Thursday, February 19, 2009

Give the Money Back

February 19, 2009 - Anybody getting tired of this? Another spring training where the biggest story is a steroid induced hero walking in front of the camera and playing sham wow with the media. Oh, yes, some come across as more humble and truly sorry, such as Andy Pettite, while some as arrogant or self-serving, such as this year's poster boy for the enhanced era, Alex Rodriguez. Now I don't really know who is telling what truth here. None of us do. We can only go with what we suspect and what they are saying. Was it done to rehab an injury? Was it done for only those three years in Texas? I don't know. What I do know is that the penalties the fans and media keep talking about; the veracity of the record book, their reputation, or future induction into the Hall of Fame is not what is going to end this era. And fifty game suspensions or even one year will only go part way, too. But one thing surely would! Tell them to give the money back!

First things first. Alex Rodriguez got his latest huge money contract with the New York Yankees based on several things. One, that he was pursuing the records of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and that other guy, and that this pursuit was worth so much more to the Yankees than just a regular top of the shelf All-Star level player for the sake of promotion and merchandise. Well, that's certainly gone now. Nobody is going to be making a whole lot of money off a chase that's now tainted. Two, some of the money was given to a player whose numbers included those steroid years. So if he's going to be paid today, pay him as if those numbers were reduced to steroid light. At least that 13.4% light quick math would get you. See former blog articles such as "Alex Rodriguez, Steroids, and 103 More." You know, something like $3 to $ million dollar or so, just for a start. But that is just the start, folks, because here's another plan to stop the madness.

Baseball should void his current contract with the New York Yankees, the one gotten on inaccurate information. Now there's a penalty. You think the current slugger who's thinking about taking growth hormone might think big head twice if his $180 miliion dollar deal could go up in smoke. I'd also try to recover some of the Texas money. It seems the owner there isn't too happy that he paid out good money, ridiculous money even at the time, for a tainted player. But perhaps the more prudent thing to do, on this line of reasoning, is to reduce the ARod contract in half. Yes, cut it in half. And give that half to a program that helps society get off this performance enhancing train. Now, the player shouldn't even have to be forced into doing this; he should do it on his own. But since I don't think many of us believe that most will do that. Geez, they can't come up with a good apology. Then I think for the good of baseball, and society, that a penalty of $125 million dollars might just do the trick.

Let's see, you do steroids and get caught ... you lose your good name, reputation, your records, a chance for the Hall of Fame, and $125 million dollars. Now that's even real money to a sports star.

PS - Now let's get back to the real beauty of the sports and discuss the games, the records, the comparisons. Well, maybe next year.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Best Deal of the Bargain Bin So Far

February 14, 2009 - Spring training is among us, and the free agents still on the shelf are dribbling into major league contracts. When will you sign Manny? But the best value so far, by far, is a player we were not the most enamored with while a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. We were even pretty glad to see him go. But Bobby Abreu is just what the Anaheim, sorry, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, were looking for, and they've gotten themselves the best deal of this free agent season. Bobby Abreu is a perennial hitter. Yes, he is getting older. Yes, he can be somewhere between brutal and disinterested in the field. To be fair, it's more like disinterested. But he is a professional hitter, every year, and he knows how to take a pitch. One sneaky little truth about the Angels last year while they were winning all those games, ... most of their hitters don't take pitches, i.e. Torii Hunter or Vlad. They don't walk. So there's not a whole lot of folks on base. That will not be the case with Abreu. You'll see Abreu trotting home with a boatload full of runs if they bat him in front of Vlad.

At $5,000,000 for a season, with incentives that could raise it above $6m, the Angels have jumped at a half price sale. No, Bobby was not worth the three years and the $48m it is rumored he was looking for. But he was worth north of $10 million per season for three or four years. Look out Disneyland, this could be the final piece in the puzzle, as long as the pitching holds out, that could get the Angels a playoff series win. And I wouldn't be too surprised if you didn't see Abreu playing in the mix at first base, as well as left field. That would remove a lot of our trouble with Bobby in the field, where he often wasted his good speed with bad jumps and an over 50 softball player's affinity for going half speed.

Adam Dunn and the Nationals. While his two year contract isn't the half price sale that Abreu's deal in California is, it is a significant signing by an organization who truly hasn't taken advantage of a new ballpark, but his is a step in the right direction. In fact, it's a step that could push Washington closer to a season out of the basement. If the Nationals pick up a player or two from the remaining free agent class, i.e. one of the Orlando's, or even take a flyer that Pedro has something left in the tank, there might be a run at the Marlins for fourth place. Of course, the Marlins might pull one of their youth movement seasons together again and challenge for the pennant. Or maybe not. There's that other team in Florida that is more likely to play in that arena.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Alex Rodriguez, Steroids, and 103 More

February 11, 2009 - Now I want to know. I want to know the names of the one hundred and three other players who were so stupid, that not only they took an illegal substance to cheat their way into the record books, or to a better contract, or just to the major leagues, and even though they knew that testing was coming, kept up with it. That stupidity, if nothing else, negates their rights to privacy. And we alll know, that right was breached the moment Balco and the federal investigation came into play. And I want to know, because I'm tired of the dribs and drabs of not knowing who was involved and the start of the next baseball season being tarred and feathered with a story about the steroid ball era. Let's get this out in the light of day, take our final measure of the situation as far as what it meant to that tainted era of baseball, then move forward. Oh, I know, the 103 more won't be a definitive list. It will only contain those stupid ones; there were others who had done things before, and probably after, but had stopped before the test. Yes, there probably were. And that's why I'm proposing a final call and policy to account for this.

