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Last week, in his post at Baseball Nation about the five best moves of the trade deadline, Grant Brisbee wrote, “If you don't pick the winners or losers of the trading deadline, a man comes to your door, stuffs you in a sack, and throws you in a trunk.” I’ve been afraid to open my door ever since. We’ve written a ton about transactions lately, both before and after the non-waiver trade deadline, but we haven’t really ranked the moves. We’re still susceptible to being stuffed in a sack.

That’s a shame, because it really might make more sense not to rank trades right after they happen. Some of the deals that went down at the deadline involved players who are signed beyond this season. Most of them included prospects who won’t make it to the majors for a while. Because of those and other factors, we won’t know who “won” the deals for several seasons. So for the moment, let’s not even speculate about which teams will have gotten the most surplus value by 2016. Every team that added talent and salary over the past few weeks is interested in making the playoffs in 2012, though some have hedged for the future to a greater extent than others. What we can say with a fair degree of confidence, without waiting to see what else happens, is how each midseason trade affected a given team’s chances of making the playoffs this season. So let’s pretend playing games in October 2012 is all anyone thought about in trade talks. We’re still picking winners, but we’ve made the victory conditions more manageable.

Several Augusts ago, Nate Silver wrote an article about the midseason moves of 2006. He calculated the runs each roster gained or lost, then translated those credits and debits into changes in playoff odds.* The payoff was a list of deadline dealers in descending order of playoff probability added.

*He also mentioned a presidential election in the second sentence. Foreshadowing!

This article is a lot like that one. Using an alternate depth charts system* built by Rob McQuown and Colin Wyers, I “reversed” each trade made between 7/21 (Brett Myers) and 8/3 (Joe Blanton, Kurt Suzuki), simulating the rest of the season 5,000 times before and after, and compared the pre- and post-trade playoff percentages of each team involved. Then I took the difference between those percentages to arrive at the total added or lost. These aren’t the percentage differences as of today, they’re the percentage differences as of the day the trade was made. So if a given trade was worth, say, +3.5 percent, I mean it improved the team in question’s odds of making the playoffs by 3.5 percent (or something close to that) on the day the deal went down.

*This system allows us to calculate the impact of any in-season injury or roster move on a team’s playoff chances quickly and easily. That’s too useful a tool to waste on one article. Eventually, we hope to let you use it to come up with your own trade proposals. For now, expect to see us start incorporating these calculations into Transaction Analysis and Collateral Damage Daily.

Zack Greinke replaces Jerome Williams (11% of team GS), Ervin Santana (5% of team GS), Garrett Richards (3% of team GS)=+7.8%
Angels total=+7.8%

The Angels made only one acquisition, but it was an important one, upping their playoff percentage by more than all but one other team. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the fastest way to improve a team is to target a weak point. Zack Greinke would be an upgrade over most starters on most teams. Since the opposite is true of the pitchers he’s replacing, his addition goes a long way, even over a short stretch of starts. Anaheim added the best starter available just as the Rangers were running through theirs.

George Kottaras replaced Derek Norris (20%), Kurt Suzuki (10%)=-1.1%
Derek Norris replaced Kurt Suzuki=+0.3
Athletics total=-0.8%

The morals of the story are that Billy Beane used up all his exciting trade ideas during the offseason, and that PECOTA likes Derek Norris more than it likes the A’s other catchers.

Reed Johnson replaced Jose Constanza (30%), Luis Durango (30%), Eric Hinske (5%) and
Paul Maholm replaced Jair Jurrjens (9% of team GS), Randall Delgado (5% of team GS), Tommy Hanson (4% of team GS)=+1.2%
Braves total=+1.2%

Maholm and Johnson aren’t exciting. Not even a little bit. But they might be just a bit above average, which makes them better than the Braves’ alternatives.

Edward Mujica replaced Trevor Rosenthal (7% of team RP innings), Samuel Freeman (3% of team RP innings), Victor Marte (2% of team RP innings)=+0.9%
Cardinals total=+0.9

Like the Yankees, the Cardinals have a .589 third-order winning percentage and didn’t have many weaknesses to address at the deadline. Unlike the Yankees, they’re in third place in their division. Maybe Edward Mujica will help! But probably not.

