An Act of Desperation

26 01 2011

Posted by BaconSlayer09

After watching the Red Sox ink Carl Crawford to a 7 year deal and the division rival Rangers sign Adrian Beltre to a 5 year contract, the Angels front office must have gotten a bit jealous.  While that’s understandable, by no means does it justify the actions that Tony Reagins and company pulled off this past weekend.  In a true move of desperation, the Angels took on the $86 million contract of Vernon Wells, one of the worst contracts in all of baseball, in exchange for Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, and $5 million.

Vernon Wells bounced back in 2010 with a .362 wOBA. His highest mark since 2006.

It doesn’t matter how you view this trade, the bottom line is that the Angels made an incredibly irresponsible financial move in order to make some noise this off-season and appease the common fan. Nevertheless, the noise from the trade has been all but positive and even the average fan will realize just how horrendous of a trade this is in the very near future.

Vernon Wells is not a bad player. He’s definitely flawed, but he has his strengths. For one, he’s a pretty good hitter. He’s not the hitter he was when he initially signed his current albatross contract back in 2006, but he’s still a solid hitter, especially for a center fielder. The problem is that he’s not really a center fielder anymore. Ultimate Zone Rating points out that Wells has been worth -36 runs in center field during the past three seasons, Defensive Runs Saved has Wells at -28 runs over the past three campaigns, and Tom Tango’s Fan Scouting Reports have Wells at -19 runs over the past two years. In terms of raw numbers and the eye test, Vernon Wells is no longer the legit center fielder he once was in the early 2000s. In fact, he’s probably one of the worst full-time defensive center fielders in baseball. In order for Wells to live up to the rest of his contract, he’d have to produce somewhere around 20 wins above replacement at $4.5 million per win. The only problem is that Wells has only been worth 25.1 WAR in his entire 12 year career. At 32 years old and past his prime, qualitative analysis tells us that Wells isn’t going to live up to the rest of his contract.

We can, however, approximate how much value Wells will most likely produce over the next 4 seasons by using a combination of Bill James, CAIRO, and FanGraphs Fan Projections. According to these three systems, Wells is going to sport a .340 wOBA in 632 PAs for 2011. These would be very good offensive numbers for a center fielder. The only problem is that Peter Bourjos, fielding extraordinaire,  has center field locked up. With Torii Hunter in right and Bourjos in center, the only position for Wells to play is left field. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because playing left field requires a lot less range. Wells’ lack of range has been his greatest flaw as a defender in the past three years, where he’s racked up a total of -40 range runs. The move to left field will most likely turn Wells into an average defender. The curse is that he reduces his value by nearly 10 runs due to the positional adjustment. With his .340 wOBA in 632 PAs and league average defense in LF for 148 games, Vernon Wells is projected to produce 2.3 WAR in 2011. If we take this figure as a measurement of his current talent level, we can then regress this number by .5 wins for his first two seasons and .7 wins for his last two. I am doing this because the regression level at age 32 compared to age 34 is not the same (see why here).  To make this more accurate, I will also inflate the value of a win by 6% every season. By doing this, we can see just how much Wells will contribute during the 4 years left on his contract.

  • 2011 (32) – 2.3 WAR ($10.4 million)
  • 2012 (33) – 1.8 WAR ($8.6 million)
  • 2013 (34) – 1.1 WAR ($5.6 million)
  • 2014 (35) – 0.4 WAR ($2.2 million)

This model is not extremely accurate, it’s just a well thought-out guesstimate. But what it tells us is that Wells will be an average player for about two seasons, a very good bench player for one, and then a replacement level player for the last season of his $86 million contract. In the 4 years that Wells might spend in Anaheim, he is projected to produce 5.6 WAR and $27 million in value. That’s $59 million short of what he’s being paid. Even if we pegged Wells as the player he was last season (a 4 WAR player) for the next 4 seasons, he will produce 16 WAR, which comes out to $78 million in value. Still $8 million short of what he’s being paid. So even in an almost perfect scenario where Wells does not regress a single bit during his age 32-35 seasons, he will still be overpaid.

Napoli's shortcomings as a catcher have limited his playing time under Mike Scioscia.

What’s even worse about this trade is that the Angels gave up a good player to get a mediocre one. For whatever reason, Mike Scioscia dislikes Mike Napoli. On one hand, I understand why. Napoli’s a bad defensive catcher and Scioscia, being a former catcher himself, really wants a guy who can save his pitchers some wild pitches and call a good game. However, when the guy who will replace Napoli is a .195 hitting Jeff Mathis, you have to wonder if Napoli is sleeping with Mike Scioscia’s wife. Napoli has averaged 2.8 WAR over the past three seasons and has shown he can be an adequate defender at first base. Combined projections have Napoli at 2.9 WAR for 2011. The other piece of the deal is Juan Rivera, who had a down year in 2010 in comparison to his solid 2009. Rivera will most likely get decent playing time as a left fielder in Toronto. He’s probably a guy with a 3 WAR ceiling, but will  most likely produce 1 to 1.5 wins based on playing time. So in a sense, the Angels gave up 4 wins of talent in exchange for 2 wins of talent. In the process, they also took on $81 million in salary and only shed $11 million. So they lose about $9 million in the exchange of talent alone for 2011. Then there’s the $70 million gap in salaries. If Wells will only earn $27 million of that $70 million back, that’s a loss of $43 million. Bringing us to a net loss of $52 million for the Angels. Talk about financially irresponsible.

