Blue Jays trade for Glaus

The Toronto Blue Jays traded for Troy Glaus yesterday, sending Orlando Hudson, Miguel Batista, and Sergio Santos to the Arizona Diamondbacks. It seems to me that this is a good deal for both teams.
Glaus is a great offensive player. He created 25 runs above average last season, according to Lee Sinnis. I would project him at +13 using a 5/4/3/2 weighting for the last three seasons and the league average (which, of course, is equal to 0). Defensively, I’d project him at just about average. He was +8 RAA according to Range last season, and -2 in limited playing time in 2004. From 2000 tto 2003, he was somewhat below average according to UZR, -7 runs per 162 games. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call Glaus a -3 defender, and project him to be +10 runs above average overall.
Hudson isn’t much offensively. Using the method I used with Glaus, I’d project him to be -6 RAA next season. Defensively, he’s awesome. He was +14 RAA last season according to Range, and +27 in 2004. Using a 4/2/3 weighting for 2005/2004/Average, I’ll project him to be +12 RAA in 2006, or +6 RAA overall.
Batista is a pretty solid, somewhat above-average pitcher. Using a 3/2/1/2 weighting for the last three seasons and the league average, I’d put him at +3 runs above average. I know I’m not adjusting for age effects here, but let’s ignore them for now. I don’t know much about Santos, so I won’t comment but he seems like a throwaway prospect based on his minor league numbers.
So basically, the Blue Jays don’t get much if Glaus indeed misses time due to injury. But if he plays about 150 games, the Jays probably get about 10 extra runs in 2006, which is good for an extra win. Based on their offseason moves, the Jays should win about five games more than they did in 2005. Based on their second-order W/L record in 2005, I’d project them to win 84 games, maybe 85 with Roy Halladay coming back for, hopefully, a full season. With a little luck, the Jays could contend in 2006.


Sox’s Flaherty signing raises questions

The Yankees may have won the Johnny Damon sweepstakes, but the Red Sox signed their own defector yesterday. Boston signed John Flaherty to a one-year deal worth $650,000. The 37-year-old gets an additional $100,000 if he makes the Red Sox Opening Day roster.
While $650,000 isn’t a lot of money for the Red Sox, I don’t understand this signing. John Flaherty served as the Yankees back-up catcher last year, but the numbers show that he is far from a good option as a back-up catcher. In fact, John Flaherty was one of the least valuable catchers in the Major Leagues last year.
On the Yankees, Flaherty served as Randy Johnson’s catcher for the better part of the season. In those games, he had 138 plate appearances, accounting for 2.2 percent of the Yanks’ plate appearances on the season. In 47 games, Flaherty hit .165/.206/.252. He had 6 runs created last season for an RC/27 of 1.42. In other words, from Baseballl-Reference’s perspective, a lineup of Flaherty’s would eke out less than 1.5 runs per game.
The picture gets worse when you consider some other numbers. Of the 103 players who caught last season, Flaherty’s -9.6 VORP ranked him second to last behind Miguel Olivo. In other words, for $650,000, the Red Sox are paying for a catcher who is not only a weak offensive producer but is significantly worse than a replacement level catcher. Flaherty’s negative VORP means he would actually cost the Red Sox a win during the course of the season.
While it is no sure thing that Flaherty will become Doug Mirabelli’s replacement, the Sox are on the hook for the money no matter what. The team has Kelly Shoppach ready at the AAA level to step in behind Varitek. Why they would waste their money by guaranteeing Flaherty a contract is beyond me.

