Up next in our Pinch Hitters series is Daniel Czlapinski, a 27-year-old from Bristol, CT, where he lives with his girlfriend “and muse” Angie while working in the insurance industry. “I am a musician and actor first and foremost,” he wrote, “but the Yankees and baseball in general is my other passion.” If you’d like, follow him on Twitter: @cubenbee.
For his guest post, Daniel took out his crystal ball and looked into the future to compare two potential free agents, making a surprising choice of which one he’d prefer to see in pinstripes.
Let me start off by saying that I’m not going to mention anything about the Yankees recent transactions. I’m also not going to mention anything about the Giants or the Patriots and that extremely important football game. No, I’m not going to talk about that stuff, because I’m a man of the future. I am a man who is always thinking two steps ahead, always planning, always scheming.
Well, OK, maybe I’m not any of that stuff. But I am going to talk about the future for a little bit, as a kind of respite to the buzzing of twitter trends and whatever the hottest hot-off-the-press story of the day happens to be.
What I would like to present is a comparison of two pitchers. Not just any two pitchers, though. These two pitchers are none other than Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke. Yes, the very same Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke who should be headlining next year’s harvest of free agent pitchers. Should be, I say, because who knows when one of these guys might sign an extension with their current team? Not me, that’s for sure. Maybe Jon Heyman knows, but not me. Anyway, the angle I’m taking here is which guy should the Yanks go after if both of them hit the market next year?
Oh and for the sake of brevity, we’re going to pretend that Matt Cain, Anibal Sanchez and Francisco Liriano don’t exist.
When I first started to prepare for this piece, I decided to ask around and see what other people thought. Nothing formal, just wanted to get some opinions. As I expected, pretty much everyone’s reaction was “HAMELS ALL DAY!!!” and I’ve got to say, I completely agreed with that sentiment. I mean, Hamels has the postseason numbers. He was a World Series MVP, He’s performed in a major media market (whatever that means). It’s almost too perfect. I can already see the headline in late December 2012 — YANKS GET COLE IN THEIR STOCKINGS. Add to that the fact that Greinke has supposedly had issues with anxiety, so that instantly makes Hamels the odds-on favorite to don the pinstripes next year. Right?
Not so fast.
First lets tackle the issue of Greinke’s “anxiety.” People seem to go there right away and say that it would be a big issue in New York, but it probably won’t. Think about it. He’s an All-Star caliber pitcher who was drafted sixth overall in the 2002 draft. Have you ever been drafted in the first round of the MLB draft? Have you ever pitched in the MLB All-star game? Didn’t think so. He’s also won a Cy Young award. So if he can deal with the stress that comes with all of that, I’m pretty sure he can handle answering a few extra questions from reporters in the clubhouse after games and out on the street in between games because, really, that’s the only thing that’s different about playing in New York. So excuse me if I scoff when you say that his previous issues with anxiety, which have had no discernable effect on his performance thus far, would somehow cause Greinke to fail in New York.
Now that we have all the psychoanalysis out of the way, let’s get to some actual, statistical comparison. Greinke looks pretty good there too. I compared some statistics taken from the past five seasons. I did this somewhat arbitrarily, it just seems like the most recent performance is what we really want to compare here. Hamels has started 17 more games than Greinke over that span, so advantage Hamels there. That’s about 3.5 starts per season more than Greinke. Over these past five years though, Greinke has had a higher K/9, lower HR/9, and a lower FIP. Add all that together, and Greinke has been worth 25.9 fWAR to Hamels’ 20.4 fWAR over the past five years.
Oh, and don’t bother looking a B-ref’s version of WAR because that doesn’t help my argument… I mean… Ok, ok, fine. Greinke’s bWAR 2007-2011 = 19.9, Hamels = 20.6 so hooray for Cole, looking good there, except that Hamels needed 83.2 more IP to get to that number. Hamels does have the lower ERA over that duration, but everyone knows all the cool kids are completely disregarding ERA these days. If you’re not a stats person, then just know that ERA doesn’t compensate for the fact that pitchers have very little control over what happens once the ball is put in play. So stats like FIP and xFIP attempt to take defense out of the equation, accounting only for what the pitcher has control over – strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches, and homeruns. It’s pretty widely accepted these days that this is a better way to measure a pitcher’s performance than ERA. And FIP says that Mr. Greinke has been the better pitcher over the last five years.
In closing, I want to say that no matter which way the dice roll, I will support Brian Cashman’s wisdom. Hamels is a hell of a pitcher and I would be glad to have him in the rotation. The truth is that when the time comes, one or both of these two may already have themselves a long-term contract with a team not named the Yankees. I just think that in all likelihood, Greinke will be cheaper, and will probably be available. And if I’ve read the tea leaves right, then maybe he’ll actually be a better pitcher than Hamels. Or maybe the Yankees should just be happy with Michael Pineda?
Associated Press photos