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The Closer Markup

With Trevor Hoffman signing a one year contract today (fairly rare for a free agent closer), we’re presented with an opportunity to measure just how much teams are willing to pay for the proven closer label.

For instance, let’s compare Hoffman with a very similar non-closer who also signed a one year deal earlier this winter.

BB/9, 2005 to 2008:

Hoffman: 1.87, 1.86, 2.35, 1.79
Not Hoffman: 1.97, 2.00, 2.10, 1.66

From a practical standpoint, there’s no difference in their walk rates.

K/9, 2005 to 2008:

Hoffman: 8.43, 7.14, 6.91, 9.13
Not Hoffman: 5.92, 8.33, 7.97, 7.51

Slight edge to Hoffman here, but not a huge one. We’re talking about half a strikeout per nine innings, or about five to six per year. Very marginal difference.

HR/9, 2005 to 2008:

Hoffman: .47, .86, .31, 1.59
Not Hoffman: .49, .94, .89, 1.66

Again, a slight advantage to Hoffman, but not a big one, especially when park effects are included. And this is what we’d expect, given that they’re almost equal in flyball rates – Hoffman is at 45.5% FB% since 2002, and Not Hoffman is at 45.2%.

Overall, their skill sets are extremely similar. Both are experienced good command flyball guys who miss bats and are slightly HR prone. Both have long track records of success. Both took one year contracts to move to new clubs this winter.

Trevor Hoffman got $6 million, and could earn up to $7.5 million if he pitches well. Bob Howry, our Not Hoffman for this exercise, got $2.75 million, and could earn up to $3.65 million if he pitches well. Hoffman got, essentially, twice as much money for the same skills because he comes with the proven closer label.

Even in a depressed economic market, the closer markup is still ridiculous.