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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Beyond the Box Score: Anderson: Do Not Sign Jon Garland

People of MLB…I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own team, but if you threaten to extend your ignorance, this league of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in enlightenment, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.

Some general manager is about to make a critical mistake.

Last season Jon Garland had a tRA of 5.74, or 0.01 runs better than a replacement level starter’s ERA (0.36 better tRA), over 196.7 innings pitched. That works out to about eight runs (non-leveraged), making Garland a 0.8 WAR pitcher, worth less than 4.4 million last season, and nearing 30 years old. Since 2003, Garland hasn’t posted a single tRA* under 4.75, and only one tRA under 4.75, that came in 2006. Despite this, he finished sixth in the 2005 Cy Young voting, largely due to 18 wins.

It appears Garland is a 5 run pitcher at absolute best, and that’s barely over replacement level. Anything more than 4.4 annually is overpaying for him, but the odds are he’ll get double that this off-season, and possibly a deal similar to Kyle Lohse’s 4/41. That’s simply unacceptable for any team, even the Red Sox (who are smart enough to not even call) or the Yankees (who probably won’t consider him.)

...So, which team steps on this landmine?

Repoz Posted: November 27, 2008 at 02:58 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Silencio Posted: November 27, 2008 at 03:40 PM (#3016814)
I like most of the stuff at BTBS, but I really wish they would stop trying to jam tRA down peoples throat. I just dont believe that Jon Garlands true talent level is a 5.74 ERA. I think his FIP of 4.80 or his xFIP of 4.65 is much closer to his true talent level. And when he has pitched an average of over 210 innings per season over the last 5 years I think there is some value there. Im not sure if hes going to be anything close to a bargain this offseason, but to argue that he is a replacement level pitcher is absurd imo and this is coming from a guy that likes to bag on Jon Garland almost as much as the next guy.
   2. RJ in TO Posted: November 27, 2008 at 03:54 PM (#3016817)
With their incredible run of pitcher injuries, and their generally good (we'll see if Hill is healthy, and who they get for the other IF position) defense, the Jays could probably use someone like Garland. Litsch has the same profile as Garland, and the Jays' D helped him to a pretty good year.
   3. Eugene Freedman Posted: November 27, 2008 at 04:12 PM (#3016820)
Garland is going into his age 29 season- the season when pitchers frequently peak. That doesn't mean he'll peak this year, but it's not unlikely. Moreover, he's thrown at least 191 innings in each of the last seven years. He's started 32 or 33 games each of those years. To echo Silencio, his durability has to have value. Even if there were replacement level pitchers who could match him, and I think he's 5-10% above average for a starting pitcher, a GM would have to move pitchers in and out of the rotation in order to achieve Garland's IP each season. That means it would take 4-5 replacement level AAA starters to make up for Garland. That's not just a salary cost, it's also a cost of options for each of those 4-5 pitchers.

But, Garland isn't replacement level. His ERA+ and xFIP are better than replacement level by a good margin. And, ERA+ includes relievers, who have better ERAs than starters. All of a sudden Garlands 104 ERA+ over his career looks more like 10% better than the average starter.

I wouldn't consider him a bad gamble with a 3 year contract through his age 32 season. I wouldn't ever go 4 years or more with a pitcher unless it's to buy our his arbitration years or unless he is one of the top pitchers in the league and relatively young- see Johan Santana or CC Sabathia.
   4. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: November 27, 2008 at 04:20 PM (#3016823)
I finally got one of Repoz's references. Do I win anything?
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 27, 2008 at 05:17 PM (#3016840)
The one thing that continually amazes me on this site is how many people have no idea what replacement level starting pitching looks like.

People claim John Garland is replacement level, and Javier Vasquez is a 4th starter, who'll be dumped to the Mets for flotsam and jetsam, it's pretty unbelievable.

Sidney Ponson is a replacement level starter. Even with last year's craptastic performance Garland is probably still a very solid #4.
   6. Mike Green Posted: November 27, 2008 at 06:06 PM (#3016849)
Jon Garland has not been anything like a replacement level starter over the last 2-3 years. The worry is that with his K rate below 4.5 for two years now, he may be one going forward. ZIPS doesn't think so, projecting him for a 4.71 ERA, just slightly below league average for a starter.

Litsch is a different animal altogether. He's much younger, and his K rate was OK (5.2 last year) having increased significantly in his second year.
   7. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: November 27, 2008 at 07:09 PM (#3016871)
I finally got one of Repoz's references. Do I win anything?

