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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Opening Bell | FanGraphs Baseball

I want them contending as often as possible. To that end I want to see them make smart decisions. Going “for broke” every year is not a sustainable model.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Well, yes. But so what?” (You might also think I’m an idiot, but I hope not.) The “so what” is this: I’ve spent too much of the last three years valorizing losing in order to win and praising teams for making marginal improvements when wholesale advances were appropriate. Some of it has been good writing, but too much of it has been far too incautious.

As I start this new chapter at FanGraphs, I’d like to change that — to reexamine the way I write about teams and what they do, and the frames I use to judge them. I’m honored and delighted to join this wonderful community of writers and readers (I was one of you for a very long time), and I am confident that spending time with you will make me a better thinker and analyst. Perhaps it’ll even provide some moments of interest for you, too…

For now, here we are, just a few short weeks away from beginning again. Life is too often lived balanced on the edge of a knife, in moments far too precarious to allow us the time to gather our footing and swing for the fences. But baseball doesn’t have to be played that way. Enough. The opening bell is about to ring. Wouldn’t you rather all 30 teams be out there going for broke?

Jim Furtado Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:39 AM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cba, free agency

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   1. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:49 AM (#5624053)
The other way might make you money more surely and in larger quantities, but it’s also tremendously boring


I will endeavor to read on, but this is a spectacularly stupid way to start. Not only the premise, but the redundancy of "making money more surely and in larger quantities."
   2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:09 AM (#5624060)
There's nothing I like more than someone telling me that I'm enjoying baseball the wrong way, unless it's someone who's also telling me at the same time that there's no reason small-market teams can't or shouldn't spend like large-market ones.

Watt's writing for Vice was kind of a mishmash of clickbait and hot takes, but I guess he's decided to crank that knob up another couple of notches. Joy.
   3. villageidiom Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:42 AM (#5624194)
Wouldn’t you rather all 30 teams be out there going for broke?
Hell, by the same rationale, why not switch your fandom every year to the team that's going for broke the most?
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:03 PM (#5624217)
unless it's someone who's also telling me at the same time that there's no reason small-market teams can't or shouldn't spend like large-market ones.

They can spend pretty close these days. The revenue sharing recipients are getting a ton of cash from the league. Over $100M annually combining Nat'l TV. MLBAM, and revenue sharing.

Every team can sustain a payroll between $125-150M, year in and year out. The big market teams don't want to go much over $200M b/c of the enhanced tax penalties.

Hell, by the same rationale, why not switch your fandom every year to the team that's going for broke the most?

Lots of fans shift their interest into low gear when their team is going to be bad.
   5. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:48 PM (#5624266)
They can spend pretty close these days. The revenue sharing recipients are getting a ton of cash from the league. Over $100M annually combining Nat'l TV. MLBAM, and revenue sharing.

Every team can sustain a payroll between $125-150M, year in and year out. The big market teams don't want to go much over $200M b/c of the enhanced tax penalties.


Even if we assume that all of this is true (and I think you're stretching things), that's still giving large-market teams a 60% advantage over the smallest markets. Which is an enormous edge, and something that he's lazily hand-waving away.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 01:21 PM (#5624293)
Even if we assume that all of this is true (and I think you're stretching things), that's still giving large-market teams a 60% advantage over the smallest markets. Which is an enormous edge, and something that he's lazily hand-waving away.

60% is the largest vs. the low end. Most "large market" teams don't spend all the way up to $200M, and "small market" teams have shown an ability to got to $150M, or even over.

But even assuming 60% advantage, MLB wouldn't want much less than that. You want the biggest markets to win more frequently than the small ones; their are more fans to make happy, and induce to spend their money. In an "optimal" MLB you probably want the Yankees and Dodgers winning the WS twice as often as the Rays and Pirates.
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: February 13, 2018 at 01:26 PM (#5624304)
Optimal to who? I doubt that the shared revenue from the Dodgers winning the WS is double than if the Rays or Pirates win it.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 01:38 PM (#5624319)
Optimal to who? I doubt that the shared revenue from the Dodgers winning the WS is double than if the Rays or Pirates win it.

MLB as a whole. Total revenue maximization.

There are 20 million people in the NY or LA metro area, 10 million if you divide by two clubs, vs. 1.6 million in the Milwaukee metro area.

