Rich Rifkin’s 2002 Mid-Season Not-Worth-The-Money Team
Here’s another bunch of liabilities that even WorldCom’s accountants couldn’t hide.
When a player is making way more than his performance suggests he deserves,
I don’t blame the player. He never put a gun to his owner’s head and forced
his contract under duress. In most cases, but not all, the fault lies with the
team owner (and his general manager). Either he overestimated the value of a
given player in the first place. Or he underestimated a player’s likely decline
given his age. Of course, not every case is predictable. Some players unexpectedly
stop producing once they have guaranteed money in hand. And others get hurt.
In both of the latter cases, there are ways that an owner can protect himself.
First, he can purchase an insurance policy that will pay a player who suffers
a severe injury. Second, with a player who for no foreseeable reason begins
to underproduce, an owner can limit his risk by not signing contacts for really
long periods. And third, by signing a large enough group of free agents, over
time, the owner’s risk on any given player will likely even out. That is, some
of that larger group will overperform, while some will underperform.
My interest here is to take a look at the players this season who, so far,
have most underperformed for the money they are being paid. To make things a
bit easier for myself, I am only looking at players who are making $4 million
or more in 2002. I am not considering issues of deferred compensation or deferred
signing bonuses or whether two or more clubs are actually paying the player.
Exclusively, I am looking at what players are making and how well they have
performed up to this point. My goal is to field an all Not-Worth-The-Money-Team.
The first thing to do is to find a reasonable performance standard. If it were
available to me, I think this would be a good place to use Bill James’s Win
Shares. That is, find the group of players who have cost their teams the most
money per Win Share. But because I don’t have that data, I will substitute with
For hitters, I am going to use Runs Above Replacement Position. That is Clay
Davenport’s stat that tells us how many runs in a neutral ballpark a player
at a given position has created above what a replacement hitter at that same
position would have created. The problem with it for this exercise is that it
ignores defensive contribution. And because that is a significant mistake, I
don’t want to claim that I am finding something that I am not. So let me be
clear. The players on this list are there because they are hitting poorly for
the money they are being paid. Some may make up for that lack of offensive contribution
with their defense. Others may not. My list solely judges players on offensive
contribution for the position they play and assumes that they are average defensively.
So in cases where a superior defensive player seems to be overpaid, his defense
may make that "overpayment" not so extreme.
For starting pitchers, I am using Michael Wolverton’s Support Neutral Wins
Above Replacement (SNWAR). That stat tells us how many games a starting pitcher
has won for his team, assuming that the starter had ordinary run support and
ordinary relief pitching behind him. It also, I believe, assumes defensive neutrality.
That may be a mistake, too. But for pitchers whose performances have been markedly
poor, it is probably close enough to get a good idea of who is making more money
than his performance suggest.
I have divided relief pitchers into two groups. For closers, I am simply using
Net Saves - that is, Saves minus 1.5 times Blown Saves. For all other relievers,
I am using Wolverton’s Adjusted Runs Prevented (ARP) stat, which is designed
to show how many runs a relief pitcher has prevented from scoring, assuming
average defense and average performance by relievers who follow.
Some pitchers have both been starters and relievers. For them, for the sake
of simplicity, I put them in the category in which they have had more appearances.
And for the few relievers who have earned saves but are not primarily closers,
I have just ignored their save contributions.
Here, then, is the starting line-up for the 2002 Not-Worth-The-Money-Team.
The first dollar figure is the player’s 2002 salary (rounded to the nearest
$1,000. The second is his dollars per RARP:
C - Todd Hundley - $6,500,000 - $4,062,500 per RARP
1B - Tony Clark - $5,000,000 - $55,000,000
2B - Jay Bell - $8,000,000 - $16,000,000
3B - Matt Williams - $9,500,000 - $25,650,000
SS - Neifi Perez - $4,100,000 - $51,250,000
LF - Moises Alou - $6,000,000 - $16,800,000
CF - Carl Everett - $8,667,000 - $78,869,700
RF - Jeromy Burnitz - $7,167,000 - $37,985,100
DH - Greg Vaughn - $8,750,000 - $82,250,000
In most of the above cases, these players have produced less than 1 run above
a replacement player. That is, they are being paid the big bucks, but they are
actually hitting no better than a typical player brought up from the minor leagues
at that same position would be expected to hit. That presents a mathematical
challenge. For any player who has produced at least 1 RARP, it is simple enough
to divide his RARP’s into his salary. But you can’t quite do that when a player
has a negative or zero RARP. So to account for that for this exercise, I have
done the following every time a player has an RARP below 1.0: multiply his salary
times one plus the number of runs below 1.0.
For example, if a player makes $4 million and has produced -1.0 RARP, he would
have cost his team $12 million/RARP. That is, (1+2)*$4 million. If that same
player had produced 2.0 RARP, he would have cost his team $2 million per RARP.
If he had produced 1.0 RARP, he would have cost his team $4 million/RARP. If
he had produced 0.0 RARP, he would have cost his team $8 million/RARP.
It’s arguable that multiplying salaries in the cases of players who have produced
less than 1.0 RARP is inaccurate. But even if it is, that’s okay. We still get
the gist right of who has most underproduced based on his salary and hitting
performance for 2002.
Here is the bench for the 2002 Not-Worth-The-Money-Team:
C - Javy Lopez - $6,000,000 - $3,000,000 per RARP
1B - Lee Stevens - $4,000,000 - $27,200,000
INF - Rey Ordonez - $6,250,000 - $41,250,000
3B/DH - Dean Palmer - $8,000,000 - $23,200,000
OF - Doug Glanville - $4,000,000 - $36,000,000
OF - Albert Belle - $12,369,000 - $24,738,000
This is the starting rotation for the 2002 Not-Worth-The-Money-Team:
SP - Mike Hampton - $9,504,000 - $34,214,400 per SNWAR
SP - Kevin Brown - $15,714,000 - $23,571,000
SP - Chan Ho Park - $6,884,000 - $21,340,400
SP - Todd Stottlemeyer - $8,000,000 - $20,000,000
SP - Daren Dreifort - $9,400,000 - $18,800,000
Quite a lot of Dodger pitchers in this group. Perhaps Dan Evans was smart to
let Chan Ho Park go the Rangers. Note here that I am treating SNWAR’s below
1.0 just like I treated RARP’s below 1.0. I did the same for ARP’s, also.
Here are the 2002 Not-Worth-The-Money-Team’s relievers:
RP - Charles Nagy - $6,000,000 - $68,400,000 per ARP
RP - Jose Lima - $7,250,000 - $42,050,000
RP - Sterling Hitchcock - $4,937,000 - $30,615,600
RP - Brian Anderson - $5,375,000 - $16,125,000
CL - Billy Wagner - $8,000,000 - $500,000 per Net Save
I have not gone so far as to figure out how many wins and losses this club
would likely have had in 2002. It seems likely to me, though, that this would
be the single worst team in baseball, if it were actually a team. And for that,
all they are making is a smidge over $184 million this season.
Finally, note that I understand that players are paid for their full seasons,
not their partial seasons. Some underperformers may turn things around. And
some others who are now healthy may suffer an injury and make this list. All
my intention here was to show who is not earning their keep, so far. All of
the offensive and pitching stats were compiled up through July 19. So even a
few days later, this team might have a few changes.
Posted: July 25, 2002 at 05:00 AM | 4 comment(s)
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