Good Value

If you haven't checked out FanGraphs in a while — and I admit I've been something of a wayward son — you need to. Because they have, in short, revolutionized the concept of the comprehensive value-based statistic.

The stat is called Win Value. And it makes all the difference for what I feel is something of a silent plurality of baseball fans like me — those who like new statistics and appreciate the greater understanding they provide, but also feel a bit overwhelmed every time Baseball Prospectus introduces another seven-letter acronym (seriously, SNLVAR? SN/WX?). 

 
What Win Value does, in short, is provide a stat that purports to measure the exact same thing as WARP — wins above the replacement-level player at the given position. The FanGraphs guys then take that one step further, by translating that total into how much money that player would have been worth in the open market based on that season's stats.

The stat has several components:
  1. wRAA, weighted Runs Above Average, which is derived by taking the exact value of each individual plate appearance a hitter had in a given season. A hit is worth .X runs, a stolen base is worth .X runs, an out is worth -.X runs, etc. Those are tallied and manipulated so that the league average result is the same as the league-average on base percentage. It's basically the same thing as BP's EqA, except EqA is tied to batting average. The difference is that wOBA is easily converted into runs above (or below) average. The wRAA used in the Win Value calculation is adjusted for ballpark.
  2. UZR/150, Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games, which is widely considered one of the best defensive metrics because it looks at every ball hit to or near a given fielder and expresses the results in runs above (or below) average. Generally, 0 in UZR/150 is league average at that position. In Win Value, 0 is simply league average, not position adjusted, because that comes later. 
  3. Replacement level. I'm pretty happy knowing runs above and below average, but the FanGraphs guys want to tie all this to money and the only consistent salary point is the baseline salary for the lowest-valued player: the league minimum. So they convert runs above and below average to above or below replacement level by adding 20 runs per 600 plate appearances. This has the added benefit of penalizing players who couldn't stay healthy, as they will have compiled fewer PAs and receive less of a benefit.
  4. Position adjustment. A .300/.400/.500 line for a first baseman is terrific. But it's not worth nearly as much as the same line at shortstop because shortstop is a position at which such hitting is extremely rare, plus a hitter posting the exact same line while playing league-average defense at each position is more valuable defensively at short. So Tom Tango has created a list of position adjustments ranging from adding 12.5 runs for catchers to subtracting 17.5 runs for designated hitters. 

Add it all up, and you have a total figure: Run Value, the total number of runs above replacement adjusted for position, ballpark and factoring in most areas of defense (arm strength and catching are not factored in yet). Divide by 10, and you get Win Value. Multiply by the value Major League teams gave a win during the previous offseason, and you get an incredibly fun and useful tool. 

The goal for any new stat is if it passes the smell test. Are there any results that are seriously out of whack with what your eyes and other rational, well-tested statistics tell you?

Well, here's the top 10 in baseball in Win Value last season — the number of wins each player contributed by himself to his team's chances (versus replacement level):
  1. Albert Pujols, 9.0
  2. Chase Utley, 8.2 
  3. Chipper Jones, 7.6 
  4. Hanley Ramirez, 7.3 
  5. David Wright, 7.2 
  6. Lance Berkman, 7.0 
  7. Grady Sizemore, 7.0 
  8. Mark Teixeira, 6.8 
  9. Dustin Pedroia, 6.6 
  10. Manny Ramirez, 6.5 

That certainly doesn't seem off. The general consensus among statheads after the MVP votes was Pujols was the runaway winner in the NL, while among players on contending teams, Pedroia and Joe Mauer were neck-and-neck. Mauer's at 5.7, but remember that catcher defense isn't factored in, and Mauer is considered a very good defensive catcher. We'll get more into how Pedroia gathered such a gaudy ranking in a bit. 

For more detailed explanations and the charts and links to get the specific linear weight values and dollar conversions, go here.

What makes this attractive is that there's no need to worry about whether this is WARP-1 or WARP-3. You don't need to understand one complicated statistic to understand the other (like MLVR and VORP). Those stats have great value, and the BP analysts have done more than anyone to broaden the modern fan's understanding of the game. Don't get me wrong. But for those of us who feel intimidated by oblique math, Win Value is a godsend. The premise is simple, and while I don't see myself feeling the urge to begin figuring Win Values for future-year projections, it's nice to know I could.

In describing Win Value, Dave Cameron at FanGraphs said:

I think these are the best single value metric for evaluating a player on the internet today. I’d use a player’s Win Value number to describe his total performance before I used anything else.

A comprehensive statistic that looks at offense, defense and baserunning, adjusts for league average, ballpark and position, and expresses that value in the most basic of all baseball currency: the win. Imagine that.

So it wouldn't be YFSF without a look at how the Sox and Yanks fared last year under this system. The conversion into salaries is especially fascinating. We can get a better idea of how efficiently any team spent its money. Of course, one presumes every team will have a lower payroll than its combined Win Value salaries, thanks to severe way the collective bargaining agreement holds down salaries before a player's seventh year.

So let's start with Boston:

Pos Player Value Salary Difference
C Jason Varitek $5.9 million $9 million -$3.1 million
1B Kevin Youkilis $25.1 million $3 million +$22.1 million
2B Dustin Pedroia $29.6 million $450,000 +$29.25 million
SS Julio Lugo $4.2 million $9 million -$4.8 million
3B Mike Lowell $15.6 million $12 million +$3.6 million
LF Manny Ramirez $12.7 million $20 million -$7.3 million
CF Jacoby Ellsbury $15.7 million $400,000 +$15.3 million
RF J.D. Drew $20.2 million $14 million     +$6.2 million
DH David Ortiz $9.3 million $12.5 million  -$3.2 million
SS/3B Jed Lowrie $7.9 million $400,000 +$7.5 million
CF Coco Crisp $4.9 million $4.75 million +$150,000
LF Jason Bay $2.3 million $2 million +$300,000
SS Alex Cora $3.4 million $2 million $1.4 million
1B Sean Casey $800,000 $800,000 $0
C Kevin Cash $1.7 million $400,000 $1.3 million

