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Friday, July 13, 2007

Landing Buerhle a Great Move

The Buerhle Deal

Much has been written about the Buerhle deal – some good observations but some really odd stuff as well, particularly in attempting to select Buerhle’s peers.  I mean, selecting pitchers that posted a 4.50 ERA prior to 1993-94 is peculiar as a Buerhle peer.  Moreover, Mark has thrown 1500+ innings since he entered the major leagues, and he’s only 28 this season.  Looking at going forward, I want to select his peers – people who performed as Mark Buerhle has – not guys who didn’t perform as well as Mark Buerhle has in many fewer innings.  That’s not terribly interesting.

So what has Mark Buerhle done?  He’s thrown 1540 innings at an ERA+ of 123.  Since I am going to be pulling data from the past, and Mark is in good shape to finish this season with 200 innings, we’ll make selecting his peers as 1500 IP through age 28 season.  I also want to minimize era effects.  The strike zones of the 60s really ate many pitchers arms up – Jim Maloney, Drysdale, and there weren’t nearly the corrective practices that are in place since the 1970s, with pitch count restrictions, arm surgeries and Tommy John too.  That’s important because injuries that ended careers prior to about 1975 wouldn’t end careers anymore.  It would be like saying John Smoltz’ career would be over about 5 years ago.  He’s still pretty good.

I also want to allow for some players that haven’t performed quite as well as Buerhle – it’d be nice if he were near the middle of the pack (although closer to the bottom, since he hasn’t finished this year).  Buerhle’s ERA+ is 123, so we’ll set the bar slightly lower – about 117.  We can quibble with that.

Given those criteria and choosing slightly different ones is fine, as long as we still are attempting to paint an accurate picture of who Buerhle’s comps are.  They have to be around for modern medicines.  They have to have been durable from 20-28, and they have to have been really good with respect to the league in which he pitched.

Fortunately this type of “lookup” is simple because Sean Forman is one of the greatest men in the universe. 

Running Play Index Pitching season Finder where the date range is 1973 to 2007, the age requirements are 20 to 28, 1500 IP and an ERA+ of 117 (95% of Buehrle’s present mark), we get som nice information.

Through age 28, these pitchers averaged 215 IP/season.  Averages for the next few seasons look like this:

Year	Pit	Year	Ag	G	GS	IP
n+1	mb	2008	29	27	27	185.7
n+2	mb	2009	30	28	28	196.7
n+3	mb	2010	31	25	25	161.7
n+4	mb	2011	32	25	25	162.2
n+5	mb	2012	33	24	24	168.3

That’s right.  Buerhle’s peers do see a drop off in IP initially as other looks have found.  But it doesn’t continue to drop.  It bounces backs some and then declines some, but each year is still producing a good year.  And the ERA+ marks are in the 130 range.

Who are these guys that have produced like Buerhle has?

Greg Maddux
Bert Blyleven
Dave Stieb
Roger Clemens
Bret Saberhagen
Pedro Martinez
Mark Buehrle

Derf.  Pitchers like Mark Buerhle do not come along very often.  He’s already demonstrated durability beyond the arm damage that “should have” happened.  The odds that Buerhle will be very good over the next four seasons are very, very good.  He’s easily going to be very good for four more seasons, and very likely five.  Heck, he’s likely to be good for another ten.  He’s the next generation’s best bet to win 300 games, and the key to being a successful GM is identifying the true stars that will decline atypically, and signing them relatively cheaply and enjoying the ride.  Okay, the purer economics may not make it a great deal, but it’s going to get them a discount after four years if Buerhle continues on like his peers.

When doing analyses like this, you have to select your peers more carefully.

 

Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:11 AM | 79 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Sparkles Peterson Posted: July 13, 2007 at 03:19 AM (#2439685)
Buerhle’s peers do see a drop off in IP initially as other looks have found. But it doesn’t continue to drop. It bounces backs some and then declines some, but each year is still producing a good year. And the ERA+ marks are in the 130 range.


If you're going to give the ERA+ over those seasons, you should also note that it was nearly 140 in the years prior, right around 15 higher than Buehrle's.

You take away an average of 40 innings per year and factor in the ~8 points of ERA+ lost, and how you evaluate this contract is going to depend greatly on how you view Buehrle's established performance. Take the career numbers and this looks like a pretty decent contract. I would wager that a lot of the criticisms of this contract have come from people who don't really think Buehrle is the pitcher that ERA+ indicates.
   2. Boots Day Posted: July 13, 2007 at 03:26 AM (#2439689)
I thought Glavine would show up on the comps, although maybe their similarities are less numerical than ontological. They're both lefties with good control, don't throw too hard, consistent, durable.

Of course, the Sox would be ecstatic if Buehrle lasts like Glavine has.
   3. stealfirstbase Posted: July 13, 2007 at 05:01 AM (#2439728)
I would wager that a lot of the criticisms of this contract have come from people who don't really think Buehrle is the pitcher that ERA+ indicates.

Exactly. What you have to understand is that 1,540 innings is too small a sample to judge a pitcher upon, and that luck will play a major factor in how his ERA+ looks at the end of those innings. Far more important are DIPS, FIP, and the projections at BP and THT, which consistently show that Buehrle is not the pitcher he pitches like.

Remember, Buehrle isn't a great and durable pitcher, he only plays one on TV.
   4. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 11:33 AM (#2439767)
If you're going to give the ERA+ over those seasons, you should also note that it was nearly 140 in the years prior, right around 15 higher than Buehrle's.

