Monday, July 25, 2005

Trade rumors send up red flags

Before anyone gets too excited about the prospect of A.J. Burnett landing with the White Sox, lets look at a couple different pitchers:






Pitcher A






Pitcher B






Pitcher A obviously has a pretty big advantage in strikeout rate, but the difference in walks is almost negligible. The ERAs are obviously different, but here’s a secret: According to ESPN, Pitcher A toils in a ballpark that has a park factor of .898. Pitcher B, meanwhile, plies his craft in a ballpark with a park factor of 1.139.

Despite the better K-rate for pitcher A, with everything else being close to equal, you could probably expect about the same performance from these two guys from now until the end of the season.

If you hadn’t figured it out yet, Pitcher A is Burnett. Pitcher B is our own Jose Contreras.

As of now, Burnett would be a marginal upgrade over Contreras, but if the cost of that modest of an upgrade is Contreras, Damaso Marte and Brandon McCarthy, then it’s probably not worth it.

If the Marlins wanted to trade Burnett straight over for Contreras, that would make a little more sense. Contreras is signed for another season at what almost looks like a bargain-basement price ($7 million, less a million the Yankees are kicking in), and the Marlins are looking for cost certainty going into the future. And they surely won’t be able to afford Burnett next year, who will look to boost his $3.65 million salary into the $10 million per year range.

With Marte getting older and living more dangerously with the walks by the day (his WHIP is 1.65 because he’s walked 21 in just over 29 innings), the Sox could probably live with tossing him into the deal, too. But tossing in McCarthy would be too much.

For starters, McCarthy is hardly fool’s gold when it comes to being a prospect. Despite his 5.17 ERA for Charlotte, he’s still got 94 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings. That’s phenomenal.

He’s not struggling because he’s walking a ton of guys, though that’s what you might expect from a power pitcher. His 1.29 WHIP is also very good. His Achilles’ heel has been his penchant for giving up the gopher ball: he’s yielded 14.

But that’s hardly reason to panic, or to toss him into a trade where the benefits are questionable. His potential isn’t worth just two months of Burnett.


Should third baseman Mike Lowell, and his huge contract, still be a necessary part of a Burnett deal, that would benefit the Sox, right? After all, isn’t Lowell recovering from his slump, posting an .808 OPS in July? And doesn't Joe Crede suck?

Well, don’t look now, but for as disappointing as Crede has been for Sox fans, he’s having as good a month as Lowell. In fact, he’s had two months as good as Lowell:


















Now, the same issue of park factors that applies to Contreras and Burnett applies to Lowell and Crede, so in fairness to Mike, he’s probably having a better July than (Not So) Young (Anymore) Joe.

But again, here the numbers are in Crede’s advantage, and adjusting for the park would only give Lowell a slight edge. Crede is still whipping him on the season tallies.

It should also be pointed out that Lowell’s career-high OPS was .880 in 2003. He came close to that again in 2004 with an .870 mark, but that’s the only time he’s been within 50 points of his peak.

So to assume Lowell would be much of an upgrade on offense, you have to have faith that he’s going to bounce back to where he was at the peak of his powers. Does anyone thing the 31-year-old Lowell will do that? It’s probably just as likely as Crede putting together a nice second half, which he did in both 2002 and 2003.

Then consider the fielding prowess of this pair. They have identical .987 fielding percentages, and Lowell has a slightly better Range Factor (.263-.260), but Crede wins going away in Zone Rating (.807-.756).

Then consider the money Lowell is owed, and you really have to hope the Sox aren’t going to be stuck with a deal like this.

So to recap on both fronts, dealing to get A.J. Burnett probably isn’t that great of an idea.


Anonymous said...

Spoken like true Sox fan. You finally have a chance to win it all and you're worried about giving up a minor league pitcher with an ERA over 5 and a sad, no heart, third baseman. It's about winning this year. Would you rather have Burnett on the mound or Contreras? Would you rather have Crede at the plate or Lowell? Your stats show you're all about fantasy baseball, unfortunately you're talking about the real deal.

Chris Pummer said...

If I were all about fantasy baseball, I probably wouldn't have brought up the difference in defense between Lowell and Crede. Keep in mind that great defense has been on of the reasons the Sox pitching staff has been so good this year.

Should I feel more comfortable with Lowell at the plate or Burnett on the mound? I don't see any evidence that I should. Especially if it means the Sox soaking up $20 million in salary and giving up one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.