Saturday, January 31, 2009

Player of the Day: Jason Kubel

The Kube signed a two year extension for 7 million, with a team option for year 3. On Fangraphs David Cameron questions the move, saying Kubel is not that different from Eric Hinske, who signed for under 2 million with the Pirates.

Reading through the comments, I see that I'm not the only one who noticed similarities to David Ortiz. Kubel, 26, hit .272 with 20 homers and 78 RBI last year, with a walk every 10 at bats. In his last season as a Twin, Ortiz was 26 and hit .272 with 20 homers and 75 RBI, and a similar walk rate.

Even my 90% optimistic projection, 304/378/537, does not have Kubel breaking out like Ortiz, but I can understand why they want to keep him, and it's not like we're talking about a huge contract here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Player of the Day: Jason Varitek

Yep, when offered arbitration he should have done what Greg Maddux did with the Braves one year, and Barry Bonds did after breaking the homerun record: Accept the gift. He's forced to settle for about half of what he otherwise would have.

While the arbitration amount would not have been guaranteed, releasing him in spring training would have been a tough sell, mostly to other players on the team who always speak very, very highly of their captain. As for the fans, from the Red Sox fans I see posting on sites like however, they would probably praise such a move and worship their Theo for displaying a set of balls.

From his player page, Varitek is valued at 7 million considering average defense. The Red Sox underpay him approximately to the same extent that he would have been overpaid through arbitration.

He's essentially a league average catcher. His -10 Runs per 150 games exactly matches the position adjustment I use for catcher. While a league average player should be worth between 8 and 10 million, as a catcher (and especially a 37 year old one) he obviously doesn't play everyday, I have him projected for 120 games. I looked at the catchers who I think are most likely starters for every team, and order them by R150, Varitek ranks 16th. Once again, the definition of average in a 30 team league.

Rank all catchers by R150 and he comes in 24th, the difference is that some players ahead of him will not start. Some, like JR House, probably don't have the defensive skill needed. Others, like Kelly Shoppach behind Martinez or some of the Ranger catchers, are just in a situation where not everyone can be the starter.

Some people are going to read this and go off on how crappy a hitter Varitek is, and how there's no way he's an average catcher. Yes, he is a crappy hitter, but so are so many other catchers. The 14 catchers no better than Varitek, as hitters, who have starting jobs:

Bengie, Yadier Molina
Carlos Ruiz, Chris Snyder, Michael Barrett
AJ Pierzynski, Justin Towles, Kenji Johjima
Brian Schneider, John Baker, Gerald Laird
Nick Hundley, Jason Kendall, Jesus Flores

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Minor league Defensive Ratings

Recently Jeff Sackmann of Minor League Splits have teamed up to create minor league defensive ratings for all players from 2005-2008. Jeff provided the data, and I applied the TotalZone calculations. Here's Sean Rodriguez, who has not only been a pretty good defender, he shows ability at several positions.

I'm hoping at some point to have defensive player pages here as well, and at some point, defensive projections for minor leaguers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hardball Times Season Preview

This is the third season of the book, and the third season I've written the section for the Angels. I grew up waiting for the Bill James abstracts to come out, for many reasons, but player comments were a big reason. Bill doesn't do those anymore, he has gone over to the dark side. It takes 30 people to (attempt to) fill his shoes, and I'm proud to say I'm one of them.

Read more about it here, and hopefully you'll be inspired to order a copy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Updated player lists

I've added a new section, retired players. This includes guys like Jeff Kent, Sean Casey, Greg Maddux, and Mike Mussina, who have announced their retirements. It also includes players that may say they want to play, but I strongly suspect they've already played their last game. I will update this if they actually sign a contract somewhere.

I've found it's hard to keep up with minor league free agents. I try to keep up with transactions through the log at, which only includes big league contracts, and by reading, but I've missed a lot of minor league free agent signings. I tried to update the ones I could find information on them signing a minor league deal. For other players, sometimes all I found was that they cleared waivers back in October. Players like this I put back on their original teams until I find out otherwise. This makes the free agent page significantly less crowded, and at this point has the major league free agents who are still looking for work.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ballplayers and their Marginal Revenue Product

This post is in response to this thread going on at Tango Tiger's site, which is a response to some curious salary valuation by JC Bradbury. The summary is that Bradbury has come up with an economic model that says Jeff Francoeur, who used up 652 plate appearances for the Braves last year (and made 479 outs) was worth 12 million dollars. The voices on Tango's site are trying to convince him that the proper place for such a model is the porcelain bowl that sits in the smallest room of your house.

