Depending On Expectations, Brandon Beachy Signing Is Fine

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Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Lets be clear about this. Every contract is a risk. If it weren’t, you could put together 25 “no risk” contracts and win a world series because the downside is literally nothing. That isn’t the case. Yasiel Puig‘s contract has risk, Clayton Kershaw‘s contract has risk, Brandon Beachy‘s contract has risk. So lets get that out of the way, I mean Paul Maholm should have changed the idea that low risk deals do not equal no risk deals.

That said, Brandon Beachy is really interesting. He is a right handed pitcher who came up through the Braves farm system after being signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2008, he first made his appearance on the Braves top prospects list in 2010 where they ranked 8th and said Beachy had the best control in the entire system. He was a notable guy, but not one that scouts LOVED.

So it was probably a surprise that in his first 267.2 innings in the big leagues, he put up a 3.23 ERA 3.34 FIP split and a 9.25 K/9 2.89 BB/9 rate stat combination. Those rate stats are #2 starter type numbers, having an adjusted ERA and FIP in the 80’s is something to be proud of.

Context neutral, that is an arm that shouldn’t be signing in mid February, but those 267.2 innings have come over the course of 4 seasons (he made his debut in 2010!). And each season has been a different story: his rookie season was him just breaking in, walking 4.20 batters per 9 while also striking out a batter an inning, his sophomore season, he made 25 starts, compiling a 3.68 ERA, and a 3.18 FIP comprised of a 10.74 K/9 he did this while having a 92 MPH fastball that was worth 14 runs above average according to Pitch FX, a useable changeup, a nice curveball and an above average slider. All that while walking only 2.92 per 9 innings positioned him for a solid season as a 26 year old staple in the Braves rotation.

Welp his elbow popped in the middle of 2012, then he came back, made a few starts in 2013, then he went down with elbow inflammation, then his elbow popped again in a spring training game during 2014, and that was the last we ever heard of Beachy in a Braves uniform. He said last month that he wanted to wait until Spring Training came around before signing with a club (which makes total sense now), and now? He’s a Dodger, being paid 2.75 million this year with a club option that starts at 3 million next year.

I don’t hate the signing, he is a useful arm when Brett Anderson or whoever in the rotation misses time. The Dodgers bought 2 lottery tickets in Brandon Beachy and Brett Anderson with *some* hope that they will work out. If they hit, the front office gets a return on their investment, if they don’t, then the team clearly thinks it has enough depth to survive another season without any consistent production from the 5th spot.

But just remember, that 2015 and beyond Brandon Beachy is probably not going to be the same pitcher that 2011 Brandon Beachy was. This is what Eno Sarris has said about him this offseason

"[Commenter] So I chose Brandon Beachy in the 10th round of my 14 man dynasty league’s inaugural draft last season. Yeah. He’s still on my team, is there any reason he ought to be?Eno Sarris: Wait for spring to start unless you need the spot. On the right team… [Beachy] had nice stuff."

He said something similar in fangraphs+, (via DodgersDigest)

"Once upon a time, Brandon Beachy had four legit pitches — a fastball with rise, a change with good velocity gap if not drop, a yellow hammer of a curve, and an above-average slider — good command, and a spot in a National League rotation. Those were fun times. That was also two elbow surgeries ago."

You could take it 2 ways, that Beachy has potential to come back to his 2012 levels the further he gets away from tommy john surgery, or that Beachy is going to have to reinvent himself as a pitcher.

I’m leaning towards the latter scenario, pitchers have come back the same from 1 tommy john surgery, but finding a pitcher who has come all the way back from 2 tommy john surgeries is nearly impossible.

This is an excellent post regarding the success rate of 2 time tommy john survivors. There are plenty of examples of names that have come back from tommy john surgery, and in a limited sample size, the success rate seems to be pretty okay

"26 made it back to the big leagues while seven did not. That 78.7 percent success rate compares pretty favorably with the percentages of pitchers who make it back from a first Tommy John surgery, especially when you add in the fact that a few of the pitchers who didn’t make it back were fringe big leaguers pre-injury"

That’s all fine, but making the major leagues isn’t exactly the same as excelling in the major leagues (like Beachy used to). The names are also underwhelming in that they’re almost all relievers. Shawn Kelley has had his UCL replaced twice, so did Joakim Soria, you know ALL ABOUT Brian Wilson, Chris Capuano is the greatest success story not named Tommy John regarding this operation. And there’s a bevy of other pitchers who are coming back from the dreaded 2nd surgery to try to pitch this, or next season, the Jarrod Parker‘s, the Kris Medlen‘s of the world.

But again, you’ll note that most of the success stories are via relievers who have become useful and not necessarily stars. Here’s an article looking at Medlen and Parker’s prospects for success. Needless to say, history is not kind for starters trying to overcome tommy john for a second time

"For Parker’s and Medlen’s returns to be considered a success, however, they’d have to come back as starters, and the history of starting pitchers returning from a second Tommy John surgery is far shorter. In fact, second on the list of most starts after a second Tommy John surgery is Kuo, who made just 14 and had his greatest success as a left-handed reliever for the Dodgers. Once again, Parker and Medlen can find greater inspiration on the field than in the history books, as the man ahead of Kuo on that list is the Red Sox’s Chris Capuano."

This was written in 2014, and not a whole lot’s changed. Hong-Chih Kuo is certainly a name, he’s best remembered as a reliever where he put up a park adjusted ERA 69 percent above the league average according to fangraphs. Kuo was awesome, he was great, but like the article stated, Kuo only made 14 starts after his second surgery. Capuano is the guy Parker Medlen and Beachy should hope to become. Capuano had his second surgery in May of 2008, and he didn’t pitch until June of 2010, since then he has reinvented his career into a crafty lefty that has made 105 starts, pitching a total of 653.1 innings. He’s pitched to a 4.16 ERA/3.93 FIP split since. Those aren’t eye popping numbers, but given the context, it’s a huge success.

But the differences are Beachy has always had good velocity on his pitches (he still threw in the 90’s when he returned from his first tommy john surgery), Capuano’s fastball and cutter settled in at 89.3 MPH last season. Beachy is a right handed pitcher, Capuano is a left handed junkballer with deception, Capuano threw 711.2 solid innings between his surgeries, Beachy had exactly 111 innings between his tommy john surgeries.

The point isn’t to instill rabid pessimism into Beachy’s rehab, but simply to say that when looked at in the proper context, the signing is okay. Heck, Beachy’s going to need to overcome a lot of hurdles to make this deal look good for the Dodgers. He’s going to have to make history, exceed every expectation set on him, beat tommy john for a second time, stay healthy (which might take reinventing himself). He’s probably not going to be a force like he was back in 2011, if he’s a productive/average starting pitcher come July, then the Dodgers have a good deal otherwise, Beachy will fall victim to the historical precedent set by starting pitchers trying to come back from 2 tommy john surgeries.

But hey, he’s a confident guy.

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