Track Records

Dave · July 27, 2007 at 12:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Friendly Reminder – I’ll be on KJR with the Groz at 2:20 this afternoon. I’ll try to resist the urge to just yell Adam Jones’ name repeatedly for eight minutes.

One of the main things you’ll hear over the next few days, during the run-up to the trade deadline, is that so-and-so has a track record of success. They’re veterans, they’re proven commodities, and they’ve shown that they can perform in the major leagues before. These statements will often be made to mask the fact that there’s a reason the other team was willing to trade you the guy in the first place.

The Mariners, probably more than almost any other team in baseball, love track records. Bill Bavasi is fond of saying “Managers hate kids. Young players get managers fired.” This pro-veteran belief is widespread in baseball, but even more so in Seattle. Guys with track records hold their perceived value for a long time, often far beyond the point of having actual skills to contribute.

This is especially true with pitchers. If a pitcher has a successful season, especially as a starter or a closer, he inherits a label that takes all kinds of work to remove. If he has two successful seasons, he’s essentially guaranteed to pitch until his arm falls off. Teams will always be willing to take a chance on guys with track records.

You can probably guess where I stand on the projection value of a track record in many cases. As I laid out in the Evaluating Pitcher Talent post, pitching success can often have very little to do with repeatable skills and an awful lot to do with factors beyond the pitcher’s control. However, it is still completely in vogue for teams to acquire players simply because they’ve succeeded before, ignoring their current skill levels in projecting what they’ll do going forward.

So, despite the fact that I’m preaching to the choir, I figured I’d make a point about how well track records predicted pitching success in the AL in 2007 so far. What follows is a list of starting pitchers in the American League that have pitched at least 50 innings, their ERA+, their xFIP, and how they came to be members of their current team. This list is sorted by ERA+ (park adjusted ERA where 100 is average) so that those of you who still think I’m wrong about how to evaluate pitchers can have one less thing to complain about. On to the list.

1. Lenny Dinardo, 183 ERA+, 4.47 xFIP, Claimed on Waivers
2. Dan Haren, 183 ERA+, 4.15 xFIP, Acquired as minor leaguer in trade for Mark Mulder
3. Jeremy Guthrie, 152 ERA+, 4.05 xFIP, Claimed on Waivers
4. Johan Santana, 152 ERA+, 3.72 xFIP, Rule 5 selection
5. Kelvim Escobar, 148 ERA+, 4.14 xFIP, Mid-Tier Free Agent Signing
6. Erik Bedard, 144 ERA+, 3.02 xFIP, Developed by Team
7. Mark Buehrle, 141 ERA+, 4.41 xFIP, Developed by Team
8. Josh Beckett, 140 ERA+, 3.53 xFIP, Aquired in trade for Hanley Ramirez
9. Fausto Carmona, 133 ERA+, 3.98 xFIP, Developed by Team
10. John Lackey, 132 ERA+, 4.19 xFIP, Developed by Team
11. Jered Weaver, 131 ERA+, 4.84 xFIP, Developed by Team
12. Justin Verlander, 127 ERA+, 4.35 xFIP, Developed by Team
13. Javier Vazquez, 123 ERA+, 3.90 xFIP, Acquired in trade for for Chris Young
14. Chien-Ming Wang, 122 ERA+, 4.23 xFIP, Developed by Team
15. Brian Bannister, 122 ERA+, 5.03 xFIP, Acquired as minor leaguer in trade for Ambiorex Burgos
16. Gil Meche, 122 ERA+, 4.12 xFIP, Mid-Tier Free Agent Signing
17. Chad Gaudin, 121 ERA+, 4.79 xFIP, Acquired as minor leaguer in trade for Dustin Majewski
18. Daisuke Matsuzaka, 121 ERA+, 4.18 xFIP, Top-Tier Free Agent Signing
19. Joe Blanton, 120 ERA+, 4.07 xFIP, Developed by Team
20. C.C. Sabathia, 119 ERA+, 3.61 xFIP, Developed by Team
21. Shaun Marcum, 119 ERA+, 4.37 xFIP, Developed by Team
22. Jeremy Bonderman, 118 ERA+, 3.59 xFIP, Acquired as minor leaguer in trade for Jeff Weaver
23. Roger Clemens, 117 ERA+, 4.17 xFIP, Top-Tier Free Agent Signing
24. Andrew Miller, 115 ERA+, 4.84 xFIP, Developed by Team
25. Roy Halladay, 111 ERA+, 3.95 xFIP, Developed by Team
26. Scott Kazmir, 110 ERA+, 4.37 xFIP, Acquired as minor leaguer in trade for Victor Zambrano
27. Jon Garland, 110 ERA+, 5.01 xFIP, Acquired as minor leaguer in trade for Matt Karchner
28. Curt Schilling, 109 ERA+, 4.29 xFIP, Acquired in trade for Casey Fossum, J. de la Rosa, and Brandon Lyon
29. A.J. Burnett, 107 ERA+, 3.74 xFIP, Top-Tier Free Agent Signing
30. Felix Herandez, 106 ERA+, 3.19 xFIP, Developed by Team

