More On Millwood

Kevin Millwood has a reputation as an innings-eater, but he’s averaged just 180 innings pitched the last three years. That’s not nothing, but expecting him to go 200 IP next season would be a bad idea. When Millwood was posting ERAs of 5.16 and 5.07 in ’07 and ’08, that was largely the result of high BABIP (.348 and .366). His FIPs of 4.55 and 4.02 were actually average to above average. In 2009 though, Millwood’s ERA fell to 3.67, which did a good job of hiding his decline. The strike-out rate fell from the 6.67 to 5.57 K/9. Walks went up a little from 2.86 to 3.22 BB/9. Millwood benefited from a .279 BABIP, but his 4.80 FIP was less than encouraging. His fastball velocity was down a half mph to 90.3, after dropping 0.5 mph from ’07 to ’08 as well. Millwood seemed to respond by going to the pitch less often, from 65+% of the time to only ~56% of the time. We’ll see if batters adjust to that going forward. In any case, he’s absolutely not a #1 starter, or likely even an above-average one.

Right now, CHONE is projecting Millwood to pitch 175 innings next year (though in Texas) with a 4.57 FIP (good for only about 1.8 Wins Above Replacement). The fan projections at FanGraphs has 182 IP, a 4.62 ERA, 4.37 FIP, and 2.3 WAR. At the latter level, the deal looks better and Millwood is probably the team’s second best starter (after Guthrie, and maybe a touch ahead of Bergesen and Matusz). At the former level, the deal’s a lose just based on the money they’re paying him and he’s a lot closer to being the fourth best starter. Then if Chris Tillman takes a step forward and Jake Arrieta gets called up, Millwood would need to be dealt. Certainly pitching depth is a nice thing to have – especially with a bunch of young kids in the rotation – but I’d rather have David Hernandez and Jason Berken put up FIPs over 5 for the league minimum in 2010 (while maybe learning a little bit) while spending more on international signings or the draft (or Rich Harden – he would pitch 80 really electric innings!).

Now, on to things Andy MacPhail said:

“”For us, it’s likely that he’s going to be the first starter and we think it’s going to have a positive cascading effect on Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, and Jason Berken…

our first priority was trying to get that 200-inning guy to take some of the weight off our kids and get the right guy in terms of helping our kids make the adjustments to the major league. Everything we heard about Millwood could not have been a better fit for that role…

Now, the matchups aren’t going to be against everybody else’s number ones. Things can sort of ratchet down. This doesn’t close us out from looking for additional pitching. Really, Jeremy did a nice job for us in 2008 in that role. He probably did a better job than we had the right to expect. I think this will help him get back to that 2008-type year. There were a lot of clubs that were interested in Jeremy Guthrie, trying to buy low. But again, those are 200 innings we need as well…

We want to surround these kids with some quality major league players that can help them learn what it is to win in the American League East. That’s why we’re so happy to have Kevin Millwood to join the organization”"

I really hope Andy isn’t counting on 200 IP from Millwood and Guthrie. Sure they could do it, but to actually expect that and plan around it would be asking for trouble. The pitch match-ups stop mattering after about a week, so unless the O’s make the playoffs that won’t have an effect. And why can’t the team just hire someone on the cheap to help the kids make adjustments to the majors? You know, someone to coach the pitchers. A “pitching coach” if you will. It certainly wouldn’t cost you $9 M. Also, since when does Kevin Millwood know what it is to win in the AL East?

I’ll end with a couple of questions.

(1) If Millwood was a free agent, would you sign him for one year at $9-11 M (the $9 M the O’s will pay him plus value of Ray + PTBNL)? (I guess I’d say yeah, probably.)

(2) How do you think Millwood will do for the O’s next season?