I do not disagree that Buerhle isn't *likely* to be Greg Maddux or Roger Clemens; he hasn't been them, but really, no one has been Buerhle either. If you lower the ERA+ requirement, you can pick up a few more people, but you really have to stretch to get a large number of pitchers. Mostly due to my last paragraph.

Buerhle has already passed the area where someone that has experienced his workload breaks down precipitously. Could he still? Certainly? He's much more likely to perform, like Boots points out, like Tom Glavine, then the other analyses we've seen.
   5. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: July 13, 2007 at 12:06 PM (#2439775)
What if we make a downward adjustment in major league IPs, like we did for ERA+, to find pitchers on both sides of Buehrle? What if we include IPs from college and the minors to see if others meet this criterion?
   6. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:13 PM (#2439802)
Yeah, a lot of those guys had strikeout rates far too high to be comparable to Buehrle.
   7. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:13 PM (#2439803)
I basically made a similar decrease in IP. At the end of this season, Buerhle will have ~1600 IP. 1600*0.95 = 1520 IP.

Pitchers that throw nearly as many IP as Buerhle, and nearly as well (ERA+) simply are nearly always great. Even the ones who weren't great in the immediate four years following, bounced back (blyleven, saberhagen, clemens).

Buerhle has the right body type and motion to pitch like Glavine for another decade, and it's a good contract.
   8. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:14 PM (#2439804)
Yeah, a lot of those guys had strikeout rates far too high to be comparable to Buehrle.

Okay, now I am losing sight of what's sarcasm and what isn't.
   9. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:26 PM (#2439813)
What you have to understand is that 1,540 innings is too small a sample to judge a pitcher upon


So there's less than 600 pitchers in major league histroy that you can judge?
   10. AROM Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:28 PM (#2439815)
Who are these guys that have produced like Buerhle has?

Mark Buerhle and 6 guys who are a lot better than Mark Buerhle.

I have no problem with the contract, but you've chosen the wrong comparables. You are excluding an ERA+ of 116, but allowing one over 160. He'll be at 1600 innings at the end of the year, and you allow the comparables down to 1500 but not below, yet pitchers with 300 more innings are kept as comparables.

When doing analyses like this, you have to select your peers more carefully.

Agree totally, and you should have enough pitchers worse than him to balance out the better ones so that the group's totals look like Mark Buerhle.
   11. JC in DC Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:39 PM (#2439822)
This is interesting and fun, but I agree with AROM. If you were going to 95% of his ERA+, why go above 105% (which would be what, about 129)? Some of his "comparables" by your definition are pitchers he's not in the same league with (Clemens, Martinez). It would be interesting to see what happens if you dip down a little lower.
   12. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:48 PM (#2439825)
I just came in here to say I got an email from Sean Forman about a five-hour PI outage yesterday that I didn't notice. Because of the outage, he extended all subscriptions by five days. I think Sean should run the cable company.
   13. Kyle S Posted: July 13, 2007 at 01:58 PM (#2439830)
Exactly. What you have to understand is that 1,540 innings is too small a sample to judge a pitcher upon, and that luck will play a major factor in how his ERA+ looks at the end of those innings. Far more important are DIPS, FIP, and the projections at BP and THT, which consistently show that Buehrle is not the pitcher he pitches like.

I'm pretty sure this is very subtle sarcasm. If that's so, brilliant! If not, sigh.
   14. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:11 PM (#2439840)
I'm pretty sure this is very subtle sarcasm. If that's so, brilliant! If not, sigh.

That I am sure is sarcasm.
   15. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:12 PM (#2439841)
And I fell fo it.
   16. JC in DC Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:15 PM (#2439843)
I was surprised, ggc; in fact, I thought you must have been attempting some sublime humor I just didn't get. The other post is less clear, as Chris notes.

Chris: So, if you knock the ERA+ down a bit more (say to 110) and maybe shave a few more innings (say to 1350), how many pitchers does that add?
   17. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:22 PM (#2439847)
Who are these guys that have produced like Buerhle has?

Mark Buerhle and 6 guys who are a lot better than Mark Buerhle.

I have no problem with the contract, but you've chosen the wrong comparables. You are excluding an ERA+ of 116, but allowing one over 160. He'll be at 1600 innings at the end of the year, and you allow the comparables down to 1500 but not below, yet pitchers with 300 more innings are kept as comparables.

When doing analyses like this, you have to select your peers more carefully.

Agree totally, and you should have enough pitchers worse than him to balance out the better ones so that the group's totals look like Mark Buerhle.


I agree with some of that. But IMO, the critical parameter for Buerhle's future sucess isn't driven by ERA+. It's driven by health - Innings Pitched. The performance isn't limited *high*, it is limited low. His value will be less if he pitches poorly (95 ERA+), but he doesn't have to have an ERA+ of 160. That isn't required. Heck, what is 700 IP of 100 ERA+ worth? A lot I think - I think that's worth 4/40, isn't it?

Maddux and these others didn't throw 200 IP the next few years because they had ERA+s of 160. They threw them because they were healthy, and maintained their performance.

Buerhle's comps for his future (considering how the other projections are crash out) are how healthy he'll remain. Odds are, he past the "Injury Vortex". He's not going to be sucked into massive IP loss because he's cleared that hurdle (most likely).

So I'm not projecting Buerhle to throw those IP at a 160 ERA+, but rather those IP with a slight decline in his ERA+ - say to 115 (average over the 4 yrs).

