Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Tigers’

Let me give you the stats of two relief pitchers thus far in 2009.

Gregg Marmol

Player 2 appears to be a power pitcher who strikes out his fair share of batters but also has trouble finding the strike zone, while Player 1 looks like a middling reliever who is lucky enough to be a closer.  Now suppose these two players are the same age and are both free agents following the 2009 season.  Who do you think gets the bigger contract?  My money is on Player 1 getting a bigger contract from some GM still living in the Stone Age because he accumulated saves and is a “closer”.

In reality, these two pitchers play for the Chicago Cubs, and are Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol.  Casual fans would argue that Gregg is more valuable to his team because he has 21 saves and is the closer while Marmol is just a middle relief pitcher.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Marmol’s average leverage when he enters the game is 1.63, compared to 1.52 for Gregg.  This means that Marmol pitches in more crucial situations than Gregg, even though Gregg is that oh so important ninth inning pitcher.  Marmol has also added more value to the Cubs.  Marmol has a Win Probability Added of 2.01 compared to Gregg’s 0.13, and also holds a distinct advantage in RE/24, 7.63 to 1.97.  Over the course of the year, that will probably add up to an extra win for the Cubs. 

This situation is interesting because the Cubs are one of the few teams who actually use their bullpen properly.  Marmol is having a bad year because he is walking way too many batters, but the general consensus is that he is their best relief pitcher.  However, they are not using him as their closer, as most teams would do, but in crucial situations at other times in the ball game.  The other team that immediately comes to mind is the Detroit Tigers, who used Todd Jones as their closer even though he was far from their best reliever.  The Cubs are lucky that Marmol has not made a fuss about playing second fiddle to two inferior pitchers the last two years, Gregg and former closer Kerry Wood.  The fact that he is not a closer is going to hurt Marmol’s bank account big time. 

I am fairly confident that every team in baseball understands the concept of leverage, but they continue to use their best pitcher to hold a three run lead in the ninth inning.  This is because you cannot just all of a sudden start using Joe Nathan or Mariano Rivera in the seventh inning of a tie ball game.  Even though this is what would be best for the team, it is not what is best for the ballplayer because he is paid to accumulate saves.  Until teams start compensating relief pitchers on a more useful stat then saves, I do not think we will see wide spread change.  However, as more and more GM’s become statistically savvy, I think this change will come. 

I say this because right now, a bona fide closer will not accept another role.  He knows that his compensation is tied to his saves.  It is like the article by Micheal Lewis (of Moneyball fame) about Shane Battier, where Battier refuses to shoot heaves at the end of a quarter because it hurts his shooting percentage, and he will not get paid as much.  Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey says “I tell him we don’t count heaves in our stats, but Shane’s smart enough to know that his next team might not be smart enough to take the heaves out.”  This is the same in baseball.  Sure, Battier making a full court shot at the buzzer might help his team win a game, just like Rivera pitching in the seventh might help the Yankees win a game.  However, it just is not going to happen because it will not help them get paid.  Until relief pitchers get paid based on their overall performance rather than saves, I am afraid the Chicago Cubs bullpen is going to be the exception, not the rule.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

With The Jays collapsing this year, and the dangling of Roy Halladay on the trade block, it appears that JP Ricciardi’s days in Toronto could be numbered.  Hailed as one of Billy Beane’s golden boys, expectations were high in Toronto when he was hired following the 2001 campaign.  Since then, the Jays have had only once finished above third place in the American League East, and most fans consider his tenure a failure.  I am one of the few who disagree, but unfortunately did not really have any numbers to back myself up. 

I decided to undertake a small project to put some numbers behind my claim. As I was working through the data, I became unsure that I was going to be able to find a solution.  However, the end product gave me the results I wanted.  Given the financial resources relative to their division, the Toronto Blue Jays under JP Ricciardi were outperformed in terms of winning percentage compared to their division only by Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics and depending on your point of view, Terry Ryan’s Minnesota Twins.  These are arguably the top two GM’s in baseball over this time frame, so I would say JP is in pretty good company.  Now to the data.