In a period where every team is trying to squeeze the most value out of their dollars, the Angels seem to be doing the exact opposite. Sure, teams like the Red Sox have spent far more this off-season, but at least they’re spending their money in a responsible way by acquiring pieces that will at least yield enough value to match the contract. We’re talking about a $50 million net loss for the Angels right now. That $50 million could have gotten them 4 years of Adam Dunn or Victor Martinez this off-season. Hell, the $81 million investment they made by trading for Wells could have gotten them Adrian Beltre. Instead, they’re stuck with a very average player on the brink of a sharp decline. If the Angels follow up their first losing season since 2003 with another bad season in 2011, heads will turn in management and Tony Reagins might find himself in the job hunting market.

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What the Beltre Signing Means for Texas

7 01 2011

After settling for a short-term deal last off-season, Beltre finally gets his big contract.

Posted by BaconSlayer09

You know that saying, “you learn something new every day”?  Well today, I learned that Adrian Beltre doesn’t like to be touched in certain places (don’t know what this is about? See this). And no, I’m not talking about down there. Although it might be interesting to know Beltre did get his left nut obliterated by a baseball once. See you learned two things today and both have to do with Adrian Beltre.

However, the majority of this post will have nothing to do with where Adrian Beltre prefers to get touched or whether or not he still has a testicle remaining. Instead, I’ll be breaking down that nice 5 year $80 million deal he just got from the Rangers and how Beltre will impact the Rangers this upcoming season. It looks like you’ll be learning more than just two things from me today.

Adrian Beltre is one of the premier third baseman in baseball and the contract he got doesn’t really surprise me. Here’s the breakdown of the contract – 2011: $14MM, 2012: $15MM, 2013: $16MM, 2014: $17MM, 2015: $18MM, and a $16 million vesting option for 2016 with a bunch of ways for the Rangers to avoid it. So there’s at least $80 million guaranteed in this deal. By today’s standards at $4.5 million per win, this expects Beltre to an 18 WAR player over the longevity of the contract. However, that’s a very inaccurate figure since we need to take inflation into account. Using Bill James and CAIRO projections for 2011, we can get an idea of how much Beltre will be worth this upcoming season. We will then regress his WAR by .5 each year (since he’s getting up there in age). At the same time, we will inflate the value of a win by 6% each year. This is a rough estimate of his value throughout the entirety of the contract.

2011: 5.0 WAR ($22.5MM)
2012: 4.5 WAR ($21.5MM)
2013: 4 WAR ($20.2MM)
2014: 3.5 WAR ($18.6MM)
2015: 3 WAR ($16.9MM)
2016: 2.5 WAR ($15MM)

From the looks of this rough estimate, Beltre’s value will exceed his contract every season until the last guaranteed year of his contract. He will likely not be worth his $16 million vesting option. Overall, Beltre brings $115 million of value in 6 years and $100 million in 5 years. So the Rangers’ net gain will be around $20 million in both scenarios. Now this is considering Beltre ages well and doesn’t suffer any crippling injuries. I can’t see into the future, but given Beltre’s pretty clean injury history, this should be a fairly accurate model. If these educated guesstimates are what’s going to happen, then the Rangers just got themselves a pretty good bargain on one of the best 3B in baseball.

Enough about five years down the road, the question now is how does he impact the Rangers in 2011? By combining CAIRO and Bill James projections for 2011, I took a look at just how good the Rangers’ lineup will be using Baseball Musing’s Lineup Analyzer.

1. SS Andrus
2. 2B Kinsler
3. LF Hamilton
4. RF Cruz
5. 3B Beltre
6. DH Young
7. 1B Moreland
8. C Torrealba
9. CF Borbon

This lineup averages 5.18 runs per game. If you replace Beltre with Guerrero and swap spots with Nelson Cruz, that lineup would produce 5.25 runs. The .07 run difference per game results in a difference of 11.3 runs per 162 games.

Beltre has been fairly inconsistent as a hitter. He seems to hit extremely well in contract years.

But that’s not all, you also have to take defense into consideration since Michael Young is now a DH and Beltre will be the starting 3B. No matter what the Gold Glove voters tell you, Michael Young is not a good fielder. Tom Tango’s fan scouting reports had Young as a -9 defender last season. Young’s total UZR in the past two seasons at 3B is -13. John Dewan’s DRS hates him the most, giving him a -31 rating over the past two seasons. If you combine these three, Young’s around a -9 defender at 3B.

On the other hand, pretty much everyone agrees that Adrian Beltre is one of the best defensive 3B around. Beltre’s total UZR in the past three seasons is 37.5, his DRS is a +55, and the fans say he’s saved 30 runs over the past two seasons. Put these three things together and Beltre averages out to be a +15 defender at 3B. Therefore, the difference between Young and Beltre on defense is around 24 runs.

In order to evaluate the net impact, we subtract the 11.3 run difference between having Beltre on offense instead of Guerrero from the 24 run difference between Beltre and Young’s defense. In the end, we end up with a number of 12.7, or something around 1.3 wins. Those 1.3 wins are worth $5.85 million in value for 2011. Beltre’s salary is $14 million this upcoming season. Therefore, Beltre’s if we subtract Beltre’s surplus value from his salary, we then end up with the salary that Guerrero should sign for in order for the Rangers to break even for 2011. That specific number is $8.15 million. After Guerrero’s bounce-back season last year, it would not surprise me if a team gives Guerrero $8 million, if not more.

So technically, it’s a wash for this season in terms of money. The Rangers end up gaining 1 win in signing Beltre instead of Guerrero and they also don’t overspend a ridiculous amount this season. If Beltre performs like he is projected this season and then does not regress more than the model I posted above, this is a very good deal for the Rangers in the short term and the long term.

