Arizona’s Mistake

About six weeks ago, Dave Cameron profiled Randy Johnson as a potential free agent bargain because teams were still too bent on using things like wins and ERA to quantify pitchers.

Johnson is still unsigned and not generating as much interest on the open market as one might expect for a guy who had so much success last year and only has leverage to hold out for a one, maybe two-year deal. Arizona CEO Jeff Moorad recently expressed that the team was in need of another starting pitcher, but it sounds as if the bridge between the Big Unit and the Diamondbacks has been, if not burned, then at least made impassable for the time being. Arizona wanted Johnson to take a massive pay cut from his 2007 salary despite a performance not justifying such a demand. In fact, let’s compare two pitchers:

Pitcher A threw strikes 62% of the time and generated a missed bat 6.7% of the time.
Randy Johnson threw strikes 68% of the time and made batters miss on 10.6% of his pitches.

Pitcher A, traditionally a neutral pitcher, generated 1.25 groundballs for every flyball, but also yielded a line drive on 21.1% of batted balls.
Johnson, traditionally a slight GB pitcher, was neutral on groundballs in 2008, but allowed only 18.2% of batted balls to be line drives.

Pitcher A struck out just under two batters for every walk he yielded.
Randy was almost double that, at just under four strikeouts per walk.

Pitcher A’s FIP was 4.32 over 196 innings and his Marcel projects his FIP at 4.73 next year.
Johnson’s FIP was 3.76 and he pitched 184 innings. His Marcel projects him for a 4.11 FIP in 2009.

Who would you rather have based on those numbers? Seems pretty simple right? Here’s where you’d expect me to name some random 30-year-old pitcher so that naysayers could point to Randy’s age as a means behind the snubbing. Well, Pitcher A is Jamie Moyer. Like Randy, he’s left-handed and Jamie is about 10 months older than Johnson. Moyer just signed a two-year deal guaranteeing him $13 million with easily reached innings-based bonuses likely worth an additional $1-2 million per year.

According to what we know, Johnson offered to take a 50% pay cut and sign a one-year deal in the range of $7-8 million for 2009. His Marcel projection has him worth around $15 million on a one year deal. The Diamondbacks reportedly offered him about $3 million. They made a huge, potentially division-costing mistake and Johnson still looms on the open market, an insane bargain just looking for a savvy shopper.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

6 Responses to “Arizona’s Mistake”

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  1. Benne says:

    If the M’s rotation wasn’t such a logjam at the moment, I’d gladly hop on the “Bring Back Randy!” bandwagon.

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  2. Greg Foley says:

    Jamie Moyer has been more reliably available than RJ, averaging over 200 innings pitched per year all the way back o 2001. RJ had only 240 over the last two years.

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  3. David Foy says:

    Mets please do this, it makes so much sense for them i want to slap Omar for not already making the move. Give him a 1 year and 10million dollar deal. It will be cheaper than Lowe or Perez and won’t handicap you in the future if the deal goes sour.

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  4. ML says:

    I think it makes sense for the M’s. All the fans are nostalgic to bring Griffey back but if they want nostalgia and baseball value Randy would be perfect. Dump Wasburn for a bag of balls and take randy.

    They could have the following rotation:

    1. Felix Hernandez
    2. Erik Bedard
    3. Brandon Morrow
    4. Randy Johnson
    5. Carlos Silva

    Other than Silva all those guys are solid or have the potential to be league average or better. Put Batista in the pen. A one year deal for Randy at 10 million or so should be a fine stop gap and allow lower level pitching prospects like Aumont, Pineda, Juan Ramirez, etc. to develop for another year.

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  5. Drew says:

    RJ was one of the best NL pitchers last year. For an NL team not to promptly take advantage of the D’backs idiocy is, well, more idiocy.

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  6. heyyoo says:

    “the Diamondbacks reportedly offered him about $3 million. They made a huge, potentially division-costing mistake and Johnson still looms on the open market, an insane bargain just looking for a savvy shopper.”

    A lot of things went wrong for that team. Not signing Johnson wasn’t one of them.

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