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Just The Sports: 2007-11-25

Just The Sports

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Untimely Barry Zito-Mark Buehrle Post

Scott Boras is without a doubt this earth's version of Grima Wormtongue. Known as a baseball superagent, Boras is allowed entrance to the doors of general managers across Major League Baseball, and he uses his time with them to whisper falsehoods about the worth of the players he represents. Most of the time he whispers these misleading statements enough times into the general managers' ears that they begin to believe his astronomical contract demands and at least one agrees to pay at least close to what Boras tells them. One example among many is the way in which Boras hoodwinked the San Francisco Giants into giving Barry Zito a seven-year, $126 million contract, ostensibly for him to become the staff's ace. Even being a Barry Zito fan since he was one of the big three pitchers for the Oakland Athletics (along with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder), I knew the contract was exorbitant, and during the season when the Chicago White Sox provided Mark Buehrle with a contract extension on July 8, 2007 worth $56 million over four years, the money handed out to Zito became even more farcical.

What makes Zito's contract make the Giants look as if they do not understand how to correctly identify a player's worth is that Barry Zito and Mark Buehrle are basically the same pitcher with basically the same skill set and player profile. Both pitchers are left-handed and possess similar statistics plus less than a year separates them in age.

Before Barry Zito signed his albatross of a contract, he had started a total of 222 games. In those games, Zito allowed hitters to bat .232 BA/.309 OBP/.365 SLG/.230 GPA. In staying just with those numbers that Zito has the most control over, he amassed a 4.32 fielding-independent ERA, 6.90 K/9 IP, 3.52 BB/9 IP, .93 HR/9 IP, and 1.96 K/BB.

On the other hand, before Mark Buehrle signed his John Hancock to his newest contract extension, he had started 221 games, only one less than Zito. He allowed opposing batters to hit .267 BA/.308 OBP/.416 SLG/.242 GPA; during those games, he also compiled a 4.31 fielding-independent ERA, 5.21 K/9 IP, 2.02 BB/9 IP, 1.05 HR/9 IP, and 2.58 K/BB.

As one can see, Zito and Buehrle have only a .01 difference between their fielding-independent ERAs and they have reached their numbers in slightly different ways. Zito gave up less home runs than Buehrle and Buehrle countered that disadvantage by having a better strikeout-to-walk ratio so they are equally good at controlling the parts of pitching for which a pitcher is most responsible. A large part of the reason why hitters put up a higher slugging percentage against Buehrle than they did against Zito comes down to the ballpark effects of the stadiums where they pitched. Buehrle's home stadium, U.S. Cellular Field, is a moderate hitter's park and Zito's former home stadium, McAfee Coliseum, is a slight pitcher's park, which means it is easier for batters to get extra base hits against Buehrle just like they have done.

Another reason why the White Sox's deal with Mark Buehrle makes more sense and is a more intelligent deal than the one the Giants gave Barry Zito, besides the fact the White Sox will be paying Buehrle an average of $4 million less per year, is the length of the contract. Neither pitcher looks like they will have a long, productive career and at least the White Sox will avoid paying huge sums of money to a pitcher no longer worth his contract.