Mailbag: Carl Pavano

Open Thread: Jesus turns 21
Fan Confidence Poll: November 29th, 2010
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

If Carl Pavano hadn’t already pitched for the Yankees, would you consider him as an starting pitching option?

With Hiroki Kuroda and Jake Westbrook re-signing with the Dodgers and Cardinals, respectively, Pavano is the best pitcher on the free agent market not named Cliff Lee. Usually a guy like that would be the first backup plan should the Yankees fail to sign Lee, but given their history there’s zero chance of Pavano returning to New York. They’d sooner start Sidney Ponson every five days. But let’s forget all that for a second and break him down as a pitcher.

Pavano, 35 in January, has developed into a bonafide workhorse over the last two seasons, ironic given his tenure in New York. He threw 221 innings in 2010 (seven (!!!) complete games) and 199.1 the year before, good for the 19th most innings in all of baseball over the last two seasons. A sinker-slider-changeup mix results in a ton of groundballs (47.5% over the last two years) and he doesn’t hurt himself with walks at all (just 73 unintentional walks during that time, or 1.56 BB/9). Lots of innings, lots of groundballs, and few walks are a slam dunk recipe for success, but there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about Pavano going forward.

For one, he doesn’t strike anyone out, just 4.76 K/9 in 2010 and 6.64 (second best mark of his career) the year before. Pavano’s swing-and-miss rate is just 8.02% over the last two years, below the 8.5% league average. His fastball velocity is trending downward, and despite the impressive ground ball rate, Pavano can still be prone to giving up the long ball (1.07 HR/9 since 2009). That’s with just about a quarter of his innings coming at spacious Target Field as well, a park that suppressed homers to just 64.1% of the league average in its inaugural season. When he’s made mistakes, he’s made them up in the zone, a bad sign.

Given the contracts already handed to Kuroda, Westbrook, Ted Lilly, and Jon Garland, it’s safe to say that Pavano’s looking at no fewer than two years (likely three) guaranteed at $10M per season. For a guy that struggles to miss bats and needs a strong defense behind him to survive, that price just doesn’t make sense for the Yankees. They’ve built their pitching staffs around strikeout pitchers the last few years, taking what was once a below average team defense out of the equation as much as possible. It’s a sound strategy regardless of what the team’s defense looks like, really, but Pavano doesn’t fit that mold at all. He’d probably be able to step into their rotation and be a back-end innings guy in New York, which absolutely has value, but they need something better that right now.

Even assuming 2005 through 2008 never happened, I’d still be against a Carl Pavano signing unless the Yankees whiffed on Plans A, B, and C. He’d be a last resort kind of guy for me. If he’s not missing bats and is giving up a decent amount of homers now, what will he be doing in two or three years?

Open Thread: Jesus turns 21
Fan Confidence Poll: November 29th, 2010
  • Brooklyn Ed

    I still cringe at the fact that Pavano was the 2007 opening day stater. ugh!!!

    • mbonzo

      Was at that game. No one was nice to Pavano. Arod dropped a fly ball pretty early in the game and people jumped all over him. He settled it with a bomb that ignited his unstoppable April.

      • Brooklyn Ed

        the best feeling ever!!!

      • bexarama

        Heh, my mom was at that game (I was at college, so I wasn’t), up in basically the last row somewhere. Apparently her section was chanting “This is bull-shit! We want Pett-itte!” to which I say, Godspeed to all of them.

  • bob

    Just a suggestion (not trying to be a dick): The whole “best so and so not named so and so” was ok for a while, but at this point it is just getting annoying, switch it up a little, Axisa!

    • mbonzo

      If thats all you have to complain about I think Axisa should be proud of his writing. Have you ever tried to come up with a few original blog posts a day? I assume you might repeat yourself a couple times.

  • mbonzo

    He also hit .500 in 2010. I’d like to see Cliff Lee do that.

  • Kiersten

    Wow, someone was actually able to snap a photo of Pavano in a Yankee uniform. I didn’t think he was on the mound long enough for that.

    • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

      Look at all the resin on his cap! There is no way he could have touched his cap that many times without breaking a nail!

      • mbonzo

        I think its the creepy mustache that stabilizes his landing and takes pressure off his elbow. It also protects his ribs when he gets into car accidents.

    • bexarama

      Ugh, I was coming here to comment how the most impressive part of this post was how Mike actually found a picture of Pavano pitching in a Yankee uniform (with no offense to what is actually written, which is good!).

  • Adam B

    This just further supports how crucial it is to produce your own pitchers. legitimate options at reasonable prices are just impossible to find on the open market now.

    • mbonzo

      Very true. I think the failure of Pavano has led to the development of the pitcher heavy system the Yankees have now. It seems like starting pitchers are the least reliable position player you can have, so unless you get a guy like CC, Lee, or Moose who have track records and rely on control and movement more than velocity, you need some fall backs. Not to mention, these types of pitchers cost a lot of money.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Now if they could get the patience to fully use these guys and not send them to the 8th inning when the first pitch they throw is a ball.

  • Plank

    I think Jaret Wright is a FA. He could probably be had for cheap.

    • T-Dubs

      What’s Aaron Small up to?

  • bexarama

    For a guy that struggles to miss bats and needs a strong defense behind him to survive, that price just doesn’t make sense for the Yankees.

    While I agree he’d be a back-end guy for the Yankees and he’s too expensive for that (plus he’s Carl Pavano so he’s not coming back), Wang did really really well with a very low strikeout rate and an IF defense likely worse than we have now.

    • whozat

      I believe he had a more prodigious groundball rate, and a lower HR rate.

  • Matt DiBari

    In other news, I didn’t realize Garland signed.

    That’s a relief.

    • Tom Zig

      I knew he signed, but also felt relief.

      I was also relieved when Westbrook, Lilly, and Kuroda all signed. I wanted nothing to do with any of them.

      • Matt DiBari

        Of the four, I think Lilly probably had the best chance of some kind of success, but certainly nothing better than a plan B.

        Westbrook and Garland would have gotten absolutely lit up. I don’t think either would have finished the year in the rotation.

  • Dick Soloman

    Carl Pavano is a fart

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    I believe the word “pavano” is Italian for bruised buttocks.

  • larryf

    7 complete games? Does Gardenhire have a binder?

  • the Other Steve S.

    “Pavano, 35 in January, has developed into a bonafide workhorse over the last two seasons,”

    Well, he certainly should have been well-rested.