December 23, 2005 6 Comments
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 baseball-reference.com, 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