Papelbon/Lidge: Spending $12M in 2009 v. 2012

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, November 17, 2011 08:28 AM | Comments: 37
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

Brad LidgeIn the middle of his magical 2008 season, Brad Lidge inked a three year extension instead of becoming a free agent at the end of the year from then GM Pat Gillick. While Gillick made several shrewd moves to pick up the likes of JC Romero, Matt Stairs, Chad Durbin, and Jayson Werth, Lidge’s contract is a gaffe in Gillick’s tenure only comparable to the minuscule return the Phillies received for Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle and his nearly unforgivable signing of Adam Eaton.

When discussing the Jonathan Papelbon contract, many Phillies Nation readers aptly pointed out that from 2009 through 2011, Lidge received nearly the same per year contract value that Papelbon will be paid. This is true. It is also true that even a cursory exploration of comparing the seasons leading up to both extension, Papelbon was leaps and bounds the better pitcher.

Using fWar from FanGraphs and a concept they introduced, when comparing nth best seasons, only Lidge’s stellar 2004 compares to how well Papelbon pitched in any of his first six seasons. To put things in perspective, Lidge’s stellar 2008 would only be good enough for a tie for Papelbon’s fourth best season.

So what exactly does this mean? For one, it does not necessarily mean the Phillies got a bargain when they signed Papelbon, but it does mean they are shrewder now than they were in 2008. The move to extend Lidge midseason made sense and gave them position and cost certainty for 2009 with a player having what appeared to be a career year at age 32, but it also committed 8% of their payroll to their closer. Papelbon’s $12.5 million is close to 7% of the Phillies estimated 2012 payroll for a significantly better closer whose is closing out games for a significantly better pitching staff with no Major League injury track record.

Looking back, Lidge’s contract at the time should have been seen as a mistake. The good news? The Phillies, even heading into 2009, were relatively unstable with attendance and they weren’t quite the local television power they currently are now. They were able to weather the financial blow caused by Lidge’s missed time and still add payroll in mid-season trades in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Even in the worst case scenario, a complete bomb-out by Papelbon, the Phillies, who were in a much weaker and less stable economic position in 2008 when the Lidge extension was signed, will undoubtedly be able to recover.

Yet, there is no doubt that comparing Lidge’s and Papelbon’s contracts are like comparing apples to oranges but what can be compared is how effectively the Phils are choosing to spend their money. $12.5 million per year right now for Jonathan Papelbon is a much safer and better risk than spending $12 million per year for Brad Lidge in 2009.

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About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 893 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    I believe that the Papelbon signing will pay significant dividends over the years. He has been very successful and is in his prime. It will be more successful than the Lidge deal.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Salaries might be similar, but the risk is probably the same or worse, because Papelbon was signed for more years. I’m not so sure that the extra year and option will prove “how effectively the Phils are choosing to spend their money.” It may well prove the opposite.

  • Posts: 0 Kirk Nowlan

    I don’t consider the Lidge extension a gaffe. If he had not gotten injured, he would have been fine. I hate these sabermetrics things. How can they say Lidge’s perfect season is tied for Papelbon’s 4th best? Plus, it’s looking at the past, all I care about is how Papelbon does in the future with the Phillies. I think he will do well. Also, the Phillies overall salary year by year goes up, which kind of skews your closer’s percentage of the payroll.

  • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

    Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

    @Kirk – it’s because Lidge’s ’08 season had quite a few messy innings whereas Papelbon has quite a few more “clean” frames, gets more strikeouts, and has a lower WHIP. It’s a lot less exciting when Papelbon comes into the game because it means it’s over.

    @George – With elite closers, and Papelbon is one and Lidge was never in that category, the aging and attrition cliff isn’t something to worry about. Papelbon’s first six years match up nearly identically to Rivera’s and put him on pace to be at worse a poor man’s Bruce Sutter. It’s asking a lot, but anything that falls in between Bruce Sutter and Rivera puts him in very special company and there hasn’t been anything to suggest that pattern won’t continue whereas there were quite a number of warning signs for Lidge in his time with the Astros that he was not an elite reliever.

    • Posts: 0 George

      Aging and attrition are things you should always worry about, as well as injuries. No one will care if Papelbon’s six years match up with Rivera’s if his next four or five are spent losing his velocity or blowing out his elbow or shoulder.

