Wednesday, November 21, 2012

For Want Of A Pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie.

Before we talk about what the Royals gave up to re-sign Jeremy Guthrie, let’s talk about what they did not give up: talent. They gave up money, lots of money, probably too much money. But they did not surrender any players. Given that it’s the rare day that goes by without a rumor breaking that the Royals are trying to trade for pitching, this is significant. Given that most of those rumors involve the Royals trading established major league hitters – or Wil Myers, who’s almost the same thing – for pitching, it’s even more significant.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating again: before the Royals dip into their impressive pool of talent to acquire starting pitching, they should dip into their financial reserves, which are impressive in their own right, even though no one in the organization wants to admit it. You don’t get bonus points for winning on a $60 million payroll, and I’d rather the Royals go to war at $80 million than sacrifice young talent to keep that payroll at a Raysian level.

We can argue over whether Dayton Moore spent this money wisely, but at least he had money to spend. Given his comments from a few weeks ago, it wasn’t entirely clear that that was the case.

I already performed a (somewhat superficial) analysis of Guthrie in September, and I’d like to lean on that analysis a little, because coming before we knew if the Royals would re-sign him or not, it should probably be taken more seriously than any analysis I’d do today. At the time, I estimated that Guthrie’s 4.12 ERA from 2007 to 2011 was probably inflated by around 20 points because 1) he pitched for the one patsy in the toughest division in baseball and 2) his home ballpark was poorly suited for his talents. Combine that with the league-wide drop in ERA over the last two years, and I estimated that his true talent level, in today’s terms, was around a 3.70 ERA.

I also suggested that the Royals sign him for 2 years and $15 million. Obviously, that’s not what happened. Essentially, we can break his contract into two parts. He signed a heavily backloaded two-year deal ($5 million in 2013, $11 million in 2014), which given the backloading is almost exactly what I suggested. He also got a guaranteed third year at $9 million.

If Guthrie had signed a two-year, backloaded, $16 million deal with a club option for $9 million in 2015, I’d be pretty happy at the moment. The difference is that the option is guaranteed. That’s not a trivial difference, obviously, and it’s why I’m essentially neutral on the signing overall. But I’ll admit to being a little surprised by just how much vitriol this contract is getting from certain quarters – most notably Royals Review, where they believe the Royals have just shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and they’re advocating revolution.

Here are the marks against Guthrie:

1) He turns 34 in April, and will be 36 in the final, guaranteed year of his contract.

2) He doesn’t strike anyone out – a career ratio of just 5.4 Ks per 9 innings, and just 5.0 per 9 innings in 2012.

3) He’s not that good a pitcher – a career ERA of 4.28 is basically average, and since he’s getting older, he’s not likely to be even average going forward.

4) He had a 4.76 ERA in 2012.

My rebuttal to these points would start with one thing: the fact that Jeremy Guthrie sucked donkey balls for one half-season in the worst pitchers’ park in major league history should not be held against him. Take out his time with the Rockies, and Guthrie’s career ERA drops to 4.11; his ERA in 2012 (3.16) would be a career high. It’s not just his ERA – the drop in Guthrie’s strikeout rate in 2012 was entirely an artifact of his time in Colorado. After joining the Royals, Guthrie struck out 15.7% of the batters he faced, which would (narrowly) be a career-high for him.

The last time the Royals signed a potential free agent to an extension on the basis of a fine (but small sample size) performance in a Royals uniform, it was Jeff Francoeur. I was ambivalent at the time about giving him a two-year, $13.5 million contract, and obviously I was dead wrong – I should have been adamantly against it. The core of my mistake (and the Royals) was that I simply weighed his most recent performance, the 2011 season, too strongly. I thought that his improvement was so broad – higher batting average, more doubles, more homers – that some of it was probably real. It was not. I was wrong.

Many of the people who are ripping the Royals for giving $25 million to a #4 starter were equally upset about the Francoeur signing. They were right. But if the central error in the Francoeur signing was weighing recent evidence too heavily, I think that calling Jeremy Guthrie a below-average starter evokes the same mistake. In contrast to Francoeur, the anomaly in Guthrie's performance was the sample size in which he sucked. And in Guthrie’s case, it wasn’t even a full season – it was a half-season, in a terrible ballpark (even with the Rockies, he had a 3.67 ERA on the road), and he’s already regressed to his previous performance level.

