I am without words. I am nearly without thoughts. I am a shaking puddle in the corner. I am unable to comprehend what is apparently going to be 10 trading deadlines of moves shoved into three hours. I am drained… and yet I am almost certain that this isn’t the end.
Here’s what we know: Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Miguel Rojas went to Miami for Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Hatcher, and Austin Barnes, in a deal that looks just incredible for the Dodgers. Jimmy Rollins is reportedly on his way to Los Angeles too, but it hasn’t been finalized and we don’t know who is going back, as this looks more and more like just a small part of something bigger. (We’ve heard a few rumors of this being a three-team deal, so fire up those worried Matt Kemp ideas.)
And now, this:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2014
We don’t yet know the dollar. Yes, four years sounds long for Brandon McCarthy, who has pitched more than 135 innings just twice in his career, at one point missing time for five straight years with shoulder woes. That also seems to be in line with this year’s market, however, where everyone is getting more than we would have anticipated. There was no chance of getting him for two. It was four, or don’t get the player. Simple as that. Brim wrote about McCarthy being a good fit for the Dodgers about a month ago, noting changes in pitch mixture and usage, and I strongly encourage you to read it all. Brim finished by saying:
McCarthy probably won’t ever live up to the upside which his xFIP showed last season. That upside would be better than any other pitcher on the market. However, there is ample evidence that his ERA in Arizona was a fluke. At worst, he’s a league average starter, as he has been for most of his career, and he could be even better. That’s exactly what the Dodgers need.
And let’s be honest here: I am strongly biased in this case, because McCarthy isn’t your typical meathead jock, he’s respect and intelligent athlete. Here he is destroying Ryan Theriot‘s incredibly stupid argument against the hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi…
…and an entire magazine article on how he’s used sabermetrics, which also notes that he grew up as a Dodgers fan:
During his injury-plagued seasons, McCarthy stumbled upon a humor blog run by some Harvard kids who used sabermetrics to lampoon traditional baseball thinking. The site was called FireJoeMorgan.com, a reference to the Hall of Fame second baseman and then-ESPN analyst who famously denounced advanced metrics. The website’s message immediately struck a chord. “To this day,” says McCarthy, “I still think it’s the greatest thing that’s ever been put on the Internet.”
McCarthy also bookmarked sites like Lone Star Ball, a Rangers fan site heavy on sabermetrics, and FanGraphs, an instant favorite. He learned about FIP, or fielding independent pitching, a statistical aggregate that combines what a pitcher can control (homers, walks, strikeouts), ignores what he can’t (luck, defense) and is a truer barometer than ERA. He also learned about BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, a stat that indicates whether a pitcher has been especially lucky (under .300) or unlucky (over .300). He learned about WAR, or wins above replacement, the all-inclusive, apples-to-apples metric that tells how valuable a player is to his team. He learned about ground ball rates, strikeout-to-walk ratios and more.
And of course, not only was he in Oakland with Zaidi, but…
Neat seeing Brandon McCarthy signing with the Dodgers; he and Farhan Zaidi talked metrics a lot with #Athletics.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 11, 2014
Not that any of that makes him more valuable on the field. All that matters is outs and production, and health, and McCarthy has clearly worked on that last part:
“The in-season workout is much heavier, much more strenuous now,” he said. “It’s more weight-based. It’s a lot different from anything I’ve done in the past with the entire goal of keeping as much strength on as I can because in the past I might taper off and atrophy a little bit. This year, it’s trying to stay as strong as I can.”
And as told to Eno Sarris:
But take a look at McCarthy’s velocity and you’ll see a change. His velocity is up to the highest we’ve seen since we started tracking velocity, and three starts in, thedata is fairly sturdy. Everything works better with gas — 2 mph of velocity could be worth anywhere from half-a-run to two-thirds of a run per game off the ledger.
How did the pitcher manage this? “I just tried lift a lot; a lot heavier,” he says. And the change won’t remain in the offseason as he eats his way through a bag of Cheetos between starts. He’s upped his in-season training regimen, too.
If he’s hurt, or bad, it won’t matter how good of a guy he seems to be. But I’ll be damned if I can’t admit some bias towards a guy like that, as opposed to, say, Torii Hunter claiming that defensive metrics don’t matter if you didn’t play the game.
This signing deserves more of an actual look at value, and we’ll do that when we know more about dollars and get through the next few hours, because I don’t think anyone thinks this is it. At the moment, the rotation is Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, McCarthy, and Andrew Heaney. I don’t think it stays that way, perhaps even through the night. I’m excited. I’m terrified. I’m happy? I’m happy.