TA: John Thomson Signing

In Andrew Bare's latest <B><I>Transaction Analysis</B></I> he discusses the signing of <B>John Thomson</B>. Could he truly turn the corner for the Braves in 2004 for only a smooth $1.75 million?

The big deal of recent days is of course the Drew-Wainwright trade of yesterday. Unfortunately, I was doing work for the University of Florida Sports Information Department, so Bill Shanks ably stepped in and wrote up a better analysis than anything I could of done.

That leaves us with Mr. Thomson, who's missing a "p" but won't lack for dollars in the coming years. I almost wrote this TA the day of the signing, which you may remember was the day after Atlanta decided not to offer arbitration to Lopez, Sheffield or Maddux. John Thomson doesn't look real good when he's being compared to any of those three.

But there's a lot here to like, along with a lot to not like. We often try to view the world in a strict black and white manner; this is absolutely good, this is absolutely bad. It makes analysis a lot simpler, and our minds are attracted to the simpler explanations. Nowhere is this truer than in the game of baseball, where revolutionary advances in statistics over the past three decades have indeed allowed to us to say with more certainty what moves are good or bad.

John Thomson was a favorite of Texas Manager Buck Showalter.(Photo/Getty)
But every now and again you get a move like this that defies an easy "good/bad" label. Thomson hasn't been particularly good over the course of his career; a 4.93 ERA isn't impressive. And yet it needs to be noted that Thomson has spent his entire career in laughably huge hitter's parks, namely Coors Field and Arlington. It's important not to underestimate the effect that can have on a pitcher's psyche, let along his statistics. Coors Field especially has a pretty dramatic "Rocky Road" effect. Thomson's lack of success certainly isn't due to a lack of stuff; he has that in abundance. And Ron Shandler is very high on Thomson, which certainly means a lot.

Thomson's strikeout rate is mediocre, but his walk numbers are excellent, which means you've got a starter with a really nice K/BB ratio. He's endured above-average hit rates over the years, and pitching in front of bad defenses in Colorado and Texas didn't help those numbers at all.

So consider this a cautious thumbs-up. Thomson's only going to make $1.75 million next year, and even if he doesn't improve one bit on his career 102 ERA+, it's not a bad price to pay for average starting pitching.

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