Relief pitchers are a volatile bunch. We’ve heard this justification countless times after a reliever follows a good season with a bad one, or vice versa. I’d wager a pretty penny that the so called volatility of relief pitchers compared to their starting brethren has less to do with a unique characteristic defining bullpen dwellers, and far more to do with the relatively small sample sizes they offer on a year to year basis to those attempting to predict future performance.

Earlier this week, the Toronto Blue Jays extended middle reliever Casey Janssen, signing him up to a two year deal that avoids arbitration in his last year of eligibility, and then takes care of his first year of free agency. His $5.9 million contract is largely the result of a very successful 2011 season in which he struck out a career high 23.8% of the batters that he faced, while maintaining a very decent 6.3% walk rate. His ERA, WHIP and FIP for the season were all the best of his career.

The previous season, Janssen did not find such success, striking out less, walking more and giving up more home runs than in 2011. The difference in results one year from the next should make us stop to consider whether or not Janssen’s 2011 season is a better representation of his true talent level than his 2010 season, and to that end, if he’s deserving of the two year $5.9 million contract that the team gave to him.

Such investigation becomes even more necessary when we discover that all of his career bests this past season were matched by a career low BABIP, a career high strand rate and the fourth lowest HR/FB ratio among relievers in the American League, also a career low. Typically, variance in such numbers is attributed to luck, randomness or at least, things outside the control of the pitcher. Which brings us to the following question: Was everything going Janssen’s way in 2011, or was he doing something different to the batters he faced to find an increased measure of success?

Digging deeper into Janssen’s numbers last year I noticed something exceedingly rare. The right handed reliever actually faced more left handed than right handed batters (119 vs. 104). This, despite having splits over the course of his career that definitely put him at a distinct disadvantage against lefties. For most of John Farrell’s first year as a manager, the Blue Jays didn’t have a left handed specialist in the bullpen. This was most painfully obvious when Octavio Dotel was left in to face a lefty.

However, for the small sample size loving Farrell, allowing Janssen to face batters on the other side of the plate was a valid option if we assume he was only interested in results. Left handed batters had a .539 OPS against Janssen, while righties managed a .659 OPS. This is a stark contrast to the season before when lefties ransacked Janssen’s arsenal of pitches for an OPS approaching .800. The average LHB got on base more than 38% of the time against Janssen in 2010, compared to less than 27% of the time in 2011.

Earlier, I mentioned Janssen’s BABIP being a career low, but the reliever actually had a higher BABIP against RHB than the previous season(.346 vs. .342). His overall low BABIP was almost entirely the result of his performance against LHB, where he went from having a .342 BABIP in 2010 to a .273 BABIP in 2011.

Despite the massive difference, Janssen’s approach to LHB doesn’t appear to have changed all that much from one year to the other. Thanks to BrooksBaseball.net, we can see his pitch counts and results from year to year.

These are the pitches and results he had against LHB in 2010:

Pitch Counts Foul/Swing Whiff/Swing GB/BIP LD/BIP FB/BIP PU/BIP GB/FB
Fourseam (FA) 118 35.48% 19.35% 64.29% 28.57% 7.14% 900.00%
Sinker (SI) 89 45.00% 5.00% 54.55% 45.45%
Cutter (FC) 159 37.04% 24.69% 61.29% 16.13% 22.58% 271.43%
Slider (SL) 49 44.83% 20.69% 80.00% 20.00%
Curveball (CU) 60 57.14% 9.52% 28.57% 28.57% 42.86% 66.67%
Changeup (CH) 42 26.32% 21.05% 40.00% 30.00% 30.00% 133.33%

And these are the pitches and results he had against LHB in 2011:

Pitch Counts Foul/Swing Whiff/Swing GB/BIP LD/BIP FB/BIP PU/BIP GB/FB
Fourseam (FA) 148 32.69% 17.31% 34.62% 26.92% 23.08% 15.38% 150.00%
Sinker (SI) 57 30.77% 23.08% 42.86% 14.29% 28.57% 14.29% 150.00%
Cutter (FC) 197 54.72% 10.38% 51.28% 20.51% 23.08% 5.13% 222.22%
Slider (SL) 3 50.00% 100.00%
Curveball (CU) 66 42.31% 23.08% 77.78% 11.11% 11.11%
Changeup (CH) 6 33.33% 100.0%

While throwing fewer sliders and change ups, Janssen is still using his four seam fastball, sinker and cutter the most. Even when we look at how he pitches with two strikes, the only year to year difference was a reduction in the number of sliders, which curiously was one of his more effective pitches against LHB in 2010.