      I also don’t care about Lidge’s “messy innings.” The bottom line is that he was getting the job done. And your statement that Lidge was never an elite closer doesn’t jibe with his having saved ALL his games one season, and most of them two years later, not to mention a number of good years with the Astros.

      I’ll add that if you had read my post more carefully, you’d have noticed the “probably” and the “may.” I was just expressing my concerns, not making an ironclad claim that the signing was stupid.

      • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

        Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

        An elite closer we can all agree on: Mariano Rivera.

        Rivera had the following ERAs in his first six seasons as a full-time closer (1997-2002): 1.88, 1.91, 1.83, 2.85, 2.34, 2.74 – all in the American League East.

        Another elite closer we can all agree on: Trevor Hoffman.

        Hoffman had the following ERAs in his first six seasons as a full-time closer (1994-1999): 2.57, 3.88, 2.25, 2.66, 1.48, 2.14.

        Brad Lidge’s first full six seasons ERAs: 3.60, 1.90, 2.29, 5.58, 3.36, 1.95 v. Papelbon’s first full six seasons ERAs: 0.92, 1.85, 2.34, 1.85, 3.90, and 2.94. Which player compares more favorably? Which player has not had major injuries before his contract that has caused them to miss time?
        Papelbon posted a WHIP of no more than 1.27 in each of his first full six seasons and had four seasons where he allowed less than a base runner per innings pitched. Lidge only had one season under 1 and all others were above 1.15. Baseball-Reference has the following comparables for Papelbon through age 30: Bryan Harvey, Trevor Hoffman, and Mariano Rivera. Through age 34, Baseball-Reference says Lidge was the most comparable to: Francisco Cordero, Gregg Olson, and Brian Fuentes.
        Could Papelbon face an injury and go down the same trajectory that Lidge did? Absolutely. But I have yet to see one piece of evidence that has convinced me that Papelbon is damaged goods. The point of the comparison was to illustrate that while it was the same amount of money, the Phillies were getting more bang for their buck with Papelbon than they did three years prior with Lidge. That extra year will not kill them and if they somehow get to the fifth year (55 IP in 2014 or 100 IP over 2013-2014) then he will have earned it.

      • Posts: 0 George

        Screw the comparisons. You can’t say that paying for two extra years of anybody is a smarter move. Those extra two are just two more years when an injury CAN happen. Examples: Howard had been hitting forty home runs on a regular basis and had no injury history. He was extended five years, one whole year more than Papelbon. Rollins has had numerous injuries during the latter years of his contract. Utley was signed to a long contract and has been going steadily downhill healthwise.

        And there’s one “elite closer” you’ve conveniently forgotten. NOBODY was better than Gagne in his few years. If I recall, he pretty much blew his arm out. He was being paid pretty decently, too.

  • Posts: 5449 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    A much safer risk? The evidence you present is compelling, but these stats ought to come with the same disclaimer stocks do. “Past performance is not an indication of future…….”

    Bill James gets it right 45- 60% of the time, that’s probably about the same as weathermen, and we all listen to them.

    I don’t know, time will tell I guess. Let’s hope.

  • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

    Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

    @Lefty – You’re are right that it should come with a disclaimer but for me it’s like comparing two cars: would you rather have a 2000 Escadalade with a history of breaking down or for the same price would you rather have a 2012 Grand Cherokee that has better gas and had shown no signs of wear or tear.

    James projected a very good but not great season for Papelbon, listed at FanGraphs. That’s probably accurate and it would be better than any season Lidge had while being paid $12 million a year.

    • Posts: 5449 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      I saw James’ prediction prior to commenting. Lower ERA, that’s good, but the three that stood out to me most were the FIP stats-higher BB per9, lower K/9 and higher HR/9, slightly worrisome. Like I said he’s only right sometimes, also I wonder if that prediction was done before he switched leagues.

      It wasn’t one of the choices, but I’d rather have a 2012 Escalade. BTW I’m not unhappy that we have an FO that is not afraid to spend, that’s not a bad thing, just wonder sometimes whether it’s the right approach.

      • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

        Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

        Wasn’t sure if the Escalade was still in production or would have used that!

        I agree about the FO, though. The difference between Madson and Papelbon at the prices they’re offered, to me, made Papelbon a slam dunk if choosing between the two. But what if you could get a middle of the road closer and a few really good bench guys for the same money that it took to get Papelbon? I think the measure if this move will not be how Papelbon performs necessarily but how deep the Phils are if they run into injury trouble.