Steroid Admittance Plan - In concert with legal authorities, offer amnesty to all players, including the 103, Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, etc., that if they come clean to what they did and when they did it, we will not prosecute, if that comes up, and we will not penalize their careers in baseball in the future. But why would they come forward if not already caught? The penalty for not coming forward is possible prosecution, and if found out by baseball below a legal situation, they would be barred, not only from the Hall of Fame, but working in baseball ever again.

Once we know what, when, who, and what affect it likely had, then baseball can decide what to do about its records. Baseball Writers can decide, with more complete information, whether any of these guys deserve induction into Cooperstown. As for the records, at the minimum, if the suspicions for those involved hold up, the Home Run records revert back to Hank Aaron and Roger Maris. I don't think that's too tough a deal to strike. It's only fair, and right, and just. No asterisk. They're gone, pushed off to the side. Not unlike the World Record by Ben Johnson in the Olympic Games. Not unlike a horse who wins a race, then is DQD for some infraction of his jockey. Not unlike a high school who used an ineligible player, then had to forfeit the game.

Now to Alex Rodriguez. He has now admitted that he did performance enhancing drugs, even if he didn't know what they were, for a period of time, ... he says 2001-3, so that he could justify his contract. Well, there was no justifying that contract or his new one, for that matter. And Mr. Hicks ought to ask for some of that money back, and so should the Yankees. His stats, which they based the money on, weren't the real ones, after all.

Now whether we believe that he used performance enhancing drugs before or after his stint with the Texas Rangers or not is another story. But he has no doubt now joined those on the list of admitted cheats, with more than a few on the think they did it, but have no proof. And his chase of Hank Aaron's 755 home runs has been painted with a steroid brush, tainted forever. But if we believe his timetable, just how much should he be docked, if at all, for that time period.

Totals for 3 Year Periods, Before, During, After

1998-2000 SEA 125 HR, 367 RBI, 68.542 PEVA Player Rating
2001-2003 TEX 156 HR, 395 RBI, 76.868 PEVA
1998-2000 NYA 119 HR, 357 RBI, 72.912 PEVA

During these three time frames, the park factors at SEA and NYA had an average of 98, while Texas averaged 107.3. If you take these into account, a cursory study of, for example, the adjusted Home Run totals, would look somethiing like this. SEA 127.55, TEX 145.39, NYA 121.43. If you average the three years before and after, you can deduct, that Alex Rodriguez hit 20.9 more home runs during his admitted steroid years than he would have without them, or 13.4% more. Now, a more detailed look would have to include age and other factors. Rodriguez was 26-28 during those years in Texas, which most people consider the prime years for production. But it's a start, folks.

We'll stop our rant here and won't hold our breath for the Steroid Admittance Plan we've proposed. But I do want to know. I want to know those 103 more names, and the names of all the others. I want to know if I should really consider Greg Maddux for the top of the era's pitcher list, or whether Randy Johnson should jump ahead of Roger Clemens. At least you can't cheat height. Well, I don't think you can yet. And maybe Jeff Bagwell is the best hitter of the era, not McGwire, Sosa, or Bonds. ... Or maybe not. It's time to clear up that question.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Update: Ben Sheets, Durability, and Why The BE Player Rating System Values It So Much

February 6, 2009 - Well, it surely didn't take too long. Even before he could sign a contract, Ben Sheets has been put back on the shelf with an injury that looks like it could prevent Sheets from playing this season. And that brings us to the topic of the day. Why is durability important in shelling out a baseball contract and why should Major League general managers think of it more often, or highly, when they do?

Now any player can get injured. It's a physical game, not up to the level of football or hockey, perhaps, but baseball is still a physical game. But some players get injured more often. And some players get injured enough that they don't play full seasons, even though the injuries are not up to the level of costing them season long trips to the injured reserve list. And that's why some statistics, really popular ones by sabermetrics fans today such as OPS and OPS+ can't be used as a guru to value, at least without considering whether that value was attached to durability.

