Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Jeremy Affeldt Signing and Player Turnover

One of the most important strategies for a low/mid-market team GM to embrace is the idea of player turnover. The A's first discovered how to effectively churn players to generate the most value from their assets. Subsequently, the Red Sox stole the A's playbook, supplemented it with a massive revenue stream, and ultimately won two World Series titles. All of which speaks to the fact that embracing a degree of player turnover is an essential strategy in the modern game and Reds may be doing just that with the Jeremy Affeldt signing.


The Reds signed Jeremy Affeldt, who may be best known for getting body slammed during a baseball brawl by the ridiculous Kyle Farnsworth, to a one year deal worth $3M. However, Affeldt is actually a very intriguing left-handed pitcher who has yet to live up to his considerable potential.

Affeldt doesn't have the most impressive statistics, but he does have rather impressive stuff, which is why the Royals had such difficulty in giving up on him. Affeldt is a rare power lefty with very good stuff, which SHOULD translate into much better production than Affeldt has provided in his career. Affeldt features a mid-90s fastball and a very impressive power curveball. It's not the loopy, lollipop variety curveball like Barry Zito throws, but rather a hard, sharp breaking pitch.

For his career, Affeldt sports a 4.74 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4.2 BB/9, and a 6.4 K/9. In 2007, he was much better for the Rockies, posting a 3.51 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 5.0 BB/9, and a 7.0 K/9. In addition, Affeldt has what the Reds need, as he gets a substantial number of groundballs. For his career, Affeldt has a 1.45 GB/FB ratio and in 2007 it was an even more impressive 1.80.

Of course, Affeldt will likely see his performance in Cincinnati suffer from the shoddy Reds defense. The Rockies had a DER of .702 in 2007, while the Reds were a lackluster .679. The Reds well below average team defense is never going to help out newly acquired pitchers.

However, this signing certainly addresses a need for the Reds, as they need a lefthander in the rotation (though Affeldt may ultimately end up in the bullpen) and they could always use more quality groundball pitchers.


While this move makes sense from an on-the-field perspective, it also makes tremendous sense from an off-the-field perspective.

Jeremy Affeldt did not qualify as either a type A or B free agent, so the Reds do not have to surrender a compensatory pick for signing him. He is currently only ranked as the 70th best relief pitcher in the NL and only the top 57 relievers warranted competition in 2007.

In order to calculate player compensation, the Elias Sports Bureau considers the player's two previous seasons. So, for Affeldt, his lackluster 2006 and solid 2007 seasons were considered in arriving at his current Elias ranking.

Here's what the his last two seasons have looked like:

So, when Affeldt's one year Reds contract runs out at the end of 2008, Elias will consider Affeldt's 2007 and 2008 seasons to determine his compensation rating. So, given that Affeldt was poor in 2006 and fairly solid in 2007, it's the 2006 season that dragged down his current Elias Ranking. Accordingly, the Reds could be in line for compensatory picks if Affeldt manages to repeat his 2007 production during the 2008 season. If the Reds get decent production out of Affeldt and let him walk for a compensatory draft pick or two, then it'll be a great value generating acquisition for the Reds.

Embracing player turnover is important to maximizing the value of an organization's assets and Affeldt may ultimately generate quite a bit of value for the Reds. In addition, the price is right, as it only cost the Reds only a 1 year commitment and $3M in salary. It has yet to be determined what role Affeldt will fill in 2008, but it's hard not to like this deal for the Reds.

After a couple of years of complete inaction under former GM Dan O'Brien, it's refreshing to see a GM embrace a bit of player turnover, which can have substantial positive impact on the future of the organization.


  1. I couldn't agree more, its nice to finally see the Reds sign a pitcher under 30.

  2. Hey Just,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I tend to agree, it's hard to find anything not to like about the deal. The contract length and salary are right and Affeldt is a power lefty with heavy groundball tendencies.

    The only question is whether Affeldt can succeed as a starter. He seemed to finally settle into a role last year as a reliever in Colorado, so it'll be interesting to see if he can claim a rotation spot.

    However, even if he can't, the Reds can always slide him back to the bullpen.

    All in all, I think the deal is winner, as there is substantial upside and very limited downside.


  3. I do think Krivsky is pulling the old bait and switch with Affeldt.. I really don't see any reason to move him to the starting rotation unless he really shows something in spring training, or we get hit by injuries, he finally found his niche coming out of the pen... On a side note, what do you think of Tom Shearn? I know he is not the most impressive, but I liked most of what I saw when he started late last year?

  4. Hey Just,

    I hope you're right about Krivsky and Affeldt. The only thing I fear about the signing is conventional wisdom. I have to wonder if Krivsky fears not having a lefty in the rotation, which could mean that he'll try to shoe-horn Affeldt into a role for which he is ill-suited.

    Just because conventional wisdom says you need a lefty in the rotation, doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea. I am a bit nervous that Krivsky would rather have a weak lefty in the rotation than a solid righty (Cueto).

    In addition, having another quality southpaw reliever in the bullpen helps offset the lack of lefties in the rotation.

    Maybe Affeldt will be successful in the rotation, but if not, then he needs to be in the bullpen. If the Reds try to force Affeldt into a role in which he can't succeed, then we'd lose on the field and off. His production would be substandard and he likely wouldn't perform well enough to bring in compensation after the season.

    The Reds need to evaluate Affeldt for what he is and then use him accordingly. If they try to make him what he is not, then this deal may not pan out at all.

    My $.02.


  5. Just,

    Sorry, I got carried away and forgot about Shearn.

