Monday, October 31, 2011
Free Agent Watch: Heath Bell
The hard throwing Padres closer Heath Bell is up for free agency. In 2009 he had a 2.1 WAR, a 2.4 in '10, and a 1.7 in 2011. This is a 2.07 WAR average, which is worth 6.02 million dollars according to the Halladay Standard. In his career, he has a -2.66 PE (an adjusted PE of -2.8), with a TR of 12.12. In 2011, his numbers were still good but not quite as impressive at -1.56 PE (-.77 adjusted PE), and a 11.38 TR. When one looks at just ERA (2.44 in 2011), 2011 looks like Bell's best year ever. However, every other metric (including WAR) argues that Bell was in fact not near as good as he was in 2009 and 2010. His FIP was .31 points above his career number and nearly a whole run above his ERA, suggesting he was extremely lucky. Even his BABIP was ridiculously low at .261 and one cannot rely on this to keep happening. He also struck out less and gave up more flyballs. I don't want to paint too dire of a picture, most pitchers would absolutely love to put up the numbers Bell put up. Nevertheless, 2011 was a head-scratcher and with all the stupid money blown on relievers recently, one must figure out who Bell really is. Was 2011 just a weird aberration year? Or has he changed for the worse as a pitcher and was just really lucky in 2011? His HR/9 innings was basically identical to his career number. However, when his BAA is adjusted to his career BABIP, his BAA is .250, much different than .230 or .217. The difference in the strikeout totals (9.22 K/9IP for his career and 7.32 in 2011) is what really bothers me. Has he lost the ability to miss bats? How can one tell or even make an educated guess? I am not really sure other than he threw less strikes in 2011 than his career norms (in percentage). Is he losing his stuff? I don't know how to quantify that, but 2011 really scares me. I buy into the Moneyball/Tampa Bay Ray philosophy of not paying big money for relief pitchers, but that is maybe just me.