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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Phillies’ Zack Wheeler puts end to insult-slinging with Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen

After two days of slinging passive-aggressive insults with New York Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Wheeler put a stop to the back-and-forth Saturday before working out with Phillies pitchers and catchers at the Carpenter Complex.

“He’s taken a couple of things I said to heart, I guess, that I really didn’t mean for him to do,” Wheeler said. “But I don’t care.”

It all began Thursday when Wheeler told a New York Post reporter that he “heard crickets” from the Mets when his agent gave them a chance to match the Phillies’ five-year, $118 million offer.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 15, 2020 at 11:06 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: brodie van wagenen, mets, phillies, zack wheeler

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   1. bobm Posted: February 15, 2020 at 12:06 PM (#5924592)
FTFA:

Van Wagenen fired back Friday, claiming Wheeler should be thankful to the Mets for helping him “parlay two good half-seasons over the last five years into $118 million.” The 29-year-old right-hander’s contract represented the third-largest free-agent deal in Phillies history, trailing Bryce Harper (13 years, $330 million) and Cliff Lee (five years, $120 million).


That's some substantial inflation in MLB between 2011 and today.

Lee, Age 23-31: 1409 IP, 112 ERA+

Wheeler, Age 23-29: 749 IP, 100 ERA+
Wheeler, Age 28-29: 377 IP, 107 ERA+
   2. majorflaw Posted: February 15, 2020 at 01:26 PM (#5924602)
“ . . . Wheeler told a New York Post reporter that he “heard crickets” from the Mets when his agent gave them a chance to match the Phillies’ five-year, $118 million offer.“

As was appropriate. When a rival proposes to do something stupid the least you can do is get out of their way and let them do it. Van Wagenin’s description of Wheeler’s career appears accurate. I was shocked to see that someone was going to pay Wheeler for multiple $20M+ seasons but that may be the going rate for mediocre SPs these days.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: February 15, 2020 at 03:28 PM (#5924634)
#1 and #2: While there has of course been substantial inflation for elite SP since then (the top guys are all over $30 now), I think the Wheeler contract is better characterized by (some) teams focusing on different metrics and the change in pitcher usage strategies. Wheeler supposedly looks very good by statcast metrics and so supposedly will bust out (if he can stay healthy). Meanwhile Bumgarner is a year older but with much better results signed for 5/$85. Keuchel got 3/$55 and the perfectly decent Kyle Gibson just 3/$30; Roark 2/$24; Odorizzi took the QO.

So if anything, the market for "solid starter" has stagnated or even "collapsed." (Wade Miley 2/$15) Which gets us in part to the usage changes where for almost anybody but a stud, teams are content with 150-180 innings -- so SP value has declined and they seem to prefer guys who can be closer to donminant for 5 innings (Ryu, 4/$80) than an innings-eater like Bumgarner.

On Wheeler, I'm with you guys in the "I ain't believing it until I see it" camp. But he had that buzz the entire season and offseason so I don't think it was just the Phils getting out of control. So what do we know? The Astros seem to have figured some things out -- Morton, Verlander's bump, Cole -- based on spin rates, pitch selection, etc. so maybe those are more/as important as past performance.

On this "feud", even if Wheeler started it, this looks bad for BvW in my opinion -- he's supposed to be the adult in the room and what player wants to think about his former GM slagging him openly. Seriously, BvW sounds like one of us, not a team executive.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: February 15, 2020 at 03:35 PM (#5924639)
By the way, Cliff Lee is an interesting comp since that's basically exactly what the Phils are hoping for here with a "stuff over performance" signing. Through age 28, Lee had a 94 ERA+ in 740 IP. He was still in arb when he broke out at 29. After 1.5 seasons of outstanding pitching, Cleveland was able to get Carlos Carrasco (and others) for him in a deadline deal. Then that offseason I think was when the Phils loaded up and somehow Cliff Lee was "extra" so they made a terrible trade with Seattle (I think we mostly thought it was terrible in real time) who later flipped him at the next deadline.

Obviously you never expect the sort of breakout that Lee had at 29-32 but that's the sort of thing the Phils are betting on (in fewer IP).
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: February 15, 2020 at 04:38 PM (#5924648)
On this "feud", even if Wheeler started it, this looks bad for BvW in my opinion -- he's supposed to be the adult in the room and what player wants to think about his former GM slagging him openly. Seriously, BvW sounds like one of us, not a team executive.


Agreed. If he felt the need to say anything, which he shouldn't have, a "we decided to go in a different direction" or even "that was a little more than we were willing to go" and be done with it would have been fine.
   6. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: February 15, 2020 at 05:46 PM (#5924662)
Maybe the Phillies grossly overbid against themselves, but more likely they weren’t the only team interested in paying Wheeler. Probably at least one other team bid in the neighborhood of 4/100 and the Phillies won the sweepstakes by adding the extra year.

That’s just business. What useful purpose does slagging the guy once’s he’s out the door serve?
   7. bobm Posted: February 15, 2020 at 07:54 PM (#5924676)
By the way, Cliff Lee is an interesting comp since that's basically exactly what the Phils are hoping for here with a "stuff over performance" signing.



MLB.com: Fewest innings before a $100 million contract

This brings us to the most interesting quirk of Wheeler's contract. Even now, at age 29, he’s only thrown 749 1/3 Major League innings -- the fewest of any pitcher prior to signing a $100 million free-agent contract. That excludes pitchers who signed big extensions early in their careers (such as Strasburg), as well as Masahiro Tanaka, who signed directly from Japan after an established career there. Yu Darvish also had thrown 832 1/3 Major League innings before he signed with the Cubs in 2018, but he had thrown over 1,000 innings in Japan first.