Yet, even though Janssen was doing practically the same thing (his four seam fastball and cutter had slightly more horizontal movement last season compared to the year before), his similar approach resulted in fewer ground balls off left handed bats from season to season. In 2010, his GB:FB ratio was 2.67. In 2011, it dropped to 1.86. Again, giving up fewer ground balls and alternatively more fly balls and line drives, likely isn’t the best strategy for a pitcher in the AL East making half of his appearances at Rogers Centre. But somehow, it worked for Janssen. Unfortunately, it worked for him in a fashion that would lead one to believe that his not giving up a single home run to left handed batters last season had far more to do with randomness than skill, and is therefore likely unsustainable.

This is what makes the extension handed out by the Blue Jays to Janssen so questionable. Heading into arbitration, the two sides were only $400,000 apart. At the very most, Toronto would’ve owed Janssen $2.2 million in 2012. Offering to pay an additional $3.7 million for Janssen’s first year of free agency means that GM Alex Anthopoulos and the rest of the front office either undervalues him for this year or overvalues him for the year after.

As this off season draws to a close, here are the right handed relievers who signed a free agent contract for $3.7 million or more:

  • Jonathan Broxton: 1 year; $4 million
  • Francisco Cordero: 1 year; $4.5 million
  • Matt Capps: 1 year; $4.75 million
  • Ryan Madson: 1 year; $8.25 million
  • Frank Francisco: 2 years; $12 million
  • Joe Nathan: 2 years; $14.75 million
  • Heath Bell: 3 years; $27 million
  • Jonathan Papelbon: 4 years; $50 million

Every single one of those pitchers has closing experience. Every single one of those pitchers has a history that includes multiple seasons of success. Every single one of those pitchers has done things that Casey Janssen has not. A quick look at the numerous righty relievers who signed for less this winter than Janssen will make in 2013 reveals several talented pitchers who can offer exactly what Janssen does if not more.

I realize that this is nitpicking to a degree, that an extra $3.7 million to a pitcher with all of his service time in one city isn’t going to break any bank. It’s just that Blue Jays fans have heard all season about the organization’s payroll parameters. If the team is being promoted to its fan base as being one that can’t afford to eschew fiscal responsibility, then it should probably practice what it preaches throughout its entire roster, and not merely use it as an excuse to not go after the more expensive free agents.

The fact that there are so many indicators that 2011′s results didn’t match Janssen’s process, makes me wonder if this deal is something of an oversight, forced more out of the club’s policy of not negotiating single year contracts after arbitration figures have been exchanged than a firm belief that one year’s performance from a middle reliever will carry through to the next season.

Comments (78)

  1. Factor in this. Janssen in 2010 was coming off missing most of a season. His 2008 numbers were great as well

    • Then shouldn’t we see a difference in his pitches? He’s throwing incredibly similarly in similar situations in 2011 as in 2010. The outcomes were merely different.

      • I disagree with your conclusion regarding BABIP. The year he has good numbers as a reliever, his BABIP is .296 (2011) and .273 (2007). The years he has bad numbers his BABIP was .327 (2010) and .367 (2009). His career BABIP is .302. That implies to me that BABIP-wise, you should expect him to perform as he did last year.

        I think the real number to look at is comparing is xFIP to his ERA. You’re right that the lack of HRs suppressed his ERA in 2011. That is why he is being paid as a true talent very good 3-3.25 ERA pitcher rather than an elite 2.25-2.5 ERA pitcher.

        • “The year he has good numbers as a reliever, his BABIP is .296 (2011) and .273 (2007). The years he has bad numbers his BABIP was .327 (2010) and .367 (2009). His career BABIP is .302. That implies to me that BABIP-wise, you should expect him to perform as he did last year.”

