How much is Mark Buerhle worth?
June 29, 2007 4 Comments
By the time you read this, the White Sox may already sign Buerhle to a contract extension. Or maybe they will have traded him, if not both rumors will keep spinning.
I had to laugh when I read this post : BP unfiltered I think its safe to say that if Kenny Williams goes to his agent with a 4 year offer for 33 million, the negotiations will be over, and Mark’s White Sox career will soon be over.
How much is he worth? Here is the best salary calculator I have seen. It accounts for continued inflation, which is somewhat balanced by the player’s talent declining. Almost all free agent players should be in their decline phase, and Buerhle is no exception – he’ll be 29 next season. So all we need to know is how many wins is he worth.
First, how good is he? This year so far, his ERA+ is a very good 135. Last year, it was a career worst 93, following a career best 143 in 2005. His career mark is 122, and that seems to be a reasonable expectation of his ability.
Second, how much will he pitch? So far, he’s never missed a start, pitching over 200 innings every year and up to 245. We can’t expect he will always pitch that many innings. There’s pretty much no chance he’ll throw much more than 240, but there is a chance that he could hurt himself in spring training and pitch zero. I looked at how much the average top free agent starters have pitched the year after they signed. To get a quick list, I looked at only players who switched teams, and the old team received a compensation pick. Their average IP after signing was 170. If we remove the ones with obvious prior injury concerns, like Jaret Wright and AJ Burnett, we get 180. Buerhle may be a bit better than that, having not just a good health record, but a perfect one, so we might be able to project him at 190-200. But I can’t forget my definition of a durable pitcher:
Durable pitcher: Noun. A pitcher who has not been injured yet.
A good chunk of Mark’s value is just showing up and being average. Assuming replacement level is 1.25 times the league average, an average pitcher is +24 runs in 190 innings. Being above average around a 120 ERA+, that’s another 16 runs, so Buerhle is about 4 wins above the average pitcher. From 2006 going back, Buerhle’s wins over replacement numbers have been 1.8, 5.9, 5.7, 3.1, 6.1, and 6.3 according to my database, so 4 seems like a reasonable figure.
The chart gives us a 59 million deal over 4 years or 71 million over 5. The chart was designed for last year, so adding another 10% for inflation (damn you, Federal reserve!) would give us 65/4 or 78/5.
That would seem a fair deal, but if he holds out until the offseason, its hard to see somebody not overpaying and giving him Barry Zito money, as I can’t think of anything Zito had going for him that Buerhle doesn’t have.