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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Silverman: Bill James big part of Red Sox re-Bill-ding effort

Done researching the cocktrailing exploits of William “The Mutilator” MacDonald…Bill James gets back to baseball!

“We’re trying to think more clearly about player’s value,’’ said James in an email, his preferred mode of communication these days. “Our process in the past has relied on making good judgments about players, and then paying whatever the market demanded we pay for those players that we liked. That process had sprung a wheel, so we’re trying to think about player’s value in a more organized, cohesive fashion. That’s essentially what’s driving this, I think.’’

Ask him where he and the team are headed, and James and everyone associated with the team take a turn for the vague.

“We have a clear intention to do something different, but I don’t think I should talk about it before we get it done,’’ said James.

...Maintaining discipline with a checkbook can make a team seem like an outsider looking in at a bustling marketplace. That approach poses its fair share of perils.

“Well, of course we don’t control the market,’’ said James. “Other teams will interfere with what we are trying to do no matter how we approach the market; that is the nature of a market. We didn’t control the market in 2003 and 2004, we didn’t control the market the last two years, and we will not control the market next year.

“But in 2003 and 2004, we were productive participants in the market. We got players out of the market who were very valuable to us and at prices we could afford. In the last two or three years we have gotten away from what we were doing well.

“The fact that we don’t control what other teams do is the reason we have to be disciplined in what we are doing.’’

Repoz Posted: September 23, 2012 at 06:28 AM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, red sox

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   1. John DiFool2 Posted: September 23, 2012 at 06:50 AM (#4243448)
"Sprung a wheel"? I'm afraid I don't follow your jargon, old boy...
   2. bjhanke Posted: September 23, 2012 at 08:14 AM (#4243459)
"Control" or no "control", I do know that I would not want to be a GM trying to sign a free agent that the Red Sox wanted this coming offseason. Possibly a few more to come. They've got a LOT of cash suddenly available, courtesy of the Dodgers. - Brock Hanke
   3. Belfry Bob Posted: September 23, 2012 at 08:19 AM (#4243462)
I think that's part of the point James is trying to make. Being flush with cash is a 'position.' It's not a 'position' that automatically leads to success - their choices over the last few years demonstrate that.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 23, 2012 at 08:32 AM (#4243467)
at prices we could afford.

Oh, those poor Red Sox, struggling to balance the checkbook.

Every team is about to get a lovely national TV contract bonus. These guys have another, what, $60-70 M they could spend on top of that? The Cubs have an extra $50 M or so to spend as do the Mets. The Nats and maybe the O's are going to want to build on newfound success. The Phils have $40 M coming off the books and had a disappointing season (barring a miracle).

Greinke and Hamilton are going to be obscenely rich gentlemen.

The Dodgers appear to be stuck -- jiminy christmas, they're committed to $181 M next year already and that doesn't include arb awards (nohing major) and minimum salary players. Unless they just don't care about the luxury tax. Maybe that's why they're thinking of extending Colletti -- it doesn't really matter who the GM of this team is anyway because there's nothing they can do now but see how it plays out. Wow, they're even locked into Ethier for another 5 years and 1B is blocked so they'll have to live with his defense as he ages.
   5. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 23, 2012 at 09:38 AM (#4243494)
Shouldn't the headline be "James a big part of Red Sox Re-Bill-Ding Effort"? Otherwise you kind of kill the pun.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 23, 2012 at 11:09 AM (#4243542)
Oh, those poor Red Sox, struggling to balance the checkbook.

A lot of this is the Red Sox own doing. They insist on playing cheap, as the rest of the sport is spending all the extra cash coming in.

The proper big market response to this year was to keep Gonzalez, and Crawford, and up the budget.
   7. salajander Posted: September 23, 2012 at 12:21 PM (#4243583)
Up the budget? Up yours!
   8. KT's Pot Arb Posted: September 23, 2012 at 01:25 PM (#4243619)
The proper big market response to this year was to keep Gonzalez, and Crawford, and up the budget.


QFT.

And probably keep Beckett rather than sell low. His most likely outcome is to bounce back and be a solidly above average starter for the duration of his contract. Free agents with similar likely outcomes are going to get Beckett level annual amounts on much longer term deals given the new payroll levels. And if Beckett totally flames out, his contract is short enough to not be a major burden, he's a risk they can afford.
   9. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 23, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4243625)
No no, by making the trade the sox are better off. We got rid of bad contracts to guys in their thirties and now can go after Josh Hamilton as a free agent!