    I loved the fact that Shearn got called up last year. It's an example of hard work, dedication, and perseverance paying off. It was a tremendous story and I'm glad Shearn can now tell his grandkids that he was a Major League pitcher.

    That said, I just don't think he's got what it takes to be a successful MLB pitcher over the long run.

    To be a successful MLB pitcher in the modern game, you pretty much have to strikeout 5 hitters per 9 innings pitched. The examples of pitchers who have been consistently successful with lower than 5.0 K/9 strikeout rates are few and far between.

    There are a few examples. Carlos Silva has had some success despite a low strikeout rate. Typically, guys who have success without good strikeout rates do two things well:

    1) They have low walk rates, which helps offset the increased number of baserunners who reach on hits because of the high contact rate allowed,


    2) they get a substantial number of ground balls, as by controlling the type of contact, they limit extra base hits and home runs. Singles hurt less than doubles or homers.

    Even still, those guys aren't very consistent, because they have little margin for error.

    Tom Shearn struck out only 4.4 K/9 in the majors in 2007. In the minors, he had a respectable 7.8 K/9, but given he lacks plus stuff and a true swing and miss pitch, I'm not sure how much he can improve his K rate at the MLB level. Ultimately, I think he's a poor bet to be anything more than a good arm at AAA to be used in case of emergency.

    As it stands, I'd have to think that he falls in behind Bailey, Cueto, Volquez, Maloney, Belisle, Livingston, and Gardner on the depth chart.

    Maybe he can take it up a notch at the MLB level and become an effective 5th starter, but it seems like the league was catching on to him as scouts got a look at him and word got around about him.

    At the very least, he'll go down in the history books as an MLB pitcher, which isn't too shabby.

    Thanks for the comments!!


  6. Hey Lark,

    Thanks for your insight on Shearn, I appreciate you go into such detail, it definitely helps me start to understand how to evaluate talent more. I like the blog keep it up!

  7. Hey Just,

    Thanks for comments and kind words.

    One of the great things about baseball is that its connection to its history and tradition makes it a kind of seamless, never ending conversation. And, I always welcome the opportunity to join in on the discussion, so thanks to you for that.

    I started up this blog on a whim and got hooked on it. Since its inception, I've sent a lot of things out into the depths of cyberspace, but it's nice to know that at least one person is enjoying it.

    Anyway, don't be a stranger. It'll be very interesting to see how the 2008 season unfolds in Cincy.


  8. Hey Lark,
    No worries I am definitely going to be hanging around the blog for sure, I am in the process of reading the scout reports and I just love all the detail and the videos. Now i got a stupid question for you, what exactly defines a plus pitch or a plus tool, I read that all the time on scouting reports i just can't seem to find out what the difference between a plus pitch and a none plus pitch? LOL, i told you it was a stupid question.

  9. Hey Just,

    Actually, it's not a dumb question at all. In fact, I had to think it over to figure out the best way to respond.

    Basically, there are now two schools of scouting: traditional scouting and the new wave of statistical analysis.

    Statistical analysis is more recent and first exploded into the collective baseball conscious in Moneyball. It involves analyzing a player's performance and likely career path through statistics. It is the study of outcomes.

    Traditional analysis is different, in that it focuses on the process, rather than the results. Scouts look at the manner in which a player goes about his business (tools or the physical skills a player needds to be successful in the majors) rather than just the outcomes of his effort (HRs, Walks, Strikeouts, Win Shares, etc).

    Statistical analysis is much more objective, while traditional scouting is more subjective. However, most teams utilize a blended approach, which is also what I try to do on this blog.

    For a position player, the five basic tools are hitting, hitting for power, fielding, arm strength, and speed. For a pitcher, the tools are based on the pitches he throws. Each pitch is graded, as well as a pitcher's control, delivery, and durability.

    In traditional scouting, most organizations use the 20-80 Scouting Scale, which basically compares a prospects tools to the benchmark of Major League Average. There are different variations, but generally it looks something like this:

    80 - Outstanding
    70 - Well above average
    60 - Above average
    50 - Major League Average
    40 - Below Average
    30 - Well below average
    20 - Poor

    So, a "plus pitch" typically means it's 60, which is above average. A plus-plus pitch is 70, which is well above average.

    Basically, a "plus pitch" means it is above the major league average of that pitch. A "plus-plus" pitch is far above average or outstanding when compared to Major League average for that pitch.

    So, if you have a plus change-up, that means it's a better pitch now or projects to be better in the future than the average change-up thrown in the majors.

    The more plus pitches, the better a pitcher's arsenal of pitches. Scouts typically view prospects who have very good success without top notch stuff with a degree of skepticism.

    Case in point, the Yankees and their pitching prospects. Ian Kennedy was fantastic last year, when he posted a 1.87 ERA in the minors and a 1.89 ERA in the majors. However, he's not close to as highly regarded as Joba Chamberlain, who has a 2.45 ERA in the minors and a 0.38 ERA in the majors. The reason?

    Chamberlain is viewed as having 2 plus pitches, while Kennedy probably doesn't have any. Kennedy succeeds on his control and pitching IQ, while Joba succeeds more with pure stuff. Despite similar success in the majors and minors, most scouts view Joba as having the bigger upside, because he has bigger stuff.

    Just to cement the idea even further, Kennedy has been talked about as a throw in on the Johan Santana trade talks, while Joba has been labeled untouchable. Their performance level is the same, but their stuff is not.

    Plus pitches indicate the potential for dominance and a higher upside.


  10. Hey Lark,

    Thanks for the detailed explanation, i completely understand it now, it makes perfect sense. Thanks again!

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