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February 12, 2004

Can Of Corn

Stars in the East

by Dayn Perry

One of the more interesting sub-plots this off-season is the Yankees-Red Sox cold war that's been played out in the transactions wires. In terms of coffers and willingness to spend, the Yankees are still in a class by themselves, but the Red Sox now occupy--also by themselves, it seems--the next highest economic sub-strata. And in this particular Cold War, don't expect anyone to bust out the glasnost. Metaphor, over.

With the Yankees, we've seen what happens when spending prowess intersects with reasonable front-office intelligence. Now, with Theo Epstein as GM and a sporting-gentleman owner loosely holding the purse-strings, the Red Sox have joined the Yanks in this rarified air. The talent both clubs have amassed this winter and in winters past is striking. The Yankees may have frittered away Andy Pettitte and lost Roger Clemens to hometown longing, but they may have actually upgraded the rotation by importing the wholly underrated Javier Vazquez and the still effective Kevin Brown. Additionally, Gary Sheffield has been added to an already potent lineup.

In Boston, they have most pieces of the AL's best offense back in the fold, and they added Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke to the pitching corps. Given the concentration of talent on both teams, I was led to wonder: Can I assemble an "All-Star Team" using only Yankees and Red Sox that's better than the team that could be cobbled together using every other team in the league? With an assist from the outrageously cool 2004 PECOTA weighted-mean forecasts, let's take a whack at it...

First, some criteria. For each position, I'm selecting the player with the highest Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) from the available pool of players. That goes for pitchers and relievers, as well. So, for the "Non-Yankee/Red Sox All-Stars" that means the player with the highest projected VORP who's not toiling for the Yanks or Red Sox. In selecting the DHs for each team, I've limited my choices to true DHs or corner defenders only. For instance, plugging in, say, Derek Jeter as the Yanks/Sox DH would present an inflated ranking, since his VORP is determined by his standing with regard to other shortstops and not other designated hitters.

We'll call the Yankees/Red Sox team "NY-BOS United," and we'll call the All-Star assemblage of the remaining 28 teams the "Nons" (or, for the kids and hipster-marketing types, the "Nonzzzz"). Without further ado...

NY-BOS United: Hitters


Player			 AB    EqAVG EqOBP EqSLG	VORP
------------------------------------------------------------
C  Jorge Posada		417	.266 .377 .478		35.3
1B Jason Giambi		472	.287 .425 .578		59.6
2B Alfonso Soriano	624	.295 .349 .533		55.5
3B Bill Mueller		391	.270 .351 .425		22.1
SS Nomar Garciaparra	584	.304 .359 .507		52.1
LF Manny Ramirez	514	.308 .409 .585		57.1
CF Bernie Williams	436	.290 .383 .457		25.9
RF Gary Sheffield	507	.303 .397 .535		44.2
DH David Ortiz		414	.273 .360 .536		28.7
TOTAL						       380.5	
The Nons: Hitters

Player			 AB    EqAVG EqOBP EqSLG	VORP
------------------------------------------------------------
C  Pudge Rodriguez	454	.292 .352 .495		35.4
1B Todd Helton		541	.310 .408 .562		58.5
2B Jeff Kent		451	.289 .350 .521		38.9
3B Scott Rolen		528	.285 .375 .534		54.7
SS Alex Rodriguez	576	.299 .398 .604		83.2
LF Barry Bonds		378	.343 .516 .795	       105.9
CF Carlos Beltran	532	.288 .368 .505		36.8
RF Bobby Abreu		538	.300 .402 .525		45.6	
DH Albert Pujols	572	.329 .416 .622		75.0
TOTAL						       534.0	
As you can see, that's a pretty substantial advantage for the Nons--roughly 15 wins difference. Despite the notable offensive talent on NY-BOS United, they just can't compensate for the A-Rod/Bonds/Pujols Trio of Unspeakable Destruction.

Now let's see how the rotations stack up...

NY-BOS United


Starter			 IP    EqERA	VORP
--------------------------------------------
1 Pedro Martinez	183	2.37	70.0  	
2 Javier Vazquez	224	3.32	61.7	
3 Mike Mussina		213	3.41	56.3
4 Curt Schilling	186	3.19	55.8
5 Kevin Brown		175	3.69	38.9
TOTAL				       282.7
And the Nons...

The Nons


Starter			 IP    EqERA	VORP
--------------------------------------------
1 Mark Prior		199	2.97	57.6
2 Roy Halladay		224	3.71	48.5
3 Kerry Wood		212	3.60	46.3
4 Tim Hudson		215	3.74	45.6
5 Esteban Loaiza	201	3.97	40.4
TOTAL				       238.4
The Yankees/Sox rotation, over the course of a season, is about four-and-a-half wins better than the top five starters from the entire remainder of the league. That's a staggeringly impressive concentration of starting pitching. Going into the bullpen competition, the Nons still lead NY-BOS United by a VORP score of 772.4 to 663.6.

The pens...

NY-BOS United


Reliever		IP     EqERA	VORP
--------------------------------------------
Tom Gordon		85	3.32	25.3
Keith Foulke		77	3.04	25.0
Mariano Rivera		62	3.06	19.8
Scott Williamson	67	3.90	14.9
Mike Timlin		61	3.64	14.8
Byung-Hyun Kim	       134	3.31	36.9
TOTAL				       136.7
The Nons

Reliever		IP     EqERA	VORP
--------------------------------------------
Eric Gagne		89	2.32	32.5
Billy Wagner		76	2.60	24.6
Octavio Dotel		78	3.17	22.9
Damaso Marte		75	3.14	22.9
Francisco Cordero	84	3.35	23.5
Danys Baez		99	3.71	22.4
TOTAL		                       148.8
The sixth man in each bullpen, you may have noticed, is a reliever-cum-spot starter, with the only stipulation being that the majority of his PECOTA-projected appearances must be in relief. Also, the pens have been assembled based on VORP scores and without any attempt to strike a balance between lefties and righties. Another win for the Nons, albeit a narrow one of 12.1 runs. That makes the final tally Nons 921.2, NY-BOS United 800.3. So, no, as great and as packed to the gills with talent as the Red Sox and Yankees are, they're not better than the chimerical team that the other 28 teams can throw together. While that hardly qualifies as breaking news, it is noteworthy that NY-BOS United can field a markedly better rotation than the rest of league can, even in orchestration. And what's more telling is that, if you put these two teams in a hypothetical division race, the fused Yanks/Sox outfit finishes only 12 games behind the Nons, give or take a tilt or two.

The upshot is this: pity the rest of the AL East.

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