The impact of NY or LA on total league revenue is much more than twice as large as Milwaukee's. But, you wouldn't want to reflect the true disparity fully b/c markets do get "winner fatigue" and you need the small markets to have hope.
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: February 13, 2018 at 01:44 PM (#5624325)
But owners of individual teams don't care about total league revenue on its own; they care about how if affects them.
The impact of NY or LA on total league revenue is much more than twice as large as Milwaukee's.
So what? The impact of NY or LA winning is the relevant thing for your claim.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:11 PM (#5624348)
So what? The impact of NY or LA winning is the relevant thing for your claim.

So, even if the impact of winning on fans is the same across all markets, e.g. winning a WS increases attendance 10% and TV ratings 20%, than impact will be much greater in total $ terms in a big market.

But owners of individual teams don't care about total league revenue on its own; they care about how if affects them.

They're a cartel. Their goal is to maximize total revenue, and then decide how to split it up.
   11. villageidiom Posted: February 13, 2018 at 04:02 PM (#5624497)
Lots of fans shift their interest into low gear when their team is going to be bad.
But they don't switch to another team. If they really wanted to root for a winner every year - his basis for suggesting each team go for broke - then they could simply switch allegiances every year. Or every month. That they don't is a sign that fans align their interests to some mix of this year and future years. But that's what he's saying nobody should want.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 04:08 PM (#5624500)
But they don't switch to another team. If they really wanted to root for a winner every year - his basis for suggesting each team go for broke - then they could simply switch allegiances every year. Or every month. That they don't is a sign that fans align their interests to some mix of this year and future years. But that's what he's saying nobody should want.

I agree about the switching, but I think that's emotional attachment. Most hard core baseball fans can't easily root for another team.

Of course fans value both present and future years, the point he's making is that ownership values future years way more than fans do (here you have to account for casual fans, not just die hards).
   13. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2018 at 04:37 PM (#5624529)
I'll agree with much of the sentiment expressed in the excerpt. One certainly shouldn't "valorize" losing to win -- it might be the best choice under certain circumstances and it's fine to acknowledge that but you shouldn't praise it and you should call out any systemic features (or past decisions) that led to it being the best choice.

And I think there is too much focus in the analyst community on essentially trivial stuff. Who a team's 10th best prospect is, much less their 20th and 30th, barely matters to that team's FO and even that player's mum isn't really that excited ("well, at least you're getting to see a lot of lovely scenery outside the bus windows dear" "Mom, have you ever been to Texas?"). But of course such overheated coverage of minor moves does no harm and it's always fun when you get one right ... and the big stuff only comes along so often. (No offense to Jim but I missed Repoz in this boring offseason -- we really needed somebody trawling the web for ridiculous stuff to keep us talking.)

On losing to win, tanking, scamming, etc. ... Obviously we can't have Lake Wobegon, obviously we can't have every team clustered between 400 and 600 winning percentages every year, etc. There are going to be terrible teams, there are going to be teams that went for it 5 years ago, maybe even had reasonable success for 3 years, paid the price for the next couple of years with aging, declining, expensive players nobody else wanted while also drafting low due to relative success and are now stuck with no good vet players, few good young players and not enough money and/or available players to build a good team in one offseason.

So sure, a bad team isn't necessarily a tanking team. A low payroll team isn't necessarily a tanking team, a high-medium payroll team could be a tanking team (Theo's early Cub years, stuck with declining expensive vets). What I want to see is each team trying to put their best team out on the field. It is never justified to sign Shawn Camp to be one of your main relievers or to put Joe Mather on your 25-man roster and give him 243 PA unless you have absolutely no choice -- and certainly the Cubs always have a choice.

We should never praise the act of refusing to promote Kris Bryant in mid-season 2014 when he was obviously ML ready. That was clearly intentionally losing games (i.e. knowingly not putting your best team in the field for 3-4 months) in 2014 mainly to screw Bryant out of a few million dollars and arguably to add some wins in 2021 (and while arguably delaying Bryant's further development, potentially costing wins in 2015-16 although fortunately it didn't work out that way).

Feel free to blame whatever combination of MLB, MLBPA, Cubs ownership, Theo, Jim Hendry, bean counters, statnerds and the book Billy Beane wrote that you want but the reaction to that scenario should have been nothing but condemnation for the Cubs deliberately losing games.
   14. Zach Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:11 PM (#5624630)

The dominant orthodoxy rests on three tenets I’ve slowly come to view as noxious:

That a win in the future is worth some large share of a win in the present;
That acquiring a good deal is better (or at least more defensible) than acquiring a good player; and
That baseball is a game primarily for and by the general managers, and not for the fans or for the players.


