Johan’s Remaining Deal

Mere hours after R.J. wrote about the possibility of Johan Santana headed for minor surgery, it was confirmed by the New York Mets that he would. The surgery is to remove bone chips from Santana’s left elbow and will end his 2009 season, but should have him ready for 2010 Spring Training according to the Mets.

Johan’s contract with the Mets guaranteed him $137.5 million over six years (with $5 million per year deferred reducing its value by about $2 million in present day terms) with a team (with incentives that make it a player) option for a seventh year at an additional $19.5 million.

One third of the way through the locked in portions of the contract and the Mets have paid out roughly $35 million in present day money and received back $34.7 in value, a shockingly on the nose figure. The problem for the Mets are:

A) Johan is already 30
B) He is now a worse re-injury risk
C) His contract payments escalate

In essence, since the Mets paid and Johan played even amounts so far, it can be viewed as the Mets inking to Santana to a four-year, $90.5 million deal this winter. How would that deal rank? A lot of that depends on how the projection systems like Santana for 2010 which we do not know yet, but can make an educated guess at.

Johan’s 2009 season has been quite similar to his 2008. The strikeouts are down a hair, the walks up a hair, but combined they amount to just a 0.1 change in ratio from 3.27 K/BB last year to 3.17 this year. The ground balls fell off and as a result, the home runs have risen. Those three indicators would suggest a higher predicted for 2010 than he received in 2009, which came out to about a 3.50 average FIP. Let us peg him for a 3.60 FIP for now (this is probably being generous to Santana).

The other major expectation will be innings pitched. Coming off an injury and just 166.2 innings pitched, the projections are not going to be up in the 200-220 innings pitched range as they were for this season. 185 innings seems a decent estimate to me, though again perhaps a touch favorable to Santana.

185 innings of 3.60 FIP comes out to about 4.25 wins, a figure that would be worth a little under $20 million per year in today’s financial climate. For the four years left on Johan’s deal, we would be expecting him to sign for something between $70 and $75 million.

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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.

25 Responses to “Johan’s Remaining Deal”

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  1. El Paco says:

    Santana has consistently outperformed his FIPs in recent years — it’s conceivable that this is just a statistical anomaly, but I’m guessing it’s something that will continue going forward. Something to consider.

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  2. acerimusdux says:

    That sounds about right.

    I tend to think, in general, starting pitching, especially top of rotation starting pitching, is one of the toughest places to get market value per win, just due to scarcity of the talent at the top end. A factor here also is, these frontline starters simply have more value to playoff teams.

    In WAR terms, for the regular season, a top SP is rarely worth as much as a top position player. Santana last year I think was around 45 RAR, compared to 60-70 for Wright or Beltran. But the ace pitcher will get paid as much as anyone.

    Get into a 7 game playoff series though, and a guy like that can have the biggest impact on the field. I still remember Orel Hershiser single handedly beating the Mets in 1988, and Mike Scott very nearly doing the same in 1986.

    With all the off days, you can throw your top SP 3 times in a 7 game series. Instead of pitching only every 5th game, it’s almost like they can pitch every 2.5 games. That 45 RAR player now seems worth as much as a 90 RAR player.

    So, even if the Mets overpaid a bit there, that’s probably market value for what they got. The real concern is if an aging Santana will stay healthy. If he does, he’s probably worth something near that contract to a playoff team. Of course, the Mets real problem now is, they are no longer looking very much like a playoff team, are they.

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    • aweb says:

      I think it’s an important point here – the Mets were most likely paying for an ace for the playoffs as well. It’s not Santana’s fault the team collapsed out of the race twice in a row, but it has significantly reduced the amount of value he has been able to provide. If the Mets make the playoffs jsut once, and win a round, let’s say Santana makes three starts. How much are three postseason starts worth? Obviously the regular season WAR:$$ ratios don’t apply, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say 2 million a start (since his regular season starts have been worth about $600,000 each).

