Starting Pitcher FAs – Point-CounterPoint

So lets looks at some of the available starting pitchers who are Free Agents. Steve and I started with a short list and expanded it as described:

Don: Just as for the LH Bats post, part of the approach is to consider other ways to look at the data. I would have preferred getting detailed game day data to do this (e.g., so that summaries like number of multi-run innings could be looked at). But starting in 2023 the web site that used to have the data available for download is now returning error conditions. I’ve spent time looking at RetroSheet as an alternative. It will take a while to decode their detailed and complex coding structure so that is not an option for this article.

So, we will use the Baseball Reference game logs for 2023.

Steve: Adding a good starting pitcher to me is what will set the success level of the entire offseason. After a 5.02 ERA in 2023 for the staff, Rizzo has to move Trevor Williams to the bullpen and add a pitcher who can at least get you a 4.20 ERA.

Don: Looking at the Game Log data, the idea of using Bill James Game Score metrics intrigues me. So lets look at them. Quartile1 represents the value for which 25% of the values are smaller; Quartile3 is the value for which 25% are larger. A narrow range between these (AKA the InterQuartile Range) given a reasonably good Median is desirable IMO. Alternatively, a wider value, with most of the value being the difference between the Median and Quartile3 is also very good.

Note that the first Games column is how many total Games the pitcher appeared in. The second one is how many games were as the starter (Game Score is only calcuated for starters).

Looking at this table makes me even more interested in the idea of a multi-year deal for Woodruff. He has the smallest InterQuartile Range and only Imanaga has a larger median. A two year deal, recognizing that 2024 is probably lost. And a third year mutual option with a number that is big enough that Woodruff might not want to opt-out. Only 11 games is a concern. Maybe I should get these same metrics for his 2022 season?

Mea Culpa. Thanks to cgire’s catch on the link to the Game Score I realized that the Japanese site for the Imanaga data used the Tango version, while Baseball-Reference used the original James version. The following table shows the results for each score for each pitcher. The differences at a summary level are not that great IMO.

Steve: Woodruff is a gamble after the shoulder surgery. That’s a GM call as they have the mmedicals. Obviously we know when healthy that he is a star.

Don: Imanaga is also pretty intriguing. However his numbers do need to be qualified based on the level of the competition.

And I don’t see anything here on Stroman that concerns me enough to scare me away.

Steve: If Imanaga’s numbers were conparable, he would be the steal of the year. The issues with Stroman seem to be he hasn’t left teams gracefully, and maybe because he seems to fade as the season adds the innings. Overall though, he would help this rotation.

Don: I can understand your concern with Stroman. But the issue is we need to remove Williams from the starting rotation. Stroman is almost certainly better. Here is the same table for Williams in 2023.

And looking at these numbers makes me think that Paxton and Wood should be hard NOs. We already have one Trevor Williams; no reason to risk adding a Williams clone in Paxton or Wood.

Next, I would like to look at similar metrics for Innings Pitched. It seems clear to me that we need starters that are not going to put too much stress on the bullpen.

This is the last nail in the coffin IMO for Paxton and Wood. Stroman’s numbers also concern me. Since 2024 is likely a year to see what the kids can do. Makes me more interested in Woodruff – especially if he can return and push Williams to the bullpen (or a DFA). So here are his Game Score numbers for 2022 so we can see if 2023 was a fluke.

They are not quite as good/impressive as his 11 games in 2023 (not surprising since more games means more changes for a clunker). I really hope Rizzo is having someone qualified look at Woodruff’s medicals.

Steve: Woodruff will be signed by somebody. Will it be incentive ladened?

Don: I agree on incentives, including one based on pitching in 2024. The projections were that he might be out the full year. However. there was some discussion about being able to pitch sometime in the second half of the season.

And I have one more table to look at. I like looking at game level numbers (e.g., per nine innings). Many sites do that for HRs, Ks, Walks, etc. And that is what ERA is all about. So why not look at more of the numbers that way?

A few notes and observations about this table.

  • I could not find the breakdown of hits for Imanaga, so the single, double and triple columns don’t have values.
  • The difference between the R (all runs, not just earned) and ER (earned runs) might be something worth investigating. For example, is the difference for Snell (and Imanaga) smaller because they handle dealing with frustration better (i.e., not getting upset when fielders make mistakes and just buckling down). Likewise for Woodruff? Or does he just benefit from better defense overall.
  • Likewise, Montgomery and Wood give up fewer HRs, but more extra base hits. That is likely due to the ballparks. Specifically for Wood, he gave up 4 triples; 3 of which were in his home park which is known for its triples alley.
  • And last, this really reinforces my hope that Rizzo tries to sign Woodruff.

Steve: Stroman is looking better to me on this table. I like how he controls the HRs.

Don: While there is a lot more to look at, it is time to wrap this article up.

Two thoughts in closing. First, I really wish I had Game Day level detail for this. I hope/expect that if we repeat this exercise for the 2025 FAs that I will.

Second, there is the elephant in the room with recent discussions here on TalkNats about Trevor Bauer. I don’t believe in the concept of Never (or Always), but I have to say I would be shocked if Mike Rizzo and Ted Lerner thought for even a fraction of a second about signing him. And given how the Lerners operate as a family business, I have to think that Annette Lerner and Marla Lerner Tanenbaum would weigh in – and I doubt they would be OK with it.

Steve: Ah yes, Trevor Bauer. I give it 1% odds, and only if Rizzo vetted it and can make the fans comfortable with it. I believe in innocence until proven guilty so this is a tough call for any team. With the non-sticky stuff, is Bauer even worth it? That’s the other side of it. What does he have left?

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