Nationals Officially Announce Cabrera Deal

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 29, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

Text of the press release:


The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms with free-agent right-handed pitcher Daniel Cabrera on a 2009 contact. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

The 27-year-old Cabrera joins the Nationals after five seasons with Baltimore, for whom he went 48-59 with a 5.05 ERA in 147 games (146 starts) from 2004-08.

Known for his durability, Cabrera’s 146 starts rank ninth in the American League over the last five seasons. He eclipsed the 30-start plateau in each of the last two campaigns with the Orioles.

Over the last five seasons, the Orioles posted a .472 (69-77) winning percentage when Cabrera got the starting nod, compared to .437 (290-373) for all other starting pitchers.

Cabrera—who stands 6-foot-7—has fanned 7.0 batters per 9.0 innings for his career, and last year, he registered the best walk ratio and pitches-per-inning (16.8) numbers of his career.

He has recorded 10 or more quality starts in each of his five big league seasons. With 63, Cabrera has posted more career quality starts than any Washington pitcher currently under contact.

A ground-ball pitcher, Cabrera has induced 27 percent more ground balls (1204) in his career than fly balls (880), and thus, his 63 double-play grounders the last three seasons rank eighth in the AL. As a rookie in 2004, Cabrera finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after pacing all big league rookies with 12 wins, 27 starts and 147.0 innings.

I absolutely love the stats that the Nats cherry picked to put into the press release. Let's take a look, shall we?

  • Third in ROY 2004.
  • 63 double play grounders over the last three seasons, ranking him eighth (8th!) in the AL alone!
  • Posted more career quality starts than any other Nats pitcher under contract.
  • Winning percentage with the O's was under .500, but slightly above the team's winning percentage overall for that time period.
  • 146 stars last five years ranks ninth (9th!) in AL over that time period.
  • Mentions he posted best "walk ratio" of his career last year. Walks per nine? Walks per strikeout? Doesn't say.
  • Fanned 7.0 per nine innings over career.

OK, so let's parse these stats a little, going backwards.

  • With 841.1 career innings under his belt and 651 Ks, he's actually averaged 6.96 K/9 over his career. The Nats chose to to specifically say "7.0", so I thought I'd test the exactness of their decimal point. So they misstated the actual number on the press release to start with. But how unremarkable is 6.96 K/9? It ranks him 36th for active major league pitchers and behind such noted strikeout artists as Mike Mussina (7.106) and Kevin Millwood (7.168).
  • His K/9 last season was 4.75. In fact his career line (204-2008) reads like this: 4.63, 8.76, 9.54, 7.31, 4.75. What caused him to fall off the table last year? Was it too much trying to cut down the walks? Or was it the "elbow strain" that shut him down in September?
  • His BB/9 last year was 4.75 and his BB/K was 1.00. That's right, for every strikeout there was a walk. His career BB/9 is 5.28, so his walks were down almost half a walk per game, but at the expense of 2.21 K/9. His career BB/K is .758. That means that even though he reduced the quantity of walks (K/9) his quality of pitching (BB/K) was significantly lower.
  • 146 starts in last five years might have him 9th in the AL, but it's only 31st overall. His ERA over that time period (5.05) is better only than Josh Fogg of the top 50 start gatherers in the major leagues. His 48 wins are the sixth worst of those 50 as well. Of the 90 pitchers with 100 or more starts since 2004, his BB/9 (5.11) was a half a walk per nine more than the next closest (Oliver Perez, at 4.63)
  • Winning percentage with the O's? Of the same 90 pitchers to start 100 or more games, he ranks 78th in win percentage .
  • You want quality starts? His 63 rank 58th on the list of 90. As for comparing his TOTAL to the total of other Nats pitchers? That's just ridiculous. Scott Olsen has 47 in one less year. He's the only starter on the roster with more than one full season under his belt. It's embarrassing they would even list this stat in this context. Also, his QS percentage of total starts was .432, 85th on the list of 90, behind such luminaries as Adam Eaton and formerly our own Odalis Perez!
  • Baseball-Reference has Cabrera as inducing 83 GIDPs, so that's probably just a typo. His 83 rank him 30th on the list of 90. So he's (barely) top 1/3 of major league starters the last five seasons inducing ground ball double plays! Big fat deal. He was able to keep the ball ont he ground his first three seasons, allowing 14, 14 and 11 homers through 2006. But the last two years he's been perfectly average (25, 24) allowing the long ball. So he gets outs on the ground, but as his K totals have plummeted, his HR numbers have risen. Shocker, I know.
  • Third in ROY? He went 12-8, 5.00 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He finished behind Bobby Crosby and Shingo Takatsu. He had zero first place votes. In fact, Crosby had 138 points, Takatsu 44, Cabrera 29. Big Deal.

So there you have it, in this rather long-winded response to the Nats cherry picked stats in their press release about the signing of presumably #3 starter Daniel Cabrera.

It's the worst of both worlds. He's a lousy pitcher getting worse that takes the ball every fifth day (unless it's injury accounting for the drop in velocity and Ks). Oh goody.