Does Trevor Bauer Have A Case For Gerrit Cole’s AAV?

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In an article yesterday, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand made a statistical case that Trevor Bauer’s current physique of labor justifies him matching or exceeding the document $36MM common annual worth Gerrit Cole obtained in December 2019.  Whereas it might not be true that Cole and Bauer at the moment have beef, we will at the very least say the previous UCLA teammates as soon as had a rivalry.  Beating Cole’s AAV document can be a serious feat for Bauer and agent Rachel Luba.  However as Homer Simpson as soon as mentioned, “Aw, folks can provide you with statistics to show something, Kent.  Forfty p.c of all folks know that.”  So I got down to see how Feinsand’s claims maintain up.

Bauer has had an up-and-down profession.  Since 2017, his season ERAs are 4.19, 2.21, 4.48, and 1.73.  Feinsand, who additionally included Stephen Strasburg in his comparability, primarily centered on every pitcher’s ultimate 90 begins heading into free company.  Why 90?  Nicely, a three-season lookback is fairly normal.  A 90-start lookback additionally occurs to be fairly handy for Bauer, because it excludes his tough first half of 2017.
One factor I didn’t see in Feinsand’s article was any type of a strikeout price, stroll price, or groundball price.  These are the issues pitchers do that really correlate year-to-year.  So right here’s that look, with the extra data.  We’ll take away Strasburg, because the query is whether or not Bauer is worthy of Cole’s AAV document.  (App customers can click on right here to see the 90-start comparability).

Cole had higher strikeout and stroll charges in his earlier 90 begins, which is extra vital than the ERA distinction.  However I used to be additionally pondering it’s unusual to do a comparability that features 25 begins from Cole’s 2017 season, his final with the Pirates.  Upon becoming a member of the Astros in a January 2018 commerce, Cole famously modified his pitch combine and strategy, to drastically improved outcomes.  So how would a Bauer-Cole comparability look over the earlier 60 begins?  (App customers can click on right here to see the 60-start comparability).

Despite the fact that this window excludes Cole’s first 5 begins of 2018, which have been dominant, it additional accentuates the variations between the 2 hurlers.  They’re each strikeout pitchers.  However what Cole did in his stroll yr – a 39.9 Okay% – is actually the very best in baseball historical past for a pitcher with at the very least 100 innings (Cole pitched 212 1/3).  Bauer’s stroll yr strikeout price of 36% was historic in its personal proper – seventh all-time for a professional starter – however it was solely 11 begins as a result of 60-game season.  That brings us to 1 final comparability, one which Feinsand made of every pitcher’s finest 11 begins of their stroll yr (app customers click on right here):

Each dominant stretches, but Cole’s was clearly higher.  If we’re evaluating post-2019 Cole to present Trevor Bauer, we will state the next:
Cole averaged 97.2 miles per hour on his fastball in his stroll yr.  Bauer averaged 93.5.
On a associated word, whereas each are sturdy strikeout pitchers, Cole was considerably higher for longer.
Cole had higher management than Bauer.
Cole was dominant in two full, consecutive seasons main as much as free company.  Bauer has by no means been dominant in two consecutive seasons.
Bauer shall be 234 days older on 4-1-21 than Cole was on 4-1-20.
On the deserves of statistics, I don’t see how one can say that Bauer is best than Cole and subsequently deserves a better AAV.  Feinsand makes an excellent level, although: if Bauer limits himself to an artificially shorter contract, his AAV ought to go up from the place it could have been had he maxed out the years.  However what’s Bauer’s precise years most, assuming he received’t take an artificially low AAV like Bryce Harper did?
Given the present state of baseball economics, I’d counsel six.  So to carry enhanced AAVs into play as a reward for an artificially quick time period, Bauer would most likely should signal for 4 or fewer years.  Keep in mind, the Dodgers reportedly supplied Harper a $45MM AAV on a four-year time period.  As a substitute, he took a $25MM AAV on a 13-year time period.
There are a number of the explanation why the Bauer-Cole comparability really doesn’t matter.  The primary is the state of the market in December 2019 in comparison with the present state of affairs.  All 30 groups introduced in considerably smaller quantities of income in 2020 than in 2019.  A lot of the finest free brokers stay unsigned, however the ones that did signal exceeded expectations.  It’s an odd mixture.  However it’s truthful to say market situations are worse for Bauer than they have been for Cole.
The second motive contract comps don’t matter is that free company is a bidding conflict.  The purpose of each group focusing on a free agent is to get that participant for as little as doable.  Brokers don’t persuade groups to spend extra money by holding up different free agent contracts from years previous.  Usually talking, groups run circles round brokers in statistical chops, anyway.  It’s actually doable that Luba will be capable to get a few groups to bid irrationally on Bauer, however it received’t be due to what Cole obtained.
The final level is that groups don’t pay free brokers for what they’ve carried out; they pay for what they count on the participant to do sooner or later over the lifetime of the contract.  Once more, now we have to defer to groups’ superior talents to forecast what Bauer will do.  They’ll use superior stats, Statcast knowledge, well being historical past, and proprietary info we’ll by no means see.  They received’t use ERA, which typically has a year-to-year correlation round 0.4.  However that’s how a group’s GM will strategy it.  Signing Bauer is an ownership-level choice, and an proprietor is unlikely to research a possible signing with the identical sophistication because the GM.
As Bauer as soon as put it, he and Cole are “intertwined endlessly.”  The UCLA teammates have been drafted two picks aside in 2011 and made their method to MLB free company coming off incredible stroll years.  However as I see it, Bauer’s present place falls in need of the place Cole stood when he hit the market in 2019.

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