Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Two underrated and overrated moves this offseason

The Boston Red Sox clearly have not made as big of a splash as they have in the past few offseasons. They have utilized a more conservative approach and have made sure that they stacked the deck in terms of depth. Spring Training is now in full swing and now it is time to reflect on the underrated and overrated moves that Ben Cherington and co. have made this offseason.

Underrated: Chris Capuano - This was a brilliant signing executed by the Red Sox. After Ryan Dempster announced that he and his $14 million dollar contract were no longer an issue in 2014, the Red Sox found a much cheaper solution to their starting pitching depth. Capuano is only set to make a guaranteed $2.5 millon, however, he has the opportunity to make up to $5 million due to the incentive-laden deal. Nonetheless, the Red Sox saved a lot of money in the bank. This move sounds even better when comparing it to other free agent pitchers. Over the course of the past three seasons, Capuano owns a 4.15 ERA, whereas Jimenez has sported an ERA of 4.45. Jimenez was signed on a four-year, $50 million dollar deal — $45 million more than Capuano at maximum and roughly $7.5 million more in terms of average annual value. He also has collected a career 4.25 FIP (fielding independent pitching), compared to Ervin Santana who has pitched to the tune of a 4.36 FIP in eight big league seasons.

Overrated: A.J Pierzynski - Plate discipline and clubhouse chemistry is something that the Red Sox hold very dear in their organizational philosophy. Well, Pierzynski does not seem to fit the bill in either valued category. For starters, A.J might have had the worst plate discipline in Major League Baseball last season. He had the highest O-Swing% (outside swing percentage) in the league at 49.6%, which has been trending the wrong way in each of the last five seasons, as his O-Swing% has increased every year. He also had the lowest BB% in the big leagues at 2.1%. Pierzynski is also detrimental on the defensive side of the ball too, as he has collected -23 DRS (defensive runs saved) in his career and has thrown out a ghastly 25% of runners stealing bases.

In a short sample size at Fenway Park, he has not had success that would indicate a spike in offensive performance. In 121 plate appearances, Pierzynski owns a career .751 OPS in the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway — not at all different from his career OPS at .750.

Finally, A.J Pierzynski, or Major League Baseball’s most hated player, is not exactly an ideal clubhouse presence to have. Reports have come out, however, that suggest A.J is actually a tremendous team player and it is only opposing teams who despise him. These reports should alleviate some concerns on that front but if you’re expecting a 2013 Saltalmacchia-esque performance from Pierzynski, you might want to reconsider.

Underrated: Jose Mijares - The Red Sox signed Jose Mijares on a minor league contract earlier in the offseason. If he makes the major league roster, he will make $1 million but he has the opportunity to make another million courtesy of built-in incentives. Mijares was rocked last season, pitching to the tune of a 4.22 ERA and 3.05 FIP in 49 innings. If you have ever read any of my previous work on here, you probably noticed that I have mentioned the stat BABIP (batting average on balls in play) quite a bit. Mijares’ BABIP in 2013 was unearthly at .410 and there is a zero percent chance that number is remotely similar in 2014. Expect Mijares’ BABIP to fall back to earth and with it, he will be much better in terms of run prevention. Even if he is not much better in 2014, it is still a minor league contract and comes with no risk attached.

Overrated: Edward Mujica - People seem to be stuck on the fact that Mujica has closing experience, but I think we have learned by now that if you’re a good reliever, you’re going to be a good closer. For example, Koji Uehara, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, Sergio Romo, etc. have all proven after being deemed “not having the right mindset” that they can occupy the closer role just fine and that is putting it lightly. Mujica has put up low run prevention totals for three consecutive seasons, but his FIP (fielding independent pitching) numbers have not been so good.

Below are Mujica’s ERA’s compared to his FIP numbers:

2011: 2.96 ERA to a 3.20 FIP

2012: 3.03 ERA to a 3.65 FIP

2013: 2.78 ERA to a 3.71 FIP

FIP is usually a better indicator of future performance, and for the most part it is very accurate but Mujicia seems to keep defying his FIP numbers and has continued to post very solid ERA numbers. I think his luck will sooner or later run out and the transition to pitching in Fenway Park will certainly not help his run prevention totals. Although I do not think he will be a bad acquisition, I do believe he will not be worth the $4.75 million he is making in each of the next two seasons.

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Tags: AJ Pierzynski Boston Red Sox Chris Capuano Edward Mujica Jose Mijares

  • Kennythelid

    True AJ is a tool, but as you said, he’s our tool now. I can see him getting the Sox into a couple fights with the Yankees this year which would be pretty sweet. I don’t know, time will tell on all these guys. The closer to Opening Day we get the more I’m thinking Ben should spend the money we saved on Dempster to sign Drew, just a gut feeling. Oh yeah, don’t use the word ghastly, only the British use that word, just saying.

