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JC Bradbury Chat for 2pm on Thursday 4/24


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#1 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 18 April 2008 - 03:48 PM

The Baseball Economist, JC Bradbury, has agreed to do a chat with us this Thursday at 2pm. He also posts to his blog, Sabernomics, on almost a daily basis. For those of you not familiar with his work, I highly recommend reading his book and his blog. Excellent insight into the game.
He wants to use the same format that was used for the Neyer chat. Just post your questions here beforehand. He will also answer live questions if time permits.
FYI, the powers that be wanted me to let y'all know that I'm doing this with their permission

Edited by absintheofmalaise, 18 April 2008 - 03:49 PM.


#2 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:38 AM

You look at FA signings, trades etc from an economic standpoint as well as from a production standpoint. In some of your posts on your blog you have analyzed deals based on the economic impact that a particular player will have on a teams revenue stream based on what his projected performance will add to the number of wins over the previous year. The Sox have a team option on Manny for 2009 and 2010. What do you think the impact would be to the team and their revenue stream if they don't pick up his option and replace him with someone like Teixeira economically? What do you think the impact if any, would be if they do pick it up, at least for 2009?

#3 URI


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Posted 21 April 2008 - 02:37 PM

1. It seems like mid-and-lower revenue teams are doing a better job locking up their young talent through arbitration, and sometimes into free agency. Do you think that mitigates some of the larger-revenue (read: New York, Boston, Detriot, Los Angeles) team's financial advtanges?

2. What do you think the Red Sox are going to do with Manny Ramirez's option years? Is he really going to be worth the cost of his options, and if not, what are some solutions that are out there to replace Manny?

3. Last year, the Red Sox were in a strange position with Mike Lowell. He had just won the World Series MVP, he was a fan favorite, and he was coming off one of the better seasons of his career, and they signed him through his age 36 year for $37.5 million, even though they had cheaper options in house. What would you have done given this set of circumstances?

4. With Jason Varitek being a free agent this upcoming offseason, what do you think the Red Sox will do? What should they do?

5. Moving away from the Sox slightly, how do you see the American League East developing over the next 3 seasons?

6. When do you think the chasm in talent between the American League and National League will disappear?

7. Being a Braves fan, how does it feel being a part of the only fan base that doesn't hate JD Drew? Also, is it ok for me to like him now, or should I continue to hate him?

8. Finally, what do you think is going be the next big undervauled skillset that can be exposed by the Billy Beane's of the world?

#4 Rough Carrigan


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Posted 21 April 2008 - 06:16 PM

How insightful was that Liberty Media quarterly statement that said the Braves made something like $35 million in a half season last year?

Is there any reason to think that the numbers in Liberty Media's report are not representative of the economic health of the Atlanta Braves baseball team?

#5 Frisbetarian


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Posted 22 April 2008 - 09:40 AM

I almost missed this because it's pinned and I never seem to notice pinned threads. Perhaps we should consider unpinning?

Thanks for agreeing to answer questions here, JC, and thanks to Rick for bringing you here.

First is the obligatory defense question; I know from your very enjoyable blog that you are not a big fan of Zone Rating systems, feeling, not unlike many here, that they miss much of what actually occurs on the field (positioning, pitcher tendencies, handedness, and fundamentals like throwing to the correct base, hitting the cut-off man, backing up plays, et al). You seem to prefer Dewan's Fielding Bible, a play by play system, which I think most would agree is superior to any ZR type evaluation. I was wondering what you thought the next evolution of defensive metric might be, and specifically whether you knew of any teams measuring the speed of a batted ball (as opposed to having many different people with differing definitions subjectively offering their opinions on whether a ball was a line-drive, fly ball, hard hit GB, etc). Teams could then have cameras on each fielder in order to precisely judge the distance the player traveled to make a play. From this data it would be possible, over time, to accurately evaluate average range for each position (for example, a SS can field a ball hit at 78 MPH within a range of 15 feet to his right and 11 to his left 95% of the time), and thus find outliers. Do you know of any team currently doing this or something like it?

My second question concerns the aging of ballplayers. I know you have, in the past, done studies that found the average peak age of a hitter was 29 years old. Have you had the chance to update that? Also, I would be interested in knowing how players age past 29 as opposed to the past. It seems that current players are able to maintain high performance much later in life than their predecessors. Have you done any studies on this?

Next, have you or anyone else ever continued or updated your work with PrOPS (predicted OPS based on batted ball types., line drives %, gb/fb, etc for those unfamiliar)? I thought this was a useful tool (and a pretty cool idea), but have not seen any updates for a while? Am I just missing them?

