First Pitch: Jeanmar Gomez is the New Kevin Correia
I’m what you call a cord cutter. I don’t have cable or DirecTV. A few years ago I discovered that all of the shows I watch were either on Netflix, or on Hulu Plus the next day. And since I never watched shows the night they aired, the “next day” part of Hulu didn’t matter to me. So I was faced with paying $15 per month for Netflix and Hulu, or paying over $100 more per month for DirecTV for the same content. I decided to get rid of the subscription, which resulted in two things. One, I saved $1000 a year. Two, I keep getting really creepy, ex-girlfriend like letters from DirecTV.
Seriously. If you leave DirecTV, their marketing approach is to send you weekly letters that sound like you just broke up with your girlfriend and she can’t get over you. “We want you back”. “We miss you”. “We’ll change”. Take a hint. I don’t want to be with you, DirecTV. Please get your satellite dish off my house. Also I want my favorite shirt back.
The one problem with cord cutting is that I needed to find a way to watch Hulu and Netflix (plus MLB.tv and every other app) on my TV, rather than my laptop. I had two choices. Buy a TV with internet apps, or buy a Roku for several hundred less. I was “meh” about the idea of a TV with internet apps, but once I got the Roku I felt it was the greatest invention ever. In reality, it was only doing the same thing as the TV with internet apps, only the Roku plus my TV was cheaper than the same TV with internet apps included.
That’s kind of the situation with Jeanmar Gomez right now. After tonight’s game I wrote about how he’s the new Kevin Correia. I got a few comments against Correia, saying he never performed like this, or that Gomez has been better, or that Gomez is more likeable. I didn’t need the comment to know that last one was true. I’m not saying Correia wasn’t likeable. I’m saying Pirates fans like Gomez more than they liked Correia, even though they’re both doing the same thing.
After tonight, Gomez has a 2.30 ERA in 43 innings. Most of those innings have come against easy opponents. However, he faced a tough Detroit lineup tonight, and went seven shutout innings. That’s impressive. The downside is that he’s been lucky. His xFIP is 4.27, which is two runs higher than his ERA. That’s due to a lucky 85% strand rate and a very low .203 BABIP. Gomez won’t continue with those numbers, and as a result, his ERA won’t continue at this pace. I think most people expect that though.
It was the same situation with Kevin Correia. Last year he started the season with a 3.47 ERA in his first 36.1 innings. The only problem is he had a low BABIP (.208) and a high strand rate (77%), which led to a 4.39 xFIP. He was due for a regression. It was the same story in 2011 when he started with a 2.91 ERA in his first 46.1 innings.
The key difference between Correia and Gomez is cost. Gomez is the Roku. He’s the cheaper option who does the same thing. Your expectations weren’t as big because you didn’t have as much invested, so seeing him do the exact same thing as the more expensive option is somewhat of a surprise. The combination of low expectations and favorable results at a lower price leads to the feeling that Gomez is better than Correia.
Correia is the more expensive TV with internet apps. He does the same thing as a Roku and a TV without apps, but he costs more, so you expect a good performance. Anything above and beyond is dismissed because you want to see value from the money you spent.
In the end Gomez is probably better from a value standpoint, but he’s the same pitcher as Correia. They both had strong stretches with signs that it wouldn’t continue. It didn’t for Correia. It won’t for Gomez.
The reason I’m saying this is because the Pirates will have to make a move soon. They’ll have Charlie Morton returning to the rotation in about two starts, giving Gomez one more turn in the major league rotation. The smart move is Morton in the rotation and Gomez moving to a long relief/spot starter role. That’s probably not an exciting trade off, since Morton is coming off a bad rehab outing in his last start, and Gomez keeps defying the odds and putting up strong numbers in the rotation. Morton is also coming off a horrible 2012 season, although he abandoned his two best pitches (sinker and curve) because it hurt to throw them. So I’m not really looking at the 2012 season as an indicator of what he’s capable of.
Gomez does have an xFIP this year that’s in the range of a strong number four starter. In his career his xFIP has been in the 4.50 range, which is also good for a back of the rotation starter. But Morton can be better than that, without potential regression. Gomez has been a great story, and a huge boost for the Pirates. But going forward the smart thing to do is to remove the “value” thinking and just look at Gomez for what he is. He’s a cheaper version of Kevin Correia. That’s a great thing to have for depth throughout the year, and I’m sure the Pirates will use him again in the rotation at some point (he is league minimum eligible next year). But he’s also a huge regression candidate, and doesn’t have the upside that Morton has. So what he’s done has been great, and even after his regression he’ll have value in the majors. It just happens that the Pirates have better options to turn to.
I will add this final thought: I looked at Gomez, then I looked at Jeff Locke — another regression candidate. Both starters have xFIP numbers in the same range. Gomez is also three months younger than Locke, which is surprising and something that’s easy to forget. He has almost 250 innings in the majors over four seasons, but Gomez is still the youngest member of the rotation. So perhaps a more interesting debate would be “Gomez or Locke” and not “Gomez or Morton”. But that will be a debate for another time.
Links and Notes
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**The newest Pirates Prospects Podcast is up and available for download or streaming. P3 Episode 5: Polanco the Top Prospect? Can Pirates Keep Winning? Mark Melancon Interview.
**The podcast will have some changes starting this week. Each week the podcast has been about 70 minutes, and has included minor league and major league talk. Starting this week we’ll be running two smaller shows per week. We will still have an episode each Friday, talking about the major league team. This show will consist of the segment with myself, Tom Bragg, and James Santelli. We will also have a second episode each week talking about the minor leagues. That will include input from our minor league writers, as well as draft and international signing discussions. Each episode will be about 30 minutes on average. So it will be the same content each week, just broken up throughout the week to make things easier for everyone. You don’t have to carve a little over an hour of time out of your day. I don’t have to spend an entire day editing one long podcast (instead editing over part of several days, which I think will be better). Right now I’m thinking the second show will go up on Mondays.