Graph for the holiday weekend

DMZ · November 24, 2006 at 8:09 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

Position players only.
Offensive contributions only.

As you can see, the correlation between last year’s performance and the annual value of the player’s new deal is extremely high (the correlation’s .85). There are a number of interesting possibilities raised here:
– overall ability has mattered less than last year’s stat line
– defense hasn’t mattered that much
– age (and projections, etc) hasn’t mattered that much
– the price of a free agent starts at about $4m, climbs to $8m for a 20-run player, and then only really goes up for the 50-run guys (making the 30-40 run guys huge bargains)
– all of the above
– none of the above


20 Responses to “Graph for the holiday weekend”

  1. DMZ on November 24th, 2006 8:15 pm

    One of the really interesting things, I would wager (and I’m looking forward to trying to chart overall contributions against pure offense/pure defense) is that the A’s are right – defense is hugely undervalued. Just looking at the numbers, there really is no defensive adjustment. If you have the choice between two players, one who plays stellar defense and one who stinks but has 6 more RBI, you can pick the glove man and pay about the same price: so far the defense has been essentially free.

    Also, I’m thinking about charting raw stats – OPS, SLG, RBI – against the new salary and seeing if the chart’s even closer using stats that aren’t park adjusted. If that’s the case, it’d be even more damning evidence that teams aren’t acting rationally.

  2. Dave Clapper on November 24th, 2006 8:35 pm

    Who’s the 50 VORP guy getting just $10 mil? Is that Thomas?

  3. imissbluewave on November 24th, 2006 8:42 pm

    No, that bargain player would be Gary Matthews Jr. Thomas is immediately to the left of Matthews, with a VORP of 41.3.

  4. Mat on November 24th, 2006 8:47 pm

    One of the really interesting things, I would wager (and I’m looking forward to trying to chart overall contributions against pure offense/pure defense) is that the A’s are right – defense is hugely undervalued.

    Or people aren’t really judging the defensive value properly. Or at least not the same way we are. In the press, there were many column inches spent trying to get us to believe that Soriano can be a very valuable defender. By the same token, Lee is probably considered an average defender by the Astros, and Matthews (thanks in large part to his big Web Gem from this year) could also be considered by some to be a plus defender. Oh yeah, Pierre is fast, but most defensive metrics I’ve seen have him as about an average defender.

    So maybe the issue isn’t so much that teams don’t care about defense, but rather that there are more disagreements about defensive value, so you have fewer teams chasing after the guys you consider to be elite defenders. And fewer teams chasing after the same players leads to lower prices for the most part.

  5. msb on November 24th, 2006 9:43 pm

    um, or that last year, guys were just really really really good.

  6. msb on November 24th, 2006 10:16 pm


  7. colm on November 24th, 2006 11:50 pm

    I can’t help smiling that the Angels signed that awful contract with Matthews. Watching him struggle for the next few years, until they release him 2 years before the end of his contract, will be pleasant.

    I wish it were enough to hamstring them entirely.

  8. NBarnes on November 25th, 2006 4:42 am

    One of the things I’m thinking about at the moment, about this set of guys (Soriano, Pierre, Lee, Matthews) is that BP calls them ‘90% projections’ for a reason. Over at BTF in one of the Lee threads, there’s a couple people calling Dan Szymborski and some of the other posters out over negative reviews of free agent contracts and, citing past failures, Dan’s opinion of the White Sox’s contract with Jermaine Dye in particular. Dan’s defense, quite reasonably, is that nobody predicted that Dye would go absolutely ape on the AL for two years; I don’t have PECOTA access, but I’m pretty sure his 2006 is well beyond his 90% prediction.

    And 90% is an important number, because 1 player in 10 is going to hit that prediction. The odds of one of Soriano, Matthews, Lee, or Pierra matching their 90% projections aren’t all that awful (though the odds are still against it), and as all four are players with a history of showing flashes of serious quality, their 90% projections are likely to range from solid to excellent. And the instant any one of them does, all the people (homers, frankly) that defended that signing will point to it as evidence that they had been right all along, that this overpriced, wrong-side-of-30, overrated player was just as good as they’d claimed, and that, further, the people who argued against the signing at the time are dour wet-blankets whom cannot really be described as a ‘fan’ at all.

