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Buy Low, Sell High: Why Moscoso Shouldn’t Be in Oakland in 2012

October 23, 2011

Any even semi-regular reader of this blog knows that I had no love for Guillermo Moscoso this year. Actually, that isn’t entirely accurate, I liked his fire and swagger on a somewhat colorless team and certainly I liked the results at times – so in essence I really had no love for the real Moscoso a subpar pitcher destined for failure. The Moscoso we had in Oakland this year was none of those things, superficially he put up some nice numbers: an 8-10 record (that if one buys into W-L records could be attributed to the A’s offense being anemic at best), 3.38 ERA, a stellar .212 OBA. What’s not to love right?

Moscoso managed to play this game all season as his peripherals hardly matched the outcome, contrary of those sparkling numbers, Mosocso possessed an unimpressive 5.2 K/9, a somewhat high 1.0 HR/9 (especially given he played in the Coliseum), a pretty low 67.8% strand rate, a shockingly low 26.8% groundball %, a wholly unsustainable .221 BABIP (that .212 OBA is now explained) and a surprisingly low 6.2% HR/FB. This all explained why his ERA could be so low at 3.38, yet his FIP was nearly a run higher at 4.23 and his xFIP nearly a run higher than that at 5.02. SIERA was not impressed at all as it was higher than any other gauge at 5.07. The fact was that Moscoso basically lucked out all year long. There is  no explanation for someone keeping so many contradictory stats like this in order all year long. If that BABIP goes up, you know that those runs will go up accordingly. If that HR/FB rate normalizes, more balls fly out of the park conceivably with more runners on base now care of bloop singles that didn’t bloop in 2011 and that run rate goes up very quickly. Without him inducing ground ball double plays or striking out very many guys that’s a whole lot more baserunners and that 67.8% strand rate starts to look pretty even. If you look at his peripheral numbers you have another pitcher with very similar ones, Fausto Carmona of the Cleveland Indians. Without Moscoso’s luck the results are very different:

  K/9 BB/9 HR/9 LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP
Moscoso 5.2 2.7 0.6 66.3 26.8 6.2 3.38 4.23 5.02
Carmona 5.2 2.9 1.1 62.1 54.8 13.0 5.25 4.56 4.17

Carmona is a huge beneficiary of a high GB%, yet his middling peripherals sink him along with a lack of luck on fly balls. To see Moscoso turn into Carmona is not a leap especially since he won’t have the benefit of all those potentials GIDPs derived from being a groundball pitcher. It is important to note that xFIP views Carmona as the better of the two!

It is for that reason that the time to send Guillermo Moscoso packing is now. There are those who believe these crazy numbers aren’t mere luck but the Oakland Athletics franchise and Billy Beane and his staff in particular need to realize that they are. To sweeten the pot on the unsuspecting buyer, Moscoso can be had for the league minimum and is under team control for several years. If you are skeptical regarding my regression projection for Moscoso, to further belabor the point, we have some evidence from his own career in the minor leagues. In 2010 with Oklahoma City – the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate – Moscoso had a high K/9 rate (7.8), a higher BB/9 rate (3.6) and a higher HR/9 rate (1.2). Let’s say that the K/9 and BB/9 cancel each other out to a degree, it is fair to say that higher HR/9 rate is due to a more normalized HR/FB rate (though such stats don’t exist – or at least I can’t readily find them – for AAA). That coupled with a much higher BABIP (.324) and a surprisingly similar strand rate (66.0%) – despite an increase in strikeouts, though maybe the GB% (also unavailable) was still pathetic – already conspire to ruin Moscoso’s ERA which now inflates to a gaudy 5.18. The FIP is still a mid-four at 4.55, hardly the type of pitcher you want as part of your five-man rotation.

The A’s were no longer enthused about Vin Mazzaro and packaged him to Kansas City to acquire David DeJesus. I can see Moscoso as having a similar level of interest from another club. Remember it was not even a year ago that when with the Rangers, the signing of Adrian Beltre booted Moscoso off the Rangers’ 40-man roster which prefaced the eventual trade to Oakland a few days later. The A’s have an opportunity to truly maximize this deal by taking the one-year of solid (albeit superficially solid – but ultimately that is what counts) pitching and then turning that around into a player who can exceed Moscoso’s ability going forward – which ought not be too difficult – though he a comp with Carmona is inappropriate regarding trade value.

The A’s need to capitalize on the acquisition of Moscoso and arbitrage their way to an even better player. It shouldn’t be difficult – it needs to happen.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2011 10:22 pm

    Arbitrage only works if there’s another party who incorrectly values the asset. That’s not so easy to find anymore in this post-Moneyball era.

    • October 23, 2011 11:18 pm

      That’s the whole point. I think there are people who incorrectly value Moscoso. Look at all the press he has gotten as a surprise and possible piece in next year’s rotation etc. While I get that the media works differently than do front offices, I still think there is an element in baseball that sees him as more valuable than he is.

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