David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agent Pitchers: This Guy or That Guy?

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Here’s two more free agent pitchers for us to examine.

Yesterday, we looked at some numbers regarding a pair of free agent pitchers. You had the choice, should you have accepted that assignment, of Pitcher A or Pitcher B.

We’ll do the same today, but your choice won’t be A or B. Got to change it up. Today, we look at “This Guy” and “That Guy”.

Oh, and before we go on, there was already a hint as to one of the two.

The Numbers

Career Last 3 Yrs
Stat This Guy That Guy Stat This Guy That Guy ERA 3.84 3.92 ERA 3.62 4.45
WHIP 1.283 1.345 WHIP 1.232 1.446
GS 191 211 GS 73 95
QS* 102 122 QS* 42 45
HR/9 1.0 0.7 HR/9 1.0 1.0
H/9 8.6 8.1 H/9 8.4 8.9
SO/BB 2.55 2.05 SO/BB 3.13 2.04
ERA+ 108 112 ERA+ 110 90
FIP 3.98 3.78 FIP** 3.55 4.04
xFIP 4.00 3.96 xFIP** 3.49 4.09
Team W-L* 97-97 107-105 Team W-L 38-35 46-49

And we’ll bring back the following table with Fangraph’s notations on how each FIP and xFIP “rate”.

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

In roving up to the table with the hard numbers and looking at scale, This Guy appears to have improved in his FIP and xFIP. That Guy, not so much. In fact, he appears to be regressing. That Guy is still lingering around the “average” area.

There are a couple of commonalities with This Guy and That Guy.

First, both will be 30-years-old when Opening Day arrives. One turned 30 in November and the other will turn 30 later this month. Second, during the past three seasons, both This Guy and That Guy have been traded. If you want to go by the calendar, one has been dealt twice.

The Reveal

Matt Garza (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

This Guy is Matt Garza. Garza was dealt to the Texas Rangers by the Chicago Cubs. The prize the Cubs received was prospect Mike Olt.

[RELATED: Is Mike Olt Facing A Make Or Break First Year With The Chicago Cubs?]

When comparing to That Guy, one number that should have ensnared your eyeballs was the number of starts Garza (This Guy) has made over the past three years. Is it really 22 less? It is and we know Garza has dealt with his health in the past two seasons. In 2012, it was an elbow that ended his season. Last season, it was a strained lat that had him on the shelf until late May.

But when Garza starts, his team usually wins, so keeping him on the healthy side of the ledger is paramount.

While Garza displays a SO/9 that has diminished over the past three years, so has his BB/9. Just last season, his BB/9 was a career-low 2.4. He’s never been a true strikeout pitcher (career high SO/9 is 9.0), but he fares well in that category. No, he’s never been over 200 (197 is a best).

His stint with the Rangers didn’t go exactly as planned. Despite having an hitter’s paradise as his new home, his FB% (37.7%) was lower than in his 11 starts as a Cub (38.8%). Flip that coin. His ground ball rate decreased (39.8% to 37.7%) and his line drive rate increased (21.4% to 24.6%). Could blame his fastball. Whole a Cub, it was a plus pitch (PitchF/x pitch value/100 of 0.37). Not so as a Ranger (-0.80). No drop in velocity either (92.8 to 93.4).

The second half of 2013 was a bit better for That Guy.

Ubaldo Jimenez (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

That Guy is Ubaldo Jimenez. Put together a decent second-half of 2013, he did. Also helped lead the Cleveland Indians back into the postseason. The Tribe placed a qualifying offer on him and, as expected, Jimenez refused. As is the rule, any club which signs for Jimenez’s services are subject to losing their top pick in the June draft. That might not be the only reason teams would be hesitant to extend him a long-term deal.

If you examine Jimenez’s career numbers, one thing does grab your attention. His career ERA+ is certainly palatable, but in two of the past three seasons, he has posted an ERA+ under 80. Not just 100, but 80. Last season was a bounce back for him when that number was 114. Go back another two seasons and you find another season with an ERA+ under 100. That’s three of the last five.

Notice his career SO/BB of 2.05. That is pretty low for a guy that has a career SO/9 over 8.0 (it’s actually 8.3). That’s due to his career BB/9 of 4.0. That would also explain a WHIP over 1.3 for his career and over 1.4 over the past three seasons. The lowest BB/9 Jimenez has posted is 3.5.

And I know quality starts has its flaws (as I have previously noted), but only 45 in 95 starts? But Jimenez did end 2013 on a roll. In the second half of the season, he made a total of 13 starts. Of those 13, 10 of those qualified as a QS. For the entire 2013 campaign, he registered 15 QS. That’s how good he was after the All-Star break.

Are teams hoping that’s Jimenez they sign? Has to be, but any team that does sign him will not only be losing a pick, but has to deal with the walks and inconsistencies. No question that when Jimenez is good, he’s damn good. It’s maintaining that level of “goodness”.

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Tags: Matt Garza MLB MLB Free Agents Ubaldo Jimenez

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