Is Josh Byrnes A Witch?

My wife’s favorite show on Netflix right now is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have little interest in the show, but it’s a small apartment and I torture her enough with shows she has active disinterest in that it’s only fair to let her do the same. I’ve only seen maybe 20 or so episodes of the 144 aired, but my favorite character is definitely Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, who you may know better as Michelle from American Pie or Lily from How I Met Your Mother. On Buffy, she’s a witch.

I don’t really know all that much about what she’s capable of, but I do know that for a while she turned evil and earned a catchphrase. Right before she got violent she’d say “bored now.” This is what you’re saying right now, of course. I better get to the point.

 A few nights ago on Twitter, after learning that White Sox pitcher and potential Padres offseason trade target Gavin Floyd was making the wrong decision in attempting to rehab his elbow injury, I started to look at other starting pitchers the Padres may or may not have targeted in the offseason, or at least the ones I thought they should have targeted, to see how things were going for the others I had longed to see in Padres throwback brown and yellow a couple times a season.

Turns out, Josh Byrnes might be a witch. A lot of these guys have been pretty terrible so far. So while my wife watches the series finale of Buffy, let’s take a look at some players who might have been Padres in an alternate universe, and weigh the evidence of Josh Byrnes’ witchery. We’ll use Keith Law’s list of Top 50 free agents to help us out. If you’re not an ESPN insider, you’ll just have to trust me.

Zack Greinke
Keith Law ranking: 1
Contract: 6 years, $147 million (Dodgers)
Does he Stink? Zack’s currently on the DL. You might remember why. Before that, in only 2 starts, he’d already earned 0.5 fWAR, with a 1.59 ERA and a 1.76 FIP. The Padres were never players for Greinke. They may have had interest, but even if they weren’t cheap, he would still have been out of their price range.
Witch? No

Hiroki Kuroda
Keith Law ranking: 5
Contract: 1 year, $15 million (Yankees)
Does He Stink?  No, he’s been totally worth every penny of the $17-18 million the Padres allegedly offered him, and that he allegedly turned down to stay with the Yankees. Kuroda had said previously that he was only considering the Yankees and Dodgers, but I guess it was worth a shot.
Witch? Maybe. If Byrnes really did offer Kuroda that contract, he looks like it would have been a good signing. But if Byrnes is a witch, he probably could have convinced Kuroda to accept the deal.

Kyle Lohse
Keith Law ranking: 6
Contract: 3 years, $33 million (Brewers)
Does He Stink? No. He’s not winning games, but he’s pitching just as well as he did the last 2 years with the Cardinals. Low 3’s ERA, low 3’s FIP, low BB%, low K%.
Witch? No. Common sense said the Padres, who need their draft picks, couldn’t make a play at Lohse, who cost more than just money to sign. It took until late March for anyone to sign him for that reason. He’s good, but he’s not that good.

Dan Haren
Keith Law ranking: 7
Contract:  1 year, $13 million (Nationals)
Does He Stink? Well, he hasn’t been good. Through 6 starts: 5.01 ERA, 5.07 FIP, 0.0 fWAR. Replacement level. He’s been better than a few Padres starters thus far, but certainly not worth that $13 million.
Witch? Yes. The Nationals can survive with a crappy version of Haren. The Padres would have needed Haren to lead the staff. He doesn’t appear up to that job.

Edwin Jackson
Keith Law ranking: 8
Contract: 4 years, $52 million (Cubs)
Does He Stink? His start against the Padres last Tuesday was pretty indicative of his season so far. He gave up 8 earned on 11 hits in 4.2 innings. His season ERA is 6.39. His FIP, however, is 3.21. What’s wrong? When hitters don’t swing and miss, they’re getting on base against Jackson at an alarming rate, and when they get on base, he can’t keep them from scoring. He’s striking out a batter per inning, but his BABIP is .353, he’s walking over 4 batters per 9 innings, and his LOB% is only 52%.
Witch? Yes. This is the guy I wanted most. That the Padres balked over a 4th year still angers me, but if Jackson gets results like this going forward, Byrnes dodged a major bullet.

