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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cameron: The Market for Offense Might Be Overcorrecting

And we probably haven’t seen the last of deals like this. If Rasmus can only get $5 million, and no one would take Seth Smith at $7 million, how does Brandon Moss ask for significantly more? What kind of offers are Carter and Pedro Alvarez going to get in a world where similar hitters with better defensive abilities are settling for cut-rate contracts just to land a job.

On the one hand, we could look at deals like this and think that perhaps the market has decided to pay less than the roughly $8 million per win rate for marginal starters, preferring to save their money for better players overall. But this downturn in spending on +1 WAR veterans only shows up when we look at bat-first 1B/OF/DH types.

...

The market has long overpaid one-dimensional power hitters. This, though, feels like more than just a simple market correction. When perfectly useful players on one year deals for $7 million can’t get moved for even a non-prospect, it feels like the pendulum has swung too far the other way. It’s time to jump on this, contenders; these bargains won’t last forever.

I’ve been thinking something similar for a while. This seems to go beyond mere WAR valuations. Contra: Dave Kingman and Rob Deer bounced around.

Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 01:10 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: free agency, markets, moneyball, sluggers, tulips

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   1. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:19 PM (#5381757)
If Rasmus can only get $5 million, and no one would take Seth Smith at $7 million, how does Brandon Moss ask for significantly more? What kind of offers are Carter and Pedro Alvarez going to get in a world where similar hitters with better defensive abilities are settling for cut-rate contracts just to land a job.


When those three guys were free agents last offseason, Moss got $8.25M, Pedro got $5.75M, and Carter got $2.5M. As such, it seems like the market is just continuing down the path it has already been following for a while. I really don't understand all this gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over what seem like very reasonable earnings assessments.
   2. eddieot Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:38 PM (#5381778)
The Phillies should be all over this market. One-year deals on veteran hitters is exactly what they need to fill the gap the next year or two.
   3. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 02:42 PM (#5381784)
I mean, quick straw poll. Cameron cited Steve Pearce's 2/$12M as evidence that the guys above are being undervalued, but is there anyone here who would rather have any of those guys than Pearce? Not only is he significantly more versatile on defense, but he's also a straight-up better hitter: 135 OPS+ last year, and 129 OPS+ over the last three years. Compare that to Moss (105 last year, and 105 last three), Pedro (115 last year, 110 last three), or Carter (114 last year, 114 last three).
   4. Random Transaction Generator Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:08 PM (#5381817)
The Phillies should be all over this market. One-year deals on veteran hitters is exactly what they need to fill the gap the next year or two.

Plus, if they strike gold with one of those veterans going on a tear, they can flip him for a decent prospect in July.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 03:30 PM (#5381852)
Plus, if they strike gold with one of those veterans going on a tear, they can flip him for a decent prospect in July.


I don't know if it's allowed, but if I'm one of these guys, I definitely try to negotiate a 500k pay raise if I get traded. I would think that it wouldn't stop a team from signing me (since if someone is willing to trade for me, my numbers are probably decent enough for them to not care about the money) so it would probably be an easy negotiation, since that money wouldn't be coming from the team I'm signing with anyway, and it's not so high that it would hurt the return in any trade. (although I do guess 500k for 2 months is a bit more cumbersome than 500k for 6 months)
   6. Sleepless in Munich Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:35 PM (#5381931)
Maybe the assumptions about replacement level don't work in the current market. According to Fangraphs' projections, 28 teams are expected to get a WAR of 1.0 or higher from their 1B, with the only exceptions being the Pirates at 0.9 and the Rangers at 0.5. As an example, Chris Carter is projected for 0.8 WAR in 560 PA at 1B. But there is only one team - the Rangers - who would improve their projection by signing Carter.
   7. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:45 PM (#5381940)
the only exceptions being the Pirates at 0.9 and the Rangers at 0.5


Not sure where you're getting that - Steamer has Josh Bell at 1.1.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: January 11, 2017 at 04:55 PM (#5381949)
I don't know if it's allowed...
It is, and contracts periodically contain them. I think the deal Drew Storen signed last week has one. Sometimes they are called an "assignment bonus."
   9. Sleepless in Munich Posted: January 11, 2017 at 05:08 PM (#5381965)
Not sure where you're getting that - Steamer has Josh Bell at 1.1.

