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Alois Leiter: Describing the Pain

Over at The Hardball Times, they updated Win Shares for our All-Star break enjoyment. The artist formerly known as Studes even put together a nice article to summarize everything. One part made me throw up in my mouth a little:

Now I'm sure you're wondering, just who are the worst players so far this year? Here's the list:

  Rk  Lg  Player       Team    POS      WS    WSAB
  1   NL  Guzman     WAS     SS       -2      -7
  2   AL  Lima          KC       SP       -2      -6
  2   NL  Leiter         FLA      SP       -3      -6

That's right, our very own Alois Leiter ranks second in all of baseball in Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB). Actually, in this case it's Win Shares Below Bench. In other words, if you just pulled an average major leaguer out of the bullpen, they would be significantly better than Leiter.

What's even more painful than that simple fact is how much Leiter is being paid this season. His salary is simply crippling to the Marlins budget.

Leiter's salary of $7.2 million represents nearly 12% of the club's payroll. That's not the most disturbing thing though. This is:

Marlins' Starting Pitchers

Pitcher Salary
Alois Leiter $7,241,931
A.J. Burnett $3,650,000
Josh Beckett $2,400,000
Brian Moehler $400,000
Dontrelle Willis $378,500

I'll spare you the effort of adding up the salaries of the other four starters. They will earn (collectively) $6.8 million this season. Add Miguel Cabrera into the mix and you have five players who will earn only slightly less than Alois Leiter this season.

Look at that again: you can have Al Leiter or Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, and Brian Moehler for effectively the same amount of money. Which would you prefer?

It's a no brainer. It's clear-cut right now, at the All-Star break. But it also should have been clear during the off-season. When Leiter was signed I should have been jumping up and down. Even if he'd won the MVP and the Cy Young this year, Leiter couldn't have been as valuable as those five guys combined. The Marlins would have been better off spending their $7 million on a lower priced starter, a bench bat, and an extra arm for the bullpen.

In the past (or at least in 2003), the Marlins were built around guys who could (and did) outperform the value of their contracts. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera are prime examples of this. On the open market, both would be multi-millionaires. But because they are young, they are paid only slightly more than the Major League minimum. This is of great value to the low- (mid) budget Marlins, as they get more bang for their buck.

Leiter is the antithesis of this. He has a bloated (although short term) contract and isn't even pitching up to the level of Antonio Alfonseca or another injured pitcher. The numbers currently indicate that the Marlins would be a better club if Leiter was merely an observer, instead of a participant.

But it's a double-edged sword. Because of his monstorous contract, Leiter will have the opportunity to play through his slump. Whether or not he comes out of it could be more important than whether or not Lowell is able to turn it around this year. With Beckett on the shelf, Leiter's arm will be used to take up innings. That would be fine, except that with the way he's currently pitching, putting Alois on the mound is essentially the same as forfeiting the game to the other team.

(That Moehler is earning more than Cabrera and Willis is a clear sign that something is wrong with the system - but that's a completely different topic for another day. Moehler didn't even have a role on this club when he signed his contract. But because of his service time, he was able to receive slightly more favorable terms than the Marlins' young, two-time All-Stars.)