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Thread: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

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    Red's fan mbgrayson's Avatar
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    A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    In 1993, the A’s picked up 31 year old journeyman reliever Billy Taylor as a minor league free agent. Taylor pitched middle relief for the A’s in 1994, was out with an injury for 1995, and was then promoted to the closer role in 1996. Taylor did a serviceable job for 4 years, until his salary gradually went up from $135,000 to $2,500,000.

    Then in 1999, Billy Beane traded Taylor and in exchange picked up a young reliever from the Mets named Jason Isringhausen, along with Greg McMichael. It could have been seen as a salary dump: Taylor made $2,500,000 in 1999; Isringhausen made only $475,000. Beane installed Isringhausen, then an unproven entity, as the full time closer in 2000. Isringhausen pitched fairly well for 2000-01.

    The A’s let Isringhausen go to free agency in the fall of 2001. In exchange, they got the Cardinals 2002 first round draft pick, and a supplemental 1st round pick.

    For their next closer, Oakland obtained Billy Koch on December 7, 2001: Koch was obtained from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Eric Hinske and Justin Miller. Koch gave the A’s an excellent year in 2002.

    Billy Koch was traded by the Oakland Athletics, along with Neal Cotts and Daylon Holt, to the Chicago White Sox, in exchange for Keith Foulke, Mark L. Johnson, Joe Valentine, and cash. Foulke had an excellent 2003 season, saving 90% of his games, but costing the A’s $6 million.

    The A’s let Keith Foulke become a free agent after 2003. Oakland got a 1st round pick (from Boston) and a sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd round. One of those picks was a college relief pitcher named Huston Street.

    In June 2004, the A’s picked up Octavio Dotel as part of a 3-team trade by the Houston Astros, the Kansas City Royals, and the Oakland Athletics. The Oakland Athletics sent Mike Wood and Mark Teahen to the Kansas City Royals. The Houston Astros sent John Buck and cash to the Kansas City Royals. The Kansas City Royals sent Carlos Beltran to the Houston Astros. Dotel pitched well in 2004, and fell off somewhat in 2005.
    After Dotel became a free agent after 2005 season, Oakland got Huston Street, at a major league minimum salary, to take his place. Street has been very good.

    For the last 12 years, at a cost of about $2 million per year on average, the A’s closers have maintained a save percentage hovering near 80%.

    For what it is worth, over his MLB career, Francisco Cordero has 177 saves in 223 chances, a 79% save rate, with a 3.29 ERA. We will be paying him $11.5 million per year for the next four years.

    David Weathers in 2007 saved 33 of 39 games, an 85% save rate, with a 3.59 ERA. Weathers 2007 Salary was only $2,250,000.

    The way to win on a limited budget, as has been amply demonstrated by Oakland, and in the book Moneyball, is to not waste money at the closer position. It is simply not worth paying a premium salary to hire a ‘known’ talent. About the time a closer becomes known, he tends to rapidly decline due to age and health issues. He also tends to skyrocket in cost. The way to play the game is to find or develop a younger player, and then trade him or let him go to free agency for draft picks (I realize the new compensation system is less generous). I predict that we will all be looking at the acquisition of Mr. Cordero as ‘Eric Milton II’ in a few years.

    Code:
    2007	Huston Street		16/21	76%	2.88 ERA	Salary $  380,000	
    	Alan Embree		17/21	81%	3.97 ERA	Salary $2,356,496	
    							
    2006	Huston Street		37/48  77%	3.31 ERA	Salary $339,625	
    							
    2005	Huston Street		23/27	85%	1.72 ERA	Salary $316,000	
    	Octavio Dotel		7/11'	64%	3.52 ERA	Salary $4,750,000	
    							
    2004	Octavio Dotel		22/28	79%	4.09 ERA	Salary $2,800,000 (1/2)	
    							
    2003	Keith Folke		43/48	90%	2.08 ERA	Salary $6,000,000	
    							
    2002	Billy Koch		44/50	88%	3.27 ERA	Salary $2,433,333	
    2001	Jason Isringhausen	 34/43	79%	2.65 ERA	Salary $3,300,000	
    2000	Jason Isringhausen	 33/40 	83%	3.78 ERA	Salary $825,000	
    1999	Billy Taylor		26/33	79%	3.98 ERA	Salary  $2,500,000 	
    1998	Billy Taylor		33/37	89%	3.58 ERA	Salary $1,100,000	
    1997	Billy Taylor		23/30	77%	3.82 ERA	Salary $575,000	
    1996	Billy Taylor		17/19	89%	4.33 ERA	Salary $135,000
    Last edited by mbgrayson; 11-27-2007 at 04:40 AM.

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  3. #2
    Member Ron Madden's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Good post.

