It’s All About Risk Verses Reward

Every Dodger fan knows that Zack Greinke signed with the D-Backs after the 2015 season for $200+ million. On Thursday, The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro  wrote this about Zack Greinke:

After his first pitch of the day on Wednesday afternoon – a fastball on the outer half for a called strike – Zack Greinke stole a glance at the video board at Salt River Fields: pitch speed, 88 mph.

For the second time in as many starts this spring, the Diamondbacks’ high-priced ace exhibited a fastball a few ticks below its usual range. He also was hit hard, allowing six hits in 2 2/3 innings in an exhibition against Mexico’s entry for the World Baseball Classic.

A year ago, Greinke was topping at 93 mph in his second start of the spring. On Wednesday, his fastball was as high as 89.5 mph, according to the Statcast tracking system.

“It’s still early,” Greinke said. “It is what it is. It’s still early and it’s not like some crazy, crazy thing. But it’s not ideal, either.”

Of course, the team is saying all the right things, but the fact of the matter is that Greinke’s velocity has been declining for 3 years and now he’s 33 years old.  At age 33, Greg Maddux, who historically put up ERA’s of  1.00’s and 2.00’s started putting up ERA’s of 3.57 to 4.69.  He did have a good year or two, here and there, but at age 33 his decline was apparent.  Maddux was never the fastball pitcher that Greinke was although both depended upon pinpoint control.  Greinke will also be 34 in October.  The future is not bright for him, nor his team.

He was signed by the D-Backs for $206 million over 6 years.  Yet, all we seem to hear about is how stupid the Dodgers front office was for signing these players:

  1. Scott Kazmir – 3 years/$48 million
  2. Brandon McCarthy –  4 years/$48 million
  3. Brett Anderson – 2 years/$26 million
  4. Rich Hill – 3 years/$48 million
  5. Kenta Maeda – 6 years/$25 million

Yes, McCarthy has been a disaster.  Anderson was half a disaster and Scott Kazmir may be finished, but do you realize that the Dodgers have no significant long-term obligations to any of these pitchers AND the five pitchers listed above are guaranteed $195 million, which is eleven million less than the D-Backs owe Greinke?  The Diamondbacks and the Red Sox have huge exposure with the big contracts signed by Greinke and David Price.  What the Dodgers did may seem crazy to some, but they are crazy like a fox.  It’s called called “limiting your exposure.”

They knew the risks, but the exposure was limited.  They got a good year out of Anderson and a bust the next year.  Risk-Reward!  It was a risk offering Anderson the QO, but My God, it was $15.8 million and he could have just as easily been healthy.  McCarthy has two more years on his deal after winning just 5 games in 2015 and 2016.  He could still finish out the last two years of the deal in a strong fashion or he could flop.  We have two more years to find out.

Kazmir won 10 games but was injured all year and I believe his career is in jeopardy.  Again, it was a risk, but it was $48 million, not $130 million or $217 million.  Giving $100 to $200 million contracts to aging players (especially pitchers) is a dope-fiend move. Rich Hill is a very good pitcher – one of the best in baseball when healthy.  Risk-Reward!  Again, it’s only $48 million.  Maeda’s deal paid off last year, but if his arm falls off this year, next year or the year after, the exposure is limited.

Ask the Red Sox if they are glad they signed David Price.  The D-Backs already regret the Greinke signing.  The Giants are enamoured with Cueto, but check back in a year.  That one will end badly too.  Ask the Nats if they would still sign Strasburg again for $175 million?  Jake Arrietta will be 32 next year and a free agent, predictably some GM will give him a $200 million deal and later regret it.  While I am at it, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka will be free agents after this season – one is 31 and the other 29, and both have injury histories.

