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Giants Steal...err, Sign Bobby Howry

What a deal!

The Giants inked Bob Howry to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million, with incentive clauses that could take it up to $4.25 million. This deal, along with the Giants’s signing of Jeremy Affeldt, is simply fantastic.

Howry is not an amazing reliever, and is undoubtedly getting worse. But I can’t believe that this deal was the best deal he could have gotten. Yes, his ERA was 5.35, but his tRA+ was 112. His tRA* was 4.15, which can be translated to a 3.75 ERA. Yes, his strikeout rate is declining, but he still struck out 7.51 batters per nine (and only walked 1.66 per nine), good for a K/BB ratio of 59/13. Yes, he gives up a lot of fly balls, and therefore is going to be prone to the long ball. However, he still strikes out enough batters to prevent too many homers.

Yes, his velocity is declining, but his fastball still averaged over 91 MPH last year. Yes, his swinging strike % has decreased over the last few years, but 8.5% is still decent, even if below league average for relievers.

The point is, Bob Howry is not a dominant reliever and is clearly on the decline, but he’s still an above-average reliever with a proven track record. His ERA was artificially inflated, thanks in large part to a ridiculously high .354 BABIP last year, and even if he continues to decline, he should still be above average for another year or two.

The fact that this one-year deal is the best deal that Howry could find tells me two things: firstly, a number of teams still don’t evaluate pitchers correctly, and secondly, the economic crisis is really taking a toll on the majors. It probably won’t affect the deals that the top free agents are going to get, but it will hurt the medium and low-end free agents, as teams won’t be willing to splurge on guys like Bob Howry as they might have in the past.

That’s two good moves this offseason by the Giants. It doesn’t quite negate the horrible Barry Zito signing, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.