    I've always been against spending big money on a Closer.

    Yet something tells me this could be a good move for the Reds.

    Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do even when it makes no sense.

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    Member Jpup's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    The difference is the Cordero is good and always has been. Milton never really was.
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    Hisssssssss Yachtzee's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    I've always been of the opinion that it's better to try loading up on good arms, preferably starters. Rather than sign a big money closer, I think it's better to work on the starting rotation and plug guys who don't work out in the rotation into relief roles. . . Provided, of course, that the guys who don't make the rotation are still decent pitchers. Paying a lot of money for a pitcher who fills a spot just because he filled that spot on a different team concerns me. That being said, I'll support Cordero and expect him to do well.
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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    For what it is worth, over his MLB career, Francisco Cordero has 177 saves in 223 chances, a 79% save rate, with a 3.29 ERA. We will be paying him $11.5 million per year for the next four years.

    David Weathers in 2007 saved 33 of 39 games, an 85% save rate, with a 3.59 ERA. Weathers 2007 Salary was only $2,250,000.
    That's quite a bit unfair -- comparing Cordero's whole career to a single season from Weathers. Compare their 2007 numbers and you get an entirely different picture.

    And the A's model hinged on dipping into their considerable minor-league talent to acquire impact bullpen arms. That surplus of minor-league talent is in short supply in Cincinnati.

    While I agree that spending too much money on a single player is risky, I think you're glossing over the specifics of this situation. The Reds' bullpen is a gaping wound, and the team isn't particularly overloaded with enough talent to acquire an impact arm without damaging the roster. They do have cash, however, and cash is much more replaceable than talent.

    Spending money on Cordero doesn't prevent the Reds from going out and finding more impact arms for the bullpen (which they still need to do). It also allows the team to shop whatever surplus talent they do have for a mid-rotation starter.

    This is a risky move on the Reds' part, but I think it's a measured risk that absolutely needed to be taken.
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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    And we're back to the vicious circle of "one team does it this way, it works, therefore any team that does differently is dumb."

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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Quote Originally Posted by traderumor View Post
    And we're back to the vicious circle of "one team does it this way, it works, therefore any team that does differently is dumb."
    Completely ignoring the fact that the Reds have been trying to fill it ala Billy Taylor for quite some time... that's worked out well.

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    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Could it be that the A's got lucky? I mean Houston Street was drafted as a reliever just as Ryan Wagner was. I mean its great when it works but when it doesn't work you are up a creek without a paddle.

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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Great post, but

    Quote Originally Posted by mbgrayson View Post
    The way to play the game is to find or develop a younger player
    [/CODE]
    That's the rub, isn't it?

    Under DanO and Wayne, the Reds have shown little ability to "find or develop" a young reliever. So they are filling the need a different way.

    I'm not a big fan of overpaying closers - hate it, really, as I think that the Billy Taylors are out there - but in this case it shows a thoughtful and self-aware approach by the team. The team probably shouldn't be buying hitting, there is no starting pitching to buy, and Krivsky has shown little ability to project which $3-5 million middle relievers are on the way up instead of down.

    The only other place that I could see spending that coin would have been on early extensions for EdE and Phillips (late 1990s Indian-style).

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    Red's fan mbgrayson's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Quote Originally Posted by bucksfan2 View Post
    Could it be that the A's got lucky? I mean Houston Street was drafted as a reliever just as Ryan Wagner was. I mean its great when it works but when it doesn't work you are up a creek without a paddle.
    The A's have had their fair share of bombs in early draft rounds. However, when you get multiple picks from letting players go via free agency, you get some cushion against mistakes.

    traderumor: "And we're back to the vicious circle of "one team does it this way, it works, therefore any team that does differently is dumb."
    I do think Cordero is a mistake. I am still rooting for the guy to work out: I am a Reds fan more than I need to be 'right'. I am not saying the Reds are "dumb". I just think there are serious inefficiencies in the closer market, and the Reds are on the wrong end of the economics.

    Finally, it is worth looking at how the teams fared that picked up the A's cast-offs. Only Isringhausen amounted to anything after the A's let him go, and the Cards have paid a premium for his service(and won a World Series...). Everyone else melted down and was out of MLB altogether within a few years, although it is too soon to say for sure with Dotel.

    The couple years the A's paid a high salary were either due to arbitration, or short term contracts. In any event, they have managed to fill the closer role efficiently for that time period.

    My fear with Cordero is the 4 year contract. The guy is 32, and at his peak. I am afraid he has only one direction to go....I hope I am wrong. He may well prove valuable for 2008 and even 2009 at the rate we are paying. My problem comes with 2010 and 2011.