Incidentally, if you think that Guthrie’s performance with the Orioles – to say nothing of his time in Kansas City – made him “a #4 starter”, your frame of reference must be the 2011 Phillies rotation. For five years, Guthrie averaged 197 innings with a 107 ERA+ in the AL East. Maybe he’ll be a #4 starter going forward, but he’s been considerably more than that in his career.

The first two points above are more on point: Guthrie is getting older, and older pitchers tend to stop missing bats, and Guthrie wasn’t missing bats in the first place. That has to be the most frightening scenario for the Royals, that Guthrie suddenly turns into Aaron Cook or Livan Hernandez or something.

I find it somewhat mysterious that Guthrie has such a low strikeout rate in the first place, because he’s not a soft-tosser by any means. His fastball has averaged over 92 mph every year of his career. If he relied on a sinker, I could see how he might have a low strikeout rate because he aimed to get groundballs, but he’s actually a mildly flyball-oriented pitcher. Cook, by comparison, hasn’t averaged even 90 mph on his fastball since 2008, back when he was still good. No one knows how hard Hernandez throws because his fastball doesn’t set off the radar gun. (He averaged 84.0 mph this year. Livan hasn’t averaged more than 85 mph in the last seven years. He’s basically Jamie Moyer, only right-handed.)

That doesn’t change the fact that Guthrie’s strikeout rate is concerning. And admittedly, things like Pitch f/x data and fastball velocity are not my forte; when I say things like “given two pitchers with low strikeout rates, bet on the guy who throws harder”, I’m just guessing. But in Guthrie’s defense, his strikeout rate has held steady for the last four years, more or less, and perhaps more importantly, so has his fastball velocity. He averaged 92.6 mph this year, the same as he did in 2010 and higher than his average velocity in 2009 and 2011.

It’s hard to be successful as a pitcher in the modern era while striking out less than six men per nine innings. Guthrie has made a career out of it, in large part because his career BABIP is .278. His .298 BABIP this season was the highest of his career, and that was entirely because he had to pitch at Coors Field – after joining the Royals, it was .271. That’s roughly 20 points better than average, in a sample size that’s large enough to suggest it’s real. Combine that with above-average control (2.7 walks per 9 innings for his career, just 2.4 walks per 9 since 2010 not counting his Coors experience), and he’s been able to parlay a below-average strikeout rate into slightly above-average results.

I want to go on a tangent for a second…one of the criticisms I’ve seen of Guthrie is that based on fWAR – the Wins Above Replacement formula used by Fangraphs – he’s not a very good pitcher. He’s averaged barely 2 fWAR over the last six years, and has never been worth more than 2.6 fWAR in his career. Here’s the problem with that:

Jeremy Guthrie, 2008-2012: 9.5 fWAR
Luke Hochevar, 2008-2012: 8.9 fWAR

If you believe in fWAR as the end-all and be-all of player evaluation, then you have to believe that Luke Hochevar has been worth 1.8 fWAR per season – which is to say that he’s been a roughly league-average pitcher. According to Fangraphs, Hochevar has been worth at least $6.7 million in each of the last five years, so the Royals would be crazy not to bring him back for 2013 at less than $5 million.

Needless to say, that’s ridiculous.

The Fangraphs’ version of WAR defers from Baseball-Reference’s version in that Fangraphs seeks to strip out the noise from a pitcher’s performance. Instead of using runs allowed, Fangraphs looks at the component measures of a pitcher’s performance (walks, strikeouts, homers) to estimate his true value. There’s nothing wrong with this – I do this a lot when I mention a pitcher’s xFIP instead of his ERA. For a pitcher without a long track record in the majors, using these component measures usually leads to a better estimate of future performance.

But in the case of a pitcher who has over- or under-performed his components, year after year after year, at some point you throw up your hands and say that he is what he is, and not what he should be. In Hochevar’s case, he has a 4.28 xFIP for his career, but a 5.39 ERA, because he turns into jelly when there are men on base. Three years ago, when Hochevar had a 6.55 ERA despite a good strikeout-to-walk ratio and groundball tendencies, I had hope that his ERA was a fluke and he was primed to improve. Three years later, that hope is gone.

