It’s a bad contract, but perhaps not terrible. Justification aside, Affeldt is a nice RP, but his real ability is probably an ERA somewhere in the 3.5 range. I doubt that low HR/FB sticks again, and he year before he had a low BABIP, if those both regress to .290 and 8 or 9% so does he.
When you can get Peralta for 2 and 6, why are you wasting 12mil? You could have had Peralta and Izturis for less than this. I bet he couldn’t get pen to paper fast enough to sign this deal. 3 years and 12 and he still would have jumped.
Excellent write up. As the Giants are competing to defend their title, and have always valued stability in their pen, I am not at all surprised by the re-signing of Affeldt, who has been a key cog for 4 years (and always expensive to boot). Affeldt gives them tremendous flexibility, he can go long man, he can close in a pinch, he can standard loogy. Like you say, his K and groundball combo is a weapon. Would have preferred another 2 years plus option like before, but that’s just the market, and he is the top of the left handed relief market. Good signing.
Comment by Shankbone — November 13, 2012 @ 3:06 pm
How does having Jose Mijares and Javier Lopez already on the roster for next season change the calculation? I would think that having two effective lefties, one who’s paid far less than $6m, matters. Yes, Affeldt is the better overall pitcher than either, but if Mijares + Lopez should be enough to get through lefty-righty-lefty matchups in late innings, why spend that kind of money on Affeldt?
You’re right that Affeldt had a great year in 2012, and you’re right that his platoon splits for his career are pretty much equal.
Counterpoints: it was 63 IP, and he looked great in 2009, too, before he followed it up with a 4.14 ERA and similar FIP/xFIP marks because he’s a reliever. And his platoon splits are a .313 wOBA against for LHH and a .324 for RHH. Sure, there’s not much difference there, but those aren’t very good marks, either. To be fair, he has a .304 wOBA against as a RP, so some of that is coming from his days as a poor starter, but a .304 wOBA against still isn’t some incredibly dominant reliever.
Affeldt is a solid middle reliever. He’s left-handed, so he can take advantage of some situations that a RHP would do worse in. But they paid him like a reliable setup guy or decent closer, and he’s not that. For a team without as much payroll space as you’d think (huge arb class though not much guaranteed money), I’m not sure this is a good contract to give out, especially before LF, CF, and 2B are taken care of. If you lock those positions up and still have money for Affeldt, then fine. This shouldn’t have been their first move, though.
Comment by quincy0191 — November 13, 2012 @ 3:20 pm
“But, at some point, it probably behooves us all to move beyond generalities and talk about the specifics of contracts for free agent relievers, because despite the rhetoric, not every multi-year deal for every relief pitcher is a giant waste of cash.”
I guess my counterargument here would be that all 30 MLB teams should be able to stick to generalities during negotiations with a middle reliever’s agent, and insist on nothing more than a two-year deal. And I have a hard time believing that a middle reliever’s agent, especially when the middle reliever is in his mid-thirties, is going to be able to drum up anything better than a two-year deal. In which case yes, it’s an unnecessary overpay.
For all of the talk of WAR/$, when we’re talking about two parties negotiating, whether we’re talking about baseball teams or multinational corporations, it all still comes down to leverage. And I have a tough time believing that a middle reliever has a whole lot of leverage, ever. Particularly when we see Tampa Bay put together a solid bullpen on the cheap year in and year out.
Comment by Robbie G. — November 13, 2012 @ 3:36 pm
Good question. Thinking they might use one of the two as trade bait. Lopez’s stock may never be higher, and Mijares will be cheap.
Using one-year FIP- or ERA- for a reliever in his mid 30s? Thumbs down. Affeldt had a very good year, and he’s done that before, but surely you want to look at 3 year or longer time frames. If you do that, he’s good but no better than that.
And what of WAR, WPA and LI? He’s been used in situations with leverage around 1. He has a career WPA of 2.01 and has been in the .2 to .35 range the past 2 years. In a good year as a reliever (last one), his WAR was 1.1; usually it has been less than 1.
Keith Law is right.
Comment by Mike Green — November 13, 2012 @ 4:14 pm
I’m sure as Affeldt was in mid-air, after having jumped to sign for 3/12, the Giants just added the extra 6 mil for no reason before he landed.