Now, if you didn’t click on the link I posted above, here’s part of what you missed.

Beltre's signing probably means Rangers players shouldn't try to touch his head...





The Top 10 Off-Seasons of 2010

26 12 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

In just one week, 2010 will be behind us and 2011 will be well on its way. So to fit this new year’s occasion, we here at Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors will look at the top 10 teams who did well in free-agency and trades in this current 2010-2011 off-season. The teams are ordered based on a scoring system and my opinion. They will both be weighted equally. The system only takes into account the players the team acquired (not who they lost); therefore, it can be slightly skewed. This is why I took the liberty to make my own opinionated rankings to possibly balance any of the flaws from the scoring system out.

Carl Crawford received the biggest contract of 2010.

The scoring system includes four components: WAR added by acquired and re-signed players (based off 2010 stats, does not include options, and weighted 50%), Investment per WAR (based off 2010 stats and 2011 salaries, weighted 30%), Invested dollars per player (total invested money of all contracts divided by number of players added, 10%), and Total dollars invested (10%). Each component will be ranked from 1 to 10, the team with the highest ranking gets 10 points for that category, the lowest ranking gets 1 point. The highest score a team can achieve is 10 points. Now that we have the technicalities out of the way, let’s get to the rankings.

1. Boston Red Sox
WAR Added – 13.4 (1st)
Investment per WAR – $2.24 MM (6th)
Investment per Player – $27.33 MM (10th)
Total Investment – $164 MM (10th)
My Ranking – #1

I don’t think this ranking comes as a surprise to anybody. Boston added two superstars in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, but they did it at the expense of a $142 MM dollar contract to Crawford over a whopping 7 years and possibly a 7 year extension for Adrian Gonzalez sometime in 2011. Nevertheless, you can’t say that you aren’t impressed by the amount of talent the Red Sox got in the two, as they combined for over 12 WAR last season. The Red Sox also added Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to strengthen the depth of their bullpen. The only real loss from Boston’s 2010 roster is Adrian Beltre. However, the 7.1 WAR he produced will be easily replaced by whatever Crawford and Gonzalez will provide in 2011.

Greinke gives Milwaukee a true ace.

2. Milwaukee Brewers
WAR Added – 10.4 (5th)
Investment per WAR – $2.06 MM (2nd)
Investment per Player – $8.73 MM (6th)
Total Investment – $34.9 MM (6th)
My Ranking – #2

The Brewers’ biggest weakness in 2010 was their starting pitching. Outside of Yovani Gallardo, no other starting pitcher on their staff produced over 2 wins above replacement. Doug Melvin went out of his way this off-season to repair the broken staff and he has done a phenomenal job thus far. He first acquired Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays for hot shot prospect Brett Lawrie. Two weeks later, Zack Greinke joined Marcum, Gallardo, Wolf, and Narveson in one of the best rotations of the National League. Of course, the cost was steep and Milwaukee’s upgraded rotation came at the price of pretty much the entire farm system. Nevertheless, it makes the Brewers serious contenders for at least the next two seasons.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
WAR Added – 7.9 (6th)
Investment per WAR – $1.7 MM (1st)
Investment per Player – $62.75 MM (10th)
Total Investment – $125.5 MM (9th)
My Ranking – #3

The Phillies got some criticism this past season for trading Cliff Lee in order to get Roy Halladay. The harsh words were at their loudest when the Giants knocked off the Phillies in the NLCS. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee was making the Yankees’ hitters look like little leaguers in the ALCS. Two months later, the criticism for Ruben Amaro Jr. on that trade has faded. Why? Because Cliff Lee is in Philadelphia again and nobody really expected it. All off-season, the general public was led to believe that Lee was going to sign with either the Yankees or the Rangers. However, the Phillies popped up at the last second and grabbed Lee, signing him to a 5 year $120 MM deal. The Phillies also re-signed Jose Contreras. Thus far, those have been the only two transactions by Philadelphia. Nevertheless, the signing of Lee gives the Phillies one of the best rotations of all time and makes them serious World Series contenders.

Cliff Lee's return to Philadelphia was one of the most surprising moves of the off-season.

4. Detroit Tigers
WAR Added – 11.5 (3rd)
Investment per WAR – $3.33 MM (10th)
Investment per Player – $17.55 MM (7th)
Total Investment – $87.75 MM (7th)
My Ranking – #5

With about $70 million coming off the books this off-season, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski wasted no time in signing two of the bigger free agents on the market in Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez. Benoit’s deal came first and if you read some of my other posts, I’m not the biggest fan of it. It totally changed the expectations of other non-closers and screwed up the market. However, Benoit does improve their bullpen and Victor Martinez is somebody who can hit behind Miguel Cabrera and make sure he’s not intentionally walked a billion times in 2011. Besides the two additions, the Tigers also re-signed Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge, both at fair market value. The Tigers were a decent team in 2010, the additions of Martinez and Benoit should put them in much greater contention with the Twins and White Sox for the AL Central division title in 2011.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers
WAR Added – 12.2 (2nd)
Investment per WAR – $2.49 MM (8th)
Investment per Player – $7.12 MM (5th)
Total Investment – $56.95 MM (6th)
My Ranking – #7

This might be one of the bigger surprises on the list. Yes, the Dodgers have had a pretty decent off-season and no, they really didn’t add anybody too significant. Juan Uribe was their biggest new addition, but they also added some decent pieces in Matt Guerrier, Jon Garland, and Tony Gwynn Jr. Nevertheless, a good portion of their 12.2 WAR added comes from the re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and Rod Barajas, who combined for 5.5 WAR. The list of players the Dodgers got aren’t all too impressive all by themselves. However, things add up and you somehow end up with a team that acquired 12.2 WAR. Even so, I don’t think these moves put them over the top in the NL West whatsoever.