So he may be 115 for 700 IP? That's a good pitcher. And Buerhle's present (2007) ERA+ is ~140, so he can decline from there somewhat.
   18. Mister High Standards Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:25 PM (#2439849)
I agree with Arom. I think you need to expand your age range to say 30 or 31 instead of 28. Cap you ERA+ number and maybe use 1350 innings.
   19. JC in DC Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:30 PM (#2439853)
I don't quite get the reply, Chris. The point of your analysis was to show his comparables, his peers. AROM has given plausible reason to expand the ranges so his peers look more peerlike than Clemens or Martinez, who really aren't his peers.

Your reply seems to say, as long as he's healthy, he'll pitch roughly the way he has. Ok, that applies as a kind of generalization to all pitchers.
   20. RobertMachemer Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:31 PM (#2439857)
I agree with the posters that point out that including Pedro Martinez makes no sense and for the reasons they state -- if you're going to look for comps, you need to pick ones who've been roughly as good, not ones who have all been above a certain threshhold.

Meanwhile, Barry Zito has currently pitched the same number of innings, has the same career ERA+, but fails to make the list (I assume) because he is 10 months older? In essence, we have the same problem here as with the ERA+ -- Zito is excluded because he hadn't pitched 1500 innings by the end of his age 28 season. Fine. But Clemens had thrown 1500 innings by the end of his age 27 season. You can't pick a lower bound and not pick an upper bound.

Buehrle through age-28 season (so far): 1543.2 IP, 350 BB, 898 SO, 123 ERA+
Zito through age-28 season: 1430.1 IP, 560 BB, 1096 SO, 126 ERA+
Clemens through age-28 season: 1784.1 IP, 490 BB, 1665 SO, 148 ERA+

Clemens is really the better comp?
   21. Backlasher Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:37 PM (#2439862)
Buerhle's comps for his future (considering how the other projections are crash out) are how healthy he'll remain. Odds are, he past the "Injury Vortex". He's not going to be sucked into massive IP loss because he's cleared that hurdle (most likely).

I agree Rauseo. I'm not sure how the ERA+ helps you at all in projecting the injury rate. I've never seen anything that shows that correlation.

What may be more instructive was a thingy that BPro did that shows attrition rate. Age wise, Buerhle's contract will cover some of the lower levels of attrition. Or to put it in your words, he's past the injury vortex and he will not reach the injury cliff during the term of this contract.

Dial's IP based comparisons may or may not help give even more information on factors that refine that generalized attrition rate.

I'd still worry about Buehrle going the Alex Fernandez or Mark Mulder route. I would want something that makes me feel better about the Glavine comp, but it still seems like a safer bet than some other long term pitching contracts.
   22. RobertMachemer Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:39 PM (#2439864)
Buehrle, born 3/23/79: 1543.7 IP, 123 ERA+
Zito, born 5/13/78: 1535.0 IP, 123 ERA+
   23. Backlasher Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:39 PM (#2439865)
I guess that should be with Dial's clarification. (There is no edit feature on Dialed in).
   24. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:42 PM (#2439868)
Meanwhile, Barry Zito has currently pitched the same number of innings, has the same career ERA+, but fails to make the list (I assume) because he is 10 months older?

If the object of the exercise is to look at how Buerhle can be expected to pitch in his age 29-32 seasons, isn't Zito being excluded just because he hasn't pitched his age 29-32 seasons yet?
   25. Backlasher Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:42 PM (#2439869)
Clemens is really the better comp?


Maybe, especially considering the career arcs of the A's Big 3. The declines and where and how they are occuring may lead you to start to examine special considerations for those pitchers.
   26. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:44 PM (#2439871)
Chris: So, if you knock the ERA+ down a bit more (say to 110) and maybe shave a few more innings (say to 1350), how many pitchers does that add?

I dropped the ERA+ requirement, and 1350 IP, and you get 42 pitchers. As I say above - the likelihood of throwing a lot of innings from ages 29-32 is heavily dependent on your ability to throw them from 22-28.

Setting the ERA+ at 110, and you drop the count to 25 pitchers:
Player    **ERA+**    IP
+----------------    -+--------+    ------
Pedro Martinez    168    1461.1
Roger Clemens    155    1651
Greg Maddux    142    1724.1
Kevin Appier    140    1408
Bert Blyleven    133    1895
Dave Stieb    130    1729.2
Mike Mussina    130    1362.1
Barry Zito    127    1430.1
Bret Saberhagen    125    1365
Mark Buehrle    123    1492.1
Jon Matlack    120    1437
Steve Rogers    119    1390
Mike Hampton    117    1405.1
Mario Soto    116    1428
Vida Blue    115    1660
Brad Radke    114    1537.2
John Smoltz    114    1486.2
Javier Vazquez    112    1470.2
Frank Viola    112    1597
Mark Gubicza    111    1351.1
Tom Glavine    111    1472
Dennis Eckersley111    1514.2
Mark Langston    110    1374.1
Frank Tanana    110    1398.2
Jack Morris    110    1357.1


A good collection of durable pitchers (I'm at work, so it's not convenient for me to average their next four seasons. Buerhle does fall in the middle of these guys - which is more ideal, as well as closer to the middle wrt IP.

He's going to be good, and I think these lists show those odds to be pretty strong.
   27. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:46 PM (#2439872)
I don't quite get the reply, Chris. The point of your analysis was to show his comparables, his peers.

His peers wrt handling the workload. Those are his peers (they just pitched better with that workload).
   28. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:48 PM (#2439875)
I think you need to expand your age range to say 30 or 31 instead of 28.

I think handling the workload at a young age is important. Young being <24.
   29. Mike Emeigh Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:48 PM (#2439876)
AROM is correct - by placing a floor but not a ceiling, you set up to compare Buehrle to pitchers who are clearly better than he is while excluding pitchers who are only a little bit worse. Buerhle is clearly the worst of these seven pitchers - he's thrown the fewest innings, and has not only the worst ERA+ but also the worst OPS+ allowed (and the numbers aren't that close).

