June 4, 2010
Ahead in the Count
No Turnover Standings Breakdown
In March, I introduced The No Turnover Standings which measured what teams’ records would have been if Major League Baseball did not allow any player movement and all players had provided the same production for the team that originally drafted or signed them as amateurs. As I described in that article:
“For this article, I went through every player who played in the major leagues last season and figured out his WARP3 and the team that first signed him to a contract, either as a draft pick, international free agent or undrafted player. I then determined each team's record based on the combined WARP3 of the players who originally belonged to it.”
The average of the No Turnover Standings from 2007-09 is as follows:
By averaging across three years, we can see how well teams did at drafting and signing amateur talent very clearly. The Mariners were fantastic, drafting and signing 30 more wins of amateur talent a year than average—90 more WARP3 over the 2007-09 period. The Reds were horrendous at finding talent, making their actual performance over the last three years look nowhere near as disappointing. If left with their own draftees and amateur signees, they would have won 26 fewer games a year than the average team. Does that mean that the Mariners were terribly run and the Reds were wonderfully run over the last three years? Not necessarily. There s a difference between saying that the Mariners drafted Adam Jones in 2003 but spent him away on the lure of Erik Bedard, and saying that the Mariners lost Alex Rodriguez to free agency seven years and 36.4 WARP3 after drafting him in 1993. That is why this article breaks down production by draftees, amateur free agent signees, and professional international free agent signees by the decade in which they entered their original organizations.
We start by looking at the production of 1980s Draftees’ WARP3. Since the average team only got 1.2 WARP3 a year out of players drafted in the 1980s, teams whose entire 1980-89 draft classes had retired by 2007 still manage records of about 80-82.
1980 Draftees’ WARP3
A handful of random players drafted in the 1980s added some wins to their team. The Reds out-produced the NL Central in 1980s Draftee WARP3 as 1989 pick Trevor Hoffman had 5.2 WARP3 in 2009 after also having 2.5 WARP3 from him in 2007. The No Turnover Blue Jays were the beneficiaries of 4.3 and 2.9 WARP3 in 2007 from Jeff Kent and David Weathers. The Nationals organization gets credit for 2.6 WARP3 from Randy Johnson who they drafted way back in 1985 when they were still the Montreal Expos. The Indians get some help out of 1989 draftees Jim Thome and Brian Giles, who produced 3.0 and 4.3 WARP3 in 2008, while Thome also added 4.4 WARP3 in 2007.
Obviously, this gives us little information about the effect of 1980s front offices on current success. We certainly can start to learn something by looking at the 1990s Draftees. These players would almost definitely have reached free agency, but given that we know teams often sign their own talent to very team-friendly deals, this is certainly noteworthy.
1990s Draftees’ WARP3
We can immediately start to see where the Mariners generated so much of their No Turnover Standings advantage. During the 2007-09 seasons, the players they drafted in the 1990s generated 100.5 WARP3 (33.5 per season), well above the average team’s 43.9 WARP3. Rodriguez (22.0), Derek Lowe (12.9), Ryan Franklin (9.7), Raul Ibanez (10.8), Gil Meche (9.7), and J.J. Putz (9.1) were the key components of this production.
The Blue Jays certainly drafted very well in the 1990s. Hauling in Roy Halladay (15.0), Orlando Hudson (12.3), Alex Rios (11.5), Michael Young (10.6), Casey Blake (11.5), and Chris Carpenter (7.2) made for the best 1990s drafting of any American League East team, at least as far as selecting players with the longevity to still produce in the latter three years of the 2000s.
Even though they joined the drafting process late as an expansion team that did not being play until 1993, the Rockies led the National League in 1990s drafting by a wide margin, thanks to Matt Holliday (20.7), Todd Helton (11.0), Aaron Cook (10.5), and Chone Figgins (13.3).
