With the official announcement today of Mike Hampton's 1 year, $2 million dollar base contract, we now have to look to April 2009 and beyond. Hampton's battle with injuries, of all sorts, is well chronicled and detailed, so there is no real need to rehash his past. 2008 saw him post 108 IP from rookie ball to the show, but what will 2009 hold?
Projecting a player who has had such limited appearances during the last 4-5 years is certainly a struggle. Bill James' system sees 132 IP at a 4.83 FIP level, while Tom Tango's Marcels system envisions 99 IP at the 4.77 FIP level. However, these systems rely heavily on the past few years worth of data points to look forward, and Hampton just doesn't give them much to work with.
In trying to think of what Hampton might provide us next year, I kept coming back to my own lack of certainty about his ability to even cover the 100 IP each system calls for. To get some idea of what to expect from Hampton, health-wise, I contacted noted injury expert and author of Saving the Pitcher (a great book if you're at all interest in the physiology of pitching injuries) and BPro contributor, Will Carroll. Carroll graciously gave Astros fans this outlook to ponder:
Hampton simply hasn't stayed healthy, but unlike your mutual fund, past performance is an indicator of future trends. Players who break down the way he did - almost a full system failure - tend to continue to do so. Hampton was both athletic and healthy at a point in his career, and just stopped. Players that come to mind like this are Todd Helton, Nomar Garciaparra, and, in an extreme example, Cal Ripken. There's no pitcher that has as complete a breakdown without a healthy period that I can find, which doesn't bode well. I haven't seen the details on the contract, but even a highly incentived deal isn't likely to pay off for the Astros. That said, Dave and Rex are among the best in the business, which gives some hope.
Not the most comforting of words. Using my own calculus on Carroll's words, it sounds like 100 IP would be his upper limit. That's about 10.78 non-leveraged runs saved above replacement, or 1.078 WARP. HLP just noted that a player who can post that is worth $4.4 million dollars, but I believe that calculus involves the same kind of non-linear add-in for play off odds that I discussed when arguing that Ben Sheets could pay for himself. Using Nate Silver's inflation adjusted linear win-value, Hampton offers about $840,000 of value.
With no news yet on the specifics of the deal, its hard to say how much we may end up over paying on the gamble. There is also little real certainty in how much or how well Hampton will pitch, but Carroll's warning is ominous. If Ed Wade feels any real satisfaction in this deal in terms of shoring up the rotation, some one please get him in contact with Will Carroll, ASAP.
Finally, for those of you keeping score at home, if Hampton does provide that 1 WARP, drops us .5 of win from my non-scientific projection for 2009. Leaving us around the 80 win level. I'm going to go ahead and say that I see about .5 WARP from Hampton though, making the change to my tally one full win and leaving us at 79.25 wins.
Again, my many thanks to Will Carroll for providing his expert opinion.