-- MWE
   30. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:48 PM (#2439877)
And I certainly can't use a pitcher that hasn't pitched his ages 29-32 seasons yet.
   31. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 02:50 PM (#2439879)
AROM is correct - by placing a floor but not a ceiling, you set up to compare Buehrle to pitchers who are clearly better than he is while excluding pitchers who are only a little bit worse. Buerhle is clearly the worst of these seven pitchers - he's thrown the fewest innings, and has not only the worst ERA+ but also the worst OPS+ allowed (and the numbers aren't that close).

I don't think you need a ceiling. I'm not using it to project his ERA+. I'm merely looking at the likelihood that he'll stay healthy.
   32. Backlasher Posted: July 13, 2007 at 03:06 PM (#2439893)
A good collection of durable pitchers (I'm at work, so it's not convenient for me to average their next four seasons. Buerhle does fall in the middle of these guys - which is more ideal, as well as closer to the middle wrt IP.

Is that true. I'm just eyeballing it, and it looks like during the contract period of Buerhle, you are either getting an injury or dead arm suckitude from Appier, Saberhagen, Matlack, Soto, Eckersley, Langston, Tanana, Blue, Gubizca, Zito, and Viola. That is about a 44% chance you are going to have some season for sh1t, and probably a 20-something chance you are going to have 2 or more seasons for sh1t.

I'd think this list shows a good chance that Buerhle will pitch late into his career. Only about 2 pitchers never respond and bounce back. But that is not looking as good as it did originally.
   33. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: July 13, 2007 at 03:07 PM (#2439896)
I think the proposed adding of the pitchers down to 105 or 110 is a good idea. Your explanation for no upper limit makes sense--If Pedro had declined sharply, he would still be pitching--the only thing that would make him a poor investment is injury.

On the flipside, with no lower limit, you might add a lot of pitchers who didn't get hurt, but just started to suck. Something that's unlikely in Buerhle's case.
   34. Mike Green Posted: July 13, 2007 at 03:09 PM (#2439899)
Buehrle bears no resemblance to Roger Clemens.

You can get a decent group of comparables by looking at IP within 250, ERA+ within 10, K rate within 1, walk rate within .5. You'll get a list something like this:

Greg Maddux
Bret Saberhagen
Fergie Jenkins
Tom Glavine
Dave Stieb
Frank Tanana
Johnny Antonelli
Frank Tanana
Mark Gubicza
Dan Petry
Alex Fernandez
Curt Simmons
Jim Kaat
Jim Abbott

Some of them thrived; some of them were half and half; and some of them blew out their arms entirely. There's no guarantee that Buehrle won't blow out his arm and that his K rate will fall too low within the contract period, but there is also a reasonable possibility that he will be a Hall of Fame candidate in 15 years. Feeling lucky?
   35. Boots Day Posted: July 13, 2007 at 03:33 PM (#2439929)
That group presents problems of its own, though. For example, Antonelli was a hard thrower; the only reason his K rates are similar to Buehrle's is because of the era difference. Antonelli finished in the top five in K's four times, the top ten six times. Similarly, Tanana led the league in K's one year, was top three in three straight seasons.

Neither of those guys is similar stylistically to Buehrle.
   36. JC in DC Posted: July 13, 2007 at 03:47 PM (#2439938)
Chris: I don't know if you're trying to be smart, or what, but in your intro you slammed people for jerry-rigging the comparisons by looking at worse performance and or fewer innings. Now you say you're looking merely at workload peers. But that's not true. Obviously you wanted (and want) a good comparison of similar pitchers both in terms of performance and workload, as that will allow you to defend your conclusion (Which I think is defensible, btw).
   37. Mike Green Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:04 PM (#2439959)
Boots,

You are right. I'd happily throw out Antonelli and Tanana (who I listed twice). The point is that you shouldn't be comparing If you want to be fancy about it, you'd use park/era indexed W and K rates.

Incidentally, when I think of Tanana, it is 1987 not 1976 that I think of. He threw the shutout against Jimmy Key on the final day of the season, and by that point, Tanana and Key were fairly similar.
   38. Mike Green Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:06 PM (#2439962)
Ack. There's an unwanted deletion there. It should read "The point is that you shouldn't be comparing high K rate pitchers to Buehrle."
   39. Backlasher Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:08 PM (#2439966)
Obviously you wanted (and want) a good comparison of similar pitchers both in terms of performance and workload, as that will allow you to defend your conclusion (Which I think is defensible, btw).


I think its very defensable to exclude the arm slagging practices of the 60's and guys like Earl Weaver. Buerhle has not been asked to endure a barbaric workload. And when you do look at it, you are in an injury-age nadir generally, and still have better than average odds at getting a complete injury free run. But it does look like the injury potential or dead arm potential is pretty high.

IMHO, if you are doing an ROI calculation, what you want to arrive at is both the expected return (which is something like the ERA+ projection) and factor in the catastrophy rate as a risk factor (which is the IP projection, or maybe better, the loss of year(s) projection). The latter is never going to be granular enough for most sabe tastes, but I think that gets you the best ROI number. Its pretty close to other pricing methods in the real world too.
   40. JPWF13 Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:21 PM (#2439982)
I don't think you need a ceiling. I'm not using it to project his ERA+. I'm merely looking at the likelihood that he'll stay healthy.


Well, if you take the old Bill James' observation that if you take 10 pitchers with an ERA of 3.00 and 175ks a piece and ten pitchers with an ERA of 3.00 and 125ks a piece, the 10 high K guys will be better in 5 years than the low K guys- and they pitch more in 5 years because they are more effective.