I doubly frustrated when people post something like this statement. What is the reference?
   8. MM1f Posted: November 27, 2008 at 07:13 PM (#3016873)
7,
The spoken word intro to the MC5's "Ramblin' Rose"... I think?
   9. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 27, 2008 at 07:19 PM (#3016875)
It appears Garland is a 5 run pitcher at absolute best,

Garland has now gone eight straight years with an ERA under 5.
   10. RJ in TO Posted: November 27, 2008 at 07:23 PM (#3016876)
The spoken word intro to the MC5's "Ramblin' Rose"... I think?


It's also a slight variation from a speech in "The Day the Earth Stood Still".
   11. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: November 27, 2008 at 08:23 PM (#3016892)
It appears Garland is a 5 run pitcher at absolute best,

Garland has now gone eight straight years with an ERA under 5.


Yeah, that line tripped me out too.
"It appears look at the stats that Jon Garland is actually a rubber suit filled with dogs..."
   12. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: November 27, 2008 at 09:03 PM (#3016901)
As a Jays fan, I was ok with the notion of Toronto pursuing Garland until I read that Richard Griffin thinks it's a great idea...now I just feel icky.
   13. The Mighty Quinn Posted: November 27, 2008 at 09:03 PM (#3016902)
People need to remember that TRA is scaled differently than ERA, knock about 0.40 off TRA to get comparisons to ERA. Also Anderson does not use regressed TRA ( a variety of peripherals are regressed to try to filter out fluke results) which takes his *TRA to 5.22 or about 4.82 on the old ERA scale ( which puts it quite close to his FIP of 4.80 in 2008). I believe league ERA for starters was about 4.50 , so Garland was below average in 2008, but above replacement level.

In 2005 and 2006 he was an above average starter, so I suppose at age 29 maybe he can rebound, although given his declining strike-out rates I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. I suppose for a large market team who needs pitching you can pay him $ 10 million /year and keep your fingers crossed that he can rebound, small to mid market teams should probably shop elsewhere.
   14. Halofan Posted: November 27, 2008 at 09:20 PM (#3016911)
Innings Eaten Vs. Innings Digested
   15. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: November 27, 2008 at 09:27 PM (#3016916)
I'd have to check, but I think multiplying by .92 would give better results than subtracting 0.40.
   16. The Mighty Quinn Posted: November 27, 2008 at 09:56 PM (#3016923)
Colin I got the 0.40 factor here; (http://www.statcorner.com/blog/2008/10/the-guts-behind-tra-now-viewab.html)



"Also tRA is on a runs/9 scale and FIP is on earned runs/9*. So tRA is naturally going to be about 0.40 higher than FIP and ERA.

*I've never quite figured out why. Runs/9 makes so much more sense than forcing an earned/unearned split."

As per Graham MacAree its originator....
   17. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: November 28, 2008 at 12:24 AM (#3016947)
Right. In the 2008 AL, for instance, there was a 0.42 gap between the average RA and ERA. At the same time, the league average ERA was 91% of the league average RA. As you move away from the mean RA/ERA, though, I think you get a better fit with the multiplicative method than the additive method.
   18. SkyKing162 Posted: November 28, 2008 at 10:08 PM (#3017214)
I just dont believe that Jon Garlands true talent level is a 5.74 ERA. I think his FIP of 4.80 or his xFIP of 4.65 is much closer to his true talent level.


tRA certainly isn't perfect and it will certainly miss the boat on some players. And maybe John Garland is one of those guys. But the methodology seems sounds. Instead of just using K-BB-HR rates and assumes the same BABIP for everyone, tRA divides up batted balls in GB-LD-FB and some sub-categories and uses league-average rates for each of those. To me, that seems at least as productive as FIP, by definition.

I think the only real reason we have to believe that Garland is a better pitcher than the 5.35 ERA his tRA suggests is that he's repeatedly beaten that number. Same goes for Javy Vazquez in the other direction. In other words, we have reason to believe that their batted balls aren't league-average in value. Either that, or they have a (lack) of ability to adjust their approach depending on the situation.
   19. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 28, 2008 at 10:39 PM (#3017223)
I think the only real reason we have to believe that Garland is a better pitcher than the 5.35 ERA his tRA suggests is that he's repeatedly beaten that number.


That's a pretty doggoned good reason.

-- MWE
   20. SkyKing162 Posted: November 28, 2008 at 10:52 PM (#3017229)
Mike, I agree with you. For pitchers with lots of major league data, we can certainly take their ERAs and adjust for things like fielding and ballpark to get a better ERA projection that what FIP or tRA would suggest.