In Guthrie’s case, he has a 4.63 career xFIP but a 4.28 ERA, because he has consistently been above-average in preventing hits on balls in play. In a sample size of over 1200 innings, there’s a good chance that this isn’t a fluke, and there’s something about the way he pitches that leads to a slightly better-than-average BABIP. According to Baseball Reference, which measures value by runs allowed, Guthrie has been worth 12.4 bWAR over the last six years – 30% more than Fangraphs’ method.

But you know what’s funny? Even if you use Fangraphs’ method, and even accounting for Guthrie’s epic fail in Colorado, they estimate his worth over the last three years at $23.8 million. And yet a backloaded $25 million over the next three years, in an inflationary era, has some people grabbing pitchforks.

Another tangent: can we all please stop lumping in Player X with Players A, B, and C to make the argument that Player X is overpaid? Saying that signing Guthrie is stupid because the Royals are now paying $17 million for Guthrie, Jeff Francoeur, and Bruce Chen in 2013 makes as much since as saying that signing Guthrie is brilliant because they’re paying him, Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar $9 million in 2013. Billy Butler and Rany Jazayerli combined to hit .313 this season. It’s a non sequitur. Please stop it.

Let me turn to another impartial assessment of Guthrie’s skills. ESPN’s Keith Law put together his list of the Top 50 Free Agents on this year’s market, and ranked Jeremy Guthrie #26 on his list. Three spots higher, at #23, was Shaun Marcum. I was actually doing a write-up of Marcum before Guthrie was signed, and I struggled with the decision of which pitcher I’d rather have. On the one hand, Marcum is three years younger and has the better career numbers (3.76 ERA). On the other hand, Marcum has an extensive injury history – including missing two months in 2012 with recurrent elbow problems – and his fastball averaged just 86.5 mph this past season.

I ultimately came to the conclusion that Marcum was better, but very marginally so – which corresponds to Law’s assessment, which is that they were the 10th and 11th-best starters on the free agent market. Given that, it will be interesting to see what Marcum gets in free agency. He might not get a three-year deal given his injury history, but I expect him to get more money per season, maybe something along the lines of 2 years and $20 million. If Marcum’s fair value is 2/$20, then Guthrie at $3/25 is only a slight overpay.

At the beginning of the off-season I made the statement that this was the off-season where it actually made sense to strike early on the free agent market, given that I expect we’re going to see significant inflation with all the new TV money sloshing around. I’m going to own that statement. If I’m wrong about salary inflation, then I’m wrong to not condemn this contract. We’ll know the answer to both in the next 4-6 weeks.

I’m not complimenting the Royals on this signing. I have serious reservations about the guaranteed third year; there’s a significant chance that in 2015, Guthrie will contribute virtually nothing for his $9 million. But I’m not condemning it either. The Royals improved their rotation for 2013. They structured the contract in such a way that they might still have room to add one more starter in free agency – like, say, Shaun Marcum – that would obviate the need to trade prospects or established young hitters to improve their rotation. They cut Chris Volstad, making this column completely invalid. (Thankfully.)

I acknowledge that my opinion, while shared by many in the mainstream media, is not shared by analysts. Joe Sheehan texted me Guthrie is “fungible talent without upside, and locking up money for a team that’s cheap.” Dave Cameron was not complimentary of the deal either. Cameron made what I thought was an excellent comparison to Bronson Arroyo, who two winters ago signed a three-year extension with the Reds. Arroyo was the same age then as Guthrie is now, and essentially the same pitcher – very durable, but striking out barely 5 batters per 9 innings, making him barely above league-average overall despite good command.

From 2005 to 2010, Arroyo amassed 17.8 bWAR. From 2007 to 2012, Guthrie amassed 16.1 bWAR – but in the superior league. Very comparable.

Arroyo couldn’t have pitched much worse in the first year of his contract, leading the NL in homers and earned runs allowed. But he bounced back strongly in 2012, throwing 202 innings with a 3.74 ERA, and throwing seven one-hit innings in his sole playoff start.

I don’t know whether Guthrie will perform better or worse than Arroyo has. But I know this: when Arroyo signed, Reds fans weren’t threatening to revolt. And Arroyo got $36 million for three years.

Or take Mark Buehrle, who’s the same age as Guthrie, and like Guthrie survives without striking batters out. Buehrle is obviously superior – he’s left-handed, he’s amazingly durable, and he’s pitched at a slightly higher level than Guthrie. But Buehrle is going make $48 million over the next three years. The Blue Jays gave up talent to land his contract – admittedly, with a lot of other contracts attached – and were lauded for it.

