Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Posts Tagged ‘WAR’

Carlos Silva in 2011: A Big “So What”?

Posted by dannmckeegan on March 6, 2011

There could be a reason for a team to jettison a big, fat, bloated contract, even if there is positive value of some sort to be gained from the player’s performance. The Cubs might be in such a situation this year. They owe Carlos Silva $12 million plus a $2 million buyout (less the money Seattle threw in with the Bradley trade). And Silva was good for half a season in 2010. But the Cubs have a fairly reliable set of starting pitchers in Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wells. No Phillies, surely, but more than competent.

They also have a stable of youngsters seen as starters in the near future: Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Jay Jackson, Christopher Carpenter, Trey McNutt, James Russell, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx all are at worst Triple-A starters in 2011. More than one probably has MLB-level stuff right now.

Seven names. Five spots in Iowa’s rotation. And that doesn’t include Hung-Wen Chen and a few guys bordering on filler/fading prospect. McNutt can probably thrive for a while beating up on the Southern League. Carpenter, Jackson, Russell, and Bibens-Dirkx could all use full seasons at Triple-A as pure starters. Both Cashner (power) and Coleman (sinker) showed some flashes in the majors last year and are capable of pitching at that level, if not thriving as a starter.

So now we have Carlos Silva’s big, fat contract pushing not one, but two or maybe even three young players away from the proverbial catering table. Silva’s ceiling is what he did last year: good luck on his sinker leading to some 5-6 inning starts and some time missed due to injury. His downside, we know, is a repeat of Seattle. If we consider that one of the kids will displace him at some point anyway, simply out of basic roster need, then it doesn’t make sense to keep him on the active or 40-man roster. Even if he can reproduce his 2 WAR 2010 this year, we have to weigh that (likely in 100-130 innings) against potential harm done to prospects not being challenged.

Keeping a guy like Carlos Silva around in a situation like the Cubs currently have is akin to telling a high school sophomore with an A- average that he has to repeat geometry because a senior with a C average and a case of senioritis blew off and failed world lit and didn’t graduate. You don’t punish the sophomore. You promote him normally and figure out how to accommodate the “demote” after everything else is in place. Silva’s getting his money either way. Is his projected 2011 performance (approximated as a WAR value) actually more valuable than a lesser performance by another player this year but an improved probability of stronger production (approximated by WAR value) in future years by one or more of those prospects?

If the Cubs see all of those prospects as MLB talents, then they would be doing less than due diligence if they failed to explore every means of challenging them. It’s not just for the Cubs themselves, but also to shore up added trade value. Is Player X worth more at age 23 with a 3.5 K/BB and 2.25 ERA at Double-A or a 3.2 K/BB and 3.25 ERA at Triple-A? If a guy smokes a league he has to repeat, then the response is, “He should be doing that. He’s playing too low.” It is preferable to see struggles and adjustments at the next level. Carlos Silva might be making that more difficult for the Cubs this year.

Advertisements

Posted in Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Soriano: Not Yet an Albatross.

Posted by dannmckeegan on March 5, 2011

A quick note on Fonzie’s crazy contract with the Cubs: So far, he’s been paid a total of $56 million, according to Cot’s ($9m in 2007, $13m in 2008, $16m in 2009, and $18m last year). In that time, he has produced a total of 14.1 fWAR, for a per-win cost of $3.97 million. Considering he produced a replacement-level performance during an injury-riddled 2009 season, that’s a pretty fair price.

Even if we add his $8 million signing bonus to the $56 million paid to date, his cost is $4.54 million per win. That price appears to be within the realm of reason.

While he is highly unlikely to maintain a $4-$4.5 million/win pace through the life of his current contract, his production has actually been less of an albatross than it’s made out to be. He is under contract through 2014 at an annual salary of $18 million ($72 million still owed). He would have to produce 16 to 18 WAR over than span to keep pace.

But let’s consider $5 million per win to be an upper threshold for the per-win average cost between 2007 and 2014 (i.e., assume that the price will continue to climb slightly). Dividing the contract’s total value by this per-win cost, we see that Soriano has to produce a total of 27 WAR over the life of the contract to hit $5 million/win. 30 WAR would place him at approximately $4.5 million/win.

