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View Full Version : BP's Joe Sheehan on the unpredictability of pitchers


jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 01:59 PM
We take a lot of grief for "There's No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect," but the whole concept stems from the idea that there's no such thing as a reliable pitcher. Sure, the top 5% of the species shows some consistency from season to season, but even in that group, you get some variation. How many fantasy teams did Randy Johnson take down last season? How many of you grind your teeth over the performances of Roy Halladay and Mark Prior this year?.

I have all the respect in the world for Nate Silver and his PECOTA system, which I think is a significant step forward in player projection. I just think that it--and every other projection system--is largely wasting its time in trying to sort out what pitchers will do from year to year. Whether it's the physical toll, the mental strain or just the way the world spins, the vast majority of pitchers are completely unpredictable. They get good, and they get bad, and they get to all points in between, and they do so randomly.

This is why, when it comes to building a team, I don't see any need to spend money on the middle of the pitching bell curve. If you can invest in the top tier, then you should do so. Get Johnson or Greg Maddux or Roger Clemens. Money spent on the Sidney Ponson class is money thrown away, because the chances of getting three straight good years from a guy like that is tiny.

So you build a staff around the very best, then fill in around it with low-risk gambles and guys you develop. Be aggressive in the free-talent market, and never overspend because a guy put together 70 or 150 good innings the year before. If you minimize your investment in any one guy, you limit your exposure on the downside and make it easier to create an opening for your version of Jaret Wright.

I guess the disagreement I've had with many on the board is where Garcia fits into that bell curve but yeah this is pretty much the way I feel about building a pitching staff and why I strongly disagree with paying Garcia and Contreras an average of 15 million per season.

Flight #24
08-13-2004, 04:47 PM
I guess the disagreement I've had with many on the board is where Garcia fits into that bell curve but yeah this is pretty much the way I feel about building a pitching staff and why I strongly disagree with paying Garcia and Contreras an average of 15 million per season.
Hey - imagine that? BP has a theory that hasn't been used by any WS champ in recent memory, but it projects properly!!!

fquaye149
08-13-2004, 05:38 PM
I guess the disagreement I've had with many on the board is where Garcia fits into that bell curve but yeah this is pretty much the way I feel about building a pitching staff and why I strongly disagree with paying Garcia and Contreras an average of 15 million per season.

yeah that sucks that two of the pitchers who have performed best on our squad this year are making on avg. 7.5 million a year while pitchers all around the league who have been a lot less consistent make far less money.

after all pitching isn't what makes championship, it's pipsqueak hitters who walk. . .

i mean, the a's are successful because they have kotsay and scutaro, not because they have the best rotation in baseball. . ,

if we could pay 5 freddy garcias 9 million dollars each and have only 15 million to spend on position players i would be for that in a heartbeat.

if you woudln't, i think you're crazy

RKMeibalane
08-13-2004, 06:01 PM
I guess the disagreement I've had with many on the board is where Garcia fits into that bell curve but yeah this is pretty much the way I feel about building a pitching staff and why I strongly disagree with paying Garcia and Contreras an average of 15 million per season.
What is so wrong about paying the two of them fifteen million dollars? As long as they're productive- and there's no reason to believe that they won't be- I don't see the problem with paying two starters that much money. It's not as though only one of them is being payed $15 million.

If you're looking for better ways that the Sox can spend their money, jeremy, there are plenty of other areas where changes can be made. Right now, the pitching staff is one of the Sox strengths. There's no reason to change anything just because two pitchers are taking up a certain percentage of the team's payroll.

jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 07:10 PM
Hey - imagine that? BP has a theory that hasn't been used by any WS champ in recent memory, but it projects properly!!!

Huh?

Imagine that unsupported claims being used to take down claims made by BP. Who were the middle of the road pitchers that the Angels and Marlins paid a bunch of money again?

jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 07:14 PM
yeah that sucks that two of the pitchers who have performed best on our squad this year are making on avg. 7.5 million a year while pitchers all around the league who have been a lot less consistent make far less money.

after all pitching isn't what makes championship, it's pipsqueak hitters who walk. . .

i mean, the a's are successful because they have kotsay and scutaro, not because they have the best rotation in baseball. . ,

if we could pay 5 freddy garcias 9 million dollars each and have only 15 million to spend on position players i would be for that in a heartbeat.

if you woudln't, i think you're crazy

Huh? Contreras has performed better than Buehrle and Garland? Or even Schoeneweis for that matter? I'm sorry but when you start off your post with irrational, clearly false claims and then use loaded terms like "pipsqueaks", you're not trying to make an argument you're trying to vent your emotions.

jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 07:17 PM
What is so wrong about paying the two of them fifteen million dollars? As long as they're productive- and there's no reason to believe that they won't be- I don't see the problem with paying two starters that much money. It's not as though only one of them is being payed $15 million.

If you're looking for better ways that the Sox can spend their money, jeremy, there are plenty of other areas where changes can be made. Right now, the pitching staff is one of the Sox strengths. There's no reason to change anything just because two pitchers are taking up a certain percentage of the team's payroll.

