Baseball BeatJanuary 09, 2005
The Bane of Weaver's Existence
By Rich Lederer

In The Great Debate, a must-read roundtable discussion moderated by Alan Schwarz of Baseball America, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheimed scouting director Eddie Bane made a comment that has received little, if any, attention.

Im in the middle of a negotiation right now (with Jered Weaver) where a guy wants to compare our first-round picks stats to Mark Priors. And to me, theres no correlation whatsoever.

Hmmm. "There's no correlation whatsoever," ehh? Even though Prior and Weaver both pitched on the west coast at the Division I level for and against teams that went to the NCAA playoffs? And "where a guy" seems a bit disrespectful to agent Scott Boras if you ask me. It's no wonder that the Angels and Boras haven't reached a deal.

Let's go back and take another look at their remarkably similar statistics:

             IP    H   R   ER   BB     K    W-L
Weaver    144.0   81  31   26   21   213   15-1
Prior     138.2  100  32   26   18   202   15-1
             H/9    BB/9    K/9    K/BB     ERA
Weaver       5.1     1.3   13.3    10.1    1.62
Prior        6.5     1.2   13.1    11.2    1.69

If anything, Weaver's raw numbers were slightly superior to Prior's. However, to be fair, the numbers should be adjusted for park effects. In that regard, Weaver pitched his home games at Blair Field, a ballpark known to suppress hitting, whereas Prior pitched his home games at Dedeaux Field, a more neutral park.

Using Boyd Nation's total park factors (weighted-average park factor for all games), Long Beach State was an 88 for the 2001-04 period and USC was a 101 for 1999-2002 (a rate above 100 favors hitters and below 100 favors pitchers). These are far from perfect numbers given that they cover four years rather than just the specific years in question. However, one could argue that the longer stretches serve to normalize the data, making them more -- not less -- reliable.

A simplistic way to compare the two ERAs would be to divide 101 by 88 and multiply that quotient (1.15) by Weaver's ERA of 1.62 to get an equivalent park-adjusted ERA of 1.86 (vs. Prior's actual ERA of 1.69). As a result, Prior's ERA is a little bit better than Weaver's on an adjusted basis. It is also worth noting that Jered's defense-independent ERA was 1.60. Boyd's World does not have DERA for Prior as such records only go back to 2002.

Long Beach State had the seventh most difficult schedule in the country last year. USC had the second-toughest schedule in 2001. The 49ers and Trojans play each other every year and they compete against a number of the same teams year in and year out.

Like it or not, Eddie, Weaver's and Prior's numbers can be adjusted and compared quite easily. This point, in fact, is one of the major issues separating the stats vs. the scouts debate. A lot of the scouts simply don't want to believe the numbers because doing so dilutes the value of their worth (or so they think).

Last year, Weaver faced five different Pac-10 teams in six games. He threw seven shutout innings to beat 26th-ranked Cal in the season opener. Jered struck out the first 10 batters he faced en route to a 14-strikeout victory over 16th-ranked USC in his next outing. The tall right-hander hurled eight shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out 15 vs. UCLA a month later. The College Player of the Year tossed seven shutout innings in a win over 17th-ranked Arizona the following week. He beat Stanford, the #1-ranked team in the country, in the Regionals in June by throwing eight innings and allowing just one earned run while whiffing eight. In his final collegiate game, Weaver went 7 2/3 IP and gave up only one earned run while striking out 12 vs. Arizona in the Super Regionals. The Wildcats went on to the College World Series.

Suffice it to say that Weaver acquitted himself rather nicely vs. Prior's alma mater and the best teams in the Pac-10 conference. He also beat 11th-ranked Baylor, 4-1; 7th-ranked Wichita State, 10-1 (with 16 Ks); 7th-ranked UCI Irvine, 3-0; and the 2004 College World Series champion Cal State Fullerton, 6-2. His only loss was against 3rd-ranked Miami.

I'm sorry, but it is simply disingenuous to say that there is "no correlation whatsoever" between Weaver's and Prior's stats. Bane knows the stats are incredibly similar so he is trying to play a little three-card monte on the public by proclaiming that they aren't akin to one another.

Boras is believed to be asking for a deal similar to the five-year, $10.5 million contract Prior signed with the Chicago Cubs in August 2001. Given their comparable stats and competition, is that so unreasonable?

The whole thing is really quite silly when you think about the fact that Jered's brother Jeff is scheduled to earn $9.25 million in 2005. I know Jeff is a more proven pitcher at the big-league level, but who would you rather have for about the same amount of money -- Jered Weaver for the next five years or Jeff Weaver for one year?

Another point in Jered's favor is the fact that Prior's contract has proven to be a bargain for the Cubs. I could understand the reluctance on the part of the Angels to give their first-round pick Prior-type money if the former Trojan was a bust in the majors, but he obviously hasn't been. If anything, the Cubs ace should be making more money.

Now I'm not suggesting that Weaver is going to be as good as or better than Prior. Nobody knows that at this point. However, based on his college and Team USA records, I think he has earned the right to a Prior-like contract.

