November 18, 2002

You don't have to go home, but you've got to get the %#&@ out of Coors

I don't know that I will ever really be able to have a solid grasp of the details and monetary committments involved, but I am fairly certain that Mike Hampton is now an Atlanta Brave.

To me, this is an absolutely fascinating trade on so many levels.

It involves two teams that have given out such horrendous contracts that they are willing to make great sacrifices just to lessen the burden of them.

The Colorado Rockies gave Mike Hampton an 8 year/$121 million dollar contract prior to the 2001 season.

To rid themselves of Hampton and his massive contract, the Rockies were willing to take on several horrible, but less massive contracts.

They took on Charles Johnson, who is still owed $25 million dollars over the next 3 seasons and they took on Preston Wilson, who will be paid $27.5 million over those same 3 seasons.

In addition to those two albatrosses on the payroll, the Rockies also accepted Vic Darensbourg and his $1.1 million dollar contract for 2003 (and a $200,000 buyout for 2004).

The Florida Marlins received Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre.

Pierre is under contract for 3 more seasons at the total cost of $6.6 million dollars, which is bad, but makes him look like the bargain of the century compared to the rest of this group.

The Marlins then turned around and flipped Mike Hampton to the Braves in exchange for Tim Spooneybarger and a "Player To Be Named Later," otherwise known as the famous PTBNL.

So, it would seem fairly obvious that the Marlins got the better end of that deal, right?

They got rid of Johnson, Wilson and Darensbourg's contracts, while taking on Hampton's horrible contract, but they eventually rid themselves of that too.

Ah, but it is not so simple.

In order to get the Braves to accept Hampton and his remaining contract, the Marlins had to agree to pay a very large chunk of it.

Let's recap:

The Rockies gave Mike Hampton (and, to a lesser extent, Juan Pierre) such horrible contracts that they were willing to take on Charles Johnson, Preston Wilson and Vic Darensbourg and pay them for the remainder of their bad contracts.

The Marlins had given out such bad contracts to Charles Johnson, Preston Wilson and Vic Darensbourg that they were willing to take on Juan Pierre's contract and pay a large portion of Mike Hampton's contract - a player that will never even pitch an inning for them.

Is that what today's baseball trading has come to?

Teams so desperate to unload the idiotic decisions that they made just one or two off-seasons ago that they are willing to just swap bad contracts with other teams and even pay huge portions of contracts for players that have never and will never even be on their team?!


The Braves end of this deal is the only one that was a purely baseball move (remember those?).

They acquired Mike Hampton.

Let me rephrase that: They acquired Mike Hampton and a significantly lessened financial obligation, in exchange for Spooneybarger and (presumably) a minor league prospect.

So, who won this deal?

Yeah, right, as if it were that simple!

Even if I completely understood which teams were paying what portions of which players salaries (which I absolutely do not), it would still be impossible to really judge this trade because of 1 thing: Coors Field.

Never before in the history of Major League Baseball has there been a playing environment that changes the actual game being played (and thus the strategies, both in game and front office) to such a extraordinary degree.

Good pitchers have come to pitch in Colorado.

Pitchers coming off of good seasons and even multiple good seasons.

Pitchers in the primes of their careers.

And every single one of them has failed to pitch even close to as well as they did for their previous teams.

What makes Coors Field more amazing is the fact that some of those good pitchers have actually left Colorado - I should say have been allowed to leave Colorado - and have gone on to pitch as well or even better than they did prior to making Coors Field their home park.

Here are the best examples of guys I could find that had significant time pitching in Colorado and significant time pitching somewhere other than Colorado:

Darryl Kile per 9 innings pitched:

Before Colorado = 3.79 ERA - 8.5 Hits - 7.3 Ks- 4.2 BBs -0.7 HRs

With Colorado = 5.84 ERA - 10.3 Hits - 5.9 Ks - 4.4 BBs - 1.3 HRs

After Colorado = 3.54 ERA - 8.7 Hits - 7.0 Ks - 2.5 BBs - 1.1 HRs

Pedro Astacio per 9 innings pitched:

Before Colorado = 3.68 ERA - 8.6 Hits - 6.1 Ks - 2.8 BBs - 0.8 HRs

With Colorado = 5.43 ERA - 10.0 Hits - 8.1 Ks - 2.1 BBs - 1.5 HRs

After Colorado = 4.58 ERA - 9.1 Hits - 7.0 Ks - 2.7 BBs - 1.3 HRs

Jamey Wright per 9 innings pitched:

With Colorado = 5.57 ERA - 10.8 Hits - 4.0 Ks - 4.3 BBs - 1.0 HRs

After Colorado = 4.73 ERA - 9.0 Hits - 5.6 Ks - 4.8 BBs - 1.0 HRs

Curtis Leskanic per 9 innings pitched:

With Colorado = 4.92 ERA - 9.0 Hits - 7.9 Ks - 4.2 BBs - 1.0 HRs

After Colorado = 3.07 ERA - 7.4 Hits - 8.5 Ks - 5.0 BBs - 1.1 HRs

What is the basic effect on these pitchers?

