How’s that trade working out? (XVI)

The Cincinnati Reds have signed Bronson Arroyo to a two-year extension. He’ll make $35 million over the next three years after a 2010 season in which he went 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA.

There have been no recent Wily Mo Peña sightings.

Just having some fun, Mike. Today should be a great day for the Red Sox.

Earlier.

49 thoughts on “How’s that trade working out? (XVI)

  1. Steve Stein

    Hey, there was a Wily Mo Peña sighting just this week! (Involving Diamondbacks and a minor-league contract).

    I supported the Arroyo deal at the time as well, kinda. But that one just didn’t turn out. Wily Mo turned out to be no Jeff Bagwell. Ah well, win some, lose some.

  2. Mike Benedict

    Arroyo has turned out better than I thought he would.

    Still, given what I knew at the time, I would have made the deal. Arroyo was literally the worst starting pitcher in the AL his last season with the Red Sox. WMP was a 24-year-old outfielder with prodigious power.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      As I write this, it looks like the Red Sox could be on the verge of blowing the Gonzalez deal. Maybe just some last-minute brinksmanship, but hard to forget what happened with Teixeira. Good grief.

  3. BP Myers

    @Mike Benedict says: Arroyo was literally the worst starting pitcher in the AL his last season with the Red Sox.

    Think you might be misremembering. Arroyo was 14-10 with a 4.51 ERA (a hair above the League average 4.45) in his final season with the Sox. Arroyo never had a losing record with the Sox. Don’t recall him ever missing a start either.

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  5. Aaron Read

    At the time, the Sox had legitimate concern that they had seen the best they were gonna see out of Arroyo and it wasn’t all that good. Not for the AL East, where a 4.51 ERA just doesn’t cut the mustard. (and I wouldn’t get too worked up about a 3.88 ERA in the NL…that’d likely be a lot higher in the AL, and higher still at Fenway)

    Plus the Sox were also still hoping to get rid of Manny Being Manny as soon as possible, and Pena represented a possible means of replacing him. Unfortunately, that just didn’t work out.

    Yeah, the deal was a bust, but it isn’t nearly the bust it appears to be on paper.

  6. BP Myers

    In Arroyo’s last year, the Red Sox tied the Yankees with 95 wins and 67 losses, losing the AL East base on head-to-head.

    Arroyo’s ERA that year was 4.51.

    The Red Sox team ERA was 4.74.

    The Yankees team ERA was 4.52.

    Arroyo’s aggregate Sox ERA in his three years was 4.19.

    Arroyo’s career ERA in his eleven seasons is 4.19.

    Not saying I wouldn’t have made the deal either. But they didn’t make it because Arroyo was a bad pitcher.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @BP: As you note, Arroyo was pretty good. Still is. Given that, if the Red Sox believed they should trade him for a hitter, they should have been able to get someone other than a longshot like Peña, who worked out the way longshots usually do.

  7. Mike Benedict

    Are we really going down this road again?

    Wins are NOT a good indicator of a pitcher’s effectiveness. However, many studies have shown that the three things a pitcher has control of are strikeouts/9 innings, homers/9, and walks/9. Good pitchers do some combination of at least 2 of those 3: they prevent homers and walks, or strikeout so many guys that it overcomes high walk rates, etc.

    Arroyo’s 14 wins that season were masked by the fact that his K/9 rate was 86th among 93 ERA qualifiers. He stuck out 100 in 205 innings, for a 4.3 rate. His walk and HR rates were going up, but were still pretty good. His ERA, adjusted for park effects, was 4.86 and his W/L record, adjusted for team offense, was 12-14. He was 28, and all his stat lines were trending down over the previous three years. Knowing that few pitchers increase their K rates over time — and seeing as how Arroyo was in the midst of some pretty heavy partying, as noted in a Boston Magazine article — he was a good bet to fade.

