Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 Season Prediction Post

The season starts tomorrow.  The Season Starts Tomorrow!  THE SEASON STARTS TOMORROW!!!

That makes me happy.

If it doesn't make you happy, then you can just read this because it's basically the Cliff's Notes for the season upcoming.

AL EAST: Yankees 87 wins, Jays 85, Rays 85, Red Sox 84, Orioles 77
AL CENT: Tigers 93, Royals 80, White Sox 79, Indians 78, Twins 71
AL WEST: Angels 90, Rangers 88, A's 85, Mariners 75, Astros 64

NL EAST: Nationals 89, Braves 87, Phillies 85, Mets 71, Marlins 67
NL CENT: Cards 85, Reds 85, Brewers 82, Pirates 78, Cubs 77
NL WEST: Giants 86, DBacks 85, Dodgers 84, Rockies 76, Padres 75

Two 3 team playoffs to decide the Wild Card teams.  Does that make you want to actually watch the season?

AL MVP: Robinson Cano, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera
NL MVP: Jason Heyward, Joey Votto, Bryce Harper

AL CY: Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, King Felix
NL CY: Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Stephen Strasburg/Cliff Lee

AL ROY: Wil Myers, Aaron Hicks, Kevin Gausman
NL ROY: Julio Tehran, Jedd Gyorko, Hyn-Jin Ryu

There you have it.

Contract Analysis: Buster Posey

Add Buster Posey to the list of new MLB multi-millionaires.

Posey and the Giants agreed to a 9-year $167 million extension.

I've been looking at the contracts of some players who have signed extensions recently:
Justin Verlander
Adam Wainwright
Carlos Gomez

How does Posey's deal look?

Projections available on FanGraphs have Posey hitting .383/.503 in 562 PA's and producing 6.25 WAR.

That's good.  That's really good.

Posey's future production is a bit more complex to estimate than other players'.  Posey is a catcher, as such, they decline faster due to the wear-and-tear of the position.  Excellent hitting athletic catchers, of which Posey is, also occasionally quit playing catcher at some point in their career and move to other positions - this prolongs their careers but lessens their value.  As such, I've accelerated Posey's decline to account for either increased potential for breaking down or a move to another positions where his value will be less.


This still turns out well for the Giants

Using the same $5 million per WAR in 2013 with 5% inflation per year as I have with all other players, this is what I get:
YEAR     projWAR            SALARY                 WAR VALUE
2013    6.25      $8 mil         $31 mil
2014    6.5       $12.5 mil      $34 mil 
2015    6.5       $16.5 mil      $36 mil
2016    6.5       $20 mil        $38 mil
2017    5.5       $21.4 mil      $33 mil
2018    4.5       $21.4 mil      $29 mil
2019    4.5       $21.4 mil      $30 mil
2020    4         $21.4 mil      $28 mil
2021    3.5       $24.4 mil      $26 mil
TOTAL  47.8      $167 mil       $285 mil
*Salary source

Given these assumptions, Posey is still expected to provide the Giants with over $100 million in excess value.

Maybe my estimated WAR totals are too high - I didn't want any Giants fans hurling accusations at me.  But Posey is damn good (that should get them off of my back).  Adding the 48 projected WAR to the 13 WAR that Posey has also produced gives him 61 WAR by age 35.

6 catchers since 1900 have produced 60 WAR by age 35
Johnny Bench 75
Ivan Rodriguez 66
Gary Carter 66
Joe Torre 63
Mike Piazza 61
Yogi Berra 60

You've probably heard of those guys and if you're a Giants fan you probably don't mind Posey being mentioned in the same proverbial breath.

Somewhat interestingly, though, is that only one of those players, Piazza with 50 WAR, produced the 48 WAR that I'm projecting Posey for between ages 26 and 35.  The others:
Bench 39
Rodriguez 43
Carter 45
Torre 36
Berra 47

Further only 3 of those pitchers played over 90% of their innings at catcher in their career:
Rodriguez 99.7%
Piazza 96.3%
Carter 91.8%
Bench 81.8%
Berra 76.8%
Torre 41.1%

So, maybe the projection is too high.

It'd have to be astronomically too high for this to be anything other than the Giants signing a phenomenal player to a contract that he's likely to exceed.

Contract Analysis: Justin Verlander

Teams just keep signing their players to extensions.

This time Justin Verlander Summits Money Mountain.

Verlander signed a 7-year $180 million extension with the Tigers.  It's more complex than that, with Verlander's current deal being over-written, a vesting option, some incentives, etc, but that's basically the deal.

Projections available on FanGraphs have Verlander throwing 229 innings with 8.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, a 2.96 ERA and 5.5 WAR this season.