By far the team whose 1990s Draftees produced the least was the Red Sox. They totaled just 5.4 WARP3 over the entire three-year period, with the mediocre team leaders being Ron Mahay (3.8) and David Eckstein (4.0).
Moving on to the draftees of the 2000s, we can start to see teams who drafted players that they largely had under their own control during the 2007-09 season. Most players who are drafted or signed as amateurs typically take at least three years to reach the major leagues. Thus, those drafted or signed even as far back as 2000 were usually still until team control through 2009.
2000s Draftees’ WARP
The worst drafting team of the 1990s became the best drafting team in the 2000s. The Red Sox draftees of the 2000s produced 15 more wins on average from 2007-09 than the average team. Their 95.0 total WARP3 over that time period included Jonathan Papelbon (13.6), Dustin Pedroia (17.7), Kevin Youkilis (15.4), Jon Lester (11.9), David Murphy (6.2), Jacoby Ellsbury (7.4), and Freddy Sanchez (5.0).
The next best team was the Diamondbacks who boasted Brandon Webb (12.5), Chris Snyder (7.7), Dan Uggla (11.7), Carlos Quentin (5.1), Stephen Drew (6.3), Justin Upton (5.2), and Mark Reynolds (6.0). They totaled 86.7 WARP3.
We can start to see the source of the Phillies' three consecutive National League East titles from 2007-09. They drafted incredibly well in the 2000s, including getting 80.6 total WARP3 during the 2007-09 season from their draftees. This was led by Chase Utley (25.1) and was complemented by Ryan Howard (13.6) and Cole Hamels (11.6), along with trade bait Michael Bourn (5.5) and Gavin Floyd (7.3).
The White Sox struggled immensely, drafting only 3.4 total WARP3 worth of 2007-09 production during the 2000s. The Mariners misfortunes of the last few years can certainly be explained by their reversal of drafting success in the 200s, netting only 11.4 WARP3 from their draftees. The Yankees, for all their efforts to bust slot money in the draft, only managed 12.2 WARP3 from their picks.
Of course, the three sets of standings above just explain the potency of drafts during the last three decades. That is only one way to acquire amateur talent, with the other obviously being international free agent signings. I excluded acquisitions of professional players from Asian leagues like Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka from this section, because they were not exactly amateur talent when they signed.
Very few teams signed amateur players in the 1980s, outside of the draft, who added any value in the 2007-09 seasons. However, below are these standings.
1980s Signees’ WARP
Ivan Rodriguez’s 6.3 WARP3 was enough to buoy the Rangers ahead of the AL West, while the Mariners almost held their own with 4.4 WARP3 out of Omar Vizquel: Carlos Delgado’s 7.0 WARP3 was not useless either, though obviously it did little to assist to 2007-09 Blue Jays.
Moving on to 1990s Signees WARP3, we can start to see players who were available to their teams to re-sign if nothing else.
1990s Signees’ WARP
The performance of the Astros from 2007-09 certainly did not resemble the performance of their 1990s amateur signings. Johan Santana produced 16.4 WARP3 from 2007-09, long after the Astros lost him in the 1999 Rule 5 draft. Carlos Guillen produced 6.8 WARP3 in that time period, Bobby Abreu produced 9.2 WARP3, Melvin Mora produced 5.8 WARP3, and Wandy Rodriguez produced 8.2 WARP3. However, only Rodriguez was still with the Astros. All in all, the Astros 1990s Amateur Signees produced 50.1 WARP3 during the 2007-09 seasons.
We can finally start to see what the Yankees were good at in the 1990s, besides writing World Series. They were the beneficiaries of their signings of Mariano Rivera’s 19.6 WARP3 during the 2007-09 period. Of course, they did not receive Cristian Guzman’s 8.2 WARP3.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Orioles actually had a total WARP3 of minus-4.5; there was no one above 0.2 in any year from their entire 1990s Signees.
