January 22, 2010

Different Stokes

I don’t know what kind of Christmas Brian Stokes had, but his new year is off to a great start. Stokes leaves an organization (the Mets) that appears to have no plan and no clue for how to make their team better and ends up at one of the best run baseball teams in the major leagues.

To top it off, Stokes is from Southern California (he attended Jurupa Valley High School in Mira Loma) and will have an opportunity to play in front of friends and family on a regular basis.

In case you didn’t know - earlier today it was announced that Gary Matthews, Jr. (GMJ) was traded to the New York Mets for a relief pitcher named Brian Stokes. As part of the deal, the Angels will pay GMJ all but $2 million of the remaining $23.5 million (GMJ gets a $500K signing bonus as part of the trade) on his contract.

Ouch. That’s a lot of cash for what ends up being a really bad investment.

Never-the-less, it was deal that had to be done and the fact that the Angels got anything at all in return is somewhat of a miracle.

So what does this trade mean for someone like Matt Palmer? Given the addition of Joel Pineiro and now Stokes, Bill Plunkett of the O.C.Register speculates that it could be a bad week to be Palmer. Palmer could potentially find himself back in Salt Lake City pitching for the Angels AAA affiliate Bee’s.

If Palmer ends up back in Salt Lake City, it will be a shame. I’m not saying that’s not where he belongs. As a fan, I just have empathy for his situation.

If you listened to Jeff Biggs’ interview last night on AM 830’s The Drive, you got a look into the personality and character of Palmer. Palmer nearly walked away from the game prior to last season, but instead became one of the feel-good stories of 2009.

Palmer joined the rotation under the toughest of circumstances; having to replace Nick Adenhart, who died tragically. He handled himself incredibly well, all things considered.

Palmer is the kind of guy you want to root for as a fan. Judging from the interview last night, he sounds like a devoted husband and loving father of three. He’s also a humble man and someone who loves to share his faith with others. He pithced beyond anyone's expectations in 2009 and quite frankly hasn’t done anything to warrant a trip back to the minors; however, his future suddenly looks very different.

What ends up being good news for Stokes could end up being bad news for Palmer. Such is life.

One has to wonder if Palmer will hang in there if he has to head back to the minor leagues. Palmer will be 31 next month and time is running out for him to have a meaningful career.

Personally, I hope he sticks it out. It’s unlikely that the Angel starters will make all of their scheduled starts and Palmer provides depth. He’ll just have to wait for his opportunity yet again. When you think about it, it would probably best for the Angels to have Palmer in the minor leagues as a starting pitcher. It would be easier for him to be called on to step into the rotation, rather than having to do a spot start as a reliever.

That being said, I’m not so sure Stokes should be the clear cut guy to get that spot in the bull pen.

When you take a look at their numbers, I’d say Palmer had the better year. Palmer had a lower ERA (3.93 to 3.97). Even though those ERA’s aren’t all that different, Palmer has to get higher marks for pitching in the American League. Palmer also had a lower WHIP (1.319 to 1.564), and one could argue that Palmer is much more versatile. Palmer can start, pitch in long relief and even has experience as a closer (at lower levels).

On the other hand, those who use sabermetrics would probably make the case for Stokes over Palmer. Stokes had a lower FIP than Palmer (4.63 to 4.70), but the numbers are close. Stokes also projects better than Palmer (according to Bill James, CHONE, and Marcel - which you can look up on FanGraphs).

Side note: If you’re wondering what in the heck FIP is, I would encourage you to read The Daily Something's explanation of FIP. As a sabermetric novice (at best) myself, I found the post from one of my favorite blogs to be most helpful.

I have to believe both players will have an opportunity to compete for a spot in the bull pen in the spring. There's also a chance Scioscia will have a twelve man pitching staff, which would give both players a chance (but that's unlikely).

As a fan, I have the luxury of showing bias here and I will personally be rooting for Matt Palmer. He's won me over.

By the way, let me be the first to call the new Angel reliever, Brian "Different" Stokes and let's imagine him looking at Reggie and saying, "what you talkin' bout Willits?"

Forgive me, I couldn't resist.

Today's trade also has an impact on the outfield situation. The battle for the fourth outfielder position will be waged between Reggie Willits, Terry Evans and possibly Chris Pettit or Peter Bourjous.

I know Willits is a fan favorite, but I'd really like to see Evans get a shot. He seems to have more upside than Willits. There's also a possibility that both could make the team or the Angels could look to the free agent market to find that piece.

Much of this depends on how many pitchers Scioscia decides to have on his roster.

No comments:

Post a Comment