Finally, some SoSH members are calling for Jed Lowrie to replace Julio Lugo (baseball fans are, by nature, a reactionary bunch), while others claim that his SS defense is not acceptable at a major league level and, even if he were to continue to hit, he would more than give back the extra runs he generates over Lugo on the defensive side of the ball. This leads to my question concerning the defensive spectrum and which positions are most important defensively. Would you care to rate them for us? Also, are there any positions you consider key defensively where a team cannot afford to play a substandard fielder?

Thanks again.

#6 Rough Carrigan


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Posted 22 April 2008 - 11:43 AM

Have you seen the recent issue of Forbes magazine which assessed the finances of the various MLB teams and, if so, what did you think of it? Did the yankees really lose forty something million dollars last year? That seems like an accounting fiction, doesn't it?

Also, how profitable do you think the Florida Marlins are for Loria despite his doing next to nothing to merit that profit?

#7 wade boggs chicken dinner


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Posted 22 April 2008 - 01:02 PM

Thanks for taking questions. I really enjoy your work. Four quick questions.

1. A couple of years ago, there was much rejoicing in baseball land that the EBITDA restriction was acting as a kind-of salary cap. I haven't heard much about this lately. Do you think this is true and if so, how are teams going to get around it?

2. Any thoughts on Randy Newsom? Do you wish you had thought of it first?

3. I think you've said that you believe baseball is going to expand. Any chance that they are going into Las Vegas?

4. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about baseball's future in terms of revenues, particularly in terms of appealing to the next generation of fans.

Thanks for responding.

#8 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 22 April 2008 - 04:11 PM

According to this article\ on Baseball America it looks like more teams will go over the MLB recommended bonuses for draft picks. A lot of this is because deep pocket teams like the Sox and Yankees have built up their farm systems because they have ignored the recommendations and a few other teams have followed suit. It looks like other teams will also be going over the slot recommendations this year because of the depth of the draft. My question is, how far do you think this will filter down the line and will teams that have collected large amounts of money from revenue sharing and from the TV contracts start to open up their pocketbooks in order to sign some of these prospects?

#9 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 23 April 2008 - 09:07 AM

- JC, in a follow-up to the Mike Lowell question above, is the "winner's curse" a real factor in harming teams' chances of repeating championships? How can savvy teams avoid overpaying for last year's success while still holding onto their fans' goodwill?

- I've read that the Pirates and Marlins are spending less money on their teams' payrolls than they receive from revenue-sharing. Should baseball take steps to ensure that revenue-sharing money is spent on the on-field product, or will that create an inflated market for marginal major league players? How would such a rule be enforced?

- Should MLB teams have a salary floor to go along with the de facto salary cap currently in place?

#10 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 23 April 2008 - 11:54 AM

Follow up to a SJH question. If they aren't forced to invest in players for the MLB team, what about forcing them to use the money to better develop their farm systems and to sign high draft picks. I do realize that some teams are using the money to do just that. Not all of them though. Would something like this be more feasible because of what Joe brought up about inflating the value of marginal players?

#11 philly sox fan


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 06:43 AM

Player payroll as a percentage of revenues has gone down dramatically over the last 10-15 years. What do you think have been the primary causes? What kind of steps should the MLBPA take in order move that number back towards historical levels?

#12 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 08:06 AM

JC, the offseason Barry Bonds situation had some player association members grumbling about possible collusion rearing its head again. There also seem to be a larger than usual number of veteran players forced to take minor league deals this season (ie Trot Nixon in Tuscon). Setting aside the unique situation surrounding Bonds, do you think collusion is a real threat these days, or have the owners learned their lesson about it from the 80s fisaco?

#13 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 12:13 PM

JC, if you have time, could you go into some detail about how you do your projected player values and whether you think that a signing, trade etc is good for a team from an economic standpoint. IIRC, you method looks at things from a slightly different perspective than a lot of others do. Thanks.

#14 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 12:53 PM

Thanks for the questions. I'll get to as many of them as I can. SoSH is a great forum, and I check in here from time to time.

For those of you who are not familiar with me, I'm an economics professor teaching in the sports management program at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. I am the author of The Baseball Economist (Dutton/Plume) and I run the weblog Sabernomics. I'm married with two daughters and I grew up in Charlotte, always rooting for the Braves. One fact about me that might interest Red Sox fans is that in college I was a friend and classmate of ESPN's Wendi Nix. She used to be with NESN before moving to ESPN, and is currently married to Red Sox VP Ben Cherington.

I'll go ahead and start posting my answers to the questions I have received in advance.


