Pavano, a closer look

With Carl Pavano’s recent free agent tour stop in Detroit and the rumors and denials of a contract worth $40 million and 4 years I thought I’d take a closer look at what Pavano could bring to the Tigers.

The positives
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Carl Pavano. Last year is being dubbed as his break out season. He compiled an 18-8 record with a 3.00 ERA. He allowed only 49 walks, 13 of which were intentional, in 222 innings.

Pavano is also an extremely efficient pitcher. In addition to the low walk rate, he ranked 3rd in the NL in pitches per inning pitched with 14.2. This efficiency means that Pavano average start lasted into the 8th inning. That would definitely help from exposing the Tigers bullpen (which will be better this year). Pavano’s pitching style seems to mesh well with Bob Cluck’s philosophy of getting guys out in as few pitches as possible.

Pavano also had a low home run rate of .6 dingers per 9 IP. While his fielding independent pitching ERA gets knocked down to 3.56, it is still impressive. Combined with the fact that he is only 28 and hitting his peak seasons, locking him up for the next 3-4 years might not be a bad idea.

The negatives(?)
These aren’t necessarily negatives, but for the sake of consistency and symmetry this section will be dubbed as negatives. These are just some reasons why Pavano could be a dangerous signing.

The first thing to point to is the strikeout rate. The last 3 seasons Pavano’s k-rate has been 5.6, 5.6, 5.2. It’s far from a Cornejo type rate, however it’s not the type of dominance you would expect from a $10 million a year investment. Pavano’s less than average strikeout rate wasn’t as much of a problem with Florida’s solid defense last year. Florida’s rate of turning balls in play into outs was .7033 as opposed to the Tigers’ .6859. Pavano allowed 694 balls in play, and with the Tigers defense of last year, that would have resulted in an additional 12 hits. That alone isn’t too bad, but Pavano won’t have the benefit of facing pitchers 3 times a game. That means more tough outs (and probably a lower strikeout rate as well).

The other thing to be concerned about is that the Pavano would be switching leagues, which means a lack of familiarity with the hitters. However, the impact should be mitigated because he’ll have a catcher that he’s comfortable with that knows the AL. I know that the impact of a catcher on a pitcher’s performance is still up for debate, but I’m in the camp that a catcher can boost a pitcher.

Even if Pavano doesn’t perform as well as he did last year, he will still be an upgrade to the pitching staff. The thing is whether he’s worth $10 million a year, and there are two ways to look at that. I’m not sure whether his performance will be worth the money. However, given what other players are signing for this offseason, a 3-4 year contract between $30-40 million seems reasonable.

I still like the Matt Clement option, and you could always argue that some comparable players could be had in January for less money. However, the Tigers aren’t looking to be bargain shoppers this year. So as long as the money going to Pavano wouldn’t prevent the Tigers from still going after a big bat, I have to hope that Pavano will end up here.


  1. Brian

    December 6, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    My biggest concern is, he’s basically had one good year. I agree he’d be an upgrade over everyone we have outside of maybe Bonderman, and only then if Jeremy steps things up like he should.

    I’d much rather see them go after Clement. Better bargain.

  2. Mike

    December 7, 2004 at 9:51 am

    This is a breakdown of career record, career ERA, and Innings Pitched over the last three years.

    69-75 4.34 (205, 201, 181) Matt Clement

    57-58 4.21 (135, 201, 222) Carl Pavano

    44 73 4.95 (131, 189, 196) Jason Johnson

    There really isn’t much difference between the three. Johnson pitched for Baltimore which may have cost him wins compared to Clement, who really hasn’t done a lot with the Cubs (best record of 14-12). Johnson and Pavano appear to be getting stronger over the last three years. Clement may be in decline.

    But the key here is that Johnson will be getting anywhere from a third to half as much as either Clement or Pavano. Johnson season ending fades may be fixed as well, since the coaching staff has convinced him that he works too hard between starts. If he cuts back and stays strong later into the season, who knows?

  3. Jason R.

    December 7, 2004 at 12:20 pm

    It would be nice if Cluck and Tram can “correct” Johnson, as this would certainly save money. But I dont know that there is much there even if they could get a little more stamina out of him.

    Johnson perpetually has a below-average strikeout rate, and coupled with a pedestrian K:BB (one that appears to be worsening the last 3 seasons), I think what you have seen is what you will get, even if the coaches can get 210-220 innings from him next season.

    Pavano is still improving, but as Billfer points out, he relies a great deal on the defense behind him. Clement is perhaps a better fit, given his significantly higher strikeout rate.

    I like them both, but somebody is gonna get hosed signing Pavano to the money he is looking for. His perceived value is miles ahead of his actuial value. Swoop in and grab Clement on the cheap, I say.

  4. Bill

    October 7, 2006 at 2:50 am

    Whatever happened to Carl Pavano anyway ?

    Is he still playing in MLB ?