Dallas Braden: Future Yankee?


Recently, Mike Axisa of RAB and MLBTR fame opined that Dallas Braden is a potential non-tender candidate. Unfortunately for you guys, that got me thinking … Is Dallas Braden worth it for the Yankees to take a flyer on if he is indeed non-tendered by the Oakland Athletics? Before we move on, I just want to remind everyone of this:

We all remember Alex Rodriguez‘s breaking of an unwritten rule that irked Braden. Enough so, they both took potshots at each other through the media. Dare I ask, can these two guys co-exist on the same team? For potentially disrupting the clubhouse: Strike one.

Now, let’s get into some numbers. First, Braden is age 29, which is still relatively young, but he’s beginning his prime years with not a whole lot of Major League innings. In fact, he’s only pitched 491.1 innings spread across five seasons. Some would say, the arm is still fresh, while I say that arm is an injured one.

His record (26-36) indicates he’s a losing pitcher, which can be a tad misleading considering he owns a career 4.16 ERA (3.99 FIP). He’s not a big strikeout-type (5.59 K/9 and 14.7 K%), but he does limit his free passes (2.58 per nine innings).

However, a couple of red flags immediately come to mind when thinking of Braden. First, he’s mostly pitched in the spacious O.Co Stadium (Network Associates Coliseum? McAfee Coliseum? Overstock.com Coliseum? Oakland Coliseum? Sheesh pick one already!). If you don’t remember much about that particular park, it has high walls, lots of foul territory, and apparently it’s more difficult to hit home runs at night than during the day. In a supreme misuse of statistics and sample sizes, Braden has made two starts in the new Yankee Stadium and they haven’t been very good. Hitters have a .293/.420/.463 batting line against him. It’s the second number that’s most alarming, as batters are reaching base in 42% of their at-bats against him. Luckily, he’s only given up one home run, which is surprising considering he’s a flyball pitcher.

Speaking of flyballs, Braden owns a career 38.5% groundball rate, which since he doesn’t strikeout a ton of hitters, indicates he gets the majority of his outs through the air (42.4 % career FB%). That doesn’t bode well for pitching in the Bronx. While he’s kept his HR/FB rate down (6.8% career), that is mostly a product of pitching in “Whatever Tech Company Is Paying Us The Most At The Time Coliseum” in Oakland. Strike two!

If you can’t stay healthy, you can’t help the team. It’s a motto that many general managers should heed, but they take chances and are either loved or vilified for it. Braden hasn’t pitched at all during 2012, which stems from a torn shoulder capsule. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

"As I have written before, shoulder-capsule repair is not a procedure that has been perfected, unlike elbow ligament replacement. It generally takes quite a lot of time to come back from (see: Johan Santana) and there is no guarantee of a full return. Here’s the main issue: Surgeons must basically guess on how tight to make the shoulder. There is no way to calibrate it. So some shoulders are too tight, some aren’t tight enough. The hope, of course, with any capsule repair is to get the tightness on the money the first time around."

She references Johan Santana in regards to this injury and we’ve seen how well he’s performed this season (not very well). To make matters worse for the A’s pitcher he was recently put on the 60-day DL after his shoulder wasn’t responding like he and the A’s would have liked before a potential comeback in September. Doctors will perform a exploratory surgery, it’s unclear as to what they are exactly looking for, but it appears they are revisiting the tightness. Strike three!

Poor groundball rates, a major injury, and a possible headache in the clubhouse between him and A-Rod should do him in as a potential Yankee. The Texas Tech product profiles now as a back-of-the-rotation starter after this surgery. One of the only saving graces is that he’s a lefty and that does hold some weight, but not enough after being on the shelf for so long and to such an injury.

If I were the Yankees, I would definitely pass on him if he is indeed available before next season. The 2012 rotation looks like this, so far: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Phil Hughes. Both Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda might sign another one-year deal for 2013. Plus, the Yankees have Michael Pineda making a return, hopefully by May. As you can see, it’s a crowded rotation yet again, but we’ve all seen when pitching depth can become a deficit. Still, I say no to Dallas Braden.

Stats courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference