Table of Contents

Thursday, November 29, 2007 hiring stats stringer for Reds games

This sounds like a fantastic part-time job for someone in the Cincinnati area (hat tip, Tom Tango):, the Official Site of Major League Baseball, is seeking stats stringers in these markets for the 2008 season:

* Chicago
* Cincinnati
* Detroit
* Miami
* Houston
* Kansas City
* Milwaukee
* Seattle
* Toronto
* Washington, DC

Stats stringers are responsible for digitally scoring games from one of the 30 MLB ballparks, which provides the data used in the live content applications on, including Gameday, Mosaic and MLB.TV, and by our business partners. This is a perfect part-time job for a diligent, responsible employee who happens to be a big baseball fan.

Responsibilities include:

* Arrive at the ballpark no later than one hour prior to the scheduled start time;
* Double-check and verify all pre-game information: rosters, umpires, weather conditions, etc.;
* During the game, enter the results of every pitch and game event (plays, substitutions, etc.) using our proprietary software and coding language;
* Work closely with our game-night support staff (via AOL Instant Messenger) to ensure proper scoring of all game events and accuracy of data;
* After the game, enter all post-game information: winning and losing pitcher, saves, holds, time and attendance
* Validate all stats in software box score against the official box score provided by the Official Scorer, and print out a final box score and game text for the club PR staff

Qualifications include:

* Previous experience (including pressbox exposure) with a professional or college sports team, preferably baseball;
* Exceptional (and demonstrable) knowledge of baseball and how to score a baseball game;
* Strong computer proficiency (Windows OS and Windows-based software) and the ability to quickly learn and operate new software;
* Regular availability to attend games in-person as required by the schedule: weekdays, nights and weekends;
* A “team player” with a great attitude, including but not limited to a willingness to make and learn from mistakes and the ability to work closely and cooperatively (and take direction from) our game-night staff;
* Professionalism. It’s a fun job and we pay people to watch baseball, but it’s also an important job and we want people who will take the responsibility seriously.

(New stringers undergo an 8-10 week correspondence training program, and co-score several practice games in the ballpark with a returning stringer, before scoring any games solo in the ballpark.)

Those interested in applying should send a resume and cover later, addressing the above-listed qualifications, to

Only applicants that reply via e-mail will be considered - no phone calls please. Due to the volume of applications, we will only reply to those who are under consideration for the position.

I want to interview whoever gets the Cincinnati job mid-way through next season. :) So let me know if you get it!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Player Value, Part 5a: Pitchers

To view the rest of the player value series, click on the player value label at the bottom of this post.

Now that we (or, at least, I) have decided on how we'll evaluate the value of position players, it's time to turn our attention to pitchers. The goal will be the same as with hitters--estimate of a player's contributions to the team, reported in the currency of runs.

There's a sense in which this might be an easier thing to do with pitchers than with hitters. After all, one of the traditional ways in which we report pitcher performance--earned run average--is based on counting up the actual number of runs a pitcher allowed over the course of a season!

Absolute Runs Allowed Estimates

Let's start with the first step, which is getting an estimate for the total number of runs a pitcher allowed over the course of the season. Once we have that, we'll take a look at runs allowed vs. average and replacement. The easiest way to get the number of runs a pitcher allowed is to record the actual number of runs allotted to a pitcher based on our conventional scoring practices (below I'll refer to this as "TrueRuns"). However, I also want to think about two other alternatives.

Base Runs

Base Runs ("BsR") was introduced in the piece on Run Estimation for position players. With hitters, it's not appropriate to use the base runs equation to estimate runs created. Doing so assumes an interaction between the individuals' ability to get on base and that individual's ability to move runners around the bases. With pitchers, though, that assumption is entirely appropriate--a pitcher's ability to prevent baserunners directly interacts with his ability to prevent the advancement of those baserunners to determine how many runs are permitted to score.

