Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

The Case for Bruce Chen

Posted by Mike on December 29, 2005


Bruce Chen is the red-headed step-child of the Baltimore Orioles. Once the fourth rated prospect in all of baseball (1999, Baseball America), Chen taking the mound now elicits as many whinces as Mike Flanagan talking about prospective trades with Billy Beane. For some reason, when the O’s pick someone up off the scrap-heap, he doesn’t get the respect that others like Todd Jones, Jose Mesa, and Paul Byrd have in the past few years.

Few out there realize that Bruce Chen was actually the most valuable Oriole pitcher in 2005. Following are the top three finishers in VORP:

Bruce Chen- 33.7
Erik Bedard– 25.7
B.J. Ryan– 25.3

To you and me, that means that over the course of the season, Bruce Chen was worth about one win more than any other pitcher on the Orioles. Granted, his main competition was limited by injuries and usage patterns, but no one else was even close.

Still not convinced? Let me make one more comparison. I’ll list Chen’s stats next to another prominent pitcher who also happened to be 28 years old last year.

Chen ——— Player X

197.3 ——— 224.0

6.1 ———– 6.3

2.9 ———– 1.7

1.5 ———– 1.4

3.83 ———- 4.22

Chen’s stats seem to match up pretty nicely in this comparison. He has a slight edge in ERA, probably from his lower BABIP. He has a higher walk rate than Player X, to a degree that is significant (but both markers are above-average). So what we have here are two pitchers who are/have; 28 years old, workhorses, decent but uninspiring K rates, good to excellent walk rates, and below-average home run rates.

Now, factor in that Chen pitches in a ballpark that is neutral to slightly favoring the hitter while Player X pitches in one of the most notorious pitcher’s parks in baseball. It seems pretty clear to me that Chen is the better pitcher.

Player X? Well, he’s no other than one of the top three starting pitchers in this year’s free agent market: Jeff Weaver. You may be saying ‘Wait, this had to have been an off year for him!’ Nope. Besides 2002, when he only pitched 121 innings, 2005 ranks up there with any season he’s had. And you can bet that he’s taking his reputation as a durable workhorse who can give you slightly above-average production to the bank. Weaver is, after all, next on Scott Boras’s to-do list.
All you Orioles fans have to ask yourselves, do we need another Bruce Chen? Scratch that, do we need a lesser version of Bruce Chen?

And maybe, just maybe, we should be grateful to have a durable workhorse who can give you slightly above-average production while still a year away from free agency.


3 Responses to “The Case for Bruce Chen”

  1. Greg said

    How much will Chen make next year?

  2. Mike said

    He made $550K last year and will probably get between $1.5 and $2 mill in arbitration for next year. Then, he is an UFA.

  3. […] 6-1 225 03/17/83 62 Bryan Bullington R/R 6-4 210 09/30/80 69 Jorge Campillo R/R 6-1 225 08/10/78 52 Bruce Chen L/L 6-1 215 06/19/77 79 Danny Duffy L/L 6-2 185 12/21/88 77 Matt Herges L/R 6-0 210 04/01/70 59 […]

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