Let's suppose that you own a factory with some great automated processes that produce a great product. You can sell these products and make 25 million dollars per year. The only thing you need is workers to push a few buttons at specified times. It's a very simple job, practically anyone can be trained to do it, but for some reason it has to be done by humans, and you need 25 of them to do it. With no workers, you can't make any products, and your revenue will be zero.

Do you put an ad in the paper for 25 entry level positions paying near 1 million dollars? (a little less than $1M obviously to account for overhead).

I don't think so. You are going to just pay enough to attract reliable workers. Maybe a bit more if you are generous, since you are making so much money yourself, but you aren't going to give all of that to the workers. Most of the money is earned by the capital expenditure, the factory.

An MLB franchise is that money producing factory. To make a lot of money, you need a big, expensive stadium (while most of those are public expenitures, not from the owner's capital, that is another debate. The MLB owner benefits from it) You also need the tradition, the big city location, the national TV contracts, and all the benefits that come from being a part of the exclusive club of 30 teams that get to call themselves major league baseball.

Add to this mix 25 replacement level players, by our definition players who are between 15 and 30 runs worse than average over a full season, and you will make money. We are talking about a major league team that wins 40-50 games, a really bad team. The last team this bad was the 2003 Tigers, but even they were able to draw 1.3 million fans. Say this replacement level team makes 100 million dollars. Should the 25 replacement players be considered responsible for that revenue?

I don't think so, for two reasons:

1. They are by definition replaceable. There are many more players who are a step below average than there are above average or average players. There are hundreds of players in the minors who are just as capable of contributing to a 45 win team, and would jump at the chance to do so for the major league minimum.

2. These players, outside of the money making context that is major league baseball, could not come close to drawing 100 million dollars in revenue. A good AAA team would likely be as good as this 45 win major league team, but the difference in money is staggering. A few AAA teams have drawn 1 million fans, but even those teams do so with ticket prices that are a fraction of what MLB tickets cost.

This is why replacement level players do not add significantly to revenue in major league baseball, and why no team would ever pay them more than the league minimum. That is, as long as the team recognizes them as replacement level players, errors in judgement will always exist. Major league baseball is set up as a huge money maker as long as they can get minimally acceptable players to show up and play. They increase their revenue beyond this minimum by acquiring the good players, the rare talents that are average major leaguers and better. These are the players who earn, and receive, the rewards of the game.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Player of the Day: Jeff Kent

As you probably know, he has retired. By most accounts, he was an ass, but one heck of a ballplayer. I checked to see where he ranks in wins above replacement, among second basemen of the retrosheet era:

1. Joe Morgan 101.6
2. Rod Carew 80.5
3. Lou Whitaker 70.6 (one of the HOF voters' most egregious mistakes)
4. Bobby Grich 67.0
5. Craig Biggio 66.9
6. Roberto Alomar 65.9
7. Willie Randolph 61.2
8. Ryne Sandberg 60.7
9. Jeff Kent 59.6

So he's the lowest of the 2B who have HOF arguments, but #3 through #9 are relatively close. There is a pretty big gap between this group and the next 2B - It's hard to find career 2B for the Hall of Very Good. There are some who had great careers, and the rest either weren't that great, or didn't last very long.

The next group:
10. Tony Phillips 50.6 (played everywhere but 2B was probably his most natural position)
11. Chuck Knoblauch 44.2 - had a chance to be as great as Alomar/Biggio but really crapped out early.
12. Julio Franco 42.0 - another case of what position do you classify him? But his best years were at second.
13. Davey Lopes 39.2
14. Dick McAuliffe 35.2
15. Ray Durham 34.2
16. Junior Gilliam 32.3

New Logo

A graphic designer emailed me with a new logo for the site, now at the top of the page. If you like it, or don't, let me know here.

Personally, I don't have a strong preference, but I thought it give it a try. I'm not the best person to judge, as I would be perfectly happy with plain text to go with lots of data.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Player of the Day: Jonny Gomes

Look out Jay Bruce, you are no longer the best hitting outfielder on the Reds. Jonny is. He's signed to a minor league contract for only $600,000.

