May 16, 2010
Between The Numbers
Least Net Valuable Player
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.”
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.
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.