The jokes about how the Giants spend money is not as funny as they used to be. It’s not that they’re completely untrue but two championships in three years tend to put a damper on comments like that. :P
Affeldt came at a price, but he’s worth it. I watched 70+ Giants games this year, and Affeldt was Bochy’s go-to guy when it was crunch time (the last being Game 4 of the WS). He’s mastered his curveball in the past year and has become much more effective as he’s lost some velocity.
There’s also the issue of character. Affeldt is one of the main leaders on the team, even if the media wants you to think it’s Posey, Panda and the pitching staff. Affeldt is one of the more vocal and willing to coach in the bullpen. That’s why the Giants also are paying for veteran stability.
Comment by Tobias Fünke — November 13, 2012 @ 5:04 pm
Having Mijares and Lopez in addition to Affeldt allows Bochy to use a lefty in a high leverage situation in the earlier innings while still having another LOOGY bullet later. Because of Affeldt’s ability to pitch in different situations, it’s a waste to have to use him in a LOOGY spot.
I agree with the underlying points that 1.Some relievers are worth multiyear commitments and 2.Wins now are worth more than wins in the future, and it’s ok to overpay a little in the present. Back ends of deals aren’t meant to be pretty. This is all well and good, and certainly reasonable. However, I find the specific points of the article to be ludicrous.
From 2010-11, Affeldt was essentially a replacement level player, with a K/9 of 7.90 and a BB/9 of 3.87. In 2012, he was a 1 win player (certainly pretty good for a 60 IP reliever,) with a K/9 of 8.1 and a BB/9 of 3.27. Those are slight improvements over his K/BB, but not enough to knock a full run off his FIP/xFIP. How is this possible? Simple: Random variation in his HR data. 2010-11Affeldt: 59.1 GB%, .73 HR/9. 2012 Affeldt: 59.9 GB%, .14 HR/9. Once his HR rates regress to the mean, Affeldt will be likely be a slightly above average pitcher (opposed to the upper-echelon pitcher he appeared as this year,) but such a pitcher will struggle to accumulate significant value over 60 IP.
You claim that “there is not much point arguing that Affeldt was an excellent relief pitcher last year.” Looking at value accumulated, this doesn’t hold sway. Affeldt doesn’t crack the top 25 for qualified relievers in WAR. If you want to argue WAR doesn’t measure a reliever’s value very well, let’s look at ERA-/FIP-/xFIP-. Once again, he doesn’t crack the top 25 in ERA- or xFIP- while coming in 25th for FIP-. Once placed in context, Affeldt’s season comes up a little short of undeniable “excellence.” The sad thing is, Affeldt was a good-not-great reliever WITH a career best (and I’ll go and ahead and say it, fluke) HR rate. WIth regression, I’d imagine Affeldt will be back to his replacement-level self next year.
There is no surplus value being generated at the front end to compensate for the back end. Heck, I’d wager there’s no value being generated, period. This deal reeks of “Let’s keep the gang together” after a WS victory. Affeldt is being paid as if he could be expected to generate roughly 3 wins in value over the next 3 years: Over his past 3 years, he generated roughly 1 win in value. He is now even older at 34. This deal makes ZERO sense.
All due respect, but I thought the point of this site was to provide analytical thinking. Affeldt’s 2012 screams unsustainable, but even the 2012 version would be loathe to merit a 3 year deal. This article cherry-picks two stats (K/9 and GB%) and combines them in an attempt to create significance where there is none. Affeldt may strike plenty of people out and get ground balls, but this skill set has not made him elite to the point of meriting a 3 year deal, whether you want to look at DIPS or more traditional stats like ERA. Again, I agree with the overarching point that it’s ok to overpay for wins now, but using Affeldt as the example was a poor choice. Sometimes, it’s ok to call a spade a spade; Affeldt is a mediocre reliever who is now on a pretty bad deal. Just because a deal isn’t a back-breaker doesn’t mean it’s ill-advised; there are plenty of better ways to spend the 18 million San Francisco just committed to Affeldt. Let’s not look at this through rose-colored spectacles; this deal will likely be a poor use of money.
Let’s not forget the lesson of the past two seasons: pitchers can go down for a multitude of reasons.
Wilson was great in 2010, Romo in 2012. Wilson had no apparent arm issues before coming up lame – he apparently was already feeling it during the 2010 Playoffs and pitched well despite those issues (flags fly forever). Romo has been a question mark as to future health because of his slider and his smaller stature.
