Thursday, March 03, 2005

D-Back 2005 Preview: Russ Ortiz 

Ortiz’ signing led the whole nation
To blame the D-backs’ for free-agent inflation
What were they thinking?
His K rates are sinking --
Four years he’ll be in our rotation

Russ Ortiz pitched for Leo Mazzone
He and the Braves made his stats look quite tony
But his lack of ground balls
In Turner's deep walls
Made his win numbers look a bit phony

For a pitcher whose signing seemed to put the Hot Stove League into near-apoplexy, I thought it appropriate to compose two poems. (A rare occurrence, I assure you.) Now, from a D-Backs' perspective, I thought the criticism was a little over-the-top, as if the Ortiz contract had pricked a little blood in the free-agent waters and led to the feeding frenzy that followed. "Overpaid" contracts would have happened this winter, regardless of the Ortiz signing.

None of which is to say that it wasn't a ridiculous contract. $8 million/year for a pitcher who, at best, is a #2 starter. (BP 2005 calls him the "quintessence of a tolerable third starter.") A four year contract for a pitcher who, though durable (averaging 200+ innings for the past six years), will turn 31 in June.

Even worse, the trends don't look good.

Year GB/FB WHIP BB/9 K/9
2001 1.09 1.27 3.75 6.96
2002 1.29 1.33 3.95 5.75
2003 1.03 1.31 4.32 6.32
2004 1.09 1.51 4.93 6.29

And those were set while he pitched for San Francisco and Atlanta, two teams with pitcher's parks. BOB, of course, is not a pitcher's park.

BP and ZIPS are both projecting ERAs of right around 5.00. I'd like to think they've underestimated Ortiz's durability (and, apparently, a small chip on his shoulder), but I can't say I'd be terribly surprised if they were right.

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