6. Oakland Athletics
WAR Added – 7.8 (7th)
Investment per WAR – $2.47 MM (7th)
Investment per Player – $3.85 MM (3rd)
Total Investment – $19.25 MM (2nd)
My Ranking – #4

None of the position players Billy Beane acquired this off-season are flashy, but they all have something in common – on base percentage. Beane acquired David DeJesus early in the off-season. He then signed Hideki Matsui to a reasonable one year offer and yanked the underrated Josh Willingham from Washington for two minor leaguers. One of the weaknesses of last year’s A’s team was power and Beane partially addressed the issue by getting Willingham and Matsui. DeJesus brings high OBP and defense, something that the A’s have emphasized for a long time. The A’s also signed two reclamation projects from Texas – Brandon McCarthy and Rich Harden. I think both will compete for the 5th spot in the A’s already stacked rotation. The other teams in the AL West should look for the A’s in 2011, they’re going to be a serious contender for the division.

Dunn brings consistency and left handed power that the White Sox lacked last year.

7. Chicago White Sox
WAR Added – 11 (4th)
Investment per WAR – $2.89 MM (9th)
Investment per Player – $23.25 MM (8th)
Total Investment – $116.25 MM (8th)
My Ranking – #6

The White Sox are going all in for 2011, but it didn’t seem that way when the off-season began. Rumors were flying that the White Sox would head towards the rebuilding route and let the products of their weak farm system ride it out. However, that was not to be, as GM Kenny Williams signed Adam Dunn to a 4 year contract and then re-signed A.J. Pierzynski on the same day. A week later, Williams would welcome back Paul Konerko with a 3 year contract. The South Siders did lose both J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks in the bullpen, but signed Jesse Crain to fill the void. Overall, the White Sox put themselves in a position to be heavy contenders for the AL Central title. As always, there’s a lot of question marks with the team. Whether those question marks go the way the White Sox’ way will determine Chicago’s fate come October.

8. San Diego Padres
WAR Added – 7.5 (8th)
Investment per WAR – $2.22 MM (4th)
Investment per Player – $3.03 MM (1st)
Total Investment – $24.2 MM (3rd)
My Ranking – #9

I know what you’re thinking, how the hell can a team that loses Adrian Gonzalez have a good off-season? That’s a very good question and I can’t even explain it too well. But the scoring system obviously sees the value in getting the best bang for your buck, which is what the Padres are doing. They used the $5.5 million Gonzalez was going to be paid in 2011 and signed Orlando Hudson to a two year deal. Hudson has shown to be a very solid 3 WAR player when healthy. In addition, they traded for Jason Bartlett, who had a pretty poor season in 2010, but did show his potential in 2009 (even if it was probably a career year). They also signed Aaron Harang to a reasonable deal and I fully expect Petco Park to make Harang’s numbers look good again. The Padres may not have signed or acquired anybody too worthwhile to replace A-Gon, but as I said before, these things add up and you can probably look at the prospects they got in return for Gonzalez as a plus. In the end, the Padres may be one of the top teams in the NL West next season.

9. Atlanta Braves
WAR Added – 5.5 (10th)
Investment per WAR – $2.46 MM (6th)
Investment per Player – $3.43 MM (2nd)
Total Investment – $13.7 MM (1st)
My Ranking – #8

The Braves made just one major off-season move this past year and that was trading for Dan Uggla. Fortunately for Atlanta, that’s a pretty influential piece. How influential? Well, 5.1 of the 5.5 WAR Atlanta added belonged to Uggla. The Braves also got some bullpen help in the form of George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink, both are veterans coming off bad seasons. In Sherrill’s case, he’s actually had recent success and can be an effective LOOGY. Linebrink? Well, let’s just say the trade was a straight up salary dump. After a very impressive campaign in 2010, the Braves didn’t need to do that much work this off-season. They’ve done enough so far by acquiring Uggla and that should go a long ways in their conquest for a playoff spot in 2011.

Werth might have been overpaid, but he brings consistent production to the Nationals.

10. Washington Nationals
WAR Added – 6.8 (9th)
Investment per WAR – $2.2 (3rd)
Investment per Player – $26.68 MM (9th)
Total Investment – $133.4 MM (9th)
My Ranking – #10

The Nationals did manage to add one of the biggest free agents of the off-season in Jayson Werth, but they probably overpaid at 7 years and $126 million. Werth and Ryan Zimmerman make a nice tandem as far as franchise players go, but the Nationals are missing key pieces in numerous other places, like the starting rotation and bullpen. Werth is technically Adam Dunn’s replacement in the lineup. However, can you imagine Dunn, Werth, and Zimmerman in the same lineup? Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. The Nationals also signed Rick Ankiel and are hoping for Chen-Mien Wang to magically heal from his injuries since they signed him to a one year incentive-laden deal. Werth was a nice surprise for Nationals fans, but I doubt they’ll be anything more than a .500 team in 2011 at best, especially in a stacked NL East.

Unfortunately, this is only a list of 10 teams and there are some other teams who did okay for themselves this off-season. The Orioles really upgraded their infield with the acquisitions of Hardy and Reynolds. They would probably be 11th if the list was made of 15 teams. The Rockies were pretty busy, but I’m not really sure their use of money was the best, so they might have made the top 15 list. The Giants could be another possibility, since they did get Huff and Burrell back. There are a handful of different teams you can put on this list and it would look okay.

