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May 16, 2010

Between The Numbers

Least Net Valuable Player

by Matt Swartz

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After reading my article, "Most Net Valuable Player," a couple weeks ago, many readers were curious to see who the Least Net Valuable Players were. The players on the list are not particularly surprising, but the order is somewhat informative. 

However, I realized as I did this that I had made a minor error in reporting the cost of draft pick compensation in my MORP articles, which changes one of the lists subtly for the Most Net Valuable Player article.

The cost of draft pick compensation was listed as: $13 million if you surrender a first round pick, $9 million if you surrender a second round pick, and $23 million if you sign your own pick. These were the undiscounted values—they should be $8 million, $5 million, and $14 million respectively. Please make a note of this. The numbers in these articles will be changed for those who trying to use them for reference.  Fortunately, the actual MORP formulas are listed correctly.

There were no players on the list of “Most Net Valuable Players” who cost their teams draft pick compensation, but there were players on the list of “Most Net Valuable Players with Six Years of Service Time” who cost their teams draft picks, so I reproduce that list below, followed by the list of “Least Net Valuable Players.”

 

Rk

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS WITH SIX YEARS OF SERVICE TIME

TEAM

WARP3

MORP

COST

VALUE

1

Albert Pujols

Cardinals

12.7

$62.6

$15.8

$46.8

2

Roy Halladay

Blue Jays

7.7

$34.1

$13.3

$24.8

3

Ryan Franklin

Cardinals

5.4

$26.9

$2.5

$24.4

4

Casey Blake

Dodgers

6.0

$29.8

$5.8

$24.0

5

Craig Counsell

Brewers

4.6

$22.9

$1.0

$21.9

6

Javier Vazquez

Braves

6.7

$33.2

$11.5

$21.7

7

Mariano Rivera

Yankees

7.1

$35.2

$15.0

$20.2

8

Trevor Hoffman

Brewers

5.2

$25.9

$6.0

$19.9

9

Chris Carpenter

Cardinals

7.0

$34.7

$15.3

$19.4

10

Carl Crawford

Rays

5.4

$26.9

$8.3

$18.6

11

Orlando Hudson

Dodgers

6.1

$30.3

$12.4

$17.9

12

Miguel Tejada

Astros

6.1

$30.3

$12.9

$17.4

13

Mike Cameron

Brewers

4.7

$23.4

$8.1

$15.3

14

Juan Uribe

Giants

3.2

$16.1

$1.0

$15.1

15

David Ross

Braves

3.3

$16.6

$1.5

$15.1

16

Joe Nathan

Twins

5.9

$29.3

$15.2

$14.1

17

Randy Wolf

Dodgers

3.8

$19.0

$5.0

$14.0

18

Rafael Furcal

Dodgers

4.7

$23.4

$10.0

$13.4

19

Jason Marquis

Brewers

4.0

$20.0

$7.0

$13.0

20

Mark Buehrle

White Sox

5.4

$26.9

$14.0

$12.9

21

Russell Branyan

Mariners

2.8

$14.1

$1.4

$12.7

22

Scott Podsednik

White Sox

2.6

$13.1

$0.8

$12.3

23

Brandon Lyon

Tigers

3.3

$16.6

$4.3

$12.3

24

Raul Ibanez

Phillies

5.0

$24.9

$12.9

$12.0

25

Brian Roberts

Orioles

4.0

$20.0

$8.0

$12.0

 

The only spots that moved were the players who had some arbitration award. Chris Carpenter, Orlando Hudson, Joe Nathan, and Miguel Tejada all saw their values go up a little bit, while Raul Ibanez crept onto the bottom of the list in place of LaTroy Hawkins.

Below is the list of Least Net Valuable Players.

RK

LEAST NET VALUABLE PLAYERS

TEAM

WARP3

MORP

COST

VALUE

1

Brad Lidge

Phillies

-4.8

-$23.1

$17.0

-$40.1

2

Jason Schmidt

Dodgers

-0.6

-$2.5

$18.3

-$20.8

3

Brian Giles

Padres

-2.4

-$11.4

$9.0

-$20.4

4

Oliver Perez

Mets

-0.8

-$3.5

$16.5

-$20.0

5

Vernon Wells

Blue Jays

-0.1

-$0.1

$18.0

-$18.1

6

Jose Guillen

Royals

-1.3

-$6.0

$12.0

-$18.0

7

Gary Matthews Jr.