Even in 2012, Romo was not the closer for most of the season, Casilla was the first closer and blisters (and perhaps a loss of confidence) caused him to lose the role mid-season.
Facing 2013, to mount a serious attempt to defend the title, the Giants had to re-sign Affeldt. The Giants have no idea what Wilson might do for them in 2013. Romo, while he did not say that he was injured, at various points in the second half talked the way Wilson did before he came up lame, talking about pitching while not 100%, leaving it all out there on the diamond, and that to go with his extra use in 2012 vs. before and his prior issues with his elbow in other seasons that caused the Giants to shut him down. Affeldt gives the Giants another closer option should Romo go down, else Casilla is the only other viable closer option.
The beauty of having Affeldt is that this gives Bochy another option in the bullpen. If you don’t have him, he must burn through at least one Loogy when that comes up in the 7th or 8th. But if there are two and they are separated and their are RISP, you risk burning a right-hander then the other Loogy. Then what do you do when you come into the 8th or 9th and beyond still needing a Loogy? Like if one comes off the bench for the pitcher? With Affeldt, he can just keep Affeldt in there and save the three relievers for later. Or he could burn the three and have Affeldt ready to take on more innings later, if we go into extra innings.
Then there is the possibility that we might need him to close, should the need arises. Covers a multitude of situations.
And as any Giants fan who lived through the post-Nen period, particularly the Benitez era, knows, relievers are not that easy to find, I find that sabers generally are like economists when it comes to relievers – if you assume this, then that – dealing with ideal situations not reality in all its messiness.
As BP’s study showed, having a shutdown closer is a key to going deep into the playoffs. As noted, you can’t rely on any one closer all the time, they can and will go down. The Giants are getting a closer quality reliever for non-closer prices, giving them another option to turn to should things go bad again.
And who knows that any cheaper reliever on the market is better? It certainly didn’t help the Reds last season with Madsen. Presumably, the Giants at least knows Affeldt’s health history to a much greater detail, that’s no guarantee, but better than the question mark that any free agent would pose, which is what is being recommended by most people, including you, to buy a cheaper guy on the market.
Here’s how I see it. They are paying fair market price for a good reliever. They want to defend their championship as best as they can. They might have need for another closer, for as 2010-2012 shows, things can and will change. As we all know, the bullpen is now a key component of winning. I don’t really see why people are complaining.
Then again, I was one of those who applauded the pickup of Affeldt’s option last season when everyone was aghast about it. I would have thought that 2012 showed the efficacy of doing this, but apparently not.
The Giants have a competitive advantage in that they understand pitching really well and in particular their own pitchers. Just because there is a shiny reliever here or there that appears to be better, doesn’t make him better when the pressure is on, nor when you need him to face a RHB because you have no other option in the bullpen right now. Affeldt is proven in many ways, and his many good qualities enumerated by Cameron excellently above.
Mijares does not handle RHB as well, nor does he has the track record, and he’s a flyball pitcher, and while AT&T helps those types of pitchers, news flash, the Giants play half their games away from AT&T, what they suppose to do with Mijares then on the road? What do you do when you just blew through Mijares and Lopez, and now their best LH pinch-hitter is coming up? Affeldt provides options to Bochy.
If all your relievers were available for every game, Affeldt might well be redundant. In most games, you’ll typically have only 2 of the three available, sometimes only one. So having that kind of depth means the manager should always have enough good relief pitching available for the situation. And if Affeldt truly is a lefty that is almost equally as good against righties as lefties, you’re not treating him as a “lefty” reliever so much as just a “reliever”.
Comment by Nathaniel Dawson — November 13, 2012 @ 7:06 pm
it would be redundant to give the money to jean ralphio…he’s already a…FLUSHHHHHH with CAAAASH
Comment by cable fixer — November 13, 2012 @ 7:30 pm
I’m not sure what to make of your defense in light of almost every fangraphs article last offseason deriding the papelbon deal…
the situations are almost identical. premium bullpen arm on a team built to contend now signed to a contract designed to borrow from the future to pay for the present. what am i missing? the (untrue) strawman that the phillies are just paying for gaudy save stats?
Comment by phillies phan — November 13, 2012 @ 7:46 pm
This is a great article, thanks.