So to reach this ballpark, Soriano has four years to produce between 13 and 16 WAR. While it is a safe bet that he will not be able to accumulate enough playing time (given the Cubs’ OF prospects and his own aging/injuries) or have enough defensive improvement (try, try again) to put up 4 WAR/season, a line similar to his 2010 output would likely keep him close to 3 WAR/year.

If, after the 2014 season, Soriano has produced the following annual WAR tallies:
2007 – 6.9
2008 – 4.3
2009 – 0.0
2010 – 2.9
2011 – 3
2012 – 2.7
2013 – 2.2
2014 – 2.0
he will have accumulated 24 WAR in exchange for $136 million, thus earning $5.67 million per win. A 2-win season in 2014, at age 38, would be a big surprise. But it would be equally surprising to see him either forced to the bench or retirement at that point. And once the contract is down to one or two years, an AL team in need of a power-hitting DH would possibly be interested in a discounted trade. If the Cubs have Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, and Tyler Colvin (for example) penciled into their 2014 outfield, they won’t be worrying about payroll and can pay half of his final year spent elsewhere.

Barring a complete and utter late-career collapse (unlikely), Alfonso Soriano will likely end up being a noticeable but not atrocious overpay. If managed wisely, the club’s payroll won’t be negatively effected by his presence. If he can produce a simple .250/.310/.470-(20-25 HR)-(55-75 RBI) line for the next three years, he’ll have actually been a halfway decent investment. Considering the in-house options (Matt Murton, Angel Pagan, Micah Hoffpauir, Jake Fox, Jason Dubois, Matt Camp, Bobby Scales, Brad Snyder, Jim Adduci, Sam Fuld…) of recent vintage, it seems like Soriano has filled the corner outfield power gap that many teams do nowadays struggle to fill.

Remember: the albatross is a portent for good. It wasn’t until Coleridge’s mariner killed the bird that ill luck gained sway. The albatross is only hanging from around one’s neck when it is dead. Soriano: not dead yet.

Posted in Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Meet Me in Saint Louis…

Posted by dannmckeegan on January 25, 2011

Chemistry Over Replacement Player. aka CARP. aka “The Kevin Millar Effect.” aka “Aaron Miles‘ Continued Employment.” And so on and so forth. You can never have too many clubhouse guys, or so the saying goes. And fortunately for the five other teams in the National League Central, no one over the years has informed Tony LaRussa that it doesn’t help if your good clubhouse guys are also guys who never should leave the dugout. Thankfully this off-season St. Louis has made it a priority to improve their CARP rather than their WAR (Wins Above Replacement) potential. With the recent signing of free agent utility man Nick Punto – whose CARP apparently didn’t outweigh his SUCC (Suckiness Under Competitive Circumstances) in CARP-heavy Minnesota – St. Louis has committed itself to an opening day infield that will contain (besides Prince Albert) some combination of Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, Nick Punto and rookie Allen Craig. In the words of C. Montgomery Burns, “Excellent…” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Analysis, Statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

37, 38 and Koyie Hill

Posted by dannmckeegan on July 22, 2010

37-38.  That’s the Cubs’ record in 2010 against every team not named “Astros” or “Pirates.”  Against those two sorry-ass teams, the Cubs are 6-15. I’d been talking with one of the employees at my gym today about the Cubs’ struggles with the Pirates this year, and how getting a few of those back would have completely changed the dynamic of their season.  But it was Bleed Cubbie Blue‘s write-up of today’s disappointing defeat that actually pointed out the first number explicitly.  At worst, against the entirety of MLB excepting the two worst teams in the National League, the Cubs are .500.  And let’s make this clear again: that .500 mediocrity was accomplished with either Zombie Aramis or FonteBaker or Tracy at third base.  Just worth considering.

Mountains out of Mole(Hill)s

So on to today’s game.  Something happened today that I’d prefer not to see happen anymore: Koyie Hill started behind the plate.  Now, I understand the reasoning behind using a backup catcher in a day game after a night game that moved as slowly as Tuesday’s 14-7 thriller.  But Koyie Hill is no longer a viable backup catcher.  In the four plate appearances he made Wednesday against Houston, he found himself some alternate headgear in the form of a Golden Sombrero, only slightly less embarrassing than the little pink snack backpack that the most junior Cubs reliever brings to the pen each day.  Geovany Soto entered late as a replacement, and to what effect? A 2-run homer in the bottom of the 12th that left the Cubs just short of a potentially meaningful victory.