If you have any suggestions about this list, please post them in the comments. I don’t think this list is the most accurate either, so I’d like some feedback. This scoring system was developed by me in like an hour so it’s not the most accurate. However, I can’t say that I don’t like how the list ended up. There’s a few blemishes here or there, but it looks decent overall.





Benoit and the Tigers Changed the Relief Market

22 12 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

Benoit's great 2010 netted him a wealthy 3 year contract.

On November 19th, the Detroit Tigers made the first big free agent splash of the 2010-2011 off-season by signing 33 year old relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit to a 3 year $16.5 million deal with 3-plus million dollars in incentives, a deal that could possibly be worth around $20 million by its conclusion.

Benoit, who had a career year with Tampa in 2010, was coming off of surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season when the Rays signed him to a minor league deal. The Dominican native rewarded the Rays with 60 innings of 1.34 ERA relief in 2010. Along with that, Benoit posted a high K rate of 11.19 per 9 innings and a freakishly low walk rate of 1.64 per 9 frames. Although his 1.34 ERA is unsustainable in the future, Benoit’s high K rate and low walk rate are reasons to be optimistic about Benoit’s next three years in the bullpen. However, just how optimistic should you be about a 33 year old relief pitcher with arm issues in the past that just came off a career year in which he was uncharacteristically lucky? Apparently, really optimistic if your name is Dave Dombrowski.

Matt Thornton has been baseball's most consistent setup man in the past three seasons.

I understand that the Tigers had around $70 million coming off the books and they can spend their money however they like, but that doesn’t mean you go out and overpay a reliever, especially one that is almost 35 who just came off an arm injury. Whether or not this deal made sense is one thing, but how it affects the rest of the market is another. Had Benoit signed a bit later, guys like Scott Downs, Matt Guerrier, and Jesse Crain might not have gotten 3 year deals in the 8 figure range. Nevertheless, the Benoit deal was a precedent and it gave the aforementioned guys a lot of bargaining chips, resulting in some fairly risky deals.

As most people know, middle and setup relief pitching always fluctuate on a year to year basis. The explanation is simple. Relief pitchers pitch less innings and one year, they may get lucky and the next, they may not. This is mostly because relievers are failed starters who have their faults and those faults could be exploited given the correct sample size. However, there are constants, albeit very few. Here the top 8 relief pitchers (non-closers) who have been consistent and efficient over the past three years (WAR dollar values are in parenthesis calculated at 4.33 million dollars per win).

  • Matt Thornton – 200 IP, 2.7 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 6.6 WAR ($28.6 MM).
  • Hong-Chih Kuo – 159 IP, 1.75 ERA, 2.18 FIP, 4.7 WAR ($20.4MM).
  • Grant Balfour – 181 IP, 2.98 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 4.2 WAR ($18.2 MM).
  • Darren Oliver – 203 IP, 2.71 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 4 WAR($17.3 MM).
  • Ryan Madson – 213 IP, 3 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 3.8 WAR ($16.5 MM).
  • Mike Adams – 169 IP, 1.81 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 3.8 WAR ($16.5 MM).
  • Rafael Betancourt – 189 IP, 3.9 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 3.6 WAR ($15.6 MM).
  • Scott Downs – 179 IP, 2.42 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 3.5 WAR ($15.2 MM).

From this list we can see only two relievers, Thornton and Kuo,  have been worth more than $20 million in WAR value over the past three seasons. Although the rest of the guys on the list are all very good relief pitchers, most of them don’t come all that close to the $20 million mark that Benoit will get if he gets all his incentives. This year, the estimate is that a win above replacement is worth around $5 million. If we don’t put inflation into the calculation (for simplicity sake), that pretty much says Benoit needs to put up at least 3-4 WAR over the next three seasons in order for the Tigers to break even on their contract. But what about all the other multi-year deals these other reliever signed? Here’s a breakdown.

  • Matt Guerrier – 3 years (2.4 WAR expected, 0.2 WAR over last three seasons).
  • Jesse Crain – 3 years (2.6 WAR expected, 1.7 WAR over last three seasons).
  • Bobby Jenks – 2 years (2.4 WAR expected, 1.9 WAR over last two seasons).
  • Scott Downs – 3 years (3 WAR expected, 3.5 WAR over last three seasons).
  • Joaquin Benoit – 3 years (3.3 WAR expected, 1.3 WAR over last three seasons).

Downs was the only free agent reliever who signed for a fair amount given his value in the past three seasons.

So from the looks of this, every team might have overpaid for their relief pitcher with the exception of the Angels with Downs. Although some of these figures are very, very close, we all have to realize that we must take regression into account for every one of these guys. None of the listed pitchers are all that young and they’re all starting to reach their 30s or mid 30s. So regression is not out of the picture at all. The inflation I didn’t take into account could possibly offset some of the regression (since each win will be worth more as time goes on), but in the end, the point is that most of these relievers got overpaid, mostly as a result of the precedent set by Benoit’s deal.

It’s very hard to find good, consistent, middle relievers and setup men these days. That was shown through the first set of relievers I listed. You’ll be hard pressed to find more than 15 non-closing relievers who can average a WAR of 1 or above in a three year period. Perhaps that’s why Dombrowski and the Tigers front office went all out to get Benoit. Maybe they saw how important a good back end of the bullpen is through teams like the Padres and Rays. Whatever they saw or thought, I still don’t think they made the best of moves by overpaying Benoit and setting a bad precedent. Because now a handful of other teams are stuck with some risky contracts as a result. Not to mention the Tigers are stuck with a $16.5-20 million commitment to a 33 year old reliever.