      • Posts: 0 George

        Escalade or Grand Cherokee? Personally I wouldn’t want EITHER of those overgrown pieces of crap.

        The two contracts, to me, are not anything like your comparison of two cars, because the price of the two closers are NOT THE SAME. Papelbon will be getting the same money for two more years. That’s like adding two years of extra payments to one of your cars, which would have to affect anyone’s choice.

      • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

        Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

        Actually George, Papelbon is only getting one more year than Lidge guarenteed. Papelbon’s fifth year is a vesting option, which, if he hits those marks, the fifth year will definitely be worth it. But you are right, the deals are different: Papelbon (428 innings exiting 2011) has less wear on his arm than Lidge (468 innings exiting ’08), comes into it with 87% save rate v. 82% save rate Lidge had in Houston, was never replaced as closer in Boston like Lidge was twice mid-season, and never had a serious injury that sidelined him like Lidge did twice in Houston.

        It isn’t like adding two years to a car payment if you’re receiving compensation (i.e. service time) for it. There’s evidence that suggests that Papelbon will see the life of his contract while there was evidence that suggested Lidge would not. If the option does vest for the fifth year, he will have earned it and you’re going to want him closing games because that will have meant he’s done an incredible job.

      • Posts: 0 George

        Ianwhatever, now you’re just quibbling, or if that word doesn’t suit you, you’re splitting hairs. It’s still $12.5 million more. If the option kicks in it’ll be something like another $13 million (I don’t have the exact figures in front of me).

        It’s a pretty reachable option for even a lousy reliever. I know Paplebon isn’t lousy now, but given four years, he might no longer have closer’s stuff, and could be an extremely expensive middle reliever.

        I hope that isn’t the case. I am concerned, though, that it could be. I just don’t believe that with all the risks involved, a contract of that length is less a gamble, or any smarter than the relatively short Lidge extension.

  • Posts: 1048 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    I disagree with the entire premise of comparing the deals, because you’re comparing one stupid thing (Lidge’s deal) to another thing (Papelbon) in order to essentially say, “The Papelbon pickup was good because it wasn’t as dumb as the Lidge extension.”

    I agree that Papelbon is better than Lidge, and has had less of an injury history than Lidge did, but it doesn’t follow that I think you need to commit 8 digits annually to a guy who’s going to pitch something like 60 innings. (It also doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll stay healthy through this deal, since that’s basically unknowable, although the longer the deal gets the less likely it becomes).

    • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

      Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

      I mentioned: “For one, it does not necessarily mean the Phillies got a bargain when they signed Papelbon, but it does mean they are shrewder now than they were in 2008.” and “Yet, there is no doubt that comparing Lidge’s and Papelbon’s contracts are like comparing apples to oranges but what can be compared is how effectively the Phils are choosing to spend their money.”

      So, in a sense, we’re a lot closer in opinion than you originally probably originally thought. I also agree that money for closers is way out of line. But where I will not budge is that the Phils got the best closer and despite spending big bucks, they are spending more effectively.

  • Posts: 0 Brian

    With Papelbon’s contract, there are 2 issues.

    1 – Are closers paid too much in general? The answer, as many of you have pointed out, is yes.

    2 – Did the Phillies pay too much given the market, their needs and their budget? The answer there is no. The extra $5m/yr they have “overpaid” above a closers actual value is small relative to their entire payroll. It is not going to stop them from doing what they need to do. And given the market, would you rather see Papelbon on the mound in the playoffs or a more economical Joe Nathan?

    The market for closers is over valued. But it is what it is. The Phillies got the best closer in baseball. Enjoy.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    It’s not just closers being paid too much, it’s baseball players in general being paid too much.

    . Closers are necessary and not all relievers can be closers due to the pressure. Papelbon is among the best. If he stays healthy, strong and able — and the Phillies win — he is likely to be among the elite all-time closers and could be among the all-time leaders in overall successful closes of games. He has a legitimate chance of making the HOF, as closers are becoming more recognized as vital parts of winning teams.

    Papelbon is a moose and could pitch into his late thirties, Look at the ages of some of the successful relievers and it is impressive.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Well as a whole unless they sign another high priced agent the bullpen is actually cheaper. You have Bastardo who will become the set up man then Papelhead as the closer. So Bastardo will take Madson original spot and Papelhead will take on Lidge role. Stutes is our Chad Durbin. I would like to think that RAJ has something up his sleeve at some point im sure their will be another addition to the team.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    I completely agree with Brain.