Breaking it down by category:

Developed by Team: 13
Acquired as minor leaguer in trade: 6
Top-Tier Free Agent Signing: 3
Acquired as major leaguer in trade: 3
Mid-Tier Free Agent Signing: 2
Claimed on Waivers: 2
Rule 5 Selection: 1

Take a look at this list. A grand total of six of them were considered upper echelon established pitchers at the time they were acquired and have pitched at a level consistent with their track record. An equal number of them were acquired in a move that cost the organization nothing of value – a $25,000 waiver claim, a $50,000 rule 5 fee, or a minor trade for a spare part. These guys – Lenny Dinardo, Jeremy Guthrie, Chad Gaudin, Brian Bannister, Jon Garland, and some guy named Johan Santana – all came from the pool of talent that we often refer to as freely available talent. These guys cost essentially nothing, and they had no track record of success when they were acquired.

Beyond that, over half of the list, 16 of the 30, were either developed internally or were acquired as somewhat highly though of minor league pitchers. They also had no track record of major league success when they were acquired.

Add it all up, and you’ve got 22 of the 30 guys on this list who were acquired without a major league track record. Two of the top 3 were claimed on waivers within the past year! Only 1 of the top 10 was acquired in a trade as an established major league pitcher, and he cost his team Hanley Ramirez in the process.

This isn’t anything of an in depth study, but it does make one point abundantly clear – the pool of potential pitchers with which to find a quality starter is not limited to guys who have a track record of being a quality starter. Teams who pigeonhole themselves into believing that the way to build a successful pitching staff is by acquiring successful pitchers are ignoring a massive populous of pitchers that could help them, and they’re usually dooming their franchises to making some terrible trades and giving out horrible free agent contracts in the process.

The Mariners are shopping for an arm and the list of potential available pitchers being discussed are guys like Jose Contreras, Matt Morris, Jon Garland, and the pipe dream is Dontrelle Willis. Why? Because they all have track records.

I’m guessing the A’s are quite happy with the fact that their entire freaking rotation is on the above list, and not one of them had a track record when they were acquired.

Baseball needs to wake up. Chasing past success is a great way to become the Pittsburgh Pirates. Forget proven veterans – go find guys with talent and acquire them. If you need a name to push you in the right direction, call the Devil Rays about J.P. Howell. He’ll cost a fraction of what the big names are going to command and he’s every bit as good.


97 Responses to “Track Records”

  1. fret_24 on July 27th, 2007 2:36 pm

    Nice work Dave.

  2. Paseman on July 27th, 2007 2:36 pm

    Lets now hope McLaren and Bavasi also listned…

  3. terry on July 27th, 2007 2:38 pm

    If the Ms are going to target Harang, why not acquire Peavy too….

  4. freighttrain on July 27th, 2007 2:39 pm

    If you missed David’s interview with Groz on 950 KJR, it will be available via podcast on in about 10 minutes. Click on Groz’s webpage. .

  5. Left-Handed Sock on July 27th, 2007 2:47 pm

    Dave, you did a nice job today with the Groz. I’m certain that Mary Jane and Aunt May enjoyed it also!

  6. Pete on July 27th, 2007 2:50 pm

    AWESOME segment. And Groz just read my email about the segment. Woo!

  7. Sports on a Schtick on July 27th, 2007 2:52 pm

    Dave = Spiderman
    Bavasi = Mysterio (??)

  8. HamNasty on July 27th, 2007 2:54 pm

    For my birthday present I hope Bavasi gets me a life sized Adam Jones with life like OPS action to put in left field. If not I will take Dave on the radio for 10 minutes of reason as my present from the M’s.

  9. _David_ on July 27th, 2007 3:01 pm

    54: Is it to be in the “Groz On Demand” section, because I can’t find it there, is it somewhere else?

  10. terry on July 27th, 2007 3:04 pm
  11. Dave Clapper on July 27th, 2007 3:10 pm

    Dave, today’s show was excellent. Kudos.

  12. eternal on July 27th, 2007 3:17 pm

    Good job today on the radio, Dave. Enjoyed the talk. I would only recommend that you slow down a bit. You talk faster than me! 🙂

  13. terry on July 27th, 2007 3:17 pm

    Very enjoyable interview Dave but somehow I thought you’d be taller… 😛

  14. Mr. Egaas on July 27th, 2007 3:21 pm

    Wow look at Pat Gillick find a replacement for Utley within a day.