      If the Mets don’t blow their playoff runs twice in a row, perhaps the franchise is way ahead on the deal so far.

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  3. pm says:

    WAR is a great stat and all, but it is horrible when evaluating Starting pitchers. It doesn’t take into account holding runners and more importantly what the pitcher does when men are on base.

    I’m sorry if I am skeptical of a stat that said that Johan Santana was the 16th best pitcher in baseball last while having the best ERA in the NL and the most IP in the NL. Any stat that had Dempster, Vazquez, A.J. Burnett, Mussina, Danks, Cook, Lester, and Meche rated ahead of Santana last year is not credible to me and should be discounted from all discussions.

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    • joser says:

      You’re using ERA to discredit WAR?

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    • Travis says:

      To paraphrase:
      “Any stat which shows Santana worse than guys I think are worse is seriously questionable.”

      Plus, it’s a one year look. Tough to judge on one year.

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    • David A says:

      Does the FIP calculation assume that every pitcher’s “natural” strand rate is the same? If so, I think that’s a serious flaw. For one, strand rate will be higher for pitchers with WHIP that is better than league average. Strand rate is negatively correlated with the rate that runners score, which in turn is dependent on the pitcher’s WHIP. Those pitchers that allow fewer hits and walks in general will also allow fewer hits and walks with runners on base. So a pitcher like Santana would naturally have a higher strand rate than the average pitcher.

      The other thing to consider is that some pitchers are more inclined to give up hits in bunches, or to breakdown quickly, losing their control and allowing a bunch of baserunners late in ballgames. Anecdotally, you might say that so-and-so “gets in trouble with men on,” or something to that effect. I don’t know how to measure this effectively, but I would say that based on his career thus far, Santana is NOT one of those pitchers. He strands an incredibly high percentage of baserunners–77% for his career, and this has been consistently in the 76-83% range for every season since 2003. Even if we allow for a few pts of that to be explained by his good WHIP, there is still a sizable gap between his actual strand rate and what you would expect from statistical randomness. Assuming that Santana returns healthy in 2010, I would expect the same sort of results going forward, and an ERA somewhere around 3.10, as he has maintained for the last seven seasons.

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      • Joe R says:

        If I’m not mistaken, FIP is just HR, K, and BB rates rolled into one. That can be bleh, but it works usually, with occasional exceptions (the crafty vet who depends on location may pitch better than his FIP, the 98 MPH fireballer who tends to flame out after 95 pitches may pitch worse, etc).

        As to why some pitchers strand the baserunners they give up better…I have no idea? Luck? Better focus with men on base? My best baseball guess is ground ball pitchers are able to perform this more regularly and outperform their FIP, but if you look at, say, Derek Lowe’s career ERA/FIP (3.81/3.76), that doesn’t seem like much of a rule either.

        (random theorizing, waiting on boss to email me back).

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      • David A says:

        thanks. i looked up the calculation and was surprised at how little goes into it. my first point about strand rate wouldn’t be an issue, but the second would i think. some pitchers just seem to be more capable of buckling down and pitching better with RISP.

        Santana’s career On Base splits are pretty telling:

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      • Joe R says:

        Career line of: .225/.281/.368
        RISP line of: .219/.285/.356

        Looks like pretty much the same guy to me, unless I’m not looking at the right stuff.

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      • B says:

        @David A – Honestly, using anecdotal evidence that some pitchers “seem” to buckle down better than other pitchers doesn’t tell us a thing. If you’ve read any studies that suggest this may be the case, by all means, give us a link, but I highly doubt over any substantial sample size there’s very much variation between pitchers in how they pitch with runners on vs. with no runners on.

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    • David A says:

      SLG pct is way down with RISP–.323 according to the chart i looked at. vs. .382 with the bases empty and .369 with a man on first. which tells me he doesn’t give up too many three run homers or bases-clearing doubles. OBP isn’t really any different, but this drop in SLG would definitely cut down on the runs allowed from those few men who do reach base.

