January 31, 2007

Mets Fever: Why Schoe and not Bradford?

Ed over at Mets Fever, writes about the decision of Scott Shoenweis over Chad Bradford:

The Mets signed left handed relief pitcher Scott "Schoe" Schoeneweis during the off-season. The contract is reportedly worth 10.8m dollars over three years.

Left-handed reliever Scott Schoeneweis and the New York Mets reached a preliminary agreement yesterday on a $10.8-million (U.S.), three-year contract source John Young, Shea Nation (original source AP-Globe & Mail)

Just last season a multi-year contract for a relief pitcher would have been unheard of. Relievers were considered second rate to starters and as such they lived year to year, from team to team. Only a premier closer or upper echelon set-up man ever saw extensive contracts. But the economics of baseball have changed and so has the emphasis on the Pen.

For me, I like to h ave a comfortable feeling knowing that if we get to the sixth or seventh inning the advantage goes to us. That’s a great feeling with our offense. If you wanna win championships, you have to have a strong bullpen. In a lot of ways, I have a tendency to start building the pitching staff starting from the back side than from the front side, but maybe that’s an Omar Minaya style of putting a team together (laughing). Omar Minaya on SNY souce Metsblog

In the grand scheme of things Schoe's contract is not out of the ordinary, until you add RHP Chad Bradford into the equation.

RHP Chad Bradford was an integral part of the Mets bull pen last year, which ended the season as the best in baseball. Bradford's side arm almost under hand delivery, along with his repertoire of off-speed pitchers baffled hitters and kept them guessing all year. Not only could he handle the pressure of NY, but was able to do so with bases loaded. Bradford was the critical situation pitcher, with runners in scoring position, ground ball inducing reliever. He was extremely successful in his role, and in over 62 innings produced an ERA of 2.90% with a BB/SO ratio of 13/45.
he was successful last year with the New York Mets. The submarine specialist went 4-2 with a 2.90 ERA last season, and more impressively, he allowed just one home run in 62 innings. The 31-year-old is often used to face a couple of right-handed batters,Bradford held right-handers to a .256 average last season, but for his career, he's held righties to a .231 mark. MLB.com

Bradford signed with the Baltimore Orioles this off-season for 10.5million dollars over three years. It's been reported that the Met's matched Baltimore's initial two year contract, but when the Orioles extended their offer to a third year the Mets were unwilling to bid any further. There has been criticism over not resigning Bradford, in which the organization has been accused of under estimating the market and then signing the only quality reliever left (Schoe) out of desperation. However, it appears that the club was willing to spend the money and years on a free agent reliever but felt that Bradford wasn't worth the price.

So the question is, if both contracts are basically the same why Schoe and not Bradford?

I can see a few deterrents to signing Bradford to a three year contract. In 2005 he was limited to 24 innings and had to have back surgery. The rest, due to the injury, may have resulted in a fresher arm and his successful season. However, in moving forward, his back is a potential concern for injury and his work load will have to be watched carefully. This is pure speculation on my part, but the severe arm angle that has made Bradford so effective may be a concern for elbow problems as he gets older. Bradford is a one dimensional pitcher. The most he has ever pitched in a season is 77 innings and he generally is somewhere around 50 innings. He is a righty specialist with a one or maybe two inning window. He couldn't be considered for starting, long relief or saves.

Orioles agreed to terms with RHP Chad Bradford, who had been with the Mets, on a three-year, $10.5 million contract.Bradford is set to work in tandem with Jamie Walker to give the Orioles assistance in the sixth and seventh innings. It's one too many years, especially given his past back troubles, but he should be quite an asset for the short-term. source Roto World

Schoe is primarily a middle reliever, ground ball specialist and in that sense he is very similar to Bradford. However, as a left handed pitcher he can also be extremely effective against left handed batters. Last year Bradford would be replaced against lefties with Pedro Feliciano. The tandem was very effective, it would be ideal if one pitcher could get through a the jam and save the pen for another time. As recent as 2004, Schoe logged over 100 innings and can be used as a long reliever or starter in an emergency situation. As a starter with the Angels in 2004, he pitched 204 innings with an ERA of 5.08% and a record of 10-11. He has not had a major injury in his career that has resulted in a significant loss of time during the season. Schoe spent his entire career in the American League until a small portion of last season. Pitchers are said to benefit from switching to the NL and never was it more true then for Schoe. In 14 games last year for the Reds his ERA was .063% with a record of 2-0, (3) saves in (3) opportunities and a BB/SO ratio of 8/11. Finally Schoe is from Long Branch, NJ and may benefit from the support of his family.
"Scott adds another dimension to our bullpen," said Minaya. "He can pitch middle innings, in the eighth inning and even has closed games. His record against left handed hitters is one of the best in the game." In the last three years, Schoeneweis only has allowed one home run to a lefthanded batter (Matt Stairs of Kansas City on May 11, 2005). In 2005 and 2006, Scott held lefthanded batters to a .209 (42-201) batting average, a .264 slugging average and a .293 on base mark. MLB.com

The 33-year-old gives the Mets another lefthanded option in the bullpen and he throws harder than Pedro Feliciano, Minaya said. Schoeneweis traditionally has been difficult for lefthanded batters to handle - they have hit .231 against him in his eight-year career. source Daily News

... I liked Bradford very much and thought it was essential for the team to resign him. I was very vocal about my thoughts that the team should have paid the third year for him. In doing this post I attempted to remain un-bias and open minded. The more I looked into Schoe the more comfortable I am with the decision. Schoe makes the pen much more flexible while being less of a risk of injury. Also as a lefty he is a more valuable reliever. Baltimore was the only team to offer Bradford a three year deal, while it is reported that several teams offered Schoe three years....

Mets Fever is a new addition to the Shea Nation family and would greatly appreciate it if you could go on over to Mets Fever and check out the terrific job he has done.

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