I'm a fan of Clubhouse Confidential. There. I've said it.
I particularly like when they run "The Shredder," basically when they take a recent acquisition or signing, review the player's past seasons, injury history and projected/park-adjusted numbers for the following season, then line it up with the contract they signed or the players they were traded for to see if the move makes any sense.
I've spent the past couple of days (whenever I've had time, what with my new job) taking each of the four new pitchers' career averages (with some modifications that I'll describe below) and adjusting them using Baseball-Reference's park factor for Angel Stadium (92, making it one of the most pitcher-friendly AL ballparks). So, let's start...THE SHREDDER.
JOE BLANTON: Signed to a two-year, $15 million contract.
This could be perhaps be the most perplexing of the four moves, as he went virtually ignored by media and fans alike when it came to speculation as to any lower-tier pitchers on the free agent market; talks centered around Brandon McCarthy in that regard, as did talks for middle-tier pitchers such as Ryan Dempster, Shaun Marcum, Kyle Lohse and even Anibal Sanchez. So imagine the surprise involved with the Angels signing Blanton. It's a Pineiro-like contract for a Garland-like pitcher, so on the surface, things look discouraging--quite possibly like Dipoto's first bad contract. Hoping to find some good news, I dug through his career averages, hoping to uncover something somewhat nice. And, well...I think I did!
Blanton's career has been highlighted by two small details: firstly, his entire career has been spent as an innings-eater, averaging 210 innings pitched per season. Secondly, with a high total of innings pitched, that makes his walk rate comfortably low, and also, as you'll see with his Angel Stadium projections, padding his ERA to be a bearable total for a number-four starter. His full slate of projected Angels stats for 2013:
G: 33, GS: 33, IP: 228.1, W: 12, L: 10, CG: 1, SHO: 1
K: 155, BB: 60, H: 207, HR: 23, ER: 94
ERA: 3.70, WHIP: 1.17, W-L%: .545, H/9: 8.2, BB/9: 2.4, K/9: 6.1, HR/9: 0.9, K/BB: 3.4
BA: .278, OBP: .322, SLG: .438, OPS: .760, BABIP: .322
What to take from that is basically that Blanton's reputation as another Ervin Santana is somewhat overblown. I never thought Ervin to be an innings-eater, nor do I ever remember him putting up an in-the-middle season; he was either great, or terrible. By these numbers, Blanton seems slightly above league-average in general, if not league-average exactly, with a few stats that glare you directly in the eye and demand you to at least consider him a decent pitcher.
GOOD MOVE? In general, I say yes. Now, I don't think he's worth $15 million over two years. I think $10-12 million would've been a better move, but if he puts up the above numbers over both years of the deal, I might look back on it differently.
SEAN BURNETT: Signed to a two-year, $8 million contract, with a $4.5 million vesting option for 2015.
Common knowledge that he's one of baseball's best left-handed relievers. He's coming over to be more than a LOOGY; rather, he'll complement Scott Downs as another lefty in the pen, and will more than likely serve as the new left-handed setup man, unseating Downs and moving him to more of a floating role. Burnett posted a 2.81 ERA over four seasons with the Nationals, distancing himself from a forgettable stint with the Pirates, maligned by a season spent as a below-average starter and two other injury-plagued seasons. For that purpose, I used ONLY his numbers with the Nationals to project his 2013 stats; doesn't seem fair to hold a guy's injuries from eight years ago against him.
Burnett is a sterling pitcher that will certainly be a welcome addition; no one statistic about him really shows a red flag, other than his BABIP, which is really more a reflection of how lucky hitters get when they actually make contact with any of his pitchers. See below for more:
G: 61, GF: 11, IP: 54.2, W: 2, L: 4, SV: 2
K: 67, BB: 18, H: 49, HR: 4, ER: 14
ERA: 2.30, WHIP: 1.23, W-L%: .333, H/9: 8.1, BB/9: 3.0 K/9: 11.0, HR/9: 0.6, K/BB: 2.7
BA: .238, OBP: .303, SLG: .320, OPS: .623, BABIP: .328
Yeah, he was made to pitch for us. I certainly hope the bone spurs he underwent surgery for end up not being a bother come the season, and that we get the pitcher we paid for. Then I'll be perfectly delighted with his option vesting. In that case, we'll have signed an elite lefty reliever for slightly higher than the cost of a backup infielder (White Sox signed Jeff Keppinger for 3 years, $12 million; with the option, Burnett would be $12.5 million).
