Along the same lines, I began wondering which players performed the best for their teams for the least money in 2009. This idea I liked. Unlike analyzing contracts, which was mostly a subjective exercise, there are statistics that can be used objectively to quantify the players who got their teams the most value. Hence the subject of this post.
The real fun, of course, would be a similar analysis of baseball’s LEAST valuable players, the guys who make the big money and their teams worse at the same time. That, unfortunately, is more difficult than it seems for reasons that will become clear once I explain my methodology.
Combined, the two datasets allowed me to divide a player’s salary by his WARP1, a crude but effective measure of how much each player was paid for giving his team a win. This methodology works great, until a player is worth less than a full win. After that, the math starts to break down, particularly for the really crappy players who actually COST their teams wins. It produces a negative number. Since the real awful players aren’t giving the money BACK analyzing them this way is more challenging. (The answer, by the way, isBrad Lidge. Salary? $12 million. WARP1? -4.6. Philly never stood a chance).
A few fun facts jumped out at me once I’d compiled the data and run the calculation (remember, to qualify for THIS post a player needed a WARP1 of at least 1):
-David Ortiz is the most expensive player in baseball who earned at least one win for his team. That win, by the way, cost the Boston Red Sox $13 million. You stay brilliant, Theo Epstein.
- Alex Rodriguez gives the Yankees the least bang for their buck. With a WARP1 of 5.3 the Yankees paid A-Rod a bit more than $6 million per win in 2009. (In A-Rod’s defense WARP1 is adjusted to playing time. In A-Rod’s prosecution, at $30 million a year he’ll always scrape the bottom of the affordability list unless he returns to 2007 HGH levels…I mean performance levels.)
- The bomber who gives the Yankees the most value per win? Phil Hughes, at a shade under $120,000 a win, which makes him one of the 30 most productive players in MLB on this list. Save Phil Hughes indeed!
- Baseball paid just under $1.7 million per win above replacement player in 2009.
Enough build up. Here are the 20 players who should have excited baseball stat geeks the most in 2009:
1) Ben Zobrist, 28 Rays – 2B Salary: $415,900 WARP1: 7.6 $54,724 per win
2) Matt Kemp, 24 Dodgers – CF Salary: $467,000 WARP1: 7.9 $59,114 per win
3) Jair Jurrjens, 23 Braves – P Salary: $450,000 WARP1: 7.3 $61,644 per win
4) Yunel Escobar, 26 Braves – SS Salary: $425,000 WARP1: 6.7 $63,433 per win
5) Franklin Gutierrez, 26 Mariners – CF Salary: $455,000 WARP1: 7 $65,000 per win
6) Andrew Bailey, 25 Athletics – P Salary: $400,000 WARP1: 6 $66,667 per win
7) Pablo Sandoval, 22 Giants – 3B Salary: $401,750 WARP1: 5.8 $69,267 per win
8) Brendan Ryan, 27 Cardinals – SS Salary: $403,000 WARP1: 5.8 $69,483 per win
9) Shin-soo Choo, 26 Indians – OF Salary: $420,300 WARP1: 5.8 $72,466 per win
10) Evan Longoria, 23 Rays – 3B Salary: $550,000 WARP1: 7.1 $77,465 per win
11) Justin Upton, 21 Diamondbacks – OF Salary: $412,000 WARP
1: 5.2 $79,231 per win
12) Joey Votto, 25 Reds – 1B Salary: $437,500 WARP1: 5.3 $82,547 per win
13) J.A. Happ, 26 Phillies – P Salary: $405,000 WARP1: 4.9 $82,653 per win
14) Tim Lincecum, 25 Giants – P Salary: $650,000 WARP1: 7.4 $87,838 per win
15) Yovani Gallardo, 23 Brewers – P Salary: $414,000 WARP1: 4.7 $88,085 per win
16) Michael Bourn, 26 Astros – CF Salary: $434,500 WARP1: 4.9 $88,673 per win
17) Jered Weaver, 26 Angels – P Salary: $465,000 WARP1: 5.2 $89,423 per win
18) Scott Feldman, 26 Rangers – P Salary: $434,680 WARP1: 4.7 $92,485 per win
19) Adam Lind, 25 Blue Jays – DH/OF Salary: $411,800 WARP1: 4.4 $93,591 per win
20) Clayton Kershaw, 21 Dodgers – P Salary: $404,000 WARP1: 4.2 $96,190 per win
I’m thinking it too. Kung-fu Panda is one fat 22-year-old. That, and these guys are good. How good? The average WARP1 of the players who made my data cut is 3. The average among this group is 5.9. That’s about 3 wins better than average good, which is good.