    Now, let’s look at WMP. He was 23 years old. He had hit 51 HRs in 900 ABs, a rough average of 30/year. His lifetime slugging was .500. he had never gotten a shot at starting full-time in the crowded Reds OF (Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns and Ken Griffey Jr. were also there; as of last spring, all three were still in the majors). And let’s remember his first season in Boston: .300/.348/.487 with 11 HRs in 305 ABs. There simply weren’t many guys around that showed that amount of power at that age, and the Sox got him for a fading No. 5 starter. Couple that with the fact that, in 2005, the only RHB with power in Boston’s lineup was 34-year-old Manny Ramirez, and only two starters were under 30, Ortiz and the soon-to-be-jettisoned Edgar Renteria. Given everything we knew, it was the right move. Who knows whether being dealt served as a wakeup call to Arroyo to get his act together?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: I think those of us who said at the time that it was a terrible trade deserve some props. I said it was a terrible trade. And it was.

  8. BP Myers

    @Dan: I never would have made the trade. It was a terrible trade. Just trying to be nice.

    @Mike asked: Are we really going down this road again?

    I’m not. You said, “Arroyo was literally the worst starting pitcher in the AL his last season with the Red Sox.”

    You were wrong. I corrected you.

  9. Steve Stein

    I can’t believe we’re going down this road again either, but here we are.

    @Mike – in Arroyo’s last year with the Red Sox (2005), he was nowhere near the worst starting pitcher in the AL. He was about average, much better than the likes of Jose Lima, Joel Pineiro, Ryan Franklin, and even Zack Greinke(!). He wasn’t even the worst starting pitcher on the Red Sox (Matt Clement was).

    I usually respect your baseball stat knowledge, but you’re off-base here. But go ahead, take a look here and make your case.

  10. BP Myers

    @Mike Benedict says: I wasn’t wrong. You were, and he was. You were using bad data to make your case.

    Wow. You are not a serious person. But I’ll give it a try:

    In which category (I’ll take any single category) was Bronson Arroyo “literally the worst starting pitcher” in the American League in 2005?

    Hint: Not Quality Starts. He was twelfth in that category.

    In terms of my “bad data” it all came from Baseball-Reference.Com. Feel free to refute any piece of it.

    And in your response, do try to be concise. I’m not wading through paragraphs of your opinions. I’ll take a single category in which he was the worst.

  11. ben starr

    They won a title in 2007. Unless it can be demonstrated that Arroyo impacted potential titles in other years, the trade was irrelevant.

  12. Steve Stein

    The thing we’re all leaving out in this discussion is – how much would it have cost to keep Arroyo and would it be worth it? For instance, right now – would Arroyo start for the 2011 Boston Red Sox? He might be better than Dice-K (some might say “certainly”, but Bronson has had the luxury of not facing the AL East lineups, so I’m not so sure). Dice K is both younger and cheaper than Arroyo, so I think I’d rather have him. (Fun fact – Bronson Arroyo is the 6th most similar pitcher to Dice-K through age 29.)

    Arroyo has certainly had a better career than I expected, but I don’t think he’s turned in any premier year performances. So I don’t think it was ALL that dumb to unload him and try build a staff of pitchers with more upside. Wily Mo had a lot of upside and he was really cheap. (And it turned out he was worth the price!)

  13. Steve Stein

    Oh, drat. I just checked and it turns out Wily Mo wasn’t ALL that cheap (about $3M for 2 years).

    But he just PLAYED like he was cheap. 🙂

  14. Steve Stein

    @Dan – Yes I think so. Let him have an injury-free season and I’ll know for sure, but that presumes he’ll HAVE an injury-free season. Arroyo, OTOH, is a horse by comparison.

    But comparing the NL Central to the AL East is a joke, Pujols notwithstanding, so Dice-K’s performance has been almost comparable. Almost. When he’s healthy.

    And he’s cheaper by about $2M/yr, so I’ll take him. Too bad his games are unwatchable. 🙂

  15. BP Myers

    @Steve Stein says: The thing we’re all leaving out in this discussion is – how much would it have cost to keep Arroyo and would it be worth it?