GOOD MOVE? Absolutely. The only way this deal fizzles is if Burnett reverts to his Pittsburgh form, and even then, we aren't paying him big money. We low-balled him because of his injury history, and he still bit on it. He understands the circumstance he's in, and I bet he performs to expectations.
TOMMY HANSON: Acquired from Atlanta in exchange for RHP Jordan Walden.
I posted a few of his park-adjusted numbers before, which were rough-draft, quick-fix numbers I simply multiplied by the Angels' park factor, without dividing the actual stats up. What I came up with after that seems far more indicative of what to expect of Hanson over the next three seasons we control him, and considering what little we had to give up to get him, the numbers could be enough to validate this deal.
Hanson had a down year in Atlanta this past season, which skewed his projected numbers a bit, but he has had a season similar in other stats to his 2012 season, so I couldn't simply write it off as an isolated instance. Consider the below numbers to be the fair median between studly youngin' Tommy, and glass-arm Hanson.
G: 33, GS: 33, IP: 217.1, W: 14, L: 10, CG: 1, SHO: 0
K: 202, BB: 75, H: 197, HR: 23, ER: 87
ERA: 3.60, WHIP: 1.25, W-L%: .584, H/9: 8.2, BB/9: 3.1, K/9: 8.4, HR/9: 0.9, K/BB: 2.7
BA: .275, OBP: .346, SLG: .437, OPS: .783, BABIP: .352
Not too bad. Not great, but we're not looking for a number-one in Hanson. You figure he'll improve with age, and improve even further with a new pitching coach (okay, that's my own dreaming there). I'll be happy with Cyborg putting numbers like this up in the middle of the rotation--and for Walden and Walden alone, this is good.
GOOD MOVE? I'll go ahead and say yes. There's injury concerns with Hanson, but there are concerns with Burnett up above as well, and there's more optimism with HIS stats. I'll try and be optimistic about what Hanson will do here--he's no one-and-done pitcher, so I ought to get used to a pitcher consistently putting up slightly-above-average numbers, unless the Cyborg decides to kick things into hyperdrive.
RYAN MADSON: Signed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract, worth an additional $3.5 million in performance-based incentives.
The first signing of this offseason, and one that, after I actually got his projections right (eliminating one horrific season from his career averages, a massacre of a 2006 that saw him in the rotation, long relief and closing games at an opposing OPS above .850), made me very optimistic about having him aboard. He will have to EARN his closer's role from Frieri, but I think he will.
Madson, even before his first full-time closing gig in 2011, was a great middle reliever and setup man, cementing himself in the "Bridge to Lidge" in 2007, putting up stellar ERAs between then and his closer year of 2011. Eliminating 2006 from his career averages showed a much more accurate picture of Madson's career and capabilities, which I park-adjusted, so take a gander below at what to expect (totals are assuming he becomes the new closer):
G: 66, GF: 52, IP: 70.2, W: 4, L: 2, SV: 35
K: 79, BB: 17, H: 52, HR: 5, ER: 31
ERA: 2.67, WHIP: 0.98, W-L%: .667, H/9: 6.6, BB/9: 2.2, K/9: 10.1, HR/9: 0.6, K/BB: 3.0
BA: .244, OBP: .309, SLG: .352, OPS: .661, BABIP: .359
As is the case with Burnett, batters will find uncommon luck when they actually get a piece of something Madson offers; the 105-point discrepancy between his opposing batting average and opposing BABIP is unbelievable. If a recovering TJ arm manages to put up closer numbers like this, I'll be giddy like a One Direction fangirl.
GOOD DEAL? Yes, contingent on if Madson claims and holds onto the closer role. No vesting option means we won't be paying the price for a fluky 2013, if this line of stats would be considered fluky. It's a shrewd business deal from Dipoto's end; pretty awesome that Madson, performing to every incentive this season, will have to do EVERYTHING to make less money than last season, where he made more money to do nothing.