Does Will Ohman make sense?

The Pirates are reportedly one of three teams to have interest in left handed reliever Will Ohman, with the Marlins and Padres being the other two teams. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote in his blog post the other day that an Ohman signing would come only with a John Grabow trade in mind.

The question is: why?

Both are left handed relievers. I assume that Ohman would be signing a one year deal, which means that both relievers would be under team control for one season. Grabow turned 30 in November, while Ohman turned 31 last August, so they’re not too far apart age wise. Ohman made $1.6 M last season, so he could probably expect to see something similar to the $2.3 M that Grabow will receive this year.

The only thought process would be that the Pirates are hoping to trade Grabow for a prospect or help at another position, while signing Ohman to replace Grabow. That brings up a new question:

Why wouldn’t the other team just sign Ohman?

First, let’s compare the two players over the last three years to see how close they rank to each other.

Will Ohman: 9.03 K/9, 2.22 K/BB, 0.68 HR/9, 4.18 ERA, 1.36 WHIP in 160.1 IP

John Grabow: 7.79 K/9, 1.98 K/BB, 1.01 HR/9, 3.76 ERA, 1.37 WHIP in 197.1 IP

Breaking down Grabow, he had an 8.07 K/9, 2.20 K/BB, and a 0.97 HR/9 ratio in 06/07, with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. He followed that up with a 7.34 K/9, 1.68 K/BB, and a 1.07 HR/9, with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.

His strikeout numbers went down, his walks and homers went up, and yet he had a career year. Looking deeper, his ground ball ratio was around 49 percent in 06/07, but dropped to 39% in 2008, while his flyball ratio went from the 33 percent range in 06/07 to 40% in 2008. If I had to bet, I’d say that Grabow will return to his mid-4 ERA range this year, and that 2008 was luck.

Ohman has a similar story. In 06/07 he had a 4.45 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. In 2008 he had a 3.71 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. In 06/07 he had a 9.52 K/9, 2.14 K/BB, and a 0.80 HR/9 ratio. In 2008 he had an 8.20 K/9, 2.41 K/BB, and an 0.46 HR/9 ratio.

The strikeouts dropped, but so did the walks, and the homers took a dive, which led to the lower ERA. Playing in Wrigley Field could have had an impact on Ohman. In 06/07 he allowed nine homers combined. Seven came at Wrigley in 46.2 innings, while the other two came in 55 innings away from Wrigley.

A closer look confirms this. In 06/07, Ohman had a 9.83 K/9, 1.46 K/BB, and a 1.35 HR/9 ratio at Wrigley, for a 7.71 ERA and a 2.04 WHIP in 46.2 innings. He had a 9.16 K/9, 3.73 K/BB, and an 0.33 HR/9 away from Wrigley, for a 1.64 ERA and an 0.87 WHIP in 55 innings.

In my opinion, Grabow was lucky last year. Ohman had a much better year in 08 than he did in 06 and 07, but I chalk those poor years up to Wrigley Field, where he was horrible (for the record, in 2005 he had a 4.43 ERA at home for the Cubs, and a 1.57 ERA on the road).

So maybe the Pirates are trying to sell high on Grabow, and replace him with a guy who they think had a legitimate year in 2008. That’s what I think, anyways.

The only problem is, whatever team they’re offering Grabow to not only has the option to sign Ohman, but they probably have 30 minutes to spare to sit down and look at the numbers on both players, and come to the same conclusions I just came to.

In short, if this is the type of move the Pirates are going for, it would work better if they took Ohman off the market.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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