Yesterday, Dave discussed the Jon Garland signing, largely criticizing the acquisition based on the fact that they failed to offer Randy Johnson, a superior pitcher even at this stage, a deal as lucrative. While I am not going to continue the discussion about that particular signing, the idea arose that 200 innings from Garland is less productive than 120 or so innings from Johnson should he sustain injuries. This reminded me of something Tango posted last year showing that Albert Pujols‘ numbers were almost equivalent to the production of Mark Teixeira and Jeff Francoeur combined. Whew, spelled both correctly.
All too often, injury-prone pitchers are written off as ineffective. This could not be further from the truth as certain pitchers who fit this mold are wildly productive in the time they spend on the field. Even though they fail to stay healthy enough to log 200 IP in 35 GS, they end up posting some very solid numbers.
Take a look at Ben Sheets, for starters, who produced a 2.43 FIP in 106 IP back in the 2006 season. He made 17 starts, with a 9.83 K/9 and 0.93 BB/9, good for a K/BB of 10.55. Even with a .344 BABIP and 67% LOB, Sheets still managed a 3.82 ERA. All told, his half-season produced +4.0 wins. In the same season, the aforementioned Garland produced +3.9 wins in 211 innings. Yes, Sheets was slightly more productive than Garland even though he pitched almost exactly half of the innings.
This is not the only example either. In 2007, Randy Johnson made just 10 starts, pitching in 56 innings. His 3.20 FIP and 5.54 K/BB helped him produce +1.6 wins that season. In one-fourth of the season, he produced more than 200 innings of Tom Glavine, or 170 innings of Boof Bonser. His win value also surpassed the combined output of Kip Wells, Livan Hernandez, and Scott Olsen in ~520 IP.
Granted, we never know what would have happened if the injured pitchers lasted the entire season. Still, do you really believe Johnson and Sheets would have declined so rapidly that their statistics would drop them into the average category? When pitchers with half of a season or so of statistics are evaluated, the most common reaction is to think they could not possibly be as productive as innings-eaters who stay on the field. This simply is not a universal truth. 106 IP of Ben Sheets in 2006 (+4 wins) + 105 IP of Replacement Level pitching (+0 wins) is equal to, or greater than, 211 IP of Jon Garland (+3.9 wins).
Examples like this will not always surface, but injury-prone pitchers do have value, even if that value is only seen for half of a season.