Quite a few things to look at there:
  • The Sox had three players whose performance was worth at least $20 million — Pedroia, Youkilis and Drew. Pedroia compiled his massive numbers by earning 30.4 batting runs, 8.9 fielding runs, playing so often he got a 24.2 replacement adjustment, and added another 2.4 runs by being a second baseman. He simply did everything well and rarely took a day off. Youkilis was even better with the bat: 36.2 runs, with 7.3 fielding runs, but the position adjustment knocked him back some. Likewise, Drew's lost time cost him in batting runs and replacement adjustment (where he only received 15.2 runs, but his fielding was stellar (9.3), and his bat was still worth more than 2.5 wins above average.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury was the Sox' fourth-most valuable hitter. Say what? Yes, he had an 87 OPS+, but his baserunning boosts his batting runs to average — 0.4. His defense was insane: 17.5 runs above average in center, where he was excellent, and left, where he was astonishing. All that time in left actually cost him 3.2 runs, and he still finished better than a win above average and 3.5 wins above replacement level.  
  • Among the regulars, Julio Lugo was the least valuable Red Sox hitter — worth less than one win above replacement level (good thing for the Sox his replacement was 7.5 runs above average), and worth less than half of what he was paid. Coco Crisp, despite his season-ending hot streak, was nearly as awful. Most interesting: His -5.6 on defense. Doesn't really make +1.1 bat worth it, does it? That Ramon Ramirez trade is looking better and better.
  • For the record, the Sox only had one player with significant playing time so bad he should have given back his salary: Mark Kotsay, who was 0.7 runs below replacement and worth -$300,000. 
  • Among their most prevalent hitters, the Sox received $159.3 million of value over a team stocked entirely with league-minimum-earning 4A players. They paid $90.7 million, a difference of $68.6 million.   

Now the Yankees:

Pos Player Value Salary Difference
C Jose Molina -$300,000 $1.75 million -$2.05 million
1B Jason Giambi $11.9 million $21 million -$9.1 million
2B Robinson Cano $1.8 million $3 million -$1.2 million
SS Derek Jeter $15.9 million $20 million -$4.1 million
3B Alex Rodriguez $27.6 million $27 million +$600,000
LF Johnny Damon $17.4 million $13 million +$4.4 million
CF Melky Cabrera -$700,000 $500,000 -$1.2 million
RF Bobby Abreu $5 million $16 million -$11 million
DH Hideki Matsui $3.6 million $13 million -$9.4 million
1B/3B Wilson Betemit -$1.4 million $1.2 million -$2.6 million
RF Xavier Nady $3.2 million $3.35 million +$115,000
C/DH Jorge Posada $3.4 million $13.1 million -$9.7 million
CF Brett Gardner $2.5 million $400,000 +$2.1 million
C Ivan Rodriguez -$100,000 $4 million -$4.1 million
C Chad Moeller $900,000 $700,000 +$200,000

Wow, I did not expect that to be so ugly. Only Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, Xavier Nady and Chad Moeller provided positive value for the Yankees last year, and Rodriguez is paid so much, he just barely made the cut. For that matter, only Damon provided significant value over his salary for New York. Of course, Jeter also provided good value, but his salary is so high the Yankees ended up overpaying for his production. 

What's amazing is that the Yanks gave significant playing time to three players who provided less value than replacement level: Betemit, Cabrera and Molina. Cabrera was terrible with the bat (-17.3 runs) and mediocre with the glove (-0.5), while Molina, beyond awful on offense, is assumed under the system to be league average on defense. Give him half a win because he's obviously better than that, and he pushes up to 4.3 runs above replacement, or worth roughly the same as Cano. Betemit, meanwhile was simply below average across the board and played at a position, first base, where that's just not good enough.

The Yanks received $89.8 million of value at a price of $138 million. That's not exactly efficient, but then I'm not sure that's a surprise for the post-2001 Yankees. It certainly turns over my assumption that every team would have no problems getting more value than what they pay for, but I'd underestimated the dearth of cost-controlled players in the Yanks' lineup.

The FanGraphs guys say they're working on a pitching version of Win Value. We can only hope they work that one up sooner rather than later.

59 comments… add one

  • Jesus. H. Christ, that’s quite a post. Many thanks for a great read.
    I wonder how much teams are doing similar analyses. For instance, it’s amazing to me that A-Rod is paid almost exactly what he’s worth (on the field, though he certainly helps generate income off the field.)
    A few minor quibbles:
    1. Without a proper measure for defense at catcher, some things are much further off than they should be – Mauer, Molina, and Varitek. Basically we should ignore the stat at catcher because it’s not doing what it should be doing – equalizing across positions.
    2. Looking at how much the Yanks overpay is a bit unfair while obvious. We already know they overpay for their homegrown guys (Jeter, Jorge, Mo, and even Pettitte), Abreu was a salary dump, etc. It seems like some players (Matsui, Posada) were added to this list just to drive up the discrepancy even as they had lost seasons.
    3. Just wait until the Sox have to start paying out their nose to keep their own. Telling the world they have $170 million to burn isn’t going to help. That already prevented Youkilis from signing an extension. After him it will be Papi, Paps, and Beckett. Developing your own players is a good thing. Keeping them is something else entirely.

    Rob January 9, 2009, 6:24 am
  • On a semi-related note (money available to burn), Abraham has a good post on the success of YES:
    In primetime, YES’ Yankees game telecasts regularly out-performed ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS programs in New York. For example, from May 28 to August 7, primetime YES Yankees telecasts were the No. 1-rated program in the New York DMA 24 out of 25 game days in TV households, Men 18+, Men 18-49, Men 25-54, Adults 18-49, Adults 25-54, and Total Viewers 2+.
    Let that sink in. Yankee games in NY regularly out-perform all of the broadcast networks. Suffice it say, the Yankees can afford to overpay for their wins.
    I have no doubt the same is true for NESN in the Boston. But it’s just a much smaller market.

    Rob January 9, 2009, 6:29 am
  • Incredible work, Paul. Consider me a WV convert. I suspect the Yanks will fall even further in negative territory salary-wise next year, with so many FA purchases and the return of highly paid Posada to full time duty.

