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Earning their paycheck

March 6th, 2011 by Ray

For those of you who don’t know, in their Win Value section, along with WAR, Fangraphs lists what they refer to as “Dollars.” In their words, it is:

WAR converted to a dollar scale based on what a player would make in free agency

This stat can seem a bit misleading when, for instance, it says Andres Torres was worth $23.9 million last season. Obviously, Torres didn’t make that much, nor would any of the thirty teams in the league give him that much in free agency, but based on his 2010 performance and the price the market put on WAR in free agency, he would be worth that much.

The San Diego Padres have little in common with the rest of the league when it comes to market value. Kevin Towers became known as a dumpster diver not because he loved swimming in trash but because, as the GM of the Padres, he had to. And over the course of his fifteen years in San Diego, Towers found some winners. Phil Nevin, who was acquired for Andy Sheets and went on to provide the team 19.3 wins in six and a half years, is just one of the finds that Jed Hoyer now has to take inspiration from.

Hoyer’s second offseason was an eventful one, as he tried to find a way to make up for Adrian Gonzalez and his departing production. In his effort, he turned to Brad Hawpe, Orlando Hudson, and Ryan Ludwick, amongst others. With the limited budget he’s already known and, hopefully, come to love, Hoyer had to spend his dollars wisely. Going through Hoyer’s major transactions this offseason, I’ve found that he values one win at roughly $2 million ($1.99M to be exact). To determine this, I looked at the contracts he handed out this year in free agency, as well as to Ludwick and Jason Bartlett to avoid arbitration. I included Ludwick, and not Chase Headley or Heath Bell, as his then unknown 2011 contract was part of the deal when he came over from St. Louis, and I included Bartlett because his acquisition seemed dependent on the team working out an extension. This leaves us with seven players: Hawpe, Hudson, Ludwick, Bartlett, Aaron Harang, Jorge Cantu, and Chad Qualls*. And with the price Hoyer has set in mind, I looked at just how much bang Hoyer expects for his bucks.

*Given their small(er) roles, I’m leaving Cantu and Qualls out of this discussion, even though I included their contracts.

Ludwick:

As the owner of largest contract that Hoyer gave out to a player he didn’t inherit, Ludwick is first in line. And at $6.775 million, we can assume that the team is expecting

    3.4 wins

from him. As has been discussed before, Ludwick’s career is a hard one to get a feel for as his monstrous 2008 offsets his total averages. Over 162 games, Ludwick has been worth 3.2 wins per year, which is pretty close to that 3.4. However, if you remove his 08, his average drops to 2.4. Even if we split the difference, Ludwick still underperforms by almost a run. Not all hope is lost, however. Ludwick will be manning left field this season, an easier position that could boost his defensive numbers, he’s in a contract year, and he’s coming off the kind of demands atonement.

Orlando Hudson:

You’ll notice with both Hudson and Bartlett, due to the way it’s set up, I’m splitting the difference on their total contract rather than what they’ll simply be making in 2011. And, at $5.75 million, we can assume that the team is expecting

    2.9 wins

from Hudson this season. It would seem Jed’s done his homework on this one because over 162 games, Hudson’s career average is 3.0. Even though Hudson’s glove and bat have trouble getting on the same page, he still seems like a safe bet for 2011.

Jason Bartlett:

At $5.5 million, we can assume that the team is expecting

    2.8 wins

from Bartlett but, like Ludwick, Bartlett has one great season throwing everything off on the back of his baseball card. On his career, Bartlett has averaged 3.3 wins but without his Ludwick-esque 2009, that average drops to 2.8. Again, it looks like Hoyer did his homework, except that he’s playing it safe at shortstop, handing out a contract Bartlett has shown his has the ability to exceed.

Aaron Harang:

At $4 million, we can assume that the team is expecting

    2 wins

from Harang, a modest expectation. Over 30 starts, Harang has averaged 3 wins per year but that’s a mark he hasn’t hit since 2007. In 2008, Dusty Baker took average as manager of the Reds and that’s all I’ll say about that. Since then, Harang has 5 wins in 78 starts, which actually comes out to 1.9 wins over 30 starts. Like Bartlett, Harang’s is a contract that the Padres went low on, hoping that freeing the pitcher from Baker will help him exceed expectations.

Brad Hawpe:

At $3 million, we can assume that the team is expect

    1.5 wins

from Hawpe. That seems like a low total from first base (Cantu is expected to contribute another 0.4 wins) but a fair expectation of Hawpe. At some point, the season will begin and this sort of clarification won’t be necessary anymore, but it must be pointed out that Hawpe’s not a first baseman. He played in college, and a little bit last season, but Hawpe has primarily been an awful right fielder his entire career. His 1 win average means nothing when you consider that his defensive numbers, at a position he won’t play in San Diego, dragged everything down. Hawpe’s production could range anywhere from 0.5 wins to maybe 3. Financially, the team has made a smart move but as far as what happens on the field goes, that’ll have to wait for another article (probably in September).

Looking it over, Hudson seems to be the team’s safest pick. Bartlett and Harang are good bets to meet expectations but their up-and-down careers makes them harder to project. It shouldn’t take much for Hawpe to make his money back but, until we get any idea of how he is at first, we don’t know how easy that’ll be. And Ludwick, well, at least he’s saying all the right things.

Posted in statistics | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Earning their paycheck”

  1. Drakos says:

    I think it’s important to note that while Hoyer seems to value a win at $2 million that according to FanGraphs the league average value per win is in the $4.5 to $5 million range. That means that even if they under perform Hoyer’s expectations they could still be good value.

    Considering the budget that he had available I think that Hoyer did quite well. However if the team is going to do well this season I think it’s really going to be up to the players that were already on the roster. What are they going to get out of Headley, Hundley, Venable, the rotation and the pen? If that part of the team does what they did last year then I think the team will be ok. And then there’s Maybin. I honestly have no idea what we’ll get there.

  2. Steve Adler says:

    Well done, It looks like you have done your homework. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    I enjoy the fact that you were looking forward. I am curious how these numbers compare with the players we lost by position.

    • Ray says:

      Plugging the departed, and their 2011 contracts, into the equation, Adrian would have been expected to provide 2.3 wins (which he should have by the end of June), Tejada 3.3 (which seems doubtful), and Garland 2.5 (which is possible, although he only reached 0.8 last season). And, as Eckstein remains unsigned, there’s nothing to expect from him.

  3. Larry Faria says:

    The calculations produce such reasonable numbers that I’m inclined to believe Jed, or his staff, actually did make calculations like this, before Jed made his moves. It looks like a prudent M.O. short term, but in the heady, faraway future, when Moorad allows the payroll to begin with a “6″, will there be any potential downside to sticking closely to the math, and taking virtually no risk at all?

    • Ray says:

      I don’t know that I’d say they’re taking no risk at all. When I think of that, I think of the Alderson regime’s “pitchability.” And, truth be told, I don’t really expect Ludwick or Bartlett to meet expectations (Ludwick just isn’t the player Hoyer seems to think he is, and Bartlett ha aged quickly). So there is risk, even if it’s not reckless.

  4. [...] Earning their paycheck (Sacrifice Bunt). Ray examines the presumed value of the new guys in town. [...]

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