Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What You Get For the Money 

I’m a big fan of HGTV’s “What You Get For the Money” and “National Open House” which go around the country and highlight differences between real estate in different locales of the country. The general theme is that Palm Springs, is the only cheap place in California, that real estate in the South is absurdly cheap compared to the Northeast and that there is nothing interesting in the Midwest. The show usually has properties in Asheville, North Carolina, or Palm Springs featured, usually highlighting how inexpensive they are. (E.g., you can get a four-bedroom, four bath home in Asheville for $300,000, and for that same price you can get a condo or a townhouse in Boston.)

I’ve been watching the free agency market shape up and I am struck by the thought that teams are paying lots of money and aren’t getting the same product. When / what they buy determines how they pay. Let’s compare Alfonso Soriano to Garry Matthews, Jr., and Carlos Lee.

First, let’s compare the deals each player signed. Soriano inked an eight-year, $136 million dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs that pays him $17 million dollars a year. Carlos Lee inked a six-year, $100 million dollar deal with the Houston Astros that pays him a little less than $17 million a year. Gary Matthews, Jr. got a five-year, $50 million dollar deal with the California Angels that will pay him $10 million bucks a year. Who got the most for their money?

Here is a comparison of how many Runs Created each player produced for each team …

Runs Created / RC27
Soriano: 121 / 6.62
Lee: 113 / 6.46
Matthews: 105 / 6.31

That only tells part of the story. Here are their Gross Productive Average and Isolated Power stats:

Soriano: .297 / .283
Lee: .297 / .203
Matthews: .291 / .182

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Runs Created (RC): A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times ((S * 1.125) + (D * 1.69) + (T * 3.02) + (HR * 3.73) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K))] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended.
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.

Offensively, the three players are nearly identical. Soriano is the most explosive bat based on 20056 stats, but Lee is pretty comparable and Matthews isn’t a slouch either. Soriano is a speedster on the base-paths (41 steals in 58 attempts), which gives him an edge over Matthews (10 steals in 17 tries) and Lee (19 steals is 21 tries), but offensively, the Astros and Angels got pretty good ballplayers, although Soriano is clearly the class of the 2006 free agency market.

As I poured over the stats it suddenly occurred to me that we have another metric to measure: defense. All three players play in the outfield: Soriano and Lee in left field and Matthews in center field. Rather than comparing Zone Rating or Range Factor, I stuck with Fielding Win Shares per 1,000 innings played. Here is what I got:

FWS 1,000:
Soriano: 2.62
Lee: 1.91
Matthews: 3.42

Naturally, Matthews has a slight edge in terms of rating because he plays a more difficult defensive position and Soriano is a terrific athlete who can play the middle infield and did a good job in left, but what stands out to me is what a one-dimensional player Lee is. He’s a left fielder and not a particularly good one at that. He was DH’d several times with the Rangers last season.

I think this much is clear: the Astros overpaid to bring Carlos Lee in. Sure, he’s a good player, but he’s not in the same class of player as Soriano, who is a better defender and a better, faster athlete than Lee. Given that the Astros and Cubs paid nearly the same money for the two, you have to say that the Cubs got the better bargain: they got a player who is more dangerous an offensive presence and a better fielder.

But the team that got, comparatively, the best deal, was the Angels. For 40% less money than what the Cubs paid for Soriano, they got a good defensive center fielder who is a dangerous bat. Okay, Matthews probably won’t anchor the offense and compete for the MVP award the way Soriano will in 2007, but the Angels got a good player in the market and (comparatively) under-paid to get him.

That’s what the Angels get for the money.

-Clearly the Phillies free agency plans have gone seriously awry. No Soriano, No Lee, and it looks like Randy Wolf will shortly (i.e. today) sign a one-year pact to become an L.A. Dodger. Meanwhile, the Phillies have almost zero chance of signing Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito, the big-time hurlers. Looks like the Phillies sole free agent signing is going to be Wes Helms and Adam Eaton (see below).

-David Dellucci is poised to sign a three-year, $11 mil deal with the Cleveland Indians. Dellucci only made $950,000 last year and put up some good numbers in limited action. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm on defense and helped spark the Phillies offense during the August run to the playoffs (though he did tail off later). He’d have been a good fit as the Phillies fourth outfielder and could step in and do a good job should the Phillies manage to unload Pat Burrell on the Orioles or Giants in the coming weeks. Now he's off the market, which makes dealing Pat Burrell problematic for the Phillies. Can they really deal Burrell and go with Jeff Conine, Aaron Rowand and Shane Victorino as their outfield? I think not.
-The Phillies signed Adam Eaton to a three-year deal worth $24 mil yesterday. What are the Phillies getting with Eaton? A pitcher who hurled just sixty-five innings in 2006 and still managed to give up 11 home runs (1.52 HR/9). A pitcher with an ERA of 5.12 and a Fielding Independent Pitching ERA* of 5.43. A pitcher who gives up a decent number of walks: 3.32 BB/9. Color me unimpressed.

*FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).

-What are the Red Sox going to do with Manny Ramirez now that they've decided to give J.D. Drew and his minion-of-evil agent mega bucks money? Unloading an $18 million dollar salary is no small feat. Aside from their nemesis, the Yankees, I can't see a single team taking them up on the offer. They aren't exactly paying Drew peanuts: Drew opted out of an eight-figure a year deal to be a free agent. Drew will chase his golden idol - money - to the ends of the earth.

More tomorrow, ya'll...

Interesting assessment of Matthews..I am still shocked with the money he is making after only ONE good season. The market this offseason is blowing my mind
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