There’s been a bit of bellyaching among some fans and in the blogosphere about the Pedro Feliciano signing. Not much, but enough that it needs to be addressed. Some fans feel Brian Cashman overpaid for a LOOGY when there were better options available, others worry about his workload. I’ll address each of these one by one.
The Yanks overpaid-Not really. While we all know the entire market has been inflated this year, this deal fits in the context of what other Lefty relievers have been receiving this year. Scott Downs, by far the best of the lefty reliever group and a Type A free agent got 15 mil from the Angels. Randy Choate, a pure LOOGY in every sense of the term (.529 OPS against facing Lefties/1.162 OPS against facing Righties) received a 2.5 mil deal from the Marlins. Feliciano fits right between those two, which is what his talent level would suggest.
Feliciano’s not just a pure LOOGY-Unlike Choate, Feliciano can be called upon to get righty and lefty batters out. In 2010 his OPS against was .574 facing left handed batters, and .831 facing righty batters. His 3 year splits are more pronounced (.583/.898) but he showed an improved change last year, so he appears to be evolving as he ages. When you have a clean inning or 1 out situation where 2 of the next 3 batters are left handed, you can call upon Pedro to get the job done. In that sense he’s better and more useful than someone like Randy Choate. This is likely a moot point since the Yanks will feature him as a Lefty specialist, but he’s there if and when you need him.
Fuentes is Better-As Chris pointed out in Matt’s piece on Feliciano yesterday, there’s a wide gap between the two players, which isn’t arguable. Joel Sherman reported that it was a tough call for the Yanks, but the shorter commitment with Feliciano was a deciding factor. Given the volatile nature of relievers, I can’t fault Cashman for being risk averse in these situations. Damaso Marte was as much of a sure thing as could be when the Yanks traded for him in 2008, and the 3 year deal they gave him wound up being almost completely wasted money. Also, the Yanks may see an opportunity with Feliciano by reducing his workload, his 1st half/2nd half splits suggest he wore down and lost some effectiveness over the course of the season.
He’s thrown too much-I would tend to be concerned about this as well, but as with CC Sabathia in 2009 there’s simply very little evidence that his heavy workload has seriously affected him. His 87.2 MPH average fastball velocity from 2010 was down a shade from 2009, but exactly the same as his career average. His contact rates were up in 2010, posting career highs both inside and outside the strike zone. But he was also throwing more change ups, which was an effective (+4.3) pitch for him. Relievers will often use the change to get an easy ground ball, and his .56 GB% was the 2nd highest of his career. With Francisco Rodriguez getting suspended from the team and Feliciano called upon to be the Closer (a role he volunteered for) he was probably just called upon more often with men on base and looking for double plays. As Joe P. points out in a piece posted today on Fangraphs, while Feliciano has led the National League in appearances over the past 3 years, he’s 48th in pitches thrown. So he’s appeared a lot, but not worked all that much when he’s out there. He also has never been on the disabled list at any point of his career.
He’s an ex-Met-Most of the complainers don’t come out and say this, but I suspect this has something to do with the griping. They think the losing culture in Flushing has affected him somehow. They think he’s a product of pitcher-friendly Citifield. He’s always been much more of a ground ball pitcher than a fly ball pitcher, so it really shouldn’t matter much where he pitches. And as Chris Lundberg points out, we’ve done pretty well (Cone/Gooden/Strawberry) with players from the Met category, Armando Benitez notwithstanding.
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