Contreras 2.0

There’s a good chance that Jose Contreras is currently 64 years old. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that his grandchildren were throwing 94 and learning a split finger. If you need some ammunition for baseball related comedy, you can’t go wrong with making fun of Jose Contreras’ age. But, however old he is (and his listed age of 37 seems about as likely as 16), we should notice that he is reinventing himself to extend his career.

After getting bombed in New York on July 31st of last year, Contreras’ ERA stood at 6.60 and people were speculating that he had reached the end of his career. Unable to trade him, the White Sox placed him on waivers, where every single team in baseball passed on taking on the last year and two months of his contract. He got pulled from Chicago’s rotation, called out publicly by the manager, and given his proverbial last rights.

However, he apparently wasn’t done, and so Contreras decided to become Aaron Cook.


See that straight green line? That was a remarkably consistent ground ball rate during the 2004-2007 seasons, fluctuating from 44.1 to 44.9%. In 2008, he’s getting ground balls at a 57% rate. However, Contreras’ strikeout rate wasn’t holding as steady.


Doesn’t take a scientist to see the pattern there.

Realizing that his ability to miss bats was deteriorating, Contreras has focused on getting ground balls, and the results speak for themselves – a 3.26 FIP that is the best he’s ever posted as a starting pitcher. Now, that’s not sustainable, as he’s posting a ridiculously low 4.3% HR/FB rate that just won’t continue. However, the extra ground balls will cut down on his home run rate, and when combined with his above average command, this version of Jose Contreras is a pretty good pitcher.

Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks, as long as you don’t have any idea how old the dog really is.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

Thanks for this information and analysis Dave. Contreras still has that nasty forkball and his velocity seems to be back in the low 90s this season. He’s pitching to contact and so far so good.