The negatives on Jonny are that he only hit .182 last year, strikes out a ton, and plays brutal defense. Still, the guy has serious power. He's got 1264 big league at bats, and 66 homers to go with a .455 slugging percentage and 105 OPS+. His minor league track record says the same thing, the dude has power.

In his favor, he's moving from baseball's toughest division to the National League central, a very good homerun hitting park, and some other good hitter's parks among his divisional opponents (Wrigley, Houston). I think Jonny is going to win a starting job in spring training (Reds OF then being him, Tavares in center, and Bruce in right), and hit a bunch of homers. If he plays every day I think he'll hit 30. He'll also strike out 150+ times, and play crappy defense. They've pretty much replaced 90% of Adam Dunn for a little over the league minimum. Jonny is a good player to watch for if you wonder if there will be a Ryan Ludwick of 2009.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Contract from Hell

"Woe to You Oh Earth and Sea
for the Devil sends the beast with wrath
because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding
reckon the number of the beast
for it is a human number
its number is six hundred and sixty six."

-Iron Maiden

Nick Markakis signs with the Orioles for 6 years and 66 million dollars. The title is not in any way a reference to it being an unwise contract, merely the numeric terms of it. Markakis is a very good fielder, so my chart shows him worth about 16 million per season. The Orioles are buying out 3 arbitration years, so he would have been a bargain anyway for those, and 3 free agent years, where he most certainly would not.

It is a very good sign that the Orioles will be able to keep one of the best young players in baseball around for a few more years, instead of watching him play for the Yankees in 2012. He's about as complete a player as you can get. And hopefully next time he hits a homer in my direction, I won't drop it like I did in September 2007.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Executive of the Day: Tony Reagins

Congratulations Tony, on being named American League executive of the year by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Obviously he's not the only person responsible, as most of the team was already in place when Tony took over, but 100 wins is a damn good start for a rookie GM.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Worst contract ever?

Looks like the Dodgers will release Andruw Jones soon. He gets paid 36 million for one season of a .158 average 3 homers, and a defensive contribution that was a cruel joke of what he once was.

It's not the highest amount of money wasted, that would have to go to Mike Hampton or Barry Zito, who were paid over a hundred million for contributions probably worth 10-15 million over the life of the deal (I'm just guessing Barry will continue that path, 2 years into his deal). Considering baseball inflation, maybe someone like Wayne Garland is the worst free agent signing ever.

But Jones deserves some kind of recognition for his big contract and lack of production. The Dodgers would have been no worse off last year sticking the previous night's starting pitcher in the outfield for Jones' atbats.

Angels and White Sox Rumors

I found this on MLB Trade Rumors.

There have been an awful lot of rumors involving the Angels and White Sox the last few years. My absolute least favorite was after the 2006 season and involved Freddy Garcia and Joe Crede going to the Angels for Chone Figgins and Ervin Santana. From an Angel perspective that would have been a killer, as Garcia and Crede were headed towards a lot of injuries in 2007, not to mention they made a lot more money.

Interestingly enough, the only major trade the two teams pulled off was the Jon Garland for Orlando Cabrera trade, a swap of soon to be free agents that ended up fitting the needs of each team in their 2008 division title seasons.

I think the lesson to be learned here is that Kenny Williams and Tony Reagins keep their intentions secret, and the rumors that you hear are most likely just being made up by imaginative reporters and bloggers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Player of the Day: Derek Lowe

Derek Lowe signs with the Braves for 4 years and 60 million. It's a bit more money than my system evaluates him, but pretty close. The Mets' offer of 3 years and 36 million wasn't in the same ballpark. The Braves have put together a pretty good rotation with Lowe, Kawakami, Vazquez, Jurrjens, and Campillo, even if Tim Hudson misses the entire year.

With Lowe, the Braves could be planning on winning by never letting the ball out of the infield. He always gets plenty of groundballs, and the Braves have an outstanding infield and catcher. Lowe could keep the outfielders from having to participate on defense, but unfortunately they still have to bat their outfielders. And last year they only hit slightly better than the pitchers.