    YF January 9, 2009, 8:26 am
  • . After him it will be Papi, Paps, and Beckett. Developing your own players is a good thing. Keeping them is something else entirely…
    What about the Red Sox have you seen that suggests they’re going to keep a diminishing Ortiz or Beckett (or any player for that matter) on the payroll at what could be a bloated amount?
    Beckett won’t stay anyhow. I don’t think the guy actually likes playing in Boston. He’s a texas boy through and through, and I think he’ll prob end up in Houston or St. Louis at a discounted rate just to be closer to his ranch, which has exploded for him in the past few years (going myself next year).
    Beckett and Ortiz’ money will be used for Papelbon and Youk, and if they demand too much, they’ll walk.
    It’s really pretty simple. I think Boston gets a pass here until they don’t actually keep them. They did, after all, lock up the other 20 million dollar player this year for about 25% of that amount.
    Paul, excellent post, man.

    Brad January 9, 2009, 8:54 am
  • Wow, Paul. Awesome.
    I agree with Brad: I think if the Sox are still being run by the same people when Youk, Papi, and Beckett are all up for new contracts that they will be looked at with the same cynical and pragmatic eyes that the Sox look at players now. I can quite clearly see a scenario where Josh Beckett is pitching for someone else. Sentimentality can be both an admirable trait and also a financial albatross. The Sox seem to view sentimentality with a very pragmatic sensibility. This isn’t always the most convincing attitude for emotional fans.
    I also agree with Rob: without the defense for catchers the statistic remains limited. And, like Paul said, we want a pitcher’s equivalent!

    SF January 9, 2009, 9:10 am
  • Excellent point on Beckett and Ortiz. The Sox probably will let both walk. But if so, why not look to trade them as soon as next winter?
    I don’t see them letting Youkilis or Papelbon walk though. One, they don’t have replacements in the farm (or if they do for Papelbon, they won’t get a chance to prove it). Two, they have the money especially they don’t re-sign the two above.
    Youkilis is going to get pricey if he has another year like last, and rightly so. Even if he only gives 80% of Teixeira’s offense, that’s over $16 million/season. If they don’t lock him up soon, I can easily see that negotiation getting contentious. At least with Papelbon the market is capped at a three or four year deal and at $12-14 million/season.

    Dave SF January 9, 2009, 9:13 am
  • Dave, that’s an excellent point.
    Beckett’s trade value is through the roof at his price. I don’t see them moving Ortiz at all, but Beckett is another story. As much as I hate to say it, as everyone here knows he is one of my favorite players ever, it might be a good move before they just lose him to FA.
    If they can move him for another starter, locked up for longer, they probably should. It matters little as far as aces go, since I firmly believe that Lester is going to assume that role this year even moreso than last year. And, to be a “glass half full” kind of guy, Brad Penny could take that mantle if healthy, though that’s as suspect as it gets.

    Brad January 9, 2009, 9:18 am
  • I just said on the other thread that Penny is going to be a disaster. I just can’t see him doing well in the AL East with those paltry K rates.
    Yeah, this off-season trade Beckett to someone like the Dodgers. I’ll happily take a package centered on Billingsley and Kemp. Agreed on Lester.

    Dave SF January 9, 2009, 9:27 am
  • fan graphs is awesome, but all those stats make my head hurt. They’ve done a great job this offseason analyzing contracts (most have been good for the teams from a $/win perspective) and trades.

    dw (sf) January 9, 2009, 9:43 am
  • I think Boston will sign Youkilis long term, they just want to wait because they dont want to overpay his remaining arbitration years which Youkilis doesn’t seem to inclined to give them much of a discount for.
    Im not so confident with Papelbon though, I guess he has said he wants to set the standard value of his position, I seriously doubt he will do so and still be wearing a Red Sox uniform…Perhaps he was right when he said he was the next Mariano Rivera….Hanky might want to start stashing away some cash now.
    I’m also not too sure Ortiz ends up re-signing. Its very possible Lars Anderson takes over at DH following Ortiz’s final season in 2010.

    TJ Sox Fan January 9, 2009, 9:58 am
  • This post has good value: Cost me nothing, very informative. Thanks, Paul.

    Hudson January 9, 2009, 10:26 am
  • Of course YF speaks up with his typically ill-informed Chassian opinion full of spite but lacking in actual details. It will help the Yankee payroll value tremendously by shedding two of the four biggest offenders and replacing one with a huge, value-based upgrade. The other two offenders couldn’t possibly have worse seasons.

    Cambridge YF January 9, 2009, 10:42 am
  • A-Rod is underpaid. Who knew?
    On a different note, completely off this post, Ken Rosenthal had some intresting notes regarding our teams this morning (feel free to move this to a separate, new post if you think it’s necessary. Then again, it is only speculation) …
    The Red Sox’s next move
    The Red Sox’s willingness to trade right-hander Clay Buchholz for Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia does not figure to be any greater now that the team has signed free-agent right-hander John Smoltz.
    Buchholz remains an important part of the Sox’s future, and the value that club officials sign to him should not change due to the addition of a 41-year-old veteran coming off major shoulder surgery.
    Smoltz, Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield are signed only for next season. Penny also had health issues last season. And Josh Beckett is a free agent after 2010.
    The Red Sox, rival executives say, are more open to trading Michael Bowden and Class AA reliever Daniel Bard in a package for Saltalamacchia. Bard, the team’s No. 1 pick in 2006, is coming off a big season and might be at peak value.
    “They’re doing everything they can to trade him,” one rival executive says.
    The Sox and Rangers have not spoken since the winter meetings in early December.
    Brave new world — without Smoltz
    For all the finger-pointing in the wake of Smoltz’s signing with the Red Sox, the Braves will look much smarter if Smoltz proves incapable of pitching regularly.
    Few Braves fans want to hear it; they think of Smoltz as the Smoltz of old, not a 41-year-old physical risk. And betting against Smoltz, as always, is a dangerous proposition.
    But this divorce, like so many others of this kind, was unnecessary.
    The difference in the Red Sox’s and Braves’ offers was $3 million. The difference in the Padres’ and Brewers’ offers for Hoffman was $2 million. The Braves, Padres and other teams blow similar amounts regularly.
    Smoltz’s career earnings, meanwhile, exceed $130 million, according to baseball-reference.com. Hoffman has earned nearly $67 million. But you guessed it — respect was a greater issue than money for both future Hall of Famers.
    To many, even if Braves general manager Frank Wren is right about Smoltz, he’s wrong for alienating a franchise player. Ditto for the Padres, who refused to even meet with Hoffman.
    These things are never easy, and in the end, neither side looks good.
    Trevor Hoffman should be a Padre. John Smoltz should be a Brave.
    Around the horn
    The Yankees would prefer to trade Xavier Nady rather than Nick Swisher for three reasons, according to a rival executive. Swisher is A) under control for four years and Nady only one, B) a switch-hitter while Nady is right-handed and C) a more versatile defender, playing all three outfield positions and first base. Nady does not play center …
    The Giants, one rival executive says, might be better off passing on Manny Ramirez and bidding next offseason on Matt Holliday. At that point, the team’s young players would be further along in their development. Of course, the Red Sox might also pursue Holliday to replace Jason Bay …