  • Rigger

    So when the FIP does not trend as expected it is luck? And some wonder why the metrics can be a laugh a minute. Three years of luck?

    On A.J. the traditional numbers are nice 17/70/,270. For a guy with a bad O-Swing% he only struck out 76 times. He has traditionally been in the 60-70 range. Last season his CS was 33% against league average of 26%. And 25% career against league average of 28%? Not bad.

    • Sean Sylver

      One guy who always fools the metrics is Matt Cain. When you develop a track record of proving metrics wrong, it’s not luck anymore. Then what explains it? Oh yeah! The game isn’t played on paper!

      That’s why it’s nice to have an appreciation for both the subjective and the objective in baseball.

    • Patrick Green

      1.) Yes, FIP is not always an accurate indicator because it takes batted balls out of the equation. But looking at his BABIP the past three seasons it seems to be apparent that he has been the recipient of some luck. 2011: .270 2012: .257 2013: .263 — compared to a career .287 BABIP, which is somewhat distorted by the last three career anomalies in the BABIP department.
      2.) I do not think the issue that rife from a O-Swing% like that is always a high K total. It is no secret that the Red Sox love players who can work counts and showcase patience — A.J does not do either and he does not walk as a result, which will be annoying. High K totals are not always a bad thing as we have seen guys like Napoli and Salty last year have great years despite racking up very high K totals.

      • Rick M

        I will weigh in on this. Salty had a “nice” year but his defensive deficiencies were clearly on display in the WS. Salty-meet bench. Bench – meet Salty. Salty has a dismal CS%. And his game management IQ on the Big Stage ended up with Ross saving the day. Salty also has a far from steller CS% either in 2013 or career. On the offensive side the history is clear on A.J. and that is a history of consistency, and that is missing from Salty. Not sure what you get with Salty? Will it be another .222? Will it be another .372 BABIP?

        With A.J’s OBP that is well known and obviously the Red Sox felt comfortable with it. My issue is the age factor. Salty taking that two year offer would have given sufficient time for the prospects to rise (hopefully) to the top.

        With that O-Swing% a different story exists when you examine the O-Contact%, Z-Contact% and Contact%. A.J. obviously has never met a pitch he thought he could not hit. The obvious is he hits ‘em, but, equally as obvious, is he does not hit them well enough to be a .300+ hitter.

        • Patrick Green

          Salty had a 3.6 WAR last year compared to A.J who had a 1.6 WAR. Salty totaled an OPS of .804 compared to a .722 by A.J. Salty was a liability in the rest of his tenure in Boston and was the recipient of a lot of luck that is why I referenced a 2013 Salty-esque season. Not once did I say it was going to continue or not, it is just you’re not upgrading or coming close to an improvement from the 2013 version of Salty. O-Swing% speaks volumes to plate discipline (the guy swung at nearly half of the pitches that were not strikes), hence the 2.1 BB%

          • Rick M

            I enjoy metrics but WAR I 100% dismiss. Just me. Don’t get me started. Might save it for a WAR bashing column.

            Offensively Salty outperformed A.J. last season. Most of the standard, metric and deep metrics show that. But was 2013 an exception for Salty? Based on previous history it was. Will he repeat? 2014 will tell. What I remember most about Salty is the fact on the Big Stage he coughed up a fur ball. Ross saved the day and, quite possibly, the WS by bringing in defensive stability at a crucial moment. Expect him to do the same for 60-70 games in 2014.

            A.J. is consistent if nothing else. He plays. He hits in the .270-.280 range. You are not upgrading nor are you really downgrading significantly. Defensively neither are anything special. A.J. appears more competent at throwing out runners. I am sure Ellsbury and Gardner will test that out. He is pure stop gap. His plate discipline has also been consistent – it is virtually non-existent. His O-Swing% reflects the fact he is just not a disciplined hitter. His Contact% shows he hits the ball. What is of concern is, as you stated, the O-Swing% trend. Five straight years in has climbed. Age?

            IMO the only two other options available for Boston was McCann or Wieters. McCann was simply out of the fiscal picture and Wieters would cost a few prize prospects.

          • Patrick Green

            No, I agree with you wholeheartedly that 2013 was an anomaly — I never said that we should have brought him back either. All I am saying is the hype around A.J as a player is blown out of proportion. There were not a lot of options on the market but I can guarantee you that Pierzynski will not give us the value Salty brought to the table in 2013.

          • Rick M

            Agreed. A.J. will not bring back memories of Fisk. I just don’t think A.J. was overrated but the hype sure was. Seemed a real sidewards move. Salty had a lot of negativity attached to him in this town. A bundle of it was linked to his K rate, but Sean already covered that.