    That’s another thing that kind of sticks in my craw. If you’ll recall, Theo had only just signed Arroyo to a very team friendly deal (forget the details, but 3-4 years, very short money) only to deal him six or eight weeks later.

    Arroyo never pitched an inning on that brand-new contract, for which he took a “hometown” discount because he liked it here. He ended up looking pretty stupid.

    But he has been a very serviceable pitcher, someone who’d be a fourth or fifth starter on any major league team, a workhorse, and someone who might end up with more than two-hundred wins before it’s all said and done. Not too shabby.

  16. Mike Benedict

    You’re interrupting my vacation for this?

    As I noted, BA was 86th of 93 AL pitchers in K/9. The best indicator of pitching success is K/9. Ergo…

    Arroyo benefited from the potent Boston offense that season. Every one of his stat lines had been trending down for three straight seasons. Coupled with the fact that WMP was a power prodigy, it was the right move.

    Now go do something important.

  17. BP Myers

    @Mike Benedict said: You’re interrupting my vacation for this?

    No one asked you to. But I did ask a simple question: name one category in the year 2005 in which Bronson Arroyo was “literally the worst pitcher in the American League.”

    @Mike Benedict said: As I noted, BA was 86th of 93 AL pitchers in K/9. The best indicator of pitching success is K/9. Ergo…

    Ergo, he wasn’t “literally the worst pitcher” in that category.

    As an aside, a century of groundball pitchers will be disappointed you dismiss them so easily. Strikeouts are only one way to get an out.

    @@Mike Benedict then said: A whole bunch of words designed to obfuscate that he hadn’t answered the question.

    @Mike Benedict said: Now go do something important.

    I was raised to believe admitting when you were wrong was important. But I recognize that folks get raised differently.

  18. Steve Stein

    Mike interrupts his vacation to tell us this:

    The best indicator of pitching success is K/9.

    Sez who?
    By that bit of skewed logic, James Shields had a MUCH better year last year than Clay Buchholz. I ain’t buyin’ it.

    It’s true that in judging *prospects*, K/9 is a very good indicator stat, but by the time you’re looking at experienced major leaguers, it’s not of primary importance.

    Unless you think J.R. Richard was a better pitcher than Greg Maddux.

    But I don’t mean to interrupt your vacation or anything.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Buchholz said several times last season that he had finally learned to pitch to contact and not try to strike everyone out. He had several terrific low-strikeout games, keeping his pitch count down so he could go deep.

  19. Steve Stein

    @BP:

    I was raised to believe admitting when you were wrong was important. But I recognize that folks get raised differently.

    Where you were raised they didn’t have the sports argument exception? Where’s that, Minnesota?

  20. BP Myers

    This was the best pitched game I ever saw, and these are the career statistics of the man who pitched it.

    Recall he was a free agent the prior off-season, however the Sox had “secret information” that he was damaged goods. He went on to have back-to-back twenty win seasons for the Yanks.

    But I forgot . . . wins don’t count. Only strikeouts count.

    Probably for the best we didn’t pick this guy up.

  21. BP Myers

    @Steve Stein: Heh. In this instance, Mike would have to invoke the “suspension of objective reality” exception, and that is one I do not honor.

    Gotta love this Bronson Arroyo talk though, no? Last thing I imagined I’d be doing this week. Life is filled with surprises.

  22. Steve Stein

    <a href="http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS199004290.shtml&quot;This was the best-pitched game I’ve ever seen, on both sides. Got to see it from Section 21 behind home plate, too. Even though it was Dave Stewart vs Roger Clemens there weren’t too many strikeouts.

    A side note: it was a cold, drizzly April day at Fenway, and before the game most players preferred to be in the clubhouse instead of out in the yuck signing autographs. The lone Oakland exception was a 25-year-old Jose Canseco, who spent a half hour signing autographs for young baseball fans on the rail. What ever happened to that guy’s spirit?