Pirates projection

They have Bell splitting time between 1B, RF and DH.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 05:14 PM (#5381970)
Maybe the assumptions about replacement level don't work in the current market. According to Fangraphs' projections, 28 teams are expected to get a WAR of 1.0 or higher from their 1B,


???? I'm not sure what the issue is here. For the most part every team in baseball should be projected to get a 1.0 war out of their projected starting player, if not then there is an issue that needs to be addressed at the gm level. There might be an occasional star player on a long term contract that is no longer at that level, which the team feels a need to play(Ryan Howard) or a rookie player that the team is invested in and as a non-contender, they might end up projecting him to start even though he might not be ready, but for the most part, 28 teams at any position, should have a projected 1.0 or better player projection for a starter. (maybe 26)

The sub 1.0 war projected players are the bench players. (in reality a few of these projected starting players will have an injury or an off year or be platooned or something to not make 1.0 war, but that is something you don't usually expect a projection system to pick up.)
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 05:22 PM (#5381980)
They have Bell splitting time between 1B, RF and DH.


Fair enough. That seems weird to me, but I guess that's on them.
   12. bookbook Posted: January 11, 2017 at 10:20 PM (#5382100)
Most teams get negative WAR out of at least one position each year. The Mariners usually manage at least three. Is that all normal variation, with the vagaries of injuries thrown in? (Other than the Mariners, of course, which was more about tradition and such.)
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2017 at 10:52 PM (#5382110)
Most teams get negative WAR out of at least one position each year. The Mariners usually manage at least three. Is that all normal variation, with the vagaries of injuries thrown in? (Other than the Mariners, of course, which was more about tradition and such.)


Agree, result wise, that is what happens, either because of injury or whatever, but I doubt there are too many starting positions in baseball that is projected at even 1.0 war, it would make no sense, if you are projecting less than 1.0 war, you are really saying "this position is an open battle." which of course some teams do say that.... I would imagine if you look at projection systems that are projecting playing time, that pretty much nearly every player who is projected over 500 pa, is going to be at least .8 war. If not, why would a team have them? Most teams have a couple of bench players capable of doing that level of play. The whole point of replacement is talking about the 26th man on the roster, not the 8th position player.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: January 12, 2017 at 01:46 AM (#5382133)
The market has long overpaid one-dimensional power hitters.

Evidence please. The most 1-dimensional power hitters of all are DHs. Ortiz was never paid more than $17 in a season and never had a contract longer than 3 years I think. VMart used to hold the record for his 4/$17 per which was a mistake but he's only paid like a slightly above-average player, not a star. EE just set the record at 3/$65. In general, guys like Carter/Trumbo are considered good enough hitters to even be considered full-time DHs, at least not long-term full-time DHs. Unless WAR is woefully off on the position adjustment, Ortiz was a huge bargain and EE should be OK at that money.

They did of course (e.g.) overpay badly for Josh Hamilton but he wasn't considered one-dimensional at the time ... the problem there was they seemed to let the one incredible season overly influence their expectations. And the main reason the contract stunk was that he immediately declined badly as a hitter, got hurt and made a nuisance of himself. There was also Prince which was an obviously bad contract from the start but more due to length than AAV per se ... and he was young.

But you can stack those crappy contracts up against Carl Crawford, Vernon Wells and (probably) Jason Heyward and possibly conclude that there's no bias towards screwing up contracts for 1-dimensional sluggers. Tex and AGon basically got paid the same AAV as Fielder (and through the same age) and they were both considered better all-around players ... it's easy to argue they should have been paid better than Fielder (they should have) but Detroit panicked on the Fielder deal. And of course 1-dimensional slugger Jim Thome worked out just fine.

Maybe he means the true 1-dimensional sluggers like these guys who aren't even particularly good offensive players (110-120 OPS+ types) -- i.e. crappy BAs and/or walk rates -- and give back some on defense. Nobody's springing to mind who got vastly overpaid but maybe I'm forgetting somebody obvious. Certainly a more all-around guy like Adam LaRoche managed to land a 3/$39 (?) contract from the Nats ages ago.

Maybe it's a reference to old man skills. Fair enough, the White Sox had plenty of warning that Dunn might be about to go off a cliff -- still the problem wasn't so much that he was overpaid as that he became that type of 1-dimensional slugger I just mentioned as his BA cratered into the low 200s. If teams are staying away from these guys out of collapse fear ... that's probably warranted.

