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Reactions to the Astros' transactions, by the numbers

There are a few sources that I trust and value for their penchant/availability for sabermetric insight/resources.  It's no secret that TCB has a sabr-slant with a streak of Astros-homerism mixed in as well.  I imagine that such is the plight for an sabr-fan.  Not surprisingly, the Astros have taken a beating this week in the majority of the places I referenced, but there have been a few that shrugged their shoulders with relative indifference, possibly bordering on distanced approval.

In spite of my professed sabr-leanings, as I'm sure you've gathered, I'm prone to a more subjective gut reaction that I'll then cloud with number's based evidence, and roll from there.  Eventually, the emotions will die down, and I'll filter through all the statistical evidence (Usually clack will do that for me off the bat. Clack is like my sabr-fan sensei.). Consider this post a post-moretum recap from the various statistical voices who have either denounced or did not denounce (I really don't think anyone truly approved of any deal, just couldn't find a strong reason to disapprove).

I'll break the reactions down by three categories: The Indifferent, the bad, and the ugly, but move in reverse order. After the jump

The Ugly:

Per usual, the pundits at Fan Graphs didn't hesitate to lambast one of their favorite whipping boys: Ed Wade.  Dave Cameron called Brandon Lyon's signing the worst of the winter, citing luck inflated stats, mediocre FIP, and value that won't match his contract.  Below, Zach Levine takes him to task, and clack has already fleshed out the weaknesses of Cameron's argument here in a few places.  Matthew Carruth also decreed the Pedro Feliz signing as terrible, reasoning:

Addressing the hole at third base is a good idea for Houston, but you don’t address a hole by filling it with air. You already have plenty of air; why bother paying money to import premium air from Philadelphia?

Whether their arguments resonante as truth, depends on how much faith you want to put in the numbers that they cite. While I initially was on board with Lyon as being a miserable signing, I've backed off that stance since, and I never saw the Feliz deal in such a negative light.  There's a certain level of sabr-dogmatism that seems to filter through these two assessments of the Ed Wade's moves from the week and that's never a healthy approach.

It should be noted that Fan Graphs did approve of the Matt Lindstrom signing at the time.

The Bad:

Beyond the Box Score didn't exactly crucify Ed Wade like Cameron and Carruth did at Fan Graphs, but they were far from giving Ed Wade credit.  They were able to read positives into all three transactions of the week, but also a lot to cringe at, too.  While caustic of the Lyon signing, they approved of the Lindstrom deal, and could, in the end, see some positive in the Feliz signing.

Zach Levine crunched the numbers that Cameron cited for Lyon and came to a far more neutral assessment of Lyon's penchant to produce for the Astros.  Levine pretty much sees the potential for upside in all three of the Astros transactions the week, but can't find a lot to smile at, either.  Reading through his summary of the transaction, I glean a disapproval, but nowhere is their the vitriol that Fan Graphs ladled  on the deals:

The Astros have to hope that was some AL jitters or something and not some mistrust of his stuff as the clock struck 30. Carry that mediocre walk rate, which he'd never had before, and return that BABIP to average, and you've got yourself a very mediocre pitcher for a killer price....With Feliz's 35th birthday coming in April, Astros fans have to hope that steady OPS doesn't begin to decline and that he's still got it defensively, though I can't imagine the Astros will lean on him for 158 games like the Phillies did last year....As for Matt Lindstrom, that seems like a fine move, and people I trust who have seen the minor leaguers have told me the haven't given up anything they couldn't afford to, and I think the price is right and his production will level off from last year's bad ERA.

Levine kind of straddles both the Bad and the Indifferent, but I feel like he sits more in the Bad camp than the Indifferent.

The Indifferent:

Professor of economics, JC Bradbury is currently at work on a book about the Hot Stove.  He's already published on book on economics and baseball, too.  So when he renders an opinion on the matters of player valuation, my ear's perk up.  Bradbury, of all the sabr-slanted writers I've read, came the closest of any to giving a implicit seal of approval to Ed Wade's deals.

For both Lyon and Feliz, Bradbury believes the Astros will actually garner surplus value from the contracts.  For Lyon, he even stated that the deal seems right.  Not that it's a good deal, but that price tag fits the purchase. Feliz, the same thing.

Finally, Fan Graphs did like the Lindstrom signing, so I'll tally it in the Good.


There are more links that could fit in the bad and the ugly categories, but they would just be repetitions of the same arguments—basically. We've already noted all the relevant projections for all the players that will soon be donning an Astros uniform here, and in all it looks like this week has resulted in a marginally improved baseball team (if you consider the fact that the Astros couldn't afford to hold onto Valverde and Tejada).  Does this mean Ed Wade did a good job this week? As fans, we seem to be leaning towards the indifferent to bad categories.  Considering that Ed Wade had a limited budget, little chance of gaining premium pieces, has upgraded the defense, and at least filled the bull pen with average to slightly above-average relievers for around $11.5 million in extra spending, I don't think the week was ugly.  

Whether it was bad or indifferent, though, is hard to say—at least by the numbers.  Arguments can be made for either cause, it just depends on how you want to spin it: As a sabr-slanted observer, or as a fan looking for hope in 2010.