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Friday, October 19, 2012

Seattle Sports Central: The Really Interesting Jason Vargas Arbitration Case

Out of the Mariners‘ five arbitration cases this off-season, Jason Vargas’ is the most interesting one. This is his final arbitration year, and he will be a free agent after the 2013 season. The Mariners acquired him as part of the very complicated trade between the Mariners, Mets, and Indians in 2008. According to MLB Trade Rumors’ Arbitration Tracker, he is projected to get 7.4 million dollars this off-season. According to FanGraphs’ WAR dollars, he was worth more than this in both 2010-2011. This year, he was worth just 3.4 million dollars according to that formula.

And that was BEFORE they decided to move in the fences!

Mike Emeigh Posted: October 19, 2012 at 05:30 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, seattle

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   1. andrewberg Posted: October 19, 2012 at 06:57 PM (#4276913)
Is that low WAR$ figure coming from the silly Fangraphs calculation that measures pitcher WAR using xFIP retrospectively? 217 IP with a 3.85 ERA will play, even if it is slanted toward his beneficial home park.
   2. madvillain Posted: October 19, 2012 at 07:33 PM (#4276927)

Is that low WAR$ figure coming from the silly Fangraphs calculation that measures pitcher WAR using xFIP retrospectively? 217 IP with a 3.85 ERA will play, even if it is slanted toward his beneficial home park.


It is. Using more traditional methods paint him in the same light: mediocre innings eater. His ERA+ in Seattle is roughly 95 but he gave value by throwing 200 innings of it the last 3 years.

I dunno, guys like that have much more value to mediocre and contending teams than bad ones. I'd let him walk, but ownership (perhaps rightly) might view it as PR move to keep him.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: October 19, 2012 at 07:41 PM (#4276930)
Well, you take the good with the bad. Yes, b-r gives him 2.8 WAR in 2012 ... but then he only gets .7 WAR in 2011. All told, b-r gives him 5.8 WAR from 2010-12 while fangraphs gives him 5.3 WAR.

Also, using FIP/xFIP might not be a good idea for measuring past value but should be fine for projecting future value which is the purpose it's being put to here.

I'm not sure what's so "interesting" about this case. Over the last 3 years, he's thrown over 600 innings of league-average, BIP fabulousness. Offering arb / signing a pitcher like that is a no-brainer in this day and age. If the author is debating whether they should offer him a longer-term buyout, that is a tougher decision. I could see 3/$25 (remember the first year is the cheap arb year) or so. (I don't like BIP pitchers in their mid-30s.)

He did have a high HR rate last year of 1.4 but it was OK in 2011 and excellent in 2010. With BIP pitchers, I either look for a K/BB over 2 or a very low HR rate and Vargas has the former. A 1.4 HR rate is not likely viable but I suspect he projects as perfectly meh. Who can't use 180-200 innings of meh?
   4. Walt Davis Posted: October 19, 2012 at 07:45 PM (#4276933)
I dunno, guys like that have much more value to mediocre and contending teams than bad ones.

I don't really agree. Every team needs to keep the replacement-level starters off the mound. To the extent pitchers can be reliable, a reliable 180-200 innings that don't go to Chris Volstad is a godsend. One of the key ingredients in most bad teams is horrible starting pitching.

Also the Ms won 75 games, 77 pythag and were league-average in pitching ... they aren't that bad.
   5. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: October 19, 2012 at 07:52 PM (#4276935)
There is value in LAIMs (league-average innings munchers).
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: October 19, 2012 at 07:54 PM (#4276936)
There is value in LAIMs (league-average innings munchers).


There is exceptional value in one of those. A 180ip, 100 era+ pitcher is worth significantly more to a team than a 170 era+ 60ip reliever.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: October 19, 2012 at 07:59 PM (#4276938)
Some of these guys would have also pitched in relief and maybe just royally sucked there but ...

games started in 2012 by pitchers with a final seasonal ERA+ below 85:

1,133

So an average of about 38 starts per team and that's pretty standard from my previous poking around.

The NL West champion Giants had two full-timers (Lincecum and Zito) at this level. A big part of the reason Cleveland collapsed was having Masterson and Jimenez (although the other guys were just as bad); the Pirates collapsed when their pitching collapsed. The Cubs were a bad team but were getting decent pitching out of Garza, Dempster, Maholm, SPJ and Wood. But the trades and injuries led to 54 starts from horrible, horrible pitchers.

Anyway, you can expect to give a full rotation slot to a crappy pitcher (or a group of them) and guys like Vargas keep you from making it two full rotation slots. Granted, Vargas can has a 2013 just like Masterson's 2012 or just get hurt, so nothing is guaranteed.
   8. OCF Posted: October 20, 2012 at 12:42 AM (#4277266)
Just for the heck of it I went back looking for preserved notes I made for Long Beach State games that I attended in 2004. I found two such games, both Friday games with Jered Weaver pitching. The first was was Long Beach 3, UCI 0, Weaver a complete game with a 91 game score. The second was Fullerton 2, Long Beach 1 in 10 innings, with Weaver allowing 1 run in 8 2/3. The UCI pitcher was Brett Smith and the Fullerton pitcher was Jason Windsor. Smith never got above AA. Windsor had 13 non-memorable innings in 2006. Both Smith and Windsor seem to be out of Organized Baseball now.

Hitting lines from these games from people whose names you might recognize:

Kurt Suzuki (C): 1 for 5, a single, also reached on an error. The single was the second hit of a 3-single 10th inning winning rally.
John Bowker (LF): 1 for for with a single in the first game, 1 for 4 in the second game with a HR (the only HR in either game by either team). Scored a run in the first game after reaching on an error.
Troy Tulowitzki (SS): 0 for 2 with 2 walks in the first game, 1 for 4 with a double in the second game.
Jason Vargas (DH): 1 for 4 with a single in the first game, 1 for 4 with a single in the second game. Lost a potential RBI in the second game when Tulowitzki was thrown out 8-2 on his single. Hit a ball to right center in the first game that I though was going to be a HR but it died on the track. (Blair Field is a pitchers park.)

I'm a little surprised that of Smith, Windsor, and Vargas, Vargas is the one with an actual major league pitching career. But he's hardly ever had a chance to hit.
   9. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:18 AM (#4277276)
I'm a little surprised that of Smith, Windsor, and Vargas, Vargas is the one with an actual major league pitching career. But he's hardly ever had a chance to hit.


He has hit .262 in his limited opportunities.
   10. OCF Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:40 AM (#4277281)
I found two more games from that year, from June. Super-regional, Long Beach versus Arizona. Arizona won both of the games I went to, winning the series.

First game: Weaver staked to a 5-0 lead, stayed in an inning too long, left after 7 2/3 still up 5-2. Arizona scored 4 runs in the 9th to win 6-5.

Second game (actually the third of the series but I didn't go to the second): Vargas pitched. Vargas went 6 2/3, was relieved while ahead 2-1 with two runners on. Both runner scored. The game went extra tied 3-3 and Arizona won in the 11th.

Bowker: 1-4 plus a walk in the first game, 1-5 in the second.
Tulowitzki: 1-4 with a double and a run scored in the first game, 1-4 plus a walk in the second.
Vargas: 2-3 plus a walk and 2 runs scored in the first game, 0-5 in the second. Key moment in the second game: Vargas (still the DH after he'd been relieved) up with first and third an no outs, grounded into a 4-2 fielders choice with Bowker out at the plate.

My notes include criticism of Bowker for playing too deep in LF and letting balls drop in front of him.

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