Avoid Backe

The Houston Astros wisely designated Brandon Backe for assignment last week, eventually ending his tenure with the club. Nobody claimed Backe when he was placed on waivers, meaning that Backe could either opt to be released or accept a demotion to the minors. He declined the latter and was given his outright release, making him available to the 29 other teams in the league.

This isn’t going to be a lengthy post because it doesn’t need to be, but I am strongly advocating that teams avoid Backe. With injuries and ineffectiveness, he hasn’t been a viable major league starter since the 2005 season, and at 31 years old, there really isn’t much upside here.

If he is willing to accept a minor league deal and prove himself then the story might go a little differently, but a pitcher with a sub-2.0 K/BB ratio, thereby exhibiting poor command usually needs to have some potential to improve to sustain a job or some sort of blistering fastball. Backe has neither, and at this point would not upgrade the rotation of any contender or serve as a potential chip for any of the non-contenders.

Backe has a career 5.23 ERA and 5.33 FIP, an 88-89 mph fastball with average or below movement, and has never ventured above the 0.9 WAR mark. Full disclosure, that 0.9 win season wasn’t very good, but involved about 150 innings being logged. Simply put, Backe is a replacement level pitcher, the kind of guy a team should call up from Triple A when someone gets hurt.

Sure, he will be cheap, but teams would be better suited to try their young guys than dish out starts to a subpar pitcher. Replacement level with potential for upside always beats plain old replacement level.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


17 Responses to “Avoid Backe”

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  1. Bill B. says:

    I’m waiting for someone to make the obvious “backne” joke. Come on, Eric!

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  2. Costa Galanis says:

    I don’t think anyone here disagrees, but is it really necessary to single the poor guy out like that? =P He just lost his job after all.

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  3. teddy ballgame says:

    Low hanging fruit, don’t you think? This is like saying “don’t catch VD” or “try not to hit anything while you’re driving.” Aim higher!

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    • Costa Galanis says:

      Everyone’s human. Not every article can (or has to) be a ground breaking revelation that shakes the foundation of our way of thinking.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      This speaks to a larger problem that bugs me in that these garbage pitchers are constantly recycled for no good reason. Teams like the Royals should be evaluating their prospects, not giving starts out to Sidney Ponson. Backe has no place in a major league rotation. The Phillies at least tested out Antonio Bastardo before calling up Rodrigo Lopez, etc.

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  4. Jack Moore says:

    Of note, the Astros will have spent roughly 2.3M on Backe in the last two years by the end of the season.

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    • DK says:

      Well he’s a hometown guy being from Galveston. The Astros were very loyal to him and his struggles over the years because he grew up there and because he is such a competitor. That still counts for something in some places and will definitely be missed.

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      • Jack Moore says:

        I don’t care where he grew up, spending 2.3M on a below replacement level player is unacceptable. You can either want to win or be sentimental. To sustain winning, you can’t have it both ways.

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  5. Friendly Neighborhood Language Critic says:

    Great post! One language-related quibble, though:

    “Full disclosure” is meant to let your audience know if you have a potential conflict of interest in the story you’re writing, not to add a detail to your story that’s actually germane to your main point.

    Or was your usage meant to be tongue-in-cheek?

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  6. Stros fan says:

    Backe’s been terrible for years. I’ve advocated turning him back into a position player. He was a converted second baseman.

    He’s a good athlete with good speed and a little pop in his bat, and a career .256 hitter. Why not see if he can make it as a utility infielder?

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    • gnome says:

      I agree completely. Maybe the Cardinals will sign him (I’d actually like to see that) and find out if he can be Ankiel 2.0.

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  7. Chris Robert says:

    This is a problem that bugs you? Then keep it to yourself, numbnuts. We’re in a goddamn depression, no one needs you to be the Job Police.

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