          Huh. Why?

          Pitchers often appear to perform well when their BABIP is lower, but if there’s no difference in actual approach, it seems to me it’s more about luck than anything else.

          • I agree with that conclusion, that it does appear to be more about luck in terms of BABIP. The issue I have is the direction of luck -> I think it is more likely he was unlucky in the 2 years he had high BABIP vs. last year, though in 2007 he was probably lucky BABIP-wise. Last year, his BABIP was -.006 off his career average. 2010 it was +.021 off, and 2009 it was +.061 off, even though, as you say, the approach was the same.

            One other note is the comment about closing experience. I am sure I have read on this blog comments about disregarding the save statistic, and the “proven closer” notion. I am not sure why you are bringing that up in this piece, as it does weaken your position (basically, you are using an argument you have previously rejected to support your analysis).

            Note that I do agree with a part of your analysis, that it is extremely unlikely for Janssen to repeat the numbers from last year based on his ridiculously suppressed HR numbers. What I disagree with is your analysis of the projected fair market value for Janssen if he were to hit free agency next year, assuming he performs up to his true talent next year.

      • It’s also possible that his 2009 was a write-off due to coming off an injury.

        He’s also reinvented himself since 2009, throwing far more fastballs and cutting his slider down from being his most-used pitch in 2009 to throwing it just 3.9% of the time in 2011. He’s gained some velocity as well. To me, his 2010 was the fluke given the higher BABIP. He’s such a totally different pitcher than he used to be

      • This seems like an odd comment to me. If Janssen is comfortable throwing a given pitch in a certain circumstance, he’s going to throw that pitch, regardless of how effective or ineffective he perceives it to be. I believe that Mr. McEwan was suggesting that his absence through 2009 may have meant that his pitches were…rusty, and therefore less likely to be as effective.

        I wouldn’t expect him to dramatically alter his approaches to hitters in given circumstances (assuming he’s being used in similar situations over a season-long sample set) simply because his slider didn’t have as much bite. Perhaps this is worth looking into: do the PItchFX results suggest that his fastball was as hard, or that his cutter had as much movement?

        • That’s what I mean by incredibly similarly. Velocity and break are all similar, along with release point. If it was a matter of rust, I’d expect to see a difference in the pitches.

          • Check out the difference in pitch selection and velocity between 2009, 2010, and 2011. This is what I mean by the data being sporadic.

            I think 2011 is the result of him being a different pitcher entirely. That doesn’t mean he won’t regress, but I would tend to lean toward saying 2011 was closer to his true talent.

            • That link isn’t working from me. But I think we have to use Brooks Baseball data for this kind of stuff after all the work they’ve put in to identifying pitches. Between the last two years according to them, the pitch percentages, movement and velocity are very close to identical.

          • yeah, this is true, I was using Texas Leaguers.

    • He missed all of 2008 and most of 2009. He was good in 2007 but didn’t strike anyone out.

      I will say though that his BABIP was lower than it had been in 2009 and 2010, but it was pretty close to league average. His strand rate was pretty high though.

      To me, it’s conceivable last year was close to his true talent, but the data is so sporadic given his injury history, it’s hard to make any definitive conclusions.

  2. Does pitchFX show difference in movement and/or velocity between ’10 and ’11? He might be throwing the same types of pitches, but they could be moving faster and/or moving more. That could explain the different results.

  3. As I mentioned above there’s a slight difference in horizontal movement on both four seam and cutter, but not even half an inch. Everything else is ridiculously close.

  4. Who are the numerous righty relievers who signed for less this winter than Janssen will make in 2013 and talented and can offer exactly what Janssen does if not more.

      • Dotel, Farnsworth, Hawkins, Rauch, Rodney,… PASS

        • Coffey, Saito, Mota, Lidge, Corpas, even Ayala.

          • Meh… maybe Corpas. I like that Janssen can go multiple innings.

          • Other than Saito, none of those pitchers at this point are in Janssen’s class – they’re either old and declining, just coming off injury, or just not that good (Ayala? He has not had below a 4.0 FIP or xFIP since he played for the Expos!).

