Monday, November 21, 2005
Into Thin Eyre
Either way, the Giants were right not to go after Eyre too passionately. Brian Sabean has always tended to be a guy who knows when he is beat (i.e. the Dusty Baker debacle), so give him credit for knowing when to cut bait. From the Cubs, Eyre will get in the neighborhood of $11 million over the next three years (assuming he exercises his player option in 2008, a safe bet considering the high likelihood of Eyre seeing his performance collapse like Kirstie Alley’s bathroom scale…ba-zing!), and that’s not counting the substantial incentive money spelled out in his contract. For a 33-year-old middle reliever who’s just had his best season, and who has appeared in over 80 games in each of the past two seasons (thank you, Felipe), that’s not a worthwhile investment. Eyre was unquestionably one of the best non-closers in the game last season, and according to Baseball Prospectus he was the absolute best pitcher in the NL at preventing inherited runners from scoring, and it wasn’t even close*. He started getting righties out as well as lefties and finally shed that pesky LOOGY label that most southpaw relievers carry around with them like the Stone of Triumph.
Unfortunately, while Eyre was terrific, he wasn’t extraordinary, and relievers who don’t reduce opposing hitters to drooling lobotomy patients at the plate don’t deserve big paydays. Good middle relievers can be found scattered throughout the baseball universe. They are the single most easily replaceable commodity in baseball; you just have to know where to look. If you sift long enough through the Alvin Mormans and the Troy Brohawns of the world, you’re bound to come across a Chad Bradford or a Neal Cotts. Even Eyre himself was a scrap heap find by Sabean in 2002, a Blue Jay cast-off looking for a niche in the majors. When we remember how Eyre was dug up, we realize that it’s foolish to throw millions of dollars at him when somebody just as good can be found using exactly the same methods of dumpster diving. Wait long enough, and some rich snob in a gated community will toss out a perfectly good Armani. Also, young lefty Jack Taschner, who was so impressive in his limited showing last season, is a good bet to match Eyre’s production over the next few seasons. In the meantime, that 3 mil (or thereabouts) that would have gone towards Eyre can now be spent on a decent bat or another arm.
*Regarding this particular stat, Inherited Runs Prevented, I have to believe that it has an incredibly high degree of fluctuation from year to year. Unless a pitcher is an Eric Gagne-type who strikes out a bazillion batters per nine innings, it’s easy to see how a few little dunk hits and duckfarts could put a crimp in a pitcher’s success rate. If Eyre comes in five times with the bases loaded in 2005 and induces five line-outs, nobody scores and he looks like an IRP god. In 2006, if the cosmos open up a can of karma whoop-ass and those line-outs turn into singles or doubles, Eyre doesn’t look like too much of a genius anymore. Taking this into account just reinforces the fact that letting Eyre leave was probably a wise thing to do.