Through the 2009 season, Koyie Hill’s career was the very definition of replacement-level player, according to FanGraphs.  That is, they calculate his career WAR to have been 0.0 in 179 games and 539 plate appearances.  Between 2003 and 2009, Koyie Hill amassed almost exactly a full year’s worth of playing time, and he put up a .215/.286/.304 line with 104 hits (24 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers).  He struck out 143 times (26.5%) while walking 48 (8.9%, 7 intentional = 7.6% uBB). BaseballReference.com isn’t even as kind as FanGraphs, as BR calculates Hill’s career WAR (including 2010) at -1.5.  Only in 2009 has Koyie Hill been considered “above replacement level” by the advanced metrics.

Koyie Hill sucks.

He sucks on the order of Matt Walbeck, Brian Dorsett (note the 31-year-old with a succession of partial seasons in the bigs parallel), Sandy Martinez, Josh Paul, Rob Bowen…you get the point if you remember these guys, or if you don’t.  These are bad part-time backup catchers employed by the Cubs since 1990.  Not one of the good ones, like Steve Lake, Damon Berryhill/Joe Girardi, That Hector Villanueva Season, Henry Blanco, Tyler Houston, or Paul Bako.  No, Koyie Hill closely resembles those forebears who likewise had no verifiable claim to their status as a major leaguer.

Of course, in the past, the blame for the presence of such players wasn’t that big a deal.  Other than the organization totally missing on the homegrown Jose Molina after a few at bats, there weren’t catchers in the system until Geovany Soto wrested the position from all other contenders in the Piniella era.  This is no longer the case with Koyie Hill. The Cubs farm system is rife with catchers who, at the very least, project as legitimate MLB backups:

  • Welington Castillo (age 23, Iowa): .253/.314/.495, 53 G, 182 AB, 46 H, 12 2B, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 16 BB, 42 K.  He threw out 44% of attempted base-stealers at Tennessee in 2009, but hit in the .230’s with 1 BB in every 6 games; his developing hitting skill might bring him back up the prospect ledge he fell off in the 2009 season.
  • Steve Clevenger (age 24, Tennessee): .272/.322/.346, 57 G, 162 AB, 45 H, 11 2B, 10 BB, 16 K. The lefty-hitting kid has a huge platoon split in this, his third go at the Southern League.  He was the odd man out of the Triple A competition in spring between himself, non-prospect Chris Robinson and Castillo.  He plays a little first, has a 30% CS in his MiLB career, and probably has plenty of chances left to move forward.
  • Robinson Chirinos (age 26, Tennessee): .319/.407/.597, 63 G, 216 AB, 69 H, 21 2B, 13 2B, 53 RBI, 32 BB, 26 K. Southern League Offensive Player of the Week as per MiLB. com, following an RBI hit in the SL ASG and a 7-15 week with a trio of longballs and 10 RBI. Long a languishing low-level infielder, Chirinos made the conversion from shortstop to catcher after the 2008 season at the suggestion of Cubs personnel executive Oneri Fleita.  More than just thriving defensively in his new position, Chirinos credits the move with the drastic offensive improvements of his game: “I have more of an idea of what the pitcher is trying to do when I’m hitting.” Early this year, Chirinos explained to Nick Gates the elaborate decision-making process he undertook in opting to switch positions:

“He thought it was more of a possibility I could play in the big leagues,” Chirinos said. “He told me to think about it and let me know. The next day I told him I was going to do it.

“So far so great. Now my hitting came back.”

  • Michael Brenly (age 23, Daytona): .303/.349/.394, 64 G, 231 AB, 70 H, 9 2B, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 14 BB, 35 K. A 36th round pick, Brenly wasn’t supposed to hit. His single on Wednesday against Charlotte extended his hitting streak, however, to 20 games.  He’s far from ready for the majors, but this 2008 addition to the organization looks on pace to surpass expectations.

So, in summary Koyie Hill sucks and, as much as I’d like to suggest that he not quit his day job, I can’t.  Because the last time he was working on his table saw, he cut off his freaking fingers.

Posted in Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »