A couple of months ago, as mediocre starters such as Jason Marquis and Ramon Ortiz were finding new homes, I wondered aloud to a friend, “What about Mark Redman?” Redman certainly isn’t great (All-Star nod notwithstanding), but when Jeff Weaver gets an $8 million contract, it seems like he ought to have a job.
Even when the Orioles had to scramble to replace Kris Benson, Redman’s name didn’t come up. When he finally signed with the Braves last week following Mike Hampton‘s injury, he had to settle for a minor league contract with no substantial incentives. That puts him lower on the food chain than Tony Armas, Jr. and equal to Sidney Ponson and Jim Parque.
First of all, I’m shocked that he lasted this long: Redman doesn’t have the stuff to be much of a reliever, but some teams must have considered the conversion. After all, he does throw with his left hand. More seriously, the guy is the very definition of an innings eater, and while he may not have the upside of Ortiz or Armas, there are any number of teams who ought to have brought him to camp as a $500,000 insurance policy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s any good. It’s darn near impossible to get excited about a pitcher coming off a 5.71 ERA. On the other hand, 2006 was Redman’s first season north of 5.00 since 2000, and his career ERA+ is close to league average. Just as important, he’s thrown at least 167 innings in each of the last five years.
So did Redman deserve his lack of attention? Or did John Schuerholz just grab a steal of a fifth starter out of the bargain bin?
First, a look back
Redman has been starting in the major leagues since 2000 and has switched clubs almost every season, with stops in Minnesota, Detroit, Florida, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Kansas City in his eight-year career. He turned 33 in January.
Redman’s best year was 2003 for the World Champion Marlins; over 29 starts, he had an ERA of 3.59—better, incidentally, than the marks for either Carl Pavano or Brad Penny that year. That’s the only season he’s come close to striking out a batter per inning. He also kept his walk rate to a career low.
Since then, it’s been a steady downward spiral. Not only has he pitched for progressively worse teams, his ERA+ has fallen from 112 in 2003 to 99, then 87, then 85. His strikeouts have fallen while his walks have crept up:
Year HR/9 BB/9 K/9 2003 0.76 2.88 7.13 2004 1.32 3.20 4.81 2005 0.91 2.83 5.10 2006 1.02 3.40 4.10 Career 1.00 2.92 5.47
The only way to succeed with that many walks and so few strikeouts is to get a Wang-like number of ground balls. Redman does not: in the last three years, his groundball rate has never crossed 50%. Taken together, there’s an awful lot of bad news.
Now, the good news
Fortunately, nobody expects much of Redman. The optimism begins with Redman’s FIPs over the last few years. While his ERA has crept up from 4.71 to 4.90 to 5.71, his FIP has never topped 5.10, and it fell as low as 4.09 in 2005. In other words, while his peripherals aren’t that great, they aren’t that bad, either.
Redman’s ZiPS projection is a 5.32 ERA over 176 innings. That puts him among fellow sixth/seventh starter types such as Ortiz, Jeff Karstens, Dustin McGowan, Nick Masset, Brandon Claussen and Casey Fossum. PECOTA isn’t nearly so optimistic, cutting Redman down to 117.2 IP with a 5.62 ERA. (If it projected Redman against NL competition, PECOTA would be friendlier.)
Some comparable players give us a range into which Redman is likely to fall. PECOTA gets much of its negativity from his top comp, Dennis Rasmussen. In 1991, Rasmussen’s age-32 season, he had a respectable ERA of 3.74, just below league average. However, his peripherals has always been weak. Rasmussen was basically done: in three more partial seasons, he amassed only eleven more starts.
The Moyer Escape
While baseball-reference.com’s comparables have less predictive value, Redman’s most similar player there offers a wholly different perspective. That guy is Jamie Moyer, who also had a down year when he was 32. Moyer was 32 in 1995, pitching for the Orioles and struggling his way to a 5.21 ERA. (League average in ’95 was 4.91.)
Moyer’s peripherals have never been stellar, but they were a little weak even for him in ’92: he just barely topped five strikeouts per nine innings, and his walk rate wasn’t impressive, either. Of course, Moyer managed to build a career on defying the statistical odds, and he has been well above average for most of the last decade.
Now, I hesitate to actually predict the Jamie Moyer career path for anyone. He’s the sort of guy to make all but the most sophisticated projections look stupid; he simply shouldn’t be as successful as he is, or for as long. But, to continue using the baseball-reference.com comps, no pitcher in baseball history is more like Moyer was from age 30-32 than Mark Redman. It seems like, of all active pitchers, Redman has as good a chance as any to be pitching for the Phillies at age 45 in 2019.
Naturally, that chance isn’t good. But it’s there. The way clubs are forced to gamble on back-rotation starters (Steve Trachsel is making $3 million!), Redman doesn’t stand out as a bad bet at a bargain price. Put a mediocre pitcher in front of a decent defense and, sometimes, magic happens. In this case, magic is only a few notches above replacement level, but hey, that’s better than giving a dozen starts to Jorge Sosa.