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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Monday, August 12, 2002
2002 Worth-The-Money Team
Rich identifies the best bargains in baseball.
At the end of July, I compiled the $184 million 2002 all Not-Worth-The-Money-Team. The 25 players who made that club were (or are) all performing miserably on offense this year, while being paid a minimum of $4 million each. With only a few exceptions, every one of those players was producing at a level lower than we expect from a replacement playerthat is, a player just called up from the minor leagues and making a pro-rated minimum salary. This article is the follow-up pieceto find and field the 25 players who are definitely Worth-The-Money in 2002. Once again, for the sake of simplicity, defensive contribution is ignored. All players are assumed to be average at their positions in the field, which may distort reality for some players.
The criteria to make this team are the same as with the previous club: for position players, each is judged on how much money he’s being paid per Run Above Replacement Position (RARP); for starting pitchers, each is rated on how much money he’s being paid per Support Neutral Win Above Replacement (SNWAR); for non-closer relievers, each is measured by his dollars per Adjusted Run Prevented (ARP); and for the team’s closer, he takes the job by being paid the least per Net Save (defined as Saves minus 1.5 times Blown Saves). With the exception of closers, all of these metrics have the advantage that they account for each player’s home ballpark and the contributions of each player’s teammates. Thus, they extricate a player’s contribution from the helps or hindrances of his team.
To calculate these costs I pro-rated how much a player has been paid (in major league salary) so far this season. (For players called up after April 1, their pro-rated salaries reflect only the time they have been earning major league paychecks.) Here’s an example of the math for a player who came close to making the Worth-The-Money team, but fell just short:
Dave Roberts, CF, LA Dodgers. RARP: 17.6. 2002 Salary: $217,500. Pro-rated 2002 Salary: $153,055.56. Dollars Paid per RARP: $153,055.56/17.6 = $8,696.34.
Roberts lost out on the starting centerfield job to Adam Hyzdu, a mid-season call-up for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While Roberts has been paid close to $8,700 per RARP, Hyzdu has made only $4,438 per RARP. Dave Roberts still had a chance to make this club as a reserve, but there he fell short of Austin Kearns ($7,908/RARP) and Gary Matthews, Jr. ($8,378/RARP). But that’s not to say by any means that Roberts hasn’t been a good buy for Los Angeles. Look at how he compares with Carl Everett, the sometimes CF for the Texas Rangers. Crazy Carl is making $8,667,000 in 2002 (or $8,449,500 more than Sane Dave). And while the Sane one has created 17.6 more runs above what a replacement player at his position would have created, the Crazy one has created 3.0 fewer runs than a typical minor league call-up being paid the minimum would have done while playing centerfield.
Here then are the starting nine for the 2002 All-Worth-The-Money-Team:
C - AJ Pierzynski, MIN, $250,000 for 2002; $8,905/RARP
In a monetary sense, the most valuable among these players (for his offense, at least) is Eric Hinske of the Blue Jays. Not only is Hinske making the major league minimum, but he has (so far) the highest RARP of all third basemen in the American League, and he’s second only to Edgardo Alfonzo in the major leagues.
To see how much he’s producing for that salary, let’s compare Hinske to Alfonzo. Edgardo is making $6,200,000 this year. Through August 8, the Mets have played 114 of their 162 games. So Alfonzo has made a pro-rated salary of $4,362,962,96. Alfonzo has created 37.7 RARP, which is 2.2 better than Hinske. So while Edgardo has cost the Mets $115,728 per RARP, Eric has only cost the Jays $3,896 per RARP, or 3.37% as much.
Here are the six reserve players on the 2002 All-Worth-The-Money-Team:
C - Paul Lo Duca, LAD, $546,700 for 2002; $17,098/RARP
The largest difference in cost of production among the starters and their bench-mates this year is at catcher. That probably reflects the fact that it’s very unusual to be both a low-paid catcher - that is, young - and wield a strong bat. While the starter, Pierzynski, is young (25), his back-up, Lo Duca (30) is only so poorly paid because he was stuck for so long in the Dodgers minor league system. Most other catchers in baseball around Lo Duca’s age are eligible for free agency or arbitration, and are hence making a lot more money, and most of them don’t hit nearly as well as Lo Duca.
