Monday, June 30, 2014

Some Second Tier Thinking About Tony Watson

Tony Watson is making a mockery over keeping ERA's for the rest of the pitchers in the league.  He's sporting a 0.96 ERA so far this year with 48 K's and just 10 BB in 37 innings.  In a fair and just world, he would be going to the All-Star Game.

When he comes in to the game, you can exhale and go get a sandwich.  This inning is on lockdown.  So why is Watson not the closer, but the stress-inducing Mark Melancon is?

Is it because Melancon is a grizzled veteran and Watson is a young pup?  No.  Melancon and Watson are both 29.  Melancon has one whole year more of experience in the majors than Watson.  Is it because Melancon has superior stuff and Watson is getting by on luck?  No.  Watson is sporting a mid-90's fastball from the left side, along with a slider that is patently unfair to hitters.  He toys with hitters by throwing a changeup, as well.  Melancon is getting by on a 93 mph cutter that requires pinpoint location, or else hitters can sit on it and serve the pitch to right field.

After pondering this, I'm left with two choices:
1.  Clint Hurdle is a stubborn idiot that can't change his thinking about Watson v. Melancon.
2.  Something else.

The something else that I came up with is that Hurdle has been instructed from on high to keep Melancon in the closer role and allow him to rack up saves, while keeping Watson in the setup role.  The reason?  In arbitration, saves get you paid.  Melancon has already set his salary base in arbitration at $2.6M.  He has two years of team control left.  Watson, on the other hand, is going to arb for the first time this year.  A first year dominant closer with 30 saves and a minuscule ERA would get paid cash money, son.

Now instead of Watson going to arb and getting $2M as a new closer, he may make $1M as a great setup man.  Is it dumb?  Sure it is, but that's the outdated method of arbitration.  Find a comparable player and go with it.  With a handful of saves, Watson would be in the same bin as most other setup guys.

That $1M potential difference may seem petty, but that's the base future salaries are built off of.  Now instead of a $2M/$4M/$6M path, Watson could be installed as the closer in 2015 on a $1M/$3M/$5M path.  The Pirates, always on the hunt for a good deal, may have saved $3M on the process.

Unless you want to believe in choice #1.

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