Why would you want to use base runs instead of actual runs scored to assess player value? Well, if starters threw complete games every time out, I'm not sure that there would be a compelling reason. However, that's not what actually happens. Often, starting pitchers will leave a game in the middle of an inning with runners on base. Whether those runners score has to do with the performance of relievers. On a team with an outstanding bullpen, a large number of those inherited runners might not score. But in that case, I think we're overestimating the value of that starter because of the outstanding performance of the bullpen.

Similarly, the performance of bullpen pitchers may not be properly assessed by using straight runs scored. A reliever can come into a game with the bases loaded and two outs and allow three base runners before ending the inning, and yet still not be charged with any runs allowed--they all go to the starter. Clearly that's overestimating how much value the reliever is bringing to the team.

Base Runs allows us to get around those issues by assessing the typical value, in terms of runs allowed, of each event that happens while a pitcher is on the mound. Base Runs still retains the nonlinear way in which singles, doubles, walks, etc, interact to produce runs as they become more frequent. It certainly misses out on some of the context of when exactly those events happen with respect to one another. But given its accuracy across a variety of situations and conditions, and the ability to focus exclusively on what happens while a pitcher is on the mound (as opposed to the actions of other pitchers in the same game), it may be preferable to use BsR--especially when dealing with small sample sizes or exceptionally strong/weak bullpens.

I'll present two alternative equations. The first, which is the one I'm using in this article, uses data provided by Baseball Reference. These data are really awesome because for each pitcher, they include all the various statistics typically reported for hitters--singles, doubles, triples, stolen bases, etc. This allows me to use essentially the same equation for pitchers that I used for hitters, though in this case I'm also including Reached On Errors (ROE) in my equation. As with the hitters, I've forced this equation to predict runs scored in the '04-'07 National League. Here's "my" custom base runs equation:

BsR = A*(B/(B+C)) + D
A = H - HR + NIBB + IBB + ROE + HBP + 0.08*SH
B = .829*1B + 2.224*2B + 3.578*3B + 1.872*HR + .059*NIBB + .912*ROE + .928*SB - 1.356*CS + 0.186*HBP - 0.551*IBB + .830*SH - 1.356*GDP - 0.005*nonKOuts - 0.065*K
C = 0.92*SH + nonKOuts + K
D = HR
Outs = AB - H + SF + 0.92*SH
nonKOuts = Outs - K - 0.92*SH

(note: SH has to be removed from the nonKouts term because it is handled separately in parts B & C, but I like to include it in my outs term when estimating r/g later on. This is something I should have done with hitters, and I'll revise those equations shortly--I'm sure it's a very minor adjustment).

Note that if you only have traditional pitching statistics, there is an alternative version of the base runs equation that is designed for those stats that was originally devised by David Smyth. Here's a slight variation on that equation, with the B term "fudged" slightly to perfectly match MLB '03-'07 totals.

BsR = A*(B/(B+C)) + D
A = H + BB - HR + HBP - IBB
B = -0.625*H + 0.104*BB - 3.123*HR + 1.457*eTB + 0.1*HBP - 0.1*IBB
C = IP*3
D = HR
eTB = 1.12*H + 4*HR

This is the equation I used in my profile on Francisco Cordero because it only uses widely available pitching statistics, which are the most convenient stats to pull from most online player profile pages.

FIP Runs

Another alternative way to estimate runs allowed is to make use of Tom Tango's Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) statistic. FIP is calculated as FIP = (13*HR + 3*(BB+HBP) - 2*K)/IP + X, where X is usually a constant to force league average FIP to equal league average ERA. However, if we're interested in estimating total runs allowed, rather than just earned runs allowed, we can instead force the equation to match league average runs/9 innings (RA). In 2007 NL, X = 3.54. We can then convert FIP, which is a runs/9 estimate, to a season-total runs estimate like this:

FIPRuns = FIP / 9 * IP

Classically, FIP tries to estimate ERA using statistics that are under the exclusive control of the pitcher (i.e. not influenced by fielders)--walk rate, strikeout rate, and home run allowed rate. The literature on defense-independent pitching statistics (DIPS) indicates that these statistics are much more repeatable from year to year than hit/ball in play rate. Therefore, when ERA deviates from FIP, this is usually (though not always) the result of either "luck" or the fielding behind the pitcher.