I hope I'm wrong but I think that trade is going to be viewed as a big mistake.
   10. Swedish Chef Posted: September 23, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4243634)
With all that new money sloshing about, no other way to transform money into wins than the FA market and the lack of quality free agents; the players that got locked up early recently are going to look pretty dumb in a few years.
   11. Nasty Nate Posted: September 23, 2012 at 06:38 PM (#4243804)
A lot of this is the Red Sox own doing. They insist on playing cheap, as the rest of the sport is spending all the extra cash coming in.


Let's wait until the Sox actually start one single season with a low payroll before convicting them of cheapness.
   12. Nasty Nate Posted: September 23, 2012 at 06:43 PM (#4243807)
And probably keep Beckett rather than sell low. His most likely outcome is to bounce back and be a solidly above average starter for the duration of his contract. Free agents with similar likely outcomes are going to get Beckett level annual amounts on much longer term deals given the new payroll levels.


What will the projection systems predict for Beckett next year - something like 105-110 ERA+? He's a guy who you also wouldn't expect to give you 200 innings, so I'm glad it won't be the Sox giving him $15 million.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: September 23, 2012 at 06:46 PM (#4243809)
I think Swisher is going to be interesting this offseason.

I mean, he's not very good. He's solid of course, pretty much any team would be happy to have him for 2013-14 but nobody really wants to commit to him for 5+ years. But there's so much money out there and so few players ... and he's been really durable ... and he switch-hits so you can put him anywhere in the lineup ... and he can play 1B/LF/RF ... and his defense isn't horrible ... and he hasn't been a trouble-maker ... and I just have to think that somebody talks themselves into at least Carlos Lee money (6/$100).
   14. Darren Posted: September 23, 2012 at 07:17 PM (#4243824)
Every team is about to get a lovely national TV contract bonus. These guys have another, what, $60-70 M they could spend on top of that?


This reminds me: are the Red Sox under the cap enough that they don't have to worry about being under again next year and avoid the superduper tax? Because if not, than the extra TV money isn't going to matter--their limit is the payroll tax limit, just as it would have been if they didn't get some new TV money.

The proper big market response to this year was to keep Gonzalez, and Crawford, and up the budget.


This has been demonstrated by MCOA (a couple times), but Gonzo/Crawford/Beckett project to be overpriced by something like $100 mil over the course of their contracts. In order to do better than that projection, the Sox don't have to sign three superstars. They only need to get about 10 WAR per season.

   15. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: September 23, 2012 at 09:01 PM (#4243858)
In order to do better than that projection, the Sox don't have to sign three superstars. They only need to get about 10 WAR per season.

Isn't 10 WAR per season basically 2 All-Star players or 3 good players per season? Without signing FAs to multi-year contracts that will likely be just as "overpriced" as Crawford, Beckett and Gonzalez, how do you obtain such players exactly?

1) Short-term FAs -- Carlos Lee, Carlos Pena, Stephen Drew, Eric Chavez, Scott Rolen, Kevin Youkilis!, Melky Cabrera!, Jonny Gomes, Angel Pagan, Ichiro Suzuki!
2) Trade Saltalamacchia or prospects for established players -- they probably won't want to trade Bogaerts, Barnes and maybe other top guys, so this may be tough
3) Scrap heap people like Brandon Moss or non-tenders
4) Trade Pedroia, Lester and/or Ellsbury for prospects to fill multiple positons

This seems really hard to do if you want a level of certainty that you'll contend. It's OK for Oakland to do this since they don't expect to contend every year. I find it hard to see Boston being happy to contend only sometimes.
   16. Darren Posted: September 23, 2012 at 11:28 PM (#4243921)
Without signing FAs to multi-year contracts that will likely be just as "overpriced" as Crawford, Beckett and Gonzalez, how do you obtain such players exactly?


