Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies

Ruben Amaro continues to overvalue Ryan Howard

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Over the weekend Ruben Amaro was quoted as saying that he’d rather have Ryan Howard on his current deal than either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols on theirs.

Like I said at the time, I’ll give him some latitude there because Howard is his guy and it’s not like he’s going to say bad stuff about him, even if he secretly believes it. Amaro is no dummy.

But I’m less inclined to give this bit, from Ken Rosenthal’s latest in which Amaro talks about why he’s loathe to extend Cole Hamels’ contract now, the same latitude:

“The difference between Ryan’s and Cole’s situation is that we’re talking about a guy (Howard) who is very, very difficult to match up what he did in successive years and equate that with what Cole has done,” Amaro said. “He was probably the most productive player during that span of anybody, including Pujols. This is not a slight against Cole — he has had some phenomenal years. But he is not the most decorated player in baseball.”

So for starters, he’s not simply comparing a Phillies player to a non-Phillies player here. He’s comparing two Phillies’ players — the dominance of Howard vs. the dominance of Hamels — and finding Howard’s greater.  As such, one would think he’d be as honest as he can about it and less willing to engage in hyperbole in a way that would anger one of them.

And, really, why anger Hamels here? Does he simply want him to bolt as a free agent next season? He must, on some level, believe that Howard is a more valuable piece at first base than Hamels is in the rotation. Which seems … off to me.

More to the point, by what metric does Amaro have Howard being more productive than Pujols between 2005 and 2009, which is when Amaro is talking about? Because the way I see it:

Howard: .279/.386/.586, 220 HR, 635 RBI and an OPS+ of 143
Pujols: .334/.439/.631, 206 HR, 608 RBI and an OPS+ of 173

Fine: a few more homers and a few more RBI for Howard, but overall he was clearly the inferior player.  And then you can add in the fact that Pujols played superior defense in case you think it is somehow close.

And hell, even if you use Amaro’s phrase “most decorated player,” Pujols won three MVP awards during that stretch to Howard’s one MVP and one Rookie of the Year Award.  So even if you adjust for the strange perception of some that Howard was better than Pujols because of the love he gets at awards time, Pujols still outclasses him there.

Not that I need to make that argument to most of you. It doesn’t take much to appreciate that Pujols, by every single measure that matters, was the better player during the time Amaro specifies.  The thing I don’t get is why Amaro would use such a clear line of specious reasoning as a means to explain why Cole Hamels does not yet have a contract extension.

Don’t you think Hamels might be miffed by that? I think I would.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.