Well no, not if you think they deserve it. Obviously if you pay anyone money that could be better spent on different players, you're hurting yourself. If we've already reached the point where people are considering it a given that Contreras is and will continue to be a productive pitcher because he had one decent game and one good game against teams that aren't all that good offensively, there are problems.

fquaye149
08-13-2004, 08:28 PM
Huh? Contreras has performed better than Buehrle and Garland? Or even Schoeneweis for that matter? I'm sorry but when you start off your post with irrational, clearly false claims and then use loaded terms like "pipsqueaks", you're not trying to make an argument you're trying to vent your emotions.
in his last three starts, has contreras not pitched as well as buehrle and garland?

especially when it comes to victories?

and when it comes right down to it is there any better term than pipsqueak to describe marco scutaro?

jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 08:59 PM
in his last three starts, has contreras not pitched as well as buehrle and garland?

especially when it comes to victories?

Haha. Well if you're going to advocate 1) juding pitchers based on three start increments over larger more meaningful sample sizes and 2) evaluating pitchers based on wins then there's an ideological divide the size of the Grand Canyon here and we're not going to be able to have a productive discussion.

Lip Man 1
08-13-2004, 09:13 PM
BP says: "So you build a staff around the very best..." Except for the fact that the 'very best' won't come to Chicago, the 'very best' costs far to much for our 'poor' ownership and the 'very best' aren't available in trade.....outside of that this is a great theory!!!!! :rolleyes:

Lip

Flight #24
08-13-2004, 09:25 PM
Huh?

Imagine that unsupported claims being used to take down claims made by BP. Who were the middle of the road pitchers that the Angels and Marlins paid a bunch of money again?
Are you considering Josh Beckett a middle of the road pitcher? There's a difference between a guy who hasn't hit FA yet and a middle of the road pitcher. I would not argue that it's better to have a guy like that cheaper, but I will (and have) argued that it's very hard to find those type of guys unless you either draft them or pay them the going rate in FA.

CWSGuy406
08-13-2004, 09:52 PM
Wait - isn't this the same guy who said 'Just lay off Jose Contreras' splitter, and you should be able to beat him easily.'

Hmm - I guess all of the hitters from the Royals, Indians, and RedSox suck - as they were, in three starts, only able to muster seven earned runs off of him...

CWSGuy406
08-13-2004, 09:56 PM
Well no, not if you think they deserve it. Obviously if you pay anyone money that could be better spent on different players, you're hurting yourself. If we've already reached the point where people are considering it a given that Contreras is and will continue to be a productive pitcher because he had one decent game and one good game against teams that aren't all that good offensively, there are problems.
Yeah, Cleveland is terrible offensively... :rolleyes:

Your post lost all credibility right there, when you call Cleveland 'not that good offensively'.

jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 10:42 PM
BP says: "So you build a staff around the very best..." Except for the fact that the 'very best' won't come to Chicago, the 'very best' costs far to much for our 'poor' ownership and the 'very best' aren't available in trade.....outside of that this is a great theory!!!!! :rolleyes:

I don't think that's realistic, Lip. We got Albert Belle to come to Chicago when he was the biggest player on the market. We supposedly seriously pursued ARod. We have what is apparently going to be a 70 million dollar payroll at a minimum next season and no one in the game is being paid more by one club than Manny's 20 million this season so we certainly do have the money. Furthermore, I'd be shocked if anyone tops 15 million in this offseason. We may not be as desirable a location as New York, the Cubs, or L.A. for players but the belief that players won't come if we offer them what other teams are willing to offer is ludicrous. We're not in the same situation as the Bulls where free agents had no desire to come after Jordan spread the word about JR and without a salary cap we can afford to pay players more than at least a third of the teams. We're a more desirable destination than Detroit, Cleveland, KC, Minnesota, Baltimore, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Cincinatti, Pittsburg, Milwaukee, and Colorado at an absolute minimum. With the 15 million allotted for Garcia and Contreras we could sign any player in free agency this offseason.

jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 10:45 PM
Are you considering Josh Beckett a middle of the road pitcher? There's a difference between a guy who hasn't hit FA yet and a middle of the road pitcher. I would not argue that it's better to have a guy like that cheaper, but I will (and have) argued that it's very hard to find those type of guys unless you either draft them or pay them the going rate in FA.

Well I'd certainly say the word "invest" and the phrase "spend money on" implies free agency since guys like Beckett are forced to accept whatever their club chooses to pay them for the first three years of their career before they hit free agency and are then subject to the whims of an arbitrator for the next three.

As far as obtaining good young pitchers, other teams certainly have managed to do just that, no?

jeremyb1
08-13-2004, 10:46 PM
Yeah, Cleveland is terrible offensively... :rolleyes:

Your post lost all credibility right there, when you call Cleveland 'not that good offensively'.

Ok. I forgot we played Cleveland. My mistake. I still never used the word terrible and it's still incredibly few games.