The Sox have a team option on Manny for 2009 and 2010. What do you think the impact would be to the team and their revenue stream if they don't pick up his option and replace him with someone like Teixeira economically? What do you think the impact if any, would be if they do pick it up, at least for 2009?


First, I love Manny. One of my favorite teams of all time was the 1993 Triple-A Charlotte Knights. It featured Ramirez, Jim Thome, and board favorite Sam Horn. That was a fun team to watch.

Anyway, I just sat down and crunched the numbers. Assuming he plays the average number of games that he has the past three seasons, and he ages normally and salaries continue to rise as they have, I get that he is worth almost exactly $20 million/year. That just happens to be the exact amount of his options. However, my system doesn't punish Manny enough for his defense, so I think he will not be worth his options. Plus, I suspect the team has had about enough of his trade demands and Manny being Manny. I do not think that the Red Sox will pick up his option in 2009.

As for Teixiera, he's a more valuable player than Manny and I expect he will sign a deal of 4-7 years for $25+ million annually.

#15 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 12:57 PM

It seems like mid-and-lower revenue teams are doing a better job locking up their young talent through arbitration, and sometimes into free agency. Do you think that mitigates some of the larger-revenue (read: New York, Boston, Detriot, Los Angeles) team's financial advtanges?

The ability to control the rights of players during their first few years in the league is quite helpful to teams of all revenue streams. Locking players into long-term deals when they are willing to trade income for financial security is a good idea. I'm not sure it small and mid-market teams are any better at it than big-market teams, but it is a good strategy, especially if you don't want to buy talent on the free agent market.

Last year, the Red Sox were in a strange position with Mike Lowell. He had just won the World Series MVP, he was a fan favorite, and he was coming off one of the better seasons of his career, and they signed him through his age 36 year for $37.5 million, even though they had cheaper options in house. What would you have done given this set of circumstances?


I think Lowell is a pretty good deal for the Sox. I have him worth about $15 million/year over the three seasons of this deal. While the Sox could have gone with Youkilis or Lowrie (or maybe someone else I'm not aware of) at third, they would have missed out on the surplus value that Lowell was willing to surrender to the Red Sox. Young guys, like Lowrie, are much more valuable than their salaries. If the team had dumped Lowell, the team couldn't afford to move Lowrie to another team or it might cost the team service time. So, I think the Sox did the right thing by signing him.

With Jason Varitek being a free agent this upcoming offseason, what do you think the Red Sox will do? What should they do?

Well, it depends on what he's asking. Catchers are a bit difficult to value, but I could see the Sox signing him for a three-year $15-million deal. Maybe he would take less than that to stay in Boston. The question is, will some other organization want to hire him for his star power, beyond what his talent is worth on the field? If so, the Sox might lose him on the open market .

Moving away from the Sox slightly, how do you see the American League East developing over the next 3 seasons?



I've got to admit that I'm not that knowledgeable of the division, so this is based on my general impressions. Boston and New York both appear poised to keep good teams on the field. Baltimore is hopeless. Tampa Bay looks to be on the rise, and I don't know what to think of Toronto. I thought the dumping of Frank Thomas over the weekend was a really bad move---the type of move that smart clubs don't make. The BJ Ryan deal was dumb too. Eh, who am I kidding? I'm not high on the Jays either.

When do you think the chasm in talent between the American League and National League will disappear?

I don't know of any structural cause, so I assume will just even out when it does. It takes time to recover from bad decisions, and I guess that NL teams have made more mistakes then AL teams in the past few years. Whether those mistakes were the product of bad luck or bad decisions is difficult to answer. The luck will even out, and management will improve in the NL.

Being a Braves fan, how does it feel being a part of the only fan base that doesn't hate JD Drew? Also, is it ok for me to like him now, or should I continue to hate him?



I like Drew, but a lot of people in Atlanta do hate J.D. When he bolted to LA, many fans couldn't understand why he wouldn't play for the Braves for less. Just this past weekend with Andruw Jones returned, many fans booed him. Can you believe that? He spent 12 years with the team. He had one stinker of a season and the Braves front office wouldn't even consider taking him back at a discount. Somehow fans thought that was worthy of a booing. But you don't have any fans like that in Boston, do you? ;-)

Finally, what do you think is going be the next big undervauled skillset that can be exposed by the Billy Beane's of the world?




I don't know of any undervalued skills, but I think closers are getting paid way too much money. They just don't play very much, and you can always grab of group of mediocre pitchers and find one or two at the top of their game that you can milk before they stink again, then repeat the process. I can't believe the Reds are paying Francisco Cordero $11.5 million/year. I have him valued at about 40% of that. So, if I were a GM looking to improve my team, I might look at trying to develop a young reliever with the intention of using him in a trade.