It seems to me that in modern-day baseball there are two type of pitchers:  those who are injured and those who will be. FAZ hedged their bets, limited their exposure and spread out the risk… and it was and is a risk, but I would rather risk $195 million on all the above-named pitchers than $207 million on just one Zack Greinke. Those deals are dope-fiend moves.   The Dodgers have seven (count ’em, 7) pitchers listed as starters that are potential injury-risks:

  1. Clayton Kershaw – due to his back issues last year he is a risk but he looks unhittable this year (actually, he is unhittable)
  2. Hyun-Jin Ryu – has missed two years but is battling back
  3. Scott Kazmir – his hip could end his career
  4. Brandon McCarthy – after missing much of the past two years, he is trying to return
  5. Kenta Maeda – allegedly his arm is hanging by a thread (yes, I jest), but so far, so good
  6. Alex Wood – herky, jerky delivery and past elbow problem gives rise to concern
  7. Rich Hill – the poster boy for the NBA (National Blister Association) has been seen with his fingers in the pickle jar

Now, not all will be hurt at the same time, at least statistical analysis and probability says that, and then there are Stripling, Stewart and Urias as well as Oaks and about 4 other minor leaguers.  You never know what might happen… who will be hurt, but I  would like to think that the Dodgers used up most of their DL trips last year.

The Dodger Front Office under Andrew Friedman have not given any starting pitcher anything more than a $48 million deal.  “Well, they offered Zack Greinke $156 million over 5 years” you might say.  If you think that, you might want to consider this:

The Dodgers front office dealt with Zack Greinke and his agent for three years.  I am sure they had a good relationship with him and his agent and probably knew better than anyone what he would or would not accept.  Of course, they were in on Greinke, but I suspect that (due to their intimate knowledge of the situation) they knew their offer would be beat.  You can think they would have signed him to a big deal, but the fact remains, they have never signed a starter to any deal bigger than $48 million.

I think it should change with Clayton Kershaw – he’s the only aging pitcher I would sign – he needs to be a lifetime Dodger.  I am confident FAZ will do that.  It’s reasonable and they have the cash.  It will get done.

Last Night’s Game Notes

  • 12-2, but it’s Spring Training – the score doesn’t mean much, but good things happened.  That’s what I like.
  • Brandon McCarthy pitched 3 exceptionally strong innings.  He looked like he wants to be a #2.  3 IP/3K / 1H /0BB.  Not a sign of the YIPS.  They were not posting speeds, but he looked to me to be in the 92+ MPH range.  That’s just a guess…
  • I still say this is Grandal’s breakout year!
  • Logan Forsythe looks to be a beast at the top of the lineup. His bat speed is impressive.  Puig’s too.
  • Speaking of Puig, he looks “Under Control.”  He looks like a guy whose hard work is paying off. He hit those two HR like nothing.
  • Soooooo, it turns out that Corey Seager’s back problem is really an “oblique.” – That probably ain’t good!
  • Darnell Sweeney is quietly having a good Spring.
  • Franklin Gutierrez IS a lefty killer.  He does not have to make the team.  He IS already on it!
  • Yasiel Puig might have finally figured it out and if he has, every other MLB team had better be afraid…. VERY afraid!
  • Brandon Morrow opened some eyes when he struck out the side!
  • Kid Urias is ready and looks like a vet!
  • Ravin?  I could rant about him!
  • Ryu pitches today.  This should be interesting.

Today’s Music

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don't do game recaps or such things -- lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don't think they are the "end-all-be-all.". This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We'd like to hear your voice.

This article has 33 Comments

  1. Up early today so I will be first:
    McCarthy takes a big step forward and Kazmir a big step back. Ryu is a wild card but I’m rooting for him. Urias should be in the rotation if they want the best 5 pitchers. I’m rooting for Morrow also, he looks healthy and along with Romo would be a veteran bridge to Jansen. Obliques are tricky, rest and treatment are the proper approach. Forsythe will be a huge addition and is Zobrist like potentially. Puig does look more relaxed-and determined! Roberts will have his veteran bench and that will win more than a few games for the Dodgers this year. OKC will be stacked this year and the 40 man shuttle will give the 25 man excellent depth. AGon will have a productive season with strategic rest. SVS should have played his way onto the roster, and gives more value than a once in awhile SS. Forsythe can handle that role. Kids with options may have to wait for their opportunity while playing full time in the minors. Rancho is stacked this year as well, hell the whole minor league at all levels. Someone from the minors will ‘break out’ this year (Bellinger, Oaks, Bueller?) They may not have the best regular season record but are built for the playoffs this year if healthy in October.

