06 February 2012

Jason Hammel is Jeremy Guthrie

A 5 point ERA isn't good enough to be a competitive big league pitcher and we've got numerous pitchers on the roster in that area.
Dan Duquette said that in the presser that also announced that he traded Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.  That statement was not in reference to Guthrie who crossed over the threshold to 5.04 in 2009.  It was likely a shot at Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, and Tommy Hunter.  It was also not likely in reference to the newly acquired Jason Hammel who has a career 4.99 ERA (h/t Mike Bonsiero).  However, that is just so much of a near coincidence that I had to mention it.

Although I do not believe they will perform equally, the main bet here is that Jason Hammel and Jeremy Guthrie are not all that different from each other.
                            rWAR         fWAR
Jason Hammel     5.5              8.8
Jeremy Guthrie   8.9              5.8
After seeing these numbers one might ask first: how are rWAR and fWAR different?  Well, rWAR uses total zone data and is based on the concept that the pitcher is responsible for BABIP.  The other method assumes that the way to measure pitching is by normalizing in the form of Defense Independent Pitching Statistics.  Using that frame of reference, fWAR probably hurts him due to Guthrie's tendency to give up fly balls and home runs while rWAR considers him to be responsible for generating a lower BABIP.  Hammel is benefited by fWAR for his K rate and low walks (last year through was not kind) while rWAR thinks he was a bit hittable.  If you are a staunch believer in pitchers controlling their BABIP fate (even in lieu of the strikeouts that typically relate to low BABIP) then you are likely to think that Guthrie is an above average pitcher who is worth 10MM.  If you are a fWAR guy, then you might think Guthrie is average to below average and worth about 7MM.  Strangely, that was basically the difference between the two arbitration values for Guthrie.  In the end, the Rockies signed him to a 8.2MM deal while the Orioles have Hammel and Lindstrom for 8.5MM.

I tend to lean more in the fWAR direction, but am open to the idea that we know very little about how pitchers affect how well balls are hit.  In other words, I see no issue in weighting rWAR and fWAR equally for pitchers.  This would suggest that, yes, Jason Hammel is worth as much as Jeremy Guthrie.  However, Hammel's 2011 gives me some pause and it probably would for anyone who fully embraces fWAR.  In 2009 and 2010, Hammel enjoyed 3.9 fWAR each year.  Last year, it dropped to 1.0.  Much of this was due to his strikeout rate dropping 30% and his walks jumping up 51%.  Meanwhile, rWAR zealots would not be too worried as a drop in BABIP compensated for those and netted him his best rWAR over the last three years with a 2.0.  Maybe it is a push.

If you take the above to heart and find Hammel and Guthrie equivalent then a second control year of Hammel and Matt Lindstrom are just gravy.  Lindstrom is a 96 mph four seamer and slider guy.  He has historically had some trouble with lefties, which makes sense based on the pitches he has.  Lindstrom is a solid back end arm and is also under team control for two years.

So...why do I not like the trade if it looks like a push in so many ways?

It kicks the talent can another year.  Guthrie's worth has been converted into Hammel and Lindstrom.  Hammel's peripherals last year concern me.  I am not certain that he all of a sudden gained an ability to depress BABIP rates.  I more believe that he has lost his ability to strike batters out.  In that regard, I do not see a Guthrie for Lindstrom trade being worthwhile as it places too much value in a somewhat hittable flame thrower.  I think this move runs counter to building this franchise into a winner.  Young, cost-controlled talent would be preferable even if that talent had a low probability of being a difference maker.



Dan Duquette mentioned that Jason Hammel pitched better away from Coors field and that would enable him to throw 200 IP instead of the 170 IP he has been hitting.

Has Hammel performed better away from Coors' Field?
              Home           Away
2009       5.73              3.13

2010       4.07              5.71

2011       5.20              4.28


SeanP said...

When he talked to the press, Duquette said that they didn't get any offers of prospects for Guthrie. If that's true, does it affect your opinion of the trade?

Jon Shepherd said...

It is difficult to know what they mean by prospects. However, the more I look at the deal I think it is fine.

Guthrie is a commodity that is decreasing in value. Hammel has a chance of replacing that value or at least giving a second year of play. Add Lindstrom in and you have another decent backend bullpen arm.

LiamM said...

Theres always a market for 4th/5th starers and fireballers for teams making a playoff push and Hammel and Lindstrom both have more years left under team control, making their combined value far greater than Guthrie's would have been.

Maybe Duquette can flip them for solid prospects at the deadline.

Ryan Solonche said...

I think Liam nailed the only logic in dealing Guthrie for Hammel and Lindstrom. If Guthrie can't bring youth in return, then a combination of mid to back end starter who has 3.5+ war potential and a hard throwing rhp in the pen are the exact pieces that bolster contending teams. If neither is flipped, then this deal was unnecessary and depleted the rotation of the only legit 200 ip arm.

Jon Shepherd said...

The Rockies are a competitive team that could use a 3.5 war pitcher and a power arm. They think the current value of Hammel and Lindstrom are cumulatively equal or less than Guthrie's. This boils the trade down to whose scouts are better?

The Orioles have a difficult situation where they began the hiring season late and scouts seem to think the structure there is backwards. The Rockies have a long established program that is well thought of. That is the comparison.

So, do you think the Rockies understand current value better than the Orioles? That really Os the question.