  23. Steve Stein

    This was the best-pitched game I’ve ever seen, on both sides. Got to see it from Section 21 behind home plate, too. Even though it was Dave Stewart vs Roger Clemens there weren’t too many strikeouts.

    A side note: it was a cold, drizzly April day at Fenway, and before the game most players preferred to be in the clubhouse instead of out in the yuck signing autographs. The lone Oakland exception was a 25-year-old Jose Canseco, who spent a half hour signing autographs for young baseball fans on the rail. What ever happened to that guy’s spirit?

  24. Mike Benedict

    Says who? Mountains of data. Please spend the next 12 months reading Baseball Prospectus, Moneyball and lots of similar analytical sites. Then come back and talk.

    You guys continue to confuse outliers with true data. It really gets pretty frustrating. You guys don’t realize it, but you really get snarky when it comes to math.

    But — I’ll say it again — don’t take MY word for it. Go visit those sites, learn a few things, talk to some stats professors, and then see whether you think the SAME metric invented more than 120 years ago is the right one. And then tell me one other industry where the metrics have managed to stay exactly the same for 120 years.

  25. Steve Stein

    Mike – I’ve been reading BP for years, decades if you include their work on rec.sport.baseball. Again, I ask “sez who?”

    Give me some actual names, because from everything I know from about 25 years of baseball analysis and sabermetrics reading, no one says K/9 is the be-all and end-all stat.

    Outliers? It looks like YOU are the one that’s cherry-picking one datum and ignoring all others.

  26. BP Myers

    @Mike:

    I’m gonna conclude at this point you do not have a single piece of data supporting your contention that Bronson Arroyo was “literally the worst pitcher in baseball” during his last season in Boston.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @BP: One other thing that no one has even brought up is that pitchers pitch differently when they have a big lead, giving up some runs but pitching deeper into the game. Ferguson Jenkins (with the Cubs, not the Red Sox) was a prime example of that approach.

  27. BP Myers

    @Dan: Agreed, and therefore no surprise that on Baseball-Reference.Com, in their “Most similar pitchers” comparison with Tommy John, Fergie Jenkins is among those listed (along with Jim Kaat, Tommy Glavine, Robin Roberts, and others.)

    For the worst pitcher in baseball, seems Arroyo keeps good company anyway.

  28. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: Do pitchers pitch differently based on the score? You seem to demand I produce reams of data for everything, but then skip that one little J-school rule about your mother and checking facts.

    So I ask, no, beg you to show us the data proving your statement.

    I can say this. Jack Morris was famous for “pitching to the score.” Except for one little problem: The data overwhelming say he did not.

    Here’s the proof:
    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1815

    …and the key quote: “I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score-and I don’t doubt that he changed his approach-the practice didn’t show up in his performance record.”

    I have yet to see a study that shows pitchers in general actually perform differently with big leads. Maybe Steve will all his years spent on the baseball research sites can find the data that proves this.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: For the record, I have never asked you to produce any data about anything. In fact, the whole debate over Arroyo comes down to this: Are we going to believe your numbers or our lying eyes?

  29. Mike Benedict

    @Steve: JR Richard was very likely headed to the Hall of Fame until his career was tragically cut short. Was he better than Maddux? No. But again, he was great at K/9 and keeping the ball in the park. His walk rate was too high, but he his scores on two of the three metrics were so high, he was very successful.

  30. Mike Benedict

    @Steve et al: If you’ve been reading that site, you know that Voros McCracken did the groundbreaking research more than a decade ago that definitively showed that the three metrics that a pitcher has control over are the following: K’s, walks and homers allowed. http://groups.google.com/group/rec.sport.baseball.analysis/msg/b450fe58c05a5a82?hl=en&lr=

    (Btw, the Red Sox later hired McCracken based on his work published to BP.)