  15. _David_ on July 27th, 2007 3:31 pm

    That was a good segment. I’m looking forward to next Friday, when Dave and Groz can talk with much relief of our deadline inactivity and our glorious sweep of the Angels. Seriously though, considering Bavasi will most definitely do something if it increases even slightly the chance he’ll keep his job…What kind of deal has the highest chance of happening?

  16. Rusty on July 27th, 2007 3:31 pm

    Zach Greinke or Daniel Cabrera. The only pitchers the M’s should even remotely consider acquiring, if they’re truly available, as rumored.

  17. JMHawkins on July 27th, 2007 3:48 pm

    Only 1 of the top 10 was acquired in a trade as an established major league pitcher, and he cost his team Hanley Ramirez in the process…

    We have an H. Ramirez we could afford to part with…

    Seriously, Dave this was a great post. I’ve always thought FAs were overpaid, and that FA pitchers were a total crapshoot.

  18. _David_ on July 27th, 2007 3:49 pm

    What’s up with Greinke? It seems like he went from an elite prospect with a lot of upside, to a quality major league starter, to a terrible starter, then was out of baseball, then came back and was a mediocre starter, and now is an effective bullpen pitcher? What’s his value right now?

  19. scott19 on July 27th, 2007 3:51 pm

    Great job again on the air, Dave!

  20. Lauren, token chick on July 27th, 2007 3:53 pm

    Jim Moore’s keyboard should have been taken away from him long ago, but yeah, that Ichiro article is lame. Plus is it just me, or did that “he certainly is not inscrutable!” sarcasm in the beginning paragraphs come across as extremely mean-spirited?

  21. ghug on July 27th, 2007 3:56 pm

    You forgot the part about how he was expected to be a first round draft pick comeing out of high school, as a hitter.

    His value is that of a mediocre player, but the Royals have declared him unavailible, unless they get an offer that “blows them away.” I think HoRam’s stink might blow them away (not in a good way), but I wouldn’t give them an offer.

  22. Jeff Nye on July 27th, 2007 4:13 pm

    I don’t want to turn this into a “Jim Moore sucks” thread, but let’s just say I’m searching the P-I website for an email address for the sports editor so I can file a complaint about that article.

  23. brian_sun on July 27th, 2007 4:34 pm

    The only thing that prevents Adam Jones from going to the Marlins are the Marlins. Apparently, Bill Bavasi is willing to do the deal now, according to Keith Law in ESPN:,0,5359489.story

    If that’s true, Bill should be fired before the deadline so that deal won’t happen.

  24. ghug on July 27th, 2007 4:36 pm

    That article was horrible “does he ever eat” come on, of course he does.

  25. John in L.A. on July 27th, 2007 4:38 pm

    Dave – fantastic, again.

    And Groz (is that the man’s name? I’m in L.A., excuse my ignorance) I’ll say again that you were great.

    I’m guessing that, between the two of you, it would be difficult to find a better ten minutes of sports radio in the N.W. on any given week.

    I don’t listen to much, but it’s sure refreshing to hear some broadcast time that is not talking points.

    As to the original post… amen. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be on the other side of one of these midseason-mediocre-pitcher-for-top-prospects deals?

    Lastly, 14 – Give us all a break, wouldja? Do you honestly think we don’t understand streaks and highs and lows? If you do, then you aren’t paying attention. If you don’t, then stop being disingenuous, it’s not impressing anyone.

  26. terry on July 27th, 2007 4:38 pm

    ESPN + trade deadline = a great many outright lies = ratings in their mind (and perhaps in reality) = not relaible

  27. Sports on a Schtick on July 27th, 2007 4:39 pm

    Maybe we can get Scott Olsen in that deal too…

  28. SequimRealEstate on July 27th, 2007 4:40 pm


    You actually improved a 100% from your fist on the air time. You did speak slower in my subjective opinion and I heard ever word you said. Very Nice work.


  29. John in L.A. on July 27th, 2007 4:41 pm

    73 – “If that’s true, Bill should be fired before the deadline so that deal won’t happen.”

    If that’s true, I can think of TWO front office’s that deserve to be fired.

  30. Colm on July 27th, 2007 4:45 pm

    Keith Law: “reported the Mariners might be willing to part with center field prospect Adam Jones.”

    Law’s either hedging what he knows is not likely to be true in order to garner ratings, or he’s being lazy and just picking the name of the first Mariners’ prospect to come to mind. It doesn’t sound as if he believes it would really happen.

  31. Bender on July 27th, 2007 4:48 pm

    Hey, Dave sounded pretty good! I normally don’t listen to the monkeys on KJR, but I was glad to listen to that.