Angels

-1.4

-$6.5

$11.5

-$18.0

8

Todd Wellemeyer

Cardinals

-2.9

-$13.8

$4.1

-$17.9

9

Andruw Jones

Dodgers

0.0

$0.4

$18.1

-$17.7

10

Jeff Suppan

Brewers

-1.3

-$6.0

$11.7

-$17.7

11

Manny Parra

Brewers

-3.6

-$17.2

$0.4

-$17.6

12

Carlos Silva

Mariners

-1.0

-$4.5

$12.0

-$16.5

13

Eric Chavez

Athletics

-0.4

-$1.6

$14.4

-$16.0

14

Alfonso Soriano

Cubs

0.3

$1.9

$17.7

-$15.8

15

Daisuke Matsuzaka

Red Sox

0.3

$1.9

$17.2

-$15.3

16

Derek Lowe

Braves

0.3

$1.9

$16.8

-$14.9

17

Vladimir Guerrero

Angels

0.3

$1.9

$15.9

-$14.1

18

Scot Shields

Angels

-0.5

-$2.1

$11.9

-$14.0

19

Chien-Ming Wang

Yankees

-1.9

-$8.9

$5.0

-$13.9

20

Dave Bush

Brewers

-2.1

-$9.9

$4.0

-$13.9

21

David Ortiz

Red Sox

0.5

$2.9

$16.4

-$13.5

22

Jeremy Bonderman

Tigers

-0.3

-$1.1

$12.5

-$13.6

23

Melvin Mora

Orioles

-0.2

-$0.6

$12.9

-$13.4

24

Hank Blalock

Rangers

-1.5

-$7.0

$6.2

-$13.2

25

Matt Capps

Pirates

-2.6

-$12.3

$0.4

-$12.7

As you can see, the vast majority of these players were players who were on expensive contracts who failed to produce above replacement level performance. The least net valuable player by far, however, was Brad Lidge. Lidge was allowed to keep pitching while performing far below replacement level and cost his team nearly five wins below what they would have received with the average minor league veteran performing in the bullpen. Not only that, his contract cost the Phillies $12.5 million per year, and forced them to surrender two draft picks which cost another $14 million to spread across three years. Many of the more costly players are the ones where teams had to surrender draft picks too.

One thing that might be very clear upon reading this is that signing a player to a disastrous contract does not eliminate a team from competing for the playoffs.  Of the 25 players on this list, 10 belonged to teams who made the playoffs while many others were competitive. Six of the eight playoff teams from 2009 had players on this list. Of the 25 players on the first list, 10 belonged to teams who made the playoffs as well, and five of the eight 2009 playoff teams are on that list. Of the best 40 overall values in the previous article, 15 belonged to playoff teams.

The overall point is that a lot of contracts make up a baseball team, and the important thing is to do things wisely, and hope that the law of averages justifies your process on the aggregate. Signing bad contracts does not guarantee disaster, nor does signing good contract guarantee great fortune. However, putting more players on the first list and less on the second list can only help.

Matt Swartz is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matt's other articles. You can contact Matt by clicking here

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13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ackbar

I apologize if I'm missing something -- does this analysis account for the cost of signing those compensatory draft picks?

May 16, 2010 13:05 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Yes. I approximated signing bonuses by draft slot. It doesn't change the numbers much, but it does play a role.

May 16, 2010 13:19 PM
 
jdtk99

I was suprised to see so many relievers on both lists. A refresher on how warp handles relievers and leverage would be helpful.

May 16, 2010 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

My understanding is that they are dealt with in a similar way as starters. The player's Run Average is adjusted for defense, park, and opponents, and compared with what replacement level players would do with similar defense, park, and opponents. Runs are then converted into wins. WXRL is done differently as I understand it, but I kept WARP3 for relievers to compare apples to apples.

Approximating win values for relievers is really tricky. I'm not sure that there is a great way out there to do. FanGraphs uses chaining and FIP, but the win values come out very low, and there are a lot of assumptions built into that which I'm not totally comfortable with.

May 16, 2010 13:23 PM
 
buffum
(458)

Man, I would have SWORN Travis Hafner was going to be on this list.

May 16, 2010 13:26 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Little short-- he had 1.3 WARP3, which gives him a MORP of $6.8 million, so his $14.3 million cost, leaves him at -$7.5 million value, which fell short of the list.

May 16, 2010 14:23 PM
 
Pat Folz

Manny Parra making the top 12 despite making more or less the league minimum is downright amazing.

May 16, 2010 17:07 PM
rating: 0
 
TangoTiger

Matt, can you explain why you think the Fangraphs numbers come out "very low" for relievers? You are making a summary opinion while presenting no evidence. You know where I stand on people who do that.

If it's the use of FIP, then I can certainly see your point. If it's the chaining, then I don't (obviously, since I'm the one who supplied the chaining algorithm).

BaseballProjection doesn't use FIP (I think he uses runs allowed after removing the fielder-effects), and chaining (I think my version). Do you agree with them, or do you have an issue there?

May 16, 2010 20:40 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

I don't like the use of FIP for relievers. I think it's inconsistent to attribute the BABIP luck that hitters get completely to themselves, but to leave it out for pitchers. That's really my issue.