Guthrie isn’t the pitcher Mark Buehrle is. But is he half the pitcher Buehrle is? I think he is. (Buehrle has 25.4 bWAR over the last six years.) If you think that the Blue Jays – who, like the Royals, are aggressively trying to overhaul their rotation to contend in 2013 – made a good move to land Buehrle, I’m not sure why you’d be up in arms over Guthrie’s contract.

I think it’s an overpay because of that third year. But I think it’s a reasonable overpay if it gives the Royals a true chance to contend in 2013. Which is the main reason why I’m not putting my foot down on either side of the scale yet. As it stands, the Royals need to add one more starting pitcher – preferably better than the Santana/Guthrie class – to be taken seriously as a possible contender next season. If the Royals don’t add another pitcher, or if they rip out the heart of their offense to do so, then they’ll open 2013 on the fringe again. If that happens, the main benefit of Guthrie’s contract – the low payroll cost for his service in 2013 – will be wasted, while the main downside of his contract will hamstring the team’s payroll in 2015.

As the Royals’ roster is currently constructed, their payroll for next year is around $70 or 71 million – which means, if you lop off Hochevar, it’s around $66 million. Again, that’s less than their payroll three years ago. There is PLENTY of room to add another starting pitcher, and they don’t have to give up Wil Myers or Eric Hosmer in order to acquire a young, cheap pitcher like Jeremy Hellickson. They can sign Marcum, or gamble on Dan Haren, or trade lesser prospects for a more expensive pitcher like James Shields or Matt Garza.

If they do so, and their Opening Day rotation goes (as an example) Shields, Santana, Guthrie, Chen, and Mendoza, with Jake Odorizzi ready to step in at a moment’s notice, and Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino returning by mid-season, and Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura and John Lamb on the fast track…you can win with that in 2013, if your offense takes a step forward and your bullpen replicates what it did last year.

If their rotation is Santana, Guthrie, Chen, Hochevar, and Mendoza, now you’re going to need a miracle. Or Hochevar suddenly pitching up to his ability, which is even less likely.

So I’m not willing to sign off on this deal yet. The Royals needed three quality pitchers for 2013, and they only have two of them so far. But they landed both of them without surrendering any real talent, and they now have an entire winter to find that one final piece.


wizscape said...

I'm really hoping this isn't all for this offseason, but I'm deathly afraid the next step is Myers for Jurrjens.

Justin Andrew Anderson said...

Well said! - @JAndrewAnderson

Old Man Duggan said...

I think the main issue is that everything coming out of the front office indicates that their payroll is not going to exceed $70MM, which then means that they just committed $20.5MM of that limited budget to two #4 starters. When you start throwing in similarly wasted money on Francoeur and Chen, both of which were dumb signings when the ink was still drying, that's a lot of money spent on middling talent.

Kris Alan Higdon said...

Dayton Moore could trade Frency for Matt Moore and Royals Review would blast it. They are blinded by their hatred for Moore, and anyone that doesn't follow the stat-nerd group-think, that they can't be taken seriously. I still think Rich Harden is the best bet to completed the 2013 rotation. He is an injury risk, but Odorizzi/Duffy/Paulino could fill in the gaps if he has to spend time on the DL. Harden, Santana, Gurthrie, Chen and Mendoza should be decent enough. The Twins have won the division in the past with a rotation no better.

P.S. I'd take Jurrjens as a free agent after he is non-tendered. Like Guthrie and Santan, Jurrjens had a down year last year but has a history of being a pretty good pitcher. I'd take that over Chen or Hochevar.

Old Man Duggan said...

Sorry, $16.5MM in 2013 on Ervin and Guthrie.

Kansas City said...

Guthrie is obviously a good move. I think the Royals could contend with their staff now.

I wonder about the importance of a single great pitcher. I realize it was only half a season, but the Angels were 7 and 6 in Greinke's starts. The Royals were 10 and 4 in Gruthrie's starts, including winning 10 of last 11, with a lesser team than the Angels. Does this mean Guthrie is better than Greinke? Of course not. But it suggests that a star pitcher is not necessarily going to produce big dividends.

Max said...

