A Fishy Move

Let’s play everyone’s favorite game – Guess That Stat-Line! The two pitching lines below are crude Marcel projections for 2009. See if you can notice any truly significant differences:

Player A: 4.39 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 3.32 BB/9, 6.35 K/9, Birthday on Jan. 12
Player B: 4.55 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 3.13 BB/9, 6.14 K/9, Birthday on Jan. 8

On one hand, Player A has an ERA 0.16 runs better per nine innings, while the other has an almost equal advantage in the FIP department. On the other hand, the ERA and FIP figures above are not all that impressive to begin with. Player A will strike out slightly more hitters, but walk more as well. Neither breaks the 2.0 K/BB barrier. So why bring these two somewhat average or below average projections to light?

Well, Player A was just traded by the Florida Marlins, and Player B is now rumored to be on their off-season shopping list. Yes, Player A = Scott Olsen, and Player B = Carl Pavano. Pavano last pitched for the Marlins in 2004, when he put together a very solid season: 31 GS, 222.1 innings with a 3.00 ERA, 3.54 FIP, and 1.98 BB/9. His season was so good that Brian Cashman decided Pavano could serve as a key cog in the Yankees rotation for the next four seasons. In actuality, Carl made just 26 starts from 2005-08, surrendering 182 hits in 145.2 innings, complete with a 5.00 ERA and miniscule 4.63 K/9.

The 4.63 K/9 is generous, as well, given that the same metric fell to 3.18 in 2007 and 3.93 in 2008. In 7 starts this past season, Pavano didn’t even average 5.0 IP/gm with his 34.1 innings logged, and he walked more hitters than usual, evidenced by his 2.62 BB/9. Now, seven starts is too small of a sample size to use as a concrete predictor of future performance, but it is clear even from his 2005 season that Pavano has lost a whole lot of his ability to strike batters out. On top of that, he has gone from 91-92 mph to 88 mph.

Put everything together, and the Marlins are considering signing a 33-year old pitcher who cannot strike batters out, seems to be on the verge of walking more, who has also lost significant velocity on his fastball. Who did they just trade away? A 25-yr old pitcher who has lost the ability to strike batters out, is walking plenty, and who has lost velocity on his fastball. In case you’re missing my point here, they are considering bringing in the equivalent of what they just traded away, plus eight more years in age, who will likely cost more money.

We hoped you liked reading A Fishy Move by Eric Seidman!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

newest oldest most voted
Tom Au
Tom Au

Why any team would want Carl Pavano is beyond me.