Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why I am Excited About the Bedard Signing, And Why You Should Be Too

Okay, "excited" is too strong a word. And so is "should." I don't want to tell you what to think. Let's try that again.

Why I am More Than Ambivalent About the Bedard Signing. You Can Feel How You Want.

As you have read, the Astros signed Erik Bedard to a minor league contract, with an invitation to Spring Training. This has been met mostly with ambivalence. Understandably so, considering he put up a 5.01 ERA last year and was released by the Pirates. If he was any good, he wouldn't be available to sign to a minor league contract, right? But I am slightly more than ambivalent.

From 2008-2011, Bedard was good. 3.41 ERA, and a ERA+ of 121 in the American League. In 2012, Bedard was not very good. 5.01 ERA and an ERA+ of 74 in the National League. What changed? Did Bedard fall of a cliff between his age 32 and 33 seasons?

Well, Bedard's 2012 peripherals were right in line with his numbers from 2008-2011. He was still striking out more than 8 batters per 9. His walk rate jumped from 3.7 to 4, but that doesn't seem to be enough to cause his numbers to dip that much. His line drive percentage also rose, which accounts for some of the difference. But I think the primary culprit is the spike in his Batting Average on Balls in Play, or BABIP. After keeping hitters to a .280 batting average from 2008 to 2011, that number spiked to .314. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and expected Fielding Independent Pitching  (xFIP) are both tools which attempt to take into account the fluctuations of BABIP, among other things. Both of these peg Bedard's 2012 nearly a run lower, with a 4.07 FIP and a 4.05 xFIP. Still not great, but significantly better. There is a very real chance, with some regression in Bedard's BABIP, that he can be an effective starting pitcher at the back of the Astros rotation. Woo Hoo.

Now, Erik Bedard is not a workhorse. In fact, Bedard and workhorse have never appeared in a sentence together, excepting sentences which read "Bedard is not a workhorse." He has not thrown more than 130 innings since 2007, and has never exceeded 200. That's a big problem if you traded Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and George Sherrill for him to be your ace. Much less of a problem if you gave up nothing for him. If the Astros can get 100-130 innings of near 4.00 ERA from Bedard in 2013, he will be more than worth what they gave up for him, which is, again, nothing. If he stays healthy and effective enough to flip him for a prospect, that's a bonus.

Erik Bedard, worth giving up nothing for, with potential for more. If that doesn't scream "More than Ambivalent," I don't know what does.