    I'mBillMcNeal January 9, 2009, 11:09 am
  • And Kotsay is coming back to the Sox.
    Lots of mild splashes. No cannonballs.
    I like it.

    I'mBillMcNeal January 9, 2009, 11:13 am
  • Is Manny’s correct? Or just the half-ish season he played for the Sox? If so, the salary should be adjusted as well.

    Lar January 9, 2009, 11:42 am
  • Lar, the value reflects only the two-thirds of the season he played for Boston, just as the Bay and Nady values reflect the one-third seasons they played for Boston and New York, respectively.
    Unlike those other two cases, where the teams (I believe) paid the prorated share of the rest of the salary, the Sox paid all of Manny’s salary to unload him to Los Angeles, so no salary adjustment needed — they willingly (and I would guess gladly) ensured they would not be receiving adequate value for the rest of his contract to move him, though given Jason Bay’s salary for 2009, it seems likely they’ll make that $7 million back next year.

    Paul SF January 9, 2009, 12:19 pm
  • What if you could make a similar value chart for politicians …
    Where would Rod Blagojevich fall?
    Just wondering.
    My governor has been impeached, folks.
    Please drink a pity beer for us humiliated Illinoisans.

    I'mBillMcNeal January 9, 2009, 2:14 pm
  • Fair enough.
    I wonder if it makes any sense to lump the positions. The breakdown gives a clear cut of the credits and blames, but playing time is mostly zero-summed. Meaning if Melky was awesome, Gardner wouldn’t have the opportunity to make his money.
    The Yanks will overpay, that’s just the way it is, and really, when your payroll is that high, it’s not shocking. The negative is the absolute returns, which hopefully will improve next year.
    I also knew Abreu had a down-ish year, but wow, in these terms, he’s much worse than I expected..

    Lar January 9, 2009, 2:18 pm
  • Wow. Was that actually aimed at me Cambridge? What’s Chassian? I think WV is interesting, and think the Yanks will be in the red again next year, but I’m not sure why this is reason for scorn. Frankly, it’s not a problem to me that they are in the red. For the most part It just means they’re paying a premium for quality talent. They have the financial flexibility to do that, so it only makes sense that they do. What’s Chassian? Observing a fact is one thing, but I have not suggested the team is wrong to take the actions they have.

    YF January 9, 2009, 2:32 pm
  • It’s classic Chass in terms of being spiteful while completely ignoring the relevant details. I’ve come to expect that type of commentary from you. This time I chose to call you out on it.
    Sure, the Yanks were in the red but the primary culprits were Abreu, Giambi, Matsui, And Jorge. The first two are gone and replaced with more value-ladden alternatives. Teixieira is likely close to $28 million based on where Youkilis is. Nady/Swisher won’t be as bad as Abreu. And there’s no way Jorge and Matsui will be as bad as they were since most of their lost value was due to injuries. Just flipping those four to pushes puts them close to the black. Heck even Cano and Jeter have significant room for improvement. And I-Rod won’t be on the team
    To reflexively expect a net negative in 2009 is pure Chass, especially while citing all the money spent (of which only the most valuable part qualifies in this offense-only thread).

    Cambridge YF January 9, 2009, 2:58 pm
  • Check that, Teixeira was worth $30.5 million last year.

    Cambridge YF January 9, 2009, 3:07 pm
  • It’s classic Chass in terms of being spiteful while completely ignoring the relevant details. I’ve come to expect that type of commentary from you. This time I chose to call you out on it.
    YF can defend himself ably, but I feel the need to chime in. This is so off-base I don’t know where to start. If you don’t respect the commentary here, and from this comment I can’t imagine you do, you shouldn’t visit. We don’t traffic in this kind of vitriol, and I for one would rather have you not visit this site than pollute it with this kind of BS. YF is literally a scholar of the game, an acclaimed author. That doesn’t put him above criticism, but it should protect him from vile chastisement like you have offered.
    Please, I ask you politely, on behalf of noone but myself, don’t bother with our site any longer.

    SF January 9, 2009, 3:18 pm
  • Where exactly do you see spite? Honestly, I think you’re reading into the comment an attitude that is not there, and certainly not intended. And if you want to suggest that, i’m typically spiteful, well, I don’t think so. I’ve always thought myself fairly even-handed, and I think most of the authors/commenters here would agree.
    And in any case, Chass is certainly the wrong comparison. Chass would almost certainly reject the whole basis of this discussion: that is, the validity of advanced metrics in the first place. That’s why he’s been so heavily criticized here and elsewhere (that and his ethical lapses).
    Honestly, I’m open to criticism, but I don’t understand yours. Again, even if I believe the Yanks will have a net negative, why is such a giant problem. Guys like Jeter and Jorge and even Alex and Tex, with their huge contracts, may well have problems getting near 0. So what? Doesn’t make the Yankees any less dangerous on the field, nor is it necessarily a mark against Cashman. It’s just a reality. Though I do agree that they are not likely to be nearly as negative as in 2008, for the reasons you note. I just don’t get your hostility.