"We can argue over whether Dayton Moore spent this money wisely, but at least he had money to spend."

If he stopped spending his money foolishly, he would easily have money to spend.

Bruce Chen was not a terrible deal. Jeff Francoeur at the time was not a terrible deal. Ervin Santana is not a terrible deal. Jeremy Guthrie is not a terrible deal. But they are all bad deals for below average players. Add them all, and that's a significant chunk of payroll going to players barely above replacement level.

And we have seen this before - money wasted on Horacio Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth, Yaz Yabuta, Juan Cruz, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brett Tomko. None of these were terrible deals by themselves, but collectively they were a chunk of wasted money for completely fungible talent.

Until Dayton Moore understands the notion of fungible, freely available talent, he's always going to clog the payroll and make it so it we can't afford to overpay for good talent.

Fast Eddie said...

The biggest thing they can do is replace Francoeur with Myers. Not trading Myers for a pitcher. I may be wrong but still think Crow should be tried as a starter.

Anonymous said...

if the royals are able to add a young ace (preferabley pre arb) and say one of zimmer ventura lamb come up and are succesful with odorizzi guthrie and one more maybe surprise candidate (smith, mendoza?) this payroll will be tiny. Chen, frenchy, hochevar all off the books. I'm not entirely worried about money, we are in an excellant spot for next year to sign guys/going to arbitration cases.

Chris said...

Every team has wasted money on the payroll. It's a fact. Take Boston, for example. If Dayton is wasting money, then WTF are the Red Sox doing? Dayton has a tighter window than other GMs do but to only castigate him for wasting money is ridiculous.

Jacob said...

The problem with Chen, Santana, and Guthrie is that the best case scenario is GMDM is paying market rate for mediocre talent. The Royals cannot compete paying market rate for mediocre players. The Royals need to do much better when they're signing fungible talent.

GMDM should wait until January to sign #4 pitchers. With that said, I think Guthrie is a better risk, and a better value than Santana.

I still don't understand paying 12 million for the worst starter in the AL last year. And he has a bum ACL. I really do not understand that move at all.

Chris H said...

Two things: 1) I think you are making a mistake to discount Guthrie's time in Colorado completely. Even with the home/road splits, there should be some weighting to his Coors starts higher than zero. I just disagree fundamentally with excluding data when we have it; 2) On the other hand, I agree that using fWAR for a player who has a long track record of suppressing hits is a mistake, especially when we are using it to compare him and Hochevar. At this point, it's wiser to use rWAR for both Guthrie and Hochevar because their RA are more trustworthy than their peripherals.

That said, everybody should be worried about year 3, and perhaps year 2. So far, he hasn't lost velocity and the K rate has remained steady. Say it doesn't - how steep is the drop off if he loses 1.5 MPH off his fastball in 2014 or 2015. It could be huge considering he isn't going to strike out more and his control isn't likely to improve any, if at all. If the hits pour in, it's really going to hurt.

Chris H said...

About the FO/business side of this - you absolutely have to view the deal with other contracts, not so much to evaluate Guthrie, but to evaluate Dayton Moore. If we are prevented from winning as many games as possible because of this cycle of Dayton Moore, that is relevant to Guthrie. If we are getting bad contracts off the books soon, but we preemptively replace them by backloading deals, we're in a deadly cycle. More than that, deals for players that we are hoping to give us 1.5-2 WAR should probably not be market value. They should probably be below market value. That is, unless the FO is lying about how much money is potentially available while still allowing a profit.

tookee said...

One thing you forgot to mention (and you've raised this issue before) is that in order to get FA's to KC (at least now), the organization will have to overpay. The Royals simply aren't a FA destination like the bigger payroll teams. Since the team seems to lose half its staff to injuries lately, a pitcher who can toss 200 league average plus innings a year is pretty valuable for the Royals right now.

Unknown said...

Rany, "since" should be "sense" .

Cochise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cochise said...

The negativity I am reading on the blogs about the Guthrie deal is outrageous. This is a great deal for the Royals. Rany is closer to the mark with his view, but he's still too negative by reserving judgment. What's not to like? Let's ask what the Royals needed to go get this off-season. Two or three decent starting pitchers (including a #1) to replace Hochevar and the injury / ineffective carousel. Well, we're two-thirds of the way there and haven't departed with a single meaningful prospect (with all due respect to Sisk). Forget the expensive Greinke and overpriced Anibal Sanchez -- if Dayton Moore can polish off the off-season with a healthy-until-Duffy-returns Shaun Marcum, or a Hope-His-Back-Holds-Out-Until-Paulino-Is-Ready Dan Haren, the Royals will be in GREAT shape and in the playoff hunt in the AL Central.

