Yanks Join the Reliever Party, Signing Feliciano

So far this off-season nine relief pitchers have signed a contract of two years or longer. When the Yankees’ signing of Pedro Feliciano becomes official that will make 10. We learned yesterday that the two sides were getting closer to a deal, and this morning they agreed on a two-year, $8 million contract that includes a player option for 2013. The Yankees now join the Angels as the only teams to sign more than one reliever to a multi-year deal.

In the past three seasons no pitcher has made more appearances than Feliciano, and it’s not particularly close. He has entered a game 266 times, and the next closest, Carlos Marmol, has 238. Unsurprisingly, in each of those three seasons he has led the league in appearances. That certainly raises a red flag. That is somewhat mitigated by his status as a lefty specialist. He enters games frequently, but he doesn’t pitch for long. In that same three-year period 48 pitchers have thrown more pitches and the same number have faced more batters. He also has never been placed on the disabled list.

When he does appear in games he’s fairly effective. In 459 career appearances he has a 3.31 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 3.81 xFIP, and 4.06 tERA — though his tERA has been much lower since his return from Japan in 2006. His strikeout rate is always in the 8 per nine range, though his walks have typically been over 4 per nine. It’s no surprise that his finest seasons have come when his walk rate has dipped below 3 per nine. The one mitigating factor there is that a number of those walks are intentional, occurring when the opponent’s lineup goes lefty-righty-lefty. That’s not to say that the intentional walks don’t hurt. They do. But they’re a bit easier to stomach if he faces a lefty afterward.

A groundball-inducing lefty who can also strike out his share of same-handed batters will fit well with the Yankees. He can handle some of the tougher lefties in the division, including new Bostonians Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Two years and $8 million might be a bit of an overpay — Feliciano’s WAR/Dollars figure has never hit $4 million. Then again, 1) WAR might undervalue relievers, and 2) the Yankees aren’t on the same pay scale as the rest of the league. With only roughly $185 million on the books for the 2011 season, including projected arbitration raises and reserve clause obligations, they can afford to overpay a few players that can help at the margins.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

33 Responses to “Yanks Join the Reliever Party, Signing Feliciano”

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  1. Ace says:

    A LOOGY is great since , Ortiz. Crawford, Ellsbury, and Gonzalez aren’t going to hit him.

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  2. DT says:

    “Yankees aren’t on the same pay scale as the rest of the league.” Actually the Phillies and Red Sox have caught up. There are reports that the Red Sox actually have a higher payroll now than the yankees. Can we stop pretending now that the Yankee’s money is in a league of their own?

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    • Piccamo says:

      Right. The math saying that the Red Sox have caught up seems a bit fuzzy. There is no denying that the Yankees can sustain a higher payroll than anyone else in the sport.

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      • DT says:

        i’m not denying that, but the gap between the yankees and the next two teams have pretty much closed. The idea is that only the yankees can sustain such a high payroll but from what we’ve seen this offseason it’s not the case as both the Sox and Phillies are now in the same tier as the yankees.

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      • C says:

        “There is no denying that the Yankees can sustain a higher payroll than anyone else in the sport.”

        Can sustain, or have owners who are willing to sustain? Very different analyses for very different statements. The Yankees as an entity are definitely worth more than all other teams and thus generate tons of revenue themselves ot sustain their vast payroll abilities, but I would think that almost all MLB teams are owned by extremely wealthy people. Some of them choose to spend more on the team they own and some choose to spend less. Maybe some of these teams would operate at a loss if the owners spent more, but the owners themselves have other revenue streams with which they could fund the teams’ payroll and thus ‘sustain’ it.

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      • Wally says:


        Yes, but rich people don’t generally become rich, or stay rich, by throwing millions of dollars down the drain….. So, you’re selecting for a group of people that wouldn’t make decisions like that.

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      • Piccamo says:

        The Yankees have had a payroll north of $200MM for three consecutive seasons and have had a payroll close to that for the last 6 consecutive seasons. They are the only team that has proven that they can remain competitive with those kinds of commitments. I’m a bit more skeptical of the Red Sox or Phillies’ ability to do so.

