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Pinpointing the positions with the worst projections on this season's likely contending clubs.

Every year, several teams finish out of the playoffs by a handful of games, close enough to taste October but just as ineligible for post-season play as the lowliest of last-place finishers. Last season, the Red Sox and Braves were both eliminated on the season’s final day after watching what had seemed to be safe leads evaporate. Since a one-game swing for either team would have meant a much different outcome, it was tempting to look back and wonder where in the lineup they could have eked out an extra victory.

As Jay Jaffe noted in January, right field proved to be a particular weak point for both teams. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward slumped to a .254 True Average (TAv) in an injury-plagued sophomore season, and his replacements—primarily Eric Hinske, Joe Mather, and Jose Constanza—hit only .252/.294/.346 in his absence. In Boston, J.D. Drew added a 60-day DL stint for a left shoulder impingement to his lengthy injury history and hit just .222/.315/.302 when active. His replacements—mainly Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Cameron—made Heyward’s look good, mustering only a .234/.282/.377 line. As a result, Braves right fielders accumulated 0.6 WARP, and Red Sox right fielders checked in at 1.3 WARP. It’s reasonable to wonder whether both teams would have made the playoffs with even average (roughly 2.0 WARP) production in right.

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July 23, 2010 8:00 am

Ahead in the Count: Buyers and Sellers


Matt Swartz

A look at which clubs should be dealing for immediate help and which ones should be offloading players with the trading deadline eight days away.

Adding players halfway through a season is worth far more to a contender than half of their full-season value. Those players can make in a difference in a situation where a couple of games could make or break a team's season. The Mariners traded for Cliff Lee in December 2009 with the expectation that he would help them contend for the American League West title in 2010, but it turns out that an underperforming offense rendered his wins useless towards that goal and they traded him to the Rangers two weeks ago. However, any team competing for the National League wild card knows that it will probably be decided by a couple games and that one big acquisition can make the difference. Sometimes adding two wins in a half season from a four-win player does more for a team's playoff odds than adding four wins for a full season. As an extreme example, consider two teams who are tied for the division lead with one game left to play against each other. How much would they pay for an ace? Certainly more than 1/162 of his value because the odds of that pitcher pushing a team over the top are very high.

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July 20, 2009 2:40 pm

Ahead in the Count: Get the Doctor, Now!


Matt Swartz

With the rumors flying about where Jays ace Roy Halladay is headed, what would he be worth to different teams?

When sabermetricians try to approximate the dollar value of a player's performance, we are mostly using recent free-agent values. For instance, if Halladay is worth about six wins above replacement level (which is a good approximation for most teams' fifth starters), we would say that the value of his replacing a typical fifth starter is about $27 million above the MLB-minimum salary of $400,000. As his current contract pays him $14.25 million in 2009, this would imply that a full 2009 season of Roy Halladay would have been worth the difference ($13.15 million). However, let's say that Halladay gets dealt right now, with about 70 games left to go, instead of around the deadline. Our inclination would be to say that Halladay's remaining 2009 net value would be this pro-rated, $5.7 million above his contract, but that misses a few essential parts of the analysis.

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Bio: You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand the nuances of baseball…. But it helps!

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