Ricciardi was hired following the 2001 season, so I plugged the records of every team in the American League from 2002-2008 into Excel.  I then tabulated each team’s winning percentage over this time period, as well as the winning percentage of the other team’s in the division.  For example, the “Division Winning Percentage” box for the Tampa Bay Rays would include the records of the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles, but NOT the Rays.  I then calculated how much each team had spent on payroll (information from Cot’s MLB Contracts), and figured out what percentage of the division’s total payroll was spent by each team.  The results for the three AL divisions are as follows:

 AL East

 AL Central

AL West

 *Because the AL West only has four teams, I added a hypothetical fifth team that has a payroll that is the average of the other four teams.  This helps make the Percentage of Payroll constant across all divisions.

The numbers are not perfect, and could be refined further, but I think the general point I am trying to make is apparent.  Given his financial resources, JP Ricciardi did very well with the Jays.  He achieved a winning percentage only .010 lower than the rest of the division, while playing in the toughest division in baseball with the two best teams in the league.  You might be saying, well that is not very good, he was below average.  However, if you take a closer look, he did this while spending only 14.39% of his division’s total payroll.  The only other teams to spend similar or less were Baltimore (.087 lower winning % than division), Tampa Bay (.107 lower), Kansas City (.095 lower) and Oakland (.039 higher).  Among these teams, only Oakland was better.  With regards to Minnesota, they did spend 3.5% more than Toronto, but I would argue the .088 boost in winning percentage relative to the division is greater than the financial surplus.   

The two big failures were Detroit and Seattle.  Detroit spent 24.10% of their division’s payroll to be .058 below the rest of their division, while Seattle spent 23.18% to be .053 worse. 

So there you have it.  In my opinion, the JP Ricciardi era in Toronto has not been a failure, and he has actually done very well.  Other than a brutal 2004 season, the Jays have remained extremely competitive with the Red Sox and the Yankees despite financial limitations.  A lot of this depends on how you label success.  Some would argue that Tampa Bay has done a better job because they won a division title and a pennant with even smaller resources than Toronto.  To that I would say, “oh really, how did you enjoy the six 90+ loss seasons prior to 2008?”  I do not think success can be attributed to one good year, so overall, I think the top three general managers in the American League from 2002-2008 were Billy Beane, Terry Ryan and JP Ricciardi.

Read Full Post »

It was a busy day for GM’s yesterday, with several contenders adding key pieces to their post-season drive.  Let’s take a look at the moves and the effect I think they will have.

Boston Red Sox Acquire Victor Martinez

The Red Sox added a big bat in Martinez, while holding onto prized pitching prospect Clay Bucholz.  Instead, they sent reliever/spot starter Justin Masterson to the Indians along with minor league pitchers Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price.  This is an excellent trade for the Red Sox, as none of the players they gave up are irreplaceable.  It also gives them incredible line-up flexibility.  Martinez can catch or play first base while Kevin Youkilis can play first or third.  This will allow the Red Sox to rest either Jason Varitek or Mike Lowell and his achy hip on any day. 

Red Sox Acquire Casey Kotchman

The Red Sox traded recently acquired Adam Laroche back to Atlanta, where he started his career, for first baseman Casey Kotchman.  I am not totally sure what the point of this trade was.  Kotchman will be a defensive substitution at best for the Red Sox, and has a lot less pop than Laroche.  For Atlanta, I would consider Kotchman a superior player, so I am not sure what their plans are either.   

Detroit Tigers Acquire Jarrod Washburn

With the White Sox hot on their heels, the Tigers were in need of a veteran presence to settle their rotation.  Washburn is a perfect fit, and is having a career year in 2009, with a 2.64 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.  He will combine with Verlander and Jackson to give the Tigers a strong trio of starting pitchers, but I do not think it will be enough to get them past the big dogs in the AL East in the post-season.

Chicago White Sox Acquire Jake Peavy

Finally, the Jake Peavy saga has ended in San Diego.  He agreed to waive his no-trade clause to head to Chicago, something which he refused to do earlier this year.  While the White Sox gave up a lot, including pitcher Clayton Richard and top prospect Aaron Poreda, it gives them the ace they need this year (if Peavy is health).    

