Friday I ran the first post in this series, examining what Fangraphs estimated each Yankee hitter was worth to the team on the season, and then comparing that value to what a player was actually paid in 2011. Today, I’ll be performing the same exercise, only examining the Yankee pitchers.
As before, the rules of this are simple. All the data come from Fangraphs. The value and salary numbers are in millions. The difference between a pitcher’s salary and his value is either the profit he generated for the team, if his value exceeded his salary, or the loss he was responsible for, if the salary was larger than the value.
The above table has shaken out precisely as anyone who read Friday’s post would have predicted. I hypothesized then that David Robertson would have produced the most profit for the Yankees this season, and he’s sitting right on top of the list, sharing a spot with Bartolo Colon. Those two pitchers generated the most profit for the Yankees in different ways. Colon came on and gave the Yankees a respectable season as a back end starter, but for, literally, a tenth the cost of a traditional back end starter. He was the definition of a high upside signing for the Yankees this season. Robertson, meanwhile, was a walking strike out. He continued his evolution toward becoming one of the game’s most dominant relievers.
Ivan Nova comes in next on the list. (Please note that for some reason Fangraphs lists Nova’s 2011 value as being $12.1 million on his personal Fangraphs page, but only $10.8 million on the team page.) He fits the same mold as Colon. Starters are valuable. Nova had a 97 FIP- this year, which is just a bit better than average, but an average starter is worth at least $9 million a season. The team wins out big if it can pay that starter less than $1 million.
Freddy Garcia should probably be higher on the list than he is. Fangraphs’ value measure is a direct linear transformation of WAR. Fangraphs WAR for pitchers rewards strike out pitchers and punishes ground ball pitchers. Garcia would probably be higher on the list had he produced the exact same results, but with more strike outs.
The big dog, CC Sabathia, comes next. While CC was far and away the most valuable pitcher on the Yankees, and one of the most valuable in all of baseball, he is also one of the most highly paid pitchers in all of baseball, which punishes him a bit on the table above. That said, it should be obvious why CC is going to opt out and go for more money this offseason. He made almost $25 million in 2011, and he was under paid.
The list doesn’t get interesting again until the bottom. It should come as no surprise that A.J. Burnett sucked the most payroll out of the Yankees this past year. He makes a ton of money and doesn’t give the Yankees a ton of anything good in return. Rafael Soriano, meanwhile, is vastly over paid. His lousy start to the season and trip to the DL brought down his WAR and value numbers, but even in 2010 Fangraphs said he was only worth $6.2 million. This means that even after his best season he would still be over paid at this salary. By the way, his salary will go up in 2012.
I’m cringing at the thought of the comments I’m going to get because Mariano Rivera is scraping the bottom of the table. I love Mo as much as the next Yankee fan. That said, it is difficult for even the greatest of relievers to produce a lot of value. Relievers don’t pitch enough innings to accumulate as much WAR as top flight starting pitchers. In the case of an under paid player such as David Robertson this doesn’t matter. It matters, however, for Rivera. The irrefutable truth is that no reliever, not even the best in the game, should be paid much more than $10 million a year, if a team’s front office wants to align that pitcher’s salary to his on-field value from the regular season.
Once again, the recipe for identifying surplus value or excessive loss is the same. Just about any young contributor to a team is going to produce surplus value. Highly paid veterans, on the other hand, will often produce losses because it is difficult for them to justify their salaries, even if they have good seasons.
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