As with all the other contracts I've looked at this off-season (Carlos Gomez, Kyle Lohse, Adam Wainwright) I'll assume a $5 million market value for 1 WAR and 5% inflation.  I'll also apply a standard aging decline of .5 WAR per season after Verlander's age 31 season.
YEAR       ProjWAR          SALARY      WAR VALUE
2013         5.5              $20       $27.5
2014         5.5              $20       $28.9 
2015         5.0              $28       $27.6
2016         4.5              $28       $26
2017         4.0              $28       $24.3
2018         3.5              $28       $22.3
2019         3.0              $28       $20.1
TOTAL       31.0             $180      $176.7

Using those parameters I expect Verlander to put up about 31 WAR worth $176.7 million while being paid $180 million.

Verlander is basically being paid what he's expected to produce.  The Tigers didn't get any real discount.  With these types of long-term deal the team usually gets a discount because they assume the risk - the player gets paid regardless of performance.

Per the article I linked to above, anything can happen with Verlander, and nobody knows what will happen.  Deals for pitchers are, generally, more risky than deals for position players.  Verlander has been (one of) the best pitcher on earth over the last few seasons and there's no real reason to expect anything different over the next few seasons (Well, maybe Clayton Kershaw will change that).

Verlander is approaching Tiger icon status.  I can certainly see why Detroit would want to keep him around.  He's on a Hall of Fame trajectory.  There's no reason to think that trajectory is going to significantly change over the next two seasons.  The Tiger are also in win-now mode.  They have Verlander, Cabrera and Prince Fielder in their primes.  They have a some good to very good players backing them up.  The Tigers should be very good for the next 3-5 seasons.   Now they have the best pitcher in baseball locked up for that time frame.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bad Announcing: Mitch Williams on Relievers

Mitch Williams is ranking his top 10 relief pitchers.

He leaves Sergio Romo off of his list because Romo giving as the reason that Romo doesn't have the ability to strikeout a batter with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs.

Moments before he questioned Bill James leaving Jim Johnson off of James' top 10 relievers and Williams ranked Johnson 4th.

Romo has struck out 30.4% of the hitters he's faced in his career.
Johnson has struck out 15.3% of the hitters he's faced in his career.
Romo strikes out hitters nearly twice as frequently as Johnson.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Contract Analysis: Adam Wainwright

The Cardinals and Adam Wainwright agreed on a 5-year $97.5 million extension today.

My immediate reaction was that his was a big overpay by the Cardinals.

Let's look closer.

First, Wainwright is only 31 this season.  I thought he was older.  He did miss the 2011 season after TJ surgery, but picked up right where he left off.

Like I did earlier with Kyle Lohse, I combined the projections available on Fangraphs and came up with this composite projection for 2013:
198 innings, 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 a 3.33 ERA and 4.9 WAR

Applying the standard aging curve, I'll expect the following WAR totals over the contract:
2013 4.9
2014 4.4
2015 3.9
2016 3.4
2017 2.9
2018 2.4
TOTAL = 21.9 WAR

The exact details of the extension aren't out but it's reported to be $97.5 million over 5 years.  Wainwright is already under contract for $12 million this year.  He'll make a total of $109.5 million before he's a free agent.

Assuming $5 million market value per WAR this year and 5% inflation per season, the total value of Wainwright's production comes out to about $122 million.

Wainwright's expected production slightly exceeds what the Cardinals will pay him.

There is risk for the pitchers.  Some of it already included in the standard aging curve (increased risk of injury and decreased performance).  Is Wainwright more likely to be injured since he's already undergone a TJ surgery?  I don't know.

This isn't a great deal for the Cardinals, but it's not a bad one either.

Contract Analysis: Kyle Lohse

Kyle Lohse finally signed a contract - with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Was it a good deal?

Projections available on FanGraphs have Lohse pitching 185 innings this year with 5.9 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 3.83 ERA and 2.9 WAR.

Given that Lohse is 34 we can apply the standard aging decline of 0.5 WAR per season.  Doing so we get:
2013 2.9 WAR
2014 2.4 WAR
2015 1.9 WAR

Lohse will be paid $33 million over that time, however due to the deferment of some of the money the actual present value of his contract is $31.95 million.

It's generally accepted that the current value of 1 WAR is $5 million.  If we apply 5% inflation then the total value of the WAR that Lohse is expected to provide is:
2013 2.9 WAR * $5 = $14.5 
2014 2.4 WAR * ($5*1.05) = $12.6
2015 1.9 WAR *($5*1.05*1.05) = $10.5
TOTAL $37.6 million

Lohse's expected production outweighs his cost by about $5.5 million.

There's also the loss of the draft pic.  According to this research, the average value of the #17 pick is around $5 million - almost the exact amount of the difference between Lohse's cost and expected production.

Purely on cost, this looks like a reasonable deal.

