Archive for the ‘Player Value’ Category
Today at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron wrote up a good explanation of the dollars per win system that MLB teams choose to operate under. Part of the analysis in effect shows why young players are so cost-effective, and in turn shows why teams like the Rays can compete with such a low payroll. Something that is often missed when looking at big free agent contracts is that just because a player is paid a billion dollars doesn’t mean that he’s overpaid, relative to the rest of baseball of course.
Now, I know there’s some sentiment that teams don’t pay for wins linearly, because a six win player is worth more than three two win players. While I agree with this in theory, major league teams just don’t operate this way. If you just look at the dollar per win costs for the multi-year contracts handed out to hitters last year, the cost per win was $4.3 million for guys with an average win value of 4.4 wins per player. Alex Rodriguez signed for about $3.8 million per win last year. Teams just don’t pay exponentially more for higher win value players than they do for average and below players. You could argue that they should (and I would probably agree), but they don’t. The dollar per win scale is linear.
So just because Sabathia and Santana are being paid boat loads of money doesn’t mean that they’re being paid more than their expected production because of their “marquee status.” In some cases, that may happen (Derek Jeter would be an example, maybe), but that’s more the exception than the rule.
In part one of this, I talked about why we compare players versus the baseline of a replacement player instead of a bench player. Then, I showed what a sub-replacement level pitcher looks like in Kei Igawa, and gave an example of a replacement level pitcher in Sidney Ponson, who fits the definition perfectly. Now we’ll get on with the rest of it, talking about how to value pitchers in differing roles and situations, like Joba Chamberlain, Chien Ming Wang, and Andy Pettitte.
Andy Pettitte threw 204 innings with a 4.54 ERA this past season. Chien Ming Wang threw only 95 innings in an injury-shortened season, putting up a 4.07 ERA. Wang was better, but pitched in fewer innings, so who was more valuable to the Yankees? The same question can be asked about Joba Chamberlain and Mike Mussina. If you remember from part one, I said that replacement level for relievers is lower than it is for starters. So we also need to look at the time Joba spent in the bullpen, and also account for the fact that the 8th inning is more important than the first inning before saying how valuable he was. It might sound a little complicated, but I promise you it’s not, once it’s all spelled out in plain English. More after the jump…
There’s been a lot of talk around the internet recently about replacement level players. This seems to have been sparked by FanGraphs adding a whole bunch of new features, exposing fans with a passing interest in stats to some of the more complex sabermetric ideas and concepts. I say FanGraphs is responsible because most of the conversation has been focused on hitting, which is expected because most of the new stats there have been hitting stats (and their accompanying articles/explanations).
So here today, I’m going to be talking about replacement level, and how it can be applied to pitching. To illustrate the concepts, I’ll be using some guys like Kei Igawa, Sidney Ponson, Joba Chamberlain, Chien Ming Wang, and Andy Pettitte. Each one of these pitchers represent a portion of the concept that may raise a question. So while Igawa might not serve a purpose on the field, he will in this article. [Edit: This got kind of long, so I'm breaking it up into two parts. I'll have something else up tomorrow, and then part two should be up on Friday]
Today, in the comments section of this post at RAB, I got into a little bit of an argument with Ben over a potential Manny Ramirez acquisition. The comments by both of us are kind of scattered all over that thread, making it hard to follow. But the gist of the conversation was that Ben wants Manny Ramirez as the DH next season, which would put Hideki Matsui on the bench or on the trade block. I don’t want that to happen. Matsui can’t play the outfield–his knees are just too bad to either handle the position or to simply stay healthy over the long haul.
Ben’s plan is summed up in this comment, when he says, “The Yanks should go after Manny and deal with Matsui after the fact.” I responded by saying that doing that is incredibly shortsighted, considering that Matsui and his $13 million salary can’t just be cast off like it means nothing. Signing Manny to be the DH would mean that Matsui is on the bench used only as a pinch-hitter or occasional fill-in. He’s certainly not a defensive replacement, and can only play two positions–left and right field. So let’s see how this goes….
I’m lazy. Instead of trying to figure out all the dollars per win figures over the next 7 years, and figuring out how many innings CC will pitch, and how effective he’ll be… I’m just going to show the work of Tom Tango, and explain it all in simpler terms. Then at the end, I’ll discuss the opt-out.
Why do I care what Nate McLouth is worth? I have no idea. Usually my ideas come from an interesting post or comment somebody made somewhere, but this one is completely out of left field. It’s almost 2 a.m. and I have a growing headache (which begs the question of why I’m writing this anyway), so that’s all the introduction you get today.