CWSGuy406
08-14-2004, 12:33 AM
Ok. I forgot we played Cleveland. My mistake. I still never used the word terrible and it's still incredibly few games.
Alright - that's reasonable. I was just sayin - Cleveland is far from terrible on offense.

But - I still don't find this guy very credible. Wasn't he the one who said the key to success was to lay off of Contreras' splitter? While I find the premise true, it's a pretty stupid thing to say. That's like saying, 'Lay off Kerry Wood's slider, and you'll be successful.' It's a little more difficult then just 'laying off' of a pitch. Hell, I bet he'd be a very successful major leaguer if he could lay off certain pitches... Unfortunately, it isn't that easy.

jeremyb1
08-14-2004, 01:17 AM
Alright - that's reasonable. I was just sayin - Cleveland is far from terrible on offense.

But - I still don't find this guy very credible. Wasn't he the one who said the key to success was to lay off of Contreras' splitter? While I find the premise true, it's a pretty stupid thing to say. That's like saying, 'Lay off Kerry Wood's slider, and you'll be successful.' It's a little more difficult then just 'laying off' of a pitch. Hell, I bet he'd be a very successful major leaguer if he could lay off certain pitches... Unfortunately, it isn't that easy.

Well first of all, I don't think credibility matters if someone makes a strong argument and supports it. Credibility is an issue as far as judging the veracity of fact based claims. If I walked up to you and said only, "Did you know it's true that John Kerry once cheated on his wife?" without offering any means of substantiating my claim then credibility would come into play. You'd have to ask yourself if you think I'm a reliable, honest person that can be counted on to tell you the truth and obtain the truth.

Sheehan's article (and virtually all of his articles for that matter) are more opinionated articles that rely on what tend to be uncontestable facts for support. The only issues that would come into play as far as credibility goes is if you doubted Sheehan's fact based claims in the article which only cite the statistics of several pitchers and the amount of money paid to several pitchers (figures which aren't included in the segment of the article I quoted). Therefore I don't feel like credibility is an issue here. Sheehan lays out his argument and his conclusion. Any disagreement should lie in the premises he works to establish that pitchers tend to be more unreliable and unpredictable in nature than position players (with the huge rebound/breakout performances of Wright, Burnett, El Duque, Estes, and Maroth as examples) and that elite pitchers are as susceptible to this unreliability or the conclusion that hence investing huge chunks of money into the guys that fall into the middle of the Bell Curve (such as Ponson) is a poor strategy.

Aidan
08-14-2004, 04:59 AM
Actually, Cleveland's offense is currently the best in all of baseball. They are statistically better than Boston AND New York...

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/aggregate?statType=batting&group=9

Granted it was only one start, but Contreras completely shut the Indians down. In 8 innings, he allowed only 5 hits and had 9 strikeouts. He only gave up 1 earned run and that was more due to a bad defensive play by Timo Perez.

Would you rather pay $15 million for Garcia and Contreras or have Rauch and Diaz as your other two starters? That isn't a hard question to answer in my book. Besides, the Contreras move was excellent for a few reasons. We got him for a one-year-wonder in Loaiza. Loaiza was going to be a free agent after this season and was hinting that he wanted similar money to Garcia's contract ($9 million a season). There's no way in hell that JR would have given him that and he doesn't deserve it anyways. So basically, we would have gotten nothing for Loaiza. Instead, we got Contreras with the Yankees flipping alot of his bill. We will only have to pay Contreras $12 million for 2 years and so far, he looks like he's worth every bit of it. Contreras has already shown glimpses that he can be a good pitcher. Last season with the Yankees, Contreras was 7-2 with a 3.30 ERA. On the other hand, Loaiza is living on last year's hype alone right now and I bet even he knows it.

fquaye149
08-14-2004, 07:19 AM
Haha. Well if you're going to advocate 1) juding pitchers based on three start increments over larger more meaningful sample sizes and 2) evaluating pitchers based on wins then there's an ideological divide the size of the Grand Canyon here and we're not going to be able to have a productive discussion.
well i usually don't care about victories. . .but in a divisional race there's something to be said for getting the job done. . .which isn't measurable in ERA

meanwhile, are you going to advocate completely ignoring the fact that Contreras has phenomenal STUFF? and that playing in New York is a tough situation for young pitchers, a la jeff weaver?

but i mean, of course you would ignore that . . .you can't find that in a box score or on the back of a baseball card.

Flight #24
08-14-2004, 02:47 PM
As far as obtaining good young pitchers, other teams certainly have managed to do just that, no?
If you're arguing that it's better to develop stud pitching than sign it in FA, I'd agree with you. But if you're a relatively veteran young team without stud pitching, you don't have that option unless you're willing to throw away any chance with your current group. The Sox position is that in a couple of years they're likely to be turning over a bunch of core offensive players, so it's better to sign a guy in FA now and take a shot when you can than wait it out until you develop the young studs.

You want to argue that the Sox are worse off because they haven't developed young pitching and that they'd be better off if they had - no argument here. But I'm dealing in practicalities and curent reality, not woulda-shoulda.