Southpaw Signings

The baseball offseason is a trying time for fans, and one that is highlighted by the comings and goings of players. While some trades make headlines, more than likely, most of the ink we will read during the winter months involves free agents, and their possible destinations. It all ultimately devolves into a glorified game of Eff-Marry-Kill when it comes to the discourse surrounding possible free agent signings, and the Nationals are no different than the other 29 franchises in this respect, as they have more than their share of possible moves to make in preparation for the 2013 season.

While the vast majority of possible moves that the Nats might make this winter will be determined upon the final destination of Gold Glove/Silver Slugger winner Adam LaRoche, one stands alone as unique, due to it being unencumbered by the complexity of a possible ALR re-signing.

As previously mentioned here at CoN, Sean Burnett had a fantastic 2012 season for a lefty short inning reliever for the Nats. He too finds himself a free agent, and in the process of finding his baseball home for the next year or two, after declining his mutual option, much like his teammate LaRoche. While he will not be garnering the money or attention that ALR will on the market, he still remains a crucial key to the success of the Nats bullpen. As such, he will still demand a competitive contract, especially in light of the new deals that Brandon League and Jeremy Affeldt have recently garnered, after having statistically similar seasons.

Now the question lingers – is Burnett worthy of being re-signed, or is there an alternative target to fill the role of lefty short inning guy for the Nats bullpen, if he prices himself out of a spot?

Let’s play a game – a baseball-esque Eff-Marry-Kill, with the help of some statistics, courtesy of Baseball-Reference. Here we have a snapshot of Burnett’s great 2012 season, compared to the 2012 of a similar player, Player X. Player X is also a lefty reliever, who is also a free agent, and a target for the Nats and Mike Rizzo to consider.  

2012 ERA+ WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 WPA BAA OPS BAbip FIP xFIP fWAR
Sean Burnett 167 1.24 9.2 1.9 9.1 0.5 0.262 0.673 0.333 2.79 2.84 1.1
Player X 132 1.32 7.8 4 9.8 0.7 0.237 0.692 0.319 2.98 3.69 0.5

 

Overall, some very similar statistics between Burnett and X; in fact, X might have had an even better season, aside from allowing twice as many walks as Burnett. Even X’s lower fWAR can partially be accounted for by pitching half as many innings as Burnett.

OK, tempting player this fella is. Let’s dig a little deeper, and have a look at some 2012 stats under high leverage conditions (as determined by Baseball Reference) for both pitchers; I look at this simply because, as a late inning guy, either pitcher is expected to succeed when things are hitting the fan.                            

2012

Split

SO/BB

BAA

OPS

BAbip

tOPS+

Sean Burnett

High Lvrge

3.4

0.316

0.758

0.387

125

Player X

High Lvrge

4.7

0.121

0.376

0.211

10

Quite a presence in high leverage innings, Mr. X is; not only is he taking matters into his own hands, and succeeding, as we can see with his SO/BB and batting average against (BAA) numbers, when the ball does get put into play, it’s done with minimal damage with the help of a low BABIP, a huge key to a successful outing from the bullpen.

Let’s see what the Bill James Handbook has forecast for 2013 for both Burnett and Player X:                          

2013 W L IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP FIP
Sean Burnett 3 3 55 6.55 2.45 0.82 0.299 3.68
Player X 3 2 44 10.02 3.89 0.82 0.299 3.35

Again, a very impressive stat line from Player X, with Burnett showing a possible slump in 2013, as compared to this past season.

So, fellow armchair GM’s –  who gets signed, who gets a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks’? As we can see, if all things fall through with respect to the re-signing of Burnett, this Player X is an attractive option to pursue, all things considered.

Luckily for the Nats, they won’t have to look too hard to find Mr. X, as he is Mike ‘El Borracho’ Gonzalez.

As has been reported, Gonzalez is looking to stay with the Nationals, but appears to have had other teams inquire about his services, much like Burnett. While having both Burnett and Gonzalez in the bullpen would be a huge weapon to have for the late innings, the reality of Burnett signing elsewhere is legitimate, even in light of his intimations of being happy to stay in DC. Yet, with Gonzalez putting up the numbers that he did in limited innings for the Nats in 2012, it wouldn’t be too much of a hardship to give him Burnett’s innings moving forward should Burnett leave; with the Bill James Handbook expecting #51 to have a similar 2013 statswise, the Nats wouldn’t lose much with just having Gonzo as the late inning lefty. 

While the answers to many questions regarding who will be a part of the final iteration of the 2013 Nats remain up in the air, there is little to no mystery as to who should be manning the late inning lefty role. Whether it’s a crooked hat, or a crooked delivery neutralizing lefty batters, the Nationals remain in good southpaw hands next season.

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