FanGraphs recently released their Positional Power Rankings for 2013.  Those rankings had the Brewers #25 in starting pitching with 10.4 total WAR.  Inserting Lohse into the equation gives us:
Gallardo 199 IP 3.7 WAR
Estrada 187 IP 2.9 WAR
Lohse 185 IP 2.9 WAR
Fiers 136 IP 1.7 WAR
Narveson 122 IP 1.1 WAR
Peralta 40 IP 0.3 WAR
Rogers 25 IP 0.2 WAR
TOTAL 894 IP 12. 8 WAR

That's an increase in 2.4 WAR for the rotation, which would bump the Brewers up to 18th in starting pitching WAR.

Adding all the position player WAR and pitcher WAR together gives us some idea how teams will finish the season.

Using FanGraph's numbers the expected WAR for each AL Central team is:
Reds 44.7
Cardinals 42.8
Brewers 39.9
Pirates 39
Cubs 38.9

The acquisition of Lohse moves the Brewers from last in the division to 3rd.  More importantly, less than 5 WAR behind the Reds for first in the division.  5 WAR is close enough that random variation gives the Brewers a reasonable chance of winning the division.

My own projections have the division as:
Cardinals 42 WAR
Reds 40.5 WAR
Brewers 38.3 WAR
Pirates 79.8 WAR
Cubs 29.3 WAR

This move isn't a world beater for the Brewers.  They paid market value for a decent pitcher that will push them that much closer to competing for the division or one of the wild card spots.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Har-ap-illy Ever After? Dodger Rotation Candidates

I decided to take a look at some of the guys fighting for...what are they fighting for?  I was going to say they were fighting for rotation spots with the Dodgers this season, but they really aren't.  The Dodgers' 1 through 5 will almost certainly be:
Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Chad Billingsley
Josh Beckett

That still leaves Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly with no real defined roles.

FanGraphs provides multiple projections for most players who have a shot of playing in the majors this year.  I've done a weighted average of those projections for each of the above 3 players

Harang: 151 innings, 6.61 K/9, 3.54 BB/9, 4.31 ERA and 0.9 WAR (1.3 WAR per 180 IP)
Capuano: 168 innings, 7.41 K/9, 2.56 BB/9, 3.83 ERA and 2.2 WAR (2.4 WAR per 180 IP)
Lilly: 120 innings, 6.96 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, 3.87 ERA and 0.7 WAR (1.1 WAR per 180 IP)

Capuano is certainly the best of the bunch.  As such, he's the one you'd most want to keep around.  As such, he's the one with the most trade value.  He's also likely the best option out of the bullpen.  His health maybe of some concern.  He has a sordid injury history.

Harang doesn't look to be anything special.  But he's healthy.  If any of the Dodgers top 5 starters go down with injury (and simple probability tells us that they will.  Not to mention that Billingsley's elbow is hanging by a thread and Beckett's back is constantly balky (plus Kershaw had hip issues at the end of last year and Greinke's having elbow problems this spring)) then having a healthy pitcher to replace them with could be a bonus.

Lilly isn't a bad pitcher when healthy.  But his arm appears to be pretty shredded.  You wouldn't want to have to rely on Lilly after already losing a top starter.  His control/fly ball/crafty-lefty ways probably aren't best suited to the bullpen.

Spring training stats are mostly meaningless, but let's look at them anyway:
Capuano's managed 15 innings with 3 walks and 14 strike outs.  That's not bad.  5 home runs, though, have pushed his spring ERA up to 7.20.

Harang has pitched 13 and a third innings with 5 walks and 8 strike outs.  That's not good.  It's not horrific, though.  He's given up 24 hits - that's close to horrific - and 8.10 ERA.

Lilly's only managed 6 and two thirds innings this spring with 5 walks and 5 strike outs.  That's bad.  The 11 hits, 7 earned runs and 9.45 ERA are bad as well.

I don't pretend to have any idea what LA will decide to do with these guys.  Likely an "injury" to a pitcher or two will appear before the season starts so the Dodgers can put a guy on the DL for a few weeks - buying a bit more time to make a decision.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bad Announcing: Durable Catchers

So, I'm watching the Dodgers and Royals on MLB.COM.  It's 8-1 Dodgers and the announcers are killing some time.

They were talking about players making the opening day roster but not getting into games.  One of them said that this happened to catchers because catchers were the one position where the manage would keep running the same guy out there day-after-day and that only catchers would start 150 games a season.


In the last 10 seasons 0 catchers have started 150 games.

2 catchers have started over 140 games
Jason Kendall 149 in 2008, 141 in 2006, 146 in 2005, and 145 in 2004
Russ Martin 143 in 2007

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Carlos Gomez: Contract Analysis

With 3 year $24 million extension thru 2016 have committed 4 years and $28.3 million to Carlos Gomez over next 4 seasons.

