The number two guy?

added 12/13/2006 by Scott Barzilla

We probably should consider a name change for Tim Purpura. Some people on the message boards want to call him the "Whataburger Man" or "Burger Boy" or some version of that. For my money, I'll call him "Poor Tim Purpura". Poor Tim has been tugged one way or the other this entire off-season.

People wanted him to sign a power hitter so he signed Carlos Lee. Then, some of us complained he paid him too much. Then, they wanted him to bring in another starter, so he traded three prized young players for two pitchers. The fans are saying he gave up too much. He just can't win for losing.

Before we analyze what's coming in, we need to take a look at what is going. How much value are we really losing? This is a big mistake people make in analyzing deals. Fans assume players exist in a vacuum without considering who is going to take the place of the departing player. Let's take a look at Willy Taveras, Jason Hirsh, and Taylor Buchholz and who will likely replace them.

                   GS   INN   ERA   SO/9   BB/9   HR/9   
Jason Hirsh         9   44.2  6.04   5.8    4.4    2.2   
Taylor Buchholz    19  113.0  5.89   6.1    2.7    1.7   

DIPS Adjusted

Jason Hirsh         9   52.2  5.30   5.5    3.9    1.5    ---      
Taylor Buchholz    19  133.1  5.06   5.8    2.1    1.1    ---

What we see in the adjusted numbers is a calculation of what would happen if a normal percentage of fly balls were outs or home runs. It also calculates a league average DIPS rate for the pitcher. So, if both pitchers pitch the same way next year they may expect the second set of numbers might be more along the lines of what they could produce in an average environment. Then again, Coors Field is hardly an average environment. Let's take a look at their possible replacements.

                   GS   INN    ERA   SO/9   BB/9    HR/9
Wandy Rodriguez    24   135.2  5.64   6.5    4.2     1.1
Fernando Nieve     11    96.1  4.20   6.5    3.8     1.7
Chris Sampson       3    34.0  2.12   4.0    1.3     0.8

Wandy Rodriguez    24   160.0  5.06   6.2    3.7     0.8
Fernando Nieve     11   113.2  3.48   6.2    3.3     1.2
Chris Sampson       3    40.0  2.70   3.8    0.7     0.7

If the Astros play their cards right they could have Nieve and Sampson in the rotation. At least if you base a comparison on 2006 numbers you actually would expect Chris Sampson and Fernando Nieve to be better than Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz. Of course, this does not account for natural improvement (Hirsh has more stuff than all three of those guys), but it appears the Astros really haven't lost as much as we thought in the short-term.

This leaves the centerfield comparison. Chris Burke and Jason Lane look to share the role that Taveras is vacating. I think I'm on firm ground when I say that Burke will likely take over that job. Let's forgo the formalities and take a look at their translated numbers from 2006.

                 PA   OBP   SLG   OPS   BRAA   RC   WARP3
Willy Taveras   550  .333  .337  .670    -8    58    5.7
Chris Burke     390  .346  .420  .766     2    49    3.0

Burke will improve the offense considerably, but we will lose a lot on the defensive end. When you project his numbers to equal Taveras' numbers we see the wins above replacement player ends up being fairly close. Taveras averaged 1.03 wins per 100 plate appearances while Burke averaged 0.77 wins per 100 plate appearances. In other words, we're looking at close to 4.5 wins in the same number of plate appearances. This of course assumes no improvement on Burke's part.

So, we haven't even looked at Jennings or Asencio yet and we have virtually the same value as before the trade. The only thing the Astros lose in this case is depth, but we will look at Jennings and Asencio next time.