No, that's the whole point of this deal. Remember, Crawford's given them 0 WAR for $40 mil over two years so far. Those 3 guys are going to cost you $60 mil or so next year and they're not going to be projected to give you those 10 wins (maybe 8?). You pay full price or 3 good players (3.3 WAR is not an all-star, it's an above average player). These guys are out there--Pagan, Victorino, Swisher, Upton are a couple who are in that category.
   17. vivaelpujols Posted: September 23, 2012 at 11:46 PM (#4243928)
Yeah or the Sox could sign Greinke and BJ Upton, which gets you most of the way to 10 projected wins.
   18. GregD Posted: September 23, 2012 at 11:51 PM (#4243932)
No, that's the whole point of this deal. Remember, Crawford's given them 0 WAR for $40 mil over two years so far. Those 3 guys are going to cost you $60 mil or so next year and they're not going to be projected to give you those 10 wins (maybe 8?). You pay full price or 3 good players (3.3 WAR is not an all-star, it's an above average player). These guys are out there--Pagan, Victorino, Swisher, Upton are a couple who are in that category.
I think the Red Sox did the right thing, but you have to factor in that even well-thought-out contracts have a lot of uncertainty. Even if the Sox pay fair market rate for four guys, they're likely going to get below-average returns from two of them.

Beyond that, what is the fair market rate? For someone like Swisher? I think he's got to get some high per-annum salary offers, though I doubt he'll get a huge number of years.

In terms of picking up WAR, the people named include (last 3 years)

Victorino 1.8 so far, 5.2, 2.8. What's his expected WAR next year? 2.5?
Upton 2.8, 2.6, 1.0. Projected War? 2.7 or so?
Pagan 4.1, 1.0, 5.1 Probably a 3.5 projection or so?
Swisher 2.2, 1.5, 3.4 Projects to what? 2.0?
Carlos Lee -0.3, 2.0, -4.2 Projects to what? 0.5
Pena 0.5, 2.3, 1.7 Projects to 1.4 or something?
Drew -0.6, 1.7, 3.7 Projects to what? 0.6?
Chavez 1.3, 0.3, -0.3 Projects to? 0.8?
Rolen 0.3, 1.5, 3.9 Probably projects to 1.0 or something?
Gomes 1.4, 0.4, -1.1 projects to 0.7 or something?
Ichiro 2.3, 0.3, 3.4 Projects to what? 1.5?
Greinke 3.1, 1.4, 3.2 Projects to what? 2.5?

Youkilis and Cabrera I'll leave alone

So let's say you sign Swisher, Greinke, BJ Upton, that's an expected what? 7.5 or 8 WAR? For how much money to sign all 3? $50 million for next year? More? And that with a built-in risk that one or another could fall apart. (As well of course as chance that Greinki could look like 2009 version.)


   19. Darren Posted: September 24, 2012 at 12:01 AM (#4243935)
I think the Red Sox did the right thing, but you have to factor in that even well-thought-out contracts have a lot of uncertainty. Even if the Sox pay fair market rate for four guys, they're likely going to get below-average returns from two of them.


The expected result of a deal should be average returns, right?
   20. GregD Posted: September 24, 2012 at 12:06 AM (#4243937)
The expected result of a deal should be average returns, right?
So if you do 4 reasonable deals, you'd expect that 2 might come in above average and 2 below, no?

Is it true, actually, that many teams get average expected returns from their free agent deals? Or is this a case like investing the market where very few brokers are able to match the market average?
   21. Jim Wisinski Posted: September 24, 2012 at 12:11 AM (#4243940)
I find it hard to see Boston being happy to contend only sometimes.


Pshh, what do you call the last three seasons?
   22. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: September 24, 2012 at 12:30 AM (#4243943)
Pshh, what do you call the last three seasons?

Not happy....and that's even though they actually competed in 2 of those seasons.

You pay full price or 3 good players (3.3 WAR is not an all-star, it's an above average player). These guys are out there--Pagan, Victorino, Swisher, Upton are a couple who are in that category.

Maybe, but you have to actually sign all 3 of them. It's not done till it's done. It's not like there's a plentiful supply of 3.3 WAR guys filling out employment applications to play in Boston. There are a few and you have to compete to sign 3 of them.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 24, 2012 at 07:09 AM (#4243978)
So if you do 4 reasonable deals, you'd expect that 2 might come in above average and 2 below, no?

I think the average returns on FA signings have been shown to be quite poor. At least for long-term deals.

Given their age, FAs almost never outperform expectations, and injury is such a huge risk.
   24. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: September 24, 2012 at 07:29 AM (#4243983)
I think the average returns on FA signings have been shown to be quite poor. At least for long-term deals.

Given their age, FAs almost never outperform expectations, and injury is such a huge risk.