???? I'm not sure what the issue is here.

I think what he's saying is that every team already has one 1-WAR (or better) 1B and (if they want one) full-time DH on their roster, why would any of them want two? Or "above-replacement 1B" is actually a very fungible player such that there's an oversupply of guys in that 1-<2 range ... when there's too much supply, prices come down.

There was a very active market for this type of 1-2 WAR 1B/DH this year. The Jays moved early last year to tie up Smoak (why?) and this offseason to tie up Morales. The Brewers grabbed Eric Thames, the A's grabbed Alonso, the Red Sox Moreland. I guess the Ms are gonna use Vogelbach for this purpose (mixing 1B/DH with Lee and Cruz with Cruz also getting some LF). Arguably Matt Holliday and Matt Joyce belong in here too but they are a slightly higher class of player. This was the point I was trying to make about Matt Adams -- a backup 1B is not a good fit on modern team but if the Cards were going to move him, they have to make that move early because there's almost no place left.

I'll assume it's also a consequence of thin benches. Few teams can afford a platoon at 1B or (non-fielding) DH. Platoon 1B-only, DH, backup C leaves an AL team with just one position player backup. At least one of your 1B or the DH has to play some OF ... making them essentially a full-time player. I think to find a home, look to the teams that don't have/want a full-time DH ... but maybe also want more production than the rotating DH usually provides. If one of these guys can take 300-400 DH PAs and 100 backup 1B PAs that might have enough value without killing flexibility.
   15. The Polish Sausage Racer Posted: January 13, 2017 at 01:48 PM (#5383030)
The Phillies should be all over this market. One-year deals on veteran hitters is exactly what they need to fill the gap the next year or two.

Plus, if they strike gold with one of those veterans going on a tear, they can flip him for a decent prospect in July.


The Brewers should be doing this too [As Walt noted, they did this with Thames]. Get a couple of these veteran hitters on the cheap, let them hit a bunch of dingers in Miller Park's launching pad to boost their value, and then flip them for prospects.
   16. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 13, 2017 at 02:17 PM (#5383047)
Chris Carter might work for the Brewers. Seems like a good fit.
   17. AROM Posted: January 13, 2017 at 02:42 PM (#5383060)
Agree, result wise, that is what happens, either because of injury or whatever, but I doubt there are too many starting positions in baseball that is projected at even 1.0 war, it would make no sense, if you are projecting less than 1.0 war, you are really saying "this position is an open battle." which of course some teams do say that.... I would imagine if you look at projection systems that are projecting playing time, that pretty much nearly every player who is projected over 500 pa, is going to be at least .8 war. If not, why would a team have them? Most teams have a couple of bench players capable of doing that level of play. The whole point of replacement is talking about the 26th man on the roster, not the 8th position player.


If you look at the projected starters for all 30 teams, you should expect to see about 2 projected wins for the 15-16th best players. If it's too far away from that, you're probably not setting replacement level right, though maybe it's just that one position is unusually strong - I'd guess if I retrojected the center fielders for the 1950's , I'd probably get better than 2 WAR for the 8-9 spots in a 16 team MLB.

So you're probably looking at 1 WAR or so for the bottom 5 teams.
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: January 13, 2017 at 02:52 PM (#5383062)
If you look at the projected starters for all 30 teams, you should expect to see about 2 projected wins for the 15-16th best players. If it's too far away from that, you're probably not setting replacement level right, though maybe it's just that one position is unusually strong - I'd guess if I retrojected the center fielders for the 1950's , I'd probably get better than 2 WAR for the 8-9 spots in a 16 team MLB.

So you're probably looking at 1 WAR or so for the bottom 5 teams.


I would think the results should mirror that, but not projections. If a team is projecting a 1(or less)War starting position player(meaning he is projected to have over 500 pa) then they have issues with their roster construction. Sure sometimes a team is stuck with a player for whatever reason (a young guy who isn't quite ready for the majors, but the team doesn't see much reason to keep him in the minors, an aging fan loved superstar under contract with no true heir apparent in the wings or a specialist that helps fill a gap that the team has on their roster--defense, power, speed, plate discipline, leadership etc.--- that the team is willing to take a lower overall value to help round out the team)

   19. AROM Posted: January 13, 2017 at 03:03 PM (#5383068)
If average is 2.0, then 15 teams will project to have someone worse than that.