  2. We all were going to be happy if one of McCarthy, Kazmir, or Ryu made the rotation by being healthy and pitching at the top of their game. Looks good so far to get that one. Might still get two. Doubt that Kazmir is among those two.

  3. Long-term contracts are rarely a good deal, especially as pitchers near or pass age 30. Looking back at the top 10 pitchers by WAR the last 5 years (an imperfect measure, i know), only Kershaw made the list each year. Scherzer was the next most consistent, with 4 appearances. Otherwise, it is a mix of guys who have great years mixed with decent years and/or plain bad/injury plagued years. To me, this reinforces that pitchers are rarely worth huge, long-term deals. If you get one (like Kershaw) you do it and hope for the best. Otherwise, you let them walk and gamble on a bunch of good, reasonably priced pitchers and hope for the best.

  4. Watched the game last night and it looks as if Puig was actually working the count and waiting for a pitch to hit. When he got his pitch, he didn’t miss. We’ve all been waiting to see this. Hopefully, he can sustain this type of approach at the plate.
    Pedersen had 3 good AB’s as well. One was against a lefty (Cole Hamels). Joc had two walks and a nice line drive single. Same deal for him as with Puig – if he can be disciplined and work the AB to get a pitch to hit, he will do some damage.
    I saw the home run hit by Sweeney. He got a cookie, but he didn’t miss and he put a good swing on it. He’s seeing the ball well and looks much more comfortable being back with the Dodgers. Not sure why he had troubles when he got traded to Philly.
    Urias went in and just goes to work for 2 innings. The hitters were not picking up his breaking pitches – he got several K’s on pitches in the dirt. He has great stuff but I have a suspicion he is also starting to understand out how to set up hitters so they will get fooled later in the at bat. With each game, the kid looks like he is figuring it out more and more. Everyone agrees that he needs to be kept fresh for the post season – so there are good arguments for extended spring training. One argument for having him break camp with the big club is that he gets better every time he has a chance to face major league hitters. He’ll be more rested in extended ST, but he will advance his pitching skills by learning in regular season games. It really is uncanny how quickly he seems to learn.

    1. Knights27, I could not agree with you more on Urias. He needs to face ML hitters to continue to improve. He does not get that opportunity in extended ST. FAZ are smart guys and can figure a game plan to keep young Julio fresh for October. I felt exactly the same way last year when he first came up and had very limited success against the Mets and Cubs. His stuff was not going to improve at AAA. He not only needed to see ML hitters, but he needed ML umpires. He was not getting the strikes at the ML level he was getting at AAA, and he over-compensated by coming over too much of the plate, and making way too many walks & pitches. By the end of the year, he was vastly improved in performance and confidence. Keep his pitch count to 75-90 for April and May; and 90-105 in June through August. In September, with the expected increase in the number of pitchers, drop him back down to 75-90. With a couple of 10 day DL trips, he should be good to go in October.

  5. I hope Corey gets well soon, and this doesn’t turn into an chronic injury! We have no depth at SS so if Corey’s injury is severe does this mean FAZ goes shopping for a SS? Who’s available… inquiring minds want to know.

    1. Mike, we both know there is nobody who can replace Corey. I would guess that Chris Taylor gets the first shot because he is the best defensive SS on the team not named Seager. But while an oblique can be a painful injury, it is an injury that simply needs rest. I wish we would have learned that this was an oblique injury rather than minor upper back pain from the beginning. It helps with the credibility of the message. If you do not know, say so. Doc has already pushed back his return date two times, Are we to believe that if this were the regular season Corey would be in the lineup as has been stated? Seager is a natural and will be all of 23 in April, so he is not going to need a lot of time. If he is held out until a week to 10 days before the start of the season, he should be more than ready to go. He was held out most of 2016 ST, started the season in the lineup, and went on to have a magical ROY, and #3 NLMVP vote season.