Now, from the perspective of player value, there's a sense in which a DIPSish estimate like this isn't particularly informative. In the case of a pitcher with an unusually high BABIP due to poor fielding or bad luck, even if they're not necessarily his fault, those hits did happen and therefore reduce how much value that player "contributed" to his team. However, the reason we're interested in value in the first place is, usually, to get some idea of how well players performed. Therefore, I think there's worth in using a stat like this as a compliment to (not a replacement for) our other estimates of value.

Ok, all that said, let's take a look at how these three measures of absolute runs allowed compare using the '07 Reds as a case study. Note that I have applied a park factor adjustment on these numbers. One could argue whether that's appropriate for FIP, but I went ahead and did it under the assumption that a HR park factor is a big part of the typical park factor:

Update (1/18/08)
: Recently, I have taken to calculating FIPRuns based on a HR-Park factor adjusted HR total for players or teams. I then do not adjust by overall runs park factor. The effect turns out to be largely the same. Given that k/9 and bb/9 are somewhat dependent on runs environment (more runs = more PA's per nine innings), I'm also not convinced it's necessarily a better option. But it somehow feels like the right thing to do.

Pitcher IP TrueRuns BsR FIPRuns
MBelisle 177.7 109.9 105.3 94.4
BArroyo 210.7 107.9 117.4 111.7
AHarang 231.7 99.0 96.4 101.0
KLohse 131.7 75.2 71.1 68.7
MStanton 57.7 38.6 37.4 29.5
KSaarloos 42.7 35.6 33.5 29.1
TCoffey 51.0 35.6 39.3 35.1
BLivingston 56.3 34.7 36.8 30.1
DWeathers 77.7 32.7 33.1 35.6
HBailey 45.3 31.7 26.2 25.7
PDumatrait 18.0 29.7 29.2 17.7
VSantos 49.0 27.7 30.8 31.6
GMajewski 23.0 21.8 20.3 12.6
JCoutlangus 41.0 21.8 21.1 21.9
MGosling 33.0 21.8 26.3 22.3
EMilton 31.3 20.8 21.9 16.8
TShearn 32.7 17.8 19.3 24.7
JBurton 43.0 14.9 10.7 19.4
ERamirez 16.3 13.9 12.4 14.2
MMcBeth 19.7 12.9 12.8 9.3
BSalmon 24.0 10.9 10.1 12.3
EGuardado 13.7 10.9 9.0 8.0
BBray 14.3 9.9 7.8 5.5
RStone 5.3 5.9 5.8 7.4
RCormier 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
I have to primary observations from this table. First, each of these estimates tell us pretty similar things about the pitchers. That's good, because they're all estimates of the same thing. True Runs and BsR, in particular, are pretty darn close for most pitchers, with a correlation of 0.995. Bronson Arroyo, for whatever reason, shows the biggest difference, with BsR showing him costing the Reds ~10 more runs than he "actually" did. Given how close they are, my tendency is to just use BsR--it avoids confounds with the performances of other pitchers, and has the advantage of following a very similar methodology to that we use for hitters.

My second observation is that these values give us very little indication of player value. The finding that Belisle, Arroyo, Harang, and Lohse allowed more runs than anyone else has everything to do with the fact that they got more innings than anyone else on the staff! Fortunately, there are three simple stats that we can calculate from these runs totals to get a better handle on player value: runs per game, runs above average, and runs above replacement.

Baselines for Pitching Value

Runs Per Game

RPG = Runs/IP*9
RPG = Runs/Outs*26.25

For true runs and FIP, I'm using IP. For BsR, I'm using Outs. But it's basically just doing the same thing.

