Whenever trade season hits, it can mirror the old adage about spring: “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. The rumors start hitting you hard, blindsiding you without warning. It might start with a whisper about scouts going out into stadiums en masse and it’ll continue until you’re knee deep in mystery teams and “maintaining interest in” quotes.
Fans are guilty of creating one-sided trade rumors. I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. We’ve all created a scenario where the Phillies acquire Mike Trout and “all they have to give up” is a relief pitcher, a few bolts to help with keep down a loose hot dog cart, and a replica Phanatic jersey as a throw in.
However, when this kind of thing is published with the serious tone of #analysis, we are obliged to point at it and call it out for the nonsensical rubbish that it is. One such piece popped up on my Twitter timeline yesterday. You can read it here for yourself.
Ok, let’s get down to brass tacks. This article is such ridiculousness, I could scarcely believe my eyes. I mean, to even posit that Pat Neshek could be worth the same on the trade market as Andrew Miller is ludicrous, but to try and back it up with cherry-picking stats just further digs a hole that the author will not be able to get out of. So, what I’m going to do is go through this, Fire Joe Morgan-style and show you why this is such lunacy, it doesn’t deserve the page clicks.
In November little was thought of the Phillies acquiring veteran set-up man Pat Neshek from Houston for a player to be named later.
Seven months later the Phillies have an opportunity to swap the 36-year-old reliever for a package of young impact players.
It opens harmlessly enough. Sure, the team does have the opportunity. In fact, Neshek probably represents their best opportunity, at this point, to get something of value during the trade season. Relievers are always in high demand, especially effective ones, and Neshek has been marvelous this season. But then....
A baseline for general manager Matt Klentak will be the Andrew Miller trade between the Yankees and Indians last offseason. The deal for OF Clint Frazier (Cleveland’s number two prospect), LHP Justus Sheffield (#6), RHP J.P. Feyereisen, and RHP Ben Heller.
I can’t even wrap my brain around that. Opposing teams should be lining up to trade two of their top ten prospects plus other players to get a 36 year-old relief pitcher? Even the most offbase Phillies fan wouldn’t make that assumption.
Could the Phillies get a collection of a franchise’s top prospects for a pitcher they paid nothing for?
Sure, but not at that price.
Here’s where Neshek’s numbers this year and Miller’s last compare leading to the trade deadline
In 44 games leading to the deadline,
I’m begging you, please don’t...
45.1 innings with a 6-1 record, nine saves, and 16 holds for the Yankees.
Neshek’s win-loss and save numbers aren’t as bulked up as Miller because the Phillies haven’t had as many opportunities to place him in those situations.
To think that a general manager will open up his vault of prospects to turn over to the Phillies simply because of stats that were created by the situation a player is put into by the manager, not because of a player’s inherent skill is idiotic. Citing Miller’s and Neshek’s saves is irresponsible because there is no context. Neshek has just now been given an opportunity to get the final three outs for the Phillies. Miller was used as part of the vaunted Yankees trio of relievers that Joe Girardi was unafraid to use in any situation. Therefore, how is Neshek supposed to have as many saves as Miller? Like I said, context is key. Holds are quite possibly the most meaningless stat put on this Earth. From Baseball Reference:
A hold is an unofficial statistic that measures the effectiveness of middle relievers. A hold is granted to a relief pitcher who enters a game with his team in the lead in a save situation, and hands over that lead to another reliever without the score having been tied in the interim
As long as he kept the lead, he gets a “hold”. So if Neshek comes in with a three run lead in the eighth, he can serve up a two run home run as long as he gets three outs and he’ll still get a hold. In other words, a hold is stupid and shouldn’t even be thought of at all as anything we or anyone else should be basing reliever effectiveness on.
So, now we’re going to double down...
A closer look at the comparisons between Pat Neshek and Andrew Miller (pre-trade deadline) pic.twitter.com/nWyKxyrkyg— PHILLIES TBOH (@FS_TBOH) June 6, 2017
The stats used here are misleading. Wins and losses as a reliever can be distorted by the use of other relievers, so they can’t be counted on. ERA is fine, but we have better ones that are useful, like FIP or DRA. Games and innings pitched show nothing. Saves I’ve already stated my position. Runs, earned runs, hits, walks and strikeouts, ok. They’re fine. But where are the rate stats? The ones that actually mean something when discussing reliever effectiveness. Here, I’ll show you. Here is Miller’s numbers in 2016 pre-trade, just like the author, and Neshek’s numbers through June 6:
Miller vs. Neshek
There are some similarities, I will grant that. Both have been leaving runners on base at an incredible rate. Both are stingy with the long ball and the walk. Other than that, there is no doubt that Miller is more dominant. He strikes out more hitters, he was used in more high leverage situations (seriously, near 2!) and added more probability of a win than Neshek. Yes, win probability added is another cumulative stat, but Miller rarely faltered. Neshek isn’t that far from where Miller was when he was traded, but it’s hard to see him being able to catch him in that category.
Oh, and Miller did this by facing a right handed batter more than a left handed hitter last year by more than 150+ plate appearances.
Yeah. Back to the article.
The numbers for late-inning relievers in the later portions of their career are close if you average them out over a full season. In some ways, Neshek’s are better.
Miller is slightly younger and a lefty certainly helped his value, but if Neshek’s ERA and strikeouts continue to trend in the proper direction Klentak could be in for a hectic July.
This is the whole crux of the reason why Miller was able to net such an expensive bounty. He’s younger by four years and had a very reasonable contract. When the Indians got him, he had two and a half years left on his deal at an AAV of $9 million. Even on a small budget like Cleveland operates with, that’s a pittance for what Miller could actually be worth. Neshek is a free agent after this season. Why would a team give up 12+ years of talented control for a player that might not even be around past October?
And if the acquiring team doesn’t make the postseason? That’s the type of trade that gets general managers fired.
Philadelphia will be searching for either a young impact bat or an arm ready to make a major league impact. Fraizer will do that for the Yankees, and the Phillies will hope for a prospect as strong as him.
When If the Phillies trade Neshek, I fully expect them to try and net a top prospect like Frazier. However, the realistic target would be more of a prospect in a team’s 10-15 range, someone who still looks good, but has more flaws that wouldn’t make a team miss him very much.
Look, I get it. Neshek has the potential to be a very valuable piece to peddle on the market. But this kind of irresponsible speculation is what gets the talk radio crowd fired up, proclaiming trades “losses” if they don’t get a Yoan Moncada or an Andrew Benintendi. Gird your loins for more pieces like this, because the hot takes are a-comin’.