Look at the A's. There was no ace on that team this year (no ERA under 3.00), but going into the playoffs they had five starters who had an ERA under 4.00. Can we get that with one of Marcum/Haren/Lohse/McCaffrey, plus Santana, plus Guthrie, plus a leftie from our 40-man (Chen, Smith or Teaford) plus a righty from our 40-man (Mendoza or Odorizzi)? Maybe, maybe not, but we for sure can get much closer than we have been in a decade. And Santana will be a trade candidate in his walk year if someone from Omaha absolutely demands a rotation spot by July (Zimmer, Ventura, or Lamb could be ready by the trade deadline).

This was a necessary move, and the financial cost is fine. The Royals have $16 million invested in the #2 and #3 spots in the rotation for 2013. They have the ability to find another $6-7 million by releasing Hochevar and Getz before offering arbitration, so it is likely that the Hochevar spot in the rotation can be upgraded by a whole point and a half of ERA for little net increase in cost to the team.

As to the comment that Dayton should have waited until the market settles, at which time he could have gotten Guthrie cheaper, well, says who? It only takes one crazy or desperate team to offer 3/$36M for Guthrie to be unavailable and for the Royals to be forced to trade a key offensive talent to get a #2 or #3-caliber starter. Dayton had goodwill from Guthrie so he struck early -- and the Santana trade probably strengthened his hand in the negotiation by proving that the Royals aim to win in 2013 and establishing that Guthrie won't have to be carrying all the pressure himself. So far we still have the best young lineup in the game, an improving defense and a flamethrowing bullpen, and the offense is bound to get better with improvements from Moose and Hos, full seasons from Cain and Perez, and the promotion of Myers.

If this is the last move of the off-season, then KC will not be the favorite to win the Central, but it will still have a chance. Right now, we are just one free agent move away from contending.

And when was the last time KC fans got to say that?

Unknown said...

Spoke to an MLB scout, a friend of mine, and he says this:

"One of the smartest financial contracts I have seen. Cheap this year because of Santana. Expensive year 2 but ticket sales will be up. (here's where I disagree) Year 3 cheap in case they need to dump him."

Eric said...

I am leery of the third year as well, but there are very few FA pitchers right now that have less risk than Guthrie. I also am thinking that a two year deal to sign Guthrie would have required more per year, maybe $20 million over two years, or at least he would have continued to wait for an offer for three years. It is impossible to tell until the end of the free agency to see if we got him for the right price or not. And considering the risk of waiting to sign versus slightly overpaying now, it seems that there is lots of risk in waiting, with only a small amount of possible reward in my opinion. Why not just get him for about fair value right now rather than try to get him slightly cheaper later.

Drew Milner said...

Rany, the expression is sucks donkey dicks, not balls

Unknown said...

Thanks, Rany. Good article and I have enjoyed your writing all year, well, several years.

Looks like a solid deal to me. A competent major league pitcher. I also think that the young hitters could reasonably be expected to have significant improvement which makes OK starting pitching good enough.

Jayboid said...

Are we in KC due a surprise from the talent heavy minor league system?

Are we not due a 13-6 young home grown starter?

Happens other places why not us?

LastRoyalsFan said...

The holidays are bringing out the intellectual in both Rany and the comments.

I believe this is the first time I've seen the word fungible used four times in a column and subsequent comments.

Then Rany throws in a "non sequitur" to boot.

By the way, Rany, the folks espousing the non sequitur are basing their argument on the principle of Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Old Man Duggan said...

@ Kris Alan Higdon - I love that you are blasting Royals Review for being blinded by hatred while showing that you're blinded by hatred.

As far as the Twins are concerned, in 2010 Liriano was worth 4.0 rWAR and 6.0 fWAR. Pavano was worth 3+ WAR by each measure. In 2009, both Baker and Blackburn were worth 3+ WAR by each calculation. Every other Twins division-winning rotation featured Johan Santana plus the likes of Eric Milton and Brad Radke.

