12 January 2010

Fare Well, Two Arms

Here's a list of cumulative pitcher values, published by Fangraphs, that may be of interest to Diamondback fans. The dollar values are a function of WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which you can learn a great deal about here.

The sort ranks baseball's 35 most valuable starters since and including the 2002 season. Value, as one might expect, is largely the product of the quantity and quality of a pitcher's innings, and even without a detailed understanding of WAR, one can assume that a list headlined by Halladay, Sabathia and Santana is probably on the right track.

The first thing I'd like to call attention to gloomy Arizona fans is that six of the 35 top pitchers have thrown for the Dbacks. Webb, Johnson, Schilling, Haren, Garland and Doug Davis. Including injury, they represent seventeen full year equivalents of some damn fine pitching. If my count is correct, only the Red Sox and Yankees share six starters on this list, and Atlanta has five. It's a testament to Jerry Colangelo's competitive zeal and spending (Johnson & Schilling), his farm system (Webb and, ultimately via trade, Haren)and Josh Byrnes' emphasis (Haren, RJ, Davis) and acumen (Garland) in acquiring quality workhorses on a tight budget.

Let's look at some individuals. You'll notice that four of the top five MLB starters each threw around 1700 innings. Santana relieved in 2002 and 2003 and consequently accumulated "only" 1500. They're all fabulous, durable pitchers - exuding heroic, manly character. Brandon Webb, valued sixth in dollars (10th by WAR), is way down at 1318.2 IP. That reflects 200+ innings missed in 2009, as well as the fact he didnt start his career until 2003. In other words, he's valued as the 6th-10th best pitcher here, on the basis of six healthy seasons, while the 1700 inning guys "enjoyed" or "earned" close to eight, and Santana six and a half or seven.

Skip down to #13, Dan Haren. He's actually 22nd, when sorted by WAR, but like Brandon leapfrogs some guys in money value due to inflation and his relatively later success. Nevertheless, he's earned these rather lofty rankings on the basis of 1206 IP, or the quivalent of just five and a half full seasons. In short, his established seasonal values exceed those of stalwarts like Derek Lowe and John Lackey, and even franchise stars higher up the list, like Roy Oswalt and Javier Vazquez. If Haren continues his current quantity and quality of innings, he could pass everyone on this list, save for Halladay. Not bad for someone initially projected as a team's #2 starter.

You know about Johnson and Schilling. Garland was worth 6.1M to the Dbacks, after his "hitting" is subtracted out. The Dbacks paid him $6.25M and acquired rights to Tony Abreu, so that's a win on our balance sheet, and possibly on the field as well. Doug Davis cost Josh Byrnes roughly $23M for three years valued at about $16M. Not really a win, but Doug was a key cog in 2007 and from an accounting perspective one could certainly do worse.

All said, it's an impressive list, for any franchise. Edwin Jackson joins Webb and Haren in April and looks to be another in a long line of durable, valuable rotational pickups. Much has been speculated about Webb's physical status, and understandably so. We suspect Arizona's two arms will fare well, and aim to address any angst regarding Webb shortly.


Caroline said...

Man, I am so looking forward to Webb and his deep-inningness this year...and no one has innings limits at all or seems rather poised to walk the entire league.

Diamondhacks said...

I hear you, but Ian Kennedy might lead the league in walks :-(

And I think you coined a noun.