In other words you really have to control for Ks in a study like this.
   41. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:22 PM (#2439985)
Good list, Mike. What happened to Petry, anyway? I only have vague memories of him pitching for the '84 Tigers, but it seems he completely fell off the table after his age-26 season.

One thing that seems to stick out when looking at them is how rarely those guys broke down before age 33.
   42. Loren F. Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:26 PM (#2439988)
Looking at the pitchers on Chris's extended list (Post 26), I initially wondered if this list is dominated by early-peak pitchers who became mediocre in their 30s (barring the obvious exceptions such as Clemens). So, how many of these pitchers had the bulk (at least 2/3) of their best ERA+ years as starters by the end of their age-29 seasons? I get: Appier; Blyleven; Stieb; Saberhagen; Matlack; Hampton; Soto; Blue; Radke; Gubicza; Eckersley; Tanana.

If we remove Buerhle, Zito and Vazquez because none of them have made it to their age-32 seasons, we end up with only 12 out of 22 having most of their ERA+ peaks by age 30. I know that K/BB, WHIP and other stats are MUCH more predictive in terms of performance. But this makes me think that being a workhorse early on doesn't necessarily mean you also have your best ERA+ years early on too. Buerhle could still turn into a 110 ERA+ guy in 2008 or 2009, of course, but this particular deck doesn't seem to be stacked against him.
   43. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:27 PM (#2439992)
Well, if you take the old Bill James' observation that if you take 10 pitchers with an ERA of 3.00 and 175ks a piece and ten pitchers with an ERA of 3.00 and 125ks a piece, the 10 high K guys will be better in 5 years than the low K guys- and they pitch more in 5 years because they are more effective.

In other words you really have to control for Ks in a study like this.


Well, that's the rub, isn't it? Buehrle, with the exception of a couple of nasty streaks where he was very hittable (May-June 2003, July-Sept 2006) has been able to be consistently and sustainably successful over the course of 6 1/2 seasons now, despite never putting up more than a mediocre "K" rate. James' adage is definitely true if you look at single-season performance, but Buehrle isn't Mark Fidrych or Jose Lima.
   44. JPWF13 Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:31 PM (#2439999)
Well, that's the rub, isn't it? Buehrle, with the exception of a couple of nasty streaks where he was very hittable (May-June 2003, July-Sept 2006) has been able to be consistently and sustainably successful over the course of 6 1/2 seasons now, despite never putting up more than a mediocre "K" rate.


and I'm sure he's not the only one, I want the other pitchers who've been successful with stable but mediocre (not poor mind you) K rates from ages 23-28 and see how they did 29-32
   45. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:32 PM (#2440000)
I think the proposed adding of the pitchers down to 105 or 110 is a good idea. Your explanation for no upper limit makes sense--If Pedro had declined sharply, he would still be pitching--the only thing that would make him a poor investment is injury.

I think the assumption through all of this discussion has been that pitchers like Buehrle don't decline sharply for reasons other than injury (or age, which doesn't apply here).
   46. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:42 PM (#2440006)
and I'm sure he's not the only one, I want the other pitchers who've been successful with stable but mediocre (not poor mind you) K rates from ages 23-28 and see how they did 29-32

I think Mike Green's list above gives you a good indication.

Of course, when you look at the actual names, you can come up with reasons why Buehrle is completely different from each of them.

I used to think that Zito was a good comp, but Zito is a bit better at striking guys out and significantly worse at not walking them. He's also a more extreme flyballer than Buehrle is. Really, the similarity begins and ends at age, handedness, and ERA+.
   47. Mike Green Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:46 PM (#2440007)
Jerry Royster Experience,

Petry apparently had bone chips in his elbow in 1986. (http://www.tigerscentral.com/history.php?year=1986)

Abbott, Fernandez, Gubicza, Stieb, Petry and Simmons all broke down in their late 20s. What is interesting is that it is not easy to find a comparable who declined significantly in effectiveness without hint of significant injury. An ERA+ of 123 in 1500 innings is suggestive of an ability to maintain effectiveness with mediocre K rates.
   48. JC in DC Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:49 PM (#2440013)
All right! Wang's about 1/3 of the way there. Go Chien Ming!
   49. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:53 PM (#2440017)
Abbott, Fernandez, Gubicza, Stieb, Petry and Simmons all broke down in their late 20s. What is interesting is that it is not easy to find a comparable who declined significantly in effectiveness without hint of significant injury. An ERA+ of 123 in 1500 innings is suggestive of an ability to maintain effectiveness with mediocre K rates.

Right, I either know they got hurt, or strongly suspect so. All those guys pretty much fell off the table - I don't see much steady decline into mediocrity or worse.

I guess how good this contract is boils down to how well-justified the team's feeling is that Buehrle isn't a significant injury risk over the next four years.
   50. bhoov Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:53 PM (#2440018)
Or similarly I want to see the guys who over 1500 IP consistently outperformed their FIP. Buerhle has done it every single year of his career and his career ERA is 3.77 vs. a 4.30 career FIP. I'd bet the list of pitchers that outperform their FIP by > .5 over 1500 IP is pretty small. The one guy you would think would make that list is Glavine. Another is Zito. Checking (they both do). I wouldn't think there are many more. Let's see maddux? nope. Jimmy Key? yep. Saberhagen? nope. Moyer? nope. Tanana? yep. gubicza? nope. Hampton? nope. Can anyone search this comprehensively?
   51. _ Posted: July 13, 2007 at 04:57 PM (#2440021)
there weren’t nearly the corrective practices that are in place since the 1970s, with pitch count restrictions, arm surgeries and Tommy John too. That’s important because injuries that ended careers prior to about 1975 wouldn’t end careers anymore.
If Buehrle has Tommy John surgery within the next 4 years, his career might not be over, but I would say that it would make this contract look significantly worse.
   52. Sparkles Peterson Posted: July 13, 2007 at 06:17 PM (#2440085)
Or similarly I want to see the guys who over 1500 IP consistently outperformed their FIP. Buerhle has done it every single year of his career and his career ERA is 3.77 vs. a 4.30 career FIP.