The Royals likelihood of matching even the 87-win 2009 Twins' pitching staff is unlikely. Even if Harden were added, he didn't pitch last year and hasn't thrown more than 150 IP since 2004. Guthrie has exceeded 2 rWAR (the kinder measure to Guthrie) exactly once in the past four seasons. Ervin Santana hasn't been worth more than 3 WAR since 2008.

How exactly is the Royals rotation as good as any of those Twins rotations?

In regards to your P.S., Chen is on the last year of his two-year deal. He's not going anywhere without his salary being eaten by the Royals, and every indication from the FO has been that they can't add any more salary without shedding some first.

Unknown said...

The one thing that all of the Guthrie haters on other sites are overlooking when they comment on his multiple 17 game losing seasons is the fact that in nearly every game started throughout his career he has pitched late into games and been eligible for a W. How many 200 plus innings guys have the Royals had the last 5 years? Guthrie probably would have been a 15+ game winner 3 of the last 6 years with league average run support and defense.

Rich said...

The whole idea of calling Guthrie and Santana 'quality' pitchers just goes to show how far this franchise has fallen and how much fans are pining for mediocrity.

You can do better than that Rany. I'm highly disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Good column Rany.

What I don't understand is DM's comments in regards to the payroll situation.

I could be wrong, but I believe that these comments are made only to give him leverage in negotiations.

What Moore doesn't understand is that any small amount of leverage that comments like these gets him, it totally outweighed by the goodwill lost amongst fans and potential ticket buyers.

If Moore would worry more about selling tickets and improving revenue he would have the money available instead of resorting to lame tricks with the media.

Moore has always looked at his relationship with fans and his relationship with the media as a necessary evil and he has done nothing to work on this aspect of his job.

I think it is almost as important for him to try and sell tickets as it is to put together a major league roster.

Though he has been successful at improving the minor league system, and I believe he has to be given credit for being a very good talent evaluator, he has failed at media relations, fan relations, and in assembling a major league roster.

Dr. Funkenstein said...

Happy Thanksgiving Rany. Keep up the great work, Go Royals!

Christie said...

Yes Bryan, because telling the fans and media he has a ton of money to spend would really make me more likely to buy season tickets!

If GMDM started playing to the whims of fans he would have already cut Alex Gordon and traded Billy Butler. The fastest way to more revenue is through winning. And signing quality pitching is the fastest way to achieving that.

Anonymous said...

He doesn't have to cater to the whims of the fans. I get your point there.

But to go out of his way to say that he can't spend any more money without removing payroll is just not smart.

In my opinion, and I could be wrong, but the only reason he is saying this is to gain leverage in negotiations. But it really doesn't gain him any leverage because the agents are much smarter than me, and they can read through that comment just like I have.

And all it really does is get the fans pissed off at Moore and at Glass because they think that Glass is being a tight wad and that Moore is allowing it and not fighting for a higher payroll.

So in the end, no leverage is gained, and the fans are pissed. It's just a poor choice of words and a lame attempt to manipulate the media in my estimation. One additional part of the job that Moore does not do well. Add it all up and he doesn't do much well except for adding talent to the minor league system.

McGoldencrown said...

Rany, they fucking hate you over on Royals Review.

If you happen to see Scott Mckinney approaching, you might want to cross to the other side of the street.

Kenneth said...

Does anyone remember the starting rotation for 2005 White Sox ? Name me one pitcher besides Mark Buherle ? Can't ? That is because they were all league average guys who pitched 200 innings. They did not go the way of the flamethrower and they were still able to be successful. If your rotation stinks and you sign a guy who lowers your team ERA, who cares if it is league average, IT'S STILL LOWER THAN YOU HAD !!! Me personally, I'd rather have three league average 200 inning pitchers than one Zach Greinke.

GMDM record of success on pitcher FA signings - 1) Gil Meche 2) Bruce Chen 3) Jeff Francis 4) Felipe Paulino. How many does he need before he gets the benefit of the doubt ?

I say better than what we got is a good start. Thank you for another thought provoking article with some insight behind the numbers. Your information helps a casual fan become informed.

Geno Cole Sr. said...

Although I don't know what to really make of it, it was nice seeing 3 royals make the Grantland top 50 players trade value article with another one just missing the cut and another who would of made it if they included players without major league experience.

twm said...

