Melvin truly put his neck on the line by doing this deal. The Brewers absolutely need to make the playoffs after giving up such a huge offer for a rental player. I don’t think I need to explain why a Sheets-Sabathia tandem would be outstanding for the playoffs, but first things first: make sure they get there, and make sure both pitchers are healthy when it happens.

Baseball Prospectus has developed what they call Pitcher Abuse Points (PAPs). You can find a description of their formula here, but basically it a weighed system that starts earning points for each pitch beyond the 100 mark in a game. Why am I bringing this up? Because as of July 5, your most abused pitcher in baseball is none other than Ben Sheets. You can see the full list with categories at BP’s page. A quick summary of the top ten:

1. Ben Sheets

2. Gil Meche

3. Ricky Nolasco

4. Cole Hamels

5. C.C. Sabathia

6. Carlos Zambrano

7. Justin Verlander

8. Jon Lester

9. Tim Lincecum

10. Brett Myers

Now this list can be a bit misleading, as you notice many of the pitchers are “abused” because they happen to be very good pitchers, and very good pitchers have a knack to pitch deeper into games. That said, it’s never good to be number one on this list.

I have complained more than once this season that Ned Yost has kept Ben Sheets in games far too long when the situation has not at all called for it. A couple examples:

Friday’s game against the Pirates when they sent him out in the sixth when he was already over 100 pitches and the team was leading 8-1. He finished the game with 120 pitches, and was not even able to finish the sixth.

Another example was in Minnesota for The Kevin Slowey Game. Slowey looked like Maddux in his prime, and Sheets was struggling to find an out pitch. Sheets had allowed four runs through six, and it was pretty clear that the Brewers probably weren’t even going to score four runs against Slowey. Yet Yost ran him out there for the seventh, needlessly pushing Ben’s pitch count to 115.

Totals of 115 and 120 are huge red flags and put up big PAPs. It seems the Brewers coaching staff are dead set in their thinking that Ben is the ace, and therefore must save the bullpen every time out, regardless of how efficient he is pitching. Sheets is obviously outstanding, and has an amazing ability to throw complete games. That should not mean that he should be left out to toil when he is not on top of his game. 110-pitch complete games are one thing, 120-pitch seven inning outings are quite another. Infamously, Sheets has not quite been a model of health in recent years, and it is moronic to tempt fate with the most important player on your team.

A lot of it has to do with the bullpen struggling to get the ball to Sal Torres, and some of it has to do with other starters (COUGH-SUPPAN-COUGH) not going deep enough and burning up the bullpen.

Getting Sabathia needs to be the start of the process that lessens Sheets’ workload to do everything possible to keep him healthy through September (and hopefully October). C.C. is another guy who goes deep into games, which will hep save the bullpen. Some of you astute readers may have noticed that Sabathia is also on that list; he checks in as the fifth-most abused pitcher of 2008, which is also a cause for concern. Sabathia was dominant last season, but was lit up in the playoffs. Nobody can say for sure, but this may have partially been a result of a tired arm from throwing 241 innings during the season.

The Brewers should be able to ease off C.C. and Sheets a bit this season for a few reasons:

  • One of Bush or McClung will be moved to the bullpen (here’s hoping Mota is DFA’d!), which will hopefully improve the bullpen’s depth and talent level.
  • Even while easing off Sheets and C.C., they will still pitch deeper into games than average pitchers, which will in turn keep the bullpen fresher–in turn, if one of these two guys are off their game, the bullpen should be good to come in a bit earlier.
  • I fully expect the Brewers to add at least one more pitcher (likely a reliever), which will bolster the bullpen even more.

I’m sure Doug Melvin and Ned Yost are anxious for the advice of a random blogger with no connections and limited readership, so here it is. Doug, Ned, you took a huge gamble with the Sabathia trade, and it’s commendable that you were willing to make that move to win this year. That said, it would be devastating to screw it up by riding Ben Sheets into the ground. You have the pieces in place, and you’lll be adding more in the next couple weeks to fine-tune the team for a championship run. If Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia stay healthy, the team is a huge favorite to make the playoffs. The number one concern should be to keep Sheets healthy, so Brewers, please take better care of his arm.