    I have already noted that pitchers must do well in at least two of those three categories to be successful. (Mark Buerhle is a good example of a guy with low K rates but who has had some good seasons despite lower K rates because he didn’t walk anyone or give up any homers. But look at his career: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/buehrma01.shtml. Every time his W/9 rate bounces up over 2.0 or his HR rate goes over 1.0, he sucked.) But a pitcher can overcome a higher W or HR rate (Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan come to mind) if they have extremely high K rates.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/johnsra05.shtml
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ryanno01.shtml

    So does Greg Maddux, who despite the perception actually was usually near or above the league average in K/9 but always outperformed the league in W/9 and HR/9.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/maddugr01.shtml

    -You would know that time and again, BP has shown both the direct and immediate impact of K rates (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2617) and their predictive value (http://www.stathead.com/articles/woolner/kratep.htm).

    -You would know about Clay Buchholz and the explanation for his recent success: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12050

    -You would know about J.C. Bradbury’s work on Hardball Times, which correlated pitcher strikeout rates with (lower) BABIP:
    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/another-look-at-dips1/

    -You would know that pitchers tend to peak by age 25: http://www.tangotiger.net/adjacentPitching.html
    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9933

    -You would know how BP has written about the increase in K rates over time:
    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6559

    -You would consider the best Red Sox pitchers of the past generation: Hurst, Clemens, Schilling, Lester, Pedro: All are/were strikeout pitchers.

    Every piece of data about Arroyo screamed his trend lines were going the wrong direction. None of you dispute that; instead, you claim he was still league average, and use the same old metrics to defend your position.

    Every piece of data (referenced above) screams that pitchers — especially average ones — peak before they are 28 (Arroyo’s age when traded).

    The preponderance of the evidence was that Arroyo was declining. And the chance to get a 23-year-old OF with 50 HRs under his belt already is something every team dreams of. Just for fun, count how many current MLB players had 50 HRs by 23. Just a handful.

    So please read those studies and then come back and tell me that K/9 is 1) not meaningful and 2) there is another metric that is superior to measuring and predicting performance.

  31. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: They aren’t *my* numbers. And I would never believe my lying eyes about anything. And neither should you, given you (presumably) teach precisely the opposite.

  32. Steve Stein

    @Mike – I will go and read those references. But please don’t put words in my mouth. All that I claimed was that Arroyo was not the worst starter in the AL in 2005, not that Arroyo was not “declining”, or that Arroyo hadn’t “peaked”, or that K/9 was “not meaningful”.

    I haven’t started the reading you’ve assigned me, but I’m willing to bet that not one of them will tell me that K/9 is the only meaningful stat at evaluating pitchers, which is what you insisted on at the beginning of this thread, when you used K/9 alone to claim that Arroyo was the worst starter in the AL in 2005.

    BTW, I think your advice to Dan is correct – one should not believe their “lying eyes” when evaluating players. Few among us see enough baseball to trust their eyes – the variability in performance is too great and the sample that we see is so small (unless ALL we do is watch baseball 24/7 for years). Statistics provide much more reliable measures of effectiveness.

  33. Mike Benedict

    @Steve: I won’t put words in your mouth if you don’t put them in mine.

    My direct quotes: “The best indicator of pitching success is K/9.” Note I said “best,” not “only meaningful.” I stand by that.

    Here’s what else I said: “However, many studies have shown that the three things a pitcher has control of are strikeouts/9 innings, homers/9, and walks/9. Good pitchers do some combination of at least 2 of those 3: they prevent homers and walks, or strikeout so many guys that it overcomes high walk rates, etc.”

    Again, I acknowledge K/9 to be one of three>/b> areas a pitcher can control, versus the “only meaningful” one.

  34. Steve Stein

    @Mike – I’ll stand by my characterization of your argument. When pressed to defend your statements, K/9 was the ONLY justification you used to declare Arroyo’s season in 2005 the “worst” among AL starters.

    Note that Arroyo ranked 18th of the 44 qualifying pitchers in BB/9, and 18th in HR/9, but neither of those rankings entered into your pronouncement.

  35. Mike Benedict

    @Steve: I’ll give you this — between you trying to find a missed stitch through which to drive a truck and BP’s complete butchering of what I wrote, I understand why Obama has so much trouble getting his message across.

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