Well, it is a mixed bag.

All of their ERA's were worse in Colorado, that is almost a given.

As for the other stuff...

Hits were up across the board - usually about 1.5-2.0 per 9 innings, which is a lot.

Colorado didn't seem to have a big impact on walks allowed, as most saw their BBs/9 stay about the same.

Strike outs, on the other hand, were significantly effected, except for Pedro Astacio.

Kile's Ks went down upon coming to Colorado and then went back up after leaving.

Jamey Wright saw his K rate rise about 40% after leaving the thin air and Curtis Leskanic saw a slight jump in Ks after leaving Coors.

And then there are the homers - in general homers went up, but not as much as I suspected they would.

The biggest impacts seem to come in Ks and Hits allowed, which would make sense.

The ballpark is bigger AND when you aren't striking out as many guys, more balls get hit into play and more hits start dropping.

What does all that mean for Mike Hampton?

Mike Hampton per 9 innings pitched:

Before Colorado = 3.44 ERA - 8.8 Hits - 6.1 Ks - 3.5 BBs - 0.6 HRs

With Colorado = 5.75 ERA - 10.9 Hits - 4.6 Ks - 4.1 BBs - 1.3 HRs

After Colorado = ????

My little "study" was completely unscientific, so I am doing nothing more than guessing with a little statistical background, but...

I would suspect that Hampton will see his strike outs go back up to about the same level they were before Colorado - somewhere in the 6.0-6.5 range.

That rise in Ks, along with Atlanta's more friendly dimensions, should mean his hits allowed will go back towards a more "normal" level - I would guess somewhere in the 9.0-9.5 range.

The walks will probably stay about the same and the homers will almost surely fall quite a bit.

Mike Hampton is not a good bet to be the same pitcher he was before he joined the Rockies, but the impact that pitching in Coors has, both on your pitching and your mental approach, can not be underestimated and his numbers almost have to get a lot better just because he isn't pitching there in half his games.

My prediction for Hampton in 2003?

200-210 Innings Pitched

3.75-4.25 ERA

Let's assume that he can pitch similarly to that for at least his first few years in Atlanta, is that worth Tim Spooneybarger and about $6 million bucks a year?

Well, I like Spooneybarger and I think he will be a very good reliever, but if the Braves can get 200 innings and a sub 4.00 ERA from Hampton, it is probably worth it.

On the other hand, there are easier ways to acquire a good-but-not-great starting pitcher and I think I would have chosen a different route if I were running the Braves.

Ignoring the financial aspects of this trade (the details are sketchy and the big numbers make my head hurt), what are the baseball-only ramifications?

To Atlanta:

Mike Hampton

To Florida:

Juan Pierre

Tim Spooneybarger


To Colorado:

Charles Johnson

Preston Wilson

Vic Darensbourg

Pablo Ozuna

I actually like what the Marlins did here.

Spooneybarger is going to be a valuable pitcher.

Juan Pierre is going to struggle to keep his slugging % above .350, but he is a good defensive center fielder.

And if the PTBNL turns out to anyone decent, it is just an added bonus.

Atlanta gets a new quality starting pitcher, although one that is not without substantial risk.

Colorado gets an old, injury prone catcher, a reasonably productive outfielder that will struggle horribly covering center field in Colorado, a lefty reliever that stinks and a former shortstop prospect that will be lucky to have a career as a utility infielder.

I hope the Rockies saved a ton of money with this deal, because the players they got are certainly not going to push them toward a championship.

The one bright side is that it will probably be a whole lot easier to try to trade Johnson and/or Wilson than it was trading Hampton.

Atlanta made a good, slightly risky decision that was made a whole lot less risky by the Marlins (and Rockies) picking up a lot of the tab on Hampton.

And the Marlins got rid of 2 bad contracts and got 1 good reliever and possibly a nice prospect - although it did cost them some money.

Like I said, this is an incredibly fascinating trade for many reasons.

Mike Hampton will now provide another data point, along with Kile and Astacio, on the analysis of good starting pitchers that pitched in Coors and left for better environments.

Like I said, there are easier, less risky ways to go about acquiring a good starting pitcher.

Instead of losing Spooneybarger, the PTBNL and paying Hampton $6 mill a season, I might have just given Tom Glavine a 3 year contract for $10 million a year and considered the little extra money worth it to keep Spooneybarger and stay away from the potential risk that Hampton might just be completely done as a good pitcher.

But, this deal likely means the end to Tom Glavine's days in Atlanta, which is a real shame.

For some reason I think it is a good thing when a player plays his entire career in one place, but after 16 seasons with the Braves, Glavine will be pitching every 5th day and adding on to his Hall-of-Fame credentials for someone else in 2003.

Baseball is a wacky game and something inside tells me I would have liked being a fan a whole lot better in the days when teams weren't paying portions of people's contracts and salaries weren't being dumped quite as often.

Although, this type of stuff can be fun too, as long as you have a good calculator.

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