Did the Astros Sign the Right Free Agent Starting Pitcher?

Was Myers really the best value on the free agent market?

The short answer is Yes.

Here's a slightly longer answer.

When the Astros signed Brett Myers this offseason, I was skeptical. Luckily, we had Stephen around to speak some sense about the move. At the time, Myers was coming off an injury-riddled 2009 season and didn't have much interest on the market. So, the Astros were able to swoop in and steal him away with a bargain basement deal. 

When pitchers like John Lackey were signing for over 80 million dollars, Myers is only costing the Astros a bit over 3 million this season, with another 2.1 tied to a buyout of his 2011 option. Still, was Myers truly the bargain we've all come to respect this season? Let's look at all the starters who signed this offseason and how they've done. (Let me know if I missed anyone).

Name Team Contract  Money Innings ERA  xFIP  SO  BB  BABiP WAR Value
John Lackey Red Sox  5 Years 82.5 M 81 1/3 4.54 5.19 44 35 .314 0.8 3.3 M
Randy Wolf Brewers  3 Years 29.75 M 78 5.31 5.12 49 39 .299 -0.5 -2.0 M
Andy Pettitte Yankees  1 Year 11.75 M 80 1/3 2.46 4.08 55 22 .256 1.5 6.1 M
Rich Harden Rangers  1 Year 7.5 M 65 5.68 5.71 59 43 .295 -0.4 -1.5 M
Joel Piniero Angels  2 Years 16 M 83 4.77 3.85 54 21 .316 1.3 5.3 M
Jon Garland Padres  1 Year 5.3 M 80 2.81 4.33 48 32 .277 0.6 2.3 M
Brad Penny Cardinals  1 Year 7.5 M 55 2/3 3.23 3.80 35 9 .326 1.1 4.4 M
Carl Pavano Twins  1 Year 7 M 80 1/3 3.92 3.92 48 13 .290 1.4 5.7 M
Erik Bedard Mariners  1 Year 1.5 M 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Marquis Nationals  2 Years 15 M 8 1/3 20.52 6.61 3 6 .438 -0.3 -1.2 M
Doug Davis Brewers  1 Year 5.25 M 33 1/3 7.56 4.47 32 18 .415 0.2 0.8 M
Ben Sheets Athletics  1 Year 10 M 80 1/3 4.93 4.55 59 33 .303 0.5 1.9 M
Brett Myers Astros  1 Year 5.1 M 87 2/3 3.18 3.87 70 30 .322 1.7 7.0 M
Vicente Padilla Dodgers  1 Year 5.05 M 21 2/3 6.65 3.93 23 6 .344 0.0 -0.1 M

 

Only Andy Pettitte and Jon Garland have lower ERAs than Myers. Only Brad Penny and Joel Piniero have lower xFIPs. More surprisingly for me, Myers has the most strikeouts of any starter on this list. Couple that with a fairly average BABiP and it's very reasonable to see Myers leading the way in WAR at 1.7. 

The other interesting thing about this list is how similar most of the deals are. Almost all of them are for one year and they're all either in the 5 million, 7.5 million or the 10+ million deals. Myers fits into that bottom category, yet consistently outperformed the bigger moneyed players.

The Brewers seemed to strike out the most on this list, getting little out of both Doug Davis and Randy Wolf to this point. Davis, at least, is suffering from a very high BABiP, so his numbers should drop as the season goes on. Wolf seems to be pitching just about as well as we could expect, with pretty even BABiP and average K rates. 

Two other standouts on the list are Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano. While Pettitte was never a big bet to leave New York, he still earned the second-biggest per year salary out of the players on this list. He's also put up pretty good numbers and is halfway to putting up enough WAR to justify his healthy salary. With Pavano, his control has been his biggest asset, as he's got the second-lowest walk rate of any free agent starter.

Yeah, signing Brett Myers was a risk. His injury concerns were valid and those sort of gambles don't alway work out (see Hampton, Mike). But, Ed Wade knew what he was doing here and got the best free agent starter through the season's first 10 weeks.

*******

Notice: TCB At the Ballpark is on. Go to this link and use the password (Crawfish) to get the discounted tickets.

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