— Seattle, WA
Bill, this is Scott. How are ya? Yea, I know, not the best of years for you guys. Sorry about Adrian. But I want to make it up to you. I’ve looked at your pitching staff, and, well, to be honest, I’ve got better arms in the high school ranks that I’m ‘advising’. Not so good, that rotation of yours.
Anyways, I’ve talked to K-Mil, and while he loves Safeco, I’ve got a 10 year, $300 million offer on the table for him. So, if you can match that, and toss in a dinner at the Met for me, you’ve got yourself a new starting pitcher.
Umm, excuse me? That’s anatomically impossible, Bill, and you know it. Okay, so you’ll pass on Kevin #1. Well, that’s fine. I’ve got another Kevin that you may like. I know, I know, you’re asking, ‘What can Brown do for you’ (chuckle chuckle). Oh man, I slay me.
No, seriously, Kevbo can help you guys. Yea, he’s 40, but that just means he’s got experience. You’re concerned about the 6.51 ERA? Well, you gotta admit, with the Yankee defense playing behind him, he should get a medal just for having it under 10.00. Back problems? What back problems? He got a new tempur-pedic mattress, and wham, he’s in the best shape of his life. And man, he’s motivated. K-Brow is so fired up, he’s even authorized me to take a 1 year contract so that he can reestablish his value and cash in next offseason as the top pitching arm on the market. You don’t want to miss out on this one, Billy boy. I’m telling you, Brown’s going to deliver, no pun intended, for you or somebody else. Holla at me when you’re ready to deal, B-Bav!
That conversation, or something roughly mirroring it, should take place sometime this offseason. And while poking fun at Scott Boras is always a good time, in this instance, I’m actually going to stick up for the point of the parody.
I’m endorsing Kevin Brown, the broken down 40-year-old with an ERA of six and a half as a free agent target. And I’m not insane. Here’s some numbers for you.
2.1 walks per game. Among the 45 American League qualifiers, this would tie him for 11th best in the AL, well above average.
5.5 strikeouts per game. From the 45 qualifiers, that would put him 22nd, tied with Mark Buehrle. His strikeout rate, essentially, is league average for an AL starting pitcher.
0.55 home runs per game. Among the AL qualifiers, this ties him for best in the AL with Scott Kazmir. He’s allowed 80 flyballs and just 5 home runs. Even if you normalize to an 11 percent HR/FB ratio, he’s only giving up about 20 homers over a full season, making him one of the hardest pitchers in the AL to take out of the park.
1.73 G/F rate. If you put him in the AL qualifiers, he’d rank 3rd, behind Jake Westbrook and Daniel Cabrera. He’s still a dominant groundball pitcher.
Fielding Independant ERA: 3.66. Among those 45 qualifiers, Brown’s 3.66 FIP would rank fifth in the American League. Bartolo Colon, the likely league Cy Young winner, has a Fielding Independant ERA of 3.63. Remember, FIP is a far, far more reliable predictor of future pitching performance than actual ERA. And FIP thinks Brown pitched very well this year, right in line with what he’s been doing the past 10 years.
So, why on earth does Kevin Brown have a 6.51 ERA? Two main reasons:
The defense behind him has been absolutely abysmal. Just 61.5 percent of all his balls in play have been turned into outs, which is just absolutely awful. It’s not like he’s getting torched, either. His line drive percentage is basically league average. We’ve been over the DIPS theory many times, but for the new readers, basically, most pitchers are going to generally fall in the range of a .300 average against on balls in play. Hitters whacked Brown to a .385 average on balls in play, which is most likely a factor of the players behind him simply being unable to get to balls in the hole. The average on balls in play against Brown in 2004 was .290 while his other rate stats were basically the same as they were this year. That’s defense, not pitching.
The other huge factor has been his inability to strand baserunners once they get on. Brown has left just 60.3 percent of the baserunners he’s allowed on the bases when the inning ends. Jose Lima, probably the worst starting pitcher in baseball, stranded 61.4 percent. Stranding runners is not inherantly a skill. Good pitchers do it because they’re good pitchers, and bad pitchers don’t because they’re bad pitchers, but you won’t find many examples of pitchers who succeed in almost all aspects of pitching and then just can’t get anyone out when there’s a runner on base. In fact, Brown’s opposing batters lines with runners on and with the runners empty aren’t dramatically different. In other words, he just allowed an awful lot of clutch hits that happened to pick up baserunners, and he got outs when it didn’t matter as much. Unless you want to believe that after 15 years of dominance, Kevin Brown suddenly began to wilt under pressure, there’s little reason to expect his strand rate to stay so low. Even a bounce back to a Ryan Franklin level strand rate-70 percent-would be a drastic improvement.
When people criticized Jamie Moyer for not wanting to go pitch in Houston or New York, maybe they should have looked at Kevin Brown. Moyer and Brown, at this point, are similar pitchers. The difference between them? Environment. Moyer has succeeded, and is in line for another nice paycheck, thanks to his home ballpark and the defense that surrounds him. He is the perfect complement to the Seattle environment. Kevin Brown is what Jamie Moyer would be with an abysmal defense behind him and a park that doesn’t allow you to make mistakes.
Their talent levels are comparable, and so is what you should expect from them next year. Thanks to his ridiculous ERA and the fact that, at 40 years old, most people are going to view this season as an age related decline that should lead to retirement, Kevin Brown will almost certainly come cheap. Give him a 1 year deal with a base salary of $1 million and a bunch of incentives and get yourself the bargain signing of the offseason.
So starts the Bring-Kevin-Brown-To-Seattle bandwagon. All aboard.