Ben Cherrington has, for the most part, avoided any splashy big name signings. In fact, many of the local talk shows and beat reporters are upset that he hasn’t done more. So far this off season, he opted to sign AJ Pierzynski for one year rather then giving Salty a three year deal, he re-upped with Mike Napoli for two more years and signed reliever Edward Mujica for two years. Ellsbury left for New York and Stephen Drew remains lost in the free agent wilderness. Right now the Sox would have Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center and a left side infield pair or Bogaerts at short and Middlebrooks at third. The media pundits are gnashing their teeth – “you can’t rely on up the middle youth!”, “what if they fail, what’s the back up plan?” I’ll get to the youth movement in another blog post, but right now, I’d like to focus on the Mujica signing, because that was a coup.
Mujica pitched for the Cardinals last year in his age 29 season and pitched very well. He appeared in 65 games, tossed 64 2/3 innings, had a WHIP of 1.005, an ERA+ of 131, and a SO/BB ratio of 9.20. Not of great importance to the sabermetric minded fan, he saved 37 games for the Cardinals and made the All Star team. Mujica, however, fell apart in September and October, when he gave up 18 hits and 9 ERs in 7 1/3 IP. In two of his last three outings he pitched only a third of an inning and gave up three hits and two runs in each. It was reported later that he was suffering a groin injury when he lost the closer’s job. He was buried and forgotten by Mike Matheny thereafter. He made two playoff appearances – a ninth inning mop up job against the Pirates and once against the Dodgers in Game 5 where he entered in the bottom of the sixth with the Cardinals down 4-2. He got the last out of the sixth, but then gave up a home run to AJ Ellis in the seventh, pitched to one more batter and was never used again by Mike Matheny.
The Red Sox signed Mujica to a two year deal worth 9.5 million. To put that in perspective, Craig Breslow, if the Sox pick up his 2015 option, will make 7.825 million over the next two years, Koji is only signed for 5 million through 2014, and Junichi Tazawa is still in his arbitration eligible days – he won’t be eligible for free agency until 2017. Other notable relief signings this off-season? LaTroy “They Invented Carbon Dating for Me” Hawkins signed a one year deal of 2.5 million, Javier Lopez got three years and 13 million, Joe Nathan agreed two years and 20 million, Joe Smith signed for 3 years and 15.75 million, and Brian Wilson netted a one year deal at 10 million. Can’t say Mujica is that out of whack with the market.
What can we expect? Some pretty good relief pitching. Mujica will duke it out with Breslow and Tazawa as the eighth inning guys. Here is what Mjica has done since 2010. He’s one of only four relief pitchers with a WHIP under 1.025, 200 IP, ERA+ over 120, and SO/BB ratio over 6.0:
It’s great to see him in a group with Koji. He has given up a few more home runs then the others, but his 1.21 career HR/9 rate is acceptable. I would note, however, that he has a worrying trend of an increased GB/FB ratio over the last few years – since 2008, 0.42, 0.62, 0.79, 0.97, 1.05 and then last year he dropped back down to 0.83. Junichi Tazawa, for example, had a GB/FB ratio last year of 0.51, evn though I always perceived Tazawa as giving up a home run to the first batter he faced. Obviously not true, but pretty damn close. Of his nine home runs given up last year, 4 were to the first batter he faced upon entering the game. It just goes to show that when you watch your team all the time you get a warped perspective. I expect Cardinals fans feel the same way about Mujica who also gave up 9 HRs and allowed 4 to the first batter he faced.
Overall, though, Mojica’s peripherals were pretty similar to Tazawa’s in 2013.
- ERA+ – 131
- IP – 64.2
- Slash Line Allowed – .245/.262/.412
- HR alllowed – 9
- ERA+ – 130
- IP – 68.1
- Slash Line Allowed – .265/.294/.447
- HR alllowed – 9
The set up triumverate of Mujica, Tazawa and Breslow should be formidable before handing the ball over to Koji. When you add in a possible return of Andrew Miller, who seemed to find himself in the bullpen – lest you forget Miller had an ERA+ of 154 and 48 Ks in 30 2/3 IP before breaking his foot, you’ve got the makings of a very good bullpen.
I like the Mujica signing. The Sox bullpen should be a bright spot again in 2014.