Donkey Kong on the South Side

9 12 2010

Konerko's monster 2010 season made him one of the most coveted free agents this winter.

Posted by BaconSlayer09

No, I’m not talking about Donkey Kong video games. For those who don’t know, Adam Dunn’s nickname is the Big Donkey and Paul Konerko’s much unknown nickname is Kong (I don’t know why either). Add one plus the other with some minor subtractions and you have yourself a nice new nickname – Donkey Kong. Now we have that out of the way, it’s time to get down to business.

In the past two weeks, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams has been a busy and free-spending man. After locking-up Adam Dunn for 4 years and $56 million and retaining A.J. Pierzynski for 2 years and $8 million last week, Williams brought back one of the most influential White Sox of all time – captain Paul Konerko. Konerko will continue to make the $12 million he has been making  for the past 5 seasons for 2011 and 2012. He will make $13.5 million in 2013, but $7 million of that is deferred and to be paid from 2014-2020.

The White Sox are committing 3 years and $30.5 million to Konerko over the next three years up front. That kind of contract expects Konerko to be at least a 2.5 win player every year for the next three years, with a total of 6-7 wins over the entirety of the contract. Even though Konerko is already 35 and the White Sox are paying him through age 38, this deal is fair and plausible. Konerko racked up 4.2 WAR last season in a career year offensively. Had his defense been better, he could have easily been a 5 WAR player. Personally, I don’t see Konerko as a -10 to -15 fielder like some of the advanced metrics do. He doesn’t have a lot of range, but he’s fairly reliable and is pretty good at scooping low throws at first base. I’d expect Konerko’s defensive numbers to increase over the course of the contract, as last year’s defensive numbers were probably more of an anamoly than anything else. Konerko’s never been worse than a -6.5 at 1B in his career and first base defense usually doesn’t deteriorate as much with age.

Adam Dunn will take his home run hitting skills to the South Side.

Offensively, I don’t expect Konerko to repeat 2010 and I don’t think anybody else does either. Konerko had one of the better offensive seasons in White Sox history with a wOBA of .415 last season. However, his career wOBA is .366 and his highest wOBA prior to 2010 was .395 in 2006, when he was still in his prime. Konerko’s career year at age 34 is very hard to explain. Health is one thing to look into, as Konerko has been bothered by a chronic thumb injury since 2007 and last year was the first time where that injury wasn’t a big problem.

Another explanation is just straight up luck. Konerko did post the highest BABIP of his career at .326 (he also posted this in 2006). Konerko’s batted ball rates were extremely similar to those of 2009, where he had only a .282 BABIP. That could explain the rise in average, but it definitely doesn’t explain the rise in home runs and the 60 point increase in ISO (Isolated power). Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Perhaps, we won’t see Konerko hit over .300 again, but we might still see 30-35 home runs from him over the next two seasons with a slugging percentage over .500. The Bill James Handbook (usually pretty optimistic) pegs Konerko for a slash line of .273/.361/.496 and 32 home runs in 2011. I think those projections sound pretty accurate and if Konerko were to return to his career norms on defense, he will definitely be a 3 win player in 2011.

Speaking of projections, here are the projected wOBA of the projected 2011 White Sox starting lineup (taken from the Bill James Handbook).

  1. LF. Juan Pierre – .304
  2. 2B. Gordon Beckham – .338
  3. CF. Alex Rios – .343
  4. DH. Adam Dunn – .383
  5. 1B. Paul Konerko – .372
  6. RF. Carlos Quentin – .362
  7. C. A.J. Pierzynski – .312
  8. SS. Alexei Ramirez – .327
  9. 3B. Brent Morel – .339

Besides Brent Morel’s overly optimistic projection, everything looks within the realm of possibility. When analyzed, this lineup projects to score 5.15 runs per game, that’s 835 runs over the course of 162 games. Last year, the White Sox scored 752. The addition of Adam Dunn (replacing Kotsay and rotating DH friends) and Morel (replacing Teahen and señor citizen Vizquel) adds about 80 more runs of output to the White Sox lineup. The 835 run mark would have been the second most amount of runs scored in all of baseball last season.

Edwin Jackson's strong showing in two months with Chicago might be a preview of things to come in 2011.

Defensively, nothing really changes. If Quentin can heal from his foot injuries, he might not be a horrible outfielder. Plus, Morel has been touted as a good defender in the minors, so he replaces the 3B revolving door of Teahen and Vizquel. Overall, this is a mediocre defense. Rios, Pierre, and Ramirez are highlights, but everybody else is either mediocre or flat out bad.

What does this all mean? Well, in what’s now a pitching dominated league, the White Sox are projected to have one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball. Whether these projections are right or wrong is a debate for later. But on paper, things sure look good if the White Sox can pitch like they did in 2010 (702 runs allowed). It’s still very early in the off-season and the Sox still need to fill a couple of holes in the bullpen. However, as of right now, the Sox are looking at a 5-6 win improvement from 2010, making them a prime candidate to win around 93-94 games (88 + 6 = 94) in 2011. With a payroll nearing $120 million, the White Sox should be expected to win in 2011. It looks like Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams are going all in this year.





Felix’s Cy Young Proved a Change in the State of Mind

22 11 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

Since the creation of the box score, statistics have been an integral part of baseball. Batting average, home runs, runs batted in, wins, losses, saves, these stats have been with the baseball fan since the beginning of the 20th century. However, these simple counting and arithmetic stats weren’t enough for some. In order to realize the true impact a single player makes, we must take the team-dependent variables away, leaving us with only the player’s doing. That is one of the most basic principles of modern day sabermetrics.