#16 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 12:58 PM

How insightful was that Liberty Media quarterly statement that said the Braves made something like $35 million in a half season last year?

Is there any reason to think that the numbers in Liberty Media's report are not representative of the economic health of the Atlanta Braves baseball team?


I think they were helpful. I recall looking at the numbers and comparing them with past Forbes estimates, and I believe they were close. The Braves are in fine financial shape, as are most MLB teams.

#17 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:00 PM

I don't know of any undervalued skills, but I think closers are getting paid way too much money. They just don't play very much, and you can always grab of group of mediocre pitchers and find one or two at the top of their game that you can milk before they stink again, then repeat the process. I can't believe the Reds are paying Francisco Cordero $11.5 million/year. I have him valued at about 40% of that. So, if I were a GM looking to improve my team, I might look at trying to develop a young reliever with the intention of using him in a trade.


If you have time for a followup, how valuable is a stud multi-inning reliever like Rafael Betancourt generally worth? And does the value of Papelbon go up when he's used as he was in the postseason (9 multi-inning appearances)?

#18 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:01 PM

I was wondering what you thought the next evolution of defensive metric might be, and specifically whether you knew of any teams measuring the speed of a batted ball (as opposed to having many different people with differing definitions subjectively offering their opinions on whether a ball was a line-drive, fly ball, hard hit GB, etc).

I don't know specifically, but I am sure that teams are using technology to develop improved defensive metrics. I'd like to see a chip put in the ball, and every player's shoe so that we could use GPS to track both the movement of the ball and defenders. Right now, most of the focus I have seen has been on ball location. Right now, I Plus/Minus is the best system I have seen.

I know you have, in the past, done studies that found the average peak age of a hitter was 29 years old. Have you had the chance to update that? Also, I would be interested in knowing how players age past 29 as opposed to the past. It seems that current players are able to maintain high performance much later in life than their predecessors. Have you done any studies on this?



I have updated the mini-studies I did on my blog many years ago. I have examined the aging of hitters and pitchers from the 1920s to the present using some techniques to control for differences in eras, based on the distribution of performances relative to the average. I found that the peak age of players is 29 for both hitters and pitchers. This is also consistent with studies of aging in exercise physiology. One interesting finding was that pitchers peak in strikeouts at about age 24, so pitchers are declining in strikeouts during most of their careers. However, they don't peak at preventing walks until they are 32. Batters also peak at about 32 in drawing walks.

Another interesting finding is that players don't seem to be peaking any later today than they did in the past. I looked at decade of birth cohorts going back to the 1900s, and peak ages appear to be stable. Now, players today are clearly better than their predecessors, but they still peak at the same time. The constancy of peak age over time is something that has been documented in other sports as well. Although world records continue to be set, they are normally set by individuals around the same age. BTW, the study is under review at an academic sports science journal.

Next, have you or anyone else ever continued or updated your work with PrOPS (predicted OPS based on batted ball types., line drives %, gb/fb, etc for those unfamiliar)? I thought this was a useful tool (and a pretty cool idea), but have not seen any updates for a while? Am I just missing them?

Thanks! The Hardball Times still publishes a version of PrOPS on their stats page. I haven't put much effort into working with it beyond what I have done. I like to look at the numbers early in the season when random bounces haven't had as much time to even out. I will probably update the estimates sometime in the future.

This leads to my question concerning the defensive spectrum and which positions are most important defensively. Would you care to rate them for us? Also, are there any positions you consider key defensively where a team cannot afford to play a substandard fielder?



My spectrum : SS | 2B | CF | 3B | RF | LF-1B (tie)

I'm leaving out catchers because they are a whole different beast, but they are important. As you can see, I think having good defense up the middle is most important, because this is where most balls are hit. (I just looked up Bill James's spectrum and it's the same.) The defense-offense tradeoff really depends on the player. If you have a sub-.600, you can't make up for that with your defense. And you can always find room for a guy with an OPS > .900.

#19 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:02 PM

Have you seen the recent issue of Forbes magazine which assessed the finances of the various MLB teams and, if so, what did you think of it? Did the yankees really lose forty something million dollars last year? That seems like an accounting fiction, doesn't it?

I actually got to read the whole thing thanks to a 4-hour plane delay in Memphis two weeks ago. While the Yankee's may have lost revenue on paper this year, the organization is doing fine. It's the only franchise valued at over $1 billion.

how profitable do you think the Florida Marlins are for Loria despite his doing next to nothing to merit that profit?