    The “intrinsic” value of a star ballplayer is much lower than that of a teacher, fireman, policeman, etc. Their only value is how much it enhances the worth of the team they play on in the marketplace. Their skill translates into more dollars because people pay a lot of money for entertainment.

    As fans, I think we should keep in mind that these guys are playing a game. I don’t begrudge them for getting a lot of money. They get what the market will give them and thats the American way. They’re just like actors and rock stars.

    So yes, they’re overpaid. But we love our ball team, dammit, and spare no expense to make it a good one! I think we should only care about how much a player makes “insofar as his salary keeps the team from spending other money on things they need”. To me, thats how you measure “overpaying”. Papelbon: his salary too big a piece of the pie that is the Phils payroll? I don’t know. He’s a great closer. Jimmy Rollins? No value to us in the contract he wants. Too much money for too little performance and the performance that we lose has to be gotten somewhere and the Phils have to pay money to get it and that why he’s not worth it. Circular reasoning but I think you guys get it. Can you feel me?

    Go Phils.

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 0 Chris

      You are right on Dipsy as far as why athletes make so much more money even though we perceive their value to society to be relatively low. Economists will tell you that people should be paid by their marginal revenue product meaning they should be paid for the additional revenue they generate from their additional production.

      It’s not something easy to measure in everyday life but it’s becoming easier in baseball. With the invention of stats like WAR you can measure the marginal product of players. Marginal revenue on the other hand is a little more difficult to measure as it pertains to an individual and there are certain things out of the players hands such as market size.
      / Educational rant

  • Posts: 0 JC

    Add to Gillick’s gaffes – Trading Gio Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia. That may be worse than Abreu since that cleared money off the books and a negative attitude. He didn’t get anything back for them, but we really didn’t get anything back for Schilling and Rolen either.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Not only in America their as some high priced soccer players as well.

    1 is 25-year-old Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns $17.06 million* per year as a forward for Spanish football club Real Madrid. Ronaldo, who also captains the Portuguese national team, is the most expensive soccer player in history. Real Madrid bought him from English club Manchester United in 2009 for a cool $132 MILLION.
    2. 2, earning a reported $15.7 million for the 2009-2010 season. The 29-year-old striker plays for Barcelona and the Swedish national team. Until Ronaldo’s Real Madrid deal was inked in 2009, Ibrahimovic was soccer’s highest-paid player.
    3. At 22, Lionel Messi is the youngest player to make the top 20 list of highest-paid soccer stars. Messi’s 2009-2010 contract is worth $13.74 million. Messi, a striker for Spanish champions Barcelona, will represent his home country, Argentina, at this year’s World Cup.

    FIFA World Cup
    Cristiano Ronaldo
    Lionel Messi
    Samuel Eto’o
    2. Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes in at No. 2, earning a reported $15.7 million for the 2009-2010 season. The 29-year-old striker plays for Barcelona and the Swedish national team. Until Ronaldo’s Real Madrid deal was inked in 2009, Ibrahimovic was soccer’s highest-paid player.
    3. At 22, Lionel Messi is the youngest player to make the top 20 list of highest-paid soccer stars. Messi’s 2009-2010 contract is worth $13.74 million. Messi, a striker for Spanish champions Barcelona, will represent his home country, Argentina, at this year’s World Cup.

  • Posts: 1157 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    i know there are a Iot of you on here that are in love with sabrametrics, and I admit I am not, some may have some value, like the percentage of ground balls or line drive, battered balls in play. But the WAR to me is just a made up number. How can you really statisticly compare someone to a mythical replacement player. Does it take into consideration who that one team has in the minors or is the replacement player the same for every team. I think it is really a random stat. Because if you want you can make stats prove what you want if you play with the numbers enough. Stats lie all the time.
    I do not hate the Pap deal, I just think that there were more pressing needs that the Phillies should have been conserned with. I also have a little more faith in younger pitchers in the bull pen. And I think you can find cheaper bull pen pitchers if the young arms can not do the job

    • Posts: 0 Chris

      There are definitely some problems with WAR but it’s a much more comprehensive stat than older stats. Anyone who is a stat guy would say that the Phillies money could have been spent better than on the likes of a closer but it doesn’t change the fact that Papelbon is one of the best closers in the league.