And they come at excellent age and cost. No one on the list makes more than $650,000 and the lowest WARP1 among them was Kershaw’s 4.2. The Yankees gave Johnny Damon $13 million for a WARP1 of 4.4.
Justin Upton also stands out. The dude is only 21 years old and his WARP1 is 5.2! What’s his ceiling? 10 wins? 12 wins? I hope we get to put him in pinstripes someday. I’d say the same thing about Kershaw, except we all know that Torre is going to go Dusty Baker on his rotator cuff within a season or two.
This also provides a loose sense of how to run a team. The average salary on this list is less than $450,000 and we get 5.9 wins a year from that. The average price for a win paid across all of baseball, from Alex Rodriguez to Brett Gardner, was $1.7 million. Loosely speaking this means that if a team maintains a robust farm system producing talent then it is difficult to justify paying anyone not named Pujols more than $12 million. At $2 million per win, that covers a player for 6 wins a year. Only a handful of players will generate more than 6 wins a year for the life of a contract. Anyone demanding more money can be replaced through the farm system — probably not for 6 wins, but definitely for better value.
So, how did the Yankees do? (What, you didn’t think I’d keep our team out of this, did you?)
1) Phil Hughes, Salary: $407,650 WARP1: 3.4 $119,897 per win
2) Joba Chamberlain, Salary: $432,575 WARP1: 1.4 $308,982 per win
3) Melky Cabrera, Salary: $1,400,000 WARP1: 1.9 $736,842 per win
4) Robinson Cano, Salary: $6,000,000 WARP1: 5.9 $1,016,949 per win
5) Brian Bruney, Salary: $1,250,000 WARP1: 1 $1,250,000 per win
6) Nick Swisher, Salary: $5,400,000 WARP1: 3.4 $1,588,235 per win
7) Andy Pettitte, Salary: $5,500,000 WARP1: 3 $1,833,333 per win
8) Mariano Rivera, Salary: $15,000,000 WARP1: 6.8 $2,205,882 per win
9) CC Sabathia, Salary: $15,285,714 WARP1: 5.8 $2,635,468 per win
10) Johnny Damon, Salary: $13,000,000 WARP1: 4.4 $2,954,545 per win
11) Jorge Posada, Salary: $13,100,000 WARP1: 3.9 $3,358,974 per win
12) Mark Teixeira, Salary: $20,625,000 WARP1: 5.8 $3,556,034 per win
13) Derek Jeter, Salary: $21,600,000 WARP1: 5.7 $3,789,474 per win
14) Hideki Matsui, Salary: $13,000,000 WARP1: 3.1 $4,193,548 per win
15) A.J. Burnett, Salary: $16,500,000 WARP1: 3.7 $4,459,459 per win
16) Alex Rodriguez, Salary: $33,000,000 WARP1: 5.3 $6,226,415 per win
What really stands out to me here is how good the Yankees are. There are some major All-Stars on the list above, and almost as many on the Yankees, if you include guys like Robinson Cano who probably should have been All-Stars.
That, and its tough to put together a team as good as the Yankees and save money. At the $2 million per win rule of thumb the Bombers are overpaid (we know that) but look at the wins. If you’re going to overpay any team, this is pretty much the team, right?
Among the individual players, once we get past Hughes, Cano and Mo jump out at me. I’m a little skeptical of Cano’s win total, but it’s incredible value for a player to make $6 million and give us 6 wins. At $15 million, its a testament to Mariano’s ability that he is pretty much paid fairly.
Coming soon: The worst of the least.
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