On the Kawakami projection, I should point out that the system used is the same one that nailed Hiroki Kuroda's stats last year. I don't see players coming over from Japan as unknowns. Sure, sometimes a guy is supposed to be great and turns out to be a fat toad, but American pitchers don't always pitch like you expect them to either. I've seen enough pitchers come over from Japan that I'm as confidant in their projections as I am for MLB pitchers - and more than I am for minor league pitchers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Player of the Day: RICKEY!

Rickey Henderson makes the Hall of Fame on his first try. Let's count the ways that Rickey was great. I'm using the same resources and methodology that I used to compare Brian Downing and fellow new Hall of Famer Jim Rice in this article.

1. Rickey was 584 batting runs above average for his career. His power was a bit above average, with a .419 slugging average compared to a league .401, but his ability to get on base was his main skill. He had over 3000 hits and 2000 walks. He was a very good friend with first base.

2. But he didn't wear out his welcome. Once on first Rickey didn't stay long at all. He adds another 162 runs with his speed. A lot of that is his record of stolen bases, but it also includes advancing on hits, outs, wild pitches, and every other event that a baserunner can take advantage of.

3. Rickey hit into an average number of double plays given his DP opportunities.

4. Rickey put his speed to good use in the outfield with a career +85 TotalZone rating. His arm wasn't very good though, and cost him 19 runs.

5. Add it all up, and Rickey was 812 runs above average. To get value over replacement, add another 432. Subtract 120 because he played mostly left field, where players are expected to hit more than average and the defensive responsibility is not that great. Rickey was 1124 runs better than replacement.

6. That's worth 115.9 wins, Only Bonds, Mays, Aaron, and Mantle have more in the Retrosheet era.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Player of the Day: Jim Edmonds

Watching the MLB network's Prime 9, they have Jim Edmonds as the 8th greatest center fielder since the year 1900. All of the others on the list, including #9 Kirby Puckett, are in the Hall of Fame or else still playing.

Edmonds, despite playing well for the Cubs last year, does not project very well for 2009. I don't think teams are still considering him as a starting centerfield option. To keep playing he may have to accept a bench role. There is also a chance he gets Loftoned.

But I'm not here to talk about the future. Unlike McGwire, I'm here to talk about the past. One thing that strikes me from the Prime 9 special is how similar Jim was to Duke Snider. They even look alike, Jim could be Duke Snider Jr., for all I know.

Edmonds has not passed the 400 homer mark yet, Snider finished with 407. For their careers, 162 games of Edmonds looks like .284, 32 HR, 99 RBI, and 82 walks. For Snider it's .295, 31, 101, and 73. Snider comes out ahead on OPS+, 140 to 132.

Both played centerfield despite not being big basestealing threats. We've all seen that Edmonds covered plenty of ground in the outfield. It seems like Snider was regarded as a good defender, though nobody would confuse him with Willie Mays. TotalZone rates Snider as above average in Brooklyn, but a bit below average when they went to LA, with a below average arm as well. I don't have the data for his 1949-1952 seasons, and those are when he should have been at his fastest and defensive best. TotalZone has rated Edmonds as generally above average until 2006, and with a tremendous arm. If we had complete data to compare them, I think Edmonds would rate higher defensively than the Duke, and edge a bit into the Duke's offensive advantage.

I think MLB got the order right, and I hope in time it means that Edmonds' HOF plaque rests in the same Hall as Snider's and Puckett's.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Player of the Day: Adam Dunn

There aren't many real hitters left on my free agents page. There are three hitters left who project to at least 10 runs above average per 150 games and have a snowball's chance in hell of actually playing in 2009. There's Manny Ramirez, who's probably going to eventually go back to the Dodgers, Adam Dunn, and Bobby Abreu.

I'd like to see Dunn sign with the Angels. The Angels don't look like they have much of an offense in 2009. They'll start the season and immediately wish they had that "big bat behind Vlad". Well, there have been plenty of big bats out there this offseason, and some are going pretty cheap. The Angels have an opening at either DH, 1B, or LF, the easiest spots to hide a lumbering power hitter. Signing a bat would not even block Juan Rivera or Kendry Morales. Get a 1B, Kendry plays DH. Get a DH, Kendry plays first. If Vlad needs to DH, Kendry plays OF instead and the new slugger plays first. Get a LF, Rivera plays right and Vlad gets to DH. It's easy. Angels also have no lefty bat on the roster. Perfect opportunity to sign Dunn. What are they waiting for? Sign him now, and you don't have to give up anyone in a trade later.