The PEVA player rating stat developed by baseballevalution.com uses durability as a highly measured factor. In fact, one-third of the entire player rating is based on use, durabilty to us. How do we measure durability or use and do we forgive a player who gets injured once? We measure durability by grading each player on a scale between the maximum and average values of two categories. For a pitcher, the first category is Games or Games Started, giving precedent in the factor to Games Started; the second category is Innings Pitched. For a batter, the categories are Games Played and Plate Appearances. These two factors provide a girth to the PEVA Player Grade and helps make it solid. We think that's important. The remainder of the factors that go into making the Player Rating comb the more sexy stuff for stat geeks; yes, ... OBP and SLG (OPS for your folks, although we count it even more highly than adding the two together), Run Production, etc.

It matters, folks, whether a player is on the field, because, in simple terms, he can't help his team win if he's sitting the pine, for whatever reason. And you certainly don't want to give him a contract that could harm your club down the line if his history tells you there's a good probability he won't give you innings or at bats. But yes, because the Player Rating system had at its core mission to mirror the way real baseball values its player, using Player Salaries as its constant, we do forgive some injuries in a way. We do this by using two averages of the past several seasons, by reaching back to years when injuries didn't come into play. But we do not forgive the injury in a single season by discounting that it happened; and that's what we're seeing in baseball contracts given out recently, albeit not in the case of Ben Sheets because the injury came up before he could sign the dotted line.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bargain Basement Sale at Free Agent Roundup

February 4, 2009 - Step right up, MLB general managers. With only two weeks to go until spring training, we might just be seeing a bargain basement sale at the free agent roundup this season. And oh, we're not talking about the bottom of the barrel players, folks. Some real juicy treats that will look real good in a uniform and could help a team toward making the playoffs. We're talking the likes of Bobby Abreu, Ben Sheets, Orlando Hudson, and Albert Dunn, just to name a few. Players who bat over .300, win gold gloves, smash 40 homers, and when healthy, are legitimate number one starters.

There is talk that some of these players will be lucky to get one year deals, and deals in the neighborhood of $10 million dollars. Now, that neighborhood sounds pretty good to most folks, but as the end of last season came around, you know that Dunn, Abreu, and Sheets were looking north of $15 miillion dollars for multi-year deals. There's some talk that the $10 million dollar number may be the maximum out there, too.

But what are these players really worth, and will they truly be a bargain at the number they sign for.

Case One - Bobby Abreu. Remarkably consistent player with the bat, but with a penchant to take time off in the field. At 34 years of age, there's some dimunition of his ability, but not a whole lot, and the team that signs Abreu pretty much knows what they're going to get. 15-20 HR, 100 RBI, 0.280 to 0.300 BA with a good OBP. In normal economic times, he'd be looking for a 4 year contract worth around $55 million. And the Stat Geek Baseball SPRO model says that he's worth $12,978,000 for 2009.

PEVA 2008 - 13.952, PEVA 2007 - 13.538, PEVA 2006 - 21.124

Case Two - Adam Dunn. Only 29 year old at the beginning of 2009, this OBP and HR machine can be an up and down ride during the season, but he's going to give you pop. 40 HR each year from 2005-8, between 92 and 106 RBI in that span. He'd look pretty good in a Dodger, National, or any uniform. He strikes out a ton and doesn't hit for average, but if you've already go a number #4 hitter in your lineup and need a #5 with power, Dunn is your man. In normal economic times, he'd be getting a 4 year contract in the $45 million range. And the Stat Geek Baseball SPRO model says that he's worth $10,776,000 for 2009.

PEVA 2008 - 12.781, PEVA 2007 - 13.734, PEVA 2006 - 10.621

Case Three - Orlando Hudson. This slick fielding second sacker has been going a bit downhill for the last three years, but is still just over the 30 year old line. If you've got a good lineup already and need steady play up the middle, you could be looking for Hudson. For Arizona in 2008, he batted 0.305, but had trouble staying on the field. If he rebounds with good health for an entire season, this could be a real bargain. But, and it's a big but, will the trend continue with downhill production or will he rebound. In normal economic times, he'd still be worth a 2 year contract in the $8.7 million zip code. And the Stat Geek Baseball SPRO model says that he's worth $4,285,000 for 2009.

PEVA 2008 - 3.358, PEVA 2007 - 6.270, PEVA 2006 - 8.981

Case Three - Ben Sheets The player in this group of four with the biggest upside. He could win you a big playoff game with no problem, or like last year, and others years, too, be sitting on the sidelines due to injury. At 30 years old and with a pedigree like this, teams in the past would be chomping at the bit for a player like this. But his PEVA numbers look like a roller coaster and to pay long term for the bottom of the ride is tough to do this year. In normal economic times, somebody would ante up a risk reward contract of 5 years and $56 million. Doubtful this year though. And the Stat Geek Baseball SPRO model says that he's worth $10,412,000 for 2009. This number could be approached, as the SPRO model takes durability into the equation in a significant way, but is lower than most predicted he'd get before now.

PEVA 2008 - 18.905, PEVA 2007 - 7.640, PEVA 2006 - 6.354

Boy, it's too bad the Yankees have already spent all their money. Well, of course, that's not true. They're probably just waiting for that other free agent out there, the one who turns down $25 million dollars in a bad economic climate, to fall into their lap.