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Mighty Joe Beimel

The free agency period began last Friday, and some teams have wasted little time making offers both curious, as in the supposed over-bidding on CC Sabathia by the Yankees, and apparently laughable, as in Scott Boras’ reaction to the Dodgers offer to Manny Ramirez. Some free agents have been signed, as well, including lefty reliever Scott Eyre (Phillies), and, well, lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt (Giants). Will Ohman, another lefty reliever, is currently being courted by the Braves, and another lefty reliever, Joe Beimel, is rumored to be on the Giants wish-list.

Beimel had a decent year for the Dodgers in 2008, that was made to look much better by a shiny 2.02 ERA. His FIP of 3.30 was more telling of his actual ability this past season, but as a lefty specialist who only amassed 49 innings in 71 appearances, his 1.45 WHIP and 1.52 K/BB were masked by an 85.1% strand rate. In 2007, his K/BB was essentially the same, though a .291 BABIP, a full 30 points lower than this year’s .320, helped produce a 1.29 WHIP. Despite this, his strand rate was a below average 67%, leading to a higher 3.88 ERA. Beimel’s FIP, however, was 3.39, right in line with the 3.30 from this past season.

How does a pitcher with a K/9 barely over 5.5 and a BB/9 over 3.0 produce such solid FIP marks? Well, he doesn’t give up home runs. In 2008, Beimel did not surrender any longballs. The year prior, he allowed just one ball to leave the yard. Yes, over the past two seasons, Joe Beimel has allowed just one home run. I struggled to wrap my head around this and decided to look up how many “peers” he has in this regard.

Looking strictly at those with 50+ total innings combined in 2007 and 2008, three pitchers did not surrender any home runs: Jim Johnson, Joey Devine, and Kevin Cameron. These three, however, primarily pitched in just one season, with Johnson appearing in just one 2007 game, Devine appearing in just ten, and Cameron making only ten appearances in 2008. Suffice it to say, nobody who has logged significant time over each of the last two seasons has been effective enough not to surrender a home run.

With this new qualifier, Beimel tops the list with 155 games and just one home run allowed. That is 117.1 innings of 3.07 ERA baseball, and just one gopherball. After Beimel, the next lowest amount of home runs surrendered by a pitcher with significant time in both seasons is three, belonging to both Matt Lindstrom (137 games) and Kerry Wood (87 games).

Three pitchers have allowed only four home runs in 2007-08: Saul Rivera (162 games!), Chad Bradford (147 games), and Randy Flores (113 games). Below are some stats for these six pitchers:

Joe Beimel:     155 g, 117.1 IP, 1 HR, 3.07 ERA,  2.40 WPA
Matt Lindstrom: 137 g, 124.1 IP, 3 HR, 3.11 ERA,  2.07 WPA
Kerry Wood:      87 g,  90.2 IP, 3 HR, 3.28 ERA,  0.64 WPA
Saul Rivera:    162 g, 180.0 IP, 4 HR, 3.75 ERA,  1.61 WPA
Chad Bradford:  147 g, 125.0 IP, 4 HR, 2.74 ERA,  0.93 WPA
Randy Flores:   113 g,  80.2 IP, 4 HR, 4.57 ERA, -1.61 WPA

Beimel allowed seven home runs in 2006, giving him a grand total of eight allowed over the last three seasons. How does that stack up with the rest of the league in the same span? Looking at pitchers with significant time in each season—BJ Ryan would be in this list but he only made five appearances in 2007—we see that Bradford tops all others with just five home runs allowed. Sean Green of the Mariners is next at just seven allowed, with Beimel and Saul Rivera joining the fray with only eight gopherballs surrendered.

With Beimel’s poor strikeout and walk rates, he should not really be anything other than a specialist reliever, but pitching in San Francisco, assuming the Giants ink him soon, there really isn’t any reason why the home run numbers should crazily regress, especially if he only faces one or two batters in each appearance. Beimel is more likely a 3.40-3.50 true talent ERA pitcher, but that is still quite good, and with lefty relievers flying off the shelves, it would not shock me at all to see him signed before this week ends.