Alternatively, I'd like to see Dunn sign with the Orioles. They need a first baseman, and it would be fun to see him take shots at the warehouse next summer.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Back in business

The problems with the site seem to be fixed, though my latest help email has not been returned. I'll take that trade. Back to baseball...

Jason Giambi to the A's. It's hard to pass up a bat like this for only 4.5 million. His projection as a poor fielder is worth almost twice that. He's not going to improve the A's all that much though, as one way or another a young player with league average offense but good defense will be forced to the bench or minors. I'm not sure if the odd man out is Travis Buck or Daric Barton, but you can't DH both Giambi and Cust. Once a few more of the major free agents sign, I'll update team defenses and rerun the pitcher projections. The A's pitchers will take an ERA hit - this team looks more like the 97-99 team than the recent pitching & defense A's.

The Red Sox get John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli. Smoltz is 42, not likely to pitch before June, and coming off shoulder surgery so there is a bit of RISK here. Baldelli is a wild card. He's a damn good all around player when he can play. But how much can he play? If he was able to play everyday I think he'd want to go to a team that had room for him to do so.

Tampa Bay was a good situation for him because they let him play when he was able, and had depth to cover when he was not. If his health is shaky, he's not a good caddy for JD Drew. If Drew went down for a month or two, Baldelli is not the guy who can step in and play every day. Could Baldelli play twice a week against lefties? Maybe, but remember Tampa played to Rocco's schedule, he wasn't necessarily available when they needed him. That he didn't start game one of the WS against Cole Hamels makes me wonder if a straight platoon might be a problem - other teams are not going to have their lefthander skip a start until Rocco is ready to play.

And the all-time saves leader signs with the Brewers. The projection thinks he's a bit overpaid at 6 million, but my personal take is the Brewers will be happy with the signing. He's not elite anymore but I think Hoffman can get through another year of reliably pitching the 9th inning. And the Brewer fan expectations have to be set pretty low after the last couple of closers they had.

Web problems

Sorry about this, but I can't update right now due to problems with my web host. Some of the team pages only loaded halfway. This will be fixed, well, whenever I can get a response from Doteasy.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Greatest pitchers, 1954-2008

A few days ago in "The ten win pitcher" I explained what goes into the system, so I won't explain that again. Here are the pitchers with the highest wins above replacement:

Clemens 128.1
Seaver 104.8
Maddux 96.0
P Neikro 95.5
G Perry 93.9
R Johnson 91.9


Nolan Ryan 83.0
Bob Gibson 82.6
Steve Carlton 82.4
Fergie Jenkins 82.0
Mike Mussina 76.8
Pedro Martinez 76.5
Curt Schilling 72.2
Don Sutton 70.9
Tom Glavine 67.0
Don Drysdale 64.8


Kevin Brown 64.5
Jim Palmer 64.5
Juan Marichal 64.2
John Smoltz 64.0
Dennis Eckersley 61.3
Jim Bunning 60.3

Other than the two in bold, every pitcher on this list is either a hall of famer or has not yet been eligible for the vote. Blyleven really stands out - he is the single most deserving player who has been rejected by the HOF voters. A truly great pitcher. Wins over replacement rewards guys who played forever. League average picks up 2 WAR per year, so an average pitcher who threw a knuckleball and lasted 25 seasons could earn 50 WAR. Phil Niekro was no average pitcher, he was really good, but not as good as Bob Gibson at his best. I'm a bit surprised that he rates so high. Part of it is he's getting credit for surviving some bad Atlanta defenses that are estimated to have cost him 108 runs over his career. All in all, a really good job by the voters, with the glaring exception of Blyleven.

Sixty wins looks like a magic mark. There are 13 pitchers between 50 and 60 WAR, and only one of them is in, Sandy Koufax (53.9). And Koufax is obviously not in for his bulk career value.

About 30 pitchers are in the 40-50 range, and the only Hall of Famers are guys who I'm only looking at half their careers (Warren Spahn, Robin Roberts), relievers (Wilhelm, Gossage), and Whitey Ford, who I'm only missing 2 seasons on. Ford comes in at 48.3 and probably would be around 55 with his first 2 years.

