Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back To Some Sports

I've been cutting back on sports a bit, but after the Santana trade yesterday, I feel like I have to comment.

The Mets got Johan Sanatana, the greatest pitcher in the majors and a guy with a higher career ERA+ than Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson without even giving up their top prospect. Keith Law has a report on the prospects they traded, and it doesn't seem like they gave up anyone top-tier. There was certainly no one in the same league as Hughes or Lester/Ellsbury, who were on the table in November. The Twins went from getting a package including one of the best pitching prospects in the majors and who is major league ready and a very young above average CF who is cost-controlled, to a deal that included only two really good prospects (and Deolis Guerra is very young) and no major league ready talent.

I'm very happy the Mets got Santana since that gets him out of AL and away from Boston's clutches. I was on the fence about trading Hughes at the time, but never would have agreed to include another top-tier prospect like Jose Tabata or Ian Kennedy. The biggest problem with acquiring Santana, though, would be the money and age. First, let's look at the possible extension. Santana rejected a 4 year 80 million dollar deal from the Twins last year. Santana is obviously looking for something well over 100 million. The largest deal ever offered to a pitcher is Barry Zito's contract of 7 years, 126 million, which breaks down to 18 million a year. I think 6 years 132 million is reasonable estimate of Santana's contract. 22 million a year is simply too much money for a pitcher, and especially one who is almost 30.

The age thing is also important. Pitchers tend to decline as they reach their mid-30s. In truth Santana might already be declining. His ERA jumped up last season, owing mainly to the bump in the home runs he gave up. His HRs allowed went from 24 to 33. His walk rate also increased.

Moreover, his ERA+ dropped from 161 to 130. Now 130 is a pretty good season, but the drop is alarming. Also his DERA jumped from 2.90 to 3.50, implying that the lower ERA+ was not a result of bad luck.

Does any of this mean that Santana is done? Of course not. He was still probably the best pitcher in the AL and maybe all of baseball last year. But he is getting older and will require the Mets to tie up their payroll for many more years. But for a team that hasn't won a world series in over 20 years, it might be worth it. For the Yanks and Red Sox, who have both won multiple world series in the last 10 years, not as much.

One a less timely note, I came across this post on FireJoeMorgan about the statistical probability that someone like Bonds would hit 73 HRs at the age of 38 . The guy estimates that the chances are 1 in 53 million! The season was so many standard deviations from the norm that the author had to search the web to find a chart that could fit the data because there were no charts like that in his statistics textbook. Bonds' performance was literally off the charts. The author's analysis really confirms our intuitions that Bonds cheated.

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