Jennings Deal Analysis

Jason Jennings for Willy Taveras, Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz?

Wow!  What a horrible trade for the Astros!  Tim Purpura has lost his mind or is smoking crack–that was the reaction of most Astros fans in Houston today.

But, hold on a minute!  Before you rank this as the worst fleecing in the Astros history, let’s examine some facts.

Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz are rookies who posted 5+ ERAs in their "moment to shine" at Minute Maid Park.  Willy Taveras had an OBP of .325 in 2005 and .333 in 2006–not good for a leadoff hitter.  And he was part of the 7-1 black hole in the 2005 and 2006 Astros lineup.  Yes, he had that .291 batting average in 2005, but it fell off to .278 in 2006 as teams figured out how to stop his slap-hit infield singles to 3rd.

On the surface, Jennings has a career 4.74 ERA and is nothing more than a #4 starter for the Astros.  However, keep in mind, his entire career was spent pitching at Coors field for half the season and he was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2002 with an ERA of 4.52.  That year, arguably one of the best pitchers in the NL, Mike Hampton, posted an ERA of 6.15 at that same Coors Field.  Hampton subsequently posted a respectable ERA of 3.84 for the Braves in 2003 before his arm fell off.  If you use those inflated ERA stats, Jennings’ ERA should come down by at least 1.5 runs over his career.  A pitcher with a career ERA of 3.24 is a darned good #2 starter behind Roy Oswalt.

Another good pitcher that went from the Stros to the Rockies is Darryl Kile.  He won the right to free agency after the Astros lost the arbitration case in 1997.  Kile posted an ERA of 2.57 at the Astrodome in 1997 and went on to post ERAs of 5.20 in 1998 and 6.61 in 1999 at Coors Field.  Kile then pitched for the St Louis Cardinals where he posted ERAs of 3.91 and better.  Now, no one can dispute the fact that both Hampton and Kile were good pitchers even if their careers were cut short by injury and death.  Not to give Jason Jennings the same benefit of the doubt is doing the Texas native an injustice.

The free agency question remains, but, there are indications that Jennings wouldn’t be averse to signing a relatively long term deal with the Astros sometime between now and the end of the 2007 season.  He said in his interview with 790, The Sports Animal’s Charlie Palillo today, that as a Texas native he was very happy to be coming home and pitching for a proven winner.  He also joked about not having to pitch against college opponent Lance Berkman any more.

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9 comments

  1. Thomas

    ******! I missed Jennings’ interview, but I did catch the press conference and Tim’s interview with Charlie. I don’t think this is a bad deal for the Astros… but when dealing with prospects, you really won’t know how good or bad the deal is until a few years from now.

    http://www.crawfishboxes.com

  2. RumorMill

    I realize you want to feel good about this deal, however, I have to pick on your stats.

    First of all, this was Jennings first year with a sub 4 ERA, EVER. His average ERA over the last three years (including his career best year last year) is still 4.71. That’s not exactly #2 material.

    Also, you claim that leaving Coors will drop his ERA by a ******** 1.5 runs. Well last year, Jennings actually pitched BETTER at Coors, than away from it. By almost HALF a run. Granted his career numbers are about .4 runs better on the road, but you either have to go with his numbers from last year and add half a run for a projected ERA right at 4.25 or go with his career numbers and subtract .4 runs from his average which would put him slighty higher than 4.25.

    So, I’d say your new #2 pitcher is probably going to have an ERA around 4.25 NOT 3.25.

    http://rumormill.mlblogs.com

  3. ssw77@aol.com

    I may be in the minority here. But the more I think about it, the more I like the deal. The Astros needed a seasoned veteran to fill the number 2 spot NOW. Jennings might not be a spectacular number 2, but he should do the job…..Hirsh isn’t projected as being any better than a number 3 in his prime and number 2 TOPS. Buchholz could have been great, but I think he is almost in the same boat as Carlos Hernandez. Taveras is a Boras client, enough said there. Plus we already have Ausmus and Everett. You can only have so many defensive specialists on one team…. I won’t say it’s a good deal for the Astros. But I won’t say it is bad either. It could go either way. I am looking forward to seeing how it goes.

  4. Rita

    >>>I realize you want to feel good about this deal, however, I have to pick on your stats.>>First of all, this was Jennings first year with a sub 4 ERA, EVER. His average ERA over the last three years (including his career best year last year) is still 4.71. That’s not exactly #2 material.

    Also, you claim that leaving Coors will drop his ERA by a ******** 1.5 runs. Well last year, Jennings actually pitched BETTER at Coors, than away from it. By almost HALF a run. Granted his career numbers are about .4 runs better on the road, but you either have to go with his numbers from last year and add half a run for a projected ERA right at 4.25 or go with his career numbers and subtract .4 runs from his average which would put him slighty higher than 4.25.>>So, I’d say your new #2 pitcher is probably going to have an ERA around 4.25 NOT 3.25.<<<

    The 3.25 was being conservative…I’ll definitely take a 2.25 or less if you insist based on what Kile and Hampton posted after they left Coors Field if you like…

  5. Rita

    SSW…you’re not in the minority…both Thomas and I feel the same way..Remember, Jennings’ numbers at Coors Field surpassed Kile’s and Hampton’s numbers by a longshot…and they were two of the best Astros pitchers in the last 15 years.

  6. RumorMill

    I posted this over on my blog but I’ll post it here as well.

    “Rita, I’m sorry but if you think the Mike Hampton that went to the Rockies was the same pitcher, I’d have to disagree whole heartedly. Also, the only reason Kile got better after leaving the Rockies was because of Dave Duncan. I could post a 4.00 ERA if Duncan coached me.

    You’re posting Hampton and Kile’s stats to make your point but Jennings’ stats disagree with you. How do you explain Jennings’ ERA away from Coors? Over the last three years Jennings ERA away from Coors averages 4.25. NOT 3 anything.

    And finally, as you mentioned, the Astros give pitchers horrible run support. Now they have added Lee which should help that but I’d bet the farm that Jennings’ ERA will be closer to 4.25 than 3.25 and I’ll be amazed if he wins more than 16 games (hey, even Jason Marquis won 16 games last year).

    Lastly, whether Tavares or the pitchers pan out, you’ve traded three players for essentially to rent a pitcher for a year. Sure Taveras might not be great, but he’s got speed and hits between .270 and .290. Burcholtz and Hirsh were both very highly rated pitchers in your organization but now all of the sudden they aren’t any good? I don’t buy it. Sorry.

    This just seems like a horrible deal for the Astros.”

    Also, please realize that Jennings is not Hampton or Kile. You have yet to address Jennings’ OWN stats which show he’s at BEST only half a run better away from Coors, but if you go off last years stats, actually half a run WORSE. There’s no stat of Jennings that you can show me that predicts he’ll be a 3.25 pitcher (or the more ridiculous 2.25 you mentioned)

    P.S. I’ll dig into pitchers stats when leaving Coors a bit more and post and update on my blog. This is one of the best baseball debates I’ve been in lately. Thanks for the back and forth!

    http://rumormill.mlblogs.com

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