15 October 2010
Player A had the following cumulative season stats in the final three years before he became a free agent after his age 30 season:
84 starts, 563 and two-thirds innings pitched. 448 strikeouts and just 139 walks for a 3.22 K/BB ratio.
Player B had the following cumulative season stats in the final three years before he will become a free agent after his age 31 season:
93 starts, 667 and one third innings pitched. 536 strikeouts and just 95 walks for a sparkling 5.64 K/BB ratio.
The lower walk rate is the most significant difference, but player B is a year older, and his track record of success is effectively those three seasons where player A put up numbers consistent with the sample period throughout his career.
Question the first: who is worth more? And second: who are they?
Well Tony Mazz, the ever excitable Boston Globe columnist and Blogger thinks player B is worth the combined contents of Fort Knox and the New York Fed's gold reserves. The bright side is that Mazz is over Mark Teixeira. Sorry, Mark. Mazz is fickle, you should have known.
Mazz, why is Player B so vital to the Red Sox cause?
Lee...is the best free agent talent available on the market this winter. His teams have never lost a postseason game he has started, Lee posting numbers that nearly mirror those of Sandy Koufax, who made seven postseason starts in his career. No one is suggesting that Lee isKoufax, but rather that his performance has been beyond historic. In the recently completed five-game series against Tampa, Rays lefties (a group consisting primarily of Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford) went 1 for 16 against him with seven strikeouts.
So what happens if Lee ends up on the Yankees? It means that New York would have a rotation built around Sabathia and Lee for years to come, which would almost certainly spell doom for any team heading into New York. It’s the kind of tandem that cannot help but make you wonder if there is a way, any way, for the Red Sox to thwart the plan. The Red Sox have obvious needs in the middle of their lineup and their bullpen this offseason, and those cannot be ignored. But if the Sox could somehow create space in their rotation by trading either Daisuke Matsuzaka or, perhaps, Josh Beckett, must they not explore it?
Let's go back to Player A and Player B. Player A did in fact get a five year, $82.5 million contract that covered him from age 31 through 35. But his 2010 season was regarded as lackluster. His record of successful performance is more consistent, than Lee. In 1501 IP from age 22 to 30 he had a K/BB of 2.72. Cliff Lee by comparison posted a 3.10 in 1409 IP from 23 to 31. And that's the nature of the comparison above. The notation is more of how quickly Player A became more mortal, and that past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Lee's K/BB ratio has been stellar in the last three years, which indicates he's made an adjustment. And one that should be rewarded. But breaking the bank for a pitcher over thirty is often a decision that comes to be regretted. The Yankees can afford to, and they will. Should the Red Sox be equally eager? Given the results they saw with a comparable pitcher they signed on a pricey deal (Player A), the risk to reward ratio is too close for my comfort.
Player A's identity is revealed below the fold.
Player A is John Lackey. And I will acknowledge that handedness is a contributing factor to Lee's success. I should have picked a lefty, like Sabathia, but I was shooting to point out how quickly good pitchers can turn into solidly mediocre pitchers. As a lefty, his control is lethal to other batters. And while he's only shown that kind of control in just the last three seasons, three years of experience is enough for Marcel, so it works for me.
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