The Cubs have two starting pitchers locked up to long-term deals: Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Options aside, both pitchers are signed through 2012. Zambrano is going into the second year of a 5-year, $91.5 million contract. Dempster is just starting his 4-year, $52 million contract.
Are either of them likely to live up to their contracts? Of course we can’t tell for sure, but a few days ago, TucsonRoyal over at Beyond the Box Score took a stab at calculating whether C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett would live up to their contracts. To do so, he looked to see how pitchers have done from year to year in terms of innings pitched and WAR and came up with a multiplier for each year of age. He admits the numbers are a little biased because he made a mistake calculating the multipliers, but it’s still an interesting exercise, so I did it for Zambrano and Dempster’s contracts. I assumed the 10% increase in win value would hold true on average over the life of their contracts. The results?
Zambrano has already played out the first year of his contract, so we know what he did for 1/5 of it, while we’re just speculating for the entirety of Dempster’s. No matter. Using this method we come up with Dempster being worth $65.4 million, or $13.4 million more than his contract. And Zambrano would be worth $64.5 million, or $27.5 million below what he’s getting paid.
How much stock should we put in these numbers? Well, probably not a ton. First, there’s the error TucsonRoyal himself mentioned. Second, I would imagine there’s a fair bit of variance in these numbers, so you can reasonably expect a player to pretty far under- or over- perform these predictions. And finally, the multipliers don’t work to predict either Dempster or Zambrano’s career paths so far.
For Dempster’s part, that might just be because he’s bounced between the bullpen and the rotation, and because of his surgery. For Zambrano’s part, he pitched fewer innings last year (because of injury) than TucsonRoyal’s numbers would have predicted, although it was about right for WAR. It was way off between 2006 and 2007, though. Maybe Zambrano has been a little unlucky the past couple of years and his true talent level is higher than his performance has indicted, or maybe he’s declining earlier than most people, but my sense is he’s probably a bit of an outlier. But the numbers are definitely interesting to play with, and I’m eager to see the next iteration of TucsonRoyal’s work.