Friday, July 17, 2009

Why Pedro?

So Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies acquired aging veteran pitcher Pedro Martinez this week, agreeing to pay him just double the league minimum or $1 million for the less than half a season he is slated to pitch for the Phils. There are a number of talking heads out there who have stated their opinion that this is a top quality acquisition for the champs, but I have to disagree. For a couple of key reasons.

First and foremost, Pedro kind of sucks these days. For so many different reasons. I mean, for starters, he isn't just 37. He's an old 37. The guy has spent long portions of the season on the DL over the past several years since the hapless Mets signed him to an ill-advised four-year contract back in 2005. Pedro hasn't pitched more than 132 innings in a full season since back in 2005, the first year of that Mets deal, and he's even starting this season on the 15-day DL with the Phillies due to shoulder issues, so we should expect more of the same. Especially given that Pedro has been out of baseball for most of the past year, he is going to take some time to get back into shape, and who knows how good that shape will be at this point for him even if he makes a real effort.

But it's not just Pedro's longevity that sucks. Pedro went 5-6 for the Mets in 2008, which marks his worst winning percentage since, well, ever. In 1992 Pedro pitched a total of 8 innings and finished 0-1 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but since the next year when he became a real starter, he's never finished with a losing record, period. Never, until last year. Pedro's WHIP in 2008 was 1.57, his highest WHIP since that rookie year in LA as well some 18 years ago. Pedro's 2008 ERA was 5.61, nearly double his lifetime average of 2.91, and more than a full run higher than his previous worst season ERA (back in 2006), prior to which he never finished a full season above 3.90 earned runs per 9 innings. So this is a guy who is well beyond "past his prime". He is fully "in his twilight years" in baseball terms at this point, and that's just not something that I think fills the hole the Phillies need to fill right now. And especially pitching half his games in that band-box of a stadium, I am simply not looking to Pedro to provide much actual spark to the Phillies' ailing pitching staff this year.

But there's another related drawback to signing Pedro to the Phillies' staff: the effect on our bullpen. Even in his last few years in New York, Pedro had already ceased being a true power guy, having lost his 95-mph fastball in his old age, and the result showed in his numbers. Way more pitches thrown in way fewer innings pitched. This guy simply cannot go deep into any ball games anymore, because even when he has pitched well in the past year or two, he's still pushing 100 pitches after just five innings or so. And that's on the good days. Pedro has not pitched a single complete game since 2005. He lasted a fairly dismal 5.45 innings per start in 2008, 5.6 innings per start over just five starts in 2007, and just over 5.75 innings per start in 2006. Basically, the Phillies can't realistically expect more than five innings out of Pedro on any night these days, and that is going to have a marked effect on our already dubious bullpen, which is only going to put even more pressure on the other starters on this team to do well and last later into their own games. Unlike 2008, when the Phillies put out the undisputed best bullpen in baseball and ended up winning the World Series on the heels of in many ways a "perfect" season from a pitching perspective, the 2009 incarnation of the Phillies does would never be accused of having such traits. Out of 15 teams in the National League, the Phils' team ERA is 4.56 (13th in the NL), with opponents hitting at a .268 clip (14th) and an OPS of .768 (15th) against them. Our team WHIP is 1.40 (9th), and our 43 quality starts as a team leave us in 10th place in just the National League.

And this doesn't even get into the problems the team has had at the closer position in 2009. After going a truly miraculous 47-for-47 in save opportunities in 2008's magical year, Brad Lidge has been atrocious in 2009, personally losing more than a handful of games that the team had otherwise won, and posting an 0-4 record with 6 blown saves in just 35 appearances, some of which were not even save opportunities for the former league-best reliever. When the team claimed Lidge was injured to give his some time to clear his head recently, setup man Ryan Madsen stepped in and also blew a couple of late leads, providing further evidence of the shaky state of the Phils' late-game pitching as compared to 2008. Adding in Pedro Martinez and his five innings per start to this rotation does not sound like something that is going to be beneficial to the bullpen I just described. Try as I might, I just can't see this as the move that Phillies' GM Rueben Amaro, Jr. wants to make.

Which gets me to my third and final point about why I don't love the Pedro Martinez signing for the World Champions: I think the signing makes it that much less likely that we trade for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. And that's the guy we really need for this team to dominate for another couple years in the major leagues. Unlike Pedro, Halladay is an absolute horse, having pitched 19 complete games over just the past three seasons, and 28 over the last five. Halladay's ERA so far in 2009 is right near where it was in 2008, which itself was better than any other year in Halladay's 12-year career except for 2005. This is a guy who pitches great, is right in the thick of his prime as a baseball player at this very moment, and who chews up a ton of innigs, having pitched well over 200 in each of the last three seasons. That's what the Phillies need to take the load off of Lidge and Madsen late in the games, as well as our depleted middle relief staff so far this year. With Halladay and Cole Hamels lining up as the 1 and 2 starters every four games for this team, everything changes and we easily become the team to beat again in 2009 for the world championship. Along with the acquisition of Roy Halladay, taking a little $1 million chance on a hungry Pedro Martinez doesn't look so bad. But, if Martinez is going to become what we got instead of Roy Halladay, then I am predicting the Phillies just don't have the pitching to make it back to the promised land for a repeat here in 2009.

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Blogger Shrike said...

1) It does not necessarily follow that acquisition of Pedro = non-acquisition of Doc.

2) The day Doc gets traded is the day I burn one of my Blue Jays caps in protest. Doc is my second-favourite Jays pitcher of all-time, after Stieb.


2:03 AM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

Red Sox made a similar move in signing Smoltz who is 1-2 with a 5.4 ERA and is averaging 5 innings a start.

Pedro is similar gamble in that best years of both are behind them but both are veterans who have learned to pitch as their stuff has deteriorated.

You can never have too much pitching and you only are spending small money to add them.

I would have tried to sign Pedro sooner to see what he has left before trade deadline but I don't think it precludes a later acquisition of Halladay

2:27 AM  
Blogger Riggstad said...

Your question of Why is very valid Hoy.

I have no idea other than they needed an arm and he may have been worth the shot for such small dollars for the remainder of this year.

Plus you HAVE to factor in the Mets curse. He sucked for them, which would imply that he'll be a super stud for Philly the remainder of the season. Of course I have no data for proof, but just sayin'.

I think Halladay is a real possibility. With what's been said and written here in the media (which are usually nothing but critical of the teams here), there seems to be a lot of supposition that it's almost a lock.

We'll see what happens

7:34 AM  
Blogger PokahDave said...

Off the scrap heap....he may be good for the second half of the season...he won't be a cancer now that he knows this is his last few months in MLB.

8:51 AM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

From his press conference he seems to be a more subdued Pedro, maybe he ate a little of that humble pie when nobody wanted him over the first half of the season.

Why not have Pedro, if he's got anything left it can't hurt to try. He at least is an immediate upgrade over Chan Ho Park....

And as for the Halladay deal, Riggs had mentioned somewhere the Phils might give up Happ to get Halladay, I really hope thats not the case.

12:56 AM  

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