I actually agree with all of these points, but I think this is an odd time to have a conversion.

According to published reports, JD Martinez is holding out for a $200 million contract. I do not have any confidence I could pick JD Martinez out of a lineup.

According to published reports, Eric Hosmer is asking for a nine year deal. I have spent far too many years as a Royals fan watching teams that were crippled by paying their highest salary to a sub-replacement player to do more than grimace at the thought of those last five years.

Fangraphs seems dedicated to the proposition that crazy salaries must naturally progress to ludicrous salaries at all times, and that anything less is tanking. They list Hosmer as being worth $33.1 million last year! Of course they see any kind of budgeting as giving up on the season. How else could you resist $33.1 million of value for the low, low price of $21 million a year? And if you can get that kind of crazy deal for one year, why not re-up for nine?

What's the word for wanting to spend money wisely, on good players that will be positive contributors for the entire contract?
   15. Stevey Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:14 PM (#5624674)
I think this is an odd time to have a conversion.


I think it's the perfect time. For whatever reason, teams are suddenly very tightfisted. Players are getting 40% of revenue, maybe less. Teams aren't just bad, they are intentionally being cheap to be bad. This is the perfect time to realize that winning the WAR/$ championship isn't important, and trying to put the best product out for your fans should be.

It's not like Martinez and Hosmer are rejecting offers just below what they are asking for. The teams don't seem to be being any less stubborn than the players so far.

the proposition that crazy salaries must naturally progress to ludicrous salaries at all times


Not at all times as much as when revenues are skyrocketing we should expect the people who are driving that revenue to get compensation that keeps up with it.

What's the word for wanting to spend money wisely, on good players that will be positive contributors for the entire contract?


Depends on a whole host of factors. First off, are you demanding that someone like Hosmer be worth at least as much as you're paying him in the last year of his deal? Then you're going to need to completely restructure the contract to pay him a lot more upfront, when he's worth that supposed $33M. Teams actually make out like bandits by keeping a flat AAV while a player declines. NPV says paying Hosmer $21M now and $21M in nine (or whatever) years is cheaper than paying him $33M now and $9M in nine years. And, of course, are you refusing to overpay a little when you are on the right in the heat of postseason contention? That's penny wise, pound foolish. There are spots where it makes sense to go outside your comfort zone. Which is my interpretation of the article, as opposed to Jim's "Going “for broke” every year". You don't need to win every single transaction.
   16. ptodd Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:35 PM (#5624677)
Baseball is entertainment. Imagine going to a Spielberg movie and paying top dollar to see non stars who who should be in B movies, Spielberg tells you its necessary so they can afford to develop new stars who wont make as much as established stars in future movies . He says this as he boards his private jet surrounded by expensive escorts to his personal island in the tropics on a snowy day in NY, following a meeting with the mayor to get an exemption from property tax for his new movie production studio.
   17. greenback made it work, honey Posted: February 14, 2018 at 01:04 AM (#5624681)
Imagine going to a Spielberg movie and paying top dollar to see non stars who who should be in B movies, Spielberg tells you its necessary so they can afford to develop new stars who wont make as much as established stars in future movies.

Spielberg can spout this nonsense all he wants. Assuming he cares about money, it's in his interests to convince people of this take. (There is the obvious point to be made that once you have enough gold to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, then you should want to win a bunch of World Series or make the next great movie more than figure out how to fill Lake Michigan with all of your gains.)

Where it gets weird is when fans start parroting these lines. I mean, the way their team doesn't spend money, Mets fans should be a torch-bearing mob at this point.
   18. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 01:34 AM (#5624682)
First off, are you demanding that someone like Hosmer be worth at least as much as you're paying him in the last year of his deal?

Yes. Or close to it.

Then you're going to need to completely restructure the contract to pay him a lot more upfront, when he's worth that supposed $33M. Teams actually make out like bandits by keeping a flat AAV while a player declines.

This is a persistent myth in the saber crowd about how contracts operate. I don't think it's true at all. The top salary in MLB last year was Clayton Kershaw at $35 million, and it increases by a little under a million a year. Putting Hosmer at $33 million last year, with the existing salary structure, would be valuing him as an MVP contender. He had a nice year at .318/.385/.498, which was good for 14th in the MVP balloting.

I think a much more accurate model is that free agents get slotted into the existing salary structure the year they sign a contract, then try to keep that salary for as long a contract as anyone will give them. Which would put Hosmer at about $20 million, times as many years as some team will offer.

