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Two Pitchers: A Comparison

December 17, 2013

Here are two pitchers and their performance the past two years:

G IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 LOB% GB%
RP A 145 139.0 6.28 2.14 0.52 77.5% 60.2%
RP B 140 137.1 9.44 3.60 0.72 80.3% 36.8%
ERA FIP xFIP WAR SD MD SD/MD Salary ’14
RP A 2.72 3.35 3.50 2.2 86 15 5.73 $10.8M
RP B 2.56 3.24 3.64 2.1 70 13 5.38 $7.5M

There isn’t a lot of daylight between them in most categories. Relief pitcher A, has more games and slightly more innings pitched. Pitcher B, has more strikeouts by a wide margin, though he has more control issues and problems with the home run. One pitcher is an extreme groundball guy, the other extreme flyball. Results though are what ultimately matter and both pitchers have sub-3.00 ERAs. Their FIPs think both are worse than that but are in the same neighborhood with one another. When it comes to the task of being a reliever and shutting down opponents both pitchers do an incredible job. How much they are being paid to do that job is the real big difference here.

The $3.3M difference between the two (RP B’s is a projected arbitration figure) is the big stark difference. $3.3M gets you on today’s free agent market a little north of half a win, far less than the one-tenth of a win separation between these two.

Why did the A’s not re-sign relief pitcher B (Grant Balfour)? Why did they opt to spend $3.3M more (an amount that could have been spent in the bullpen to acquire Joba Chamberlain ($2.5M) or LaTroy Hawkins ($2.5M)) for relief pitcher A (Jim Johnson)? Balfour who has proven success in Oakland, is a fan favorite, a guy who generates revenue while also thankfully doing his job? A guy who said,

“It’s been great, the fans here have been great to me. We’ll see what happens. You always want to come back where you enjoy playing, but it’s not up to me. I’ve had three solid years here, and I feel I’ve given them everything I have right up to the last pitch.”

And a guy with teammates who say things like this,

“He’s been phenomenal. One of the best closers in the game. It’s been fun watching him. It would be different seeing him do his deal for the other side if he leaves, but he’s got to do whatever is best for him and his family.” (Brett Anderson)

and,

“Balf is the leader of the bullpen.” (Stephen Vogt)

Why do you let that guy walk, for the pleasure of paying someone else more? I just don’t understand. In the myriad of trades the only one that made no sense was acquiring Johnson. With Balfour signing a two-year $15M deal with the Orioles today it makes even less sense. I think Johnson will be fine, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – especially with a team whose fans are exasperated with seeing their heroes leave town.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2013 10:42 pm

    Agreed…. and I would STILL take Balfour even if they had equal salaries.

  2. Kasper permalink
    December 18, 2013 12:57 am

    I LOVED Grant Balfour, He was a great closer for us. He’s a great pitcher, But I’m glad we let him walk. Like MLBrumors.com mentioned “Balfour has a 1.58 ERA in 113 2/3 innings there(O.co), compared to a more pedestrian 3.78 ERA in 85 2/3 innings on the road”

    Plus he’s gonna turn 36, He’s getting up there. His fastball will only slow down. I don’t think Billy Beane wanted a Brian Fuentes type of situation again.

    • December 18, 2013 6:09 pm

      I get where you are coming from but, two years to me is worth it. Rivera did fine, Nathan has done fine, I am not too concerned about Balfour’s vitality. That split also doesn’t really mean much to me if in fact half the games are being played in Oakland. If I am another team like the Orioles (where I can recall several meltdowns happening if memory serves me correctly) then I am worried about it. Balfour is a fly ball pitcher so he is going to benefit much more strongly from the Coliseum, it plays down his weakness.

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