Not Trying To Be A Jerk

Dave · September 1, 2009 at 9:53 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

But just throwing this out there.

Doug Fister: 33 2/3 IP, 26 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 5 HR, 9 BB, 20 K
Jason Vargas*: 34 2/3 IP, 33 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 6 HR, 9 BB, 19 K

*Through his first six starts with the M’s this year.

I like Vargas, so this isn’t intended as a slam. These guys have good command and out-pitch change-ups, which makes up for the weak fastballs that they toss up there. But, while Fister’s emergence is certainly encouraging, just remember that we’ve already seen this act once this year. Vargas’ season had a very similar beginning, and just a few months later he was toiling in Triple-A again.

Pitchers are inconsistent. They have good runs and bad runs. Often times, we overreact to these runs, especially when they come as a first impression. But, as I argued on FanGraphs about John Smoltz, we really can’t extrapolate anything at all from how a pitcher performs over 40 innings. We can say stuff about how they pitched during that time frame, but trying to base a future projection off of such a limited sample is nutty.

Enjoy watching Fister buckle hitters with his change-up. Just don’t be shocked if he gets bombed before the year ends. It’s the nature of pitchers – they’re remarkably inconsistent and shouldn’t be counted on.

Comments

39 Responses to “Not Trying To Be A Jerk”

  1. Jeff Sullivan on September 1st, 2009 10:11 pm

    It’s worth noting, however, that while over that Span Vargas posted a 61% strike rate and a 6.5% swinging strike rate, Fister’s at 65% and 8.2%. I appreciate your point, but Doug has pitched better.

  2. diderot on September 1st, 2009 10:37 pm

    I’ve got no argument with what you say, Dave, but I was at the game tonight and for the moment I’m just enjoying what I saw.

    However, this does remind me of what a scout once explained to me as ‘the rule of 40′: no matter what happens in the first 40 MLB at bats, the first 40 innings pitched or the first 40 chances in the field, it’s a huge mistake to base any conclusions on what happens there. Not just limited sample size, but all of the issues concerning fear, adrenaline, not knowing the league, the league not knowing the player, etc.

  3. GoMariners on September 1st, 2009 10:48 pm

    Wow, Jeff Sullivan with the first comment under Dave’s post. It looks like a pitchers’ duel already. I agree with Dave whole-heartedly even though I will be extremely happy if Fister keeps up the good work. I think that Vargas looks less promising based on his numbers over his career in MLB. Doug has been so far, so good, so he has more of a chance to keep up his numbers while Vargas seems to have come down to earth one too many times already.

  4. GoMariners on September 1st, 2009 11:06 pm

    P.S. Watching Vargas get rocked vs. the Cleveland Indians on a Sunday this July from right behind the Mariners dugout at Safeco was ugly. The Mariners allowed 10 or more runs on both days that weekend and it just felt like I was getting beat up with all the long balls that the Indians hit that weekend. That’s when I relized that this year’s team was not good enough to make the playoffs.

  5. Faceplant on September 2nd, 2009 12:28 am

    I agree Jeff, but do you really think Fister is going to continue to post a 8.2% swinging strike rate?

    I mean, how do you jump up a level and improve your swinging strike rate? I’ve got to think that’s either statistical noise, or just a product of the hitters being unfamiliar with him. Either way, I can’t see how that won’t eventually regress.

  6. Jeff Sullivan on September 2nd, 2009 1:08 am

    No, I don’t, but then who the hell knows? He is at nearly ~500 pitches thrown as a starter, and swinging strikes stabilize quickly. The whole thing is weird.

    Fister, like Vargas, will run into his problems, but I think they’ll be of slightly different origins – Vargas fell behind a lot of guys and had to come back over the plate, whereas Fister, I imagine, will struggle to put guys away.

  7. TomTuttle on September 2nd, 2009 1:18 am

    Let Fister and French battle it out for the #5 spot in the rotation next year in Spring Training.

    The loser gets to be starter #6 or #7 with Carlos Silva.

