The Royals have never been big time players in the free agent market. The biggest contract they've ever doled out was $55M and that went to Royals legend Mike Sweeney then Gil Meche matched that money later with his jersey number. In a bizarre case, Meche would later walk away from $12M of that guaranteed money and retire in 2011 citing that he wanted to "earn" his money and his shoulder injury is just too much to come back from. That was nice.
The Royals will see a hole in their rotation appear as they'll likely lose one of the best pitchers they've had in the past 15 years become a free agent in James Shields. We'll get into future predictions of his skill level a bit later, but Shields has been very good for years and will be paid like a very good pitcher for years. Whether that's wrong or right is a different question as I'd rather pay a player for what he's going to do rather than what he has done, but Shields is probably going to double or triple his net worth come December.
SIERA is a beautiful statistic. It stands for Skill Interactive Earned Run Average and once you grasp the concept of SIERA the name will make sense.
Since the dawn of sabermetrics, sabermetricians have been looking for a more accurate way to evaluate a pitcher than using Earned Run Average. Fielding Independent Pitching has picked up steam recently and I feel like I've seen people embrace and use it more, which is great, but FIP isn't the end for me. It's easier to explain and grasp mentally than SIERA perhaps, but SIERA is slightly a better evaluation and for the purposes of this article specifically it is a slightly better predictor than FIP and xFIP.
I promise you SIERA isn't so hard to grasp if you have the basic concept of FIP down. We'll start off with the similarities. Both think that home runs and BABIP are luck and things that pitchers can't control so both are DIPS metrics essentially, but FIP thinks completely atheistic about luck while SIERA is more agnostic. SIERA doesn't fully believe a pitcher can control his luck, but he does have influences on that luck (hence the Skill Interactive part of SIERA).
Basically what SIERA does is allow for errors bars or explanations for a pitchers results and tries to make an apples-to-apples comparison of pitchers. SIERA knows that batted balls and plate appearance results do account for something.
For example, a pitcher who doesn't walk a lot of batters isn't hurt as bad with a walk as a pitcher who does walk a lot of batters. A pitcher with a very good ground ball rate isn't hurt as much by a walk because he can potentially convert those walks to double plays. A pitcher with high fly ball rates aren't as vulnerable to HR/FB. Pitchers with high strikeout rates generate weak contact which leads to more outs so it thinks strikeouts are more important the FIP. It also realizes that relievers have lower BABIP and HR/FB rates.
All those concepts make sense and SIERA tries to account for them unlike FIP excludes batted ball data except home runs.
Since SIERA has been shown to be the best ERA estimator, and has even bested most projection systems, it should be an applicable metric to judge future talent given even sample size.
For this exercise we'll look at the upcoming free agents, both players without a 2015 contract and those with options (regardless of their chances of being picked up or not). For SIERA we'll look at one-year and three-year data. Also we'll include xFIP in the results.
|Name||Age||xFIP '12-'14||SIERA '12-'14||SIERA '14||Notes|
|Hisashi Iwakuma||34||3.30||3.38||2.81||$7MM club option with a $1MM buyout|
|Brett Anderson||27||3.38||3.42||4.66||$12MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout|
|Johnny Cueto||29||3.40||3.47||3.05||$10MM club option with an $800K buyout|
|Dan Haren||34||3.80||3.76||3.8||$10MM player option if 180 innings reached in 2014|
|Yovani Gallardo||29||3.65||3.84||3.77||$13MM club option with a $600K buyout|
|Josh Johnson||31||3.68||3.84||N/A||$4MM club option|
|Chad Billingsley||30||3.90||3.99||N/A||$14MM club option with a $3MM buyout|
|Wei-Yin Chen||29||4.15||4.11||3.87||$4.75MM club option with a $372K buyout|
|Brandon Morrow||30||4.17||4.13||4.43||$10MM club option with a $1MM buyout|
|J.A. Happ||32||4.29||4.19||4.34||$6.7MM club option|
|Felipe Paulino||31||4.27||4.28||5.23||$4MM club option with a $250K buyout|
|Jorge de la Rosa||34||4.22||4.41||4.4|
|Bruce Chen||38||4.67||4.45||3.71||$5.5MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout|
So no real surprise here. Scherzer is the best pitching free agent this coming November and figures to rake in $100M+.
Brett Anderson could be a very interesting option for a team. He's riddled with injury history, but the xFIP and SIERA figures make him look very good. That's a very particular point as well as he's played in two extreme parks (Colorado barely and Oakland). That is...when he's not injured and he just came off the 60-day DL. His 6th DL trip in basically four years.
Let us pray that Bruce Chen's mutual option isn't exercised on the Royals side this upcoming off season. Age and ERA estimators aren't too kind on him.