Johnny Damon

People who regularly read this site know that while Benjamin is a Yankee fan, I’m a Sox supporter, so we’ll often come in on different sides of a debate. But because we’re talking about statistics, the evidence is in the numbers, and we both have access to the same exact statistics, so I’m surprised our takes are so different. (This isn’t really foreshadowing my eventual conclusion so much as me telling you where my opinion will lie).
Here’s the method I chose to evaluate Damon: I looked up his ten most similar players through age 31 on, and then looked at their numbers between ages 32-35. Don’t worry about park or era adjustments — because players are compared based on raw numbers, those are unimportant. In other words, since Damon plays in such a high-scoring era, and for the last few years has been in a great hitter’s park, he’ll probably end up being compared to slightly better players, though they’ll have similar raw numbers. Anyways, this was my basis for comparison, that is, I assumed that their numbers would be a good predictor of Damon’s stats over the next four years.
Then, I calculated the linear weights for his Damon’s projection — his runs above average. I projected him to post 19.2 runs above average over the next four years, or 5.3/year. You’ll notice that 5.3 multiplied by 4 is considerably more than 19.2. The reason is that Damon’s chance of playing in each of the next four seasons is 90%, or that he has a 10% chance of dropping out of the major leagues within the next four years. Baseball Prospectus calls this “drop rate” in its projections. So Damon is projected to only play 3.6 seasons over the next four years.
Linear Weights are great, but for the purpose of doing salary stuff, especially for batters, I think introducing replacement level is a good choice. So I converted my linear weights into a value over replacement level using the replacement level of -17 runs per 150 games. Damon’s four-year projected VORP was 64.5.
Then I decided to add in defense. That’s definitely the toughest part of doing this projection, and will probably be the most derided. Basically, based on his UZR numbers in 2003 and Range numbers for 2004 and 2005, Damon’s established defensive performance level is +10 runs per 150 games. I expect him to decline by about 5 runs per year, but you have to factor in that he’ll play less and less games over the four years. So here’s what I did: Since my projection said that Damon would play 400 games over four years, I decided to say that he would play 130 games in 2006, 110 in 2007, 90 in 2008, and 70 in 2009. Accordingly, I placed him at +5, 0, -5, and -10 runs in each year respectively. He came out at -3.3 runs over those four years. Based on his UZR arm rating of -1/162 games from 2000-03, I also subtracted 2.5 runs over those four years (my assumption, right or wrong, being that arm strength doesn’t really change compared to range), making Damon a -5.8 run defender.
Adding together his offense and defense, Damon’s projected value of replacement is 58.7. The reason I’m adding together batting runs above replacement and fielding runs above average is that replacement-level batters tend to be average fielders. So how much is 58.7 runs above replacement worth?
Well, the a replacement-level player would get about $1.2 million over those four years, and with a value of about $330 K per marginal run on the free agent market, I’d say Damon is expected to be worth $20.6 million over the next four years. Even factoring a 10% rate of inflation each year, Damon is worth about only about $27.4 million. The Yankees paid double that.
Now if Damon helps New York win a World Series that they would not have with Bubba Crosby/Torii Hunter/Whoever in center, maybe he’s worth it. Otherwise, the Yankees didn’t end up with a savior — they ended up with a just-shaven bum.
Edit: Discussion on Baseball Primer

Damon adds hair, wins to Yankees

I’m not here to opine on the Yankees’ acquisition of Johnny Damon. If you want to read my thoughts on this signing, you can do so here or here. Rather, I want to take a quick look at Damon’s effect on the Yankees’ win total.
Damon will take over the leadoff spot and center field in the Yankees lineup in 2006. In 2005, Damon turned in a VORP of 49.2. As 10 VORP points is approximately equal to one win, that means Damon contributed just a bit under 5 wins to the Red Sox.
Meanwhile, the 2005 Yankee centerfielders were, well, a disaster. Omitting the woeful Tony Womack from the picture, the Yankees used Bernie Williams, Melky Cabrera, and Bubba Crosby to fill in that third outfield slot. The three combined for an overall VORP of 5.0. Only Williams has a positive VORP. In other words, the center fielder position on the American League East championship team did not even contribute one full win to the cause.
By replacing a triumvirate of subpar centerfielders with Johnny Damon, the Yankees could gain as many as five more wins in 2006. Building off of 2005, that would give them 101 wins on the season and a sure American League East crown.

Pitchers and Stuff

I’ve done some work in the past looking at stuff for pitchers, but today I took my first statistical look at it on The Hardball Times. Here is a link. If you’re too lazy to read it, my basic conclusion is that in doing projections, you want to weight past performance 60%, and stuff 40%, or so.

Poll: How many games will the Mets win in 2006?

Yesterday, I wrote about the 2006 Mets and their chances of capturing an NL East crown. Using a basic win share analysis, I predicted that the current Mets, a few players short of a full roster, would win at least 89 games. If you recall, I said 95 wins would earn them an NL East title.
Today, it’s your turn to chime in. How many games will the new-look New York Mets win in 2006? I voted for 93-96 games.