What I find funny about all the saber-crying about overpaying Affeldt is that most Sabermetric experts agree that baseball teams are handling their bullpens wrong, that the closer should not be closing, he should be handling the more leveraged situations that often happen in the 7th and 8th inning. The Giants for the past four seasons have had both Affeldt and Romo handling the setup situation, while Wilson shut down the closer duties (plus Wilson often had 1+ IP handling key situations in the 8th as well). Who were their main closers at the end of this season? Affeldt and Romo.
I find it funny that Sabean is still being questioned. Not that any move is not questionable, just that he is questioned over and over about the same thing. He was questioned the first time he signed Affeldt, when he gave an extension, then he picked up the option, and now with the three year deal. I think Affeldt’s value has been shown, but still the complaints about Sabean.
I’m still waiting for Baseball Prospectus’ apology for asking for Sabean to be fired in their 2010 Annual’s Giants chapter (ironic timing…).
I would note here that I give credit to Cameron for turning me on to Affeldt when the Giants first signed him. I thought that was a lot of money to give up, but he made the argument that Affeldt had closer-like qualities for a good reliever’s salary. I’ve been very happy with him on our team since.
What I wish is that people don’t act like they have all the answers about relievers. Sabers told me not to worry about trading Nathan, relievers are fungible (FYI, I consider myself a saber). I’m still not laughing about that deal.
I lived through the post-Nen era with Benitez as the low point, say all you want about how nobody wanted him, he was the best closer available on the market at that time. On top of that, we picked up a lot of guys but the bullpen was unreliable during that period. The Giants rebuilt it, one by one, over time, and now it is functioning pretty well.
And I’ll have a good laugh if anybody suggests that Lopez or Mijares could take over the closer’s role for us in 2013. I would have no problem seeing Affeldt in that role if necessary.
And just because there are good relievers available in trade does not mean that that particular team will be willing to give you that guy when you need it for a reasonable price. I’m sure the Reds thought that they were getting a good bargain in Madsen last season, but that could happen to the Giants too, with outside free agents. Lucky that they had Chapman, else they would have been really screwed. At least the Giants know Affeldt’s medical history and general conditioning.
And Bochy has a great history in handling bullpens and I’m sure his input was key here. If he thought that Affeldt is necessary for the successful functioning of the bullpen in 2013, I’m going to rely on his opinion. A lot of people scoffed at picking up Affeldt’s option for 2012, yet that was probably one of the key moves made by the Giants for the 2012 season, after Wilson went down, then Casilla went down.
It is not stability that the Giants want from Affeldt, it is good performances. And he’s been providing it for a long while now for the Giants. And that is what the Giants will need if they want to maximize their chances of repeating in 2013, particularly with Wilson a question mark, Romo potentially a health problem, and Casilla potentially a health problem.
And reliever’s stats are SSS on a seasonal basis, so I’m not sure why so many people insist in dissecting his season by season performances. Cameron already discussed how good he was as a reliever long ago, he was quoting 2012 stats to make certain points about Affeldt in general.
And maybe that would be a good research article for Fangraphs authors to tackle, what is the best way to analyze a reliever’s performance given the small sampling issues with one season’s worth of data? Particularly with Loogy’s. And even Roogy’s.
And on top of that, I don’t think sabermetrics really understand late inning situations yet. Relievers are valued (WAR) all the same, despite the differences in the situations they are facing. WPA appears to capture some of that nuance, but I don’t see this being incorporated in WAR yet. That’s a large part of the reason that I ignore most comments where trying to use WAR.
And Fangraphs has shown that any metric that accounts for 10% HR/FB doesn’t really work for Giants pitchers because, somehow, the Giants are able to maintain a low HR/FB ratio, meaning that the sabermetrics (FIP+ etc) are high relative to their actual performance. On top of that, both Cain and Zito are capable of keeping their BABIP’s below average, yet are penalized by FIP and other metrics where the BABIP mean regresses to the league mean.
Even ERA, he has a 2.73 ERA over his four seasons with the Giants, which is pretty good, elite even, yet that is not considered elite enough. I counted up the number of relievers with at least 50 IP and ERA’s under 2.73 (excluding Affeldt at 2.70) in 2012, and there were 19. To split among 12 teams, which puts Affeldt somewhere as the second best reliever on the team. And only 4 of those relievers are LHP. I think that is pretty elite.
I am a giants fan and I have to say, I don’t love this deal. Its not an atrocity though, and its not my money. The organization can afford it, hopefully we dont have to sacrifice scutaro or an outfielder for this.
