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Friday, February 22, 2008

Josh Fogg

Today, the Reds signed 31-year old righthander Josh Fogg to a 1-year, $1 million contract. Fogg was originally a 3rd-round selection by the Chicago White Sox in the 1998 amateur draft out of the University of Florida. He had an impressive debut at 25 with the Pirates, but otherwise has had a fairly invisible career through mid-last year.

Then, Fogg made headlines in September and October by pitching during the Rockies' amazing postseason run, including the one-game playoff against the San Diego Padres for the wild card berth (which, unfortunately, turned out to be the best game of the playoffs). Fogg earned his nickname "Dragon Slayer" by besting several top pitchers in September, including Brandon Webb, Chris Young, and Derek Lowe, while also holding his own against Brad Penny. He also pitched an impressive Game 3 in the NLCS before losing Game 3 of the World Series in spectacular fashion.

Fogg turned down a $5 million contract offer by the Rockies this offseason thinking he could get more on the market, but ultimately settled for a $1 million deal with the Reds. As he put it, "the offseason didn't go like a lot of free agents planned." Apparently, teams are unwilling to shell out the cash for sub-Carlos Silva starters these days.

Recent Stats:
2005 28 PIT 169.3 4.5 2.8 1.4 40.8% 0.296 5.05 5.13 0.344 0.480 0.824 5.6 7.4 7.2
2006 29 COL 172.0 4.9 3.1 1.3 42.5% 0.313 5.49 5.03 0.356 0.504 0.860 5.1 23.7 20.5
2007 30 COL 165.7 5.1 3.2 1.2 40.0% 0.308 4.94 5.21 0.357 0.495 0.852 5.2 16.2 12.8
3years --- --- 507.0 4.8 3.1 1.3 41.1% 0.305 5.17 5.09 0.352 0.493 0.845 5.3 47.4 40.5
Fogg's numbers aren't particularly impressive. Below-average strikeouts, average walks, and above-average home runs allowed. He's largely a fly ball pitcher, though he isn't as extreme as some. Ultimately, though, a combination of high fly ball rates and low strikeout rates will result in lots of home runs allowed, which is reflected in his numbers (though remember he pitched in Coors the last few years). The only silver lining to all of this is that he's pitched almost exclusively as a starter for most of his we can ballpark that he might have turned in a 4.2ish ERA if he'd been in the bullpen the last three years. That's decent enough.

Josh Kalk's pitchf/x card on Fogg confirms that he's a soft-tosser (88 mph fastball), but that he also throws a sinker, slider, and change-up. Top comparables in terms of pitch types and action include Mark Redman, Claudio Vargas, and Phil Dumatrait. Here's a figure showing his pitches from Kalk's site:
Projections and value

Based on my RAR and FIPRuns estimates, both of which are park corrected, Fogg has averaged ~14-16 runs above replacement per season over the past several years. So, we can call him a ~+1.5 win pitcher over that time frame.

Projecting into next season, I'll subtract a half-win for aging and such, and assume he remains in the rotation. That puts him at +1 wins in 2008, which would value him at $4.4 million. Pretty nice pickup for just $1 million.

Of course, the groan from fans is likely to be that we now could potentially start the season with this rotation:


And meanwhile, Bailey, Cueto, Volquez, and Maloney could all start the season in AAA.

I tend to think that this will not happen. My guess is that Bailey will need to pitch badly in spring training to not make the club. Affeldt's chances of making the rotation may be reduced as long as Bill Bray is unable to pitch. I'm also thinking that Belisle's spot is a bit more tenuous now that Fogg is in the picture, as he's no longer the only guy around with experience in the back end of the rotation.

Overall, my personal ranking of the starting candidates prior to playing any spring training games is: Harang, Arroyo, Bailey, Belisle, Volquez, Fogg, Affeldt, Cueto, and Maloney. The latter two are placed where they are simply because they've thrown so few innings above AA. I also rank Volquez and Fogg very close to one another going into this season, though Volquez clearly has the higher upside. It's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Even if it is the case that we do see the above rotation to start the year, I'm going to try not to freak out. That rotation won't last an entire season, and the young kids will almost certainly play their way back into the rotation once one or more of the older guys either get hurt or are proven ineffective. It's nice to have some depth. And who knows? Maybe one of Fogg or Affeldt will be a guy who can net an A-ball prospect come July if the Reds aren't in it.