Twins Acquire Orlando Cabrera

Despite a .500 record, the Twins fancied themselves a buyer at the deadline due to the fact that they are only three games out of a playoff spot.  They needed an upgrade at SS, and Cabrera’s .694 OPS provides a significant upgrade over the .639 that they have gotten from the position this year.  He is also a career 5.0 UZR/150 fielder at short, although he has slipped this year.  While the intention was good, it does not match what the two teams above them did, and the Twinkies are headed for a third place finish.    

Yankees Acquire Jerry Hairston Jr.

Hairston’s particular talent is not with the bat or his glove, but that he can play pretty much anywhere on the diamond.  This will be huge for the Yankees, who are an old team, and this will allow them to rest some regulars down the stretch.  Do not be surprised if you see Hairston come up with a big play late in the season or in the playoffs, just a funny feeling.

Marlins Acquire Nick Johnson    

I almost cannot believe it, but the Marlins added a piece to their team instead of selling for once.  Johnson is an on-base machine, and will give the Marlins greater flexibility in their infield.  However, they are already six games behind the Phillies, and it may be a case of too little, too late.

Read Full Post »

A couple of days ago I wrote an article for Inside The Majors discussing the future of Albert Pujols in St. Louis.  As much as Cards fans hate to admit it, the end of the 2011 season is quickly approaching and Pujols could be gone.  While I covered all of the factors that affect the Cardinals, I did not discuss in depth something that applies to every Major League club.

“The other big question is whether it is even worth it for a team to spend 25-30% of their budget on one player, but that is a story for another day.”

That day has come.  While it is very rare for a player to make more than 25% of a team’s total payroll, it could be the reality in St. Louis, with Pujols eating $25 million out of approximately a $100 million payroll.  I want to look at the success rate of teams where they have a player who takes up more than 20% of the team’s financial resources.  After examining the numbers from 2006-2008, I lowered my threshold to 18%, still very high, to get a larger sample size of data.  All salary information is from USA Today, and these were my discoveries:

Over the last three years there have been eighteen occasions where a single player has made up over 18% of a team’s total salary.

20082008 25%

 

  

  

  

  

  

 

2007

2007 25%

 

  

 

 

 2006

2006 25%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, these teams as a whole have not been very successful, with an overall record of 1398-1517 for a winning percentage of .480.  The only playoff clubs among the group are the 2007 Rockies, and the 2006 Tigers, A’s and Padres.  That means 22% of these clubs have made the playoffs, while the rest of the teams in the league made the playoffs at a 28% clip.  Not a huge drop off, but significant enough.

There is also a lot of repetition among the teams, with the Rockies appearing all three years, the Royals with three players in two years, and the A’s, Marlins, Pirates and Giants all making two appearances each.  Other than the Giants, these are all small-budget teams, and it does not take much to eat up 20% of their payroll.  You will never see a Yankee make 20% of the team’s salary simply because the denominator of $200M is way too big.  On the other end of the spectrum, Willis ate up 29% of the Marlins salary in 2006 while only making $4.35M

So far, I have shown that these eighteen teams have performed below the major-league average in terms of winning percentage in playoff appearances.  However, what I have failed to mention is the total payrolls of these teams.  If you sort all of the MLB teams by total payroll each year and rank them, the eighteen teams on this list rank an average of twenty-two.  The 2006 teams are an average of $16M below league average, the 2007 teams are 20$ million under, and the 2008 squads are a whopping $31 million under the league average.  Only three of them ( ’06 Giants, Astros and Tigers) are in the top half, and thirteen out of eighteen are in the bottom third.  These teams are actually quite successful considering their financial limitations.  If you were to tell me I could run a team for $20 million less than the average but only have a 6% chance less of making the playoffs, I think I would take you up on the offer.

I honestly thought going into this that I would discover that it would almost without fail be disastrous to have one player take up a huge chunk of your payroll.  There are occasions where this is true, most notably the 2008 Royals who spent 40% of their money on Meche and Guillen, two barely above average players.  However, it is also very possible for these small market teams with one high-paid star, like Todd Helton, to succeed.

After my analysis, the original point from my Inside the Majors article stands.  John Mozeliak, get Pujols locked up.  If there is one player that is worth of that much money and such a large percentage of your payroll, it is him.    