  9. terry on November 25th, 2006 5:04 am

    I’d venture to guess most clubs are evaluating defense with the same tools talked about at USSM (probably with more sophistication and access to data)…. Being cynical for a moment, I think most just don’t care…. Probably more accurately, the old-school factions still carry more weight and frankly, if you were going to make a mutli-year commitment for an obscene amount of money, would you trust offensive metrics or defensive metrics more at this point?

    I guess what I’m saying (as I’m soaking up the morning coffee from my keyboard-damn cat) is that defensive metrics are still rough justice (i.e. Dunn’s PMR,UZR, and Dewan ratings range from -7 to -23 runs-that’s a big spread) and I could see an organisation being enamoured by a hypothetical player’s VORP of 50 and thinking his defense is probably only -10 instead of -25 (or discounting defensive metrics altogether because of a spread like Dunn’s). The defensive side of the equation still lacks precision compared to the offensive side.

    Anyway I have heard a lot of teams suggest this off season that they are targeting a big bat for the middle of the lineup. I have yet to hear any team say, “we’re targeting the biggest bat we can find that plays the best defense”…

    In fact, the Reds have indicated that upgrading their defense is one of their top priorities (thank god). They dramatically upgraded their defense at short (albeit by overpaying for defense-but the difference between Lopez and Gonzalez is approaching three wins defensively!!!), and they’ve been roundly ridiculed-even here of all places….. 🙂

    But then again, maybe I over-value defense. But in my *defense* I went from basking in the heavenly glow of the M’s teams circa 2000-2003 to wallowing in the belly of a horrid defenseless beast called the Reds (circa 2004-2006)… Please excuse me if I overcompensate-I miss defense…. really a lot… 🙂

  10. zzyzx on November 25th, 2006 7:24 am

    Great defense is also fun to watch. Defense in baseball (diving catches, jumping over players to make a throw) is offense in football.

  11. Mike Snow on November 25th, 2006 8:49 am

    For the current offseason, the points you make about the graph are interesting observations. The sample’s obviously too small to really be sure what’s going on, though.

    Extending back into the past would be interesting. For example, taking “overall ability has mattered less than last year’s stat line,” you reach very different conclusions about the accuracy of this hypothesis if you considered two Mariners who signed the same offseason, Sexson and Beltre.

  12. scraps on November 25th, 2006 8:53 am

    What Derek is saying is not that people are judging defense differently, he’s saying the evidence semes to indicate they’re scarcely taking it into account at all. You’ll pay about the same for the same offensive contribution, regardless of defense.

  13. terry on November 25th, 2006 10:05 am

    Hey….I’ve been fine-tuning a spreadsheet trying to gain an appreciation of what replacement level would be and the value of being average. Would anyone buy that VORP for a league average leftfielder in the NL and AL would be roughly 25 and 20 respectively over 600 PA? Basically being league average would equate to 2 to 2.5 wins over replacement offensively at that position…

    Looking at all positions, just being league average offensively seems to mean 1 to 1.5 wins for premium defensive positions like CF,SS,and 2B, roughly 2 to 2.5 wins for the corner positions and surprisingly (to me anyway), 3 wins over replacement for catcher.

    So looking at DMZ’s chart above, the going rate for just being average offensively at a corner position could translate into anywhere from $2M to $10M annually. Considering that defense is absent in the correlation above, an average offensive player (whose in the minus defensive runs range could be dramatically overvalued). I guess, duh, but i think the way DMZ is trying to model the FA market is neat.

  14. DMZ on November 25th, 2006 10:23 am

    w/r/t NBarnes’ comment, one of the things we need to get away from in baseball analysis is over-reliance on PECOTA or any projection system as a validator of player performance. They’re all guesses at what a player might do, and PECOTA attempts to do some really good things with confidence levels.

