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Friday, February 10, 2006

Are the Sox fiscally responsible? 

Recently, Baseball Prospectus has introduced a new statistic titled "MORP." MORP stands for Marginal Value Above Replacement Player, and was originally introduced in this article by Nate Silver. MORP is based on the actual behavior of recent free agent markets, and accounts for non-linearity in the market price of baseball talent (e.g. teams are willing to pay more for one 6-win player than two 3-win players).

For 2006, BP calculated the formula for MORP to be:
[485000*WARP + 216000*(WARP^2) + 325000]

So, with the use of MORP, we can determine the fiscal responsibility of the Boston Red Sox. For my first run through, I decided to just take a look at the starting 9. The projected 2006 WARPs are from the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog. Below is a look at the lineup's MORP in relation to the actual salaries:



That's nearly $27 million dollars worth of free production! Pretty staggering. While doing this spreadsheet, there were some things that jumped out at me. First, I'm surprised that Lowell's projected WARP was that high. Some of that value is obviously bottled up in his defense, but it appears he is projected to bounce back with a decent season.

I was also surprised by how "overpaid" Varitek is, according to the metric. I knew he was overpaid to an extent, but that the Sox were comfortable with it based on his leadership skills. Fair enough. The fact that he is going to be 34 by the first week of the season surely played a role in his WARP/MORP calculation as well.

We also come to realize that in today's market, Manny Ramirez is not overpaid. It's not even close. So teams that are looking to acquire him should take a close look and understand that Manny is actually underpaid relative to the current market.

Lastly, I knew David Ortiz was a bargain, but a $16,000,000+ bargain? I had no idea. Obviously, when David receives his contract extension, which he no doubt deserves, the gap between the lineup's MORP and actual salary will decrease. I also expected David's MORP to be lower because he is strictly a DH. Show's what I know!

Hopefully, I will be able to dig up the projected WARPs (or calculate my own) for the starting rotation, bullpen, and bench to get a complete look at the Sox' fiscal responsibility, but if the lineup is any idication, the Sox appear to have been spending their money wisely.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

No more bullpen blues 

The 2006 version of the Boston Red Sox bullpen should be a lot better than the 2005 version, especially if Keith Foulke can bounce back to his normal dominance. A simple way to judge a reliever is by WHIP. Because relievers only pitch an inning or two at a time, it's pretty intuitive to just calculate the WHIP, to see how many batters they will allow on base per inning. Here's a look at Ron Shandler's 2006 WHIP projections for the Sox bullpen:


As you can see, each and every pitcher is projected to be below 2005's league average of 1.37. However, the projections for Seanez, Riske, and Tavarez were all made assuming they were pitching for San Diego, Cleveland, and St. Louis, respectively, so a slight uptick would not be surprising.

Still, the current bullpen can't be describe as anything less than a significant upgrade. There are no reclamation projects this time around (Matt Mantei), and there we aren't banking on any relievers void of a proven track record (John Halama). Furthermore, the bullpen has depth. Beyond the five relievers I've mentioned, the Sox have Bronson Arroyo, Jonathan Papelbon, Bronson Arroyo, Lenny DiNardo, and others who can slide in and perform well.

A look at last year's bullpen's WHIP clearly shows the improvement the Sox have made:

Because relievers see more variance between their seasons than starters, this new edition of the bullpen is no sure thing. However, past track records are all the front office has to go on, and as of right now, things are most certainly looking up. I've got a feeling the 2006 unit will be forcing their opponents into a lot of 6-inning games.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rocket Re-launch? 

Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald is reporting today that the Red Sox are preparing to make a serious offer to Roger Clemens. Sources told the paper that the Sox’ pitch will include a "slick" video presentation that features a number of Red Sox fans imploring Clemens to finish his career where it began. This idea comes straight from chairman Tom Werner, the Hollywood producer who is making sure the Sox’ sales pitch is Oscar quality. Still, out of the clubhouse, Boston is viewed as the least likely of four possible destinations for Clemens; the others being Houston, Texas and New York with the Yankees.

Unfortunately, I was only 10 years old when Clemens fled Boston for Toronto, so my memories of Clemens wearing the home whites are vague at best. As such, I harbor no ill will towards him, as some fans still do. The bottom line is that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that he's one of the best pitchers to ever play the game. And it's not even like we're basing that distinction on his past performance -- the guy is still getting it done.

Clemens, 44 years old in August, had an ERA of 1.87 last season. His ERA+ was 221. Anytime you have a chance to acquire a player of this stature, you do your best to make it happen. I don't care about the past. I care about winning.

This is how three common projection systems view his 2006 season, should he choose to pitch (bear in mind, these #s are calculated with the assumption that he is pitching for Houston):


While Shandler projects "fading skill, fewer IP" according to his Baseball Forecaster, the WHIP and ERA figures are essentially the same across the board.

According to Bill James' Park Indices for 2003-2005, it's 11% easier to score a run in Fenway than in Houston's Minute Maid Park. This, coupled with the addition of the DH, should see an uptick in Clemens' ERA. However, as a strikeout pitcher, the uptick probably won't be as a drastic as it would be for more of a finesse pitcher.

I also wonder if these projection systems are predicting the huge drop off in ERA (1.87 to 3.24+) based on Roger's age, more than anything else. It would be interesting to see what these same systems have projected for Roger's stats since the year 2000 or so. Has Roger considerably outperformed these systems? Unfortunately, I do not have earlier projection numbers in front of me.

If I'm the Sox brass, do I pay Roger upwards of $15 million for one season of, say, 15 wins. Yeah, I probably do. In a situation like this, I think the value of the contract isn't worth worrying about. The return of Roger would keep the Sox on the front page for weeks, and the good fortunes could spill over into sponsorships, merchandise sales, and whatever else Lucchino has in mind.