Willie Bloomquist (20%) and Ryan Wheeler (15%) replaced Ryan Roberts=-2.2%
Chris Johnson replaced Ryan Wheeler (55%), Stephen Drew (10%), and Willie Bloomquist (10%)=+0.3%
Matt Albers replaced Craig Breslow=-1.2%
Diamondbacks total=-3.1%

Arizona is only four games out in the West, and our Adjusted Standings suggest that they’re the division’s best team (or were, before their rivals’ recent upgrades). They might regret not doing more, and the moves they did make only hurt them. That will happen when the players you trade for aren’t as good as the ones you trade away.

Randy Choate replaced Scott Elbert (5% of team RP innings), Ronald Belisario (3% of team RP innings), Shawn Tolleson (2% of team RP innings), Josh Wall (2% of team RP innings) and
Hanley Ramirez replaced Jerry Hairston (51%), Luis Cruz (20%), Juan Uribe (10%), Elian Herrera (5%), Scott Van Slyke (5%)=+8.4%
Brandon League replaced Josh Lindblom (12% of team RP innings)=+0.5%
Shane Victorino replaced Tony Gwynn (30%), James Loney (20%), Bobby Abreu (15%), Elian Herrera 15%)=+2.3%
Joe Blanton replaced John Ely (6%), Ted Lilly (4%), Allen Webster (3%), Stephen Fife (2%)=+1.4%
Dodgers total=+12.6%

Even after improving their playoff odds at midseason more than any other team, the Dodgers still put in a claim on Cliff Lee. LA’s ownership really wants to win.

Marco Scutaro replaced Emmanuel Burriss (50%), Joaquin Arias (20%)=+2.5%
Hunter Pence replaced Nate Schierholtz=+2.3
Giants total=+4.8%

The Giants couldn’t keep up with the nouveau riche Dodgers at the deadline, but they didn’t sit still. They were the better team to begin with, and they did just enough to stay that way. Pence was the higher-profile addition, but PECOTA prefers the Scutaro trade due to the caliber of the players replaced.

Kurt Suzuki replaced Jesus Flores (45%), Sandy Leon (25%)=+0.4%
Nationals total=+0.4%

One team’s trash is another team’s temporary solution. For the A’s, dumping Suzuki was a case of addition by subtraction. For the Nats, picking him up was just plain old addition. Not with big numbers, but addition nonetheless.

Wandy Rodriguez replaced Rudy Owens (9% of team GS), Brad Lincoln (5% of team GS), Kevin Correia (2% of team GS)=+3.7%
Travis Snider replaced Drew Sutton (30%), Jose Tabata (20%), Gorkys Hernandez (20%) and
Gaby Sanchez replaced Casey McGehee (40%), Matt Hague (15%) and
Chad Qualls replaced Brad Lincoln=+2.6%
Pirates total=+6.3%

Last year, the Pirates were only nominally contenders, and they made only marginal moves. This year, they’re actually in it, and they made the third-most-meaningful trade. They still might not make the playoffs, but that .500 season no one ever thought they’d see? We’re watching it.

Geovany Soto replaced Yorvit Torrealba=+0.1%
Ryan Dempster replaced Roy Oswalt (11%), Martin Perez (7%)=-0.3%
Rangers total=-0.2%

According to PECOTA, these trades made Texas just a tiny bit worse, but the Rangers had bigger problems elsewhere on the roster. The struggles of Roy Oswalt and the losses of Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz for the season within a span of 10 days forced the Rangers to trade for a starter, and they didn’t get one as good as Greinke.

Ryan Roberts replaces Sean Rodriguez (20%), Hideku Matsui (10%), Brooks Conrad (10%)=+ 1.1%
Rays total=+1.1%

The Rays were rumored to be talking about trading most of their prominent players, but they ended up making only one minor move. Tampa Bay is two games away from a Wild Card spot, and Evan Longoria returns to the team tonight. Those are two compelling reasons not to trade prominent players.

