Pick the Pitcher

Dave · December 27, 2005 at 5:50 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Let’s play Pick The Pitcher, free agent starter addition. We’ll do it Nick Bakay style.


Pitcher A: 210
Pitcher B: 177

Advantage: Pitcher A

Walk Rate

Pitcher A: 2.1 BB/G
Pitcher B: 2.6 BB/G

Advantage: Pitcher A

Strikeout Rate

Pitcher A: 4.0 K/G
Pitcher B: 4.9 K/G

Advantage: Pitcher B

Groundball/Flyball Rate

Pitcher A: 1.68 G/F
Pitcher B: 0.99 G/F

Advantage: Pitcher A


Pitcher A: 1 year, $4 million
Pitcher B: 4 years, $37.5 million

Advantage: Pitcher A

Ladies and Gentleman, Pitcher A, Jason Johnson, who signed a 1 year, $4 million deal with the Cleveland Indians.

Pitcher B, obviously, is Jarrod Washburn, he of the big offseason move albatross contract.

Seriously, the next time someone tells you that Jarrod Washburn’s market value was 4 years and $37.5 million, ask them why Jason Johnson signed for 25 percent of the years and 42 percent of the annual salary.

Johnson has his own problems. The strikeout rate is terrible. His home/road splits are terrible. But the only real difference between his 2005 and Jarrod Washburn’s 2005 season was their performance with runners in scoring position. Washburn stranded 82 percent of the runners he put on base, while Johnson stranded just 67 percent of his runners. And so Washburn’s ERA was a point and a half lower, even though he didn’t pitch significantly better.

Behold the power of 3.20, baby.


130 Responses to “Pick the Pitcher”

  1. strong silence on December 27th, 2005 5:34 pm

    I love seeing the rationales people give for signing their heroes.

    2001 is so far away.

  2. J.L. on December 27th, 2005 5:52 pm

    #96: You hit it right on the head. Even if Jarrod “Don’t Call Me JWash, EVER” Washburn wins the Cy Young next year, and accomplishes everything we would want him to accomplish, the signing was still, at the time (last week), a mistake, because what he has accomplished UP TO NOW points to a pitcher closer to Jason Johnson (making only $4 million next year, which is still pretty steep) than to someone who would be earning a $9+ million a year contract. If fate conspires to allow Washburn to produce an outcome closer to Kevin Millwood than JJ, then I’ll be overjoyed, but that would not diminish the error Bill Bavasi committed.

  3. Adam on December 27th, 2005 5:55 pm

    It isn’t like Moyer is expected to be an ace or blocking any better young pitchers. He’s just a 200 inning arm for the back of the rotation who we are probably going to give a big goodbye party too.

  4. Jim Thomsen on December 27th, 2005 6:01 pm

    #103: Please, NO 200 innings. That means Moyer would have to pitch in road parks where he’ll get lit up. I’ll take 130-140 carefully planned innings and live with it.

  5. Matthew Carruth on December 27th, 2005 6:08 pm

    And whom do you plan on giving those other 70-100 IP?

  6. Jim Thomsen on December 27th, 2005 6:12 pm

    Spot Starters ‘R Us: Julio Mateo, Scott Atchison, Bobby Livingston, Jesse Foppert, Jeff Harris, Generic Quad-A Arm To Be Named Later ….

  7. toonprivate on December 27th, 2005 6:15 pm

    So, what’s the rationale FOR the signing if you’re Bavasi and presumably in possession of these statistics?

    I think that it’s something like this: In order to maximize revenue the M’s need to have a team play around .500 next season. They have a budget of X (I’ve seen $80 to $90 mill variously). Their most apparent weakness going into the offseason was starting pitching. The other top free agents went to more aggressive teams (offering either more money or more years or both) than the Mariners considered prudent. Or deciding between similar offers, for whatever reasons, the FAs went another way. Washburn was the next on the FA list. He fit under the budget. He will help the M’s reach .500, which is the target for this year. Reaching the target this year means the current mgt. lives to fight another day next year. Opportunity costs are calculated only for this year. Disasters down the road (and any contract COULD become a disaster, including Washburn’s) will be dealt with in budgets down the road. Unfortunately, the M’s still need pitching help to reach .500 this year: enter Clement; exit Reed.

    The objections are clear: both the long-term and short-term cost of Washburn’s contract are too high in absolute terms. But if the M’s are a .500 team, it doesn’t matter: they make their revenue projections.

    I think a LOT of teams do their figuring this way. It’s not a rational way to achieve the ultimate goal (winning a WS), but it sells beer and dogs at the park and tires on TV. That’s why Billy Beane looks like such a genius — he’s the only guy planning rationally for the even the near-term future.

  8. eponymous coward on December 27th, 2005 6:23 pm

    In order to maximize revenue the M’s need to have a team play around .500 next season

    There’s no way .500 maximizes revenue. Look at the attendance stats from 2001-2002. THAT is maximized revenue.

    If you mean “hit their attendance goals”, OK, but I don’t see the team breaking 3 million without contending- and I suspect attendance in April is going to be dead unless the team does well based on attendance slipping under 20K in September, weather in April being pretty bad a lot of the time (it gets awfully cold up in the 300 level by 10 o’clock most nights), and school not being out.

  9. Jim Thomsen on December 27th, 2005 6:23 pm

    So that’s how Billy Beane does it: He gives fans the winning teams they want by saying, “Screw what the fans want.”

  10. Matt Staples on December 27th, 2005 6:28 pm

    toon, I think you’re on to something. Beane isn’t the only GM with a view beyond the current year. To take one example, when Boston gets Reed, they will be engaging in Beanesque long-range planning.