Now on to the pitchers. Here is the starting rotation for the 2002 All-Worth-The-Money-Team:
SP - Barry Zito, OAK, $295,000 for 2002; $49,860/SNWAR
If you take a close look at that group, I’m sure you’ll agree that no actual rotation in baseball is as good as this mock-rotation has been in 2002. And what’s amazing is to note that among all five of them, they only make $1,213,000 combined. $1.213 million is 16.73% of what Jose Lima ($7,250,000) is being paid by the Tigers!
Seeing how valuable Josh Fogg has been for the Pirates this year, let me take a minute to step aside and analyze the 4-pitcher trade that sent Fogg from Chicago (AL) to Pittsburgh. Josh was sent last December with Kip Wells and Sean Lowe in exchange for Todd Ritchie and minor league catcher Lee Evans. It’s too early to make any judgment on Evans - who hit well this year for the AA Birmingham Barons, and since has struggled at the bat in AAA; but it’s already clear that White Sox GM Kenny Williams made a terrible mistake in giving up Fogg and Wells for Ritchie. Look at each pitcher’s SN performance and his 2002 salary:
Ritchie -2.1 SNWAR, $3,533,333
On a support-neutral basis, there has not been a worse pitcher in major league baseball in 2002 than Todd Ritchie. While that is surprising, it’s no shock that Ritchie isn’t very good. Other than one excellent year for the Pirates (1999), Todd Ritchie has been a below league-average starting pitcher his whole career. To then take on his much larger contract (which expires at the end of this season), and give up on very low-paid prospects with good chances at being much better than average, was just downright stupid. Chalk that trade up as a clear win for Pirates GM Dave Littlefield.
Now, back to the bullpen for the 2002 All-Worth-The-Money-Team:
RP - JC Romero, MIN, $215,000 for 2002; $7,895/RARP
Other than Diamondbacks’ fans, have you ever heard of Mike Koplove?
Now that the team is compiled, it’s worth pointing out that among these 25 players, only 15 of the 30 major league clubs have representation. The Twins have the most players, 4, while the Braves, Diamondbacks, Reds, Pirates, Dodgers, A’s, and Orioles have 2 players each on the 2002 All-Worth-The-Money-Team. Another oddity of this group is how many of the 25 were Sacramento River Cats in the last few years: Hinske, Bellhorn, Ellis, Zito, and Vizcaino all played for the Athletics’ AAA franchise in Sacramento. I don’t know if that’s a big compliment to Billy Beane; or the fact that he traded away 3 of those 5 is a knock against him. Perhaps both.
While the Not-Worth-The-Money team is making $184 million this season, the All-Worth-The-Money-Team will draw only $5,607,750 in major league salaries in 2002. Of course, on many levels, that is a very unrealistic major league salary structure. No GM could ever compile so many great young players on one ballclub; no one team could ever expect great seasons from all of its players at once; and this team has quite a few players who only count for part of the season in major league salary. Nevertheless, it is amazing how well one could do with a large number of low paid, yet good young players. That’s pretty much been the formula for the Twins, the Reds, and the A’s this year. And that’s been a contributing factor to quite a few other clubs who are competing with a mid-range team salary.
Before I close, let me note that the following players were all quite close to making the 2002 All-Worth-The-Money-Team. Call them the Honorable Mentions: S. Cox, TB; R. Simon, DET; A. Soriano, NYY; A. Kennedy, ANA; C. Woodward, TOR; A. Pujols, STL; M. Mora, BAL; D. Roberts, LAD; T. Perez, NYM; J. Gibbons, BAL; J. Washburn, ANA; M. Redman, DET; K. Wells, PIT; M. Buehrle, CWS; M. Prior, CHC; J. Jennings, COL; D. Stark, COL; V. Padilla, PHI; T. Ohka, Mon; B. Lawrence; SDP; O. Dotel, HOU; BH Kim, ARI; C. Hammond, ATL; C. Bradford, OAK; J. Speier, COL; and V. De Los Santos, MIL.
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