            • The point is that there’s a reason why relievers get paid as much as Janssen is scheduled to receive in 2013. I don’t think that he’s met those requirements. And I think the Jays will find better options available at cheaper prices.

          • Not one of those relievers is anywhere near the caliber of Janssen and certainly couldn’t be expected to put up the #’s he has over the last two seasons against much more difficult competition in the AL East.

            Try harder.

            • Again, you’re thinking far too highly of Janssen. You’re even more pathetic if you’re trying to pin his worth on the 20 batters he faced from the Yankees or Red Sox.

      • I can only think of Farnsworth and maybe Saito are interesting names in that group

        • Then you think far too highly of Casey Janssen.

        • No, you’re just thinking too little of him based on what he was before 2010 (or you’re just doing this to troll, I’m not completely sure which).

          Janssen has been a tremendous reliever over the last two seasons against difficult competition. He put up a 3.85 FIP/3.49 xFIP/3.18 SIERA despite facing opposing hitters with an average .758 OPS. That’s a good season by any definition. He followed that up with a 2.45 FIP/3.04 xFIP/ 2.74 SIERA in 2011 despite facing opposing hitters with an average .765 OPS. A fantastic season for a reliever.

          There is no reliever available for cheaper than what Janssen is going to cost that could be expected to put up a season anything like those two.

  5. So much bad was spoken about the Jays bullpen last season.. Can’t you leave my last remaining bullpen hero alone Dustin!?

    Seriously though, Janssen’s year may have been a fluke – but I have to say when he was brought into games, I never had that feeling I got when anyone else came in. His CLEART (clutch+heart) numbers have to be through the roof. I don’t really rely on advanced stats though.

    I will say this: it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see his numbers hold up this year. He didn’t have the stuff to be a starter, but I love him in the high-leverage role that he got placed into last season.

  6. ” allowing Janssen to face batters on the other side of the plate was a valid option if we assume he was only interested in results”

    Maybe I’m missing something. What else would Farrell be interested in, other than results?

    • What he means is that Farrell tends to concern himself with small sample sizes based on very recent results rather than taking a larger body of data to make his decisions.

    • He should be looking at the process from small sample sizes more than results. If his entire career has resulted in bad numbers against LHB, and he’s pitching the same way, but getting good numbers, I’d be more inclined to believe the larger sample of bad than the smaller sample of good.

  7. ugh – parkes….he was coming off an injury — speaking of small sample sizes, way to take only two years of data [one immediately after injury] to try to manufacture a post.

    • Hey smart guy, that would be a swell point if I was referring to numbers alone. I’m not though. He’s pitching in the exact same fashion with incredibly similar pitches the last two years.

  8. wait, I know what this data means, everyone in the MLB just got worse — I mean they must have if Jansen is giving us remarkably similar numbers, tone, inflections, seams etc….yep, from one year to the next clearly the data is showing that hitters are getting worse.

  9. Coffey, Saito, Mota, Lidge, Corpas, even Ayala. –> really? Has coffey really performed consistently….remember how Jansen was in relief pre-injury. Saito, Mota, Corpas and Ayala you cannot be serious about wanting……

    AA tried your method of bullpen creation last year – ‘you’ll win some and lose some because it is such a small sample so roll the dice with cheap options’ — pay the extra $1 mil to get something you think is more concrete….do your diligence and evaluate not based on numbers [because they are a small sample] and more subjective scouting….seems like your analysis proves the point that statistical analysis of relief pitchers is pretty useless exercise over small samples so other data sources need to be mined…

    • This is pretty much exactly what I mean when I discuss reliever volatility. This would also be why this post isn’t just relying on statistical evidence.

    • This year’s bullpen construction was done quite a bit like last year’s … signing/acquiring 1 year contracts of mid-range salaries to relatively old relief pitchers, like Rauch, Francisco, and Dotel last year, or Frasor, Oliver and Cordero this year. Last year it didn’t work out so well, but that is how it sometimes goes with bullpens.

