Diamondbacks, Athletics Swap Pitchers

The other day the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics made a trade involving starting pitcher Trevor Cahill and Diamondbacks prospect Jarrod Parker and prospect Colin Cowgill.

From the Athletics perspective I really like this deal. Cahill really isn’t that good. In 2010 many thought Cahill had a tremendous year, his 2.97 ERA and 18 wins are a big reason why people think that. Based on wins above replacement he actually had a better 2011 than 2010. In 2011 he had a 2.5 WAR compared to a 2.2 WAR in 2010. In reality Cahill really isn’t that good though. His strikeout and walk rates are both below league average. Pitching in such a spacious ballpark like the Coliseum you would think that he would do his fair share of keeping the ball in the park but it’s quite the opposite. For his career he gives up exactly 1 home run per 9 innings.

Using FIP- and xFIP- to see how good Cahill’s  ERA should be compared to league average.  His career ERA-/FIP-xFIP- are 95/110/100. Based on that information Cahill is expected to be a below league average to league average pitcher. .He can always improve but I don’t see him being worth more than 2.5 – 3 WAR during his best years.

Cahill really reminds me of Paul Maholm. Since 2009 Cahill and Maholm have had very similar careers.


Both Cahill and Maholm have extremely similar K% and BB%, both are also extreme ground ball pitchers. One thing that may surprise you is the difference in WAR during that span. Cahill may have the better W/L but it just goes to show you how irrelevant that statistic is. The Diamondbacks  and their fans will have to get used to the fact that they are getting Paul Maholm 2.0, a pretty much league average pitcher. If he can produce between 2-3 WAR he should be an ok investment though. He has a $30.5 million dollar 5 year deal, he should be able to provide enough value to make it ok.

It might have been in Arizona’s best interest to sign Maholm seeing how he’s pretty much the same pitcher and also would have been much cheaper. One other pitcher they could have looked at was Jeff Francis. Francis is also similar to Cahill. His career ERA-/FIP-/xFIP- is 104/95/102. He also would have been much, much cheaper than Cahill was.

The Athletics on the other hand got some nice pieces. The center piece, Jarrod Parker is a pretty good pitching prospect. Throughout his minor league years he’s had a K% of 20%. He has some control problems, in 2009 when he got promoted to double a he walked over 9% of batters he faced but in A and A+ ball he walked under 7%. His FIP has been under 3.75 in every level he’s been at, in A and A+ ball it was under 3.30. unfortunately he had Tommy John surgery in 2010 so he missed the whole season. He struggled somewhat this year but he has the potential to be a solid pitcher for the A’s. The other main player is outfield prospect Colin Cowgill. He looks like has some power potential and the ability to draw walks but he’s already 25 years old. If he’s going to have a career in the majors this year may be now or never. Other throw ins are reliever Craig Breslow going to the Diamondbacks and reliever Ryan Cook going to the A’s.

Like I said Arizona may have been better off with a rotation of Dan Hudson, Ian Kennedy, Paul Maholm/Jeff Francis, Jarrod Parker and a question mark (Trevor Bauer?) than a rotation of Dan Hudson, Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and two question marks at the tail end.


3 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t put too much stock into Cahill’s 2009 season when projecting future performance. He’s significantly improved his GB% and BB to K relations (BB/K and BB%-K%) since then. Another thing to watch is differences in FIP- and xFIP-. If they are more than 5% apart over an extended period of time, you can probably expect their FIP- to regress towards their xFIP- in the future. Also, you shouldn’t say he’ll never be good. Pitchers can improve walk and GB rate, making them a better pitcher. Strikeouts usually peak early in one’s career.

    Ballpark factors also play a big role in his value. Being such an extreme groundball pitcher, ballpark environments have less effect on him as they do most pitchers, since groundballs aren’t affected by wind, elevation, and wall distance. In Oakland, he didn’t take advantage of the heavy air as much as other pitchers, so his park-adjusted numbers looked worse than they should have. In Arizona, he’ll be keeping the ball out of the air in a gap and HR friendly park, so his park-adjusted numbers will look better than they should. It’s the correct way to represent value, but not performance.

    • Which pitching stats are and are not park adjusted? Or can I find them somewhere?

      • Basically anything with a + or – in it is park (and usually league) adjusted. If you really want to dig into park factors, statcorner.com has double, triple, home run, and many more specific park factors for each ballpark.

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