There is a story that came out from Neil Greenberg from the Washington Post, that simply put says the Washington Nationals are getting more value from their contract with Max Scherzer than the San Diego Padres are getting with James Shields contract.
I find that absolutely hilarious. No doubt that Scherzer is a better pitcher than Shields but to say the Nationals are getting better value is just plain old silly. Yes, I am aware of Shields struggles in the post season, however Scherzer hasn’t exactly lit it up in October himself. Scherzer has a career post season record of 4-3 with a 3.73 era. Including losing his last two games with eight total earned runs allowed.
Lets take a look at the salary aspect of the deals. Max Scherzer agreed to a seven year, $210 million dollar contract. It breaks down to $14 million a year for the next 15 seasons, even though Scherzer will only be obligated to play for the Nationals for the next seven years. A 15 year commitment to a player is unheard of, especially when he will only be playing in seven of those 15 years on your team. Scherzer could be playing for another team in 2022 at the age of 37 while still be paying by the Nationals. You gotta love the greed of Scott Boras! (sarcasm)
James Shields signed a four year, $75 million dollar with the Padres. That breaks down to $18.75 million for the next four seasons. So when the Padres are done with their obligation to Shields in 2018, the Nationals will still owe roughly 154 million and have him under team control for three years. That’s over 50 million dollars for his obligated 3 years of service. Sounds like great value to me! Ridiculous.
So let’s attack the argument Scherzer is that much better than James Shields. Well over the past four seasons Shields has averaged 233 innings and 206 strikeouts. In that span he has also had 96 quality starts and a 3.17 earned run average. That’s 19 more innings than any other starter, including Max Scherzer. Also his 96 quality starts ranks third only behind Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels. Sounds like he has been pretty dominant, if not the best statistical pitcher for the past four seasons.
Max Scherzer is only three years younger than Shields, so to say he is a young up and coming starter is just wrong. At 30 years of age, Scherzer is no young pup, he too has years of service under his arm. That’s what makes this long term investment even more staggering. He has only shown ace level stuff his last two seasons.
Which brings me to my next point. Shields is a bulldog, he wants the ball and gets the ball every fifth day. He goes deep into games, and eats up innings that benefit the whole staff. Scherzer has only topped 200 innings twice in his major league career (the past two seasons). In fact the career high 220.1 innings Scherzer threw last year has been topped by Shields every year for the past four seasons. Scherzer just cannot go deep into games.
Max Scherzer is the higher strikeout pitcher of the two, totaling 1,321 strikeouts in his 1239 innings pitched. He has nasty stuff and is one of the best in the game, no doubt. The argument was that his contract holds more value than Sheilds, and that’s just not correct. I think you are getting that impression too.
The total career records are similar. Shields owns a 114-90 record with a 3.72 era and a 1.220 whip. Max Scherzer has a career record of 91-50 and a 3.58 era with a 1.129 whip. The traditional numbers seem to show a fairly even comparison. Scherzer does have the slightly better numbers.
Max Scherzer makes the Nationals instant World Series contenders, but I ask Nationals fans this. If you signed Shields for almost three times less money, wouldn’t you have the same confidence about your team? Scherzer makes them better, no question of that. There is also no debating that Max Scherzer is a better pitcher than James Shields. To say the Nationals made a better value selection is debatable.
I am a baseball purist, but have recently began to come out of the cave and embrace the analytical part of the game that is taking over. I for one still do not take any real consideration to things like projected WAR and projected PECOTA rankings.
Those to me are incorrect parameters to judge an upcoming season or player. The game is ever changing and to think you can project a teams win total with statistics is asinine. Those particular rankings can never take into effect important things like injuries, team chemistry, heart or hustle of a players and just plain old luck! When the analytical people are right they tell you about it, however they are wrong a lot and nothing is ever said. Players emerge and take nose dives every year, if the game was predictable it would be boring.
The actual WAR category however is something that I embrace. It gives a better sense of what a players worth is. It in itself is not perfect by all means, but can be useful tool when evaluated talent. To me the WAR category can fluctuate based upon what kind of team is around you. So lets dive into some analytical parts of these two stud pitchers. Both have a pretty similar backgrounds in terms of service and innings.
James Shields has pitched in the Major Leagues for nine total years. In those nine seasons he has amassed a WAR of 26.7. Scherzer has played 7 total seasons totaling a 24 WAR (12.7 in the last 2 years alone!). So lets take the average of each players tenure in the major leagues, that’s a fair assessment of their value.
Max Scherzer has averaged a 3.428 WAR in his career. James Shields a 2.966 career WAR. So $135 million dollars more, including 11 more years of commitment to gain a whooping .462 games a season. Basically in Scherzer (based on average of what they have already accomplished) the Nationals will gain almost 1/2 a game over James Shields and the Padres.
Great investment Washington, great investment… No wonder our nations problems can’t be resolved in that region. Their idea of value is way off!