Comment by Herbalist — November 13, 2012 @ 9:10 pm
I just hope sabean doesn’t repeat his 2010 world champion offseason when he resigned everybody with career years. I think that 6 mil could have been better spent making a bold move by signing josh hamilton and then getting a reliever like michael gonzalez for 1 mil (assuming hamilton signs for 20 a year, you would be paying him and gonzalez only 13 mil more)
I am happy. Affeldt has been a huge part of two championships now, he needed to get paid. He has mighty cajones and is a clubhouse leader. While there may not be a way to quantify cajones or leadership, there is significant value there nonetheless. Also, I believe that the Giants’ ballpark is almost paid off (2017), so they are pretty close to being a cash cow. Money well spent I say.
Comment by Kirk Miller — November 13, 2012 @ 11:03 pm
Your credibility would grow exponentially if you could A) be more succinct and/or B) not start seven paragraphs with the word ‘And’.
I’m curious as to why you’d consider only the absolute contract dollar amounts in your criticism of my point. To say that the papelbon deal is an overpay based on total contract compensation is poor logic…especially since we have the means of comparing player production (WAR) with their salary (WAR/$).
Prior to the 2011 offseason, papelbon had 3 seasons out of 4 of 10MM value to a team, by WAR. Based on WAR, the contract was an overpay, but, using the logic laid out here–borrow from the future to pay for the present–Dave finds defensible spending 6MM on a bullpen arm defensible but not 12.5 on a superior one.
Sorry…don’t see how one earns praise and one earns scorn.
Comment by phillies phan — November 14, 2012 @ 12:26 am
@ Baseball man…but isn’t that worthwhile criticism of the papelbon deal? That amaro jumped out instead of letting the market play out and ended up overpaying? Isn’t the lesson NOT to overpay brandon league or jeremy affeldt but go dumpster diving later and get pretty much the approximate value at a quarter of the price?
Comment by phillies phan — November 14, 2012 @ 12:29 am
Which team did you watch in October? Do not want a 25m per year Hamilton. Resign Pagan, Scutaro, and a RH outfield bat and be done with the offseason.
Yeah Dave, this is pretty simple. They are paying him to produce roughly 3 WAR over the next three years. Over the previous 3 years he’s been worth about 1.5 WAR.
If you think WAR undervlues relievers (not sure why) and want to go by WPA, Affeldts been a little worse (WPA is compared to league average not replacement level, so you can’t compare them directly). He’s probably been worth around 1 WPA WAR over the past 3 years.
But great job questioning conventional wisdom! I appreciate your efforts to always gotta one up everyone.
Comment by vivaelpujols — November 14, 2012 @ 3:09 am
Also, Jean-Ralphio’s added velocity to his fastball and throws a wicked curve, so 3/18, while clearly too much to pay him, isn’t completely out of the question.
And, how many championships has Tampa Bay won? The Giants put a premium on pitching, period. Affeldt is a key component to their overall strategy. Based on the results, it works.
Comment by West Coast Baller — November 14, 2012 @ 1:19 pm
Well said! What happens in the clubhouse translates into what happens on the field. The Giants haven’t won two championships in the past three years based upon superior talent – on paper, other teams were more talented. The Giants have truly won because their sum is greater than their parts – and high character is the mortar that held them together to overcome significant adversity.
Good thing baseball isn’t played on paper…
Comment by West Coast Baller — November 14, 2012 @ 1:25 pm
Just to clarify.. Wilson’s had arm trouble previously (he had TJ surgery in college) and Romo has always had a bulky elbow that they normally have to shut him down during spring training to keep in check. Thats why Casilla got the first nod — not just concern over Romo’s stature, but combined with previous elbow issues.
With the way Bochy plays the bullpen, not by inning but by the matchup at the plate, having 3 lefties is a great thing. Affelt is more of a 7th inning guy who can do multiple innings, while Lopez is a top of the 9th first batter or two are Lefties, followed by Romo, or vice versa.
Mijares is used to get out of a huge Jam following a righty mid reliever (Kontos, Mota, Casilla).
ZZ, you dont understand do you? You are hiding behind numbers with your logic. Its hard to put value on a clubhouse leader. Great sign by the Giants. He is the rock in the bullpen and can take any role in the bullpen if he had too.
but he also shows up for the playoffs, aside stellar 2012 he had an important stabilizing effort vs Phillies when Jonathan Sanchez melted down and was also excellent for the Rockies in 2007 postseason.