In a world where revenues are skyrocketing, that might be the path of least resistance. But if cable sports stops being an unstoppable money machine, players are going to have to get used to declining salaries in their declining years.
   19. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 01:41 AM (#5624683)
Around here, we just sort of accept that teams are happy to watch a highly paid free agent stumble around the last few years of the contract, and see it as the price of doing business.

That's certainly a fair description of what has happened in the past. But is is a good description of the team's motivations and goals? I'm not so sure.
   20. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 02:32 AM (#5624687)
I really think that Fangraphs overvalues player seasons to a huge degree. Suppose we try a slotting system instead:

Player's slotted salary = top salary in league * player's WAR / top WAR in league. (Note that the top WAR might come from someone other than the top earner.)

That puts Hosmer at $16 million for 2017 using Fangraphs numbers, $10 million using BBref. I think either of those numbers is closer to Hosmer's value than Fangraphs' $33 million.
   21. QLE Posted: February 14, 2018 at 03:51 AM (#5624694)
#16 and #17-

One problem with this method of analysis: in film-making, there isn't really a connection between how much you spend and how good the ultimate product is, as the economic model with film (for those that make them, those that appear in them, and those that finance them) is far different than that with sports. As a result, Spielberg not spending as much as he theoretically could doesn't have the same impact on the quality of his work, whereas the correlation between money spent on players and on-field performance is much more strongly linked.
   22. Buck Coats Posted: February 14, 2018 at 04:46 AM (#5624696)
If you want to argue that there's no issue here, its just that Hosmer and Martinez are being greedy (or stubborn, or misreading the market) then well ok, but - is that also true for Moustakas? And Arrieta? And Lynn? And Cobb? And Carlos Gonzalez? And Logan Morrison? etc? etc? That's a lot of guys being stubborn!
   23. Nasty Nate Posted: February 14, 2018 at 07:32 AM (#5624710)
This is a persistent myth in the saber crowd about how contracts operate. I don't think it's true at all.
I think you have it mostly backwards. The persistent fallacy that I notice is the irrational want for individual years' salaries to line up with those years' performance, for any one player's multi-year deal. And it leads to erroneous conclusions. E.G. It's obvious that, for a 30 year free agent, a 6/$126 (21-21-21-21-21-21) deal is better for the team than a 5/$125m (25-25-25-25-25), but people still seem to want to chafe at the idea of the 6-year deal because the player won't be good enough at the end to deserve that $21m.
   24. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 07:39 AM (#5624713)
Hell, by the same rationale, why not switch your fandom every year to the team that's going for broke the most?


Plenty of fans switch their fandom every single day of the baseball season to whatever team is playing the Yankees. These people are losers of course, but they exist, and in not-insignificant numbers.
   25. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 08:51 AM (#5624744)
Plenty of fans switch their fandom every single day of the baseball season to whatever team is playing the Yankees. These people are losers of course, but they exist, and in not-insignificant numbers.


This is the embodiment of why I hate the Yankees, to the point of caricature. Not only do you call people who don't like the Yankees losers, but "of course" they are losers, as if there is no possibility that they could be anything else. God forbid someone doesn't like your team. Seriously ridiculous. Are there no sports teams that you don't like?
   26. villageidiom Posted: February 14, 2018 at 09:15 AM (#5624761)
Teams aren't just bad, they are intentionally being cheap to be bad.
In the case of JD Martinez, there is record of only one team having made a bid on him, nowhere near what he wants to get paid. The Red Sox won the AL East with almost the exact same roster as last year, a mix of players on the rise and players on the decline. Although one might argue they're being cheap, I think there's no good case to make that their intent is to be bad.
Not only do you call people who don't like the Yankees losers, but "of course" they are losers, as if there is no possibility that they could be anything else.
He's saying that winners root for wins, and losers root for winners to lose. EDIT: And given the number of Yankees fans who root against the AL East Champion Red Sox is not insignificant I'd assume he'd agree that the statement cuts both for and against the Yankees.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 09:25 AM (#5624767)
I think you have it mostly backwards. The persistent fallacy that I notice is the irrational want for individual years' salaries to line up with those years' performance, for any one player's multi-year deal. And it leads to erroneous conclusions. E.G. It's obvious that, for a 30 year free agent, a 6/$126 (21-21-21-21-21-21) deal is better for the team than a 5/$125m (25-25-25-25-25), but people still seem to want to chafe at the idea of the 6-year deal because the player won't be good enough at the end to deserve that $21m.

Yes. Literally all that matters to the team is the net present value of the contract, discounted at their cost of capital, and the years of control.

Ceteris paribus, higher NPV is unambiguously bad, and more years of control is unambiguosly good for the team. The trade-off between total NPV and years of control is where the decisions are made.
   28. BDC Posted: February 14, 2018 at 09:27 AM (#5624768)
Imagine going to a Spielberg movie and paying top dollar to see non stars who who should be in B movies

Like Shia LaBeouf in that Indiana Jones sequel?
   29. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 09:34 AM (#5624772)
Plenty of fans switch their fandom every single day of the baseball season to whatever team is playing the Yankees. These people are losers of course, but they exist, and in not-insignificant numbers.

This is the embodiment of why I hate the Yankees, to the point of caricature.


Losers hate winners. This isn't news.

Not only do you call people who don't like the Yankees losers, but "of course" they are losers, as if there is no possibility that they could be anything else.


Losers want winners to lose. You Yankee-hating losers have the easiest job in all of fandom, because you get to root for nearly every other team in baseball over the course of the season.

God forbid someone doesn't like your team. Seriously ridiculous. Are there no sports teams that you don't like?


Well the only team sport I follow is baseball, and sure, there are baseball teams I don't like. Do I want them to lose? No, I want them to do great, but not as well as the Yankees. That's pretty much my opinion of every team, really. But the idea of rooting for, say, the Mariners, a team I have no interest in, because they're playing the Red Sox is cockroach fandom.
   30. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 09:50 AM (#5624784)
He's saying that winners root for wins, and losers root for winners to lose. EDIT: And given the number of Yankees fans who root against the AL East Champion Red Sox is not insignificant I'd assume he'd agree that the statement cuts both for and against the Yankees.


People root for or against teams for a number of reasons. Some people root against the Yankees because they are fans of natural rivals (see Red Sox, Mets, any other teams in the AL East). Some root against them because they have grown up seeing them win a bunch of titles and it's more compelling when a team that hasn't won as often wins. Some people find that being called a loser by members of a vocal fan base is off-putting. Some people who actually don't normally root for the Yankees don't mind rooting for them at times (see 2017 Baby Bombers, or 1996 when they ended the drought). I don't think that any of these things makes someone a loser. Sports is entertainment. If you're sitting there rooting for Derek Jeter to strike out in a big spot, you're enjoying the game as much as someone else rooting for David Ortiz or David Wright to strike out in a big spot. If you're rooting for Derek Jeter to break his leg, to me that is kind of pathetic behavior that crosses over into bad sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship doesn't mean you're not allowed to root for or against a team because if you're rooting for someone, by default you're rooting against someone else. I would say calling someone a loser for rooting against the Yankees (or anyone) is pretty poor sportsmanship, by comparison. Do what you want to do in the future; I just think it's a bad look and take personal offense to being called a loser because I root against the Yankees when the Mets are out of contention.
   31. Buck Coats Posted: February 14, 2018 at 09:54 AM (#5624786)
In the case of JD Martinez, there is record of only one team having made a bid on him


Doesn't that seem suspicious? (Also I think it's two teams)
   32. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 10:01 AM (#5624792)
And given the number of Yankees fans who root against the AL East Champion Red Sox is not insignificant


I don't see any of them here. I only speak for my handsome, perspicacious self and address actual people here, not straw people.

Some people find that being called a loser by members of a vocal fan base is off-putting.


Some people find being a loser off-putting, and, rather than blame those who point out this shortcoming, make a concerted effort to be better.

Sports is entertainment.


Sports is competition. Pro-wrestling is entertainment.

I would say calling someone a loser for rooting against the Yankees (or anyone) is pretty poor sportsmanship, by comparison.


Your "No loser, no loser. You're the loser," defense is like a bad combover attempting to hide your bald-faced shameful behavior.

Do what you want to do in the future


MIGHTY WHITE OF YOU!

I just think it's a bad look and take personal offense to being called a loser because I root against the Yankees when the Mets are out of contention.


Have you tried NOT acting like a loser? Just for a season? You'd be surprised at how transformative it can be. By the all star break you'll find you've lost weight, your hair is regrowing, and that cute barista you always try to chat up has stopped furtively spitting in your latte.
   33. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 10:09 AM (#5624799)
Well the only team sport I follow is baseball, and sure, there are baseball teams I don't like. Do I want them to lose? No, I want them to do great, but not as well as the Yankees. That's pretty much my opinion of every team, really. But the idea of rooting for, say, the Mariners, a team I have no interest in, because they're playing the Red Sox is cockroach fandom.