According to Forbes, the Marlins had an operating income of $36 million last year, and had $43 million the year before. The same folks who couldn't get the hand of the butterfly-ballot gave into Loria's perpetual tantrum and coughed up about $400 million for a new stadium that is going to make the Marlins a lot of money. For all the grief people give Loria, it's hard to fault his business model. He puts competitive teams on the field and his lobbying of local officials finally paid off. Also, Marlins fans haven't been receptive to attempts to improve the team. Though attendance is correlated with attendance in Florida, it is not as sensitive as it is with other clubs. I have calculated that the Marlins have averaged 800,000 fewer fans per year than what we would expect the average MLB team with the same record to have brought in. It's not the type of response that encourages an agent to go free agent shopping.

#20 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:04 PM

A couple of years ago, there was much rejoicing in baseball land that the EBITDA restriction was acting as a kind-of salary cap. I haven't heard much about this lately. Do you think this is true and if so, how are teams going to get around it?

I think you are referring to a debt-ceiling rule that prevents teams from spending a certain amount more than they take in over the previous two-three years. Whatever the official club numbers are, it doesn't appear to be holding any teams back, if it is enforced (accountants can do a lot with these numbers). Supposedly, teams are turning more positive EBITDA numbers these days, but I don't know if it is a product of financial restraint or just better overall earnings.

Any thoughts on Randy Newsom? Do you wish you had thought of it first?



Newsom offers an interesting idea to solve a common problem that all minor-leaguers face. All players are investing heavily in athletic ability in hopes of a large financial return in the future. The only problem is that only a few guys end up with the big payoffs. The guys who don't make it may find themselves in their late-twenties with no real experience or contacts outside of baseball. I attended the farewell Velocity Girl show in DC many years ago. I remember one of the band stating to the audience that being in a rock band for a decade isn't a great resume builder. Minor-league baseball players are probably in a similar situation.

By selling equity shares in their own success, players can gain some financial security without terribly diminishing the incentives to succeed. Straight insurance won't work, because it creates an incentive to fail.

The real barrier to Newsom's idea becoming a reality is the transaction cost. From the legal rules to enforcing payouts, it's so complicated that I'm not sure if the market will be able to function. But, I love the idea. No matter what, he's probably helped his future by catching the eyes of potential employers outside of baseball.

I think you've said that you believe baseball is going to expand. Any chance that they are going into Las Vegas?



The success of baseball on TV and the internet may slow the need to expand like baseball used to do, but all sports leagues have to expand as new markets become big enough to support teams. I think that LV is one of many MSAs that may be in the running down the road.

#21 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:04 PM

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about baseball's future in terms of revenues, particularly in terms of appealing to the next generation of fans.



As the economy grows, so will baseball. As citizens become wealthier they will have more free time and income to spend on leisure activities. MLB cleared $6 billion in revenue last year. They seemed grasp their role in the cable/satellite and internet markets better than the other sports leagues and have made the most of it. I optimistic about baseball's financial future.

#22 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:05 PM

According to this article\ on Baseball America it looks like more teams will go over the MLB recommended bonuses for draft picks. A lot of this is because deep pocket teams like the Sox and Yankees have built up their farm systems because they have ignored the recommendations and a few other teams have followed suit. It looks like other teams will also be going over the slot recommendations this year because of the depth of the draft. My question is, how far do you think this will filter down the line and will teams that have collected large amounts of money from revenue sharing and from the TV contracts start to open up their pocketbooks in order to sign some of these prospects?



Slotting bonuses...pfff. Baseball agents are too smart to fall for that trick. Locking up a young player for a few million dollars is a bargain for teams. Teams can't resist, and new revenue from revenue sharing and TV contracts will certainly filter down to all teams. In fact, it may be smart for small-market clubs to build winners by signing top prospects by going over slot. In the long run, the control over a star's rights is a valuable asset.

#23 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:06 PM

JC, in a follow-up to the Mike Lowell question above, is the "winner's curse" a real factor in harming teams' chances of repeating championships? How can savvy teams avoid overpaying for last year's success while still holding onto their fans' goodwill?


Overpaying players for past success that won't repeat is just a dumb move. While fans might be disappointed to see a popular player go, the downside of overpaying for a popular player who doesn't cut it on the field is a worse mistake. Fans like winning more than anything.

I've read that the Pirates and Marlins are spending less money on their teams' payrolls than they receive from revenue-sharing. Should baseball take steps to ensure that revenue-sharing money is spent on the on-field product, or will that create an inflated market for marginal major league players? How would such a rule be enforced?

- Should MLB teams have a salary floor to go along with the de facto salary cap currently in place?