Jonathan Broxton replaced Bill Bray (6%), Aroldis Chapman (2%), Logan Ondrusek (2%), Sean Marshall (2%)=+0.4%
Reds total=+0.4%
The Reds had such a solid bullpen when they traded for Broxton that the Royals’ right-hander’s presence took some innings away from the reliable arms they already had. Broxton might have made a bigger impact somewhere else.

Omar Infante replaced Ramon Santiago (40%), Danny Worth (25%), Ryan Raburn (15%) and
Anibal Sanchez replaced Jacob Turner (9% of team GS), Drew Smyly (9% of team GS)= +2.5%
Tigers total=+2.5%

I expected the Tiger’s big trade to be a bigger boost. And it was, if you assume that Detroit’s second baseman would have continued to be as bad as they were for the first four months of the season. PECOTA never assumes such things. In fact, PECOTA assumes that Ryan Raburn will outplay Omar Infante the rest of the way. We were all right there with you in April, PECOTA. Maybe not so much now.

White Sox
Brett Myers replaced Brian Bruney (5% of team RP innings), Brian Omogrosso (4% of team RP innings), Jhan Marinez (3% of team RP innings)=+0.8%
Ray Olmedo replaced Eduardo Escobar and
Francisco Liriano replaced Simon Castro (4%), Charles Leesman (4%), Jose Quintana (2%), Phil Humber (2%), Chris Sale (2%), Jake Peavy (1%)=-0.3%
White Sox total=+0.5%

No wonder Liriano came so cheap! PECOTA trusts him as far as it can throw him, which is not far at all, since it’s an algorithm with no physical presence.

Ichiro Suzuki replaced Raul Ibanez (25%), Andruw Jones (25%), Jayson Nix (35%) =+0.7%
Casey McGehee replaced Mark Teixeira (15%) and
Joba Chamberlain (4%), Cody Eppley (3%), Clay Rapada (2%) replaced Chad Qualls=-0.3%
Yankees total: +0.4%

The Yankees didn’t need to do anything drastic at the deadline, so they didn’t do much. PECOTA sees the Ichiro trade as a slight upgrade, which would probably disappoint both the people who weren’t aware that he’s not the same old Ichiro and the people who couldn’t wait to tell them. 


Playoff % Added

















White Sox














In a â€‹Toronto Sun​ column a few days ago, Bob Elliott quoted the late Expos reliever Woodie Fryman as having said this at the 1979 deadline:

When a team gets help at the deadline it’s a sign to the rest of the team, management is saying ‘OK, let’s go, we’re serious about winning. Time for you guys to get serious too.’

I’ve seen teams where the new guy didn’t do a whole lot, but the team took off as soon as the new guy arrived. It’s like a bolt of energy.

If that bolt of energy exists, we can't quantify it or tell when and where it might strike. But we can glean a lot from the numbers. When Nate ran through this exercise, he didn’t have in-season PECOTA, so he combined pre-season projections with in-season stats. He weighted the latter more heavily than PECOTA does, so he ended up with slightly larger numbers than I did. But the distribution looks the same: one team with a double-digit improvement, three teams that went a little bit backwards, and a bunch of others that mostly just sat there, making a minor move or two but not moving the needle much in any direction.

Colin wrote this last season:

Deadline deals can make a big impact on a team’s chances of reaching the playoffs, but it’s important to remember that they typically don’t. Finding one or two players who can combine for a significant value is difficult, and getting those players to have a hot streak on cue is harder still. Most teams get into a position to acquire talent at the deadline by having a roster stocked with talented baseball players, and how those players perform down the stretch is generally far more important than the work of one or two players brought in to bolster a squad.

The odds are against any of this year’s deals being decisive during the regular season. But now we know which ones might come the closest. Beyond that, we’ll have to wait for the winners.   

​Thanks to Rob McQuown and Colin Wyers for research assistance.