Anibal Sanchez
Keith Law ranking: 9
Contract: 5 years, $80 million (Tigers)
Does He Stink? Quite the opposite. Of this past year’s free agent class, Sanchez has been by far the biggest success. Over 11 strikeouts per 9 innings. A sub 2 ERA and FIP. His 2.0 fWAR rank him tops among pitchers so far this season. He’s been lights out. Oh, and he’s only 3-2. Let’s keep judging pitchers on wins and losses. That’s a good idea.
Witch? No. Byrnes was never in on Sanchez, on principle. More than 3 years to a starter? Josh Byrnes scoffs in your general direction.

Ryan Dempster
Keith Law ranking: 11
Contract: 2 years, $26.5 million (Red Sox)
Does He Stink? No, Dempster’s been pretty good. He’s on pace for another 3 fWAR season, and his K/9 has even jumped.
Witch? No. I never understood why, as far as I know, the Padres were never linked with Dempster. Short contract, innings eater, no injury concerns. Good signing by the Red Sox. Josh Byrnes missed it.

Brandon McCarthy
Keith Law ranking: 22
Contract: 2 years, $15.5 million (D-Backs)
Does He Stink? People who tweet him sure think so. He’s having similar problems as Edwin Jackson. His ERA is over 7, his FIP is just over 4. His K-rate is normal. His BB-rate is super low. He’s got a crazy high BABIP and a low LOB%. I think he’ll be fine, and I’m keeping him on my WAR-only fantasy team (currently a decent 0.4 fWAR), but his results have been horrible so far.
Witch? Maybe.

Shawn Marcum
Keith Law ranking: 23
Contract: 1 year, $4 million (Mets)
Does He Stink? So far, so bad. Marcum wasn’t activated by the Mets until April 27th. In 2 starts, he’s got a over 7 ERA and hitters are teeing off on him, and his control has been for crap.
Witch? Yes, but other GM’s figured this one out too. If Marcum had been healthy, he might have gotten 3/$20. Instead, he settled for 1/$4, and he might not even be worth that.

Jeremy Guthrie
Keith Law ranking: 26
Contract: 3 years, $25 million (Royals)
Does He Stink? Maybe. He’s getting great results, but that 93.3% LOB% isn’t sustainable for any pitcher, let alone one with Guthrie’s history. His FIP says he might be a 2 fWAR pitcher this year, which would make him worth the $8 million AAV he’s getting over his contract, but just barely.
Witch? No. The Royals jumped the market, signing Guthrie before the winter meetings. Had they waited, they might have gotten a better pitcher for less money. Josh Byrnes was still formulating his master plan for misreading the market when the Royals signed Guthrie, so he gets no credit or blame here.

Carlos Villanueva
Keith Law ranking: 33
Contract: 2 years, $10 million
Does He Stink? No, he’s been very good in his first opportunity as a full-time starter. I had never heard of him when Law ranked him so aggressively, but it looks like Law might have been on to something. Villanueva should regress some as the season goes on though. His .210 BABIP isn’t sustainable.
Witch? No. Dreamboat Jed Hoyer might be one though.

Francisco Liriano
Keith Law ranking: 35
Contract: 1 year, $1 million (Pirates)
Does He Stink? Unsure. He’s still rehabbing a broken arm that might have cost him $13 million. Liriano had verbally agreed to a 2 year, $14 million deal with the Pirates when he broke his arm on Christmas day trying to prank his kids, before his physical with the team or finalizing his deal. He had to renegotiate his deal, and lost a lot of money. He now has a team/vesting option at $8 million for 2014. We’ll see how that goes.
Witch? Voodoo? Maybe.

Joe Blanton
Keith Law ranking: 43
Contract: 2 years, $15 million (Angels)
Does He Stink? Yep. I liked Blanton as an innings eater at a decent contract, and when the Angels signed him I thought the Padres had missed an opportunity. He’s got a near 6 ERA and a negative fWAR, having yet to earn his first irrelevant win for his new squad.
Witch? Yeah.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Keith Law ranking: 47
Contract: minor league deal (Indians)
Does He Stink? Yes, and he’s doing it in AAA now.
Witch? Maybe. I’ll give Byrnes partial credit for resisting temptation to give Dice-K a major league deal.

