January 24, 2011
While I realize that I am stealing this gimmick from others on the web (and from the Pepsi challenge ad campaign from my childhood), I thought this blind challenge could be enlightening. These three players that I am highlighting today are all starting pitchers that were available this off-season, and each player was heavily linked to the Nationals at some point. Lets look at the numbers and compare them:
“Player A” Numbers:
Career: 95 Starts, 558.0 IP, 4.68 ERA, 1.491 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 4.1 BB/9
2010: 23 Starts, 136.1 IP, 4.09 ERA, 1.496 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
2009: 7 Starts, 47.0 IP, 5.55 ERA, 1.319 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
2008: 21 Starts, 105.1 IP, 6.66 ERA, 1.804 WHIP, 5.7 K/9, 6.0 BB/9
“Player B” Numbers:
Career: 240 Starts, 1503.2 IP, 4.34 ERA, 1.334 WHIP, 5.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
2010: 32 Starts, 221.0 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.195 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9
2009: 33 Starts, 199.1 IP, 5.10 ERA, 1.375 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 1.2 BB/9
2008: 7 Starts, 34.1 IP, 5.77 ERA, 1.485 WHIP, 3.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
“Player C” Numbers:
Career: 116 Starts, 710.2 IP, 5.02 ERA, 1.523 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
2010: 20 Starts, 121.2 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.315 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9
2009: 32 Starts, 185.0 IP, 4.38 ERA, 1.378 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
2008: 23 Starts, 130.0 IP, 4.92 ERA, 1.462 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 4.3 BB/9
After studying each player’s statistics, each has some strengths and some weaknesses compared to each other. Player A had a strong 2010, looks to be rather young based on the number of starts, and has a healthy strikeout rate. Player B had the best 2010 season, has the most experience and best career numbers, and does not walk many batters. Player C has the best strikeout ratio of the group, had a terrific 2009 season and his career trend shows progression. With all things being equal, I would probably choose Player B, as he looks to be the most reliable and is coming off the best season of the group, though an argument could likely be made for each individual.
However, like everything in life, not everything is equal. We must factor in age and contract situation. Player A, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, is 28 years old, will make $2.1 million in 2011 and is under team control through 2013. Player B, RHP Carl Pavano, is 35 years old, and was signed to a 2-year $16.5 million dollar contract by the Minnesota Twins last week. Player C, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, will be 30 years old this season, and signed a 2-year $21.5 million dollar contract with a $10.5 million player option for 2013 and a team option for 2014 with Colorado weeks ago. Pavano and De La Rosa were seen as the next best free agent starting pitchers after Cliff Lee this winter and both player’s agents made it clear that the Nationals would have had to make a greater offer than they agreed to in order to sign with Washington.
Now that we have a more complete picture of the players and their situations, Gorzelanny looks to be the best value and best option for the Nationals going forward. Pavano’s contract is not awful, but prior to 2010 his last good season was 2004, and at 35 years of age, I do not consider him to be a great bet to return positive value over the course of his contract. De La Rosa is a solid starter when healthy, but his health concerns would make me nervous to pay him $10 million plus dollars a year over the next three seasons. The bottom line is that each of these pitchers are fairly comparable, especially when you look only at their statistics and not on the name on the back of the uniform. And because there is such little difference between skill levels and such a drastic difference in salary, the Nationals clearly made the correct choice in trading for Tom Gorzelanny last week rather than spending ten to fifteen times more in salary to acquire a similar free agent starting pitcher. The Gorzelanny trade certainly looks much better for the Nationals when viewed from this perspective.