  8. dchappelle on September 2nd, 2009 5:52 am

    Hmm, are you trying to say a .219 BAPIP isn’t sustainable?

  9. msb on September 2nd, 2009 8:14 am

    it’s the nature of pitchers – they’re remarkably inconsistent and shouldn’t be counted on.

    Robot Pitchers.

  10. Dave on September 2nd, 2009 9:16 am

    A two percent difference in swinging strike rate over 500 pitches is ten extra swinging strikes. That’s… not a big deal. That could easily be a weird shadow that makes it tough for hitters to pick up the ball in a couple of games. It’s certainly well within the range of normal variance.

  11. Alex on September 2nd, 2009 9:38 am

    When I first saw those pitching lines, I thought:

    Hits are going to be very dependant on BABIP, Runs on BABIP and % of runners stranded, HR are very dependant on HR/FB%, I’d like to see their %swinigng strikes.

    As Dave said, at this point we really dont have enough sample size to evaluate them. What were their swinigng strike %s in AAA, and is there a forumla to translate that into a prediction for the majors?

  12. Pete Livengood on September 2nd, 2009 10:13 am

    “Let Fister and French battle it out for the #5 spot…”

    Exactly. Olson, RRS and Vargas too, maybe even Feierabend if he gets healthy, and try as we might, don’t forget Silva.

    We may not know who will be the #2, and the internal candidates under contract for next season don’t look too good for that role. And we might feel a bit shaky about Morrow and Snell as quality #3/#4 guys at this stage of their careers. BUT we have a solid #1 and a s*load of candidates for #5 (and really, #4). Through competition (or rolling through them to find the one on a roll), hopefully one of them takes a step forwad and settles in. There is also decent depth to deal from here.

  13. Jeff Sullivan on September 2nd, 2009 10:14 am

    Dave – if you’re referring to the difference between Vargas and Fister, there’s also the matter of Fister throwing more strikes. If you’re referring to the difference between Fister in AAA and Fister in the bigs, the gap between performance and expectation is bigger than 2%, because we’d project Fister’s SwS% to go down upon promotion, rather than remain the same.

  14. gwangung on September 2nd, 2009 10:22 am

    We may not know who will be the #2, and the internal candidates under contract for next season don’t look too good for that role. And we might feel a bit shaky about Morrow and Snell as quality #3/#4 guys at this stage of their careers. BUT we have a solid #1 and a s*load of candidates for #5 (and really, #4). Through competition (or rolling through them to find the one on a roll), hopefully one of them takes a step forwad and settles in. There is also decent depth to deal from here.

    That might not work in any given season, but don’t you usually see at least one candidate out of a batch of potentials step up and become a solid middle of the rotation pitcher? (And it’s certainly a better route than trying to sign a “proven” starter?)

  15. Pete Livengood on September 2nd, 2009 11:23 am

    That is my point, gwangung. We probably should not get too excited about any one of these guys, but their presence as a group is an encouraging step toward finding ONE of these guys (or some combination of them) to be reasonably effective in a back-of-the-rotation role next season.

    And I totally agree with yo about trying to find a “proven” starter. The last time we did that, they spent $48M on Carlos Silva. Thankfully, this regime doesn’t seem to make decisions based on what a player is being paid, but usually all that does is hamstring you to some albatross contract that management believes must be played in order to “justify” the contract, to the exclusion of just the scenario we’re describing.

  16. mw3 on September 2nd, 2009 11:24 am

    I wholeheartedly agree that pitchers are extremely fickle. What I’m wondering is what percentage of the top pitchers are good enough at their craft that you can count on their results. Is it 5% or less? It seems like Felix, Grienke, Lincecum and Randy in his heyday could be counted on. There are more but you get the idea.

  17. Mike Snow on September 2nd, 2009 11:51 am

    Those are the ones you can count on… when they don’t have arm problems, or back problems, or social anxiety problems. Any year that Felix makes every start without missing a turn, he’s beating the odds.

