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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rangers - Signed Lewis

Texas Rangers - Signed P Colby Lewis to a 2-year, $5 million contract.

Terrific, terrific signing by the Rangers.  I’m not generally a fan of some of the team’s moves (though there haven’t been any repeats of the infamous Eaton trade), but this shows imagination and creativity and aggression in an area that hasn’t been really been looked at by most major league clubs.  Sure, teams go after Japanese talent, especially top talent, with far more gusto than they used to, but the value of using NPB as a higher-level minor-league than AAA, a place to watch players that either haven’t gotten a chance in the majors or still need time to work out things in an easier-than-MLB-but-better-than-AAA environment, has generally been overlooked at MLB teams.  Now, the Japanese might not be crazy about being considered an elite MLB minor league, but I’m looking at this from the viewpoint of MLB teams.

Lewis, of course, was a disappointment in the majors for the Rangers after being a top prospect.  He had serious issues with his command, but also serious issues with his shoulder, and any chance of him coming back from a miserable 2003 was dashed by a torn rotator cuff and surgery.  The A’s gave him a short chance in mostly mopup duty in 2007 and it didn’t work out, but he also had his best performance ever in the minors that year.

In Japan, Lewis continued the progress he made with Sacramento.  From a pitcher who had occasional problems with control, he put up sterling numbers, with a ridiculous 10/1 K/BB ratio in 2009.  Is Lewis a risk?  Absolutely.  But pitchers are very tricky.  There are always the greats that reach the majors fully formed, like Clemens and Lincecum, but there are always a lot of pitchers that shockingly turn it around later in their career and give solid seasons from a long time.  When I projected Cliff Lee in the mid-4s a couple of years ago, that projection was widely considered wrong.  Too optimistic.  At the time of his 30th birthday, Jamie Moyer was 34-54 with an ERA+ of 86 and anybody who thought he’d have 258 career wins 15 years later is a liar.

Again, I’m not saying Lewis will be Lee or Moyer.  But he’s played extremely well and no matter what a player’s past, teams should always be flexible to give chances to a player that plays well.  You don’t get great bargains on sure things.  $2.5 million a year is, in the big pitcher of things, a rather small sum.  These are the kinds of signings that teams in a position to be less risk-averse should be making, not signing bad punchless-and-judy leftfielders that can’t play centerfield or ancient catchers that last had good seasons when John Kerry was a candidate for president.

Lewis could very easily put up a dozen bad starts and end up in mopup duty for a year and a half.  But he could also be worth 8 figures in pure profit for the Rangers.

If you haven’t figured it out, good signing.  No doubt the error range on the projection are tremendous.

2010 ZiPS Projection - Colby Lewis
————————————————————————————————-
Year     W   L   G GS   IP   H   ER HR BB SO   ERA ERA+
————————————————————————————————-
2010     11   9 27 27 176.1 179   86 24 51 128 4.39 107
————————————————————————————————-
Top Comps:  Matt Morris, Frank Castillo, Kevin Tapani

 

Dan Szymborski Posted: January 20, 2010 at 05:27 PM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 05:57 PM (#3442247)
Thanks Dan! I'm impressed you're even able to provide a projection. Should be interesting to see what Lewis does. I'm kinda rooting for him.
   2. davekemp Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:18 PM (#3442275)
Thanks Dan! I'm impressed you're even able to provide a projection.


Seconded. I'm rooting for this guy as well.
   3. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:26 PM (#3442283)
Might need to fix the Miller, Moyer, Lewis name mix-ups in the excerpt. Unless I'm reading it wrong.
   4. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:34 PM (#3442296)
Fixed.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: January 20, 2010 at 07:26 PM (#3442337)
Jamie Moyer was 34-54 with an ERA+ of 86 and anybody who thought he'd have 258 career wins 15 years later is a liar.

Well ... as a Cub fan I did get to see the young Moyer ... and I thought he would turn out good. You could see it when he was "on" and I was always confused why he wasn't "on" more often. When the Cubs shipped him to Texas, I just knew he was gonna break out (he didn't).

I'll admit I'd pretty much given up on him by the time he got to Baltimore but I was still rooting for him and following him and was probably the least-shocked person in the world when he did put it together. But 258 wins, nah.

Similarly I wasn't at all surprised when Scot Thompson went all George Brett on the league in his 30s.
   6. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 20, 2010 at 07:30 PM (#3442343)
ZiPS Colby isn't an ace like CHONE Colby, but he's pretty good nonetheless.
   7. The Nightman Cometh Posted: January 20, 2010 at 07:34 PM (#3442346)
Similarly I wasn't at all surprised when Scot Thompson went all George Brett on the league in his 30s.
He was out of baseball at 29.
   8. Stately, Plump Buck Mulligan Posted: January 20, 2010 at 07:42 PM (#3442350)
He was out of baseball at 29.


Maybe Walt Davis meant that Scot Thompson is really good at crapping his pants? And/or forming a perfect double-tapered ####?
   9. Walt Davis Posted: January 20, 2010 at 07:52 PM (#3442361)
Maybe some people forgot to turn on their sarcastic self-deprecation detectors this morning.
   10. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: January 20, 2010 at 08:20 PM (#3442381)
Wow - thanks Ivan, I hadn't seen CHONE yet, which projects Colby as the club's 2nd most valuable player (a shade behind Kinsler).