      • Posts: 0 George

        The problem with “comprehensive” stats is that they aren’t specific enough to really be an accurate guide to much of anything. WAR is, to me, a lazy man’s way of deciding a player’s worth. It’s much more time consuming to look at all the stats, like line drive percentage, OBP, base running skills, and all that player’s personality issues, leadership qualities, etc. It’s more time consuming to actually scout the player to see just how much luck is involved as opposed to actual coordination. To me, WAR is way too general, and like any generality, will be prone to exceptions and errors of all kinds.

      • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

        Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

        WAR is actually not lazy at all and takes into account more variables than any other stat out there. It correlated 83% to standard deviation in 2009 and is completely context independent which makes it that much more of an impressive tool. Context dependent tools like Pythagorean win totals are context dependent, thus yield more comprehensive results when measuring team success but WAR can reliably illustrate the value of a player and in one of FanGraphs newest pieces, there have been very few players who have performed at the top of the WAR charts that were not recognized by the BBWA in their end of year voting.

        Unfortunately, there is no tool to measure clubhouse presence, leadership, or charisma and their won’t ever be such a tool. Thankfully, WAR is a pretty accurate tool to assess what a player does on the field.

    • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

      Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

      A zero WAR player is literally Mike Schwimer 2011. It isn’t a mythical player and varies from year to year based on a series of baseline stats. It does have trouble quantifying defense and appropriately measuring relief pitchers and closers, though.

  • Avatar of Jelly Roll Morton

    Who is this joker? He probably thought Francisco Rodriguez was a steal in ’98. His boy Papelbon isn’t going to be able to drink his sorrows away after a BS with Beckett in the club house. He’s going to get himself booed Mesa style. He’s already running his mouth. You haven’t done nothing here. Ask Chad Durbin what happens when you don’t play by Philly’s rules. This clown can take Papelbon, his 12 mill, apples and oranges, back to Boston before his Microsoft Word free trial expires and they don’t let him make any more cute little graphs.

    • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

      Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

      Two things:

      Chad Durbin was robbed.

      I use Open Office.

  • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

    Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

    @George – My criteria this whole time has bee six full seasons at closer. Gagne only had three.

    You’re statistically just as likely to injure yourself in every day life than you are playing baseball. I’m not sure why we should all be this worried about injuries. Besides, ball clubs take out insurance on players; most missed time is paid for by an insurance plan and that lost money does not effect the team.

    • Posts: 0 George

      If you’re using six years as the definition of an elite closer, why didn’t you state that explicitly? And who, besides you, thinks that six years in the correct number? You can’t just make up new criteria anytime you wish.

      And your stupid statistic about injury risks in daily life=injury risks playing baseball is the biggest piece of manure I’ve read in ages. I suppose John Q. Ordinary is out there making diving stops of the doughnut someone just batted his way, or slides headfirst into the boss’s office to score, or leaps over the headboard to save his girfriend’s brassiere from going into the seats. Yes, we can all be hit by lightning, but I’d bet the guy who stands on the golf course during a thunderstorm will get it first.

      • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

        Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

        Your last line proves it explicitly. Gagne was moved to the bullpen due to injuries not because he was seen as more effective. He was a top starting pitching prospect until he was hurt. He had a prior injury history. Gagne was not included on the list because he did not have six years as a closer yet alone a dominant one nor were those years of service in his first six years of team control like the four players discussed in the article and in the comments (Lidge, Papelbon, Rivera, Papelbon).

        The six years was the entire theme of the piece. Six years is how long a player is under team control before they become eligible for free agency for the first time.

        I appreciate your comments and look forward to seeing you post on more Phillies Nation articles!

  • Posts: 0 George

    One other thing: insurance doesn’t pay for everything, and sometimes doesn’t pay at all. The Astros had all kinds of trouble with their insurance on Bagwell, and never did get what they should have.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Read your OWN initial post. I don’t see ONE WORD about six years being your criteria.

    And WAR is still so full of holes it’s laughable. 83% scores about a B-, or if the grading is tough, a C+.

    • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

      Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

      The six years was the entire theme of the piece. Six years is how long a player is under team control before they become eligible for free agency for the first time. Subtlety is an art perfected best by Broadway composers if you believe South Park; perhaps I was a bit too subtle.

      Coincidentally, 83% is the save percentage Lidge had as a closer with the Astros. B-/C+ would be above league average, wouldn’t it? Again, thank you for posting. Look forward to seeing you post more in the comments section!

  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    Read the contract – he gets $11 mil in 2012 and $13 for three years thereafter. He gets less than we paid Lidge in 2011.

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