  6. Gregg Maddux started his decline at 33, but came back to have good years at 34-36. He was third in CY voting at 34, but that was the last of the CY type seasons. Greinke is Maddux lite. He is not HOF caliber, but has pitched very well for the better part of his career. Both Greinke and Maddux rely/relied on pinpoint accuracy. Greinke was never an upper 90’s pitcher, but he does rely on the fastball more than Maddux. But ZG has one other thing that Maddux did not have, and that is a shoulder that seems to be fading. Greinke found himself on the DL in 2016 due to his shoulder, and I would hazard a guess that this may be a root cause for his loss in velo. I am not a doctor, and I do not have access to medical charts (not that I could read them anyway), but that seems like a logical conclusion. Velocity is not something that might magically reappear. ZG is far from a Jered Weaver in loss of velocity, but that may be where it is headed. ZG is going to have to rely more and more on his breaking balls and that control/accuracy, and that is not the recipe for an Ace worthy of $206M or $156M.
    Zach had one of the greatest seasons a pitcher could have in 2015, and he turned it into a monster contract. But the chances of him replicating that year are remote at best. I do not believe the LAD dodged a bullet, because I agree with Mark that the ZG offer was more PR driven than desire to sign him 2-3 years past the original contract. The DBacks are a small market team with a depleted farm system. Taijuan Walker may be good, or he may still be that pitcher that does not quite get there due to injury or psyche. They are going to miss Segura as they did Enciarte the year before. Pollock and Goldschmidt are signed to team friendly contracts but I believe both will become FA after 2018. With the albatross contract of ZG, the DBacks cannot re-sign Pollock and/or Goldy to fair market contracts, so what do they do? They are going to have to go all in this year, and when they do not get there, do they try to move Pollock and Goldy (and Walker) ala ChiSox and start over?
    I see my longshot dark horse bullpen candidate, Brandon Morrow, had another good outing. He is getting stronger, and more confident/comfortable in a Dodger uni. I still feel confident that Brandon Morrow could be the 2017 version of Joe Blanton.
    I do not think Josh Ravin is in the Chris Hatcher position yet, but he is going to have to go down to OKC to reestablish his confidence. It is also entirely possible that he goes back to Tulsa to fill that late inning high leverage bullpen role. Jacob Rhame goes back to OKC, but he will have competition with Madison Younginer, and another one of the players on my watch list, Joe Broussard, who quietly also made the jump from Rancho to Tulsa to OKC in 2016. One of Younginer and Broussard could be this year’s Grant Dayton (except from the right side). Besides with Younginer, how could you root against a guy from Augusta, GA?

  7. Watford, Yes that was me posting as MJROD, but when I signed on to the new LADT, I didn’t realize the name box was for your posting name and just put my name there… my bad! I’ll be in the UK the last two weeks of April, in London for the last two days of my stay. My wife usually has plans for us in London but maybe, we could meet?
    Mark, I won’t be a stranger, but I don’t always have time for a lot of posts… but I will make a better effort to support the threads and stay active… thanks for all you guys do!

  8. Oblique Muscle Strain Symptoms | LIVESTRONG.COM › Health
    Feb 23, 2017 – Symptoms. An oblique strain is usually characterized initially by sudden, sharp pain in or around the rib cage. The area is often tender to touch, and a bruise may develop, depending on the severity of the injury. Twisting and bending motions are typically painful.

  9. What’s the deal with Rich Hill? Trying to find the grip? There is a reason he has bounced around. HIs “feel” comes and goes. Not a good sign for a #2/3. I know this is practice, but by his next start, things should start getting serious for him, and the grip better be there. Curveballs/spin are harder to produce than a 4 seamer. But the team depends on him to play, make his starts, hold his spot in the rotation, and produce wins. The next time through the rotation, beginning with Kershaw, should start showing decent numbers for the starters. I want to see 4+ innings of good work from them.

    1. Hill had an 11.25 ERA with 15BB in 12 innings last spring before going on to have the best (12-5, 2.12 ERA) season of his career.

      In case you’ve forgotten, that ERA shrunk further to 1.83 over his six starts in Los Angeles.

      1. I was going to look that up. I knew he looked bad last Spring. Thanks for looking that up.

        This could be a magical season for Hill. Clayton and Hill are pushing each other.

        1. Mark:
          I agree as this could be a very good season for Hill. Let’s see if he stays healthy first. Hill actually had a lower BAA than CK by a few points.
          Who was #3? McCarthy @.207

  10. Moving into my new abode, finally! Just hope I’m able to get whichever choice I make for game viewing hooked up by opening day. Got to get busy loading and likely just remain a reader only till I double what I’ve got for my two cents. Well daylight is burning so later friends. Oh yeah,……and CHEERS!

