Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Avoid James Shields

Sources are saying that James Shields will sign with a team by the end of this week. There are no specific teams rumored right now, but word is that he has multiple offers and he plans to choose one. The Red Sox may or may not be one of those teams, but given the dollars and years he is expected to sign for, I hope the team stays away.

I've already covered the new additions the team has made. They have not acquired an "ace" in the purest sense of the term, but they have a breakout candidate in Rick Porcello and enough depth, including their Triple A starters, that the rotation should be at least average. Recent projections from FanGraphs show that they think the Sox will have the 5th best rotation in all baseball because of this depth. 5th best may be a stretch given the uncertainty surrounding each starter, but it shows that the rotation is much healthier than the greater public (especially the geniuses in the Boston media) realize. This overall health is just the first reason the team should bow out of the sweepstakes.

The second reason is his age combined with the miles on his arm. 33 is really starting to push it when you are talking about most starting pitchers. Guys like Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Dan Haren, Matt Morris, Jason Schmidt, even Pedro Martinez all started to drop off in their early 30s. Most of these guys were poster boys for durability until then. A lot of them were out of the league before they even hit 35. The years of throwing a lot of innings finally caught up to them and their bodies broke down. Very few pitchers remain effective into their late 30s and most of those guys are Hall of Famers, knuckleballers or soft-tossing lefties. Shields is none of those.

The last reason is that I question how good Shields really is. He strikes out a decent amount of guys and limits walks and home runs. But a lot of his value is tied up in his durability, which may soon disappear. He has also played in two serious pitching parks in his career so the home run limiting may be a mirage. Finally, the last two seasons he has played in front of some great defenses in Kansas City. All of this doesn't mean he isn't a good pitcher, but I wonder if it is covering up his actual level of talent.

Despite the rhyme scheme, Big Game James has been an inaccurate nickname, especially lately. In 60 career post season innings, his walks, hits and home runs go up while his strikeouts go down. This all leads to an ERA that is almost 2 full runs higher than his regular season ERA. Now, lots of pitchers pitch worse in the post season when the competition is tougher, but Shields has literally made a name for himself as someone who steps up when it counts. 60 innings are not much, but I am curious if it shows that his actual talent level is something less than what we see over a long season/career. In the post season, durability, Shields' chief skill, goes out the window. Talent is often the best predictor of future success so if he's not as talented as we think, then the future wouldn't be bright.

Look, in 2015 I expect Shields to be better than every pitcher on this team besides Porcello (can you tell I'm excited for Pretty Ricky?). At 33, his best years might be behind him but he is still a very effective pitcher. His strikeout to walk ratio was 17th in baseball last year (and better than anyone on the roster right now). He was 5th in innings pitched and has been equally durable for the last 8 years. FanGraphs projects him to be worth 3 WAR, which would tie him for the team lead with Pretty Ricky. For the right price, Shields would be a great addition to the team in 2015.

The problem is, we likely aren't talking about a 1 year pillow deal like they used to land Adrian Beltre after a down season in a pitcher's park. Shields is coming off a strong year in 2014 so he doen't need to rebuild his value. He has pitched in pitcher's parks his whole career so going to a hitter's park is likely to hurt his numbers. At 33 this is probably his last chance to get a long term deal so you can bet he is going to find one. Every player in baseball is valuable at the right price (besides Ryan Howard), but Shields is definitely going to exceed the price I am comfortable with.

A quick and dirty way to calculate how much a player is worth is to figure out how many wins they are worth over the life of a contract and multiply it by how much money teams are paying per win (basically take the total payroll of all teams and divide it by the total number of wins in the whole league). We know what Shields is expected to produce in 2015 (3 WAR) and that the league values wins at about $7 million right now. To figure out each subsequent year we basically take away a half win to account for age decline and we increase the value of a win about $0.5 million due to recent trends.

In this scenario, Shields will produce 3, 2.5, 2, 1.5 and 1 win over the next 5 years for a total of 10 wins. Each season, the win will cost $7MM, $7.5MM, $8MM, $8.5MM, $9MM. When you multiply the seasonal wins by the value of a win, you get Shields' rough monetary value each season (I rounded up to give him the benefit of the doubt):

2015: $21 million
2016: $19 million
2017: $16 million
2018: $13 million
2019: $9 million

Based on these calculations, I would feel comfortable giving Shields a contract worth $78 million over 5 years or $69 million over 4 years. Given the chatter this offseason, though, I expect him to exceed this. So please, Red Sox, stay away.

  • Got to see a little bit of the Patriots' parade today. Had a great vantage point from the front of my building. Two things: first, so happy that the state decides cleaning the streets for people to get to work isn't important, but cleaning it for a bunch of people playing hookie to yell at a bunch of 250 pound millionaires is important. I'm sure Bob Kraft paid for the overtime for the removal too. The second thing: Tom Brady is seriously handsome up close.
  • I've seen more and more previews for Will Smith's new movie, Focus. It's hard to tell whether or not it will be good based on the trailer, but it looks like it could be really good or really bad. As a super fan, I really want, no need, it to be good. I stuck with Ben Affleck through Gigli and Jersey Girl, and I have tried to stick with Will through his recent shitty stretch. Don't let me down Will, please.
  • One indication that the movie might be bad is the use of one of my least favorite phrases: "there are two types of people in this world..." In this movie he says something like you are either a hammer or a nail, which makes no god damn sense. It's something screen writers use to be deep or to set up some future showdown. Rather than just go with good/evil, they use it  to more clearly separate groups of characters. Fucking stop. People are smart enough to pick up differences in characters and understand why they are at odds during the climax. Saying "there are two types of people in this world" makes your character sound like a moron. There are at least 3 types.
  • Last year I made a New Year's resolution to learn one new thing a day. The best source of these nuggets was an email newsletter called "Now I Know" by Dan Lewis. He writes a few paragraphs on some random fact and tells really interesting stories. For instance, did you know Winston Churchill was the first person ever recorded using the term "OMG"? Or that the reason McDonald's has never sold hot dogs is because the founder Ray Kroc said "there's no telling what's inside a hot dog's skin?" It's sent out every day and it's a lot of cool, interesting stuff. Go to to sign up for the daily email.
  • It was Groundhog Day on Monday and that little shit saw his shadow so we are getting 6 more weeks of winter. But here's what I don't get. The first day of spring is March 20. This is about 6 and a half weeks from February 2. Why do we need a big rat to tell us we have 6 more weeks of winter when we can just look at a calendar?
  • Obviously I watched Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day. It's such an amazing movie, everyone knows this so there is no need to rehash it here. I want to recommend another movie with a similar science fiction premise and that is Tom Cruise's Live. Die. Repeat. The trailers and marketing for this movie were awful and most people are over Cruise because he is a total lunatic at best. But this movie was a lot of fun. It had a cool storyline, solid effects and it wasn't too over the top. Most importantly, the movie and Cruise did not take it/himself too seriously. This is a minor spoiler, but if you want to see Cruise killed over and over again, rent this movie.
  • Finally, D'Angelo was the musical guest on SNL last weekend (along with J.K. Simmons hosting; what an amazingly random pairing!). D'Angelo put out two really great funk/soul albums about 15 years ago and then disappeared. He was probably best known for the song "Untitled (How Does it Feel?)." In the video he is shot from just above  his penis with no clothes on and it looks like he is receiving a hummer. Anyway, he recently released his first album after 15 years and it is bad ass. I would kill to see a Prince/D'Angelo concert, but they would need to hand out adult diapers at the front door for all the women. Here is one of Sarah's favorite from the new album, "The Door"

No comments:

Post a Comment