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Thursday, July 25, 2002

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   other metrics.

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.


Rich Rifkin Posted: July 25, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. fables of the deconstruction Posted: July 25, 2002 at 12:37 AM (#605644)

I can't believe you missed injury du jour David Segui and his pro rated $7M for the rest of this season plus the 2003 and 2004 seasons at $7M per. That's is, taking into account that a CBA is settled and both of those seasons get completed in their entirety.


trevise :-) ...
   2. Rich Rifkin I Posted: July 26, 2002 at 12:37 AM (#605648)
Rich, I can't believe you missed injury du jour David Segui and his pro rated $7M for the rest of this season plus the 2003 and 2004 seasons at $7M per. That's is, taking into account that a CBA is settled and both of those seasons get completed in their entirety.


David Segui has been very weak for what he is being paid. But he's pretty far from making this ballclub. He loses out to Greg Vaughn for the starting DH job by quite a bit, and he lost out on the bench to Dean Palmer, Albert Belle and Lee Stevens. Here is how Segui compares using my system of measurement (Salary/RARP):

DH - Greg Vaughn - $8,750,000 - $82,250,000 per RARP
1B - Lee Stevens - $4,000,000 - $27,200,000
OF - Albert Belle - $12,369,000 - $24,738,000
3B/DH - Dean Palmer - $8,000,000 - $23,200,000
DH - David Segui - $6,762,895 - $5,635,746

Note that Segui makes less money than all of these guys save Stevens. And Segui is the only one with a positive RARP. Here are RARP's for this group, as of July 19:

G. Vaughn -8.4 (now -8.7)
L. Stevens -5.8 (now -4.9)
A. Belle 0.0 (now angry with the media)
D. Palmer -1.9 (now -1.9)
D. Segui +1.2
   3. fables of the deconstruction Posted: July 27, 2002 at 12:37 AM (#605650)
And by the way, what is a retired player (Albert Belle) doing on here?

F. James,

Technically, (for insurance purposes) Albert Belle remains "active" and part of the Orioles 40 man roster as a semi-permanent fixture on the 60 Day Disabled List for the life of his contract. By MLB rules the Orioles are required to place him on the 40 man from the end of the season (completion of the World Series) until Opening Day, at which point the cycle begins again. The albatross that is his contract will finally, thankfully run out at the completion of the 2003 season. (If there is one.) Until then, he's like a pit bull that keeps following you around the neighborhood.


A rhetorical question that really needs no answer: Isn't it a sad commentary on the state of affairs in MLB that someone like David Segui can end up being a "net" positive...?????!!!!!!! ;-) ...



   4. Marc Posted: July 28, 2002 at 12:37 AM (#605656)
I can't believe all the Bret Boone bashing. Certainly you can argue that he has declined but, hey, he shoulda been MVP last year and you can't expect that every year. But in the end, for purposes of this overpaid all-star team, if he and Jay Bell are getting about the same pay, the choice here is a no-brainer.

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