Is anyone else scared that we might be sending Myers to Boston for Jon Lester? Please tell me not worry because either (A) it won't happen, or else (B) Lester will return to his pre-2011 form.

Michael said...

According to MLBTR, they are talking about it. Boston would also send us an outfielder as well, while we'd send them a pitcher. If we dump either Hoch or Chen on them and get a decent right fielder to replace Frenchy it might be worth it.

Anonymous said...

I am very scared of this talk of trading Myers.

Especially when there is only two years of either Lester or Shields. That just doesn't make sense.

At this point, i would be happy if they would just cut Hochevar, and promise to start the season with Gio at second and Myers in right. I know we have to wait until May 1 for Myers.

I would love to watch that lineup. I know they have to have pitching, but Duffy and Paulino are coming back, and Ventura, Odorizzi aren't far, and here's hoping for Montgomery making a huge bounceback.

I don't fault Moore for finding out what the market holds, but please don't give up six years of cost efficient control for two years of expensive pitching.

Clashfan said...

How much money would the Royals have to pay Hochevar if they release him?

Fast Eddie said...

How many wins would be added over the next 6 years by replacing Francoeur with Myers? Probably more than replacing Chen or Hochevar with Lester. Lester or nearly any pitcher is much more of a risk than Wil Myers. If Myers if traded, this is a disaster of the 1st magnitude.

Mark said...

I'm noticing a lot of people getting nervous, now that it's crunch time and we have to talk about the cost of a Lester or Shields. I too would hate to lose Myers, or Butler, or Gordon, et al. So . . . .

What's wrong with Sam Mellinger's idea--at least that's where I saw it first: Aaron Crow for Rick Porcello. (Be sure to read Mellinger's column in tomorrow's Star.) Even though it's intradivisional, it addresses both teams' greatest weaknesses. Porcello isn't James Shields, but then he doesn't cost Wil Myers.

Obviously, Glass should green light signing Sanchez, but apparently that isn't happening.

Like Mellinger, Fangraphs thinks Porcello would be a lot better with a good defense behind him. In the face of Glass's shortsightedness, I could live with a rotation of Santana, Porcello, Guthrie, Mendoza, and Odorizzi (or anyone but Hochevar) until Duffy and Paulino get back. Especially if Myers is in right field for the next six years. (Obvious note--nontendering Hoch and trading Frenchy in a salary dump would almost cover Sanchez's first year's salary.)

Loserville said...

I fear this will turn out bad largely based upon Rotals trade/pitching acquisition history...

Douglas said...

Shields has been #1 starter for last two seasons.

After he tweaked his delivery, he added a few mph on his fastball putting him on nice little run in second half. His fastball, K/9, GB%, xFIP, FIP and everything else is career high comparing to his 2011 where he ended up 3rd in Cy young vote.

In his last two seasons, he averaged 3.24 xFIP and it will play well in Kauffman stadium plus he doesn't need to face hitters' heaven AL East teams in weekly basis.

2011 Shields:
FIP: 3.42
xFIP: 3.25
SIERA: 3.29
K/9: 8.12
BB/9: 2.35
GB%: 46.2
velocity: 91.0mph

2012 Shields:
FIP: 3.47
xFIP: 3.24
SIERA: 3.19
K/9: 8.82
BB/9: 2.29
GB%: 52.3
velocity: 92.3mph

Plus, this is his 2nd half number.
14G 104IP 109K 21BB 2.42ERA
OPS:.170 .226 .283

In the other writing, you've mentioned "Myers has enormous trade value, and is the one guy in the farm system that the Royals could essentially trade straight-up for an established starting pitcher who still has two or three years left on his contract. "
No Kershaw, Verlander type will come straight up with Myers. I can't think of better pitchers than Shields who would come straight up 1 on 1 trade. If Rays adds extra piece to balance the deal(outfielder Guyer or SP Niemann), I think it can easily be WIN-WIN for both side.

Douglas said...

Plus, Rays defense was horrible this year. Check out their fielding stats. Their UZR was about 10th among baseball but other notable stats suggesting their D was below average last season. How can a team with Brooks Conrad and Keppinger manning up 2B-3B while career 2B guy manning shortstop have an "elite" defense? Shields was a heavy groundballer this season and his stat took a huge hit due to weak infield defense this season.