The Pirates $1.2 Million Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence was paid $16 million by the San Francisco Giants this season. Here are his numbers:

Batting Average: .277

On-Base Percentage: .332

Slugging Percentage:  .445

OPS: .777

Plate Appearances per Home Run:  35.4

BB Rate:  7.3%

K Rate:  18.4%

BABIP: .318

weighted Runs Created Plus: 123

Here are the numbers of a player the Pirates paid $14.8 million less than the Giants paid Hunter Pence:

Batting Average: .264

On-Base Percentage: .338

Slugging Percentage:  .438

OPS: .776

Plate Appearances per Home Run: 27.6

BB Rate: 9.5%

K Rate: 18.7%

BABIP: .298

weighted Runs Created Plus: 121

And who is this $1.2 Million Hunter Pence?

The Lunch Box Hero. Travis James Snider.


Who is Edinson Volquez; and How Much is that Pitcher Worth?

A starting pitcher who throws 192.2 innings with a 3.04 ERA produces about 4.1 Wins Above Replacement.

And a starting pitcher who throws 192.2 innings with a 4.15 FIP produces about 1.2 Wins Above Replacement.

But what is a general manager to do when both of those pitchers are the same player; and that player is a free agent?

That is the question facing Neal Huntington regarding Edinson Volquez, who posted a spledid 3.04 ERA in 2014, but a pedestrian 4.15 FIP. If one believes that he will continue pitching at the level of a 3.04 ERA, then he is worth about $21 million per year on the free agent market. If one believes that he is a 4.15 ERA starter, then he is worth about $6 million.

What can we expect from Edinson Volquez in the future? Well, let’s take a look at his past.

Over the last four seasons, Volquez’s ERA has bounced all over the place from 5.71 in 2011, to 4.14 in 2012, back to 5.71, and then all way down to 3.04 this past season. Pretty unpredictable, right?


Take a look at Volquez xFIPs over the same period: 4.08, 4.20, 4.07, 4.20.

Edinson Volquez looks a whole lot like a pitcher who will have a 4.15 ERA next year, making him worth just a little more than the $5 million the Pirates gave him in 2014. Unfortunately for Neal Huntington, Volquez, based on his 3.04 ERA, is going to be offered quite a bit more than $5 million – based upon his illusory 3.04 ERA.

Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Volquez will sign a 2 year, $18 million contract.

I’m thinking it would be unwise to give $9 million per year to a starter who has had xFIPs over 4.00 in each of the last four seasons and needed a .263 BABIP (league average was .295) and a 77.1% Left-on-Base percentage (league average was 73.0%) to achieve his 3.04 ERA.

Volquez’s career BABIP is .298 and his career LOB% is 71.7%.

Mr. Huntington: Let somebody else pay for Edinson’s regression.

Football Sabermetrics: Ben’s “WAR”

Somebody jokingly asked me today, “What’s Ben’s WAR?” (that’s Roethlisberger). I knew that there are saber-type stats for football, but I haven’t looked into them much.

My interest in football has declined abundantly over the last ten years and is now at an all-time low. But, in another lifetime (1980), I did have a football scholarship to Georgia Tech. So, I know at least a little bit about the game – though it is almost unrecognizable as the game I played 35 years ago – and that, combined with the sarcasm of the “Ben’s WAR” question moved to do a little research. I very little.

I didn’t find any “Wins Above Replacement” stats for football, but a search of NFL quarterbacks did lead to a surprise. Well, it was a surprise to me, since I don’t follow the game much.

Ben Roethlisberger is sixth among NFL quarterbacks in “Win Probability Added,” with a WPA of 1.23. Given the Steelers loss to formerly winless Tampa Bay, their 10 offensive points against winless Jacksonville, and the local complaints about their play, I had expected Roethlisberger to be in the bottom half of NFL quarterbacks. Maybe he is. As I said, I don’t follow football much and I don’t know much about the football saber-stuff. But I did find Ben’s stats interesting. He also ranks 12th among NFL quarterbacks in “Expected Points Added,” with a score of 31.1.

Take it for what you might think it’s worth.

Martin, Liriano POLL

Russell Martin’s Free Agency: The WAR-Based Approach

Three catchers, who are comparable to Russell Martin, have signed free agent contracts in the past two off-seasons: Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, and Brain McCann.

Martin is now 31 years-old.

Molina was 30 when he signed a 5-year, $75 million contract which paid him at a rate of about $3.22 million per WAR per year. (WAR weighted for each of the three previous seasons).

Montero was 29 when he signed a 5-year, $60 million contract, which pays him at about $3.35 million per WAR.

McCann was also 29 when he signed a 5-year, $85 million contract. That deal pays him at about $6.44 million per WAR.

At the Molina rate, Martin would get $13.1 million per year.

At the Montero rate, Martin would make $13.7 million per year.

The McCann rate puts Martin at a ridiculous $26.2 million per year.

The average of the rates is $17.67 million.

The Pirates should extend the $15 million Qualifying Offer to Martin, alongside an offer of 3 years and $40 million. That would pay Martin at the same WAR-rate as Molina and Martin would be the same age (34) at the end of his contract as Molina will be at the end of his contract.

When the Dodgers, Rangers, White Sox, and/or Tigers offer Martin 4 years and $68 million, the Pirates should gladly thank them for their 2015 first-round draft pick.

How the Pirates Hitters Can Beat Madison Bumgarner

The Pittsburgh Pirates are not a good team for Giants starter Madison Bumgarner to be facing in the National League Wild Card Game.

Bumgarner has a trait in his game (not a flaw) that the Pirates seem well-positioned to exploit – and they may have already done so once this year.

