After much speculation that Joe Beimel would remain out west and sign with the likes of either San Diego or Oakland, the lefty reliever inked a 1-yr/$2 mil deal with the Washington Nationals today. He joins a bullpen that recently signed Julian Tavarez and already houses the likes of Joel Hanrahan, Steven Shell, Jesus Colome, and Saul Rivera. Beimel has pitched in the major leagues for eight seasons so far, spending time as an employee of the Pirates, Twins, Devil Rays, and Dodgers. Not until he wore Dodger blue did he truly become effective.
Relief pitchers, thanks in large part to very small samples of performance, do not accrue much in the win value department. That being said, Beimel’s marks of +0.7 in 2007 and +0.9 last season are quite impressive, especially given his role as a lefty specialist. Prior to joining the Dodgers, Beimel had actually performed better against righthanded hitters, but an increase in fastball usage at the expense of his slider led to more swings out of the zone, a lower rate of swings in the zone, and less contact made on those zone swings. In the process, he vastly reduced the effectiveness of opposing lefties.
As a member of the Dodgers, Beimel posted ERAs of 2.96, 3.88, and 2.02 respectively. Based on controllable skills, his run prevention should have been worse, with FIP marks of 4.49, 3.39, and 3.30. The improving FIP is misleading, however, as it has much more to do with Beimel’s home run prevention “skills” than anything else. Throughout his three-year tenure with the Dodgers, Beimel saw steady increases in both his walk and strikeout rates, but cut home runs almost entirely out of the menu. His HR/9 marks in this span: 0.90, 0.13, 0.00. He served just one gopherball in 2007 and did not allow any to leave the yard last season.
The projections naturally call for a regression in this area, but even with a higher home run rate, Marcel sees Beimel capable of improving both his walk and strikeout rates. Assuming his true talent level shines through this season, Beimel would post a 3.78 ERA/3.99 FIP in 56 innings, numbers that would push him somewhere between +0.4 and +0.7 wins added. The economy is screwy to the point that $4.5 mil/win might not be terribly accurate, so let’s arbitrarily adjust that to $3.5 mil. Under that scenario, the Nationals are paying the lefty specialist to produce +0.57 wins, smackdab in the middle of the aforementioned range.
Despite being 32 years old, lefty specialists like Beimel will always be able to find a home. He is not a relief ace, and greatly benefits from playing in front of solid defense due to his groundball rates and pitch to contact mentality, but he will definitely provide the Nationals with a decent enough return on their investment… as long as he is utilized in proper fashion and not called upon to handle extreme setup duty based on last year’s tidy 2.02 ERA.
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