1.01.2006

Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice...

The Rangers swore they would never sign another pitcher to a 5 year contract after their Chan Ho Park fiasco (courtesy of one Scott Boras) and, as the Bond movie title goes, "Never Say Never Again," as they just signed Kevin Millwood to a 5 year, $60M contract. So what's different this time?

Won't Get Fooled Again

Well one difference is that Millwood appears to have had a worse career than did Park prior to signing with Texas. Park had five excellent seasons in six while with the Dodgers before signing with Texas whereas Millwood appears to have one great season every third season, filled with mediocre Tomko-esque performances in-between (ERA in 4-range). So Park's career stats looked much better.

However, Park had the advantage of pitching at Dodger Stadium, one of the most extreme pitcher's parks around. Dodger Stadium had a pitching factor of approximately 92 or 93 from 1996 to 2001, the time Park pitched there. His road stats were much worse than at Dodger Stadium: ERA 4.74, WHIP 1.44, BAA approximately .246 on the road vs. ERA 3.00, WHIP 1.22, BAA .216 at Dodger Stadium.

Millwood, meanwhile, pitched at Atlanta, once known as a hitters park but during his tenure there, it was a league neutral park, with a park pitching factor of approximately 100 from 1997 to 2002; at Philadelphia, first at pitcher's park Veteran's then at more hitter oriented Citizen's Bank Park in 2003 and 2004 (2004 was not as bad as 2005, having a pitcher's park factor of only 101); and lastly at Cleveland's pitcher's park, Jacobs Field, where he had one of his best seasons ever. So, overall, in his career, Millwood has pitched in mainly pitcher's neutral parks with a few years in pitcher's park, which gives his career numbers a slight edge towards pitching in home pitcher's parks. His split stats shows this: ERA 3.97, WHIP 1.29, BAA .252 on the road vs. ERA 3.55, WHIP 1.19, BAA .241 at home.

So based on road stats, Millwood looks to be a better pitcher than was Park when the Rangers signed them. In addition, his FIP confirms that his performance is sub-4 ERA worthy: he had a FIP of 3.82 in 2004 and 3.77 in 2005. Also applicable, since he pitched at a pitcher's park in Jacobs but is moving to a hitters park at Ameriquest, is his 2005 xFIP, which adjusts the results for homerun rate, is 3.99. But is that worth $12M per year?

Buy Me That Doggy In the Window?

As comparison, lets look at the other big money pitchers signed this offseason: A.J. Burnett, Jarrod Washburn, Matt Morris, Kenny Rogers, Esteban Loaiza, Paul Byrd. Burnett got 5 years/$55M or $11M/year. Washburn got 4 years/$37.5M or $9.4M/year. Morris got 3 years/$27M or $9M/year. Rogers got 2 years/$16M or $8M/year. Loaiza got 3 years/$21.4M or $7.1M/year. Byrd got 2 years/$14M or $7M/year. And, as noted above, Millwood got $12M/year so he got more per year than anyone else here.

I don't need to see sabermetrics to 6 sig-figs to see that mediocre pitchers are getting about $7M per year. That seems to be the bar today. So is Millwood worth the extra $5M per year?

I'm sure Steve Boras' prospectus probably made Texas think that he was. Just like he made them think that Park was worth that as well. But I don't see how the Rangers got fooled again as his FIP suggests that he's been only slightly better than average the past two seasons with an ERA approximately just under 4.00 plus his career pattern.

Millwood has been good once every three seasons. Exceptionally good but still once every three seasons. Over a five year contract, that's at best twice out of the five, but since it has been exactly 2 mediocre seasons then 1 great one for nine years now, one could say that he might only have 1 great season in the five, in his third season with the Rangers. But lets assume the best and he is great twice.

That means he was mediocre the other three seasons, meaning the Rangers got $7M worth those seasons. That means that the Rangers are paying $39M for those 2 great seasons, or $19.5M per year. That's Roger Clemens type of money. It gets a lot worse if he has only one great season.

Looking at his baseball-reference.com stats, here's his ERA+ for his career: 104, 104, 162, 100, 102, 127, 103, 90, 143. Roger Clemens career average ERA+ is 143. So maybe he could be worth it based on his two best seasons. Then again, Clemens the past two seasons had ERA+ of 145 and 221.

So I guess it all comes down to belief. Do you believe that Millwood, who could not consistently do well in pitching neutral Atlanta, could not pitch well in pitching-park Veterans, did horribly in hitters-park Citizens Bank Park, and did very well in pitchings-park Jacobs, could deliver a great pitching performance in extreme hitters-park Ameriquest Field, a park so bad that fantasy baseball advisors would note when hitters and pitchers were due to play there so as to avoid pitchers and select hitters?

Well, he did do well in his one career start there, going 6.0 IP and only 2 ER. However, he gave up 8 hits and 1 walk with 5 strikeouts, good for a 1.50 WHIP and .320 BAA. Lets take a look at other homerun hitters parks he has pitched at:
  • Coors - 3.97 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .267 BAA in 7 starts
  • Miller - 6.91 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, .255 BAA in 3 starts
  • Great American - 6.46 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .333 BAA in 3 starts
  • Citizens Bank Park - 4.95 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .275 BAA in 11 starts
  • Minute Maid - 2.30 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, .210 BAA in 4 starts
  • Chase Field - 2.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, .172 BAA in 4 starts
A mixed lot that suggests that he will do poorly in Ameriquest though there is the oddity that he did poorly in Northern hitters parks and well in Southern hitters park, particularly in Minute Maid, which is also in Texas. To bet $12M per year that he can do well in Ameriquest wouldn't be a bet I would take. But that is essentially the bet that the Rangers are making on Millwood. We will see but the odds does not seem to favor him doing so.

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