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Friday, July 27, 2007

The Linebrink Deal

I was thinking about this Linebrink deal, in which the Padres netted talented pitching prospect Will Inman, among others.

Linebrink has been very good out of the pen over the last many years with San Diego. But there's a way in which this deal reminds me of the Cormier deal last year. I'm not the only one either, though Nate Silver's comparison is a bit more harsh. Here are Linebrink's peripherals over the past four years:

2004 (28 yrs) - 9.9 k/9, 3.1 bb/9, 0.95 hr/9, 32% GB
2005 (29 yrs) - 9.3 k/9, 3.1 bb/9, 0.53 hr/9, 38% GB
2006 (30 yrs) - 8.4 k/9, 2.7 bb/9, 1.11 hr/9, 39% GB
2007 (31 yrs) - 5.2 k/9, 2.9 bb/9, 1.88 hr/9, 39% GB

Ok, so the surge in his homer rate might just be a matter of being lucky earlier in his career, as he's consistently been a fly ball pitcher in his career. But his strikeout rate was waaay down this year after a modest drop the year before. In case you're wondering, here's his ERA, FIP, and BABIP over those seasons:

Year - ERA - FIP - BABIP
2004 - 2.14 - 3.17 - 0.257
2005 - 1.83 - 2.56 - 0.265
2006 - 3.56 - 3.76 - 0.285
2007 - 3.80 - 5.64 - 0.234

From everything I'm seeing here, Linebrink has declined this year, even though his ERA has barely shifted--mostly thanks to that shiny 0.234 BABIP this season. If I was a Brewers' fan, I'd be hoping that Melvin has some really good scouting data that is leading him to believe that the strikeout rate will get back up to its levels last year...or else the Brewers may have just given away a fine prospect--plus two other players--for a guy that is substantially worse that the relievers they already have. Will Carroll says that they're banking on pitching coach Mike Maddux's ability to repair pitchers--I wish them luck, but needless to say, I'm a bit skeptical.

Edit: Apparently, Linebrink is a Class-A free agent. That shifts the deal a bit more back in Melvin's direction. But it may be that the two draft picks the Brewers receive when Linebrink leaves at the end of the year will be the primary benefit Milwaukee gets from this deal. Not really what you're looking for when you're trying to win your division.