OK, then shouldn't we lower our expectations such that out of 4 deals, 2 will come out above average and 2 below?
   25. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: September 24, 2012 at 07:32 AM (#4243984)
This seems really hard to do if you want a level of certainty that you'll contend. It's OK for Oakland to do this since they don't expect to contend every year. I find it hard to see Boston being happy to contend only sometimes.
I think the goal of the Red Sox is to contend always, starting again in 2014 or 2015. The club can't easily replace Crawford and Gonzalez and Beckett for next year, but they should have little trouble improving upon them over two or three years.

The problem for the Red Sox, which I think is being missed here, is that they didn't project to be particularly impressive playoff contenders next year. They'd probably project around 84-88 wins. With Youkilis' money freed up and Ortiz re-signed to a similar deal, they'd have had maybe $15M to spend. That's not enough to get the 2013 Sox into serious contention, especially given that 2nd place in the AL East is worth a lot less than it used to be.

So the question facing the Red Sox wasn't whether they should give up on certain contention in 2013 in order to improve the long-term outlook of the club. It was whether they should blow up a roster that has failed twice in a row and projected to an over 50% chance of failing again next year, even if that means that winning the division in 2013 will require a whole lot of good fortune, in order to be better positioned for 2014 and into the future.

So I agree with Darren that the extent to which Carl Crawford's contract was a shitshow needs to be accounted for. Further, the best projected value from Gonzalez and Crawford and Beckett came in 2013, when the Sox were probably going to fall short again. So given that baseline - the Sox most likely weren't winning the division next year anyway - plus the failure of those contracts so far, the trade made sense.
I think the average returns on FA signings have been shown to be quite poor. At least for long-term deals.
Have been shown? Link?

I don't think it's reasonable to say that a bit over five wins from Gonzalez + Crawford for $42M (their projected 2013 value, it goes down from there) is a typical FA return.
   26. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: September 24, 2012 at 07:50 AM (#4243991)
The club can't easily replace Crawford and Gonzalez and Beckett for next year, but they should have little trouble improving upon them over two or three years.

This is the part that I think is easier said than done. While it's not exactly easy to rid oneself of bad contracts, it's a lot tougher to replace mediocre players with good ones. Right now the Red Sox are in a situation where their team isn't particularly good or bad and has lots of holes. Filling those holes with good players while not breaking the bank on the FA market is a difficult thing. I wouldn't assume that they'll have "little trouble" doing it in 2-3 years.
   27. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 24, 2012 at 08:02 AM (#4243997)
Right, the "calculations" essentially assume that the player market is liquid, when it is not. And the value of marginal team wins over a certain amount in a given season is very low under the current structure; if you wait and wait and eventually hit a couple of jackpots and win 92 games in year one but 100 games in year two when there happens to be more bargains, that's not as optimal as two seasons of 95 wins. The lower you are in expected average return based on payroll (cough, Oakland) the more valuable variance is; if you're Boston, variance should be a negative.

The "value" strategy essentially requires quasi-punting seasons because you can't plug holes in an illiquid market efficiently. While value techniques always have their place (ie, a team should always behave opportunistically and sign the Kurodas of the world), ultimately you need inefficiently-values tentpole players to be perpetually successful.
   28. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: September 24, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4244017)
Filling those holes with good players while not breaking the bank on the FA market is a difficult thing.
I don't think the Red Sox will be avoiding spending money on the FA market. They have a lot of money to spend! The issue is that they didn't do a good job, at all, of spending FA money in the last three years, and they want to reconsider how they evaluate these decisions. That doesn't mean not signing FAs. Obviously the test is which ones, when, for how much, but that's the test for everyone.

The Sox under Lucchino and Henry really love talking up their brilliance to the press. I wouldn't take these statements as evidence of a radically new plan or a determination to win without buying big time FAs. It's saying, "we ###### up, we're gonna fix things" in Lucchino-speak, which involves a complex process of acknowledging error by talking about how amazing you are and how gamechangily proactive your new direction will be.

(On free agent signings that work, the Sox should have signed Holliday in 2009. If they did that, they're most likely in the playoffs every year 2010-2012.)
   29. chris p Posted: September 24, 2012 at 10:38 AM (#4244055)
(On free agent signings that work, the Sox should have signed Holliday in 2009. If they did that, they're most likely in the playoffs every year 2010-2012.)

while we are talking about the should-have-dones, they really should have extended beltre after 2010 and left youk at first. instead, they moved their all-star 1b to 3b, where he lasted about half a season before injuries caught up.

if they were desperate to trade their top prospects, they should have looked at a position of need ... at that point i guess it would have been shortstop and corner outfield? definitely not 1b.

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