As with 2000s Draftees, the amateur signings of the 2000s were the most useful to teams who still had the vast majority of these players under their control.
2000s Signees’ WARP
While the Mariners were the absolute worst drafters of the 2000s, they made up for some of that with league-leading production from their excellent international signings. Those included Felix Hernandez (14.2 WARP3 from 2007-09), Jose Lopez (9.7), Asdrubal Cabrera (9.3), and Shin-Soo Choo (9.2). Overall, the Mariners' 2000s Signees produced 50.4 WARP3 from 2007-09.
he Dodgers were also strong with 30.5 WARP3, though they were far below the Mariners. Joakim Soria led the way with 14.0 and Franklin Gutierrez had 10.2, though all of Soria's came with the Royals and most of Gutierrez's came with the Indians and Mariners.
The Yankees continued their trend of strong international signings as well, bringing in 13.5 WARP3 from Robinson Cano, 4.9 from Chien-Ming Wang and 5.1 from Melky Cabrera. Overall, their 2000s Signees totaled 29.3.
The worst team was the Marlins who got minus-2.6 WARP3 from 2000s international signees, as no player topped 0.8 in any season.
There were a handful of players who came to the major leagues after being professional players in Asian leagues, mostly from Japan, during the 1990s and 2000s. These two sets of standings are below, representing the production of players acquired from Asian leagues into major-league systems.
1990s’ Asian WARP3
Alfonso Soriano was the big name here, bringing in 11.6 WARP3 in 2007-09, well after signing with the Yankees. Though a native of the Dominican Republic, Soriano first signed to play in Japan before having his contract sold to the Yankees.
2000s Asian WARP3
Obviously, this is another area where the Mariners excelled, bringing in 18.3 WARP3 from Ichiro Suzuki and 7.5 from Kenji Johjima. The Dodgers’ Takashi Saito produced 11.5, while the Red Sox got 8.7 from Daisuke Matsuzaka, 6.1 from Hideki Okajima, but minus-0.7 from Junichi Tazaka.
We can learn a lot from the No Turnover Standings, but far more information comes from breaking down the standings by decade and type of amateur acquisition. In real time, it is all but impossible to tell which teams are strong at drafting and signing amateur international talent. Even trying to determine success at acquiring talent anecdotally will likely be a futile effort, since a few prominent cases will always stand out and distort our memories.
Although drafting players who will age well is probably useful for finding bargain deals, the most recent drafts and international signings are far more beneficial. The Red Sox led this pack, unsurprisingly, with a 96-66 record in the 2000s Draftee WARP Standings and an 86-76 record in the 2000s Signee WARP Standings. The Red Sox have made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, despite playing in the rough AL East. The Dodgers were the second-strongest team in acquiring amateur talent in the 2000s, especially with their strength in the international market. The worst team at acquiring talent in the 2000s was the White Sox, followed by the slightly better Reds.
The bizarre success of the Mariners in the No Turnover Standings suddenly makes more sense when we realize that their real strength lay with their drafting prowess in the 1990s. Those players were mostly long gone by the time they lost 101 games in 2008. The Mariners were also strong with acquiring international amateur talent in the 2000s, but their poor drafts during the same time period limited their effectiveness.
With strong showings in recent years by the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Brewers, it is not surprising that these teams have been competitive in the NL, even though they were not big spenders. The Phillies' strong showing perhaps explains why they were particularly potent over the last three years, even if their major-league free agent acquisitions have turned out sourly in so many cases. While the Phillies are a big-spending team, their real strength has been discovering amateur talent and using their dollars to keep it in Philadelphia.
The Cardinals were actually quite mediocre at acquiring talent in the 2000s, but their team-friendly deal with Albert Pujols goes a long way towards explaining their recent success.
Team building is one of the main things that we can learn from sabermetrics, and the information contained in this article can break down complex information about how teams are built into relative digestible information. To learn how teams became successful, you could do worse than starting with the comparisons above.