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  4. pm says:

    Anyone who would have taken Gil Meche, Javier Vasquez, A.J. Burnett or Aaron Cook last year over Santana should have their head re examined. There is literally no argument for those guys especially if you consider the sizable innings pitch gap that Johan had over them. Please tell me one person who would have taken those guys ahead of Santana?

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    • wobatus says:

      I do prefer tRA to FIP and think anyone choosing those guys over Santana, especially based on one year versus the body of Santana’s career, is nuts. Although Vazquez is quite good, so the nuts won that round. :)

      Santana was absolutely lights out this year until he quite obviously became hurt some time in may or June. The falloff in velocity and strikeouts was quite sudden and noticeable. Good thing he is my 5th starter. :) had to bring up that bum hanson to replace him.

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  5. Jeff K says:

    Santana had a better TRA than Meche, Vasquez, and Cook, and only a little worse than Burnett last year.

    That said, your previous post mentioned the WAR doesn’t take into account holding runners on. That would have a tiny effect. How could you think otherwise? Are you a little league coach or something?

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    • Max says:

      The tRA is because his LD% is very low this year. Something that wasn’t mentioned in the original post but according to tRA, more than makes up for the decrease in ground-balls.

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  6. Nick says:

    It’s a good thing they sent the Twins a sack of garbage for him.

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    • Matt B. says:

      Ha! Sad but true.

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      • wobatus says:

        Guerra may turn out ok. Sub 4 fips in the minors and good k/bb rate this year. Gomez they horribly mishandled I think, although i don’t know that he’d ever have turned into a star. Humber was worth a Tapani-esque flyer, to recall a prior Mets for twins ace package. he is damaged goods though.

        But not spending on Johan enabled them to spend money this year on, say, Kubel, etc.

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      • Garrett says:

        I still think Carlos Gomez ends up as a good player. .656 OPS at only 23 isn’t the end of the world and his defense numbers have been off the charts (a bit down in 2009 but still very good). If he develops any power at all, I think he could end up being a good player and if he really develops could still be special.

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  7. Xeifrank says:

    is player production from a team that makes the playoffs, makes it to the W.S., or even wins the W.S. worth more than player production from a player who is on a team that does not make the playoffs?

    If the Mets had had a replacement level player instead of J.Santana the past two years, they would have won a few less games, but still not have made the playoffs either year. And more importantly would have an extra $34M in their pockets.

    Is it really correct to say that a team like the Mets got what they paid for? I understand the WAR computations and conversion to $value$. It just seems like the value of a win to each team is different. Beforehand you may not know this value, but afterwards you should have a good idea. And we are afterwards on the first two years of his contract now.

    vr, Xei

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    • Andrew says:

      The Mets only missed the playoffs the last two years by literally one game. It was not a foregone conclusion that they were going to miss the playoffs and I really don’t think any individual starting pitcher could’ve put them over the edge and placed below 3rd in MVP balloting. And for what it’s worth, PECOTA had them winning the division this year too.

      If you’re spending >$100million (or even $30million) on payroll, you have to be doing so with the intention of making the playoffs, which is worth millions of dollars in revenue. I think a playoff berth has been calculated to be worth $20 million, so if Johan had pitched the Mets into the playoffs in back-to-back years he would’ve been worth his contract and then some.

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    • Wally says:

      All wins aren’t worth the same to each team, you’re right, but over the last two years each win has still be worth a lot for the Mets. Just being in the race down to the last weekend is pretty darn valuable, as is entering the season expecting to compete. So, while the Mets may have missed out on some playoff cash, they did receive 2 years of playoff hunt cash, and now a 3rd year of at least entering the season as a contender. That’s better than accumulating $32M of value with the Royals so far, as Greinke has done….

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  8. angelos says:

    this is such a waste of an article.

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