According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Miami Marlins and free agent closer Heath Bell have agreed to terms on a three year contract worth $27 million, pending a physical. The deal also includes a vesting option for a fourth year presumably dependent on games finished.


While the new ballpark in Miami doesn’t have any park factors for us to consider, it’s unlikely to be the pitcher’s paradise the Petco Park in San Diego was. I wrote a story earlier today pointing out that Bell has benefited, perhaps more than any other pitcher from his home park factors.

I linked to a post from Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, who explains why this is vital when considering Heath Bell as a free agent option:

Bell is one of the signature beneficiares of how the park plays. In his career, he’s faced 791 batters in San Diego – 10 of them have managed to hit the ball over the wall, one for every 79.1 batters he faced. Away from the friendly confines, he has faced 1,182 batters and allowed 20 home runs, one for every 59.1 batters that have come up to bat against him. His home run prevention has been 34 percent better in San Diego than in all other ballparks, which of course makes perfect sense, given that he’s a right-handed pitcher and fly balls to right field in Petco have almost no chance of reaching the seats.

The park hasn’t just deflated his home run rate either – his career BABIP in San Diego is just .269, but his combined average against on balls in play in all other parks is .334. His BABIP away from San Diego is likely higher than his true talent level, and I wouldn’t suggest that teams should expect Bell to become eminently hittable upon signing with a new team, but the evidence shows that Bell has never been able to perform well on balls in play in any stadium besides Petco Park. At the minimum, that has to be concerning.

It’s quite simply not a good deal. And not a good investment for a franchise looking to make a fresh start.

The large sigh sound you hear right now isn’t from your creepy neighbour peering through your window, it’s fans of the Toronto Blue Jays who were heavily linked to Bell earlier today. The team’s supporters took to Twitter to introduce the popular local hashtag: #DontSignHeath.

Comments (10)

  1. Juan Ovideo for closer.

    • Oviedo’s got a helluva lot more on his plate than figuring out where his next job will be. He’s in trouble with the law in the DR over his stolen alias. Unlikely anybody goes after him until that’s cleared up.

  2. Not coming to Toronto? PERFECT.

  3. Yeah but the Jays blew like 25 saves last year which means we coulda won like 25 more games if we had a proven closer like Bell. We woulda won the World Series!


    • I’m suprised someone of lower intelligence hasn’t completely misjudged your sarcasm and called you out on this one.

      The trolls must be sleepy this morning…

  4. What are the dimensions of the new Marlins park, anyway? Maybe Miami knows the score and has just built Petco v. 2.0.

  5. I want to preface this by saying that as a casual baseball fan, I’m not entirely familiar with all of the sabermetrics in baseball. However, as an accountant I definitely respect using numbers to objectively analyse players.

    Using Dustin’s example from his article on November 10th that closers might have made the difference in six games last season, having a lights out Tom Henke-ish closer COULD have resulted in a max of six extra wins in the win column. I know that WAR doesn’t favour relief pitchers as they pitch a max of 70 innings a year so many of you will say that no closer is a six win player. How could they be? A proven closer might pitch 4% of all of the available innings at the cost of 10% of the team’s budget (or more). I can see the huge opportunity cost of tying up money in a “proven” closer when you could use the money on a premium position AND find a pitcher who can close out games with similar results at a fraction of the cost.

    That said, isn’t the point of baseball to win? By adding a quality reliever, I see an opportunity to add wins to the win column. In basketball, most games come down to the final two minutes and the difference between winning and losing comes down to the execution of a few possessions. Isn’t that the point of having a closer? AA has been quoted saying that blown saves are detrimental to team morale. If the right reliever was available, is it wrong to think that maybe they could make the difference between another season of building versus a season of playoff contention?

    Thanks guys.

    • The “right reliever” is the catch here. The “right reliever” could be just about anyone. The marginal value of any non-elite reliever over most readily available pitchers isn’t great enough to warrant the huge gulf in costs.

      • So the crux of the argument is that the incremental difference between an elite (highly paid) and non-elite (dirt cheap) closer isn’t worth the $10M or so difference in performance?

        I’m not well versed enough in sabermetrics to argue for spending money on a closer… it’s just that I see alot of posts re: WAR and how closers are a waste of money and I think that logically having the right closer could have made a 5 game swing in the wins column which to me adds real value. Therefore, I wonder if sabermetrics haven’t yet captured the value of a closer. Maybe it’s the small sample size that relievers have but if the difference between winning and losing often comes down to the last inning in a game, then maybe their small sample isn’t appropriately weighted?

        Thanks for the reply and have a great weekend!

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