Reputations are interesting in the sense that they can alter our perception of a player. For instance, Jon Garland, who just signed a questionable deal with the Diamondbacks, has the reputation of a durable, grounder-inducing pitcher. This reputation is sound given that he routinely logs 200+ IP in 33+ GS, but it also masks his shortcomings. Adversely, the reputation for falling prey to injuries can mask a player’s true production level. Just look at Ben Sheets: 130 IP of Sheets at the top of his game is more productive than 200 IP from someone like Garland.
And the lack of a reputation prevents similar pitchers from being acknowledged. Which brings us to Braden Looper, an average or so pitcher who projects to perform similarly to this past season in 2009, performance similar to that of Garland’s. Despite the similarities, Looper lacks the reputation or track record of being extremely durable. I have seen perhaps two teams expressing even cursory interest in the veteran. The track record set by Garland may be worth the extra interest and salary, but this is interesting nonetheless.
If Looper throws 185 IP with a 4.54 FIP, down from the 199 at 4.52 in 2008, he would still be worth right around +1.65 wins. No, this isn’t going to light the world on fire, but he isn’t going to cost much, especially in this economy, and the return is not going to be that far off of someone like Garland. Looper would have made more sense for a team like the Mets than Tim Redding, yet his name never even surfaced.
Randy Wolf‘s recent reputation comes as an injury-prone pitcher. From 2005-07, he managed just 43 starts coming off of Tommy John Surgery. Still, in 18 starts during the 2007 season, Wolf produced +1.7 wins. Last season, in 33 GS and 190 IP, he produced +2.0 wins. It seems safe to say that Wolf is, at worst, a +1.8 win pitcher next year. Exceeding the league average production in 2008 is not out of the question, either, given that he has now pitched a full post-surgery season.
Garland, Looper, and Wolf all project quite similarly to each other in 2009. Despite this, Looper’s lack of a reputation and Wolf’s supposed inability to stay on the field are important enough to teams that these pitchers are rarely mentioned. If a team seeks a decent 4th or 5th starter to fill out their rotation, one that does not come at too steep of a price, either of these two is likely to be just as productive as Garland, if not better.
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