Also, see if you can get Mark A to bring back the lemonade stands at Miller Park. That stuff is fantastic.

C.C. Mania!

Posted by Steve

I was out and about yesterday when someone told me the Brewers had traded Matt LaPorta and J.J. Hardy for C.C. Sabathia. Others confirmed this, and I immediately called Dan and my brother to share my misery. After I found out that the report wasn’t true, I relaxed a bit, but not a lot. The Brewers and Indians were definitely in talks, and I was terrified of what the Brewers might give up.

The JS reported last night that the Brewers’ current offer is Matt LaPorta, Taylor Green and Lorenzo Cain. I have a few thoughts on that:

  • The Indians aren’t going to find a better offer than that, and if that is truly the offer, I’d be very surprised if they don’t make the deal by Sunday.
  • Even though I know Melvin wouldn’t do it (well, like 99% sure), I was still terrified that Mat Gamel, Alcides Escobar or Jeremy Jeffress would end up in the deal along with LaPorta.
  • The current offer is STILL too much to give up for C.C. I don’t see how any team can rival the offer of LaPorta, Green and Cain. The Dodgers won’t give up Billingsley, Kershaw, Kemp or Loney. The Yankees won’t give up Chamberlain or Hughes. The Red Sox won’t give up any of their key guys because they’re already helping the big league team. And the Cubs don’t have the prospects to compete with the Brewers offer. The Brewers simply don’t need to give up LaPorta PLUS two more good prospects in Green and Cain.

I certainly understand the appeal for going for a rental. Ben Sheets is an impending free agent, and Prince Fielder may be traded as soon as this coming off-season, so there is certainly a temptation to take one big shot now and worry about the rest later.

The reason I say that is this: I see the Brewers as the wildcard favorite as things currently stand. Baseball Prospectus backs this up too; they give the Brewers a 34% chance at the wildcard, with the Cardinals in second at 28%. The Cubs are actually the third highest for the wildcard at 15%, which would likely mean the Brewers win the division in that scenario.

In others words, the Brewers may not even NEED C.C. to reach the post-season. I see the Sabathia move as more of a World Series move than playoff move. Obviously that isn’t a bad thing. If the Brewers won the World Series this season, it would be worth giving anyone. You obviously can’t guarantee a World Series though.

I’m finding myself in the minority (seems to be the ongoing trend lately), but I’d rather they not do this. I still strongly believe they need to re-sign Ben Sheets, and I sort of, in a wishfully-trying-to-convince- myself type of way, think they will bring Ben back. If they get Sheets back, there’s no need to put all the eggs in one basket for this year.

My vision for the 2009 team is as follows:

Re-sign Sheets. Trade an arby-eligible Prince Fielder who has no intention of signing long term for a young talented pitcher who you can control for multiple seasons–likely from an AL team so Prince can DH. Move LaPorta to first base.

I’d still like the Brewers to upgrade their pitching staff this season. So let’s say they get Greg Maddux for San Diego for much lesser prospects (can you say Tony Gwynn? OH PLZ PLZ PLZZ!!) These moves leave you with:

2008 Rotation

1. Sheets
2. Parra
3. Maddux
4. Suppan
5. Bush

Next year:

1. Sheets
2. Gallardo
3. *Pitcher from Fielder trade*
4. Parra
5. Who cares?

I understand people are ready to shoot for the World Series this season. I don’t hate the idea, and I definitely appreciate that line of thought. My preference though, is to construct the team in such a way that it is set to compete for the division and the playoffs every year. The playoffs are a crapshoot anyway; the goal should simply be to reach the post-season and try your luck.

Of course, if they do the C.C. trade, I’ll be intrigued as hell for the rest of the season, so, whatever.