By the way, how much money do you think Weaver would be getting if he were a free agent like Eric Milton, Derek Lowe, or any number of starters who are being gobbled up at $7.5-$9 million/season for three or more years rather than having to negotiate with the Angels only? I think it is high time that general manager Bill Stonewall step up to the plate and make an offer that approaches the contract that Prior got from the Cubs. Period. End of story.

[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]


Bravo. Another well thought, solid article. The fact that Weaver is unsigned but Cabrera is at shortstop boggles the mind.

Great job, Rich. You were able to take the Great Debate to the next level by showing the analysis that proves Eddie Bane's weak reasoning. The ironic thing here is that he has to go beyond the radar gun readings and scouts notes and use stats to make his case against the merits of Weaver's demands; he just doesn't know how to do it objectively -- likely never will.

It's also worth pointint out that Weaver would have gone much higher in the draft, but teams were scared of Weaver's disclosed price tag.

The issue is: if someone makes the price claim, and dozen or whatever teams respect the decision of the top-level player of the draft, does that next team get to take advantage of the opening, prevent other teams willing to pay that price, and play hardball?

Yes, they do! But, they also can't complain about it, if things don't go their way! Yeesh... that's like ordering food you are told may not be the best in the restaurant, and complaining that you didn't get a good meal at the end of the day.

We all know the unwritten rules here... you take your chances, roll the dice, and take your losses when they happen.

Good analysis. However, even if he was correct about Weaver not being comparable to Prior I think he is making a major mistake by addressing the negotiations in that forum. Will not help get a deal done which should be his goal.

Rich, there is a single logical error in your analysis that renders it's conclusion useless. Do you see why?

You did a good job of making the case that Weaver is comparable to Prior. You played some games with park factors, but not unreasonably. The error is after that. Do you see it now?

Comparing Prior's cost to current free agent costs is a bit unfair. Prior was a bigger risk than most free agents, just as Weaver is. But that's not the critical mistake. You are getting closer...

"I think it is high time that general manager Bill Stonewall step up to the plate and make an offer that approaches the contract that Prior got from the Cubs". Out of curiosity, who is Weavers agent? There, you found it!

Don't you think Scott Boras is capable of doing the same reasoning you have just done? Don't you think he can establish that Prior was a steal at 5/$10.5M, and that Weaver is comparable? You're critical error is that Boras isn't likely to settle for Prior money.

Is Boras asking for 5 years $20M? 5 years $30M? 5 years $40M? All of these would have been a bargain for Prior, if you only view the transaction after the fact. But that would ignore any risk in translating his abilities to the majors. There is risk that, even though Prior made a smooth transition, Weaver won't. And at some price point, the inherent risks become too high for Weaver.

Yeah. What Mike said.

Jered Weaver's an untested rookie; his brother is not. You don't have a crystal ball. Neither do I, but there's no way you hand out guaranteed contracts to guys who may not perform. I wasn't especially fond of the Morales signing. The Angels need to get a discount to make up for the risk involved.

"Don't you think he can establish that Prior was a steal at 5/$10.5M, and that Weaver is comparable? You're critical error is that Boras isn't likely to settle for Prior money."

Although I'm not privy to the negotiations, I think it has been pretty well established that Boras is seeking a deal similar to Prior's. There has been no indication from either side that he is asking for more money than Prior, much less the type of deals you subsequently mentioned.

"The Angels need to get a discount to make up for the risk involved."

The Angels ARE getting a discount to make up for the risk involved. To wit, Jeff Weaver will make $9.25 million this year. Based on a Prior-type contract, Jered's average over the next FIVE years works out to just over $2 million per year. That is a HUGE discount.

In fairness, I thought that Bane seemed to at least have an open mind when it came to the stat head stuff.

Also, Bane may very well think that Weaver will end up being as good as Prior. With Weaver not having signed yet, no way is Bane is going to say anything like that in an interview though.

BTW Rich, great writing. I've read several of your articles via Dodger Thoughts and BTF.

"Another point in Jereds favor is the fact that Priors contract has proven to be a bargain for the Cubs."

In a way, but you also have to consider that if Prior signs like any other prospect, he gets his signing bonus ($2m say), and he then gets $1m for this first three years combined (league minimum). He goes to arbitration in his fourth year and gets a big raise to $3-4m, and he earns $5-6m the next year. For his first five years then, you're talking $11-13m, not much more than what Prior will earn under his contract. The difference is that Prior is guaranteed his money, while the typical prospect has to put up the numbers in order to get the money through arbitration. All in all, the deal was a big gamble on the Cub's part that has turned out reasonably financially.

You can't compare what Prior's earning now to what free agents are earning, it's a completely different market. The three restricted contract years and the three arbitration years exist to encourage teams to develop and play their own young talent. Prior will get his free agency payday in the future (probably through a pre-emptive contract extension from the Cubs, or at least that's what I'm hoping), and having earnt more than most before hitting free agency, he'll be a very rich young man.

I believe they must come to the conclusion they are going to pay the price for drafting a Boras client or they should just walk away. Don't procastinate as the price will either go up or Boras will walk away. Get it done make the kid happy and have him ready to take Paul Byrds place when he goes out for the year injured sometime in July....MB OUT