Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tipping the Cap to Bruce Chen

After thirteen years in the big leagues, the Panamanian-born Bruce Chen finally got the payday of his life. Chen signed a two year deal with the Kansas City Royals valued at $9 million with another million and a half in attainable performance bonuses. Chen has been worth (according to Fangraphs) $12.4 million to the Royals over the last two seasons and though it was better for the Royals to get that kind of performance at a couple of million a season instead of perhaps five and a half, the Royals could still come out ahead in this deal so it's hard to fault the team for making it. After all, someone has to pitch for the Royals and Chen has gotten the job done for them over a two year span and while the Royals' line up has come alive with new blood, the rotation has continued to struggle. At least Chen gives them a decent chance to win on most nights.

And that's why you have to tip your cap to the guy. He's an anti-analyst hero. Again, just so this writer doesn't get into hot water, that isn't a slam on analysts, but a smile for a guy that just doesn't get his share of outs in the typically loved way. Chen will zip his two-seam fastball up to the plate at an 84 MPH clip. He doesn't strike out a lot of guys and he doesn't have pinpoint control. His homer per nine inning rate has never been pretty. Without the blow-them-away stuff, he doesn't induce a ton of ground balls. More of his batted ball are hit into the air. Several have compared Bruce Chen to Jamie Moyer (here's one) and the comparison is apt. Old school baseball folks would call him a "crafty left-hander."

The Royals are Bruce Chen's tenth team. A little more than half of his 317 career appearances have been starts. Chen has never been spectacular. At times he's been absolutely brutal. He's pitched for Bobby Cox, Terry Francona and Bobby Valentine but he's never pitched in the post season. His career ERA+ is almost average. His career Game Score is exactly average. He's had four seasons where his fWAR was over one and four where it was in the negative category. He's the typical journeyman who has finally found a home with the Kansas City Royals and after a series of one year contracts, finally has a multi-year deal.

So yeah, Bruce Chen has defied the odds. He has hung in there and taken his lumps. He's never been great but has sometimes been pretty good. And after all this time and after all that moving around, Bruce Chen has found a home and will get paid a pretty good amount of money. Good for you, Bruce Chen. Good for you.

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