      Evaluation in the absence of numbers is only doing half (or maybe less) the work needed. While I disagree with some of the analysis Parkes is making here, there is validity in the LHB and HR/FB analysis, and it does point to a decline in production from Janssen next year. Any reasonable person would not expect Janssen to repeat last year, and the numbers / statistics show that.

  10. Didn’t you guys see Parkes tweet about Getting Blanked analytics? Most hits are Lawrie or Parkes obnoxiously telling us what to think.

    Another one out of the Parkes!

  11. Gotta be honest I’m not sure what your example at the end proves:

    Jonathan Broxton – While he has closing experience he’s been declining for 2 years. He’s an upside play and there’s significant risk here.
    Francisco Cordero: 37 years old and has a declining K rate
    Matt Capps: Was misused as a closer. Janssen as a reliever has better ratios over his career (7.16 K/9 vs 6.6), 3.45 FIP vs 3.88 for Capps, 3.7 XFIP vs 4.01 for Capps.
    Ryan Madson – One of the bargains of the offseason and more an example of why the Phillies were stupid for bidding so early. He’s not a good example because he’s the exception to the rule, and should have been paid better compared to other closers.
    Frank Francisco – Upside is there, sure. But the Jays got Janssen much cheaper during the FA years (3-4M vs 6)
    Joe Nathan: He’s 37 and not the same guy he used to be.
    Heath Bell: Declining K rate.
    Jonathan Papelbon: Opposite of Madson, just misreading the market.

    Most of those guys are either old, not good examples because of the extreme nature of their contracts, or flawed pitchers compared to Janssen. Not to mention more expensive. The K:BB is better for 2011, sure, but the biggest difference between 2010/2011 is the HR rate. Although it is interesting to note that Janssen threw harder than ever this season, at 92.1 MPH on his fastball vs 91.5. I don’t think that’s totally insignificant either. If he maintains the velocity, even though it’s a small increase, it could explain some of the better luck on HR/K for instance.

    Either way I don’t think 3-4M for a guy who’s a safe bet for an 8K/9 and a 2.5BB/9 is a bad investment.

    • It is extremely unlikely he maintains such a low HR/FB ratio, especially pitching in the Rogers Center in the AL East. That number is most likely to regress back to around 10-12%, and his numbers should reflect that. However, all that should do is push his numbers back to just “very good”, which I think this contract is based on.

  12. This is absurd. Casey Janssen has fantastic peripherals and is coming off two great seasons against AL East competition (which very few relievers can say). The contract is more than fine for a reliever of his quality.

    • Blah. Blah. Blah. We get it. You’re a ridiculous homer.

      • Haha, that may be the first time I’ve ever been accused of being a Jays homer. Normally I’ve been knocked because I’m supposedly too critical of the owners/management/players.

        No, I’m the guy that’s watched you progress from juvenile douchebaggery on DJF to your attempts at sabermetric baseball analysis on GB. It’s been a significant progression, we both know you’ve certainly self-taught yourself a lot of this stuff. At times though,, you still pretend to know a lot more than you actually do and make several mistakes because of it.

        One thing I’ve noticed about your time here is that you regularly come up with posts entirely to get reactions out of people (trading Jose Bautista for young players/prospects, defending Rogers’ lack of spending as a matter of good fiscal business despite the fact you know little-to-nothing about how much they make off the Jays, keeping Brett Lawrie down for the entire 2011 season to save money among others at the top of my mind).

        Finding weak reasons to dislike an incredibly reasonable Janssen contract certainly fits in with that trend.

        • That was surprisingly well-put, F.F. Well done.

          • I stopped listening to Parkes once he started dissing Cito Gaston. His sabermetrics is weak and his editing is lazy. Also, his breath smells like balls.

        • I think I understand what’s happening here. You’re a weak minded individual, who is just smart enough to form opinions, but completely incapable of challenging that opinion once it’s formed. I get it. I’ve met quite a few people like you. Instead of discussing something that’s contrary to your viewpoint with an open mind, you first attempt to discredit the individual making an argument that you disagree with by making a pathetically condescending evaluation of their development based solely on your own exceedingly limited perspective, which laughably only serves to reveal your own insecurities. Perhaps realizing your failings, you again attempt to discredit the source of the opinion by suggesting a trend of contrary opinions.

          Personally, I’m interested in viewpoints that challenge my own. I like it when commonly held beliefs are quashed, and so, I seek out information and data that paints a picture that might be contrary to what quick observations suggest. I call this brand of analysis interesting. If you think that there is a right or wrong belief in this case, you’re being juvenile. I’m bringing up evidence that suggests Casey Janssen’s numbers and approach may not be that indicative of future success. I find that evidence interesting because of the majority of people, like yourself, seem to have a different view point based on other evidence.

          I feel as though if you were a quarter as intelligent as you’d seemingly like to believe you are, this explanation would be entirely unnecessary.

          • Parkes, if you actually believed even half of the bullshit you spew here with regularity, it would explain quite a lot about you. Fortunately for you, I think you’re a little more intelligent than that.

            When I talked about your development as a person over the last six years, you probably took it as some sort of compliment. Not so. You’re still very much the same douchebag inside you were then, seeking to hide your own insecurities through these blog posts. The only difference is that instead of posting juvenile crap with regularity, you now actually post a few things about baseball. Yes, you’ve surprisingly created a knowledge base out of what was once essentially nothing. The problem, however, is that this development has given you an inflated sense of opinion of yourself and your own abilities. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t know a fraction of the things that many others in this game do. Heck, you only know a small part of what even you think you do.

            Still, I give you credit, though. You certainly know how to draw reactions out of people through your writing (whether you actually believe your own shit or not). You had that talent in the beginning and you still have it now. You knew damn well what you were doing when you made the half-assed argument in favor of keeping Brett Lawrie down to save money during the summer (or trading Jose Bautista, an idea of mine that you scoffed at only a few months before). That’s just the game you play here, don’t hate me for pointing it out.

            I will also call bullshit on your claim that you’re interested in viewpoints that challenge your own. You’ve been ignoring legitimate counterpoints to your posts for a long while from just about anybody who makes an effort. Whether it be me, NorthYorkJays, or somebody else that has seen through your weak shit, you either ignore others or you simply respond with condescension and derision as you did in the first comment above. It’s gotten to a point that I stopped bothering a long time ago. Much like many I know, you’re completely incapable of intelligent discourse (and especially admitting that you might be wrong about something).

            To get back on point, you posted nothing here that suggests the Casey Janssen contract won’t be worth it for the Jays. The only thing you’ve done is show that he may not repeat his 2011 season in 2012 (which should have been fairly obvious to anybody with half a brain and a rudimentary knowledge of baseball statistics). We both know that he doesn’t have to repeat that season for this contract to be worth it, though. He basically just has to be himself. Heck, if he remains healthy, he’s more likely to put up the necessary value in one season than he is to not reach it at all. They may have paid him slightly more than they had to in the 2nd year (and we’re talking peanuts for this organization) to get that team option in 2014, but I can’t see anything wrong with that. There is absolutely nothing to get upset about over this contract. It’s certainly not the Jose Bautista one (a deal which you practically through a tantrum over before it became one of the best contracts in baseball).

            But hey, I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you all of that. You know full well who you are and what you do here. Don’t let me stop you.

  13. I thought HR rate was something the pitcher controlled, thus part of FIP. You can’t use FIP and then say a guy got lucky on home runs. Most home runs are on mistake pitches. Less mistakes= less home runs.

    Improved strike out rate, improved K rate, sustained (low) walk rate all while in the AL east in his 2nd year of relief while facing a greater percentage of lefties? At some point you’re looking for reasons for the sky to fall.

    He’s gonna continue to be excellent… like a right handed Scott Downs he found his niche.

  14. Janssen posed a 47.4 GB Rate in 2011 and has been over 46% every season. He posts solid Pop up rates too, Was his HR/FB out of whack? Yes.

    Can you really say his Pitch usage was the same?

