Boone Logan was signed to a massive $16.5 million deal before the 2014 season to a great deal of speculation. It was the Rockies' largest deal given to a relief pitcher, and many were doubtful that Logan would justify the signing. An October surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow kept him on the DL for the start of the 2014 regular season. Upon returning, he tossed just 25 innings before requiring surgery to again remove a bone spur from his left elbow. Through those 25 innings, Logan posted an unsightly 6.84 ERA, was credited with four blown saves, and posted an ERA- of 160.
Among relievers who threw at least 20 innings, his ERA- of 160 was the 12th worst in baseball. Despite what you might think, that actually wasn't the worst on the team. That alone should illustrate just how bad many members of the bullpen were in 2014. Chad Bettis, who threw 24.2 innings, had an ERA- of 213. For those of you who are unfamiliar with ERA-, it's a statistic used to compare pitchers while controlling for park and league, resulting in an average of 100 in any given year. The higher a pitcher's ERA-, the worse. Accounting for the league's performance, as well as park factors, that implies that Bettis was 113 percent worse than the league average.
The thing is, as far as I've been able to find out, Bettis has a cap hit of just $500,000. Logan has a cap hit of a whopping $5.5 million. According to spotrac.com, Logan is in a four-way tie as the 24th highest paid reliever — a number that includes closers — but had an ERA- worse in 2014 than 247 relievers who pitched at least 20 innings. 247!!!! I realize that the cutoff in innings pitched is low, but still. A guy that's signed for $5.5 million a year needs to be better than that.
But the past is the past, and dwelling on his disappointing 2014 campaign doesn't help the Rockies win in 2015. What does help them win is Boone Logan returning to relevance. His contract is what it is, so we need to look beyond that and try to see just what he can deliver to the team when at his best. Let's take a look at how he did while pitching for the Yankees.
Digging a bit into these numbers, we see that Logan had been trending upwards at the time of his signing. His strikeout rate had been steadily rising and he posted his best K/BB as a Yankee in the season before coming to Colorado. BABIP changes year to year, but the league average is typically just under .300 according to league statistics from FanGraphs. Finally, looking at FIP- and ERA-, which are both statistics adjusted for league and park, we see that Logan was consistently an above-average pitcher. How do his numbers with the Rockies stack up against his numbers with the Yankees? Poorly, to say the least. Below is a table in which I've combined his four seasons with the Yankees and took weighted averages of each statistic accounting for varying innings pitched per year.
If you're looking for some positive takeaways, it's encouraging that his strikeout rate with the Rockies was better than his average with the Yankees. He had a BB/9 of about one more than in 2014, but comparing it to his average the past four seasons doesn't show anything too drastic. There's a pretty significant spike in BABIP, so I wanted to check the Rockies' average over the past few years to see if that high rate was due in part to playing at Coors. Rockies pitchers, however, have seen an average BABIP of .305 since 2006, which suggests that Logan should experience better luck this season.
So far this article has basically shown just how bad Logan was last year, but as I suggested in the article's title, I believe that Logan can return to the pitcher he was and really help our bullpen. He may never totally justify the contract, but if he can give us two seasons of above-average pitching as he did with the Yankees, then it's something I won't mind. While Logan has never pitched a ton of innings, having exceeded 50 just twice in his career, he's a guy who has the stuff to miss bats and has the ability to appear in a number of games. This, coupled with a career GB% of just under 47 percent, should help keep the ball in the park. His numbers with the Yankees were the best of his career in pretty much every category, so there's reason to believe that the elbow injury temporarily derailed what was a gradually improving career. And, while he's always been pretty good facing lefties, Logan's been able to do better against right-handed hitters in recent years. Finally, the elbow injury doesn't really seem to be something that should be a concern heading forth. His velocity thus far hasn't deviated from his career average and according to PitchFx data, his above-average slider seems to have retained its movement and is missing bats at career-normal rate, albeit in an extremely limited sample from 2015 thus far.
The bullpen has looked good through spring training and the first two games of the regular season, but it's the most volatile part of any team. If Logan can provide the Rockies a steady arm and deliver above-average performances as he did while in New York, he could prove to be a very valuable player for them moving forward and provide some much needed stability.