Justin Masterson
Keith Law ranking: N/A
Contract:  2nd year Arb, $5.69 million (Indians)
Does He Stink? No, he’s actually having a bounce back year. He’s been worth 0.8 fWAR, has kept his ERA and FIP in the mid 3’s so far, and is averaging almost 7 innings per start. He could be on his way to a season resembling his 2011 year, in which he was worth over 4 fWAR.
Witch? No, and I think this is the best case for not a witch. There was a lot of talk about the Padres trading with the Indians this offseason for either Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez. Nothing ever materialized. If the Padres could have found a way to buy low on Masterson, they could have ended up big winners.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Keith Law ranking: N/A
Contract: $5.75 million, $8 million team option for 2014 with $1 million buyout (Indians)
Does He Stink? Yep. The more likely of the two trade options with the Indians was Jimenez. His plus 7 ERA and negative fWAR shows me that the Padres likely dodged a bullet there. I went back and forth on Jimenez in the offseason, but I’m glad the Padres avoided him.
Witch? Maybe, but a witch probably wouldn’t have considered him in the first place.

Rick Porcello
Keith Law ranking: N/A
Contract: 1st year Arb (super 2), 1 year $5.1 million (Tigers)
Does He Stink? Like rotten eggs, but not as bad as you might think if you stopped paying attention a couple weeks ago. He’s showing signs of turning his season around, and has ventured into positive fWAR territory. Can he build off his last 2 decent starts? We’ll see.
Witch? Big time, so far.

Gavin Floyd
Keith Law ranking: N/A
Contract:  Last year of 5 year contract, $9.5 million (White Sox)
Does He Stink? His elbow does, and the idea that he might get better through rehabbing that elbow does too. Rehab almost always leads to surgery, and only delays the process. Padres fans know this well.
Witch? Yes. I was a big proponent of trading for Floyd this offseason. He was a short-term contract, coming off a down year. I thought he had great bounce back potential. Apparently not. I don’t expect to see him pitch again in 2013.

Joe Saunders
Keith Law ranking: N/A
Contract: 1 year, $6.5 million (Mariners)
Does He Stink? This was another guy I thought would be an upgrade on our current staff who hasn’t been for the team he signed with. He didn’t make Keith Law’s top 50 free agents, so maybe that’s telling, but I thought he’d help the Padres. He certainly hasn’t helped our natural rivals, with an ERA over 6 after another stinker Sunday.
Witch? Sure.

After 2,000 words, what do you think? Is Josh Byrnes a witch? Just lucky? Do you agree that his good decisions on reasonable possibilities seemingly heavily outweigh his bad? Should he have found a way to upgrade the starting pitching some other way? Is this a whole lot of small sample size?

It should be noted that no healthy starting pitcher on this list has been as bad as Jason Marquis or Clayton Richard, and that the only Padres starter with a positive fWAR is Eric Stults (0.2). Maybe Brandon McCarthy hasn’t gotten good results so far, but he’s been more valuable than that, and should see better results going forward. Ryan Dempster was out there available at a reasonable price. As was Carlos Villanueva, if you were willing to take a chance on converting a swingman into a starter.

I’m going to say that Josh Byrnes is indeed a witch, if for no other reason than declaring him a witch means I can suggest a trial by ordeal, because who doesn’t love a good game of mortal combat, drowning, or burning at the stake in which you’re always proven right?

Oh, and while I was writing this, spoiler alert, Buffy (or Spike, I don’t know) saved the world by destroying Sunnydale, and all those who lived will live happily ever after, free to enjoy life without having to worry about vampires and demons and whatnot from that day forth. How quaint.

Today’s blog post has been brought to you by Ballast Point Sculpin, the new Phoenix album, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Austin City Limits reruns on PBS. Follow me on Twitter @The_NV for the shorter, drunker version of this post and more nonsense. The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays, and doesn’t split long posts into 2 parts. Unless it does. Not this time.

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