The Brewers and Gomez reached an agreement on a 1-year deal in January of this year.  That deal was for $4.3 million in 2013.

A few months later they agreed to a $24 million 3-year extension.

Was it a good deal?

Gomez has been more of a part time player for the Crew than a starter in his career; averaging just about 400 PA's per season.

With the new contract and Nyjer Morgan heading to Japan for this season CF looks to belong to Gomez.

FanGraphs has 5 different projection systems available for most players.  These projections combine to project Gomez for a .303/.404 line worth 2.1 WAR in 450 PA's (2.8 WAR in 600 PA's).

Gomez hit .305/.463 last season so the projections don't like Gomez to retain his power despite the fact he's entering his age 27 season which is usually the beginning of a player's power peak (/alliteration).

Since players peak from about age 27 to age 31 this contract should cover Gomez' peak years and he should have minimal risk of decline over the life of the contract.

We should expect Gomez to put up 4 seasons of about 2.5 WAR.  The market value of 1 WAR is about $5.5 million currently.  If that value increases 5% annually then the value of Gomez' total WAR would be about $60 million.

The total value of Gomez' contract is $28.3 million.

The Brewers will be paying Gomez about half of what he is expected to produce.  Even if he fall off dramatically, he should be worth his contract.  

Bad Announcing: The Perils of Citing Batting Average

So, I'm sitting at home watching the Dominican Republic play the US in a WBC game.

It's 1 - 1 in the 6th inning and Hanley Ramirez is hitting.  Just swung through a Luke Gregerson slider.

This followed a Willie Bloomquist error.

Which followed a Robinson Cano strike out.

Cano was the first hitter that Gregerson faced.  As Gregerson was pitching to Cano, whoever the announcer was made the statement that Gregerson was equally as effective vs righties and lefties and stated that Gregerson had a .216 average against vs righties and a .214 average against vs lefties.  Now, technically, this was true for 2012 but it's totally misleading.

First, Gregerson only faced 117 left-handed hitters in 2012.  117 hitters is hardly a large enough sample to draw meaningful conclusions from.

OBP vs R: .243
OBP vs L: .336

K/BB vs R: 8.40
K/BB vs L: 1.88

In 2012 Gregerson allowed left-handed hitters to reach base 38% more often than right-handed hitters and his K/BB rate was 3.5 times better vs righties than lefties.  Hardly equally effective.

Now the small sample caveats apply here too, of course.  So what's he done in his career?
vs R: .191/.246/.292  with a 3.9 K/BB rate
vs L: .249/.330/.360  with a 2.6 K/BB rate

But, yeah, Batting Average!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 Top 100 Pre-Season Prospects

Real baseball starts in less than a month.

Let's try that again...

Real baseball starts in less than a month!!!!!!!!!

That's more like it.

Anyway, spring and major league baseball are just around the corner.  I was going to try and work in a 'Hope springs eternal' thing here but, meh.

With a new season come new prospects.  Some will make their way to the majors.  Some will move up their organizational ladders.  Some will give their fans hope for the future.  Some will disappoint.

Various organizations and individuals have take to ranking these prospects.  I am not one of those organizations or individuals.  What I have done is looked over the rankings that other have made and entered them into a handy-dandy spreadsheet and applied a little bit of math to the rankings.

One thing I did, the most obvious thing to do, was to find the average ranking of players.  Here's the top 25 players by average ranking:

1) Jurickson Profar SS Texas
2) Oscar Taveras OF St. Louis
3) Dylan Bundy P Baltimore
4) Wil Myers OF Tampa
5) Gerrit Cole P Pittsburgh
6) Jose Fernandez P Miami
7) Zack Wheeler P New York Mets
8) Xander Bogarts SS Boston
9) Taijuan Walker P Atlanta
10) Tyler Skaggs P Arizona
11) Christian Yelich OF Miami
12) Travis D'Arnaud C New York Mets
13) Miguel Sano 3B Minnesota
14) Byron Buxton OF Minnesota
15) Jameson Taillon P Pittsburgh
16) Francisco Lindor SS Cleveland
17) Shelby Miller P St. Louis
18) Mike Zunino C Seattle
19) Javier Baez SS Chicago Cubs
20) Billy Hamilton OF/SS Cincinnati
21) Trevor Bauer P Cleveland
22) Kevin Gausman P Baltimore
23) Carlos Correa SS Houston
24) Archie Bradley P Arizona
25) Nick Castellanos 3B Detroit

All 5 organizations/individuals rated Profar as the #1 prospect.  There were near consensuses on Oscar Taveras and Dylan Bundy as well with both getting no lower than a #4 vote.  Wil Myers was 4th in 4 of the 5 rankings.

The least agreed upon player was Colorado SS Trevor Story who was ranked as high as #34 and as low as #99.

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Keith Law
Jonathan Mayo