  18. Dave on September 2nd, 2009 12:02 pm

    There is no such thing as a to-be-counted-on pitcher. If you had made such a list at the beginning of the year, you would have probably included Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, and Jake Peavy on the list. You certainly wouldn’t say they can be counted on now that they’re on the DL.

  19. mw3 on September 2nd, 2009 12:05 pm

    O.K. so why ever spend big on pitching. Why not develop your own get the six years out of them and take the draft picks. Or in a case like Felix, trade for three or four good players under club control long term.

  20. Dave on September 2nd, 2009 12:16 pm

    Ideally, you’d be able to lock up your good young pitcher around the time he’s arbitration eligible so that you get a couple of his free agent years at non-free agent prices.

    But, yes, the end result of this is that throwing a lot of money at pitchers is a bad idea. And that’s why, if they can’t get Felix to sign a reasonable 4 or 5 year deal this winter, the M’s will need to trade him, because getting in a bidding war with Boston and New York that will result in a ~$200 million contract is a bad idea.

  21. Liam on September 2nd, 2009 1:11 pm

    So there’s no chance that Felix comes back on a 1-year deal?

  22. mw3 on September 2nd, 2009 1:17 pm

    If the Mariners can’t make a worthy trade chances are he does come back on a one year deal. I just don’t see him signing a long term deal when he is this close to cashing in AROD style.

  23. JR Ewing on September 2nd, 2009 1:24 pm

    Any pitcher who trots out a BABPIP of .219 is going to look good over a small sample size. Only 14 pitchers this decade have managed to finish a season with a BABPIP less than .250, with Chris Young’s .232 in 2006 being the best. On average, less than 9 pitchers a year can even finish the season with a BABPIP less than .270. Mr. Fister is due some serious regression.

  24. joealb1 on September 2nd, 2009 1:33 pm

    mw3, It is possible that Felix might understand that say $50 million over 4 years is pretty smart considering his arm could fall off before he has a chance to cash in AROD style… But since most 23 year old’s think they are invincible… Probably not.

  25. Xteve X on September 2nd, 2009 1:59 pm

    “So there’s no chance that Felix comes back on a 1-year deal?”

    I see no chance of that happening. Risk is too high and financial reward in a 1 year deal not big enough to take the chance of getting hurt, or get stuck toiling on a non-playoff team …

    IMO the Ms are looking at either offering $90-100 mil for a 4-5 year deal or he’ll just go to free agency, then let the Yanks, Red Sox and Angels fight it out for who gets to pay him Johan Santana/Sabathia money.

  26. mw3 on September 2nd, 2009 2:07 pm

    Felix is not eligible for FA until after the 2011 season. The only way he becomes a free agent is to be non-tendered. A GM who did that would be fired and quite possibly have a contract put out on him by an overzealous fan.

  27. Pete Livengood on September 2nd, 2009 2:10 pm

    Actually, if they can’t get a deal done, the chances are very high that Felix comes back on a 1-year deal that avoids arbitration. Remember, he’s under club control for 2 more seasons. If he won’t agree to a longer-term deal, he’s very likely to do what he did this year and sign a 1-year deal that avoids arbitration

  28. Xteve X on September 2nd, 2009 2:15 pm

    My bad. For some reason I thought he was up in ’10 not ’11. In that case you are right – 1 year deal, avoid arbitration … man, that’s going to be an expensive 1-year deal ….

  29. joser on September 2nd, 2009 2:21 pm

    Actually, if they can’t get a deal done, the chances are very high that Felix comes back on a 1-year deal that avoids arbitration.

    Yes, they could do that… except that Dave’s whole point is that if they can’t get a deal done, they trade him rather than offer him that one-year deal that avoids arbitration. Felix is worth a lot more with two years under team control than he would be a year from now or even next July (though of course it’s always possible some team will be more desperate next July than they would be this offseason). If you’re going to sell high on Felix, this is the time to do it.