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Oooh, I read something very germane to this- I was at the doctor's today, and the most recent magazine was SI's 2012 baseball preview. Fun times! In there, one line in the Orioles' section was (paraphrasing), "They traded away 200 innings eater Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom... Easily the worst trade of the off-season". Ha!
I remember hearing from several sources that the Orioles got the worst of this trade right after it happened, which I did not agree with at all. Obviously I didn't think it would be as uneven the other way as it turned out, but at worst Hammel = Guthrie, plus you add Lindstrom, who is a serviceable arm out of the pen.
Liriano only replaced Humber. He's not squeezing Sale or Peavy, although he's certainly been their equal so far (so much, once again, for PECOTA and it's often silly generalizations in assumptions).
The replacements were inputted according to our depth charts, which were entered manually--for the article, I tried to keep the "before" and "after" the same except for the traded player, to minimize confounding factors. PECOTA isn't really to blame if there's anything amiss. A percentage point or two in replacement percentage shouldn't make much of a difference, though.
I'm sorry, but I don't follow the methodology used.

If Team A acquired an everyday second baseman who replaced a rotating cast of stiffs at that position, then I understand measuring New Guy's production against an aggregate of the stiffs' expected future production prorated by (past) playing time.

Where you have me confused is the notion that Team B's new starting pitcher acquisition is somehow replacing a portion of the expected future production by other starters who REMAIN in the rotation. New Pitcher can't possibly be replacing anything other than the (presumed) revolving door in the 5th slot that gets bumped to make room, unless there's some extremely unusual set of circumstances.
Ben, it's a fair point that many of these trades include prospects, and the jury will be out for a long time on the ultimate "winner" or "loser" for each trade. However, there's that concept from probability and statistics courses (i.e. "good decision, bad outcome") that comes to mind.

Prospects entail risk. But there's an expected value (80% chance of a #3 starter, 20% chance of a #2 starter) that can be roughly calculated. And there's a perceived "market value" for prospects.

So it should be possible -- even valuable -- to evaluate trades today, rather than in the future (when you're evaluating certainties in the past, rather that possibilities/probabilities for the future).

Well, that and it's more interesting to Monday morning quarterback.
Yeah, the uncertainty angle was mostly a framing device I relied on because I wanted to talk about now. You're right, of course. You can calculate the expected return of a minor leaguer based on draft position or prospect rank, etc., and I'm sure some teams think about those things very seriously when they're crafting their proposals.
What, no Astros? They made a zillion moves, surely their playoff odds went from zero to negative something
I tried, but I couldn't get them to go below zero.
Could you also factor for injury replacements? So for my beloved Nationals for example, what do the returns of Drew Storen and Jayson Werth do when they come at the expense of, say, Henry Rodriguez and Rick Ankiel?
Yes, I mentioned wanting to do this for Collateral Damage Daily. Could treat it just like a trade.
That sounds swell.
@ Greensox - Sox appear to be going to the 6 man rotation, which will squeeze both Sale and Peavy.
As a White Sox fan, my only comment is that this illustrates why sabermetrics doesn't spoil the fun of the game: PECOTA may suggest (quite reasonably) that Liriano won't add much to the Sox's chances, but this is a guy with great stuff and we always have the hope that he'll turn things around - perhaps because he's in a new environment, or because the Sox' pitching coach has noticed something that the Twins' pitching coach didn't, or whatever. It's the same type of hope against hope that gets people excited about playing the lottery.
Interesting article thanks. The one predicted change that doesnt pass the smell test with me is the idea that the Rangers' odds declined by replacing Oswalt/Perez with Dempster. Dempster has been a lucky pitcher this year, but he's objectively outpitched Oswalt who has recurring back and attitude issues. He aint Greinke, but he should help.
The odds are against any of this year’s deals being decisive during the regular season.

Au contraire, Pierre. The odds are quite high that one of this year's deals will be decisive; we just don't know which one. A Cody Ross-style fluke could turn an unremarkable acquisition into a playoff catapult.