As Sabean usually does when he has money, he goes out and get the best or one of the best free agents available. That doesn't always work (Benitez for example) but we knew those negatives the moment we got him, whereas from what I've been reading, there is hardly a negative to be found on Affeldt. From what I read among the various reports, Affeldt was considered one of the better free agents to pursue this off-season, one of the two best lefties (Damaso Marte was the other, re-signed by the Yankees), and Fangraphs' Dave Cameron wrote a post called, "Free Agent Bargain: Jeremy Affeldt," arguing that perhaps he was the best available reliever withou consideration for the money he would get, which would make him an even better bargain. And, of course, there was the post I just posted this morning reporting another site's determination that Affeldt was the best choice among the relievers when not pursuing a closer and wanting to avoid giving up your draft pick.
Dave Cameron had this to note about Affeldt:
- "one of the more underrated pitchers in the game..."
- "in 2008, he took a pretty big step forward. His average velocity went from 92.3 MPH a year ago to 94.6 MPH, and his CB saw a similar improvement (going from 76.9 to 79.1). Adding several ticks to both pitches moves him into the power pitcher category, and it showed in his results."
- "His swinging strike rate (data from statcorner.com) jumped from 7.6% last year to 10.8% this year, putting him in the company of guys like Grant Balfour, Joakim Soria, and Kerry Wood." That improved his strikeout rate to 9.19 K/9 and helped reduce his walk rate to 2.87 BB/9, both very good.
- "In a lot of cases, a pitcher will add velocity by switching to a four seam fastball and pitching up in the zone, but that’s not the case here - Affeldt continued to pitch down in the zone, posting a career high 54.4% GB%." That's something I hadn't seen about Affeldt yet, that despite being a power pitcher, he also got a lot of groundballs. That is very similar to what Lincecum does, strikeout a lot as well as get a lot of groundballs. That high GB% leads to a low FB% which leads to fewer HR given up, even though his HR/FB was high in 2008 (partially due to playing in Cincinnati).
- Summary: "Based on 2008, Affeldt has shown an entirely new skillset as compared to his major league career, adding a couple of ticks to both his fastball and curve, which have transformed him into one of the game’s best left-handed relievers. Because his curve is a legitimate second pitch, he shows almost no platoon split, and is equally effective against both LHB and RHBs. His stuff is clearly closer-worthy, and while he has no experience as the 9th inning guy, some smart team would be wise to give him a two or three year contract for setup man money and watch him blossom into one of the game’s best relief aces."
- "There’s a good case to be made that Jeremy Affeldt is the best reliever available this winter, while most of baseball has no idea who he is."
Well, I quoted most of his article, but there was a lot of good stuff there about him. The more I hear about him, the more I like him. I remember him when he was with KC, really up and down, and he was on my radar, but I just didn't have time to analyze all the relievers in detail. So I'm glad other sites did.
Clearly he matured and developed the past couple of seasons and we have him on a relatively economic 2 year, $8M contract, for his age 30 and 31 seasons. That is pretty good considering he's on an uptrend, he's reaching his peak years, and that fall off in performance don't normally happen until ages 33-34
So now the bullpen is Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo plus, in the mix, Jack Taschner, Alex Hinshaw, Billy Sadler, Osirus Matos, and, if he is back from injury, Merkin Valdez. And I suppose Yabu too. That's not too bad overall, that was a swift and smart move by Sabean to land Affeldt so quickly. I'm looking forward to 2009!