  32. brian_sun on July 27th, 2007 4:52 pm

    #80. Just like Dave said, I couldn’t wait for July 31 come and gone quick enough. The fact that Adam Jones hasn’t been called up had me really worried. Geoff Baker mentioned in his blog that maybe the reason he wasn’t getting called up was the M’s still weren’t sure if he would be traded. If he’s not traded, you can expect him to be up here on August 1st. The FO probably hasn’t made up their mind yet on whether to trade Adam Jones. I just worried that this would turn into July 31, 1997, where we traded Cruz Jr, Varitek and Lowe away on the same day, only this time it’s Jones, Balentine and Clement.

  33. John in L.A. on July 27th, 2007 4:55 pm

    80 – I think that there is no reason to limit it to just those possibilities.

    He could know anything from nothing at all to something pretty solid that he couldn’t get confirmed. And pretty much anything in between.

    I wouldn’t bet a dime on it being true or false.

    All I can say for sure is that if it was, in fact, true, it would upset me a great deal.

  34. scott19 on July 27th, 2007 4:56 pm

    42: Interesting thoughts on Howell…looking at his gamelogs, it seems like most of that damage came in a couple of outings where he got shelled (one each against the Yanks and Bosox on the road, no less). He might be worth a look — if he didn’t cost too much, that is.

    BTW, his page on features a plug for the Rays Fan Nation which says “Let’s build Rays Fan Nation into a force.” A FORCE? Judging from their teeming attendance figures, there’s something mildly amusing about that. 🙂

  35. scott19 on July 27th, 2007 4:59 pm

    75: It’s actually Grozby, but he goes by Groz.

  36. rcc on July 27th, 2007 5:34 pm

    Awesome post Dave!! Captain Poppy in # 3 says it all. What do you think the A’s will do? They have veterans, but they also have pitchers that could be expendable.

  37. dingla on July 27th, 2007 5:50 pm

    crap I missed the KJR show. can it be heard again?

  38. Mr. Egaas on July 27th, 2007 5:59 pm

    87. As mentioned before:

  39. manzell on July 27th, 2007 6:13 pm

    It sounds like the ‘real’ solution is to stockpile young starting pitchers.

    Imagine if we’d traded Pineiro or Meche when they first came up (okay, second time around for Meche). Or Dave Fleming, for that matter. What could they have gotten?

    But yeah, you’ve gotta get SOMETHING from your farm – either players, or trade pieces. The Mariners of late have seemed to be content to use it as a holding grounds for their roster overages.

  40. dingla on July 27th, 2007 6:23 pm

    Thanks Egass! ;^)

  41. thefin190 on July 27th, 2007 6:29 pm

    64 – good point man.

  42. davepaisley on July 27th, 2007 6:59 pm

    85, it’s actually Gro”S”by, but he goes by Groz.

  43. Seth on July 28th, 2007 9:50 am

    Doesn’t all this perhaps indicate that pitcher performance is extremely volatile from year to year? I mean, you tell me that we could get a guy who’s never had any success for practically free, but you have to be able to determine WHICH guy who’s never had any success.

    The earth is littered with pitchers who’ve put together a solid year or couple of months and then disappeared (Dave Fleming, Bob Wolcott, Paul Abbott, etc).

    So, I mean, it’s all well and good to say that you COULD get a guy for cheap, but if you can’t predict with any certainty who the cheap guy will be (after all, you can’t sign everybody), what’s the point…

  44. Dave on July 28th, 2007 10:29 am

    The same is true of expensive guys. If throwing a bunch of money (or talent in trade) at someone doesn’t significantly increase your chance of getting a good pitcher, then you shouldn’t do it. That’s the whole point.

  45. bram on July 28th, 2007 5:53 pm

    Gosh, John in L.A., in #75 you’ve got me completely confused.

    Help me understand –

    Is wading through all the pissing and moaning therapeutic for you?

    Did I miss your name on the masthead somewhere?

    Or are you the only comment poster allowed to comment on the character of the conversation?

    Which is it, John? I’d like to know before I run afoul of your arbitration again.

  46. baller on July 28th, 2007 7:10 pm

    dave, you have some personal issue towards Johnson? his bat is developing, especially for a dude that has half of the career at bats compared to most of his team mates. Defensively he is solid. strong leader. Periodically you admit that you have to eat your words, will this be another one of those instances in a few years?

  47. Dave on July 28th, 2007 7:20 pm

    He’s 24 years old. He has no power. He doesn’t have a good approach at the plate. He’s slow. He’s a contact hitter who generates what little offense he can by hitting the ball into holes, and based on his .250 career minor league average, he’s not particularly good at that either.

    The guy just doesn’t have major league skills. The Mariners love him because of his personality, but as a baseball player, he’s a Double-A guy.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.