Sunday, January 8, 2012

The "Need" For Peter Moylan

Pardon me while I'm a grinch for a minute.

Bill Shanks wrote this on Peter Moylan today, saying the Braves "need" to bring him back for the good of the team. If you read it, you know it's a lovey dovey piece with no analysis to back up the claim, so I'm not exactly targeting Shanks' column. I am, however, targeting the belief that the Braves have to bring Moylan back.

First of all, Moylan is a middle reliever, and middle relievers are fungible. Even in a great season, they are just above replacement level and can be interchanged much more than some realize. Moylan was a solid arm in the seventh and eighth innings a few seasons ago, but even then he could have been swapped out for another relief arm with relative ease.

Moylan has had two good seasons and a decent one. He threw a laughable 90 innings in 2007 to the tune of a 1.80 ERA and 3.97 FIP, but what made that season was an 8.6 BB%, which would prove to be his best. Ever since, it's obvious the 90-inning season set him back. He missed almost all of 2008 with Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2009 and posted a 2.84 ERA and 2.95 FIP in 73 innings, but his walk rate jumped to 11.3%. His innings decreased to 63.2 in 2010, and his walk rate increased again to 13.7% with a 4.30 FIP. Finally, injuries derailed his 2011 season, and a shoulder surgery leaves question marks this offseason. Non-tendering him after shoulder surgery was common sense, and I'm sure the Braves are hoping he'll take the bare minimum to come back to Atlanta.

But that's exactly the point. The Braves are hoping he'll take the bare minimum to come back. That doesn't sound like they "need" him. They don't. No team in Major League Baseball "needs" a 33-year-old middle reliever coming off shoulder surgery with increasing walk rates and decreasing innings pitched.

This is the pure statistical point of view, of course. Moylan is by all accounts a great teammate and I'm sure he keeps the clubhouse loose. But it all comes down to how much you value such a thing. Braves fans will want to keep him around because he's funny and is easy to root for. I'm sure Braves players want to keep him around because he's probably a good teammate. Should Frank Wren want to keep him around? There's really no need.

I'm not calling for Moylan to be barred from Turner Field. I'm just saying there are several relievers capable of holding a major league relief spot at or above Moylan's value already in the Braves system at league minimum. It would make sense to turn to these arms and save the few dollars.

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