A bit of player news this morning, the Giants have come to terms on a new deal with left-hander Jeremy Affedlt.
The Giants and Affeldt agreed to a restructured contract that includes a one-year, $4.5 million extension for 2011 and $5 million option for 2012. USA Today first reported the deal, which will be announced today. Affeldt also will receive a bump this season from $4 million to $4.5 million. The 2012 option includes a $500,000 buyout.
It’s not necessarily a bad deal, but I’m not sure I get the rush. The Giants controlled Affeldt for this season regardless of any contract situation. In essence, they gave him a raise for this season with a $4.5M extension for 2011 and a $5M option in 2012 — with a 500K buyout. In today’s market, paying $5M to a reliever isn’t desirable, but the Giants were obviously impressed with Affeldt’s first year with the team.
In his first year with the Giants, Affeldt posted a shiny 1.73 ERA while leading all relievers in baseball in inducing double-plays. He induced 18 double plays on the year. Even if Affeldt’s FIP (3.59) doesn’t match his ERA, he was a plus-reliever for the Giants. There are a few red flags with Affeldt’s performance in ’09, which won’t downgrade him to useless, but we shouldn’t expect him to post a sub-2.00 ERA in the upcoming year. Of course, you can say that with almost every reliever in baseball, but Affeldt had some interesting numbers beneath the surface of his ’09 performance.
Let’s take a quick look at a few:
~ 65% – That was Affedlt’s groundball percentage last year. We know that Affeldt made a decision to throw his heat down in the zone — making it harder to elevate the ball — but his career GB% (48.8%) suggests that the 65% he posted last year was out of character. There’s a much better chance that Affeldt settles back into the mid-50% range for inducing worm-killing groundballs.
~ 86.4% – This was Affeldt’s left-on-base percentage, also known as strand rate. League average LOB% tends to hover around the 70% mark. “Better” pitchers will often strand runners at a higher rate, but generally when you see pitchers post LOB%’s well into the 80% range, you should expect some sort of regression for the next year.
~ .244 – Affedlt’s BABIP. BABIP is a pretty well known concept at this point in baseball statistics, but if you’re unfamiliar with it, I would recommend reading the Sabermetrics Library page on the subject. Basically, we can expect most pitchers and hitters to work around a .300 BABIP. Usually when you see an extreme shift in one direction or another, you can assume that there is some good or bad luck coming into play. Affeldt owns a career BABIP of .307, but over the past three years (excluding ’09) he’s posted BABIPs of: .282, .268, and .329. It’s possible that he can work in the .280 range, but his ’09 BABIP of .244 was a career best and a return closer to career levels seems likely.
As a starter-turned-reliever, Affeldt has found success in his bullpen role. Unless he’s closing for the Giants, you can expect him to post WAR values of anywhere between .4 wins to .8 wins in most seasons. He should continue to be a valuable member of the bullpen for the next two years. Just don’t expect him to post another 1.73 ERA. Again, it’s not a bad deal, but the Giants are soon going to have $10M of payroll tied up between Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt. For a team that’s paying out a large chunk of payroll to Zito, Rowand, Renteria, DeRosa, and Freddy Sanchez, I’m not exactly thrilled with padding the bullpen with more money. It seems to be the one place on the team where the Giants have a few prospects that could come in and succeed without having to hand out $5M contracts.
Conclusion: I don’t hate the deal, but I’m not thrilled with the price.