I was reading this on Tango's site:
Especially this quote: "There have been occasions where I’ve been privy to some of that work that’s going on in front offices and it simply blows away things you’d call the state of the art in sabermetrics. Not a little ahead — a lot."
Oh yeah? If that's the case, how come major league teams still make so many dumb moves? I'm not talking about bad luck, like signing a superstar and seeing him get hurt, try to play through it, and wind up hitting .220 in 75 games. I'm talking about the kind of stuff where we (a bunch of amateurs commenting on Tango's blog) look at a contract, and in a few minutes classify it as an overpay, a fair deal, or a bargain, and generally wind up proven right. If MLB teams were so far ahead of us, then when we call an overpay, the teams should have had good reasons for doing so, and the player go on to establish a higher level of production. Or else when we call a bargain, there's something we're missing, and the player not play as well.
Sometimes this happens, but looking back on this thread:
Wade through that, and see how accurate our calls were. I see 10 moves where we called an overpay, and in only one case did the player exceed our expectations (JC Romero) and two others were about even (as there was some disagreement on where to call the contract). The other 7 were, predictably, disasters.
Then of the moves where we called bargains (7), it was a little mixed. Three did wind up as bargains, 2 who played about as well as they were paid, and two who flopped (especially Andruw Jones).
Here's the retro analysis on those players:
J.C. Romero – his contract implied 1.4 WAR, any Angels fan who watched the 2006 season would swear that Romero was replacement level at best. He pitched great for Philadelphia though, for the second year in a row. On this one, we were wrong and Philly looks pretty good.
Torii Hunter – His big contract implied 4.4 wins above replacement. There was some difference of opinion on him, as some thought he was worth it and others saw him as very good, but perhaps slightly overpaid. Hunter was +7 runs above average on offense. The defensive metrics are not in agreement on him, the fans still regard him as above average (including myself as I watched 95% of his games last year). Give him 2.5 runs for defense, 2.5 position adjustment, 25 runs for playing fulltime in the American League, and Hunter comes in just under 4 WAR. OK, he probably was slightly overpaid at 18 million, but he’s an outstanding player and the Angels aren’t complaining.
Aaron Rowand – There was some disagreement on him, some saw his contract, which paid for 3.7 WAR, as one of the better deals of the offseason, and others saw it as an overpay. It really came down to how good you thought his fielding was. His hitting wasn’t great (-4 runs). Add in position (2.5) and NL replacement level (20) and he’s 18.5 runs above replacement. He would have to save 20 runs with the glove to earn that contract. I can say now that he didn’t but there wasn’t enough consensus before the season to say the statheads told you so.
Piniero – paying for 1.7 wins above replacement, Piniero pitched 148 innings with a 5.15 ERA – an 83 ERA+. He was about replacement level, maybe a tick above. Calling his contract an overpay was correct, though not a disastrous one.
Todd Jones – paid for 1.6 WAR. Jones had little left, giving up a bunch of hits, walking more than he struck out, and being lucky to keep his ERA under 5 at 4.97. He also allowed 7 unearned runs. Tigers would have been better off heeding our advice and passing.
Luis Castillo – his 4 year, 24 million contract paid for 2 WAR. Castillo didn’t come close. He was injured much of the year, and when playing was below average in offense (-8 runs) and terrible in the field, overall about a replacement level player. The Mets may even consider going after a better 2B even with 3 years left on the deal.
Francisco Cordero – Paying for 3 WAR. This was a huge contract for a reliever, though Cordero is a talented one. He pitched as expected, striking out over a batter per inning, walking a bunch, and an ERA of 3.33. According to Fangraphs, his WPA was 1.4 (the best quick stat to evaluate a reliever, as it takes leverage into account). Cordero is good, but the Reds overpaid.
Jose Guillen – His contract assumes 3 WAR. While he drove in 97 runs, Guillen was a below average hitter, making too many outs with his .300 OBA and 23 GIDP. He was –5 batting runs. Throw in position adjustment for corner outfield (-7.5), and poor defense (I’ll be generous and say –5, most metrics have him worse), and he’s 17 runs below average, and less than a win above replacement. A terrible signing, and a contract the Royals have no chance of moving.
Eric Gagne – Paid for 2.2 WAR. Served up 11 HR in 46 innings, ERA over 5, lost his job as closer. He was below replacement level, and the Brewers flushed 10 million down the toilet, in addition to giving the Red Sox a gift of a draft pick.
Carlos Silva – paying for 3.2 WAR. Did anyone like this contract, other than the Mariners? 4-15 record, 6.46 ERA, the results are pretty clear, he was a disaster, one of many poor decisions that cost Bill Bavasi his job.
The moves we liked:
Adam Everett – paid for 0.6 WAR. Vastly underpaid, as he’s such a great defender. Overall, about an average regular player as his glove makes up for his bat. Everett did not deliver for us, as injuries limited him to 48 games, and his defense wasn’t up to his usual standards. Did MLB teams not know how good Everett’s glove was? Or were they unsure of his ability to deliver that defense due to lingering effects of his 2007 broken leg? End result, He didn’t deliver any extra value for the Twins last year.
Andruw Jones – paying for 4 WAR – This deal, especially the low risk 2 year length, appealed to statheads. Seemed like the Dodgers were getting a bargain because of Jones’ terrible 2007, and we all know better than to put too much faith in the results of one year. Well, maybe we should have backed off, as Jones in 2008 made his 2007 season look like an MVP campaign. He hit like an ordinary pitcher. Shame on the Dodgers, and shame on us.
Mike Lowell – paying for 3.0 wins. There was some disagreement on him as to whether it was a fair deal or a bargain, but nobody thought it was an overpay. Lowell was +2 with the bat, very good with the glove (TotalZone has +14). He only played 113 games so instead of the 27.5 position + AL replacement level, I’ll give him 18. That adds up to 34 runs, about what they paid for. Not a bargain, but he earned his money.
David Eckstein – paying for 1 WAR. Eckstein had been an underrated fielder, saving more runs than average despite a weak throwing arm. He hit as expected in 2008, 6 runs below average in 94 games, about average for shortstop, but his defense at age 33 had slipped. He’s not a bad player, a good utility guy, and worth about what was paid, but he wasn't bargain.
Milton Bradley – paying for 1.7 WAR. Ignore the temper, the reputation, and don’t freak out over the frequent injuries, we said. Bradley can flat out hit. And hit he did, he was the best hitter in the AL for much of 2008. Missed some time, but more than earned his money when he was in the lineup.
Reed Johnson – paying for 1.1 WAR. As a part-timer, Johnson hit 303/358/420, played excellent defense. I don’t know what the Blue Jays were thinking, they essentially gave his roster spot to Shannon Stewart, who was terrible. Johnson was a bargain.
Mike Cameron – paid for 1.7 WAR. One of the more underrated players of our time, he’s a defensive star who’s posted an OPS+ over 100 for 10 straight years. Last year, before considering defense, he was a bit over 2.0 WAR, and a good bargain.
So what is supposed to blow me away here? Did the teams use player fitness/health modeling to determine that Adam Everett was not going to play like Ozzie Smith last year? Did 29 out of 30 teams view Andruw Jones as a fat tub of goo who contracted a mysterious early career ending disease like the last Atlanta center fielder who once
appeared to be heading to Cooperstown?
Maybe, but we could have saved a lot of teams money had they listened to us on the disastrous contracts waiting to happen. Looking at the group of players, if we don't have the edge on the real teams in access to data, we sure still beat them in judgement.