Sunday, November 28, 2004

To Pedro Or Not To Pedro

That is the question.

The Pedro Martinez rumors are flying fast and furious and it appears that the Mets are ready to make a significant offer to the feisty righthander. So is this a good thing?

Jay Jaffe, who runs the wonderful Futility Infielder site, has put together a handy chart of all the free agent righthanders on the market this offseason (he's posted this in the context of revamping the Yankees so keep that in mind as I quote him), including both Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) and Defense Independent Pitching ERA (dERA). In a nutshell, these two stats measure how lucky or unlucky a pitcher was in the previous year and dERA is probably a better prediction on what the pitchers ERA will be in subsequent years. You can check out the whole chart but here's Pedro's line compared to some of the other pitchers the Mets are pursuing (ranked by dERA):

Team Pitcher W L IP ERA WHIP K/9 K/W HR/9 BABIP dERA
FLA Pavano 18 8 222 3.00 1.17 5.63 2.84 0.65 .282 3.60
BOS Martinez 16 9 217 3.90 1.17 9.41 3.72 1.08 .291 3.70
NYM Benson 12 12 200 4.31 1.31 6.02 2.20 0.67 .295 3.87
CHC Clement 9 13 181 3.68 1.28 9.45 2.47 1.14 .279 3.95
NYM Leiter 10 8 174 3.21 1.35 6.06 1.21 0.83 .240 4.98

From this chart, we can see a couple things.

1) Pedro, even though he's not as insanely dominating as he once was, is still a very a good pitcher. He also stayed healthy last year and threw 217 innings, the most in four years.

2) Matt Clement and Carl Pavano both compare very favorably to Pedro (and Kris Benson for that matter). However, with both being younger than Pedro, they would make a safer long term investment (despite both having been injured at some point in their career). It's also something to keep in mind that Pavano had an outstanding posteason in 2003, especially against the Yankees.

3) Signing Al Leiter would indeed be a DoUP. Leiter was extremely lucky last year, batters only hit .240 when they put the ball in play against him. Granted BABIP is partially a function of defense (so hopefully all Met pitchers will improve next year) but it's also a function of luck. And luck tends to fluctuate from year to year (as his dERA of 4.98 predicts).

Jay Jaffe has this to say about Pedro:

Over the first six years in Boston, Martinez's ERA+ was an astounding 210, meaning that his ERA was less than half of the adjusted league average. But last year, although he threw the most innings he had in four seasons, his line was considerably more ordinary. He allowed 26 homers, one more than he had in the previous three seasons combined. On the other hand, while his strikeout rate has steadily eroded from a high of 12.57 per nine innings, it's still above one hitter per inning. The same thing can be said about his control; his K/W rate was a criminally insane 8.88 back in 1999 (313 K to 37 walks) and it's now "down" to 3.72.

Those are still numbers that most of the 32 pitchers on this list who have fewer Cy Youngs than him would give their throwing arms for. They perfectly illustrate the reason why power pitchers last longer, career-wise, than finesse pitchers -- they have much more margin for error, much further to fall before they become "average". Pedro Martinez may no longer be one of the game's elite pitchers, but he's still pretty damn good.

Jay also goes on to talk about Pedro's diva-ish nature and fragility which are significant concerns in signing Pedro to a long term contract. Bottom line: he's still a very good pitcher, one of the best on the market, but his age carries more risk than the others. So would Pedro and the Mets be a good fit for each other?

Yankees fans and Pedro deliciously detest each other which really makes me think that Pedro was just using the Yanks to drive up his price tag. However this little feud does make me think that Pedro is genuinely thinking about coming to the Mets so he could still stick it to the Yanks a few times a year. In addition, Pedro would be both coming back to the National League and going from a great hitters park to a great pitchers park, something that would only help his career Hall of Fame numbers and certainly appeal to his nature (strangely enough, Shea was actually kind of neutral last year, although it was still better than Fenway.) He's also a marquee player and will sell lots of tickets out in Flushing, especially given the huge Dominican population of New York. Given these facts, the Mets are a good fit.

However Pedro me-me-me attitude is certainly something to consider, given the imprsssionable young players like Jose Reyes in the clubhouse and a first year manager that doesn't need an additional headache. I don't think these concerns are enough to outweigh the positives but they're certainly something to keep in mind. If all the intangables are a wash though, the question then boils down to how much for how long? The Red Sox have offered two years with a team option for a third year, $27.5 million guaranteed. The Mets would almost certainly have to guarantee a third year at at least the same money to get him to come to Shea, something they actually could afford over the next couple years. Four years, however, would be folly and if he demands such a contract, the Mets should start looking elsewhere.

Bottom line is that, for three years, Pedro is a decent risk with the potential to be a superstar at Shea. Personally, I would love to see him pitch in person again before he retires and I'd love to see him at Shea (especially since it's so hard to get Fenway tickets now. Grrrrrrr.) However should Pedro demand too much, the Mets should not hesitate to set their sights elsewhere.


At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. Three years @ $12-13 MM per year is too big a risk. Granted, his stats still match well with the other available right-handers, BUT (a) his are trending down, while Pavano & Clement, in particular, have a reasonable chance of upside, and (b) how long will that arm hold up? Also, haven't we learned from the Glavine signing? i.e., Great career pitcher on decline = 3+ year deal @ $12-13 MM is NOT a good risk, especially for a team in transition. Add in his attitude: huge ego, late arrivals, needs constant pampering. I saw one article saying he wanted 4 X $15 MM: "I just want what Pedro Martinez deserves." Note to Omar: When a guy starts referring to himself in the 3rd person, run, don't walk, away. In short, I have a terrible sinking feeling about this one. Take a shot at Pavano (though he's likely just playing us for a better offer from the Sox or Yankees), go hard for Clement (for that matter, is Radke completely uninterested in the Mets?). But don't go for Pedro: At best, it's a waste of time while other FA pitchers get recruited; at worst, we get him for 3 or 4 years at a big risk number. One of the other guys could still leave money for a run at a #4 type hitter (Delgado, if the medical shows he's a good bet for 3 more productive years; Sexson, if the medical shows he's recovered; Ordonez, if the best orthopedic doc in the U.S. gives him a bonded clean bill of health).


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