The real outlier is Catfish Hunter (32.9) who pitched in front of some great defenses yet only barely cracked a 100 ERA+ at 104. He was a real workhorse for a few years, and did pitch well as part of 5 world champions.

I should note that this database is not set up to properly handle relievers, only starters. Relievers should be judged against a different replacement level baseline than starters, and they should get credit for leverage if they are pitching the late innings of close games. I've got all pitchers lumped together.

Player of the Day: Koji Uehara

Signs with the Orioles, now with him and Guthrie the O's should have two pitchers who can keep them in games. His Japanese numbers show excellent control. A Japanese Brad Radke maybe. The 2009 CHONE projection shows a pretty good middle of rotation pitcher. I wouldn't pay much attention to the low 87 innings projected, as that's a result of him being shuffled between starting and relieving the last few years.

I kind of liked him better as a reliever - check out the Eckerslyan 66-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 2007. But the Orioles definitely need him more as a starter in their drive to not totally suck in 2009.

I've also updated the pages for Jason Marquis as a Rockie, Luis Vizcaino as a Cub, and Carl Pavano as an Indian. Unlike Uehara, Pavano's projected 43 innings is no accident, he's that injury prone. He'll be lucky to avoid elbow surgery from signing his official contract. Marquis projects to hit 215/253/342 with 2 homers. Oh, you wanted his pitching projection?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Player of the Day: Milton Bradley

I love this guy. He is one of the very best players in the game when he can play. Similar to Carlos Beltran. Or Mark Teixiera. Except that he can't keep himself in the lineup. The CHONE projection thinks he'll find Wrigley to his liking.

If Bradley were able to play 150 games a year, he'd be a 20 million dollar per year player. He's got power, a very high on-base average, and has always been a good defensive outfielder, though after a year as DH his current outfield ability is a bit unknown. Projected as an average defender at his 114 game level, he's worth 13.6 million. The Cubs sign him for 10 million a year, so their break-even point here is 84 games. If Milton can play that many, they get their money's worth.

His 90th percentile season shows a glimpse of what a healthy Bradley could do in a career year: .330 average, 35 homers, 100 walks, .450 OBP/.600 SLG - that would earn an MVP vote or two. We'll probably never actually see that season, though Milton came pretty close to those rate numbers last year, just missing on the playing time.

Milton would have been my #2 free agent target had I been in charge of the Angels. But what do I know. If I had been in charge I would have spent the extra 3 million and gotten J.D. Drew instead of Gary Matthews Jr.

Runner up on player of the day is Pat Burrell, leaving the World Champs to sign with the AL champs. I can't help but notice the parallels to Greg Luzinski, who left the Phillies after their last championship. Like Burrell, Greg was a huge slugger who walked and struck out a lot, and had little range in the field. Like Burrell, he left to become a fulltime DH in the other league. Luzinski gave the White Sox 3 good years of DHing before he was finished, so the Rays should be safe with a two year contract.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Ten Win pitcher

No, not a pitcher credited with 10 wins in a season. Obviously no big deal, as thousands of pitchers have done that. I'm talking about a pitcher whose season rates as ten wins above replacement level. It is an extraordinary accomplishment, and the next pitcher who does so will only be the 10th since 1954.

I've been working on pitcher ratings, and have gone farther in adjusting for what needs to be adjusted than I've ever done before. I'm sure there are still more things that can be adjusted for, but here is where I am right now:

1. Start, simply, with runs allowed (total, not earned) and innings pitched. I'm not looking at any kind of defense independent stats or component ERAs or anything like that. Such measures are useful for projections going forward, but not necessary for evaluating what happened in the past.

2. Find out how many runs a theoretical replacement level pitcher would have allowed, given the ballpark, the defense he pitched in front of, and the opponents he faced.

Ballpark factors are the pitchers park factors from the database available from baseball databank. I may consider using another source, or reworking them later, but here I took them as is. Defense is a combination of Totalzone, outfield throwing, infield DP, and catcher ratings, all calculated from retrosheet data. A pitcher's share of the team defensive rating is simply the team rating multiplied by the pitcher's percentage of contact allowed, or (batters faced - strikeouts - walks - hbp - homeruns).

