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Trachsel Out? Ginter Should Be In

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With Steve Trachsel diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back, the Mets have suffered their first injury-related setback this Spring. If Trachs opts for surgery he could miss most of all of 2005. The Mets in-house options to replace him are:

Matt Ginter
Jae Seo
Aaron Heilman

Rick Peterson hates Jae Seo. Why is anybody's guess, but Seo has been on his s---list since Peterson took over as pitching coach at the beginning of last season. Seo pitched really well in 2003 but got off to a slow start in the Spring last season and never really got the chance to recover. He was essentially given the forth starter spot in the rotation heading into camp in 2004 and left camp pitching in the minor leagues.

Aaron Heilman has been a huge disappointment to everyone from the fans, Mets ownership, and presumably some of his own family members. Rumor has it that Joe Montana insists he no longer attended Notre Dame just to avoid any possible association with Heilman. He's been a pretty successful minor league pitcher, but everything just falls apart when he pitches in the big leagues. He walks more batters, gives up more hits, and gives up a LOT more homeruns.

That leaves Matt Ginter. The Mets acquired Ginter in a pre-season trade last year with the White Sox in exchange for Timo Perez. You may not believe what I'm about to say, but I say it with a fair degree of confidence:

If Matt Ginter takes Steve Trachsel's spot in the rotation there won't be a discernable difference in production.

There, I said it. Steve Trachsel is what we call a LAIM: a League Average Innings Muncher. He is unspectacular, has average stuff, but has had the good fortune to stay healthy enough to average almost 200 innings-per-season for the past nine seasons. Conversely, Matt Ginter became a Major League starter for the first time last season, starting 14 games and throwing 69.1 innings for the Mets.

2004 PITCHING LINES

            ERA     DIPS     K/9    BB/9    HR/9
Trachsel   4.00     4.79    5.20    3.69    1.11
Ginter     4.54     4.39    4.93    2.60    1.04

Granted we're only looking at one season, and only 69 innings for Ginter, so the usual small smaple size caveats apply. However, Ginter bested Trachsel in DIPS ERA, BB/9, and HR/9, while falling slightly short in K/9. PECOTA tends to agree with my assertion:

2005 PECOTA PROJECTED PITCHING LINES

            ERA     VORP     K/9    BB/9    HR/9
Trachsel   4.74     12.8    4.50    3.00    1.20
Ginter     4.57     16.0    5.20    2.60    1.10

Since Trachsel and Ginter are projected to throw an unequal number of innings, I have normalized VORP to 200 innings pitched. PECOTA sees Ginter outperforming Trachsel in every peripheral category, as well as ERA and VORP. Ginter just turned 27, Trachsel 34.

Both pitchers are right-handed, they both give up about the same number of groundballs as flyballs, and Ginter makes about 1/10th of Trachsel's salary. Ginter definitely doesn't have the "Trach" record (sorry) of long-term mediocre pitching that Trachsel has, but given the chance, I think he could do just as well, if not better, than the man he would be replacing.

This switch has the added benefit of significantly speeding up game time. Keep in mind that the line on Ginter isn't even for a full season, so this is by no means a complete analysis. The important fact to remember is that Trachsel is an average pitcher. Not terrible, but certainly replaceable. Ginter has the potential to be that "average" pitcher the Mets need to stand in for Trachsel. The disparity between Trachsel's real ERA and DIPS ERA indiciate that he was the beneficiary of good defense or, more likely, a lot of good luck. DIPS ERA tends to correlate better from year-to-year than ERA does. Mets fans who are mourning the loss of Trachsel need to realize that you can throw a stone and hit a dozen league-average pitchers who could do a serviceable job as the Mets' fifth starter. I'll never understand how the myth of Steve Trachsel's ability strayed so far from the reality of it.