    But a player who exceeds their PECOTA projection, or collapses under it, doesn’t mean either that the player broke the system, or that their season was a fluke.

    For instance, given three high-risk, high-reward pitching prospects, PECOTA’s going to take a dim view of their future (with, possibly, a great potential return). If one of them has a great season the next year and the other two blow out their shoulders, that doesn’t mean
    a) the dim view wasn’t justified for all three
    b) that it missed on all three pitchers

    The next year, if you ran PECOTA for all three again, the one who took a step forward will look a lot better than his previous forecast +1 year.

    PECOTA, and all projection systems to different extents, say “based on a set of data, this is what I think the player will do next year, and beyond that.”

    Raul Ibanez, for instance, busted out of his projections. I don’t think that makes PECOTA’s statement “based on my comparison to historical players through baseball, Ibanez’s performance seems likely to tail off” any less valid. We can’t look at projection systems as the voice of destiny.

    I think I’ve gone away from my original point now.

    I will say, though, that without a survey of PECOTA’s accuracy, the system seems to either nail the projection or miss way high or way low.

  15. Gomez on November 25th, 2006 10:27 am

    My guess is that teams are overvaluing what a certain player brings to a lineup.

  16. NBarnes on November 25th, 2006 12:51 pm

    I think I lost the thread of my comment above halfway through (it was late), but what I was trying to get at is that there’s a lot of uncertainty involved in projecting players, both good and bad. If we didn’t have PECOTA, we’d still be talking about what Soriano or Matthews is likely to do for their new teams next year. And though it’s both easy and correct to assume that most of the recently ZOMG signings will flop, it’s also very possible that one or two will consolidate or establish new levels of performance. Of course, paying for the chance that Soriano really has established a new level of performance is pretty foolhardy, but there you go.

    The other thing I was thinking is that there’s pretty clearly a large performance gap between most of this year’s position players and the truly elite players (though J.D. Drew is capable of performing at an elite level if his body holds up). The smarter teams have probably been looking at this year’s position free agents and quietly counting the years until Miguel Cabrera is a free agent. Sure, he’ll cost a bijillion dollars, but he’s actually worth a bijillion dollars.

  17. Mr. Egaas on November 25th, 2006 3:48 pm

    It’s funny how Matthew’s deal looks like a bargain, but then you think about it being Gary Matthews, Jr., and it’s just funny again.

  18. lisa gray on November 25th, 2006 4:22 pm


    i sure do agree that it seems like teams are not really interested in defense when they evaluate a player, really, unless he is at short or center.

    i think that it is true that most teams just look at last year’s stats when they decide to go after a player. look at gary matthews. look at beltre (sorry.) but my astros are going to have exactly one great glove on the field next year – adam everett, who is simply awesome, and one OK glove, willy taveras, who is still trying to understand what a cutoff man is for. Mo Ensberg is very good, but you betcha they will finally dump him off on someone for a LOOGY. can’t never have too many LOOGYs. you see mo is this terrible wussy who won’t swing at ball 4 for some reason like real men do (see willy taveras) so he has to go cuz we can’t have no guys like that on the team.

    i think it is paying for home runs and basically ignoring everything else.

  19. Josh on November 25th, 2006 4:44 pm

    I think Beltre is/was a little different. His completed year prior to his signing was age 25. That’s extremely young for a free agent, and is just when most players begin to enter their real prime.

    Yes, likely that season carried more weight in contract talk than it should have. On the other hand, though, it was a much better indicator of likely performance than if, say, a 32 year old were to have a “break out” year.

  20. davepaisley on November 25th, 2006 6:43 pm

    It would be interesting to see the numbers vs a 3 year prior average as well as just the last season.

    Also, while the numbers correlate fairly well, it really looks like there are just three levels the “market” sees:

    1) lowly regarded: $15M

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.