  11. terry on December 27th, 2005 6:51 pm

    #109: Uhhhhh no….BB does it by fielding a rotation that is so good only Felix would crack it… Enough with the ****Generic Quad-A Arm To Be Named Later****…..the M’s have had a rotation representing the epitomy of that for the last 350 games…. no one seriously believes such rhetoric accurately reflects a winning strategy

  12. DMZ on December 27th, 2005 7:24 pm
  13. Jim Thomsen on December 27th, 2005 7:38 pm

    Do the ones we can see have any discernable Value Over Replacement Panda?

    #111: I agree, but as Chuck Knox used to say, you gotta play the hand you’re dealt. (Or in this case, that you’ve dealt yourself.) Jamie Moyer cannot pitch in certain parks without getting killed, and hopefully the M’s recognize this and hold him out of certain turns in the rotation to protect him and the team. There are no other “good” pitchers to take his place, so the spot-starter strategy is all the Mariners have left.

  14. DMZ on December 27th, 2005 7:50 pm

    Replacement panda? There’s no replacement Butterstick, Jim!

  15. DMZ on December 27th, 2005 7:53 pm

    Okay, maybe that baby panda at the San Diego Zoo would be the replacement-level panda.

  16. Mr. Egaas on December 27th, 2005 8:03 pm

    You know it’s been a bad winter of contracts with Burnitz is about to sign for 2 years, 12 million.

    Thank god that wasn’t us.

  17. Jim Thomsen on December 27th, 2005 8:07 pm
  18. Dave on December 27th, 2005 8:13 pm

    If Bud Selig wants to do anything to help baseball, he needs to order a mandatory conference for all front office executives on the value of replacement level talent. This is just out of hand.

  19. msb on December 27th, 2005 8:19 pm

    nothing like a baby panda

  20. Matthew Carruth on December 27th, 2005 9:01 pm

    Curious, USSM et al crew, what are your projections for big W in 2006? My thoughts have been around 190 IP, ~4 ERA, ~4.3 FIP, ~4.65 xFIP.

  21. eponymous coward on December 27th, 2005 10:01 pm


    The MLBPA would be suing for collusion about 5 minutes after that conference ended, like they did in in the 80’s.

    Unfortunately, it seems everything learned the last few years has gone away- or baseball is far more profitable than let on.

  22. LF Monster on December 27th, 2005 11:00 pm

    If I told you I had a 3.20 ERA in the major leagues as a starter with 29 starts this year, would you not assume I’m successful? Wouldn’t my mother have ‘the bragging rights?’

    Would you assume that I’m worth $38 Million over 4 years. I doubt it. It’s my opinion that Washburn was not signed simply because he had a 3.20 ERA last year. I admit I do not know this for fact (someone must) but I truly beleive that there was more valid reasoning than…3.20 ERA…Let’s offer this much…

  23. Rusty on December 27th, 2005 11:25 pm

    I believe that everything that can be said about Washburn and his contract has now been said. Thus, the pandas.

  24. Jim Thomsen on December 27th, 2005 11:33 pm

    #122: We’ve looked at every reason that Washburn proponents came up with, and knocked each of them down.

  25. 2BOGUS2 on December 28th, 2005 12:47 am

    Home after 4 days and 6 hours 17 minutes caught up on USSM. Not even the New Year and the authors are showing remarkable restraint or it just seems I read the same stats more times than usual.

    Dave, Curious which 2 teams you rank above Cleveland plus surprized Cleveland is the third best team in the AL. I better pay more attention since you have better knowledge regarding the rosters and players. Plus do not recall Cleveland making any splashy headlines this winter yet.

    Thankyou for the Panda link
    It appears to be a sprint to be the most commentor at years end. Good luck to all. Mr Thomsen wins for times sent to dictionary (not including the authors)

  26. DMZ on December 28th, 2005 8:26 am

    The MLBPA would be suing for collusion about 5 minutes after that conference ended, like they did in in the 80’s.

    No. They did go a little nutty over the last down cycle, it’s true, and it’s also true that MLB’s done some things that border on collusion lately (which is a whole other topic). But if Selig seriously went to everyone and said “Hey, here’s the expected performance level for minor league free agents, and here’s the concept of replacement-level…”

    Orza might dispute the concept and have some things to say about whether that’s appropriate, but that’s not a fight they’d take to court.

  27. Rusty on December 28th, 2005 11:40 am

    Clearly we have a ways to go before BB rate, K rate, and G/F ratios are the generally accepted measure of a pitcher’s performance. Had the M’s offered a .300 hitter 4 years at $9 mill per, and the Indians had offered a .260 hitter 1 year at $4 mill, and there lines were…


    there would have been universal condemnation of Bavasi, and some praise of Shapiro for not wasting money.

    People now view batting average alone as an insufficient way to look at a hitter. Clearly, ERA alone is not viewed with the same amount of skepticism.

  28. deltwelve on December 28th, 2005 1:59 pm


    do you have handy Washburn’s and Johnson’s K and BB rates as a percentage of batters faced? I’ve seen you use both /9 and % rates before – is there a big difference between the two? which do you think are better indicators of talent and predictors of future success? For someone like Washburn, who seems to allow a healthy amount of baserunners, wouldn’t his K percentages look worse than his K/9 compared to someone with a similar K/9 who sees fewer batters per game?

  29. DMZ on December 28th, 2005 2:06 pm

    It’s in comment #40.

  30. deltwelve on December 28th, 2005 9:32 pm

    Thanks, don’t know how i missed that.