Big Four: The Remaining 2018 Free Agent Pitchers

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in game seven of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Starting pitching has always been a hot commodity in baseball and rightfully so. This year there are four starters who are well above the rest of the free agent pack: Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb. Some say that Darvish and Arrieta are far superior to Lynn and Cobb and should command more money. While Darvish and Arrieta will most likely get more money than Lynn and Cobb, they may not be much better long-term answers for the price. For this comparison, we will look at five factors that play a large role in determining a starter’s worth going forward: IP, K/BB, FIP, age, and postseason performance.

Big Four: The Remaining 2018 Free Agent Pitchers

Innings Pitched

Teams want to look at “the mileage” a certain player has on his arm. Here are the major league totals for each pitcher:
Arrieta – 1161
Lynn – 977.2
Darvish – 832.1
Cobb – 700
Notes – Although Darvish has less major league innings pitched than Arrieta or Lynn he also threw 1268.1 innings in Japan which would take him to 2,100.2 total. Also, Arrieta is the only one of the four that hasn’t had Tommy John surgery.

K/BB

An important factor in evaluating a pitcher’s command:
Darvish – 3.33
Cobb – 2.79                                                                                                              Arrieta – 2.66
Lynn – 2.49

FIP

Fielding Independent Pitching is more widely accepted now as a measure of a pitcher’s overall performance:
Darvish – 3.30
Arrieta – 3.64
Lynn – 3.64
Cobb – 3.68
Notes – Arrieta has been trending the wrong way the past three years. From 2015-2017 his FIP totals were 2.35, 3.52, and 4.16.

Age

This is a crucial factor in determining how long of a commitment a team would be willing to make. Here are their birthdays from youngest to oldest:
Cobb – 10/07/1987
Lynn – 05/12/1987                                                                                                    Darvish – 08/16/1986                                                                                              Arrieta – 03/06/1986

Postseason Performance

This is big because most teams who would be willing to spend the money and commit to a long-term deal with any of these four starters are looking to contend either right away or by next year:
Arrieta – 5-3, 52.2 IP, 66 Ks, 3.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP                                                      Lynn – 5-4, 52 IP, 50 Ks, 4.50 ERA, 1.58 WHIP                                                            Darvish – 2-4, 26.1 IP, 25 Ks, 5.81 ERA, 1.18 WHIP                                                      Cobb – 1-0, 11.2 IP, 10 Ks, 1.54 ERA, 1.37 WHIP                                                        Notes – Arrieta and Lynn each have World Series rings. Lynn pitched mostly out of the bullpen in his postseason career. He had 24 appearances but only seven starts. Darvish’s numbers are a bit skewed due to the two disastrous starts in the World Series last year. If you remove those two starts Darvish’s numbers in the postseason are more than respectable: 2-2, 23 IP, 25 Ks, 3.52 ERA, 0.87 WHIP.

Final Evaluation

Yu Darvish – He is the best of the four starters. Darvish has swing and miss stuff and can be slotted as a number one or two in just about any rotation in baseball. He should get back to the form he had when he first came to the Rangers now that he is three years removed from Tommy John surgery. He does have over 2,100 innings on that arm if you add in the pitching he did in Japan. Possible deal: Five-years and $140 million.

Alex Cobb – He is nearly three years removed from Tommy John surgery. He is more of a pitch to contact starter than the others. If he can find a home with a good defensive team he could be the best value of the bunch. He also has the least amount of innings on his arm and he won’t be 31 until October. Possible deal:  Five-years around $100 million.

Lance Lynn – Lynn has nearly as much postseason experience as Arrieta. He also had his Tommy John surgery more than two years ago. While he has the worst K/BB ratio he also, like Cobb, has not pitched more than 1000 innings in the majors. Possible deal: Four-years at $75mil.

Jake Arrieta – Many Arrieta supporters will tout his postseason numbers and the otherworldly year he had in 2015. But he has been trending the wrong way since then. He is the oldest of the four starters, and while he hasn’t recently had surgery, the facts still remain that he will be 32 in March, he has over 1,150 innings pitched and an unorthodox delivery. And while that delivery adds to his deception it also puts undue strain on his body. The team that signs him may get a year or two of decent production out of him but his contract could eventually be an albatross for that team. Possible deal: about five-years and $130 million.

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