I, for what very little it's worth, think ZiPS is about right here, though there are some huge error bars, as Dan said (also think the Ks will be a bit higher than this).
   11. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:01 PM (#3442425)
Oh, as this is as good a place as any, how do Botts (White Sox) and Johnson (Rays) look? Neither was very good in NPB - how do you weight that time relative to games in the NA?
   12. Barnaby Jones Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:15 PM (#3442439)
Maybe some people forgot to turn on their sarcastic self-deprecation detectors this morning.


Judging by his response, Buck Mulligan may have accidentally grabbed the self-defecation detector instead.
   13. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:38 PM (#3442458)
Follow-up on my post 10: not to take this projection too seriously (or dwell on another forecasting system), but...
CHONE has Lewis at 38 RAR (runs against replacement), which ties him for 14th in the majors among pitchers (behind, in order: Greinke, Lincecum, Halladay, Sabathia, King Felix, Verlander, Haren, Vazquez, Lester, Lee, Beckett, Cain and Shields - tied with Buehrle, Ubaldo, and Hamels).
   14. Spivey Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:46 PM (#3442466)
Does anyone have any kind of information on how Lewis *looked* last year? Is he back to throwing hard, or has he re-invented himself as more of a "crafty veteran"?
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:00 PM (#3442471)
Does anyone have any kind of information on how Lewis *looked* last year? Is he back to throwing hard, or has he re-invented himself as more of a "crafty veteran"?

From what I have read, he got more command on his fastball by dialing it down a notch (from the 95-96 mph range to a 90-93 mph range), and added a cutter.
   16. Van Lingle Mungo Jerry Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:05 PM (#3442474)
They should have signed Parker Lewis. He'd go undefeated every year!
   17. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:16 PM (#3442492)
Oh, as this is as good a place as any, how do Botts (White Sox) and Johnson (Rays) look? Neither was very good in NPB - how do you weight that time relative to games in the NA?

I've found that because of the increased variance, JP->NA projection seasons only have about half the predictive value of NA->NA seasons. So instead of his baseline being 8 parts 2009, 5 parts 2008, 4 parts 2007, and 2 parts 2006, his baseline was 4 parts 2009, 2.5 parts 2008, 4 parts 2007, and 2 parts 2006.
   18. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:18 PM (#3442494)
Awesome - that's what I saw when I last looked at this stuff actively a decade back. (Which is not to say I've a lot of faith in what I used to do, just enough to be dangerous.)
   19. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2010 at 06:29 PM (#3443246)
But is he in the best shape of his life?
   20. AROM Posted: January 21, 2010 at 06:57 PM (#3443280)
Maybe I'll have to look at my NPB translations and readjust. The ZIPs projection looks more right than what I came up with. But it's hard to tell. There are a number of Japanese pitchers who have come over and done better than that, and Lewis is the only one who has put up a 10-1 K-W ratio as a fulltime starter.

Uehara came close in some of his seasons. He was a disappointment in Baltimore not for his pitching, but for his injuries. When he did pitch he had a 4-1 strikeout to walk ratio and 4.05 ERA in the AL East. I'm only projecting Lewis to be a little bit better than that.

Either way, Rangers got a great bargain here.
   21. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:06 PM (#3443291)
Sean, our translations are probably similar, but I just put more weight on NA play.
   22. The Essex Snead Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:11 PM (#3443299)
They should have signed Parker Lewis. He'd go undefeated every year!

I think that winning streak ended the minute he signed on to star in Mansquito.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:28 PM (#3443316)
Judging by his response, Buck Mulligan may have accidentally grabbed the self-defecation detector instead.

Is there any other kind of defecation? I mean, you really can't defecate for someone else.
   24. JoeHova Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:33 PM (#3443321)
I think that winning streak ended the minute he signed on to star in Mansquito.

Yeah, I was going to say. I just saw him in some low budget thing on the SciFi channel and he didn't even have any scenes with the rest of the cast despite being 2nd billed. He was locked outside while everybody else was inside a house. I couldn't figure out if he got hired first and they recast the rest of the movie or if they brought him in after the rest of the cast was finished with their scenes. Either way, it didn't make a lot of sense.

Anyway, I agree that this is a very nice signing by the Rangers. Even if it doesn't work out as planned, it still is a good idea and the money is (relatively) small.
   25. AROM Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:49 PM (#3443335)
Sean, our translations are probably similar, but I just put more weight on NA play.


That might be something worth copying. Hope you don't mind. Right now I have less weight on minor league play, but NPB is weighted the same as MLB.
   26. Dingbat_Charlie Posted: January 22, 2010 at 08:23 PM (#3444482)
forming a perfect double-tapered ####?

thanks. I'd finally gotten that song out of my head.
   27. Barnaby Jones Posted: January 23, 2010 at 10:56 PM (#3445078)
Is there any other kind of defecation? I mean, you really can't defecate for someone else.


Think of it more in the sense of defecation on yourself, not for yourself, like in the example of Scott Thompson crapping his pants.

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