Do you really feel confident in saying that this is entirely Buehrle's doing? His FIP caught up to him pretty much whenever he didn't have someone the caliber of Aaron Rowand or Darin Erstad in center. I'm sure he's a little better than his defense-independent stats, but I don't think the difference is as big as ERA+ indicates.
   53. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: July 13, 2007 at 06:28 PM (#2440099)
Do you really feel confident in saying that this is entirely Buehrle's doing? His FIP caught up to him pretty much whenever he didn't have someone the caliber of Aaron Rowand or Darin Erstad in center.

Untrue. He pitched well in 2001 and 2002, when he spent a great deal of time pitching in front of a mediocre defense, and he continued to pitch well this year when Darin Erstad and Joe Crede went on the DL.
   54. Sparkles Peterson Posted: July 13, 2007 at 06:59 PM (#2440127)
The White Sox had very good defenses both of those years. He pitched well in '02 with Rowand and Lofton splitting the time, but not as well as he has in his best years. Singleton in '01 was as a Rowand/Erstad-caliber defender. It's a pretty strange concept to me that the success of someone who is not a flyball pitcher seems to match his CFs' defensive prowess so well.
   55. bhoov Posted: July 13, 2007 at 07:28 PM (#2440151)
Team defensive metrics this year have the Sox rated as very average. HTH's various team defensive stats (+/-, RZR, DER) all have the sox rated between 6-9 in the 14 team AL. Considering that at the beginning of the year the sox were typically rated top 2 in these categories (before the loss of Erstad and Sweeney) average is probably a compliment for the defense Buerhle has been getting over the last 40-50 games.

While I agree that all of Buerhle's difference in FIP and ERA is not his doing I would say that at least some part of it is.
   56. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 13, 2007 at 07:40 PM (#2440156)
This thread is a great example of a big problem with projections. Among the characteristics (rightly, basically) attributed to Buehrle in this thread, almost all cited as characteristics too important to leave out of the set of characteristics that determined the comparison group:

-age
-IP total
-time period of career
-ERA+ range
-K rate
-FIP
-defense
-handedness
-velocity

You take all these characteristics together, you search for players who have them, you get Mark Buehrle. Obviously, in order to get a sense of Mark Buehrle's future, it makes sense to study players who were like Mark Buehrle, but the determination of resemblance- the meaning of "like" - is a qualitative thing which is simply skipped over in the desire to achieve a single number which, apparently purely by virtue of being a number, is authoritative.

The only thing that can give such a number authority is the qualitative study that determines likeness, but that hasn't been done. So we get these debates going in circles, picking different comparison groups, sometimes listing them, sometimes homogenizing them into a number, but never asking the question that underlies all this. once we start asking the question, we see how shaky the ground really is.
   57. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 07:47 PM (#2440162)
Your explanation for no upper limit makes sense--If Pedro had declined sharply, he would still be pitching--the only thing that would make him a poor investment is injury.

See, I don't think so. If you look at the pitchers who pitched poorly, they weren't allowed to pitch a lot after age 29. If Pedro pitches poorly, he'll get DLed.
   58. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: July 13, 2007 at 07:48 PM (#2440163)
You take all these characteristics together, you search for players who have them, you get Mark Buehrle. Obviously, in order to get a sense of Mark Buehrle's future, it makes sense to study players who were like Mark Buehrle, but the determination of resemblance- the meaning of "like" - is a qualitative thing which is simply skipped over in the desire to achieve a single number which, apparently purely by virtue of being a number, is authoritative.


Well, at least this thread is doing a better job of finding comps than mgl's study from the other thread.
   59. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 07:49 PM (#2440164)
I don't know if you're trying to be smart, or what, but in your intro you slammed people for jerry-rigging the comparisons by looking at worse performance and or fewer innings. Now you say you're looking merely at workload peers. But that's not true.

No, I said I am looking at minimum workload peers. And have lowered the minimum below Buerhle's level. The problem is no one that isn't great even gets to Buerhle's level (or within 5% of Buerhle), and that's over 35 seasons.

What's the analysis of Zito's contract say? That he's not worth 7/105, but is worth 4/56?
   60. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 07:57 PM (#2440169)
This thread is a great example of a big problem with projections.

I agree. I think Buerhle's actual quality is difficult to assess. I think I am trying to say that if you can throw 1500 IP from ages 21-28, then you can throw 700 over the next four.

WRT K/9. Those have to be league adjusted. That search doesn't work (I don't think).
   61. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: July 13, 2007 at 08:03 PM (#2440171)
Really, the similarity begins and ends at age, handedness, and ERA+.

Chris, much better analysis than what the Hardball Times came up with.

Still, if you're doing comparisons for Beuhrle and you're coming up with names like Clemens, Saberhagen, and Stieb, your methods are questionable. If you come up with names like Moyer, Pettitte, and Key, now you're on to something. Perhaps if you removed the specific age requirement you'd get there. I say this because I think Neyer did a column a few years back noting that the better MLB starters seemed to have 10 solid seasons in them regardless of the age they started their run of quality pitching.
   62. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 08:10 PM (#2440180)
you are either getting an injury or dead arm suckitude from Appier, Saberhagen, Matlack, Soto, Eckersley, Langston, Tanana, Blue, Gubizca, Zito, and Viola.