        An owner’s wealth is not the same as a team’s wealth. An owner who hopes to stay wealthy will base his financial commitment to the team on the team’s ability to recoup those costs. It is absurd to expect them to do otherwise.

        The amount of money invested into the team compared to their revenue is fairly standard across baseball, with some exceptions (like the Marlins).

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    • Jack Str says:

      No, they haven’t. Can you stop pretending the Yankees haven’t had and won’t continue to have an enormous advantage? The Yankees can go over and stay over $200m indefinitely. They can assemble the Red Sox or Phillies roster and add the salaries of Albert Pujols and Felix Hernandez.

      While some shame might be good for you as the richest kid on the block, delusional thinking probably isn’t.

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  3. phoenix2042 says:

    i also think that lefties are even more important to the yankees, and therefore make them more willing to overpay, because of boston’s lefty-heavy lineup weighing on their minds. i expect the yankees to indulge in a lefty starter (though not an elite one) as a reclamation project FA or a trade. they will also be begging andy to come back for another year.

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  4. chris says:

    Poor justification of a lousy contract because the writer is a Yankees fan.

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  5. Piccamo says:

    “With only roughly $185 million on the books…”


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  6. AK707 says:

    “1) WAR might undervalue relievers”

    It might be more appropriate to look at relievers from a WPA standpoint rather than FIP and IP, since thats what teams seem to value relievers for.

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    • NJ Andy says:

      This is a really good idea.

      Would it be possible to slightly modify the WAR formula for different positions? I realize that it (to some level) limits WAR’s universal value, but really WAR is already different between pitchers and position players, so I see no reason a few tweaks couldn’t be worked in.

      Maybe work in WPA for relievers, take our UZR for 1b/DH types. We already have ‘positional value,’ could this be another step? As AK707 points out, different positions are valued for different sorts of a production.

      Even UZR could be modified, yea? Range is more important to centerfielders, shortstops, and second basemen. Glove work and reaction time for 3b and 1b. Arm for catcher and the outfielders etc…

      Is this possible, or am I being foolish?

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    • Wally says:

      WPA doesn’t really tell you talent though, and is greatly influenced by usage patterns, which players don’t control, thus its very noisy. WPA/LI might be better. That way, if you like a guy that one team uses in 6th and 7th inning in low leverage, you can compare him to another guy who’s team uses him in the 8th or 9th inning in high leverage. But just stick to FIP and WAR, but only looking at 3 seasons worth of IP.

      For example, look at Soria and Rivera’s WPA. The FIPs are about the same, but their WPA are about a factor of 2 apart.

      WAR isn’t broken for relievers. Its just very noisy due to small sample sizes, and I think people forget that relievers are just generally not as talented of pitchers as starters. So you see their WAR bouncing around relatively greatly from year to year, but generally pretty much centered close to zero.

      This should make intuitive sense to people. How often do you see some young half decent AAA arm thrown in the bullpen and do as well as any other reliever? Pretty frequently right? This should tell you most relievers are more or less replacement level.

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      • AK707 says:

        I just thought that it is curious that most teams tend to value the typical closer equally to an average second baseman. I wonder if there is something they know that we don’t.

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      • psiogen says:

        Teams know that fans tear their hair out every time they blow a late-inning lead. They overvalue relievers because they want to entertain, rather than enrage, the fans.

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  7. Brandon says:

    Do ground ball tendencies help so much with the Statue of Thievery at SS?

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  8. Steve S. says:

    Terrific stuff as always, Joe. I’m stealing a few lines for my morning piece today.

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  9. Swallow my cum says:

    Perpetual Pedro sucks….

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  10. Joe R says:

    No shocker BTW that the only other team to have 2 or more 2+ year contracts to relievers offered this off-season is the Angels. It’s like this team doesn’t learn.

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  11. Matt says:

    As a Mets fan, I thank the Yankees for the draft pick.

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  12. Khosbayar says:

    As a Mets fan, I agree with Matt – I didn’t want Feliciano to accept arbitration; I was just hoping for the compensatory draft pick which they now have.

    Feliciano is not as good as he once was, and I think his performance will continue to decline over the next two years.

    Good riddance – hopefully he sabotages the Yankees.

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