    YF January 9, 2009, 3:25 pm
  • That’s vitriol? Wow. My apologies, dear YF, for such slanderous behavior.
    The criticism still stands. If you’re going to make a prediction, at least check the relevant facts.

    Cambridge YF January 9, 2009, 3:28 pm
  • The “hostility” comes from the negative slant I seem to always see in your comments (posts are different). Maybe it’s your “scholarliness” or “even-handed critiques” but they always seem to shade towards a take down. Even the commentary about the clearly great signings this off-season seemed negative. Granted, i don’t read every thing around here, but when I randomly stop by and see one of your comments, I’m shocked if it’s not negative.
    Today’s was no different. You obviously didn’t try very hard to dismiss the criticism before it left your fingertips when even a cursory glance at the details would have helped mitigate it.

    Cambridge YF January 9, 2009, 3:34 pm
  • I find it amusing that being called “classic Chass” is such a deep insult, but I agree with YF here.
    Another way of looking at it is that the price curve is that the performance to cost curve is simply not linear – and unless you get sweetheart deals (ala Pujols, or Santana for a few years) the best will control that premium. This might apply to the Yanks less, at least last year, because they really did underperform. But with a huge payroll, unless they have a record year, it’s hard to really perform to price expectations.
    Besides, part of overpaying is stability. Injuries aside, you can literally say something like “90% of the Yanks is better than 100% of team B”. This is why they made the playoffs for so many years. (Whether you believe the postseason is a crapshoot is another story..)
    And on top of that, the Yanks are swinging a huge hammer precisely because they don’t need to be efficient. They know they are overpaying but it brings back more money than other teams could’ve per dollar. This is their advantage and while some fans might be ashamed of it, this fan doesn’t.

    Lar January 9, 2009, 3:46 pm
  • Another way of putting it is that, if, say, the threshold of “value” of making the playoffs is 100 mil, it doesn’t matter whether they perform as 101 mil or 200 mil – they’re making it. Part of paying for a “potential” 200 mil roster is that it will have a much higher probability of achieving that threshold. And that’s really all you can do.

    Lar January 9, 2009, 3:51 pm
  • YF, I’m not clear on what you meant. You think the Yankees will fall *further* into negative territory next year? That would be pretty hard.

    AndrewYF January 9, 2009, 4:05 pm
  • Probably just a brainfart, since it doesn’t make sense with the “Posada coming back”, and that he clarifies this later on:
    “Though I do agree that they are not likely to be nearly as negative as in 2008, for the reasons you note.”

    Lar January 9, 2009, 4:26 pm
  • Wow, Cambridge, you’re kind of a dick. There are 100 ways to express your opinion to YF’s posts, and you picked the wrong way.
    AYF?????

    LocklandSF January 9, 2009, 5:13 pm
  • Cambridge: Libelous, not slanderous.
    Libel and slander are not synonymous.
    Let me back up SF in his comments. YF is a solid citizen.

    I'mBillMcNeal January 9, 2009, 7:03 pm
  • while probably not necessary, i’d like to join in the defense of yf in this particular instance…i read his comment about the yankees 09 win value as more of a casual observation rather than the result of detailed analysis on his part, and certainly not intended to sound negative, just matter of fact…i may be wrong, but that’s how i read it…either way, cambridge’s reaction was way overboard and not justified…i don’t always agree with most of the posters here, including yf, but it doesn’t need to get personal…
    sf, i don’t think you meant it this way but to say that yf’s pedigree as “…a scholar of the game, an acclaimed author….should protect him from vile chastisement like you have offered….” almost suggests that those of us who are not scholars or authors should not be similarly protected…that explains a lot ;)

    dc January 9, 2009, 10:57 pm
  • Just some info. you need to factor in all the injuries that effect the $ value of the yankee players. many were injured and and a few were replacement players.It makes a huge difference in the value. take posada for example: $3.4mill for 168 at-bats.

    Hank January 10, 2009, 12:55 am
  • It’s true, but I think that since you still pay rather they played or not, it’s a great way to measure actual output (or total value of a team) as opposed to say, value per game or value per plate appearance or something.

    Lar January 10, 2009, 2:43 am
  • sf, i don’t think you meant it this way but to say that yf’s pedigree as “…a scholar of the game, an acclaimed author….should protect him from vile chastisement like you have offered….” almost suggests that those of us who are not scholars or authors should not be similarly protected…that explains a lot ;)
    Jeez, dc, could you more blatantly eliminate this phrase?
    That doesn’t put [YF] above criticism
    I see the wink, though, so I trust you are kidding about this!

    SF January 10, 2009, 7:57 am
  • of course i was just goofing with you, and i knew you’d pick up on the omission…glad you spotted the wink…i know you’re a stickler for context, but leaving the part out about yf not being above criticism doesn’t contextually affect the sentiment you offered that his being a scholar and author should protect him from vile chastisement…here’s the quote in it’s entirety:
    “…YF is literally a scholar of the game, an acclaimed author. That doesn’t put him above criticism, but it should protect him from vile chastisement like you have offered….”
    your point [as i interpret it] was that criticism of yf is ok, vile chastisement is not, apparently because he’s a scholar and author, although i was pretty sure that’s that’s not what you meant…i jokingly asked if we shouldn’t all be protected from vile chastisement regardless of our pedigrees…i already know what the answer is, so i was just having fun sf…

    dc January 10, 2009, 8:20 am
  • Interesting article that goes into the details of what the informed baseball fan knew. The 2008 Yankees drastically underperformed their payroll thanks to injuries, below average seasons by key performers and several players being paid big money for the last time due age-based decline.
    Though a fairly good read the article seems to miss an obvious point when considering the Yankees return on their investment. That being the absolute stone cold fact that wins are worth more to the Yankees than any other team in baseball. The idea that win values are equal for teams across baseball in an extemely flawed concept. As someone else already mentioned, the Yankees own their own sports network and the ratings are through the roof. Ratings mean revenue and winning means ratings. The same can be said for attendance and ticket revenue, especially considering the cash cow the new Yankee Stadium is going to be.
    Based on the returns from injury of two of the biggest offenders in 2008. Expected bounce back seasons by Jeter and Cano. The replacement of big ticket under performers with younger stars and the fact that the 2009 payroll will be lower than in 2008. To expect anything but these numbers approaching the black in 2009 would be foolish. Factoring that a Yankee win is worth more, monetarily, than any other team in baseball by a significant amount. Yankee brass will most likely be very happy with the returns of the 2009 season.

