Volquez vs. Vargas, et al.

Some have complained that the Pirates spent $5 million on “the worst starting pitcher in major league baseball.” They apparently base that estimation upon Edinson Volquez‘s 2013 ERA of 5.71.

It will come as no surprise that I am firmly convinced that xFIP is an exceedingly superior measure of a pitcher’s individual performance than is ERA. So, I decided to take a look at Volquez’s xFIP and contract in relation to the numbers of a few of the other free agent starting pitchers who signed this off-season.


Volquez; 1 year, $5 million

Jason Vargas signed a 4 year, $32 million contract with the Kansas City Royals.

Phil Hughes signed a 3 year, $24 million contract with the Minnesota Twins.

Matt Garza signed a 4 year, $50 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.

And Paul Maholm signed with the Dodgers for 1 year and $1.5 million, with incentives that could take his total compensation to $6.5 million.

xFIPs Each of the Last Three Seasons

2011:  Volquez 4.07;  Vargas 4.45; Hughes 4.90;  Garza 3.19;  Maholm 4.03

2012:  Volquez 4.20;  Vargas 4.45;  Hughes 4.35;  Garza 3.59;  Maholm  3.84

2013:  Volquez 4.07;  Vargas 4.29;  Hughes 4.39; Garza 3.73;  Maholm 3.89

Total xFIPs  2011 – 2013

Garza: 3.46

Maholm: 3.92

Volquez: 4.12

Vargas: 4.41

Hughes: 4.46

Of the 168 starting pitchers who pitched at least 200 innings between 2011 and 2013, this is where the above five pitchers ranked in xFIP:

Garza: 27

Maholm: 50

Volquez: 66

Vargas: 91

Hughes: 94

It’s pretty clear to me that Edinson Volquez is not “the worst starting pitcher in major league baseball.”  Also, Volquez’s contract is almost certainly a far better value for the Pirates than are the contracts of Vargas and Hughes for the Royals and Twins. And I suspect that, based on Garza’s significant, recent injury history, that his deal might not provide as much value for the Brewers as Volquez’s will for the Pirates.

Maholm’s contract is another story. His deal may be the best team-value of any of the starting pitchers signed this off-season.

I haven’t completed my analysis on this topic. I need to calculate the WARs of these pitchers over the last three seasons, based upon xFIP and a park adjustment. I wanted to get an article posted this morning and those calculations would have pushed me into time that I don’t right now have. But, as odd as I know it may sound, I’m looking forward to doing the math.



I had trouble deciding what to listen to this morning. I started with “Avalon Sunset,” by Van Morrison, but that didn’t last long. I popped in something from 1988 by a little known group called Hothouse Flowers, that I think is from Ireland. An unfortunate name, but good music. I was singing it during second crack up in 1989.










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