It really comes down to whether the Sox see Clemens, at 43/44, outperforming Matt Clement (I don't include Wells b/c I feel he is destined to be traded). Most, if not all, would consider Clemens more of the safe bet, hamstring woes and all.

A starting rotation of Clemens, Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Papelbon/Arroyo is mighty impressive. In 2007, with Clemens all buy assured of retiring, you move everybody up a spot and slide Jon Lester at the backend of the rotation. Boy, do I like the sound of that.

Where would I put the Sox' chances of landing Clemens? Probably around 25%, but this situation certainly bears watching. Now, let's just hope that Werner can produce another gem.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Gonzalez and Crisp officially signed; Petagine DFA'd 

Today, the Red Sox officially announced the signing of Alex Gonzalez. It took a while, but it's good to see him finally on board. The speculation was correct, and Roberto Petagine was designated for assignment to make room for Gonzalez.

I hope Petagine gets an opportunity to play in the States, instead of having to return to Japan. Terry Francona never felt comfortable with Petagine, so he was left to rot on the bench. The main problem was that Petagine's defensive reputation far outweighed his actual defensive ability. He was nothing short of a butcher in the field, and with David Ortiz owning the DH spot, it was no surprise that Petagine was left to pick splinters. Hopefully, Petagine can hook on with an AL team in need of a decent DH.

***

Coco Crisp and the Sox were able to avoid arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.75 million contract. The 2006 breakdown between Crisp/Gonzalez/Cash to Braves for Renteria and Damon/Renteria looks like this:


For 2006, the difference - $14.25M - is staggering. Obviously, in 2007 and 2008, the gap will decrease as the Sox have to pay $3M per season of Renteria's contract and Crisp will be due more in arbitration. Also, it's likely another shortstop (Lugo) will be brought in, and will obviously make more than $3M.

Crisp and Gonzalez, combined, should post an OPS equal or greater than Damon and Renteria. In terms of defense, the Sox' combo should be far superior. For Renteria's sake, I hope he has a bounce-back year in Atlanta, with both the stick and the glove.

For me, Damon is difficult to project. In the first half of 2005, he had an outrageous, and entirely unrepeatable, BABIP of around .370. In the second half, he saw the number plummet to .310, which is about average. The fall in his BABIP, caused his batting average to drop to .293 and his OBP to .353 -- numbers pretty much in line with Coco Crisp. Damon could see a nice resurgence in in New York, however, with the short porch in right field.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sea Bass strikes and more... 

Although the Sox still haven't made an official announcement regarding the Alex Gonzalez signing, most outlets are reporting that the deal is indeed complete, and the paperwork has been sent to the Commissioner's office.

There's still no word on who will be removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Gonzalez; however, Gordon Edes is speculating that Roberto Petagine may be the leading candidate. They'd likely ask him if he would be willing to play in Japan again. The could also simply release Petagine, but I'd image they'd prefer to cut a deal for him.

Meanwhile, Alex Gonzalez has done nothing but impress in the Caribbean Series this week. Last night, he blasted a game winning two-run home run to defeat the Dominican Republic 11-9.

After viewing the Caribbean Series highlights courtesy of MLB's impeccable Advanced Media department, I couldn't help but get even more excited for this upcoming season. In many ways, I wish American baseball games had the same atmosphere as these games in Central America. They sure love their baseball.

***

The Red Sox and Josh Beckett settled their arbitration case yesterday, agreeing to a one-year contract for $4,325,000. Beckett, who made $2,425,000 last season asked for $4.9 million, while the Red Sox offered $3.75 million. The Sox control his rights throughout the 2007 season.

It's nice to see the Sox and Beckett simply agree on the middle-figure ($4,325,000) on their two proposals, rather than forcing it to go to arbitration. Beckett is a guy that will hopefully perform well enough this season to warrant a long-term contract extension, and having a contract dispute with a team he hasn't even pitched for yet could have been disastrous.

I can't wait to see the look on his face when he leaves the clubhouse in Fort Myers to 5,000 lunatic Sox fans. You're not playing for the Marlins anymore, Josh.

***

As for the Manny-to-the-Angels trade, Peter Gammons and others are reporting that it's false. Good. While acquiring a package of Santana, Figgins, Wood, and Kendrick would have been a coup, I can't be disappointed (atleast offensively) with having Manny start 150 or so games in left field in 2006.

***

This past Friday, three terrific articles were published on the subject of the various defensive metrics, such as Ultimate Zone Rating and probabilistic Model of Range. The first, "A glove affair" penned by Jon Weisman of Sports Illustrated, is geared towards the uninitiated, with a focus on what the various metrics show about the defensive "abilities" of the two-time Gold Glove winner Captain Intangibles himself, Derek Jeter.

The second, "Evaluating the Evaluators" by David Gassko of The Hardball Times. Gassko is the inventor then defensive metric simply known as "Range." He gives a compact run-down of what goes into each metric, its pros and cons, and how each compares to the other metrics. It was very nice to see Gassko's handle "DSG" pop up on SoSH over the weekend. Hopefully he'll be a frequent visitor and lend us his insights on the world of defensive evaluation.

The third and final article, "A Detailed Comparison of Defensive Metrics" is also written by Gassko. This article is strictly written for statheads, as Gassko seeks to find which metric best correlates with the gold standard of defensive evaluation, UZR. As defensive metrics can show bias towards a player based on their position, Gassko goes position-by-position to find the strongest correlation.

All are excellent reads, and do an excellent job of outlining the basis for each metric.

My apologies 

For those having trouble accessing the blog today, I apologize. I think the error is with blogger, and not with this particular blog. Hopefully this is just a hiccup, and we can get back to business on Monday.

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