Read Full Post »

Unless you are a Baltimore Orioles fan, the last time you heard the name Matt Wieters was probably on May 29th, the day he made his Major League debut against the Detroit Tigers.  That is because after all of the hype that surrounded his call-up, Wieters has fallen flat on his face.  Through his first 43 AB’s, he has accumulated a .592 OPS, three runs, no dingers and a whopping zero RBI.  The counting stats you can blame on Baltimore’s less than potent 10th ranked offence, but the guy responsible for the .233 average and .267 OBP is wearing #15. 

I am not here to knock Wieters.  He is a fine young player and will most likely blossom into a superstar. However, we cannot keep anointing every promising young kid the next Ruth, because some of them just do not pan out right away.  Wieters has a long way to go before he becomes a threat at the dish, and he is well behind the other wunderkids who made their debuts over the last couple of years.  I have taken the stats of four players who have made their debuts over the last couple years and compared them to Wieters.  Considering they were three outfielders and a third baseman, positions much more well-known for producing big hitters, I have also taken a look at the two most recent top catching prospects as well.

 Wieters

 

As you can see, Wieters does not compare favourably to any of them.  Ellsbury and Bruce had slugging percentages that were higher than Wieters OPS, and all six of the other players managed at least two home runs.  I know I selected guys who performed strongly to start their careers, but realistically only Longoria was hyped up as much as Wieters, so you would expect comparable numbers.  Other top prospects like Snider and Maybin who flopped in their debuts had much lower expectations than Wieters.

I think it is fantastic that the media has not been all over Wieters for his slow start (to the best of my knowledge), because sometimes it is some time away from the limelight that is best for young players.

Read Full Post »

The current economic recession has proven that professional sports are not immune to swings in the economy.  Every team has their own personal attendance pattern based on the success of the team, success of other professional sports team in the city, new ballparks, and a myriad of other factors.  However, it has been a long time since we have seen essentially every team suffer a simultaneous drop in attendance.  So far this year, MLB games are averaging 29,082 fans per game, which is about 66% of capacity.  This is down from the past two seasons, which averaged 32,516 (72% capacity) and 32,770 (72% capacity) respectively.  Not only is this a 12% drop in the number of bodies in the ballpark, but an even greater decrease in revenues.  It is the premium seats and corporate boxes that are going unsold, which are a main source of revenue for major league teams. 

Two of the main offenders are the Yankees and Mets, which is especially curious considering teams that build new ballparks generally realize an increase in attendance, known as the Honeymoon period.  However, these teams gravely overestimated how much fans would be willing to pay to watch a ball game, which has led to entire empty sections.  The Yankees are down 8,500 per game, while the Mets have suffered a 4,500 decrease per game. 

While this decrease in attendance probably will not deter the free-spending New Yorkers, there is another team that is in much bigger trouble.  The Detroit Tigers have seen their attendance plummet to 28,126 from 39,538 only a year ago.  The demise of the auto manufacturer’s has hit the Detroit area very hard, and even the best team in hockey, the Red Wings, are not immune to attendance problems.  With one of the highest payrolls in baseball, I would not be surprised to see owner Mike Ilitch shed some salary this summer.  This is very unfortunate as the Tigers have come out strong this season, and are leading the AL Central by 1.5 games.

Oops

Oops

Some other teams of note:

Washington Nationals: Down 8,300

Atlanta Braves: Down 6,800

Houston Astros: Down 5,700

Colorado Rockies: Down 5,500

However, I am not all about doom and gloom here at MLB Insights.  The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies are up 1,200 for obvious reasons.  The bandwagon is filling up in Kansas City with the Royals averaging an extra 2,400 per game, although this should regress amidst the teams eight game losing streak.  Strong performances in the Lonestar state have led to a 2,800 per game increase for the Rangers.  It would be great to see that franchise finally win a playoff series and shed the stench of the A-Rod contract.

We can only hope that the economy is on the road to recovery and fans are able to once again afford tickets to the sport they love.  If we can take one positive from this, it is that other than the Yankees, the recession helped bring free agent contracts back under control.  Only in 2008 would the guy who broke the single season saves record get $12 million per year, not a whole lot more than BJ Ryan got two years prior.

Read Full Post »