Wednesday, December 16, 2009

To Beat A Dead Horse

OK, GW admits to being a bit confused over the whole Matt Capps thing. We'll start with the premise that the Pirates should have tendered and then traded him if they thought he wasn't part of team going forward. Their whining about press leaks is just a red herring.

After all, they've been trying to move him since at least midseason. And when their non-tender cover was blown, well, hey...if they had prior market interest in the Mad Capper, then why not just offer him arbitration and keep his name alive in the marketplace?

Apparently, they didn't do that because they believed A) his potential arbitration award would be an albatross around their necks and make him unmovable, or B) after dipping his toe in the free agent pool, he'd come splashing back to PNC.

The Bucs have Dan Fox to crunch the value numbers for them, and we're sure his spreadsheet played a big role in the affair Capps. GW has an envelope and pencil with a worn out eraser to do his math.

Fortunately, figuring out Capps' value is just a click away at Fangraphs.

First, how good is he? His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that shows how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded) is 3.84; his career ERA is 3.61. Pretty close there.

Bill James projects him to be 3-3 with 30 saves and a 3.47 ERA in 2010; again, a pretty average year statistically for Capps and in keeping with past performance. So there's no big red flag blowin' in the breeze concerning his computer profile.

As far as value, his WAR (wins above replacement, or how much better you are than a AAA replacement player) for 2009 was -.4; it's guessimated to be +.6 in 2010. That's on the low side; the average player is +2 or so.

Crunching all this stuff together, Fangraphs figured Capps 2010 value at $2.9M. And we won't quibble with that - if we accept that the Bucs offer was allegedly around $2.4M and Capps counter was $3.4M, then $2.9M is the mid point.

The quick look tells us that Capps, despite his JVB imitation in 2009, and Paul Kinzer, his agent, had a better concept of Capps market value than the Pirates did, especially in light of JJ Putz's $3M signing. Whether that's so or not will be determined by his next contract.

But when you factor in the fact that his save numbers have increased every year of his career, and that closers generally are over-valued on the market (and arbitration), the money Capps wanted looks about right.

We know it's not about age. His presumed replacement, Joel Hanrahan, is almost two years older than Capps. He reaches his first year of arbitration after this season, and if he has a big year, he'll also be up for a juicy arb reward.

Overall, they're netting two extra years of control, and if Hanrahan's performance matches Capps, they'll soon be in the same boat down the road.

And that makes the suits move to non-tender him even more mystifying. If they could find takers for Soloman Torres, Damaso Marte, Sean Burnett, John Grabow, Jesse Chavez and company, surely they could make a deal for Capps.

For a team that is constantly ISO talent, letting a second-tier closer walk out the door for no return flies in the face of logic, especially for a low-revenue club. We'd love to know the whole story behind the Capps tale. There must be more to it than meets the eye.

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