Finally, the results from Friday’s poll are in and you, my readers, don’t think Alfonso Soriano will do all that well in the vast confines of RFK Stadium. Here are the voting results from my poll asking how many home runs Soriano would hit in RFK Stadium:

Home Runs Votes
11-15 12 (39 %)
16-20 9 (29 %)
21-25 5 (16 %)
Fewer than 10 4 (13 %)
More than 25 1 (3 %)

Can the new-look Mets win the NL East?

First, some housekeeping: A big thank you to all the folks who voted in my poll about Alfonso Soriano. It’s not too late to vote. So if you’re interested, click here to vote. I’d appreciate the votes. At least it lets me know that people are reading!
One of the most aggressive teams this off-season has been the New York Mets. They went out and landed a new first baseman, a new catcher, a flame-throwing lefty closer, and a 47-year-old back-up first baseman. But will it be enough to unseat the Atlanta Braves and win the NL East?
I hate to speak out against the Braves. For the last three years, I’ve been predicting the end of the Braves’ run and every year the Philadelphia Phillies or Florida Marlins, the two teams I’ve recently picked to win the division, have fallen short. But for all of the Braves’ past success, I wonder if maybe the Mets could win the first NL East division crown not awarded to the Atlanta Braves.
In 2005, the Braves won the NL with 90 wins, hardly an imposing number. And they edged the Phillies by just two games. Their margin for error is slim. So how many games would the Mets need to win? Well, since the advent of the three-division system and the first crowing of a division winner in 1995, the Braves have won the division with an average total of 97 wins. To me, that total seems slightly on the high side. Considering the more division-centric schedules baseball currently employs, I would expect that the Mets would have to win around 95 games to secure the division crown.
To see whether or not they would get to 95 wins, I want to take a look at the 2005 win share totals of the 2006 Mets to see, hypothetically, how the 2006 Mets would have fared in 2005.

Player 2006 Age 2005 Win Shares
Paul LoDuca 34 11
Carlos Delgado 34 29
Kazuo Matsui 30 5
Jose Reyes 23 16
David Wright 23 26
Cliff Floyd 33 24
Carlos Beltran 29 21
Victor Diaz 24 7
Xavier Nady 27 8
Ramon Castro 31 7
Julio Franco 47 7
Chris Woodward 30 4
Tike Redman 29 5
Jose Valentin 36 2
Pedro Martinez 34 19
Tom Glavine 40 14
Kris Benson 31 10
Steve Trachsel 35 1
Victor Zambrano 30 7
Jae Seo 29 9
Billy Wagner 34 18
Aaron Heilman 27 10
Juan Padilla 29 6
Total (23 Players) 31.3 266

So then, my projected Mets roster, two players short of full, has the Mets at 260 Win Shares. As 3 win shares is equal to 1 win, this leaves the Mets with just a shade under 89 wins on the season. While this total leaves them a few short of the projected 95 wins it’ll take to win the division, a few observations are in order.
First, some of these players will not be injured next year. Jose Valentin had just 2 win shares because he missed much of the season. Jae Seo only made 14 starts due to an injury. Projecting him to 28 starts would give him 18 win shares. That’s three more wins for the Mets without even adding another player. (Of course, some players on that list may miss time due to injury. Who knows who will fill in form them?)
Second, I have a feeling that this list won’t be the first 23 pieces of the final Mets roster. From rumors around the Internet, the Mets have an interest in bringing in Javier Vazquez or Barry Zito. Manny Ramirez and his 33 2005 Win Share total are always appealing to Mets GM Omar Minaya. Ramirez alone could be enough to push the Mets over the magic number of 95 and he brings an additional 11 wins to the table and would ostensibly be replacing Nady and Diaz who bring just 5 wins combined. There are your missing six wins.
Third, as these numbers are for 2005, it is incredibly unreasonable to expect every team member to duplicate those numbers. Some of the younger guys may put up a higher win share total; some of the older guys may be up a lower one. Some of the new guys may benefit from a better lineup or a better ballpark in which to hit. Some of the 2005 Mets will certainly enjoy the added protection of Carlos Delgado and Delgado will enjoy the added benefits of having more than just one other truly potent offensive force in the lineup.
So currently, the Mets look to be around 90 wins. They’re also the deepest team right now in the National League. With a few more tweaks, I think the 2006 Mets will be as competitive as anyone else and should probably win the division. Of course, as Minaya likes to say, the games aren’t played on paper; they’re played on the field. But this exercise on paper gives Mets fans reasons to hope.
Look for a poll on Tuesday about the 2006 Mets win totals. Come back and vote then!