    Fourseam: 2010 (28.7) 2011 (37.2)%
    Two Seam 2010 (21.5) 2011 (13.0)%
    Cutter 2010 (19.9) 2011 (30.4)%
    Slider 2010 (14.9) 2011 (4.0)%
    Curve 2010 (11.2) 2011 (13.9)%
    Change 2010 (3.7) 2011 (.5)%

    • Again, I think you might be using Texas Leaguers or something else. Brooks Baseball has done an incredible job in their pitch identification, using algorithms and sight to put it together.

      • Going off of Fangraphs, so Texas Leaguers, Brooks baseball has done great work, but either way, you can’t just ignore his 2007 season.

        Look at the heat maps for Janssen, HUGE difference in his ability to pitch down in the zone.

  15. In 4 seasons of relieving, Janssen has posted 3 – 79% + LOB% rates.

    Will there likely be regression because of his HR/FB% obviously, but he only gives up 31% FB, and nearly 50% GB, .300 BABIP is normal for a pitcher, and actually a little on the high side for a pitcher who generates a high% of groundballs like Janssen does.

    • Going off of Fangraphs, so Texas Leaguers, Brooks baseball has done great work, but either way, you can’t just ignore his 2007 season.

      Look at the heat maps for Janssen, HUGE difference in his ability to pitch down in the zone.

    • Look at his splits though. He’s all over the map. There’s no consistency to his batted ball numbers.

      • And splits aren’t relevant until 1200 AB’s, you know it as well as I do.

        As for his ability vs. Left-handers, since becoming a relief pitcher, he’s had a steady decline in xFIP in healthy seasons. 4.36 to 3.86 to 3.22

        Sure his splits are slightly wonky, but the heat maps are just drastically different.

        And considering how Janssen has posted a 2 WAR over the last 3 years, and the findings of Matt Swartz that he posted today, that’s 32+ Million in value from a reliever. even a .5 WAR season last year would have been a 9.5 M value.

        I honestly cannot find any reason to be upset about this contract, sure he’s not a 2.25 ERA/2.45 FIP Reliever, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s always been very good at stranding base-runners, and with 3 of 4 season being 79+%, I think we can say that for Janssen that its a skill, not just random variance.

  16. Oh come on, even if Janssen does regress, he put up quality numbers the past two seasons, and a two year, $6 million commitment isn’t exactly breaking the bank.

    You said it yourself at the end of the post, and it’s true: it’s just a few million. Nothing to worry about.

  17. Just in reference to the babip remarks, based on the fact that relievers log so few innings is it really logical to use them for their preductive ability as it is for starters?

  18. Your analysis on Rasmus’ swing and foot slide was excellent, backed by both objective data and video analysis. Really good overview in my view. However, the analysis regarding Janssen’s performance relies too much on pitch selections and the results. I think you would need to add comparative pitchFX data and heat maps to show location and velocity of pitches in the zone.

    I also question the pitch matrix suggesting that Janssen throws a sinker. I always thought that Janssen threw a 2-seam fastball to go along with his 4-seam and his excellent cutter.

    Likelihood of a regression? Absolutely, but Casey Janssen is one of the few pitchers on this staff that I don’t lose too much sleep on. He’s finally found his niche and performed well in that role.

  19. Can’t remember much criticism when Scott Downs received his 3 year/10M deal following the 2007 season. He had even less of a track record as a successful reliever than Janssen does.

  20. Sometimes I think you can look too deeply into fancy statistics and Pitch F/X data, and ignore what your eyes tell you. Casey Janssen had great numbers last year because he had great control. He struck out more guys than usually because he was great at pounding the edge of the strikezone, and striking guys out looking. I know this because I saw it.

    Brooks baseball can tell you what he threw, but its not telling you how well he threw it. Casey was finally healthy for a while, and found his control and got the results he deserved.

  21. Parkes, you got schooled on this post. Back to the lab for you kid.

    • You are truly a world class troll. I’m not even being sarcastic when I write that I appreciate your interaction. Based on where I stand in comparison to you on a given topic is a fairly good indicator as to the legitimacy of my opinion.

      • I can tell by your reaction that you agree with me. Sorry that I am so tactless as to disagree with your point here but I trust my eyes more than your analytical acumen. Maybe I need a refresher course with a couple of civics professors to refresh my understanding of tact, I think it’s across the hall from the lab on hypocrisy and hubris.