Follow up to a SJH question. If they aren't forced to invest in players for the MLB team, what about forcing them to use the money to better develop their farm systems and to sign high draft picks. I do realize that some teams are using the money to do just that. Not all of them though. Would something like this be more feasible because of what Joe brought up about inflating the value of marginal players?



I do not support a salary floor, because signing more major-league talent isn't always the best way to spend you resources to improve winning. I was just reading an article in the latest Forbes Business of Baseball issue on the Indians. The author states that one of the key components to Mark Shapiro's plan was an emphasis on spending on scouting and development. The Indians spend 27% more than the MLB average in this area.

The latest CBA has a provision that revenue sharing must go towards improving performance. I'm not sure how the league enforces this provision or how it can be enforced. I think there is more peer pressure between owners than we realize, and the owners paying the RS funds make their displeasure known when they perceive the receivers as purely pocketing the funds.

#24 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:06 PM

Player payroll as a percentage of revenues has gone down dramatically over the last 10-15 years. What do you think have been the primary causes? What kind of steps should the MLBPA take in order move that number back towards historical levels?


I think you are referring to a report in the Sports Business Journal from early March with a headline claiming that NFL shares are higher than MLB shares. I found the article's content to be a bit different from the headline, as it seemed that none of the parties interviewed were all that concerned or if the revenue numbers being used across leagues were comparable. These numbers also appear to jump around and it isn't clear that this was a long-run trend, if the disparity across leagues existed at all. Everyone seemed to agree that the players share was down over a few years ago (though it was higher in 2007), but that was about it. But, it's not surprising to see a lag in player salaries behind league revenues, because a large portion of players are controlled by reserve rules and arbitration eligibility and baseball revenue has been booming.

#25 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:07 PM

JC, the offseason Barry Bonds situation had some player association members grumbling about possible collusion rearing its head again. There also seem to be a larger than usual number of veteran players forced to take minor league deals this season (ie Trot Nixon in Tuscon). Setting aside the unique situation surrounding Bonds, do you think collusion is a real threat these days, or have the owners learned their lesson about it from the 80s fisaco?



I don't think there is any collusion on Bonds. He's a jerk and a distraction, and I think that no one wants to deal with it right now. But, if Big Papi or Manny went down for the season, I can't see the Sox front office passing on him. I don't think collusion is a real problem as MLBPA has done a good job of making owners pay for it in the past. Collusive arrangements tend to break down naturally anyway.


.

#26 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:13 PM

If you have time for a followup, how valuable is a stud multi-inning reliever like Rafael Betancourt generally worth? And does the value of Papelbon go up when he's used as he was in the postseason (9 multi-inning appearances)?



I have Betancourt at around $7 million for 2007. 80 innings of kick-ass relief!

I have Papelbon at $4.8 million. I think the Sox should return to their plan of starting him. His contributions in the post-season were certainly valuable, but I can't say exactly how much. Sorry.

#27 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:14 PM

I don't think there is any collusion on Bonds. He's a jerk and a distraction, and I think that no one wants to deal with it right now. But, if Big Papi or Manny went down for the season, I can't see the Sox front office passing on him. I don't think collusion is a real problem as MLBPA has done a good job of making owners pay for it in the past. Collusive arrangements tend to break down naturally anyway.
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There was an article on THT yesterday that, to summarize, said that if a team signed Thomas that there would probably be grounds to look into the collusion accusation because the main stated reason that no one has signed him is because there aren't positions out there for him. I tend to think it's because he's an ass myself and because the legal things he's looking at.

#28 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:16 PM

I have Betancourt at around $7 million for 2007. 80 innings of kick-ass relief!

I have Papelbon at $4.8 million. I think the Sox should return to their plan of starting him. His contributions in the post-season were certainly valuable, but I can't say exactly how much. Sorry.

Does the fact that Papelbon is not yet arb-eligible and makes only 775K this year argue for keeping him in the pen?

#29 TheYellowDart5


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:22 PM

Plus, I suspect the team has had about enough of his trade demands and Manny being Manny. I do not think that the Red Sox will pick up his option in 2009.

Does this still hold given that Manny, at least through the first month of 2008, has apparently been a model citizen in the clubhouse and on the field? Or is this a reputation that's just going to dog him throughout the rest of his career?

#30 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:23 PM

JC, if you have time, could you go into some detail about how you do your projected player values and whether you think that a signing, trade etc is good for a team from an economic standpoint. IIRC, you method looks at things from a slightly different perspective than a lot of others do. Thanks.


