Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Take Your Pick: Free Agent Pitcher A or B

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think a certain free agent pitcher or two will know his fate until the smoke clears from the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, but there are a few out there that have displayed the ability to pitch in MLB.

Here’s a look at a couple of those pitchers, but I’ll leave you hanging a little on who’s who.

The Numbers

Career Last 3 Yrs
Stat Pitcher A Pitcher B Stat Pitcher A Pitcher B
ERA 4.19 4.19 ERA 3.85 3.79
WHIP 1.281 1.292 WHIP 1.208 1.153
GS 265 297 GS 95 96
QS* 156 183 QS 59 56
HR/9 1.2 1.2 HR/9 1.3 1.4
H/9 8.7 9.2 H/9 8.2 8.9
SO/BB 2.52 2.37 SO/BB 2.56 3.67
ERA+ 100 104 ERA+ 101 94
FIP 4.36 4.54 FIP 4.45 4.76
xFIP 4.24 4.39 xFIP 4.02 4.22
Team W-L* 142-126 155-145 Team W-L 46-49 50-46

Both pitchers appeared to have improved in the majority of the stats displayed. But here’s what jumps out to me:
– Both have shown a slight tendency to serve up more home runs
– Look at the improvement in SO/BB for Pitcher B
– Then look just below and view the ERA+. Pitcher A shows slight improvement while Pitcher B shows regression
– You will get a quality start no less than 58% of the time (Player B), even though that particular stat comes with its own flaws. That said, it has been stated that gaining a QS will more than likely lead to a team winning a game. And that’s the bottom line here.
– For their careers, both pitchers have posted a .500+ WP whenever he is in a game, but Pitcher A hasn’t been as fortunate over the last three seasons.

And now to this…

Now, in looking at the FIP and xFIP of both, we have this table from Fangraphs to do a little directing.

Excellent 2.90
Great 3.25
Above Average 3.75
Average 4.00
Below Average 4.20
Poor 4.50
Awful 5.00

– Both regress in FIP and Pitcher A improves in xFIP where Pitcher B does not. Pitcher B borders on poor to awful in xFIP, which might send a shiver down your spine.

On some levels, these two pitchers appear to be not that much different. The main areas in which they do differentiate are ERA+, FIP and xFIP.

Oh, and one thing both have in common: each has led his respective league in HR allowed in at least one season.

The Reveal

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Pitcher A is Ervin Santana.

He’s been picked apart for his one-time exorbitant demands of a deal for five years and worth $100MM. He did bounce back last season. The ERA of 3.85 over the past three years is high considering in one season (2012), it was 5.16. In the other two seasons, it was below 3.40.

Same for his ERA+ and practically every other stat you want to throw out there over that span. In other words, 2012 was a horrible season for Santana.

But if you scan his numbers either on Baseball Reference or Fangrpahs, you will notice an issue concerning consistency. He’ll have a good year, then he falls off the following season. Only once has Santana posted back-to-back seasons with an ERA+ at 100 or higher.

But the positive spin is that, as Jeff Zimmerman noted on Rotographs, Santana has developed a sinker. Since he is not a high strikeout pitcher (career SO/9 of 7.1), adding this pitch to his arsenal proved to be a success. As you would expect, provided the pitch was effective, the ground ball increased and flyball rate decreased. In addition, Santana posted an HR/9 of 1.11 last season. The home runs are still there. They simply won’t disappear over night.

Santana did post a career-high in strand rate at 76.9% and his GDP (double plays grounded into) also increased from 8 in 2012 to 14 in 2013. When Santana was a member of the Angels, aside from 2005 and 2012, he posted double-digits in GDP.

Pitcher B is Bronson Arroyo. If only he was the same age as Santana, he might be in more demand. Or you might think.

A number of teams have shown interest in the crafty veteran (New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds just to name three), but the issue seems to be that Arroyo was reportedly seeking a deal similar to what Tim Lincecum received from the San Francisco Giants (2 years/$35MM). Considering that Arroyo will turn 37 prior to Opening Day, that doesn’t seem plausible.

But you know what you’re getting with Arroyo. You will get 200+IP. Over his eight years in Cincinnati, he averaged 211 IP per season. Yes, 211 IP.

You will get at least 32 starts. That’s the least number of GS he had in those same eight seasons.

Unless something dreadful should occur, you will not usually see a drop in his velocity. Again, Arroyo is consistent in this area

You will see the ball go over the fence. His career HR/9 of 1.2 will tell you part of that story, but just imagine of he's pitching more of a pitcher-friendly environment.

The only unknowns with Arroyo are which games (yes, plural) will be the stinkers and which arm slot he will choose on any given pitch.

It does go without saying that the majority of teams would prefer Santana to Arroyo. Age would certainly be a top reason, but not necessarily reason. If you have a solid #1 or #2 in your rotation, would you need Santana especially at the rumored asking price? You might be willing to fork out the dough if you lack at the top of your rotation, ut who can honestly say Santana is worth a nine-figure deal?

If you have good depth at the top of your rotation, why wouldn’t you take a chance and give Arroyo a that two-yer deal? He served the Reds well for eight seasons. He might not have the prettiest of numbers, but as I stated, you know what you’re getting and there’s little variance in his game.

Tags: Bronson Arroyo Ervin Santana MLB

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