Benson trade won’t net much for O’s

The lost Orioles are at it again.
This time, the Team With No Plan has landed New York outcast Anna Benson and her husband pitcher Kris Benson in exchange for reliever Jorge Julio and prospect hurler Chris Maine. Unless new pitching coach Leo Mazzone can work some magic, this trade won’t bring much to Baltimore.
For the Mets last year, Benson seemed perfectly average but had exceedingly poor peripherals. He made 28 starts and threw to an ERA of 4.13. His ERA+, a park-adjusted number, was 101. You can’t get much more average than that. In 174.1 innings, he gave up 171 hits while walking 49 and striking out just 95. His 4.90 K/9 IP was the lowest of his career and his 1.94 K/BB rate is fairly awful. Additionally, Benson gave up 24 home runs last year.
All of these numbers raise red flags in my mind for one reason: Park Effects. Kris Benson, making 16 of 28 starts in a pitcher’s park, enjoyed the deadening effects of Shea Stadium. Let’s look at his splits: In those 16 starts, Benson threw to an ERA of 3.66 while giving up just 8 home runs in 98.1 innings. On the road, Benson threw to an ERA of 4.74 while surrendering an astounding 16 home runs in 76 innings.
According to the Bill James 2006 Handbook, Shea Stadium was a good place to pitch when it came to home runs. The park effect for home runs in Shea Stadium was 90. It was 10 percent harder to hit a home run in Shea Stadium than in the rest of the parks, on average, in the National League.
So what happens to Benson when he moves to Baltimore? Well, first off, he’s moving to a park with a home run factor of 102. That means it’s 2 percent easier to hit home runs in Baltimore than elsewhere in the American League. When you compare Camden Yards to Shea Stadium, however, the numbers are more drastic. There were 139 Shea home runs compared to 161 Camden long balls. That’s an increase of nearly 16 percent. Already, Benson’s average numbers and alarming home run rate are looking decidedly worse than average.
But there’s an X-Factor in this equation as well. While the Mets did have to play in the band box that is the Citizens Bank Ballpark, they also played numerous games in Atlanta, Washington, and Miami, weaker offensive teams in noted pitchers parks. Now, as a member of an American League East team, Benson will be in the toughest offensive division. He’ll have to face the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and yes, even the Devil Rays with a fairly good offense.
His road numbers last season projected to 32 home runs if he had pitched 200 innings. With a declining strike out rate and a new, pitching-challenged home, Benson may become the 2006 version of 2005’s Sidney Ponson. Unless Leo Mazzone can work some magic, Benson may be looking at 40 home runs and an ERA over 5.00.


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