    Even if he pitches very well, I think the Reds drastically overpaid. See JinAZ's article LINKED HERE.
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  12. #11
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Isringhausen was paid $3.3M in 2001.

    Koch was paid $2.5M in 2002.

    Foulke was paid $6M in 2003.

    How does that translate into today's dollars?

    That chart shows me that the A's have been willing to pay premium dollars for closers, even though they are flipping them for draft picks soon after. Street is an exception, but will likely be flipped if or after he attains high-salary status.

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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Quote Originally Posted by backbencher View Post
    Great post, but



    That's the rub, isn't it?

    Under DanO and Wayne, the Reds have shown little ability to "find or develop" a young reliever. So they are filling the need a different way.
    Wayne hasn't found young relievers who can yet develop into a closer? Obviously with a four year deal with Cordero, the need isn't as pressing, but he's stockpiled a boatload of young pitchers. We've got younger pitchers falling all over themselves these days.
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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    FWIW here are the the Reds saves leaders for the last 5 seasons, with the number of games they finished, runs saved above average and K/9 vs the league.

    Code:
    SAVES                         YEAR     SV       GF      RSAA    SO/9 IP   
    1    Danny Graves             2004       41       59        0    -1.47   
    2    David Weathers           2007       33       56        9    -1.14   
    3    Scott Williamson         2003       21       34        5     4.62   
    4    David Weathers           2005       15       41        5     0.50   
    T5   David Weathers           2006       12       32       11     -.60   
    T5   Chris Reitsma            2003       12       36        0     -.97   
    7    Danny Graves             2005       10       18       -6    -2.64   
    T8   Eddie Guardado           2006        8       11        6     4.22   
    T8   Todd Coffey              2006        8       28       11     0.21   
    T10  Kent Mercker             2005        4       23        6     0.00   
    T10  Joe Valentine            2004        4       13       -4     2.16   
    12   Scott Schoeneweis        2006        3        8        7     0.19   
    T13  Bill Bray                2006        2        6        2     0.77   
    T13  Danny Graves             2003        2        3      -20    -3.45   
    T15  Brian Reith              2003        1       15        1     -.92   
    T15  Todd Jones               2004        1       10        1     -.89   
    T15  Todd Coffey              2005        1       14        0    -2.54   
    T15  Gabe White               2004        1        9      -10     0.88   
    T15  John Riedling            2003        1       11       -7     -.85   
    T15  Bill Bray                2007        1        4       -3     2.09   
    T15  Rick White               2006        1       10       -4    -1.12   
    T15  Felix Heredia            2003        1       18       10    -1.52   
    T15  Esteban Yan              2006        1        4        2    -1.91   
    T15  Matt Belisle             2005        1       17        1     -.37   
    T15  Kent Mercker             2006        1        7        2    -1.31

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    Red's fan mbgrayson's Avatar
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Quote Originally Posted by redsmetz View Post
    Wayne hasn't found young relievers who can yet develop into a closer? Obviously with a four year deal with Cordero, the need isn't as pressing, but he's stockpiled a boatload of young pitchers. We've got younger pitchers falling all over themselves these days.
    I agree...a few of them may be worth trying at closer. Burton? Bray? Belisle? Cueto? All cheap alternatives that could work out.

    Given that 2007 went into the toilet early, we should have tried one of those guys as closer then....instead of Weathers.
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    Re: A smarter way to fill the closer position: The A's

    Quote Originally Posted by mbgrayson View Post
    My fear with Cordero is the 4 year contract. The guy is 32, and at his peak. I am afraid he has only one direction to go....I hope I am wrong. He may well prove valuable for 2008 and even 2009 at the rate we are paying. My problem comes with 2010 and 2011.
    Though by the time 2010 rolls around, the Reds might be able to develop or unearth a low-cost closer option. Granted, they'd ideally like to get four quality seasons from Cordero, but if he can deliver two big years closing down games for a club in the thick of the division hunt, I could live with him tailing off after that.

    I like the model of going with less expensive closers, not so much because I worry about the cash, but because relievers have short shelf lives. Eric Gagne had a three-year run. Rob Dibble lasted five years.

    Yet, just because it's not my pet theory on bullpen creation doesn't mean it's not a valid decision. The Cincinnati Reds just signed the best pitcher on the free agent market and he adds indisputable quality to what has been a lousy bullpen. I have a hard time taking issue with that.

    Obviously if they don't take steps to shore up the starting pitching Cordero will be an insufficient band-aid, but if that gets done, if the rotation gets effectively bolstered, then I really don't get the problem with Cordero.

    Perhaps we'll be sitting here in three months lamenting that the Reds didn't get Starter X because of the Cordero contract, but unless/until that happens, the more immediate reality is they improved the bullpen. I would submit that better is better.
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