Braves Free Agents: Pitching Edition

Out of the 10 free agents the Braves have after the 2012 season ended, only two of them were pitchers. Thankfully, those two were Chad Durbin and Miguel Bautista, who in my opinion, were the two worst in the bullpen at seasons end. If you looked at my first roster projection for the 2013 season, you noticed neither of these names appeared. Sorry to spoil it for you, but if you’d like reasons why, continue on.

As I promised, I don’t want to say much about Miguel Bautista. He has been worth -2.1 fWAR since becoming a reliever in 2008. He will be 42 years old come spring training.

Ok, now that that’s out-of-the-way we can move on to Chad Durbin. Durbin was signed  for $900K on April 3 after being released by the Washington Nationals a day before. Contrary to popular belief, Durbin was NOT the cornerstone of the Braves bullpen in 2012. Actually, I guess you could make an argument that Durbin had a “good” season, he did have a 4-1 record with a 3.10 ERA all while appearing in the 12th most games of any pitcher in 2012. To your casual (lazy) fan, yes Durbin had a good season.

Let’s go deeper though than television stats. First of all, Durbin was worth -0.4 fWAR in 2012. Next, if you look any statistically accepted ERA-estimators, it would suggest he severely underpitched his 3.10 ERA. His FIP (4.78), xFIP (4.41), tERA(4.41) and SIERA (4.10) all lead us to believe there were underlying factors of luck that lead to a low ERA. You don’t even need to dig much deeper to find it either. His BABIP was 43 points lower than his career BABIP of .295. He also left runners on base at a higher rate than usual, 11% higher than previously in his career. Both these numbers are expected to regress back to career levels and can often explain how lucky or unlucky a pitcher was. Unless you believe a pitcher has an inherent skill to make his defense play better behind him or pitch better with men on base, then these statistics would explain a pitchers luck.

This summer, FanGraphs rolled out a couple new statistics to further help evaluate pitchers. These two new stats were Fielder Dependent Pitching (FDP) stats. You can read the full article here by Dave Cameron if you wish to do so, but here is a quick excerpt to give a general idea of FDP…

The idea for FDP was to quantify the remaining aspects of run prevention that are not measured by walks, strikeouts, and home runs. With a FIP-based WAR, we have a metric that tells us how many wins a pitcher added through success in those three key areas. What we did not have was a metric that gave us the wins added through either hit prevention or runner stranding. With FDP, we wanted to be able to break down the remaining aspects into those two categories, so that we could identify exactly where a team’s run prevention — with a specific pitcher on the mound — was coming from.

If we were to quantify in Wins Above Replacement how lucky Durbin was throughout the season based on his LOB% (LOB-Wins) and  BABIP (BIP-Wins), he received 1 full win based on those Fielding Dependent statistics. If you would like to dismiss those as luck or would like to weigh one more heavily than the other, that is an individual choice. Everyone has the right to interpret those stats how they wish. My opinion is that Durbin was very lucky this season and would regress back to his career self next season. After the departure of Arodys Vizcaino, they are in need of another solid RHP in the bullpen.

So, I believe there are better options out there than Durbin. He will be 35 come opening day and he doesn’t have the track record to suggest he will be improving to someone worth signing. The Braves should be able to replace him internally. If not there they should be able to find a more value in a reliever at a similar price, they are usually a dime a dozen.

I don’t believe the Braves will fall into the “Chad Durbin and his 4-1/3.10 ERA are the cornerstone of the Braves bullpen” trap. That being said, they may being him back for “veteran presence”. I’m not sure how much that it worth, but I don’t believe it has a $900K price tag. If Durbin is somehow signed for the 2013 season, expect those two words in the following sentence. To me, those do not outweigh on field production. Hopefully the need for a RHP in the bullpen is filled by someone other than Chad Durbin.

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