Arizona’s Mistake

About six weeks ago, Dave Cameron profiled Randy Johnson as a potential free agent bargain because teams were still too bent on using things like wins and ERA to quantify pitchers.

Johnson is still unsigned and not generating as much interest on the open market as one might expect for a guy who had so much success last year and only has leverage to hold out for a one, maybe two-year deal. Arizona CEO Jeff Moorad recently expressed that the team was in need of another starting pitcher, but it sounds as if the bridge between the Big Unit and the Diamondbacks has been, if not burned, then at least made impassable for the time being. Arizona wanted Johnson to take a massive pay cut from his 2007 salary despite a performance not justifying such a demand. In fact, let’s compare two pitchers:

Pitcher A threw strikes 62% of the time and generated a missed bat 6.7% of the time.
Randy Johnson threw strikes 68% of the time and made batters miss on 10.6% of his pitches.

Pitcher A, traditionally a neutral pitcher, generated 1.25 groundballs for every flyball, but also yielded a line drive on 21.1% of batted balls.
Johnson, traditionally a slight GB pitcher, was neutral on groundballs in 2008, but allowed only 18.2% of batted balls to be line drives.

Pitcher A struck out just under two batters for every walk he yielded.
Randy was almost double that, at just under four strikeouts per walk.

Pitcher A’s FIP was 4.32 over 196 innings and his Marcel projects his FIP at 4.73 next year.
Johnson’s FIP was 3.76 and he pitched 184 innings. His Marcel projects him for a 4.11 FIP in 2009.

Who would you rather have based on those numbers? Seems pretty simple right? Here’s where you’d expect me to name some random 30-year-old pitcher so that naysayers could point to Randy’s age as a means behind the snubbing. Well, Pitcher A is Jamie Moyer. Like Randy, he’s left-handed and Jamie is about 10 months older than Johnson. Moyer just signed a two-year deal guaranteeing him $13 million with easily reached innings-based bonuses likely worth an additional $1-2 million per year.

According to what we know, Johnson offered to take a 50% pay cut and sign a one-year deal in the range of $7-8 million for 2009. His Marcel projection has him worth around $15 million on a one year deal. The Diamondbacks reportedly offered him about $3 million. They made a huge, potentially division-costing mistake and Johnson still looms on the open market, an insane bargain just looking for a savvy shopper.

We hoped you liked reading Arizona’s Mistake by Matthew Carruth!

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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.

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If the M’s rotation wasn’t such a logjam at the moment, I’d gladly hop on the “Bring Back Randy!” bandwagon.