12 November 2011

Hmm, what other outdated stats is Philly interested in trading for?

That's the question I asked myself when I heard that the Phillies signed former Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to a 4-year, $50 million contract. I tweeted this thought after initially heard the news, because it seemed to me that Philadelphia overvalues saves and it creates a market inefficiency.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that Papelbon isn't a good pitcher. But as a reliever, he's definitely not $50M good. No one really is. The Yankees might be the only other team that would be willing to pay that much for a closer, and it would have to be for a Mariano Rivera-type in his absolute prime. As it is, based on average salary per year, Papelbon is the 3rd highest paid pitcher on the Phillies, behind Cliff Lee ($24M) and Roy Halladay ($20M).

To borrow a term from MLB Network's new show Clubhouse Confidential (a great watch, BTW), Philadelphia signed Papelbon on "the wrong side of 30," after Papelbon's age 31 season. Another thing I noticed was that the Phils are paying essentially for one year of inflated stats (shades of the Cubs signing Soriano for his one-year peak and a 40/40 season). In 2011, Papelbon posted his career best in FIP (1.53) and 2nd highest K/9 (12.17). However, his BABIP has been trending up for the past three years, and while in '11 is was still an unusually low .307, it tells me he might be regressing more towards the league average BABIP and continue to trend higher through his 30s.

Again, am I saying Philadelphia didn't sign an elite closer? No. My point is that no pitcher is worth $12.5 million per year whose primary duty will be to pitch in one inning. Only 3 times in 63 appearances in 2011 did Papelbon enter the game before the 9th inning.

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