Here is a look at the five pitchers prior to Wheeler with the fewest career innings under their belts before landing nine-figure free-agent contracts.


Lee is on the list, along with Corbin, Zimmermann, Scherzer, and Hampton. Wheeler, Corbin, and Zimmermann had TJ surgery that limited their innings before the big contract. Lee was mostly non-arm (abdominal) injuries that limited his innings before the big contract.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: February 15, 2020 at 08:30 PM (#5924678)
Nitpck: if you're going to count Darvish's NPB innings, you should count (at least some of) the minor-league innings for the other guys. Maybe even the college innings.

Also, given changes in usage, having fewer than 1000 IP when signing your first big deal is gonna be pretty commonplace. Even if we figure your first team squeezes 6.5 seasons out of you before FA, few are going to make it even to Hampton's 1260 innings. The article seems to have been written early so they missed Gerrit Cole's 1195 innings for example. He had signed the arb/FA buyout but at the time he would have been FA, Sale had just 1110 IP and I'm confident he'd have gotten a 9-figure deal. From 2013-19, up to 7 full seasons, only 14 pitchers topped Hampton's 1260.

But the main issue with Wheeler isn't so much the low number of innings (that's possibly a good thing), it's the lack of results that makes him stand out in this group. It's one thing to look past Darvish's MLB durability issues because he had a 127 ERA+ and 11 K/9. Wheeler as we know has a 100 ERA+ and a fairly pedestrian modern K-rate of 8.7/9. Betting he'll stay healthy and improve seems silly but I guess that's what the nerds are expecting. (Note if he can stay healthy or improve and be healthy enough then the deal probably won't be a disaster. It's kinda like the Porcello extension.)
   9. bobm Posted: February 16, 2020 at 10:42 AM (#5924719)
Wheeler supposedly looks very good by statcast metrics and so supposedly will bust out (if he can stay healthy). [...]

The Astros seem to have figured some things out -- Morton, Verlander's bump, Cole -- based on spin rates, pitch selection, etc. so maybe those are more/as important as past performance.


Here's two links I found comparing Cole and Wheeler:

MLB.com: "Did Phillies land the next Gerrit Cole?"

Wheeler and Cole are both 6-foot-4 right-handers. Both are currently 29 years old. Both were high first-round picks -- Wheeler No. 6 overall in 2009 and Cole No.1 in ‘11. But that match score isn’t about these superficial details.

Rather, this is about the speed and movement of their pitches. And on a scale from zero up to one, no starting pitcher rated more similarly to Wheeler than Cole (0.94), who was a bit ahead of Nathan Eovaldi (0.92) and Brandon Woodruff (0.90). Similarly, no pitcher rated more similarly to Cole than Wheeler. [...]

Cole’s score of 0.94 relative to Wheeler means that in 94% of Wheeler’s games in 2019, at least half the pitches he threw matched the profile of pitches thrown by Cole. [...]

When Cole went from Pittsburgh to Houston before the 2018 season, he cut his sinker usage by more than half, while throwing more four-seamers and breaking balls. He also dramatically increased his spin rate (on four-seamers and breaking balls) and began elevating his four-seamer more.

It’s too much to expect Wheeler’s results to follow suit. But it’s also not so difficult to see how a similar plan might unfold. [...]


Good Phight: "Getting Zack Wheeler’s stats to match his stuff"

Even absent an uptick in spin, there looks to be a path for Wheeler to continue to build upon last year’s performance. More elevation with the fastball, a few more curveballs sprinkled in, and unleashing the changeup to get ahead early in counts (especially in second and third PAs for the same hitter) look like three ingredients for, ahem, continued success.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: February 16, 2020 at 07:17 PM (#5924774)
no starting pitcher rated more similarly to Wheeler than Cole (0.94), who was a bit ahead of Nathan Eovaldi (0.92) and Brandon Woodruff (0.90). Similarly, no pitcher rated more similarly to Cole than Wheeler. [...]

Cole 185 ERA+
Wheeler 102
Eovaldi 81
Woodruff 123

Possibly that doesn't track so well to results.

Cole’s score of 0.94 relative to Wheeler means that in 94% of Wheeler’s games in 2019, at least half the pitches he threw matched the profile of pitches thrown by Cole. [...]

I have no idea what that means. (I seriously doubt that's the definition of the score.)

Statcast does have a speed/movement similarity score. (In 2018, Wheeler was closest to deGrom ... how'd that work out?) Their "about" doesn't tell you how it's calculated but surely it's some sort of similarity based on multivariate distance. Wheeler and Cole in 2019 were close matches on average velocity for each pitch type but with quite different mixes. The movement on their pitches doesn't look similar at all except they have identical horizontal movement on their 4-seamer (but Cole's had much more vertical). On the others -- Cole's slider was about average in vertical break but had 2 inches more horizontal break than average; Wheeler's was average in both directions. Cole's curve had 6 inches more drop and 4 inches more horizontal break than average while Wheeler's had about 2 inches more drop and 1 inch less horizontal. Even on the 4-seamers, Cole had 3 inches more vertical movement while Wheeler was average.

Note, I don't know how you measure whether "half Wheeler's pitches matched the profile of pitches thrown by Cole." I don't even know what it would mean to say that half of Cole's pitches matched the profile of pitches thrown by Cole." But Wheeler's sim score to Cole is indeed 0.94 however it's calculated.

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