    • Well that’s just dumb, discussion like this is how we learn and come to conclussions. Dustin isn’t exactly saying its the be all, He’s pointing things out and people are pointing other things out.

  22. Man, commenters on this site can be such perempticious douchbags sometimes. There’s such a thing as respectful disagreeance. Learn some tact, Christ.

  23. Dustin, I think you overlooked two important factors when comparing Janssen’s 2011 performance, which I don’t think was quite as much a fluke as you suggest.

    The #1 point of contention for me is his improved control and corresponding better pitch location. While his pitch selection profile was very similar, I saw almost no instances last year in which he missed his location. In particular, he was hitting the corners precisely when he had to, and he was using his cutter in on the hands of lefties (i.e. off the plate). That, I think, accounts for the lower BABIP and the lower HR rate, too. Missed pitches get hit hard, and you’re a better pitcher if you aren’t missing your spots.

    I’ll admit up front that my #2 point is a far less quantifiable one. However, I thought that Casey was pitching with a lot more confidence and simply had a better idea of how he wanted to get guys out. That tied to pitch selection, but he was also pitching more aggressively than in the past with batters on base, and he took less time between pitches. He looked in absolute control when he was out there, and I think that gave him a definite edge in the psychological dimension of the pitcher-hitter battle.

  24. How can an entire post and 70+ comments fail to factor in the added value of the 2014 team option sans buyout?

    The $2 million Janssen earns in 2012 is between the submitted arbitration figures so I’ll ignore that. In theory, he had a 50/50 chance of earning $200,000 above or below so splitting the difference as part of a multiyear extension seems like a fair concession on both sides with neither gaining any significant advantage.

    Technically there is no buyout on the option. However, these types of deals typically come with some kind of buyout so I prefer to look at it as something like $3.4 million in 2013 with a $500,000 buyout on a $4 million option.

    If AA doesn’t hand out the multiyear extension, it seems reasonable to expect Janssen to test free agency with a decent 2012 since there is no compensation system to potentially screw him. I wouldn’t expect Janssen to accept a 1 year contract with an option under this scenario.

    That said, I agree with Dustin in that this seems unnecessary. The fact that Janssen isn’t a closer will cap his value on the open market. He’s a reliever. Relievers specialize in getting injured. One would expect a far greater chance of Janssen reducing his market value in 2012 instead of improving it, whether it be through injury or underperformance.

    In my opinion, though, AA has earned the benefit of the doubt as he has not handed an immovable contract extension so far. His worst to date is Adam Lind and while he has been terrible collectively the last 2 years, I believe AA certainly could have dumped him this past offseason if he was so inclined.

    So let’s look at it another way: what potential benefit could AA see that we are perhaps overlooking?

    Does the front office, stat geeks & scouts alike, feel Janssen has made an improvement that is not apparent in the above-mentioned data? AA isn’t an old school NL GM. I suspect him and his team have done their homework and presumably feel there is added value to this contract.

    To me, one of the potential benefits is the fact that it could improve Janssen’s trade value in the summer. He’s not a rental reliever. And we have no evidence to suggest Janssen would have accepted a 1 year contract with a team option a la Frasor last year.

    An equally interesting article could have been written about the risk AA potentially could be taking to receive a better prospect in trade if Janssen is moved in the summer.

    AA can no longer use the bullpen to directly acquire draft picks. However, he can construct his bullpen in such a way as to maximize potential returns in summer trades.

    I feel very confident that AA is aware of Cordero’s declining velocity and his unsustainably low BABIP last year. However, with a little “luck” he could be the perfect late inning acquisition this summer for a team who not only wants a quality reliever, but also a backup closer, veteran, bullpen mentor etc. It’s all bullshit to the saber crowd, but it’s certainly valuable to multiple GMs with whom AA has to interact.

    The central question pertains to whether or not value was gained by adding a year and an option. Obviously AA believes there is additional value or he wouldn’t have agreed to the contract. Time will tell, but there are certainly arguments on both sides.

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