Well, I think that looks to expect 4 great years, and I don't think pitchers pitch like that. Taking Blue frinstance, he threw 767 innings over the next four seasons to an average of ERA+105. Now one year was awful (70), but the other three were pretty good, and one was real good (119, 139, 108). Matlack wandered around the 100 ERA+ plus mark, but 750 IP of average performance is worth a good deal of money. Tanana threw 808 IP with ERA+s of 128, 128, 97, 100. That's worth a bunch of money. How many wins above replacement is 200 IP of 100 ERA+? A lot, I think. Tanana is a bad comp, IMO because he had the arm injury at 23 and and limped into the gate. there should be a better way to search, that you've had 5 or 6 years of 200 IP leading up to the contract.

I don't think the K-rates or anything else will matter - the thing that will largely determine if Buerhle is worth his contract is if he can get to the post every week. And I think his track record shows he can.

And Mark Buerhle is a very good comp to Roger Clemens wrt IP, GS, etc. And besides, the 1984 AL was only about 80% as good as the 1999 AL...right?
   63. Kyle S Posted: July 13, 2007 at 08:10 PM (#2440181)
isn't buehrle really good at picking people off? (maybe i'm confusing him with capuano). I'd expect such a pitcher to do better than his FIP suggests.
   64. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: July 13, 2007 at 08:17 PM (#2440185)
No that's right, so if the metrics don't take into account the erased baserunners and lower steal rate, that could account for some of it...
   65. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 08:24 PM (#2440196)
Still, if you're doing comparisons for Beuhrle and you're coming up with names like Clemens, Saberhagen, and Stieb, your methods are questionable.

Well, my problem was I came up witht he methodology, and then posted what I got (I was trying to do it quickly because of the way the others were done.

I tend to think of this work as collaborative, and what I post as a starting point, rather than a conclusive "case closed" matter. As we discuss several have run tweaks to the criteria to see who else might be viewed as a comp. I do think that the biggest determinant in Buehrle's next four seasons is the fact that he's thrown 200 IP for 6 straight seasons, and working on his seventh *at a young age*. I do think looking at like grroups from ages 23-29 would also be beneficial and informative.

I think at 23-30 you start to edge toward the natural cliff , and Buerhle won't be 34 when this contract ends - he's younger.

What I am defending is that I believe the most critical parameter is having withstood the workload consistently through the young part of his career, and his body type, IMO, that makes me feel confident in my assessment. Can my mind be changed? Certainly, but I think hadwaving off Clemens is wrong - yes, Clemens threw *better* innings, but not *more* innings (he did throw about 20 more IP a season).

That's why I'm not terribly concerned about the ERA+ difference. I don't think Buerhle's K/9 is low enough to be concerned about. Once you get over 4.5 or so, the advantage of 2 K's per game is lessened, particularly if you are doing something else well enough to produce a 123 ERA+ over 200+IP for seven straight seasons.

It goes to "what sabermetrics can't see". It's in the fog, and we shouldn't (wrt pitching) just pretend it doesn't matter.
   66. Mister High Standards Posted: July 13, 2007 at 08:45 PM (#2440219)
You'all don't have high enough standards tocome up with good comp lists:
The only player who doesn't really fit is El Sid.

Player        ERA+    IP    K/9    From    To    Ages    W    L    W-L%
1 Frank Tanana    115    2330.1    6.28    1974    1984    20-30    133    128    0.51
2 Frank Viola    113    2107.2    6.27    1982    1990    22
-30    137    110    0.555
3 Sid Fernandez    112    1590.2    8.25    1983    1993    20
-30    98    79    0.554
4 Tom Glavine    116    1956.1    5.58    1987    1996    21
-30    139    92    0.602
5 Jon Matlack    117    1756.2    5.97    1973    1980    23
-30    97    95    0.505
6 Barry Zito    123    1535    6.81    2000    2007    22
-29    108    72    0.6
7 Andy Pettitte    118    1584.1    6.22    1995    2002    23
-30    128    70    0.646
8 John Cande    120    1799    5.48    1975    1984    21
-30    122    80    0.604
9 Wilson Alvez    114    1433    6.75    1991    1999    21
-29    86    76    0.531
10 Chuck Finley    119    1450    6.37    1986    1993    23
-30    89    76    0.539
11 Mark Buehrle    123    1543.2    5.24    2000    2007    21
-28    103    70    0.595
12 Jimmy Key    122    1479    5.03    1984    1991    23
-30    103    68    0.602 
   67. Mister High Standards Posted: July 13, 2007 at 08:45 PM (#2440220)
Damn it!
   68. Mike Green Posted: July 13, 2007 at 09:07 PM (#2440234)
Jim Maloney would also fall within the 1500 inning, 120+ ERA range at age 27. Ken Holtzman and Dave McNally are also much closer to Buehrle than Clemens and Seaver and the rest of the durable strikeout artists in terms of performance.

