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December 7, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Three's Company in Miami

by R.J. Anderson

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FLORIDA MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed P-L Mark Buehrle to a four-year deal worth $58 million. [12/7]

It isn’t Albert Pujols, but the Marlins have signed a third well-known free agent to team with Jose Reyes and Heath Bell.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old Buehrle—who feels older, for whatever reason—is renowned for his consistency. For instance, did you know that Buehrle has won double-digit games in each season dating back to 2001? If not, you will soon. Some of Buehrle’s other consistencies prove more reliable in illuminating his value, such as his streak of 200-plus innings that also dates back to 2001. The southpaw’s steadiness extends to Wins Above Replacement Player, too, as Buehrle has racked up WARP scores of 2.4, 2.6, 2, 2.4, and 2.4 since the 2007 season.

There is reason to believe those WARP scores may undersell Buehrle, who has made a living out of making attempts to quantify and project his performances look silly. Nate Silver wrote in 2006 about how Buehrle continued to elude PECOTA’s sweet embrace for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, how Buehrle pitched with runners on base and when behind in the count. As you can see below, Buehrle has consistently outpitched his Fair Run Average in relation to his run average:

Season

FRA

RA

FRA-RA

2001

4.76

3.62

1.14

2002

4.67

3.84

0.83

2003

4.59

4.85

-0.26

2004

4.93

4.37

0.56

2005

3.89

3.76

0.13

2006

5.70

5.47

0.23

2007

4.58

3.85

0.73

2008

4.53

4.36

0.17

2009

5.07

4.09

0.98

2010

4.36

4.49

-0.13

2011

4.21

4.08

0.13

Do it once or twice and people will scoff and bet against a continuation. Do it nine out of 11 years and people will take notice. Projecting Buehrle proves difficult. He could continue to produce two-plus WARP throughout the life of this (and his next) contract, or he could fall from grace despite a move to the National League. The most consistent pitcher in the league might be the one with the most questions moving forward.

The market seems to be geared towards giving league-average starting pitchers $4-to-$5 million guaranteed. You had to figure that Buehrle, with a 113 adjusted-earned run average and a 62 percent quality starts since 2009, would eclipse that annual average value by a fair amount. Sure enough, his contract calls for an AAV of $14.5 million—or a slight raise over the $14 million he has made in each of the past four seasons. Ideally, teams would pay players for what they will do, not what they did, but who knows what Buehrle will do.

On a similar note, wandering minds have to worry about Buehrle’s ability to stay healthy. His clean slate of health is remarkable and admirable, but pitchers are zany, unpredictable creatures. Even so, no other creature has more innings pitched since 2001. In fact, only C.C. Sabathia and Livan Hernandez are within 100 innings of Buehrle. Some pitches can get through a lengthy career without missing significant time due to injury. Buehrle very well could be one, but nobody should be too sure either way.

Just as no one should have the Marlins’ rotation all figured out already, either.  Josh Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez are tentative locks, but the identity of the Marlins’ final starter hinges on the rest of their offseason. The incumbent, Chris Volstad, is a non-tender or trade candidate, while Javier Vazquez’s status is in limbo. Besides, the Marlins continue to show interest in C.J. Wilson. Alternately, the Fish could sign Prince Fielder, thus precipitating a Gaby Sanchez deal, which may net them a readymade starting pitcher. 

Two things are certain: the Marlins have plenty of options… and so do their fans when choosing a new favorite player.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

4 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

JoeSky60

Wow! Just Wow! Ozzie must have been a determing factor, as this comes right out of left field. Conventional wisdom had him signing with the Cardinals, his hometown team. Although, he should be a stabilizing influence in the clubhouse, as he certainly was, in Chicago.

Dec 07, 2011 16:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Justice

Mark Buerhle always had good infield defense in Chicago. While the White Sox struggled offensively in 2011, Brent Morel, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham all played good defense. In previous years, the White Sox had the sure handed Joe Crede at third base.

Buerhle's manager in Miami -- Ozzie Guillen -- was also his manager in Chicago. It makes me wonder if Miami will keep Matt Dominguez (and his great glove) with the big league club in 2010 to play third base on days when Buerhle pitches. Of course, if the Marlins move Hanley Ramirez in a trade, Dominguez might well be the every day third baseman.

Dec 07, 2011 22:15 PM
rating: 0
 
meanwhoogean

This deal seems to be reasonable only if he remains the same pitcher he has been the last 4 years; luck and age make that unlikely.

Dec 08, 2011 05:52 AM
rating: 0
 
APer930

It's nice that they've signed some good players, but it doesn't make me want to vomit an less when I see that new logo. I don't know how I can make it through a whole season looking at that atrocity.

Dec 08, 2011 06:47 AM
rating: -1
 
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