  11. Anyone watching the game?

    Ryu needed 12 pitches to retire the side in the first, 2 by strikeouts.

    Not bad!

  12. If you take your risk/reward idea to its logical conclusion, you never sign a pitcher period. You let kids pitch and then let them go when they reach the point that they cost you money. After all, the Dodgers’ recent history of signing the old and infirm hasn’t worked out too well either.

    McCarthy – 0 good years out of 2 for $24MM
    Anderson – 1 good year out of 2 for $25+MM
    Kazmir – 0 good years out of 1 for $16MM
    Maeda – 1 good year out of 1 for $9.6MM
    Hill – ?

    2 good years out of 6 – not too good an average. So if the idea is to minimize risk then the best way to do this is to only have young pitchers who are making the league minimum or close to it.

    On the other hand, there have been several pitchers who pitched well well into their 30’s.

    Here are the most wins by a pitcher over the age of 31
    1. Cy Young 295 4380.7
    2. Phil Niekro 264 4516.0
    3. Warren Spahn 255 3649.7
    4. Jamie Moyer 223 3222.0
    5. Randy Johnson 222 2890.0
    6. Gaylord Perry 219 3664.3
    7. Early Wynn 199 2919.0
    8. Eddie Plank 197 2683.3
    9. Dazzy Vance 197 2933.7
    10. Roger Clemens 191 2694.

    Here are the most strikeouts after age 31
    1. Randy Johnson 3545 2890.0
    2. Nolan Ryan 3288 3152.0
    3. Phil Niekro 2806 4516.0
    4. Roger Clemens 2639 2694.0
    5. Gaylord Perry 2300 3664.3
    6. Steve Carlton 2220 2766.3
    7. Dazzy Vance 2027 2933.7
    8. Curt Schilling 1997 2018.3
    9. Charlie Hough 1927 3185.3
    10. Jamie Moyer 1916 3222.

    So – would the Dodgers, having the opportunity to sign Johnson, Carlton or Schilling avoid it because they were over 30? Too much risk to sign a hall-of-famer? Better to sign the likes of McCarthy or Anderson?

    1. A lot of those pitchers pitched before 1969, which was when they lower the mound.

      I bring this up because I was driving today and listening to where Rico Petrocelli and Ed Randle were interviewing Denny McClain (the crook). I had forgotten how articulate and smart McClain was. Anyway, he blames all the arm issues on the fact that they lowered the mound. He claims that you could generate the requisite torque from the higher mound with your lower body, which takes the stress off the arm.

      He claims that if you raise the mound again, the TJ will go away!

      The other thing is that none of those pitchers you listed were available recently!



        1. I like Sweeney too, but he’s not on the 40-man and is not likely to make the team… no matter how well he plays.

          Calhoun can sure hit!

          1. Mark

            Charlie must not read your site, because he said Calhoun, was quick, when he hit that double.

      2. STETSON ALLIE is a career minor leaguer who was in Pittsburgh’s system. He’s a non-roster invitee and organizationational depth. He will likely play at Tulsa this year!

        1. Mark

          Charlie must not read your site, because he said Calhoun was quick to second base, when he hit that double.

  14. If the point is to compare to Greinke’s signing I don’t see the point in counting Anderson’s year when he was his teammate.

    1. It’s comparing the signings for whatever period they were signed for compared to Greinke’s period. FAZ started in 2015, so I included all the signings – their overall body of work.

  15. MJ,

    1. What makes you think Charlie can read?

    2. I watched him run and while I admit he looked a little faster than last year, he was by no means “fast.”

    Did you watch him run?

  16. Yasiel Puig might have finally figured it out and if he has, every other MLB team had better be afraid…. VERY afraid!

    THIS and….

    Logan Forsythe looks to be a beast at the top of the lineup. His bat speed is impressive. Puig’s too.

    THIS, thank goodness we have a promising leadoff hitter this year.

  17. Does anybody care about this stupid world baseball classic? MLB keeps trying to cram it down our throats but I’ve never heard anyone talk about it.

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