The method I use is based on economist Gerald Scully's method for valuing players. He developed his model during the reserve era, when you couldn't use free agent salaries to estimate player worth. His method involves knowing two things: how much a win is worth and how much a player contributes to winning. If you know these two things, then you can estimate player values based on the things that players do on the field.

My modifications were to use Forbes revenues estimates instead of estimating revenues from average ticket prices and attendance; using different metrics to proxy player contributions to winning (hitters: OBP and SLG) (pitchers: K, BB, and HR), and I valued run scoring and run prevention instead of looking at wins. All my estimates come from multivariate regression analysis of recent baseball history. I know this is brief, but the method is complicated. There is a more detailed account in my book (chapter 13).

For the player values and contract analysis that I often present on my website, I take these same numbers and project out how I expect players and salaries to change over the course of the contract.

#31 NYCSox


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:23 PM

I have Betancourt at around $7 million for 2007. 80 innings of kick-ass relief!

I have Papelbon at $4.8 million. I think the Sox should return to their plan of starting him. His contributions in the post-season were certainly valuable, but I can't say exactly how much. Sorry.


In a similar vein, what are your thoughts on the escalating salaries for closers generally (e.g. Rivera, Cordero) and should a team like the Angels just say no when K-Rod asks for a contract in the $15 million AAV range?

#32 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:25 PM

There was an article on THT yesterday that, to summarize, said that if a team signed Thomas that there would probably be grounds to look into the collusion accusation because the main stated reason that no one has signed him is because there aren't positions out there for him. I tend to think it's because he's an ass myself and because the legal things he's looking at.


I agree. Thomas's situation is completely different from Bonds's. Thomas may be an ass, but Bonds is an ASS!!!!

#33 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:26 PM

Does the fact that Papelbon is not yet arb-eligible and makes only 775K this year argue for keeping him in the pen?


No matter what his salary is, his opportunity cost of closing is starting and pitching more innings. His salary is a sunk cost.

#34 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:28 PM

Does this still hold given that Manny, at least through the first month of 2008, has apparently been a model citizen in the clubhouse and on the field? Or is this a reputation that's just going to dog him throughout the rest of his career?


To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Some people never change; or else they change, and then quickly change back."

I imagine that his trade demands created a fair share of ill will with the front office that will be hard to forget. The fact that he probably won't be worth his options makes the decision easier.

#35 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:30 PM

With the news PED testing program in place, will we see a rise in the way baseball teams value players with real (apparently drug-free) power now that hitting 50 hume runs a season may well become less common?

#36 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:31 PM

In a similar vein, what are your thoughts on the escalating salaries for closers generally (e.g. Rivera, Cordero) and should a team like the Angels just say no when K-Rod asks for a contract in the $15 million AAV range?


I wouldn't give K-Rod half of that to pitch as a closer. That money is better spent on a starter who can throw more innings.

#37 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:32 PM

Let me give a quick shout out to my friend Roger, who is a SoSH regular lurker, before I forget. He was actually a classmate of Theo Epstein's at Yale.

#38 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:34 PM

Is it ever a good idea to use a good pitcher as a closer if he could, at least theoretically, be a starter? I guess I'm trying to wrap my head around the Papelbon argument, as I have a hard time seeing how the Sox win it all with a Joe Borowski as closer, for example.

#39 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:39 PM

With the news PED testing program in place, will we see a rise in the way baseball teams value players with real (apparently drug-free) power now that hitting 50 hume runs a season may well become less common?


I don't think PED testing has affected home runs much. The home runs didn't go away when the testing started. Just a quick glance at the HR totals this year doesn't make me think there is an difference from the past. If 50 HR is an indicator of PED use, do you think David Ortiz is on something?

#40 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:42 PM

Is it ever a good idea to use a good pitcher as a closer if he could, at least theoretically, be a starter? I guess I'm trying to wrap my head around the Papelbon argument, as I have a hard time seeing how the Sox win it all with a Joe Borowski as closer, for example.


By pitching a good pitcher more inning, you prevent the other team for scoring more runs and therefore you can afford to use a substandard closer by giving your team a bigger run cushion, on average. We Braves fans call a reliever finishing a game when the lead is more than 3, an "Atlanta save", because given our pen's recent history, big leads are not safe.

#41 Pandemonium67

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:43 PM

Do positive character traits and, for lack of a better word, emotion come into play as factors in evaluating a player's worth? For example, Bonds and Thomas seem to lose value because of character issues and other baggage. Then you look at Manny -- to some, he's a pain in the ass, but to many (including teammates and fans) he has character traits that make him endearing in some ways. Shouldn't this be a plus in terms of his perceived value?

Likewise, does having a dynamic, overpowering closer like Papelbon give the team a certain emotional or morale lift that isn't easily quantifiable in terms of $$$ value, but could conceivably help a team nonetheless?