So what you're saying is that once the Yankees are out of the race or the running or whatever, you cease having interest in baseball? Or do you just watch games with no rooting interest at all? I think this comes from the privilege of not having to worry about whether your team is going to be good year-to-year. If I could be certain that my team would be in contention 100 years out of 120 then perhaps I could look upon the rest of the fandoms with the smug attitude that you carry around.

Losers hate winners. This isn't news.


By your arbitrary definition of winners and losers which you basically made up.

I also prefer baseball to other team sports to a vast degree. I follow some hockey but baseball is really the only sport that grips me. Sports are boring when you don't have a rooting interest. The Mets suck most of the time. That's not my fault. I will watch any two teams play each other at any time and always root for someone to win, which by default means I am rooting for someone to lose. I don't understand how this makes someone a loser. I think that calling someone a loser for such a trivial thing as what baseball team they choose to support in any given game is the action of a bully.
   34. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 10:22 AM (#5624811)
MIGHTY WHITE OF YOU!


You're nuts.
   35. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 14, 2018 at 10:47 AM (#5624832)

Declaring yourself a winner because you choose to root for a team that has sporadic success in baseball's postseason tournament is a good definition of being a loser.
   36. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:00 AM (#5624842)
What's the word for wanting to spend money wisely, on good players that will be positive contributors for the entire contract?

Right now the word seems to be "Cashman".
   37. Jack Keefe Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:02 AM (#5624845)
Ozzie Guillen all ways told me Keefe you must not say Mighty White of You you must say Mighty Anglo-American of You.
   38. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:12 AM (#5624854)
Well the only team sport I follow is baseball, and sure, there are baseball teams I don't like. Do I want them to lose? No, I want them to do great, but not as well as the Yankees. That's pretty much my opinion of every team, really. But the idea of rooting for, say, the Mariners, a team I have no interest in, because they're playing the Red Sox is cockroach fandom.

So what you're saying is that once the Yankees are out of the race or the running or whatever, you cease having interest in baseball? Or do you just watch games with no rooting interest at all? I think this comes from the privilege of not having to worry about whether your team is going to be good year-to-year. If I could be certain that my team would be in contention 100 years out of 120 then perhaps I could look upon the rest of the fandoms with the smug attitude that you carry around.

Lots of people have one or more primary rooting interests, and scale our rooting intensity to which of those teams has the best chance of going all the way. Think of the owner of a pair of race horses. He loves them both, but if one looks like a Derby competitor while the other looks like a 50 to 1 shot, it's only natural for him to focus his attention on the former.

And when neither of those teams is competitive, there's nothing wrong with rooting for some other team to rise above the pack, while hoping for some other team to flop. If a young team comes out of nowhere and my favorite teams aren't in the race, of course I'm going to hope they beat even one of my favorite teams, if by doing it they'll send a team I truly dislike home for the Winter.
   39. villageidiom Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:20 AM (#5624862)
I don't see any of them here. I only speak for my handsome, perspicacious self and address actual people here, not straw people.
Which actual people here were you calling out for switching their allegiances every night to the Yankees' opponent?
   40. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:23 AM (#5624864)

Losers want winners to lose. You Yankee-hating losers have the easiest job in all of fandom, because you get to root for nearly every other team in baseball over the course of the season.


I don't want winners to lose, I want the Yankees to lose. I'd want them to lose if they never won more than 40 games in a season. The Dodgers? The 90s Braves? Sure, go ahead and win all you want.
   41. villageidiom Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:25 AM (#5624866)
Doesn't that seem suspicious?
There's one school of thought that it doesn't hurt to make an offer, and another that if the offer is certainly going to be rejected then there's no point in making the offer. JDM's lack of offers is only suspicious if we believe the former. I tend to believe the latter in general, and maybe the former for any face-saving gestures by the player's prior team. So, no.
   42. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:57 AM (#5624899)
I think you have it mostly backwards. The persistent fallacy that I notice is the irrational want for individual years' salaries to line up with those years' performance, for any one player's multi-year deal. And it leads to erroneous conclusions. E.G. It's obvious that, for a 30 year free agent, a 6/$126 (21-21-21-21-21-21) deal is better for the team than a 5/$125m (25-25-25-25-25), but people still seem to want to chafe at the idea of the 6-year deal because the player won't be good enough at the end to deserve that $21m.

No, I don't have it backwards, because the excess value that makes long term contracts "work" doesn't exist.

