Monday, November 8, 2010

Jon Heyman: Paid on a Per-Inane Statement Basis?

Jon Heyman is a sportswriter that has always struck me as a bit odd. I would never question his knowledge of the game and its actors, and he's even impressed me with some hat-tips to advanced metrics and the like every so often. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he publishes something like this.

The article, which outlines Heyman's some potential busts and bargains on the free agent market, is entirely hyperbolic. Sure, he throws a few numbers out there every now and again, but it seems as if he doesn't know how to use them. I suggest you read the entire article yourself, as I found it to be very amusing - but here are several of the more egregious entries. Let's tackle some 'busts' first.

1. Carl Pavano. He was said to be fine in the Twins clubhouse, but it's risky business dealing with someone who has been self-centered elsewhere (some Yankees people were amazed at how little he tried after getting a $39.95 million contract from them). Should stay in Minnesota, where he has thrived.

This is the first of a few easy marks that Heyman targets here. While I will never forget Pavano's stint with the Yankees, the fact is that he's been a solid pitcher for two consecutive seasons. Fangraphs has him worth 6.9 WAR over that time, where he's thrown 420.1 IP while maintaining a 4.01 FIP, 3.48 K/BB, and a 47.3% GB%. I don't think his potential to bust is much higher than any other pitcher out there.

2. Jorge de la Rosa. Talented pitcher is only 29. But he's apparently seeking a five-year deal. His numbers might justify it, but he has been inconsistent. Some see another Oliver Perez waiting to happen. He was a 16-game winner two years ago and averages eight strikeouts every nine innings over his career. His WHIP has improved in each of the last three seasons (to 1.315 this past season), but only once has he won more than 10 games. He'll be enticing in a very weak free-agent market, but there's a reason why the Rockies didn't want to go more than two years (for around $15 million total).

De La Rosa is a groundball pitcher that has been worth 7.8 WAR over the last three seasons, sporting a 4.06 FIP and 2.15 K/BB. Perez is a flyball pitcher that was worth 3.5 WAR in the three seasons prior to his deal, with a 4.68 FIP and 1.80 K/BB. Totally similar.

3. Mike Hampton. The Rockies once made a $120 million mistake with him. Signing him now -- at any price -- would be an error.

4. Nick Johnson. An injury waiting to happen. Has good numbers (.401 lifetime on-base percentage), so undoubtedly he'll fool someone.

Two more easy targets that are quite likely to get one of the following: a minor league contract, a low-salary, incentive laden deal, or a firm push into retirement.

8. Pat Burrell. He helped the Giants tremendously in the regular season but looked lost in the World Series. That's a small sample size, but no one should be fooled by a good regular season to match his $8 million salary.

I like the fact that he ignores the fact that Burrell sucked with the Rays (-0.6 WAR, 84 wRC+), instead pointing out his World Series woes as proof that he's not worth a huge contract. I think the most relevant factor may be that he's always done well in the NL.

9. Kerry Wood. Great talent was very good with the Yankees (0.69 ERA), but this is a case of buyer beware; someone's going to think he's sound again and then possibly be disappointed.

Relievers are fungible, and Wood's numbers with the Yankees were fairly flukish - he walked over six batters per nine, left 98.1% of runners stranded, and posted a BABIP nearly a hundred points lower than expected. Heyman's not wrong per say, but I'll refer back to this later.

And now for some bargains.

2. Joaquin Benoit. Had a superb year with the Rays but has barely been mentioned as a free agent with Tampa expected to lose Crawford, Soriano and maybe Carlos Pena. Had great numbers (1.34 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) after being picked up by Tampa Bay's very smart front office.

Benoit posted the best season of his career at 33, and I suppose he may've turned the corner. He may be cheaper than Wood to boot, but he presents almost identical issues. His career has been up and down, he's had issues with walks, he gives up a lot of flyballs, and he had an unsustainably high strand rate.

8. David Eckstein. A two-time World Series champ, this all-time scrapper is a big plus for any clubhouse.

A plus in the clubhouse, and an overwhelming negative on the field.

9. Scott Downs. The Blue Jays held on to the lefty at the trade deadline after failing to receive the haul they sought. The Giants showed what a strong bullpen means (and nobody else has starting pitching like the Giants). Dominant vs. lefties, who hit .152 against him last year.

Downs is definitely one of the more reliable lefies out there, and that has some value - all for the low, low cost of a first-round draft pick.

14. Orlando Cabrera. Productive shortstop is a feisty competitor who will want to come back with a big year after his rival Edgar Renteria was a World Series hero.

Cabrera is 36, coming off two of the worst seasons of his career. Hyperbolic motivation aside, this seems like a risky proposition to me.

16. Jason Frasor. The Jays had a lot of good arms in their pen, and this is yet another.

What's the difference between Wood and Benoit? Oh, that's right - he'll cost you a first-round draft pick.

22. Rick Ankiel. Has the skills to be a star, but poor 2010 numbers (.232 batting average) should keep the price down.

He's also a 31-year old coming off of two terrible seasons. I suppose one could hope for lightning in a bottle, but he's no different than any number of potential buy-low candidates - and many are younger and weren't injured for most of the past two years.

23. Edgar Renteria. His $18.5 million, two-year deal looked like a miracle for agents Barry Meister and Jeff Lane, but Renteria was the biggest surprise World Series MVP ever. Will never get that kind of loot despite his incredible week.

I mostly just laughed at the fact that Heyman included Eckstein in this article, yet insists that Renteria was the biggest World Series MVP surprise ever.

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