A Baseball Weblog

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Benoit heads for Detroit

Earlier today, Joaquin Benoit signed a 3-year deal worth $16.5 million with the Detroit Tigers.  Before I say more about the deal itself, I'd like to briefly recap Benoit's extremely successful 2010 season.  After missing all of 2009 with a shoulder injury, Benoit served as Rafael Soriano's primary setup man in the Rays' bullpen and compiled a 1.34 ERA in 60 1/3 innings.  He backed it up with strikeout and walk rates of 11.2 and 1.6 per 9, respectively.  He was undeniably one of the game's most dominant relievers while pitching in the toughest division.  He worked with a fastball that averaged 94 mph, a changeup at about 83, and a slider near 86.  The fastball and the changeup in particular were devastating last year:

#%Swing RateWhiff RateZone RateChase Rate Watch Rate RV/100xRV/100


According to my calculations, Benoit led the league in RV/100.  Theoretically, this would mean that over the course of 100 pitches, Benoit would allow 2.78 fewer runs than the average major leaguer (runs allowed per 100 pitches in 2010 was around 3).  My run values were implemented earlier in the year and don't reflect the depressed 2010 run environment, so use these numbers as a much more of a general guideline until I can update them.  Also, Benoit was the only pitcher to break -2 in terms of xRV/100, which is the defense-independent variant of the run values and is uses batted ball types substituted for actual outcomes.  Billy Wagner was the closest behind.

As for the contract that the Tigers just doled out to him, I don't think it's wise at all.  Clearly, Benoit was superb in 2010, but handing out a three year contract to a reliever is crazy risky, especially for someone with Benoit's injury history.  For what it's worth, Benoit's contract is the largest for a non-closing reliever in three years, since Scott Linebrink signed a contract with the White Sox for four years and $19 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors.  "Non-closing reliever" ... should Benoit be given a shot at taking Jose Valverde's job?  That's for another time, but my short answer is "yes."  Despite Valverde's incumbency, the Tigers should not hesitate to instill Benoit as the closer if Valverde struggles, because if he can perform anywhere close to his 2010 numbers, Benoit is the better pitcher.  

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