If you value Eric Hosmer at (strictly pulling these numbers out of the air)
Value Salary Excess
$30 $20 $10
$40 $20 $20
$40 $20 $20
$40 $20 $20
$30 $20 $10
$10 $20 ($10)
$10 $20 ($10)
0 $20 ($20)
0 $20 ($20)
0 $20 ($20)

That's a ten year contract that breaks even, even though you have five terrible years at the end of it. But suppose that salaries are pegged to a maximum at $35M, and Hosmer isn't an MVP candidate. Now $20M is a fair salary for the first year, and he tops out at $30M. The decline years are valued the same.
Value Salary Excess
$20 $20 $00
$30 $20 $10
$30 $20 $10
$30 $20 $10
$20 $20 $0
$10 $20 ($10)
$10 $20 ($10)
0 $20 ($20)
0 $20 ($20)
0 $20 ($20)

Now you've lost $50 million out of $200 million spent, plus you've crippled the team for five years at the end. Which is how these contracts tend to play out in practice.
   43. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:58 AM (#5624900)
Since it's Valentines Day, my wish for all of you is to find someone who values you the way that Fangraphs values completely unremarkable stat lines.
   44. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:09 PM (#5624910)
Since it's Valentines Day, my wish for all of you is to find someone who values you the way that Fangraphs values completely unremarkable stat lines.

Fangraphs is just using market contracts to value players. If teams are willing to pay $7M p.a. for Rps who are barely worth 1 win, a 3 win player has to be worth $20M.

Your error is looking at the annual AAV of stars and assuming that's what they're worth per year. FA contracts to star players extend the length to defer money from the early years b/c a longer contract with lower AAV is better for the team.

A 30 y.o. 6-win player is worth $40-50M per year for the first few years (until decline sets in) but they never sign 4/150 contracts. Instead they'd get an 8/250 deal with the team fully realizing they will be overpaid in years 6-8.
   45. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:32 PM (#5624924)
A 30 y.o. 6-win player is worth $40-50M per year for the first few years (until decline sets in)

No, he really isn't. The top salary in the league increases slowly but steadily, and right now it's $35 million a year. The relationship between salary and WAR is not linear. It asymptotes.
   46. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:36 PM (#5624926)
Put another way: the cost of mediocre free agents is very high compared to cost-controlled young players and also compared to star free agents near the top of the salary structure. That's why they're having trouble finding jobs. It doesn't follow that there's some untapped market for 6 win 30 year olds at $50 million per.
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:38 PM (#5624928)
No, he really isn't. The top salary in the league increases slowly but steadily, and right now it's $35 million a year. The relationship between salary and WAR is not linear. It asymptotes.

It's not linear because teams use long-term contracts to defer costs. A 6 WAR player is worth more than twice as much as a 3 WAR player b/c you concentrate value in one roster spot.

The reason we don't see higher AAVs is that the luxury tax is based on AAV. For the big-payroll teams, an 8/230 contract is substantially better than 5/175 from the team's point of view.
   48. Nasty Nate Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:51 PM (#5624935)
Zach, I'm not sure the point you are making in #42. Yes, if a player is less valuable, the contract won't turn out as well.
Now you've lost $50 million out of $200 million spent, plus you've crippled the team for five years at the end.
This is just one thing, but you are phrasing it as 2. The contract isn't necessarily better if teams move the negative excess value to the front of the contract.
No, he really isn't. The top salary in the league increases slowly but steadily, and right now it's $35 million a year.
That's because star players generally want to maximize the total guaranteed money, not their AAV.
   49. Nasty Nate Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:52 PM (#5624936)
As far as the fangraphs values: If we are looking retroactively, player's past seasons are valued so high by that system because they are set in stone. They happened. They are not projections. If you could GUARANTEE Hosmer's 2017 to repeat, it would be hugely valuable. But teams can never buy a guaranteed performance - they can only buy the uncertainty of future year(s). You are never signing a 4-WAR season in advance, you are buying the chance at one. That's why the prices don't match whatever retroactive values we might apply to that season.
   50. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5624939)
This is just one thing, but you are phrasing it as 2. The contract isn't necessarily better if teams move the negative excess value to the front of the contract.

It's worse. Time value of money is real.
   51. Zach Posted: February 14, 2018 at 04:43 PM (#5625115)
#48 -- the salary structure of MLB is not salary = dollars per WAR * WAR. That gives ludicrous answers at the top end, which is why fangraphs has such terrible values. Which is why it gives such terrible answers for the value of a free agent contract.