Hernandez led the AL in ERA and innings pitched. He was second in Ks.

However, in its 30-40 year existence, or maybe even longer, sabermetrics has never impacted the voting of the BBWAA awards. But on November 18th, 2010, the silence was finally broken. The BBWAA voters picked Felix Hernandez, a pitcher who posted only 13 wins and 12 losses as the American League Cy Young Award Winner, over 21 game winner C.C. Sabathia and 19 game winner David Price. However, this was selection was not blasphemy by any means. Hernandez led the league in ERA at 2.27 and he also led the league in innings pitched with 249.2.

Felix was worthy, although it is debatable if he was actually the best pitcher in the American League this year. Nevertheless, that’s not the point. The point was that the BBWAA, a clan of writers filled with old-school baseball writers who favor wins and losses over almost anything, ignored Felix Hernandez’s win-loss record and appreciated his sparkling ERA. This was not the first time such a thing happened. In fact, Zack Greinke’s 16 wins didn’t rank in the top 5 in the AL for that specific category, yet he won the 2009 AL Cy Young. But Felix’s 2010 season was a much different case. If you asked the average fan what kind of pitcher would support a 13-12 record, the most likely response is “a pretty mediocre one”. If you asked those same fans what kind of pitcher would have a 16-8 record, they’d probably answer with, “a pretty good one”. The 70 year olds who have been a fan of the game for half a century might have been able to accept Greinke’s 2009 Cy Young, but Felix’s 2010 Cy Young was probably met with some grumpy moans.

Many thought that Sabathia's 21 wins would give him the Cy Young Award.

Felix’s 2010 season is a completely different animal than any other Cy Young award winner’s before. No Cy Young winner in a full season has ever had less wins than Felix Hernandez and if you think about it, very few must have had more than 12 losses. This monumental decision was a game changer in terms of the baseball mindset, at least amongst the Baseball Writers of America. For the first time ever, winning% was not a really factor in the determination of the Cy Young award. This means that the BBWAA, one of the most stubborn and old school baseball groups in the country, practiced one of the basic principles of sabermetrics. They realized that Felix’s offense gave him the least run support in all of baseball. They also realized that the lack of run support, coupled with his incredibly low ERA, didn’t match his 13-12 record. Somewhere, somehow, something clicked in the minds of these writers.

Did the realization come late? Hell, of course, it came about a decade or two late. However, the important thing to note here is that sabermetrics and its ideals are being injected into the mainstream, so much so that it has impacted the outcome of a major award. Now, should have Felix really won the Cy Young in terms of advanced numbers? No, not really, that could have  gone to Cliff Lee and looking at how Lee did in the playoffs, it probably should have gone to him. But the mainstream probably isn’t ready for FIP and UZR just yet, defeating the notion that W-L is somehow important to a pitcher is already a victory in my eyes. For the time being that is.





Derek Jeter and Gold Gloves: The Love Affair Continues

10 11 2010

The voters must have taken the number of Derek Jeter fist pumps into account when voting for Gold Glove awards over the past decade.

Posted by BaconSlayer09

It truly amazes me how much of a joke the Gold Glove awards have turned into. Maybe it’s because I’m biased since there’s sabermetric stats out there that can disprove the eye, but even some of the more traditional fans out there will agree that Derek Jeter shouldn’t be winning Gold Gloves anymore. I mean seriously, the guy hit .270 last year  with one of worst OPS figures in his career and he still wins a Gold Glove? If that’s all the offensive production you need to win one of these things, maybe Jhonny Peralta should be considered too. Sarcasm aside, the award has turned into a reputation contest. If Derek Jeter plays next year and puts up even worse numbers, my bet is that he somehow wins the damn thing again. Is there a way to fix it? Well, maybe we should start off by making Derek Jeter retire, that might be a good start. The good news here is that Franklin Gutierrez, UZR extraordinaire,  finally got awarded for being one of the best defenders in baseball. The voters do get some of these things right, like Evan Longoria, Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Joe Mauer, etc. These guys are some of the best defensive players at their respective positions. However, even if you mess one of these up, people will complain. Are we, the people, being nitpicky? Maybe, but we just want to see justice served. To make myself, and hopefully you, feel better, I’m going to be handing out the Sabermetric Gold Glove Awards today, but don’t get too excited, this post will only contain the AL winners.

American League

Catcher: Matt Wieters (BAL) – You may be wondering, why not Joe Mauer? There is no easy answer to this question, as it’s truly hard to defend a catcher’s defense using statistics. There is one statistic though – Stolen Base Runs (rSB). John Dewan’s Plus/Minus (Defensive Runs Saved) keeps track of how many runs a catcher has saved by throwing out base runners. Wieters led the American League in this category in 2010. Mauer finished at -1 in rSB. I have nothing against Mauer, he’s also a very good defensive catcher. But from fan scouting reports and rSB, Wieters definitely had a very good season. Runner-ups:  Joe Mauer, Jose Molina, and A.J. Pierzynski.

First Base: Daric Barton (OAK) – Daric Barton led all of baseball in first base Ultimate Zone Rating at 12.1. Barton also made a dazzling 51 scoops at 1B, most likely saving Cliff Pennington, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Mark Ellis from committing numerous errors. He led the league in Zone Rating, as well as plays made out of his zone. With the combination of sure-handedness and range, Barton is one of the premiere defensive first basemen in baseball. Runner-ups: Justin Morneau, Justin Smoak, and Carlos Pena.