    IMO the Ms are looking at either offering $90-100 mil for a 4-5 year deal or he’ll just go to free agency, then let the Yanks, Red Sox and Angels fight it out for who gets to pay him Johan Santana/Sabathia money.

    The third option is to trade him this off-season for a bunch of talent. That’s certainly better than allowing him to leave in FA netting nothing more than the draft picks.

  30. Mike Snow on September 2nd, 2009 2:35 pm

    Felix is worth a lot more with two years under team control than he would be a year from now or even next July (though of course it’s always possible some team will be more desperate next July than they would be this offseason). If you’re going to sell high on Felix, this is the time to do it.

    The other thing is, though, if you want to win in 2010, it’s more likely you can do that with Felix than with the package you get for him, which will undoubtedly include some number of prospects or players still in need of development. And trade deadline desperation is always good for sellers (the Bedard trade is all the worse for not having been made in July). So I’m inclined to wait and see how well the team contends next year, because his arbitration years can have value to us as easily as any other team, even if he ultimately leaves as a free agent.

  31. mw3 on September 2nd, 2009 2:39 pm

    Getting back to Fister. In my opinion, the three homeruns he gave up to Kansas City is more indicative of his true talent level than the games against the Angels/Yankees.

    I believe he will start once more against the Angels and the Yankees and I would wager a fair amount of money that the second time around he gets rocked.

  32. SODOMOJO360 on September 2nd, 2009 2:39 pm

    Those numbers don’t show how much more consistant Fister has been. He had one bad game where he gave up 3 homers and 5 ER’s. He walked 4 in his first game due to jitters and a bad ump. You take those out and he has been far more consistant with far better numbers. Vargas might be descent out of the pen and I like him a little more than Olson as a lefty RP.

  33. mw3 on September 2nd, 2009 2:44 pm

    I was wrong, Fister won’t face the Angels again. He will start the first game against the Yankees during the next homestand if the current rotation stays on track.

  34. Pete Livengood on September 2nd, 2009 2:44 pm

    I think it is more likely that the M’s hold Felix until next July than to trade him this offseason, unless completely bowled over by an offer better than the three-way reportedly offered by the Red Sox / Padres, including in return at least (a) an established player, (b) a young pitcher with clear potential to be at least a #2 and current ability to be a solid #3/4, (c) an A-level prospect, and (d) a b-level prospect with upside.

    I agree with you in principal, joser, that once the M’s are sure they can’t get a reasonable 4 or 5-year deal done with Felix, they should trade him at whatever point they think they can get the best haul, as long as that is also consistent with trying to win. I think it is debatable whether that point is this offseason or next July, and I also think there will be some pressure to see whether the M’s can contend with Felix next season before they deal him. They may be willing to take less in return if they can contend with him next year.

  35. BLYKMYK44 on September 2nd, 2009 2:56 pm

    I believe he will start once more against the Angels and the Yankees and I would wager a fair amount of money that the second time around he gets rocked.

    - Since the whole point of this post is that he isn’t really a “good/great” pitcher…are you really going out on a limb when making that bet?

  36. mw3 on September 2nd, 2009 3:03 pm

    O.K. I bet he doesn’t make it out of the third inning in his Friday, September 18 start against NY.

  37. e poc on September 4th, 2009 10:39 pm

    We can’t extrapolate anything about a pitcher from 40 innings (Smoltz) or 33-34 innings (Vargas and Fister), but from 23 innings (Pedro, as per the post at fangraphs) we can tell that a pitcher’s ability to get out major league hitters should not be in doubt and the Phillies’ gamble in signing him was successful. I posted this on fangraphs as well, but I simply don’t understand the double standard.

  38. Jeff Nye on September 4th, 2009 11:51 pm

    Hi!

    We’d really rather you not bring discussions from Fangraphs over here. If you want Dave to reply to something he’s said over there, you’ll need to wait for an answer there.

  39. e poc on September 5th, 2009 12:50 am

    No problem, but Dave brought up fangraphs in his post, so it’s not like I was bringing it over.

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