But my point was that just because Jon Garland's past ERAs are closer to his FIPs than his tRAs doesn't mean tRA is worse than FIP.
   21. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: November 28, 2008 at 11:03 PM (#3017236)
But my point was that just because Jon Garland's past ERAs are closer to his FIPs than his tRAs doesn't mean tRA is worse than FIP.


Well no.

But I do want to caution people that there has not been, to my knowledge, a large-scale validity test of tRA versus FIP/xFIP/ERA/etc. in predicting future performance. We know how well FIP/DIPS 1.0/ERC/etc. track future ERA because that has been studied, and to be quite frank they're not a massive improvement on ERA.
   22. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 29, 2008 at 02:17 AM (#3017295)
I think the only real reason we have to believe that Garland is a better pitcher than the 5.35 ERA his tRA suggests is that he's repeatedly beaten that number.

More accurately you could say he has 8 seasons in the majors and has beat that number by at least 0.45 every single season. His career ERA is 0.88 better.

Since 2003, Garland hasn't posted a single tRA* under 4.75, and only one tRA under 4.75, that came in 2006. Despite this, he finished sixth in the 2005 Cy Young voting, largely due to 18 wins.

Since 2003, his ERA has been under 4.75 four of six times. He finished sixth in the 2005 Cy Young voting, largely due to his 18 wins being 3rd in the league, 3.50 ERA being 9th, WHIP of 1.17 in 4th, 8th in the league in IP, led the league in shutouts with 3, 7th in the league in ERA+.

Articles like this give statheads a bad name.
   23. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 29, 2008 at 04:02 AM (#3017325)
Well, I sure wouldn't go near him. His K-rate is in cliff territory, he's going to be 29, and he's pitched a lot of innings. The latter could also be looked at as a good thing, of course. He doesn't seem a bad bet to have a 90-100 ERA+ for the next two or three years, but that's not worth what it will take to sign him, especially with the risk of complete collapse that accompanies the peripherals.
   24. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: November 29, 2008 at 04:20 AM (#3017327)
Since 2003, Garland hasn't posted a single tRA* under 4.75, and only one tRA under 4.75, that came in 2006. Despite this, he finished sixth in the 2005 Cy Young voting, largely due to 18 wins.


Since 2003, his ERA has been under 4.75 four of six times. He finished sixth in the 2005 Cy Young voting, largely due to his 18 wins being 3rd in the league, 3.50 ERA being 9th, WHIP of 1.17 in 4th, 8th in the league in IP, led the league in shutouts with 3, 7th in the league in ERA+.


Remember, tRA is scaled to RA, not ERA. So his ERA being under 4.75 isn't a comment on tRA per se - a 4.75 tRA is roughly equivelent to a 4.35 ERA, so about league average. His career RA is 4.90, so it's not outlandish to think that his career RA numbers are in that vicinity. (I'll be honest - I'm trained to think on the ERA scale, just like everyone else. Off the top of my head I can't say whether a 4.90 RA is particularly good or bad.) He had a 5.31 RA last season - again, I think the disconnect a lot of people are having here is the fact that they're expecting tRA to track ERA, not RA.
   25. SkyKing162 Posted: November 29, 2008 at 08:19 PM (#3017477)
Going forward, every time I reference tRA or tRA*, I'm going to subtract .40 runs and call it tERA or tERA*. The RA scale is logically better, but nobody uses it intuitively, I agree with Colin on that one.

*** ***
For reference on Garland... His RA beats tRA* in 2005 and 2007. Both FIP^ and xFIP^ (bumped up .40 runs to go on the RA scale) missed in 2005, too. FIP is the only one not to miss in 2007, probably because Garland's HR/FB was 7.4%. Also, Garland gave up .70 unearned runs per nine innings, making his ERA look lower than he deserved.

<pre>
Season IP ERA RA tRA tRA* xFIP^ FIP^
2000 69.2 6.50 7.15
2001 117.0 3.69 4.54
2002 192.2 4.59 5.10
2003 191.2 4.52 4.85 5.04 5.03
2004 217.0 4.89 5.18 5.27 5.31 5.55 5.63
2005 221.0 3.50 3.79 4.78 4.76 4.71 4.62
2006 211.1 4.52 4.77 4.58 5.00 5.22 4.81
2007 208.1 4.24 4.93 5.50 5.65 5.42 4.86
2008 196.2 4.91 5.32 5.74 5.22 5.05 5.20

On the ERA scale, his tERA*'s have been:

2003 4.63
2004 4.91
2005 4.36
2006 4.60
2007 5.25
2008 4.82

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