How badly do we need Odalis?I was reading an article yesterday that said the Mets are going to take a run at Odalis Perez (see 2nd blurb), trying to sell him via the "Minaya's also a Dominican" tactic that successfully lured Pedro (though, while I was writing this, articles started appearing claiming the Mets' rotation is set for 2005). Perez basically said he's looking for a contract in the range of $7.25M per year over 3 years, and I was wondering if Bowden should just be throwing the money at him now, because I think that, if he doesn't, Minaya will give him the best deal, and he'll be in New York next year.
If Baseball Prospectus 2005 were out now, this would be reasonably easy for me to answer. I'd look at all of the starting pitchers on the roster, sum up the PECOTA-projected VORPs and then look to see how our sum ranks, and figure out the level of confidence. If it seemed to be a big improvement relative to the rest of the division, I'd be all for it. Unfortunately, BP 2005 hasn't come out yet.
What I decided to do was a back-of-the-napkin analysis, based on performance over the past two years, and a bit of knowledge about the pitchers. To level the playing field, I assumed all rotations would have their starters pitch exactly 30 games over the course of the year. I took my best guess on the number of innings pitched per game started and the VORP rate (i.e., VORP/9) the player would post in 2005. This is pretty similar to my analysis early in the month based just on dERA... the dERA is well-correlated with VORP, but doesn't try to measure overall value, just the expected number of runs per inning. That is, it doesn't take into account how many innings a guy will pitch in an average outing, and there can be tremendous value in that.
I'll share all my data below, but let me start with conclusions. First, here are projected VORPs from the starting rotations w/o Odalis for all 5 teams:
The number I have the least amount of confidence in is our number. While Hernandez and Day have been pretty consistant all things considered, Ohka is a bit of a wild card, Armas is quite a wild card, and our 5th spot is a total crap shoot. I tried to be fair in my estimates (e.g., I recognized Pedro Martinez will probably have a tick up vs. his 2004 numbers if he stays healthy, but still not even approach his 2003 numbers), with a tendency toward optimism when there were widely varying years.
For Armas, I made what I feel is a conservative assumption, but there is still room for him to go down, even if he's healthy. For the fifth spot, I assumed that Patterson would get the nod. I think if Rauch gets the 5th spot, you'll see us move up to about a 155. Remember, Florida might yet slot someone useful from the minors in their 5th spot, so while we'll definitely end up better than Philly, we'll still be some way behind everyone else.
With Patterson, I have to expect that, if he can't match last year's numbers, they'll go with Rauch, who will more than make up for it. With Smoltz, it was impossible to predict how he'd convert from closer back to starter, but even if I underestimated, the Braves are just that much farther in front of everyone else.
Odalis himself is somewhat difficult to project. In 2002, he looked like an ace, even considering that he was lucky that year. In 2003, he looked neither lucky nor unlucky, and pitched well, except that he gave up way too many home runs. In 2004, he was still giving up too many home runs, but seemed more like an ace again, anyway. I more or less assumed that he would maintain his 2004 performance in 2005, instead of projecting him to do as well as he did in 2002 or to be as nondescript as he was in 2003.
Honestly, I think he may take a bit of a slide, but he is much closer to a sure thing than the back end of our current rotation. If we were to get Perez, and between Armas, Rauch and Patterson they could string together a season like the one I've projected being pessimistic for Armas, we'd still be well behind the Braves, but with a 173.7, I'd take our rotation over the Mets in a heartbeat. The overall numbers would be similar enough to make the rotations look about as good as each other, but Pedro Martinez is, by far, the biggest injury risk in that bunch.
If New York gets Perez, Trachsel probably leaves the rotation, moving them closer to Atlanta than they would be to the rest of the NL East.
Anyway, I think I see a story peering out of the numbers, as rough a guide as they are. The story is that, we have a reasonable shot of ending up with the 2nd best rotation in the NL East if we sign Odalis Perez. If we had him, we'd only need to get "very good" seasons out of any two of Perez, Armas and Rauch (I don't believe you'll ever see a good season from Patterson).
If we don't sign Perez, we could still end up in the #2 slot, but it's more of a bit more of a stretch, because it not only requires Armas to have an exceptional year, it also requires Rauch to beat Patterson handily and have a spectacular year, which is hard to project based only on scouting reports.
If Perez had more even numbers, it would be an absolute no-brainer. As is, I think it's clear that our risk level goes down with Perez, and the quality of the rotation will likely go up a reasonable amount, particularly if Patterson was the option.
If it were me, I would absolutely pay the money. If Benson can get $7M+ for 3 years, that should be about the market price for Odalis. In that light, and considering the effect it would have on the quality of the rotation compared to the rest of our division, I think it's worth it, even if we overpay a little. You wouldn't hear me complaining if we gave him 3 years at $25M.
Anyway, for those of you interested in my guessing, here are all the numbers I ran. I started out by looking at the following data from 2003 and 2004:
|Tony Armas, Jr.||16||72||4.5||.64||5||31||6.2||3.08|
After looking at these numbers and doing some other reading, I made the following guesses for 2005:
|Tony Armas, Jr.||6.3||1.00||21.0|