Kouzmanoff is far from a house-hold name, but statistically speaking, he is one of the best 3B in the AL.

Second Base: Orlando Hudson (MIN) – After numerous off-years defensively, the O-Dog stepped up his game after returning to the American League. Hudson and J.J. Hardy helped anchor the Minnesota Twins infield, one of the better best in all of baseball. Hudson’s 9.8 UZR and 17 defensive runs saved are both tops at his position in the American League. Hudson showed incredible range (9.6 range runs and 36 out of zone plays) while showcasing his reliability (2.3 error runs and a .824 zone rating). A close second was Mark Ellis, who actually topped Hudson in UZR. However, considering Ellis had one of the best defensive 1B in baseball to throw to while Hudson had to deal with Michael Cuddyer for half a season, it became apparent that Hudson was more deserving. Runner-ups: Mark Ellis, Dustin Pedroia, and Aaron Hill.

Third Base: Evan Longoria (TBR) – This was one of the hardest decisions to make while writing this article. The American League has three very, very, good defensive 3B. Those three are Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, and Kevin Kouzmanoff. To some of you, the first two names make sense, but who the hell is Kevin Kouzmanoff, you may ask. Kouzmanoff led all AL 3B in UZR, about 6 runs better than both Longoria and Beltre. However, DRS said that Longoria and Kouzmanoff were pretty much similar at 13 defensive runs saved. Here is where the reputation game starts. Kouzmanoff is a nobody, I haven’t seen many of his games and I don’t think many of you have either. Thus, I had to get some input. So I went to FanGraphs and found Tom Tango’s fan scouting reports. They read something like this – Longoria was the best of the 3 at a rating of 86 (extremely good), Beltre was second at 77 and Kouzmanoff went last at 58 (still a decent rating). So after some thought, I decided to give the award to Longoria. Slightly biased? Probably, but you can’t go wrong with either of the three. Runner-ups: Adrian Beltre, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Jose Lopez.

Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez (CHW) – Contrary to the previous award, this decision was one of the easiest. In just one season, Alexei Ramirez transformed himself into one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball, if not the best. The Cuban Missile led the American League in Shortstop UZR (10.1) as well as Defensive Runs Saved (16). After being criticized for being inconsistent and somewhat “baseball-stupid”, Ramirez cut down his mental mistakes in 2010 and delivered some of the most amazing range I have ever seen (67 plays made out of his zone).  What about the glorious Derek Jeter? Let’s just say he made about half of the out of zone plays Ramirez did and had a UZR that was 15 runs worse. Runner-ups: Cliff Pennington, J.J. Hardy, and Elvis Andrus.

Ramirez's strong arm and great range make him one of the best shortstops in the game.

Left Field: Carl Crawford (TBR) – This was another tough decision. Gardner or Crawford? Crawford or Gardner? Thank goodness we have the stats on our side. Oh wait, they say these two are pretty much the same. Crawford did lag behind Gardner in UZR by about 4 runs, but DRS said they were virtually the same fielders. The great thing about Plus/Minus is that their components are easier to see and understand. Crawford had a lot more balls hit to him in his zone (263 as opposed to Gardner’s 168). Crawford also had a better zone rating, put two and two together and the answer is that Crawford had more chances and also capitalized on those chances at a better rate. Making him a lot more valuable to the Rays’ defense than Gardner was for the Yankees. Therefore, Crawford is the victor, but only by a tiny margin. Runner-ups: Brett Gardner, Juan Pierre, and Josh Hamilton.

Center Field: Franklin Gutierrez (SEA) – Like the case with Crawford and Gardner, Gutierrez did not lead the AL in center fielder’s UZR. Julio Borbon did and Coco Crisp was a close second. Gutierrez was third, but that’s not the entire story. Gutierrez was one of the best in DRS and he had by far the most amount of fly balls hit to him (Seattle had lots of fly ball pitchers). His zone rating and out of zone plays also weren’t extremely staggering. All in all, this was a great year for American League center fielders, but Gutierrez’s reputation and talent almost makes some of the UZR and DRS data pointless. For example, Coco Crisp was second in UZR in CF, but he only played about a half of the innings Gutierrez played. Julio Borbon led the AL in CF UZR and he only played there for 1000 innings. Therefore, some of that data could be flawed based on sample size. Say whatever you like, but I just have to give the award to Gutierrez. Runner-ups: Julio Borbon, Austin Jackson, and Alex Rios.

Austin Jackson's great rookie campaign was aided by his great defense in center field.

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki (SEA) – We’re almost finished, but we’re not quite there yet. Can you imagine watching Gutierrez and Ichiro playing defense in the same outfield? I’m jealous of Seattle fans sometimes, but then I remember their inability to score runs and erase that idea completely out of my head. Ichiro, at the old age of 36, was still able to cover a lot of ground (17 range runs) and make a number of great plays (95 out of zone plays). The future hall-of-famer ended the season with an impressive 15.6 UZR and +12 DRS, both tops in the AL at his position. Runner-ups: Nelson Cruz, J.D. Drew, and Ben Zobrist.

There you have it. By my count, the actual voters got the entire outfield correct, but they definitely didn’t do a great job of evaluating the left side of the infield. Plus, let’s not forget about our buddy Derek Jeter. Hopefully, the Gold Glove awards can mean something again in the near future. Until then, I hope these selections can keep you sane. The NL edition will be coming up shortly.

Note: My opinions are not the opinions of every writer here at Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors. If you have hate mail or just want to make fun of me for using nerdy stats, please send all hate mail to BaconSlayer09.