The chaining thing I'm not sold on yet, but I'm not sure it's wrong either. I'd need to look at usage patterns in a lot of detail. Colin's criticism about the creation of leverage seems concerning. It also seems like replacement level relievers get so many high leverage innings that I'm not sure that the absence of a player would always bump up the leverage of all other players one by one. It also seems a little bit inconsistent with the concept of replacement level, but maybe that is resolvable.

I'm not saying that I like it or don't like it, just that the results of such low win values give me pause. The WPA values are so high for good closers, and it seems like chaining is the reason that the fWAR values aren't. It's just something to think about harder, and an outcome that says FanGraphs thinks 30 teams overpay for relief help even though WPA seems to imply that they might be fairly priced...it's just something I'd want to devote a lot of time to before forming an opinion.

May 16, 2010 21:41 PM
 
TangoTiger

FIP: I agree with you, as I have similar reservations. I usually split the difference, and take it half FIP and half (component) BaseRuns.

Chaining: I don't know what Colin's criticism of the creation of leverage. If it's that someone like K-Rod forces his own leverage to be higher, then I agree. However, there are different ways to calculate Leverage Index (not to be confused with BPro's similarly named, though completely different animal LEV), and you should use the one that makes the most sense. In this case, you use "gmLI", which is the Leverage Index of the game when the pitcher entered.

As for the "bumping" up of the leverage, such that everyone moves up a notch once the top dog goes down: yes, that is pretty much presumed to happen. Absent an actual study, this would have to be the status quo, no? That if Mariano Rivera goes down, Joba Chamberlain takes his place, and every other reliever moves up a rung, and the minor league reliever becomes the mopup guy. The same applies let's say with NHL defensemen.

I still don't see the "such low win values" though. I also don't see any evidence that Fangraphs says that each of the 30 teams are overpay for their relievers. Can you cite your reference or work for that claim? When I do my WAR (tWAR if you will), I get 10% of all wins going to relievers, and, 10% of all salaries also goes to relievers. I'm pretty sure I verified that against rWAR (Rally's WAR), though I haven't against fWAR (yet, though I would guess this to be true as well).

Can you tell me what the total WARP is for relievers, relative to all players?

May 17, 2010 06:28 AM
rating: 1
 
TangoTiger

According to the 2009 team total on fangraphs for pitchers and non-pitchers, I get these totals:

593 wins nonpitchers
461 wins pitchers
1054 wins Total

The total wins (1054, or 35 per team, implying a .283 win%) is pretty close to where I like to see it. Pitchers got 43.7% which is right around what I give. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, it's not apparanent in the WAR calculation how much is derived from relief innings and how much from starter innings. We can try to work it backwards. Fangraphs does show the RAR (runs above replacement) as 3588 for starters and 868 for relievers (total of 4456). A straight 10:1 conversion would imply 446 wins, so there's an extra 15 wins unaccounted for, which could be for the leverage portion of the ace relievers. If you make it 86.8 wins for the relievers, unleveraged, and another 15 wins for the leverage portion, that gives us 101 WAR for relievers, which is 9.6% of all wins.

IIRC, my prior research shows that relievers get 10% (maybe 11%?) of salaries. I don't see much of an issue here, so I don't see the basis for saying that relief WAR on Fangraphs are much too low. The evidence would suggest it's spot on.

May 17, 2010 06:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Mariano Rivera averaged being worth about $9MM per year from 2002-09. That just seems low to me. I can't breakdown WARP by relievers and starters, I don't think. Maybe there's a way to do it in the sortable stats.

The relievers' salaries might be misleading. What's the average age of a reliever vs. a starter adjusted for leverage of innings? This could make the cumulative salary vs. cumulative wins comparison biased if different.

I'm not saying either methodology is right for relievers. I'm just saying it's a hard topic, and probably one where there are improvements to be made.

May 17, 2010 06:54 AM
 
TangoTiger

Matt: sure, Rivera's Fangraphs' WAR looks low.

From 2002-2009, Rivera's WPA was +29 wins (which becomes the upper boundary of what you can assign him). His WPA/LI (which removes all traces of leverage) was +15 wins. So, I would give him +22 wins. Fangraphs' WAR is somewhat lower at 19.5 because it uses FIP, which, while great for Rivera, is not the obscenely-great his BaseRuns would be.

So, I agree with you on Rivera (specifically, not relievers in general) that his fWAR is too low.

This is not a chaining issue though. It's a FIP / BABIP issue, and as I said, I agree with you there, which is why I split the difference.

***

Yes, we would need to look at the service class for the relievers and starters, since that may bias the salary. I'm pretty sure, though not positive, that the ages were the same. Pretty sure anyway.

***

Your conclusion is fine that this is a hard topic. That's pretty much the only summary opinion we can agree with.

May 17, 2010 07:15 AM
rating: 1
 
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