McLouth’s .276/.356/.497 line comes out to a .372 wOBA, which is worth 23 runs above average over his 687 plate appearances. wOBA measures overall offensive output in rate form. To get the equivalent runs above average, you take the difference between the individual and league wOBA and divide by 1.15. What is Nate projected to do next season? Both Bill James and Marcel have similar projections, both pegging him around 9 runs above average. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m not 100% sure that I feel comfortable writing this post, for two reasons. One, I’ve never used odds ratios before, so there could be some rule I’m violating without knowing. And two, I slept approximately zero hours last night doing a ~45 page group paper for my business management class. With that in mind, let’s see where this takes us…
First, I should introduce what an odds ratio actually is. It is defined by Wikipedia as “the ratio of the odds of an event occurring in one group to the odds of it occurring in another group, or to a sample-based estimate of that ratio.” In baseball terms, it means that we take the odds of an event happening for a pitcher, and compare that to the odds of the same event happening to the batter, and the formula spits out the expected outcome. Numbers must be converted into “odds ratios” before plugged in…don’t ask me why, but it seems to make sense. Here’s the formula, using on-base percentage:
- Translate OBP (or your rate of choice) into odds ratio form: (OBP/1-OBP) to get the odds ratio (OR)
- (batter OR / lg OR) * (pitcher OR / lg OR) = (expected OR / lg OR)
- Then reverse step 1 to get the expected outcome of the matchup.
Thanks to Pizza Cutter for the explanation on that one. So here’s how this relates to Johan Santana (3 paragraphs in). Peter Bendix, of Beyond the Box Score and FanGraphs fame, penned a piece for the latter about a week ago on the subject of Johan Santana. In it, he shared some of the same concerns that I did about the Mets’ ace. Peter said this about Johan’s LOB%: “His LOB% in 2008 was the highest of his career [at 82.6%]. Over the last three years, his LOB% has been 76.3%, 77.7% and 78.3%, respectively.” Generally, a sabermetrician would say that his LOB% is bound to regress towards the mean next season, and I would agree. But I decided to check out the veracity of that claim, using odds ratios in certain situations to see where he over- or under-performed the expected outcome. Read the rest of this entry »
Bobby Abreu has played 1799 games in his career, is a two-time all-star, and recipient of both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. In the past, he has led the league in doubles and triples, and has a better than 3 to 1 ratio of stolen bases to times caught stealing. Abreu ranks 24th all-time in on-base percentage, and 9th among active players.
Brett Gardner has played 42 major league games, amassing 141 plate appearances. He stole 13 bases while getting caught only once. Gardner played solid defense, but slugged a paltry .299 in limited playing time. After being recalled from the minor leagues for the second time, Gardner hit a respectable .294/.333/.412 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 25 games.
Obviously, Bobby Abreu is by far the more accomplished player through the age of 34 than Brett Gardner is at age 24. So why am I bothering with this comparison? The Yankees recently declined to offer arbitration to any of their free agents, which includes Abreu. The Yankees did not want Abreu to see the depressing market for corner outfielders and simply decide to accept their $16+ million. With Abreu on the team, the outfield would feature him at his usual right field, Johnny Damon in center, and Xavier Nady in left. With Abreu now seemingly out of the picture, the outfield projects to be Nady in right, Damon in left, and either Gardner or Melky Cabrera in center. The Yankees are hoping that Gardner can take hold of the center field position, since we’ve seen what Melky is capable (or incapable) of doing the last two years.
We have a good idea of how well each player will perform in every aspect of the game, except for Gardner’s hitting, and we know the defensive value of playing Damon in left field instead of center. So that brings up this question: If we account for every aspect of player value–hitting, defense, and baserunning–then how well would Brett Gardner have to hit in order to justify the Yankees decision to let Abreu walk away?
1. Chase Utley
2. Ryan Howard
I’ll stop there, since that’s all you need to know. By the way, Albert Pujols 100% deserves the NL MVP award, there’s no one even close in my opinion. There is a large number of people that believe Ryan Howard was deserving of the NL MVP this year. Let’s just say I disagree. I don’t believe that Howard was even the Most Valuable Phillie (ha, see what I did there with the initials in MVP? See that?), as shown in my MVPhi ballot above. If Howard was not even the most valuable member of his own team in 2008, how could he possibly be the most valuable player in the entire league?