Say a replacement level pitcher, based on league average and park factors, would have allowed 110 runs. The pitcher pitched 10% of his team's contact allowed, and in front of a +50 defense. Replacement level would be adjusted downward to 105 runs, as a replacement level pitcher would also have benefited from the good defense.

Instead of using league runs allowed per game, I use a weighted average, by inning pitched, of the runs scored per game for all of the opponents a pitcher faced. Roy Halladay a lot against Boston, New York, and Tampa Bat, while Cliff Lee pitched quite a bit against Cleveland. The opponent adjusted league figures for the two are 4.85 for Halladay, and 4.62 for Lee, though even with that adjustment Lee rates as the AL top pitcher last year.

3. Once I've done all that to get runs over replacement, I figure a custom runs to win conversion - in a low scoring run environment fewer runs are needed to get an extra win.

So, without further ado, here are the 10 win pitchers:

9. 10.1 Bob Gibson, 1969 - 20 wins, 2.18 ERA, 314 innings

8. 10.3 Pedro Martinez, 2000 - Amazing year, 1.74 ERA in an hitter's park, in a high offense league. He's got the best rate stats ever for a starting pitcher, and saved 115 runs above replacement, the record from 1954-2008. And he does this with only 217 innings pitched, most of the other pitchers on this list had over 300. The thing that drops him down to 8th is the runs to win converter - in his high offense environment it takes 11.2 runs to convert to a win.

7. 10.4 Sandy Koufax, 1963 - 25-5, 1.88 ERA

6. 10.7 Wilbur Wood, 1971 - What a horse, 334 innings of a 1.91 ERA. He's getting some credit for doing this in front of a subpar White Sox defense.

5. 10.7 Roger Clemens, 1997 - 264 innings of a 2.05 ERA with the league going homer happy.

4. 10.8 Sandy Koufax, 1966 - His last season, 27 wins and a 1.73 ERA.

3. 11.0 Doc Gooden, 1985 - This one goes to 11. 1.53 ERA and a 24-4 record. He did it against a tough schedule too. His opponents averaged 4.16 runs per game, against a 4.07 league average.

2. 11.2 Bob Gibson, 1968 - The 1.12 ERA season, even in the year of the pitcher, was one of the greatest pitching feats ever. Gibson saved 85 runs above replacement, but it only took 7.6 runs to earn an extra win that year.

1. 11.6 Steve Carlton, 1972 - 27 wins on a 59 win ballclub. 346 innings, 1.97 ERA.

While there are two pitchers from the recent high offense era represented on the list, most of these guys pitched in the late 60's/early 70's pitching years. A low run environment allows pitchers to keep pitch counts down, coast through the Ray Oyler/Roger Metzger/opposing pitcher part of the order, and throw a larger percentage of their team's innings.

As a consequence, a pitcher like Koufax will be more valuable to his team, in the sense of earning more wins, in a pitcher's league. As long as we measure greatness in wins added, I don't think there is any way to get around this.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Players of the day: Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa

1382 career homeruns between them (counting postseason), both players are over 40 and didn't play a game last year.

Sosa doesn't have a lot to offer a major league team. He might be OK as a platoon DH against only left-handed pitching, but that is such a limited role that I doubt a team would have use for him, and there are plenty of players who can fill that role.

Bonds likely still has the ability to help a team, or at least did last year. But a one year layoff at his age, combined with hip surgery, makes him a real longshot. That doesn't even consider that he'll be facing perjury charges at some point.

But what the hey, let's see what projections for these two look like.

Barry Bonds still projects as one of the best hitters in the game. Due to age, CHONE doesn't think he'll hit for average anymore, but he still has enough power and walks that he'd be worth 9-11 million to a team as a DH if he was healthy enough to play, and a team was willing to break the collusion and give him a job.

Sammy Sosa, one the other hand, is done. Stick a fork in him. He was OK at age 38, playing in one of the better hitter's parks in the game. But being essentially a league average hitter as a DH is not a recipe for continued employment, you expect more from that from somebody who doesn't have to field. Two years of aging make it very unlikely that Sosa can play acceptable baseball again.

I'm not hesitant to project players who have missed a year, because when I've done it in the past my system has done so reliably. In January 2007, I had Sosa pegged as a 241/313/424 line. He then hit 252/311/468 - very close on the BA/OBP, and not a terrible projection for slugging.

But in these two cases it's academic, I don't expect either to play MLB in 2009.