#42 Mystic Merlin


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:43 PM

Is it ever a good idea to use a good pitcher as a closer if he could, at least theoretically, be a starter? I guess I'm trying to wrap my head around the Papelbon argument, as I have a hard time seeing how the Sox win it all with a Joe Borowski as closer, for example.


Plus, isn't part of the reason for not starting Papelbon centered on injury concerns? Sox fans all remember that scary moment at the end of '06, and it seems to me that the Sox brass felt (correctly so, IMO) that closing would lessen his workload and, thus, the collective stress on his arm. I know that his appearances are in higher leverage situations that require him to push himself more, but I couldn't see Papelbon holding up over 30-35 starts.

Also, Papelbon's stuff simply is a lot better in the closer's role. His fastball is dynamic when he is able to put more behind it and rely on it almost exclusively, something that cannot happen if he is starting. If he was ever stretched out, then I think his fastball would lose some of its effectiveness, not to mention the fact that he has no dependable offspeed pitches. His slider may come along a bit, but at this time he only has a fastball and splitter, which, although very, very good, aren't enough for an effective SP arsenal.

I guess my question is this: is Papelbon more valuable in the closer's role, assuming he would be less effective as a starter? Or, is the 100+ or so extra, and presumably quality, innings he would pitch enough to compensate for reduced success relative to other starters (as opposed to being one of the best, if not THE best, closer)?

Edited by Mystic Merlin, 24 April 2008 - 01:45 PM.


#43 jbradbur

  • 38 posts

Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:52 PM

Do positive character traits and, for lack of a better word, emotion come into play as factors in evaluating a player's worth? For example, Bonds and Thomas seem to lose value because of character issues and other baggage. Then you look at Manny -- to some, he's a pain in the ass, but to many (including teammates and fans) he has character traits that make him endearing in some ways. Shouldn't this be a plus in terms of his perceived value?

Likewise, does having a dynamic, overpowering closer like Papelbon give the team a certain emotional or morale lift that isn't easily quantifiable in terms of $$$ value, but could conceivably help a team nonetheless?


Sure, they are relevant. For what I am doing, I don't have access to that exact type of information. I also think it is more valuable for scouting ahead of time. If you see a player putting up good numbers in the minors and he has all the tolls, it's possible that he'll just cave in the majors because his head isn't on right. Major league players have already cleared this hurdle.

Does Papelbon give a morale boost? Possibly, but is it enough of a boost to sacrifice some additional runs prevented. But, again, we are dealing with major league players here. I don't think they need as much of the emotional stuff that fans feed on.

#44 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 01:57 PM

Plus, isn't part of the reason for not starting Papelbon centered on injury concerns? Sox fans all remember that scary moment at the end of '06, and it seems to me that the Sox brass felt (correctly so, IMO) that closing would lessen his workload and, thus, the collective stress on his arm. I know that his appearances are in higher leverage situations that require him to push himself more, but I couldn't see Papelbon holding up over 30-35 starts.

Also, Papelbon's stuff simply is a lot better in the closer's role. His fastball is dynamic when he is able to put more behind it and rely on it almost exclusively, something that cannot happen if he is starting. If he was ever stretched out, then I think his fastball would lose some of its effectiveness, not to mention the fact that he has no dependable offspeed pitches. His slider may come along a bit, but at this time he only has a fastball and splitter, which, although very, very good, aren't enough for an effective SP arsenal.

I guess my question is this: is Papelbon more valuable in the closer's role, assuming he would be less effective as a starter? Or, is the 100+ or so extra, and presumably quality, innings he would pitch enough to compensate for reduced success relative to other starters (as opposed to being one of the best, if not THE best, closer)?



All pitchers are less effective per outing when starting versus relieving. There is no way Papelbon the starter would be as good as Paplebon the closer. Just take a look at John Smoltz. He pitched much better as a closer than he has as a starter. But, despite the fact that he's not as good starting, the Braves realized that a John Smoltz who has to pace himself over the course of 5-8 innings for 200 innings is more valuable than a lights-out Smolz for 50-80 innings. I'm taking Papelbon's drop-off into account when I advocate the switch.

As for injury concerns, this is relevant, and I am ignoring this aspect of the decision. The front office may have talked with medical specialists who believe that relieving will provide more long term value because of health issues.

#45 jbradbur

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 02:11 PM

Thanks so much to Rick and the mods for setting this up. And thanks to all of you who asked questions. It's been fun!

#46 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 02:11 PM

Thanks for taking the time to do this JC. Lots of good information here.