The exception is the Lake Wobegon League, where the worst teams are still projected to get 2.1 wins from their starters.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: January 13, 2017 at 04:06 PM (#5383096)
If average is 2.0, then 15 teams will project to have someone worse than that.


Only if teams only play 8 players all season long. Average includes a ton of plate appearances by non-projected starters, the average is brought down by non-projected starters.

Just looking at 2b(randomly grabbing a position) for 2016, only 24 players even reached 400 pa as a second baseman, and the worst of that lot was .4 war(Jace Peterson) and only two others were below 1.0(Brandon Phillips .8 and Scooter Gennett .9)

I don't debate where the average and the final results end up, I'm debating teams projected to have a 1.0 or war less player at a starting position. I don't think it makes sense, outside of a few circumstances, teams aren't projecting starters to be below 1.0 War.

This is not an attack on War, this is about projections and expectations. Teams do not project below 1.0 war(or the equivalent depending on whatever the team is using) from their starters usually.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: January 13, 2017 at 04:54 PM (#5383131)
CFB, I think I agree with you but I think you need to nail down what you're talking about in PT and performance terms. Frequently teams go into a season without a starter at one or two positions, by "design". Sometimes it is genuine design as in they think they have a productive platoon there. Sometimes it's by lack of talent in the organization and they've got 4 guys in the mix for 2B and 3B, don't expect any of them to be even average and hope to mix and match. I think what you're saying is that, with rare exception, teams will either have a legit starter (say 1.5+ WAR in a full-time projection) or at least a couple of guys who will project to .5+ WAR in a half-season.

To which I grabbed the Brewers ZiPS (looks like Cards ZiPS just went up by the way). ZiPS has 20 players on the Brewers who project to 1 zWAR, many in fewer than 500 PA, a couple even fewer than 350. That seems a surprisingly good projection for a not so good team but they were only -2 WAA for the position players last year. Their main problems last year were 1B (-1.1 WAA) which they hope Thames (1.8 projection) will help ... and RF where they were -2.2 which ZiPS suggests they have solved. The OF of Broxton, Brinson, Braun (hey that's fun!) are projected to nearly 7 WAR plus Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips combine for a 2.9 projection in 1000 WAR. Pro-rate those projections down to the 2100 or so PA that an OF will accumulate and it comes to about 8 WAR.

That said, I'm a bit wary of zWAR, seems too optimistic for these lower guys. For example, for the Braves, Tuffy Gosewisch projects to 0.8 WAR in just 223 PA, suggesting he's nearly an average C in full-time play. But in about 450 PA over the last 4 years, he's at -0.9 fWAR. He did hit well at Reno last year at age 32 but I'm pretty sure no team would expect Gosewisch to contribute anything but PT behind the plate to their 2017 efforts.

Maybe it's the mechanics of the projection systems -- in absence of much reliable data, regress towards the mean. Even including minors time, Gosewisch has only about 700 PA over the last 4 years. A human projecting would take that as a sign he's not very good and probably slide him towards replacement level; depending on how it's set up, a statistical model will slide him towards league average. If so, that sort of thing could be happening for a lot of these fairly promising projections for kids and bench players.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: January 13, 2017 at 05:04 PM (#5383132)
CFB, I think I agree with you but I think you need to nail down what you're talking about in PT and performance terms.


The only thing I'm really talking about is projections for starters. The original post pointed to the fact that 28 first baseman in baseball are projected to be 1.0 war or better.

Original post.
Maybe the assumptions about replacement level don't work in the current market. According to Fangraphs' projections, 28 teams are expected to get a WAR of 1.0 or higher from their 1B, with the only exceptions being the Pirates at 0.9 and the Rangers at 0.5. As an example, Chris Carter is projected for 0.8 WAR in 560 PA at 1B. But there is only one team - the Rangers - who would improve their projection by signing Carter.


My point is that if a guy is projected to be a starter, (meaning 400+ pa at the position--500 is probably more accurate) that he is probably going to be projected to be over 1.0 War. It doesn't matter the quality of the team. For the most part barring the few extenuating circumstances I mentioned earlier, every expected starting position player is probably going to be projected above 1.0 war. The reality over the course of the season is different, but not many teams are going to go into the season with a projected starting position player with less than 1.0 war over 500 pa.

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