Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Fan is So Lost and Confused

We have officially entered the dead zone. With the races pretty much decided (the Twins and Giants might have something to say about that in the next two weeks), much of the discussion on the Web has begun to revolve around the post-season awards like MVP and Cy Young. Since there is no pitcher who is going to win 25 or 30 games, it seems unlikely that any pitcher, Cy Young winner or not, is going to factor in the MVP voting. Not so fast! Today's Rob Neyer post blew this Fan away by pointing out that places like FanGraphs value the best pitchers as highly as the best hitters. Whuh?

So, not wanting to ever look stupid, the Fan followed Mr. Neyer's link to FanGraphs and sure enough, Albert Pujols is currently valued at $37.2 million and Zack Greinke is valued at $38.5 million. Can that be? The Fan reached for his normal plethora of baseball lore. Starting pitchers only pitch every fifth day. Positional players play every day. At least, that's how we've always heard it should be, right? But again, the Fan does not want to look stupid. So some time was spent trying to sort out what FanGraphs is measuring. This Fan has to admit he is totally in over his head and totally lost.

When the Fan was young, math was easy. If you gave how many times a batter had been up to bat and how many hits he had in those at bats, the Fan could get real close (if not dead on), to what the batter had for a batting average. The same for ERA. The Fan had a near perfect score on the math side of the SATs. But now? Call the Fan a dope. From what the Fan can see from the FanGraphs valuations, you figure in the position the player plays, how well they field that position, what they do at the plate or how they pitch and you come up with a RAR or Runs Above Replacement. You also get a WAR or a Wins Above Replacement. The dollar valuation is some mathematical equation from WAR that gives the player a value if the player was on the free market. Right now, according to FanGraphs, Greinke is more valuable than Pujols. And the argument then can be made that Greinke is the MVP.

The way it works out is that Pujols is worth 8.3 wins above the average replacement player. Greinke is worth 8.6 wins above the average replacement player. Okay, the Fan can get how what a starting pitcher does directly affects the outcome of games. So does that mean that the average replacement pitcher would be 6-16 if he pitched on the Royals instead of the 14-8 that Greinke is? The Fan doesn't know if that's what it means or not. That actually sounds plausible though.

But hasn't Pujols won more games with the runs that he's driven in? Before Holliday entered the picture, Pujols was about the only offense the Cardinals had. The Fan doesn't know. Clueless.

According to FanGraphs, the following is your top fifteen valued players (in millions):

1. Greinke - $38.5
2. Pujols - $37.2
3. Lincecum - $36
4. Hanley Ramirez - $34.7
5. Chase Utley - $34.5
6. Joe Mauer - $33.7
7. Ben Zobrist - $32.8
8. Verlander - $31
9. Roy Halladay - $30
10. Cliff Lee - $29.2
11. Longoria - $29.1
12. Jeter - $28.6
13. Zimmerman - $28.3
14. Jon Lester - $27.6
15. Javier Vazquez - $27.6

All those guys seem like they are worth that kind of money, though the Rays would go broke if they had to pay Longoria and Zobrist that kind of money. Something just doesn't feel right though and unfortunately, the Fan isn't smart enough to be able to pinpoint what that is. For example, the valuation for relief pitchers (which seems to clearly show why no reliever should ever get a Cy Young award) shows that Phil Hughes is slightly more valuable to the Yankees than Mariano Rivera. Hmm...

Perhaps what the Fan needs is a "Sabermetrics for Dummies" book. Is there such a book? If not, there should be. Because the Fan feels like a dummy if there ever was one. Perhaps a pitcher should win an MVP based on this stuff. Perhaps a catcher should get a positional adjustment of +15.2 and shortstops +7.5. But based on what? How is that figured? Oy. very lost.

Perhaps the Fan can end the misery of this post by looking for the anti-MVP. For your reading pleasure, what follows is the worst players in baseball based on WAR and Dollars (again in millions):

1. Gary Matthews, Jr. - ($ 8.8)
2. Jose Guillen - ($ 8.5)
3. Delmon Young - ($7.5)
3. Yuniesky Betancourt - ($7.5)
4. Brian Giles - ($7.4)

At least that makes a lot of sense.

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