    Don W January 10, 2009, 9:36 am
  • paul does a great job crunching numbers, and this particular analysis is interesting, but i find it more useful to look overlook the clutter and go with your gut…the best yankee and sox teams in recent years weren’t [overly] stocked with high priced mercenaries…rather they were a combination of home-grown talent, trades, and scrap-heap acquisitions…ok, with a high priced fa or 2 thrown in…i don’t need an analysis to tell me the yanks have not received value for certain guys…
    what i think will be very interesting to see played out is if the yankee strategy of overpowering the off-season with their free agent orgy will be more successful than the sox apparent shift of gears [after losing out on tex, passing on lowe, etc.] to a polar opposite strategy from the yankees of pursuing what are being referred to as “low risk/high reward” acquisitions…it would appear that more pressure is on the yanks because of the “high risk” factor of their acquisitions, who come with high expectations…the buzz already says they should win the ws or it’s a failure…i expect the outcry, told ya so’s, and jokes about how much the yanks spent per win to start in april if they get off to a slow start…gammons and the other goons at espn will have a ball…but the sox will have some ‘splainin’ to do to their fans as well if the austerity approach doesn’t work…it’s an interesting dichotomy…while one team is criticized for being too aggressive, can the other be criticized for not being aggressive enough?…we’ll see i guess…

    dc January 10, 2009, 10:20 am
  • Rob January 10, 2009, 10:36 am
  • The Yankees always spend money and have high expectations. 2009 will be no different
    Joe Torre was fired because, after four titles, he hadn’t won in eight years (but made the playoffs every time).
    Billy Martin was fired after one fourth place finish following two championships.
    Ralph Houk won two straight Series then was became the GM after they got swept in the Series. He then hires Yogi Berra to manage and fires him following a Game & loss in the Series.
    Casey Stengel was forced to retire after 7 titles and 10 pennants in 12 twelve years because he lost one Series in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 on a walk off homer by a glove-only infielder.
    Maybe Joe McCarthy was treated fairly when he was fired after after three tough years following 7 rings, 1 pennant, and 5 second-place finishes?

    Rob January 10, 2009, 11:05 am
  • River Ave’s snarky putdown of Paul’s thorough, intelligent, and non-judgmental post is both intellectually dishonest and uncalled for.

    SF January 10, 2009, 1:04 pm
  • That being the absolute stone cold fact that wins are worth more to the Yankees than any other team in baseball. The idea that win values are equal for teams across baseball in an extemely flawed concept.
    Are wind worth more to the Yankees than to the Red Sox, which is the point of the comparison here? True, wins are for more valuable to a team trying to win 95 games than a team trying to win 85 games. The difference between 80 and 85 wins is close to nil, unless you’re in an incredibly weak division, whereas the difference between 90 and 95 is likely missing or making the postseason and the extra revenue it entails. So while I agree with your premise about win values, I disagree it makes much difference when comparing two playoff contenders.
    Likewise, while wins are worth more to winning teams, the FanGraphs guys acknowledge this fact but note that teams pay for value roughly evenly across the board. You do not see the proportional increase in per-win spending you would expect from teams hoping to make the playoffs. I strongly suggest reading the links I provided.
    What amazes me most about the RAB post and lengthy comment string: I saw exactly one comment saying, “Uh, maybe we’re reading too much into what appears to be a fairly straight-forward post.” That’s an impressive thread of unparalleled defensiveness. Thanks to SF and YF for the defense over there.

    Paul SF January 10, 2009, 2:47 pm
  • actually, paul got called called out for his bias…so what?…no defense needed…call a spade a spade for crying out loud…it was still a good analysis…every post he makes is pro-sox or anti-yanks…he tries to pass the minutia off as objectivity…HA…do you really think the rest of the world is as “stepford” as the participants here?…

    ldc January 10, 2009, 8:06 pm
  • “Are wind worth more to the Yankees than to the Red Sox, which is the point of the comparison here?”
    Yes they are although, as with anything else, the law of diminishing returns would apply. The Yankees have built their revenue stream through the promise from ownership that they will do what it takes to win every year. They don’t always make the right moves but their is little doubt that they invest their revenue to win games and that is their contract with their fans. The moment their fan base starts to doubt that their revenue wlll suffer.
    Let’s suppose the Yanks decided to cut their payroll to league average and replace their front office and end up with mediocre talent. Almost immediately you’d see Yankee teams that generally won 75-85 games but only occasionally contended for the playoffs. Do you think the YES network ratings might suffer? What about attendance? Merchandise sales? If 10 more losses for a few seasons caused the Yanks to lose 25% of their viewership they would lose more money per percentage point than any other team. Due to the fact that they not only get the team share of the add money but the network share also.
    Also, a larger percentage of the fans of perennial contenders are of the bandwagon variety. I doubt anyone would deny that, the Red Sox have picked up a lot of them lately, what do you guys call them? The “Pink hat” fans? (Nothing against them, a lot of band wagoners turn into die hards down the road and everyone has to earn die hard status.) These fans move on at the first sight of trouble and a couple of 70 win seasons and their gone. All factors being considered, the cost per fan for those that stop going/watching/buying the Yankee product costs the Yankees more than any other team with only a handful of other teams even in the same ballpark as the Yankees and everyone knows who they are.

    Don W January 11, 2009, 2:14 am
  • this is a preposterous comment, dc. come on, seriously?

    SF January 11, 2009, 7:10 am
  • more –
    How is this post “anti-Yankee”? The only thing I can conclude is that you view every post Paul puts up as anti-Yankee, regardless of the content. This post couldn’t be more objective in presenting information, frankly. The fact that it presents information that describes an unfavorable Yankee season doesn’t mean it is “anti-Yankee”.

    SF January 11, 2009, 7:16 am
  • …when was his last post or comment that presented information that described a favorable yankee scenario?
    …sf, bias is ok…every participant here, except maybe ag, shows his/her bias on a regular basis, and gets “snarky”, to use your word, on occasion…there’s nothing wrong with that…paul’s not bashful about it, and why should he be?…he’s advertised as one of your sox commentators…you can’t pretend the bias doesn’t exist…
    …the rab poster was clearly swinging a sarcastic punch at paul, but that’s supposed to be ok in these forums…i thought he summed it up well in his opening line:
    “…When it comes down to the Yankees and the Red Sox, it’s always a competition. One team has to be better, smarter and more popular than the other. One team always has to win. …” …paul puts a lot of effort into producing evidence that show the sox coming out on top…that’s his “job” here, but he shouldn’t be surprised at some pushback, even that you refer to as snarky…

    dc January 11, 2009, 8:45 am
  • To be fair, I read the post as anti-Yankee. It was probably the end conclusion:
    It certainly turns over my assumption that every team would have no problems getting more value than what they pay for, but I’d underestimated the dearth of cost-controlled players in the Yanks’ lineup.
    That might be a true statement, but it places a certain emphasis on a Yankee failure (some of which – Posada and Matsui – wasn’t their fault) while making the Sox generally look good.
    The same goes for this statement:
    What’s amazing is that the Yanks gave significant playing time to three players who provided less value than replacement level: Betemit, Cabrera and Molina.
    Again that ignores context (which I don’t think would happen if the shoe was on the other foot). What choice did the Yankees have to put those players on the field? Molina was a backup (and his best contributions are completely ignored in this stat). Betemit and Cabrera completely regressed.
    I don’t begrudge the author’s opinion and I really appreciated the post (see my first comment). But it’s a stretch to say it was an unbiased look at the two teams based on the metric involved. The numbers are unbiased. The commentary, from my perspective and it seems others as well, did not seem to be. But I don’t understand the problem exactly.
    Commentary is supposed to be biased and would seem to lie at the very heart of this site. Why pretend otherwise?

    Rob January 11, 2009, 8:56 am
  • Look, there’s nothing wrong with bias or opinion based on that bias, as long as it is reasoned. But the point in pointing out supposed bias in this post from some of our posters, is, it seems, to emasculate it and weaken this work to the point that Paul’s subjectivity (fully disclosed for eons at this site) is, in itself, a reason to distrust the content. This is an underhanded tactic, and unfair to Paul (and, by extension, to our YF posters who may endeavor to do similar work in the future).

    SF January 11, 2009, 10:43 am
  • Ive remained quiet on this post as it somewhat bothered me, perhaps unreasonably, despite the fact that I realized it is a largely good analysis. For starters, it wasnt a random thing that this post came after the yankees off-season spending spree so to me it felt like an attack on this using statistics as cover. Secondly, given the context of the yankees and red sox seasons this was hardly a surprising result. Thus, I cant help but feel Paul was essentially looking to highlight the yankees spending and how poorly it worked out for them in 2008. We certainly didnt see an analysis like this of the two teams in 2006, Im sure that the win value of the sox team was poor that year.
    I fully respect Paul’s statistical looks at the game here but I do feel that they often lack a balance from the other side with similar analyses done by someone with a more pro-yankee bias. There is no doubt that statistics can be used to tell just about any story if done properly. Paul does a great job but I think some of the frustrations that come out on posts like this are a result of the lack of balance of such stats-heavy posts at YFSF.
    Just my 2 cents.

    sam-YF January 11, 2009, 11:36 am
  • We should get SG from RLYW to post here.

    AndrewYF January 11, 2009, 12:23 pm
  • Fair enough, SF, and that’s what I thought. The post itself is full of lots of great content and analysis. It’s very well-reasoned and researched. There’s no denying that.
    We just don’t confuse it for a balanced look by virtue of those qualities (as Sam states). As I did on the other thread, if you swap some names around, I bet some SFs would get defensive too. Using objective stats to justify and support arguments does not transfer the objectivity over to the opinion.

    Rob January 11, 2009, 12:27 pm
  • For starters, it wasnt a random thing that this post came after the yankees off-season spending spree
    This is a laughable statement. I expect this kind of b.s. from DC, but I thought you were above paranoia, Sam.
    Here are two scenarios, one of which is real, one of which is delusional.
    1. Paul, still steaming mad over the Yankees’ signing Mark Teixeira weeks after the fact, decides at 12:30 in the morning to find a stat that will provide cover for a mean-spirited, one-sided slam at the Yankees’ free-spending ways. After doing some research, he finds a stat that makes New York look bad, then reads up on it, and spends two hours explaining it and analyzing it, so that when he goes to bed at 3 a.m., he feels better at having delivered the decisive anger-fueled anti-Yankee argument he’s been dying to make for weeks if he had only known how.
    2. Paul, surfing the baseball web late one night (because he’s dumb and doesn’t understand yet that when the baby’s asleep, he should sleep too), decides to catch up on the FanGraphs blog and finds a lot of talk about a new stat. Reading through their explanation, he gets excited because it’s finally a comprehensive value stat that is understandable to the common baseball fan. He then thinks, “This would be interesting to see a comparison between the Sox and Yankees and hoe much value they got from their players last season.” So, deciding he needs to explain a little about the stat, he summarizes it and then spends an hour or so getting the data and publishing it. He mentions the things that strike him as interesting and finishes the post, finally going to bed happy that after several months of fatherhood, he was finally able to do an in-depth statistical analysis again.
    Well, obviously, the correct scenario is No. 1. I mean, what Sox fan isn’t lying in wait to take any advantage of the poor little Yankees and and their poor little fans? Honestly, you guys sound like Sox fans, c. 2003.
    This reminds me a lot of people complaining about alleged media bias during the ’08 presidential campaign. So here’s a hint that will help you in life: When someone reports that something you like — whether that’s your team, your presidential candidate or your country — hasn’t done well, that’s not negative or biased reporting/analysis. That’s stating facts that you interpret as negative or positive, based on your own preferences and biases.
    Oh, and this statistic didn’t exist in 2006. So maybe that’s why we didn’t see an analysis about it back then.

    Paul SF January 11, 2009, 7:43 pm
  • Wow, that last comment has no snark in it. I don’t see how you can get mad at people here then post something like that.
    Furthermore, there’s a fine, fine line between conscious and non-conscious thought. That is, we often don’t realize what motivates us. And in this post enough folks got their feathers ruffled to show that even as the intention may have been #2, enough of #1 came through to be a lot less snarky in the end (especially if you’re calling others out for the same perceived slights).

    Rob January 12, 2009, 5:22 am
  • Paul, I went out of my way to be as polite and complementary towards your analysis and contributions to this site, Im not sure why you found the need to respond with such a vitriolic tone towards me. You’ve chosen to quote and focus on the one somewhat controversial statement I made in my post. If you say you had no agenda then I have no reason not to believe you. My feeling is that you got a bit personal here towards me and others without good reason.
    I will say that in the 2+ years that Ive been a regular poster and reader here, I honestly cant remember a large analysis of this type that you have published that the yankees have come out on top or with an overall advantage. It certainly may have happened, I just dont remember it right now. Like I said previously, this just reflects a lack of someone at YFSF doing similar analyses with the passion of a YF to balance your passion as an SF. As I believe you have admitted yourself, many of your postings have an understandable pro-sox bias.

    sam-YF January 12, 2009, 9:00 am
  • You’ve chosen to quote and focus on the one somewhat controversial statement I made in my post.
    Given that it was the one statement that called into question the entire reason why I did the post, I think you understate the weight it carried relative to the rest of your comment.
    It wasn’t my intent to get personal with you, Sam, but I hope you can understand why having what I felt was a straight-forward post that took quite a deal of time to research and write seemingly dismissed as biased and written in a spirit of revenge or bitterness made me angry. That response was after a couple hours of baby-tending, so my response was pretty toned down from my initial reaction. I was still to acerbic, and I apologize for that.
    I understand there’s probably a bit of frustration with the fact that there isn’t a YF voice providing similarly detailed assessments, and for that reason (and others, but I do keep that one in mind) I try to be as fair as I can, but in the end, I’m more interested in the Red Sox than the Yankees, and as you say, I will focus on them more in such posts. Incidentally, my PECOTA-based analysis of the Sox and Yanks heading into 2008 had the Yankees winning the AL East by two games.
    But this particular post is simply the reult of the fact that the Yankees are coming off a bad year and the Sox off a good one. Any stat will reflect that, no matter who’s doing the analysis.

    Paul SF January 12, 2009, 10:28 am
  • I believe the pitching version of win shares is available at Fan Graphs – based on FIP….

    dw (sf) January 12, 2009, 5:31 pm
  • “this just reflects a lack of someone at YFSF doing similar analyses with the passion of a YF to balance your passion as an SF. As I believe you have admitted yourself, many of your postings have an understandable pro-sox bias.”
    And suddenly all the hard work I put into that statistical study comparing the looks of our clubs is flushed down the toilet. Well, if that’s how you feel then I’m not going to do one for 2009!
    Seriously, I understand we all announce ourselves as fans of certain teams here, but I think at a certain point (like a while ago) we have to stop dwelling on each others’ motives. I was very surprised that the reaction to Paul’s post was so cynical. He did an amazing job of using a new statistic. It was pretty comprehensive, which is not to say it was complete (I don’t think Paul would argue against this point. I don’t know about him, but I think, as someone who gets the chance to post here, my posts are all intended as discussion-starters. The more comments I see in one of my posts, the more happy I am. Unless those comments are of the trollish variety.) Is it fair to offer a critique? Sure, perhaps someone had a more nuanced interpretation or way of using these stats. But the critique was overly personal and I think ultimately didn’t help the discussion. It’s a repeated argument here that was not interesting the first time it was brought up and is now the skeletal remains of a horse that never won (or started) a race. Paul is a Sox fan. SF is a Sox fan. John, YF, AG and I are all Yanks fans. We really really care about and root for our favorite teams. Otherwise, we’d probably not spend a lot of time on this site. I probably should be praying to some long forgotten Pagan diety for my students to do well on tomorrow’s ELA (Poor kids. By the time they graduate high school they will have taken two times the number of tests that I took in all my life.), but instead here I am. The same goes for Lockland, Sam, Brad, dc, Devine and everyone else (That’s basically going to be my Oscar speech list. Everybody else includes my brother walein, so if I left you out understand you’re probably like a brother to me, so don’t get offended). We can continue to get hung up on each other’s allegiances but that’s not very interesting since we’ve all laid them out for everyone to see. Instead, let’s have a discussion. Let’s talk about the facts. Let’s joke around. Let’s rib each other every once in a while. But let’s not project the most cynical motives on to others, unless there is real evidence to support our suspicions.

    Nick-YF January 12, 2009, 6:54 pm
  • nick, with all due respect, and i mean it, that was a nice speech, but the reality is this:
    “…I expect this kind of b.s. from DC, but I thought you were above paranoia, Sam….”
    i didn’t deserve that from paul, and neither did sam, but i’m not surprised…i’ve said repeatedly that this is not a balanced forum, but that’s not a complaint, just an observation…the name and nature of the site suggests a balance, but reality is different…the folks commenting as such are not imagining it…like i said earlier on, the posters/moderators have to expect a little pushback once in awhile…it’s obvious to others beyond me that paul hides behind piles of stats when he wants to project his pro-sox / anti-yanks sentiments…that’s ok, like i said, as long as we’re honest about his motives…

    dc January 14, 2009, 11:02 pm

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