Chris, if you're suggesting that Buehrle and Clemens/Seaver are similar because of their "innings pitched" histories and their lower body build, that's a whole different matter. You may indeed be right, but an ERA+ floor is not the ideal way to test this proposition.
   69. JPWF13 Posted: July 13, 2007 at 09:54 PM (#2440258)
FWIW I took Chris' list from 26
excluded Buehrle, Vazquez and Zito (haven't pitched from 29-32)
and divide dinto 3 groups based on k/9 (no I didn't normalize)
The high K group had a k/9 of 8.71 and ip of 224 at age 28
The middle K group had a k/9 of 6.53 and ip of 210 at age 28
The high K group had a k/9 of 4.93 and ip of 215 at age 28

and from ages 29-32???
No separation
The high K group averaged 186 ip
The middles averaged 192 ip
and the low averaged 184 ip

What I should do is adjust for the strike seasons (1981 & 1994) and normalize to league averages- but it doesn't look like that will make much of a difference (it could if it boosts Rogers into the middle K group, boosts Morris into the High but that really won't make too much of a difference
   70. RobertMachemer Posted: July 13, 2007 at 10:22 PM (#2440285)
Trying to help out MHS...
Player            ERA+   IP      K/9    From    To    Ages     W        L    W-L%
1 Frank Tanana    115   2330.1   6.28   1974   1984   20-30   133   128   0.51
2 Frank Viola     113   2107.2   6.27   1982   1990   22
-30   137   110   0.555
3 Sid Fernandez   112   1590.2   8.25   1983   1993   20
-30    98    79   0.554
4 Tom Glavine     116   1956.1   5.58   1987   1996   21
-30   139    92   0.602
5 Jon Matlack     117   1756.2   5.97   1973   1980   23
-30    97    95   0.505
6 Barry Zito      123   1535.0   6.81   2000   2007   22
-29   108    72   0.6
7 Andy Pettitte   118   1584.1   6.22   1995   2002   23
-30   128    70   0.646
8 John Candelaria 120   1799.0   5.48   1975   1984   21
-30   122    80   0.604
9 Wilson Alvarez  114   1433.0   6.75   1991   1999   21
-29    86    76   0.531
10 Chuck Finley   119   1450.0   6.37   1986   1993   23
-30    89    76   0.539
11 Mark Buehrle   123   1543.2   5.24   2000   2007   21
-28   103    70   0.595
12 Jimmy Key      122   1479.0   5.03   1984   1991   23
-30   103    68   0.602 


Let's see if that works.
   71. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2007 at 11:37 PM (#2440389)
You may indeed be right, but an ERA+ floor is not the ideal way to test this proposition.

That's mostly the case, but it is important that the pitcher wasn't just terrible, on a team running anyone out there. Not the largest component, but a component.
   72. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: December 08, 2011 at 03:22 AM (#4009818)
Buerhle over the life of his last contract

He's not got the wins one would hope to carry him to 300, but he's solid. I think the next four years will be worth the money.
   73. Dan The Mediocre Posted: December 08, 2011 at 03:44 AM (#4009826)
He's not got the wins one would hope to carry him to 300, but he's solid. I think the next four years will be worth the money.


A 115 ERA+ is worth about 4 wins over a season, and over 4 year that's 16 which translates to something like $80million worth of value (at $5 million per win, which may be lower than the average of 2012-2015). His contract is for just $58 million, so it's a very good signing. I can't believe that no one topped that contract offer.
   74. Dr. Vaux Posted: December 08, 2011 at 04:47 AM (#4009864)
Dave Cameron says it's a "non-disaster," which I suppose is high praise for a free-agent signing coming from him.
   75. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: December 08, 2011 at 04:48 AM (#4009865)
I thought each win was more like 4.5m currently, and had stayed relatively smooth over the last few years? Regardless, Buehrle is as good a bet as there is to be worth his contract. That goes even more when you look at the mediocrities who sign for 3-4m less aav and as long a contract- a 96 ERA+ innings eater is worth 11-12m a year.
   76. Dan The Mediocre Posted: December 08, 2011 at 05:12 AM (#4009875)
I thought each win was more like 4.5m currently, and had stayed relatively smooth over the last few years? Regardless, Buehrle is as good a bet as there is to be worth his contract. That goes even more when you look at the mediocrities who sign for 3-4m less aav and as long a contract- a 96 ERA+ innings eater is worth 11-12m a year.


Even if we go with that, it's still worth $72 million.

A 4 year contract for a league average pitcher would be $36 million. So even if Buerhle becomes that, it isn't an awful contract. Certainly a much better value than Ryan Howard.
   77. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: February 04, 2012 at 12:01 AM (#4053292)
So four years have passed, and running the same report, here's the pitchers who made it from age 28 to age 32 and kept producing (2400 IP, ERA+ 117):
Greg Maddux
Roger Clemens
Bert Blyleven
Dave Stieb
Tom Glavine
John Smoltz
Mark Buehrle

Doc Gooden just misses the comparison at ERA+ 113. So what is Buerhle going to do next? When I drop the innings to 2300, I pick up Sabathia and Steve Rogers. How do the next four years go? Stieb was done, throwing just 178 IP over the next three seasons. Rogers was almost done - he managed 400 innings. Smoltz had just blown out his arm and would miss his age 33 season and move to the bullpen for four years. The others averaged well over 900 innings, with Blyleven leading the way.

So Buehrle, if his arm isn't blown out today (like Stieb and Smoltz), he's going to keep rolling - another 800 innings (average SP innings have gone down).

It isn't about strikeouts or whatever else. Durability is about what you have already made it through. 800 innings at a 112-115 ERA+. It's a shame his win total lagged the last four seasons - not that he'd be at 200 now, but he could have 9 or 10 more.
   78. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 04, 2012 at 03:17 AM (#4053346)
Could Rogers have been repaired with today's technology? Come to think of it, could Stieb have been, since he managed to come back and pitch again later?
   79. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: February 04, 2012 at 09:43 AM (#4053374)
Vaux, I believe so. Smoltz is the most obvious comparison

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