Thursday, December 17, 2009

Outside the Box, Part 4: John Lackey Still Available

What? John Lackey already signed with the Red Sox, you say? Are you sure? Because there is a guy just like him who is available right now.

Lackey: 6'6" , 205 lbs
Player X: 6'7", 240 lbs

Lackey: Born October 23, 1978
Player X: Born May 9, 1978

Lackey: Drafted in 1999, made his debut on June 24, 2002.
Player X: Drafted in 1999, made his debut on May 25, 2002.

From 2005 to the present...

Lackey: 1.262 WHIP, 8.8 hits allowed per 9, 2.6 walks per 9, 7.6 k's per 9
Player X: 1.284 WHIP, 9.3 hits allow per 9, 2.2 walks per 9, 7.8 k's per 9

Lackey: 990 innings pitched
Player X: 1024 innings pitched

For their careers...

Lackey: 4.00 xFIP, 1.21 GB/FB
Player X: 4.02 xFIP, 0.93 GB/FB

Lackey: 91.6 mph fastball, thrown 58.6% of the time
Player X: 90.4 mph fastball, thrown 68.1% of the time

Lackey: Slider (13.3%), curveball (24.7%), changeup (3.3%).
Player X: Slider (21%), curveball (6.5%) and changeup (4.2%).

Lackey: Gets swings on 25.5% of pitches outside the zone
Player X: Gets swings on 24.0% of pitches outside the zone

Both are four pitch pitchers, though Lackey uses the curveball more. Both are significantly above average for their careers. It's clear from the statistics that Lackey is the better pitcher, but not by much.

Player X has spent the last six and a half years pitching in the ballpark that was 6th best for hitters to hit home runs in 2009, fourth best in 2008, and second friendliest to hitters in 2007. It's a hitter's park.

Lackey just signed a five year, $85 million contract with Boston. Player X is owed $12.5 million next year and $14 million in 2010 if he is traded (with an option to buy out). Instead of a $85 million dollar commitment to Lackey, Player X is only under contract for 2 years and $26 million. It's a relative bargain.

Best of all, Player X is on the trading block from a team that is looking to cut payroll.

By now, you may have figured out that we are talking about Aaron Harang. He's a big righty with a good fastball who has been durable and the Reds are trying to trade him. Just this morning, he was linked to the Dodgers in a potential deal.

Harang was considered a big bounce-back candidate for 2009, but it didn't really happen. Fangraphs did a great job breaking him down here, pointing out that:

Aaron Harang plays for a mediocre team, in front of a poor defense, in a hitter’s park. However, he is also a very good pitcher who is likely to put up numbers that are much better than his 2008 line. It’s reasonable to expect an ERA between 3.50 and 4, and a strikeout rate somewhere around 8 batters per nine.

His numbers didn't bounce back all the way, but a lot of that was luck. His BABIP last year was .339 - extremely high. His components are good - strikes out a lot of guys, doesn't walk that many, etc. I think he needs a change of scenery. He posted ERA's of 3.83, 3.76 and 3.73 in Cincinnati before his disaster of a year in 2008, and I think he stands a great chance of getting back to that level this year if he were to leave the Reds.

He'll come with a short commitment at a reasonable price, and could be acquired relatively cheaply. He would be a great #2 to slot in behind Johan - big and durable. Even if he doesn't rebound, he'll repeat his 4.21 ERA of last year and be good, not great... and he'll be off the books in a year.

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