Is Guillermo Moscoso The Next Jair Jurrjens?


A lot of our talk has been slanted towards trades and free agents, and well, it is the off-season so that makes a lot of sense. It led me to begin thinking of past trades the Tigers have made the last few years, and of course the Edgar Renteria and Jair Jurrjens trade jumped to mind right away. We all know what a bust that one turned out to be, so doing a review of the deal seems rather silly at this point. I’m over it, hopefully you all are as well.

There was another trade prior to the 2009 season that I became interested in over this past summer however, and that was the Gerald Laird/Guillermo Moscoso deal the Tigers made after the 2008 season. It’s talked about very little in the city and baseball world of Detroit, but this trade could be starting to turn bad as well. Moscoso was dealt to Texas, along with prospect Carlos Melo for Gerald Laird, because the Tigers were desperately searching for a catcher. Most didn’t think much of the deal at the time. Moscoso seemed to be a middle relief prospect, and Melo was really young.

I ask the question now though, with Moscoso having a strong 2011, are Tigers fans soon to lament this deal as well?

First and foremost, it should be noted that Guillermo Moscoso had his good season as a member of the Oakland A’s. Texas let Moscoso go after the 2010 season, after feeling like he wasn’t the type of pitcher that they needed in Texas. They were probably right, and we will get to that soon. In essence, the Tigers won the deal with Texas. Melo can’t hit the broadside of a barn with his command, and still hasn’t gotten out of short-season ball. Plus, the Rangers got nothing from Moscoso because they released him. The Tigers did get something from Laird, as he racked up 1.6 WAR in 2009. 2010 was another story, but in regards to their deal with Texas, it was an advantageous deal at the time.

In terms of the value of Guillermo Moscoso compared to Gerald Laird, going forward Moscoso could easily surpass the value of Laird (and I would even take him back). Moscoso is a 27 year old right-handed starter, who only got his chance with Oakland because their staff was decimated with injuries. Essentially, he was 8th on their depth chart, but his numbers suggest that he took advantage of his opportunity, as well as taking advantage of his home ball park. Moscoso made 21 starts for the A’s this season, and in those starts he went 8-10 with an ERA of 3.38. Of course, when dealing with a pitcher like Moscoso, who has pretty pedestrian stuff, you have to dive deeper into his numbers.

I wanted to take a look at Jair Jurrjens and his career numbers, since I have made the comparison earlier, and they are pretty similar in some aspects. Jurrjens has a career FIP of 3.88, and Moscoso had a FIP this season of 4.23, suggesting that both of these guys have pitched in some luck. Both guys have strike out rates of right around 2/1 in favor of K’s. Both guys have similar stuff as well. Jurrjens and Moscoso live in the upper 80’s and low 90’s with their fastballs, and have a change and a sharp, but not big breaking ball as well. But that is about where the similarities end.

The big difference is the length of their careers. Jurrjens has 702 innings of major league baseball under his belt. Moscoso pitched 128 innings this season and only has 142 for his career, making his success a little less believable. There are other differences as well. Jurrjens generates substantially more ground balls than Moscoso. Jurrjens had a GB% of 42% this past season, and is 44% for his career. Moscoso generated a GB% number of around 27% this past season. That means that Moscoso is an extreme fly ball pitcher, and this is where pitching in Oakland helps a guy look much better than he is.

Oakland has always been known for being pitcher friendly, and we can see that in Moscoso’s splits. It’s difficult to hit homers there, and there foul ground is extremely large.  At home he had an ERA of 2.42, and on the road it was 4.70, where some of his fly balls start flying out of the park. His BABIP this past season was extremely low at .221, so next season there is going to be a move towards the mean more than likely. So taken as a whole, the low ground ball rate, the low strikeout rate of 5.2 per 9 innings, and the likelihood that more of the balls in play end up hits suggests that 2011 was rather lucky for Guillermo. Chances are, he ends up more near his FIP, if not more towards his xFIP of over 5.00.

I will point out that Moscoso does have an advantage over Jurrjens in one area, his numbers have come in the American League. If Jair Jurrjens was pitching in the American League, I think his numbers would see a pretty substantial rise. His multiple years of success, along with the a slightly better strikeout rate, ground ball rate, and BABIP averages within the norm suggests the Jurrjens is a good pitcher, though he might be slightly over valued. At least by Tigers fans anyway.

In the end, Guillermo Moscoso could easily surpass the value of Gerald Laird, heck Moscoso had a WAR of 1.3 this past season. One more year like 2011, and he will have provided more value than Gerald Laird since the trade, assuming Laird doesn’t all of the sudden tear it up. However, this deal won’t be remembered as being as bad as the Jurrjens deal for several reasons.

First, Renteria was a good player that was supposed to help bring the Tigers a playoff birth, and be part of an explosive offense. The Tigers knew they gave up a promising pitcher with good command, but they were expecting an All-Star in return. When that didn’t happen, fans got upset when Jurrjens started having success with the Braves. The 2nd reason this trade won’t be remembered as being as bad, is that the expectations from Laird weren’t all that high, so neither were the expectations of Moscoso. Basically, fewer people are paying attention because Moscoso wasn’t considered a top prospect. And last, the original team in the deal, Texas, got nothing from this deal, so it doesn’t seem so bad regardless. The Tigers won the trade with the original team, even if the player the Tigers dealt goes on to have more value in the end.

Guillermo Moscoso was a little bit of a favorite of mine when going through the minors. He has solid command, and even though he lacks stuff, he hides the ball well, so his fastball has decent life. He had great success as a Tigers minor leaguer, and I always thought he deserved a shot. The numbers don’t lie however, and I think he is in for a rude awakening in 2012. It’s a pretty easy prediction is that he won’t be nearly as effective. To have long term success he is going to have to pitch in pitchers parks his whole career, or have Greg Maddux like command and that will be difficult to do. Especially since he doesn’t have Maddux’ movement either.

I think 2011 was a blip on the radar screen, and in no way is this deal going to make Tigers fans lament losing Moscoso like we have Jurrjens.

I think I am over the Laird/Moscoso trade already too. Or maybe I just never lamented it to begin with.