Look at it this way: Fangraphs has Mike Trout as being "worth" $54.9 million last year. But it's a fictitious number. Nobody is paying him that, and nobody is offering him that. If he were a free agent, he would stretch the upper end of the salary scale, and might push $40 million per.

So if you're valuing a one year contract that pays Mike Trout $40 million dollars, you're mentally tallying up a $14.9 million profit based on the difference between your valuation of his play and your valuation of his contract. Then you use that $14.9 million to offset costs later in the contract, when Trout is worth less than $40 million per.

What I'm saying is that you should value each year based on a comparison with other contracts in effect that year. If you do that, Trout's $40 million is just the top end of the salary scale, which is mostly determined by the year he signed the contract. I don't count the $54.9 million at all, because baseball doesn't pay anybody $50 million a year yet and won't for decades.

For the same reason, I don't value Eric Hosmer's 2017 at $30 million, because there are perfectly comparable players who don't make anything close to that. So if I'm valuing a ten year contract that pays him $20 million a year, I'm not recording a $10 million profit in year one -- I say that's closer to breaking even. Which makes me really averse to long term contracts.

The point of departure between the two ways of adding things up is that I don't value every WAR the same. The top end players really do cost less per WAR accumulated in my way of looking at things -- because the market doesn't pay the top end that way.

   52. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: February 14, 2018 at 04:45 PM (#5625117)
Wouldn’t you rather all 30 teams be out there going for broke?


Absolutely not. It isn't financially sustainable and therefore it is economically stupid. And didn't the Astros and Cubs just prove WHY you don't want to go for broke every year?

I'd prefer each team get its financial house in order so that they aren't dependent on taxpayer largess to operate.
   53. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: February 14, 2018 at 04:49 PM (#5625120)
Well I RTFA and this guy will fit right in next to that other long winded blow hard Carson Cistulli. I guess there are some readers, probably mostly younger English major types, that love the showy style, so ymmv.

I'll continue to check fangraphs for my stats as I love their clean interface but for articles it will probably be the prospect pieces and Jeff Sullivan only.
   54. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 04:59 PM (#5625133)
Look at it this way: Fangraphs has Mike Trout as being "worth" $54.9 million last year. But it's a fictitious number. Nobody is paying him that, and nobody is offering him that. If he were a free agent, he would stretch the upper end of the salary scale, and might push $40 million per.

If Mike Trout were a FA right, he would get $40M on an 8+ year deal. If for some reason he insisted on a 1 year deal, he could get $50M.

It makes no sense to pay a 1-WAR middle reliever $7M, and not be willing to pay an 7-10 WAR player $50M. It's about the most efficient FA spending possible.

The deals for Harper and Machado will only have relatively modest AAVs because of the length and the risk/uncertainty that creates.
   55. Nasty Nate Posted: February 14, 2018 at 05:02 PM (#5625136)
For the same reason, I don't value Eric Hosmer's 2017 at $30 million, because there are perfectly comparable players who don't make anything close to that.
Sure, but Eric Hosmer's 2017 performance is set in stone. No team can buy one year of set-in-stone performance in advance. If they could they might pay 1/$30m for what he provided last year. Or something close to it; I'm not trying to vouch for their exact number.
   56. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: February 14, 2018 at 05:05 PM (#5625138)
As far as the fangraphs values: If we are looking retroactively, player's past seasons are valued so high by that system because they are set in stone. They happened. They are not projections. If you could GUARANTEE Hosmer's 2017 to repeat, it would be hugely valuable. But teams can never buy a guaranteed performance - they can only buy the uncertainty of future year(s). You are never signing a 4-WAR season in advance, you are buying the chance at one. That's why the prices don't match whatever retroactive values we might apply to that season.


Far too many people assume that WAR, and especially bWAR -- is a stat formulated with projections in mind. As you said -- WAR is purely what happened. It really doesn't offer us too much in the way of "what will happen in the future". That's not what it was designed to do.
   57. Nasty Nate Posted: February 14, 2018 at 05:10 PM (#5625144)
Right, which is why it might be a mistake to use fangraphs' (or anyone's) money value measures and go backwards with them in this way if we are trying to determine how teams price players. It is stripping away the negative value of the risk.
   58. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 08:47 PM (#5625278)
Right, which is why it might be a mistake to use fangraphs' (or anyone's) money value measures and go backwards with them in this way if we are trying to determine how teams price players. It is stripping away the negative value of the risk.

You could do it if you used a portfolio of players. You'd have the under-performers to represent the downside risk.

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