Chase Utley could make a strong case for being the most underrated player in all of major league baseball the past two seasons, but that’s not really the point. Some say Ryan Howard was only the 6th (sixth!) best hitter on the Phils, but that’s not the point either. The point here is to show that if the BBWAA were to vote Ryan Howard to first place in the NL MVP voting, they’d really have to give whatever spot comes before first to Chase Utley. Let’s get to it.
Howard: .251/.339/.543 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 2.93 WPA/LI, in 700 PA
(What is WPA/LI? Click the link, it’s a quick explanation)
So Utley beats Howard in batting average, on-base percentage (by 41 points in each), and loses by a small margin in slugging percentage. The WPA/LI figure just confirms that Utley was, on the whole, more productive than Howard at the plate. The argument that Howard’s huge second half shouldn’t hold much weight, seeing as how he almost single-handedly sank the team in April and May. If he didn’t suck so bad in the beginning, the Phillies would have been in great position in August and September instead of fighting for their lives. The award is meant to recognize the player most important to his team over the entire season, not just the second half, or the last month, or whatever. There are more precise measures available to determine exactly how much better Utley was in ’08 than Howard, but I’ll keep it simple here right now. Offensively, the edge goes to Utley.
Defense and Position
Again, exact measures aren’t really necessary, as I’m trying to keep this as straightforward as possible. But it is pretty much a known fact that second base is more difficult to play than first base. In addition to that, Utley rates as plus-47 plays better than the average second baseman, according to the fielding bible. Now that number is absolutely ridiculous–it’s extremely rare for a player to rate as even +30– and probably has a lot of sample error involved. Just know this: Utley is a damn good fielder. Ryan Howard’s defensive reviews range from below average to absolutely horrific, and he’s projected to be slightly below average going forward. That same site has Utley at +14, which is much more reasonable, and still one of the best in the league.
I think the average Phillie phan would be able to figure this out on his own, so I’ll leave the baserunning stats out of it, considering they’re kind of unreliable anyway.
* * *
There are other (less important) things one could add to this, but I don’t feel the need to add any more to the argument–Utley already beats out Howard in all the major criteria. I’m not saying that Mr. Utley was the most valuable player in the national league this past season (that honor deservedly goes to Albert Pujols), but he was definitely the most valuable Phillie.
Via MLBTradeRumors, we learn than Andy Pettitte is considering pitching for the Dodgers in 2009. Now this is probably just posturing on Pettitte’s part, as he might be just trying to get the Yankees to hurry up with their offer. It’s been rumored that the Yankee fan-favorite is looking to return for the same $16million that he played for the last two seasons in New York. The Yankees, however, seem to want him to take some kind of pay cut.
So what is Pettitte actually worth on the free agent market? If you read the Mike Cameron post from a few days ago, the process is somewhat similar, although less complicated. Essentially what I’ll try to do is project what Pettitte’s 2009 will look like, compare that to replacement level, and then assign a salary figure to that performance level. Here’s the main tricky part: Pettitte will likely throw around 200 innings next season, if healthy. A replacement level pitcher (5.50 ERA) would never be allowed to throw that many innings, simply because of his ineffectiveness. As a rule, replacement pitchers are not projected to throw more than 160 innings.. The remaining innings (40 in the hypothetical case used here) are covered by a replacement level reliever, who is generally assigned a 4.50 ERA.
Projections show Pettitte having slightly under 200 innings next season, but he’s surpassed that total in each of the last four seasons, so we’ll project him for 200. Go down to the second section of that page, and you’ll see a column titled “FIP.” This stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, and is meant to imitate actual ERA using only strikeouts, walks, and home runs. FIP is actually a better predictor of future ERA than ERA itself, and is therefore more indicative of a players true talent.
If we project Pettitte to have a 4.00 ERA next season (his FIP in 2008 was 3.71) in 200 innings, that means he’s allowing 88 runs over those 200 innings. The next step is to look at how the tandem of replacement pitchers (described above) would fare in 200 innings.
- Replacement starter: 160 innings, 98 runs
- Replacement reliever: 40 innings, 20 runs
- Total: 200 innings, 118 runs
All of that shows that Pettitte will likely be 30 runs above replacement next season, or three wins. It’s a complete coincidence that I found Pettitte to have the same exact value as Mike Cameron, by the way. So multiply Pettitte’s three wins by the $4.84million per win that is predicted for this winter, tack on the minimum salary of $400K, and you get $14.92million for next season.
It seems that Pettitte should indeed take a pay cut, just not by the large amount that has been floated.