“Wait a minute,” you’re saying. “Sounds like a little wishful thinking from a Pirate fan. Bumgarner has been terrific.”

Yes he has.

“You’re not going to pull that xFIP/ERA trick with Bumgarner,” you say. “This guy’s 2.99 ERA is perfectly backed up by his 2.98 xFIP.”

Yes. It is.

“So what are the Pirates going to ‘exploit’ about a pitcher with 9.08 K/9IP, 1.78 BB/9, and 0.87 HR/9 ?!,” you rightly demand.

Have you considered how Bumgarner has gone about getting all those strikeouts?

His fastball has averaged 92.1mph. He’s far from a soft-tossing lefty, but he is also not a pitcher with dominant velocity. And, yet, he is striking out more than a batter per inning.

“Hmm.” you might say.

Here’s the key: A good portion of Bumgarner’s success has come from his ability to get swings and misses on pitches that he throws outside of the strike zone.

The major league average for “swings at pitches outside of the strike zone” is 31.3%. Bumgarner gets swings on 36.2% of the pitches that he throws outside of the zone. That gives him a big advantage over the league average pitcher. And batters only make contact on Bumgarner’s “non-zone” offerings 63.3% of the time. The major league average is 65.8%.

But the Pirates are fairly well-disposed toward exploiting a pitcher who relies on getting swings and misses on bad pitches. They have some very disciplined hitters – and most of the ones who are not very disciplined still make a lot of contact on pitches at which they should not swing.

Russell Martin swings at only 24.1% of pitches outside the zone, 6.6 points below the league average of 31.3%. His contact rate on those pitches is 63.7%

Andrew McCuthen’s swing rate on bad pitches is 27.7%. His contact rate is 68.5%

Travis Snider has swung at only 26.7% of pitches outside of the zone, with a contact rate of 65.9% – just about the league average of 65.8%.

I would have those three hitters at the top of the batting order. But I don’t expect the Pirates to make that drastic of a change for a one-game playoff.

Of tonight’s likely Pirate starters, Josh Harrison has the worst rate of swinging at pitches outside of the zone; 39.2%. That’s 7.9 points above league average. But his contact rate on those pitches is a very good 71.7%. He could give Bumgarner fits. The Giants hurler could make exactly the pitch he wants to make to Harrison and put it in its precisely planned location – and still see it go for a base-hit, or more.

Jordy Mercer swings at 34.4% of pitches out of the zone, but he is above average at hitting them, with a 68.1% contact rate.

Neil Walker (32.0%) is about league average on swings outside the zone, but his contact rate is even better than Harrison’s at 73.3%.

Gaby Sanchez is also about average on swinging at bad offerings (31.7%), but also has a significantly above average contact rate on those pitches at 69.2%.

The identity of the one Pirate starter who both swings at a lot of pitches outside the zone and also misses a lot of them should come as no surprise. “Most Disciplined Hitter” is not a title that will be won by Starling Marte. He swings at 37.3% of pitches outside the zone and makes contact on only 60.9% of them; 4.9 points below the league average. However, he does appear to have improved greatly in the area of taking bad pitches in the second half of 2014.

And the further good news for the Pirates, is that they pretty well lit up Bumgarner in their only meeting with him this year.

On July 28, Bumgarner only lasted four innings against the Pirates, allowing 5 earned runs on 6 hits, two walks, and a home run by the least selective hitter on the team – Josh Harrison.

And the even better news? In Bumgarner’s only start against the Pirates, he threw 90 pitches and got only four (4) swinging strikes.

Lay off the garbage, Bucs, and you just might light up Madison Bumgarner for the second time this year.


Bet the Cubs to Beat the Cardinals Today

The Pirates have one of the best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball going for them today.

No. Not Jeff Locke, who is starting for the Pirates against the Braves tonight.

The Pirates big advantage, tonight, in their quest to catch the Cardinals for the National League Central Division title comes in the form of “their new Ace,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta will be starting for the Cubs tonight, in their game against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. It has probably gone unnoticed outside of the North Side of Chicago, but Jake Arietta has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball this year.

Arrieta ranks 8th in the major leagues, with a 2.79 xFIP. And his ERA is even better at 2.65. He has struck out 9.44 per 9 innings, while walking only 2.41/9IP and allowing just 0.3 HR/9IP. His groundball rate is well-above league average at 48.3%.

Arrieta’s numbers are not simply good. They are excellent. And they put the Pirates in good stead to finish the night one-half game behind the Cardinals.

Cardinals starter John Lackey isn’t bad, but he doesn’t come close to Arrieta. He has a 3.46 xFIP, 3.86 ERA, 7.34 K/9IP, 2.02 BB/9, and 1.13 HR/9.

Arrieta has made three starts against the Cardinals this year, posting a 1.76 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and a 2.34 FIP.

Lackey has pitched against the Cubs one time this year. He threw 6.1 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 9 hits, 1 walk, and a home run. He struck out 6.

These are Lackey’s numbers in his 9 starts since being acquired by the Cardinals at the trade deadline:

IP: 54

ERA: 4.50

xFIP: 3.83

WHIP: 1.39

K/9: 6.67

BB/9: 1.83

HR/9: 1.50

That does not stack up well against Arrieta’s last 9 games:

IP: 58.2

ERA: 3.37

FIP: 2.53

WHIP: 1.02

K/9: 8.90

BB/9: 2.16

HR/9: 0.46

And Arrieta’s numbers at Wrigley, where tonight’s face-off with the Cardinals is being held, are just as good: 2.93 xFIP, .171 batting average against, 0.82 WHIP.

Bet the Cubs – and the Pirates new ace, Jake Arrieta. Play responsibly.