Runs Above Average

RAA = (RPG - lgRPG)/9*IP * -1
RAA = (RPG - lgRPG)/26.25*Outs * -1

Pretty straightforward, right? Just subtract league average runs per game from the player's runs, then extend it out to the full number of innings or outs (depending on how you're calculating runs per game) in a season. I multiply by -1 to convert this from runs allowed above average to runs saved above average, because I find that this makes it more straightforward to interpret (positive numbers are good).

Update (1/18/08): I currently include an adjustment for lgRPG based on expected differences in relievers and starters, similar to what I do for RAR (see below). In this case, the assumption is that the average pitcher will allow runs at 89.5% of league average as a reliever, but 110.5% of league average as a starter.

Runs Above Replacement

RAR = (RPG - Y*lgRPG)/9*IP * -1
RAR = (RPG - Y*lgRPG)/26.25*Outs * -1
(For starting pitchers, Y=1.28. For relief pitchers, Y=1.07)

This is the same as the RAA equation, except for the Y coefficient. That's where things get a bit interesting.

The issue is that there are two different roles for pitchers: starting and relieving. In general, pitchers perform much more poorly as starters than they do as relievers (see pp.201-207 in The Book for a nice study on this, or this thread and this thread for some additional estimates and arguments). Therefore, we need to use different baselines depending on whether a pitcher is being used as a starter or a relief pitcher. Unfortunately, probably even more so than for hitters, there is not a clear consensus on what numbers we should use to do this. For example, as far as I can tell, Tom Tango, MGL, and Patriot all use slightly different values for starter and reliever replacement level. At this point, until I do my own study on this, I'm just going to pick Tom Tango's numbers because it seems like he's done a lot of thinking/analysis on this issue. That's not to say that I'm sure his numbers are correct, or that the other numbers are wrong, but his numbers make sense and seem to be consistent with empirical data.

Anyway, Tango argues that a replacement pitcher, used as a starter, will produce a 0.380 winning percentage, which means he will allow runs at 128% of league average. In contrast, a reliever will be good for an 0.470 winning percentage, and will allow runs at 107% of league average. The latter number may surprise folks, because it means that replacement level for relievers is very close to league average! Not good news for the Reds' bullpen, or for evaluations the effectiveness of the Reds' front office.

There are pitchers, of course, who serve as both starters and relievers over the course of a season. Ideally, we'd treat a pitcher's relief outings separately from his starting outings and then sum the RAR together, but that's not possible to do if you're working from a single row of data per player like I often am. Therefore, I'm going to borrow from Patriot's approach and categorize pitchers this way: starting pitchers are defined as those who made at least 50% of their appearances as starters, or who started at least 15 games in a season. Relievers are everybody else. It's not perfect, but it'll get us pretty close to the mark.

One last point: thinking about it now, a starter/reliever adjustment should probably be done to the RAA calculations too. But given that I generally prefer RAR to RAA, I'm going to ignore that for now...someone can fill in the blanks for me if they like. :)

2007 Cincinnati Reds

Below I'm reporting RAR values for the '07 Reds using Base Runs and FIP Runs. "True" runs above replacement is very similar to Base Runs (correl = 0.97), but as I said above, I'm partial to Base Runs because they are less confounded by the performance of other pitchers. Therefore, I'm opting not to report those values to reduce the clutter in this table.

Update (12/3/07): I discovered I accidentally was using the wrong replacement-level values in my spreadsheet. Starters got a bump upward, relievers got a bump downward. Oops!
Base Runs
FIP Runs
Pitcher IP RAR
Pitcher IP RAR
AHarang 231.7 61.4

AHarang 231.7 56.0
BArroyo 210.7 25.9
BArroyo 210.7 30.9
KLohse 131.7 17.5
MBelisle 177.7 25.9
MBesile 77.7 13.7
KLohse 131.7 20.4
JBurton 43.0 13.5
DWeathers 77.7 8.3
DWeathers 77.7 11.7
BLivingston 56.3 8.0
HBailey 45.3 4.4
JBurton 43.0 4.9
BSalmon 24.0 3.2
HBailey 45.3 4.9
TShearn 32.7 2.2
EMilton 31.3 4.4
JCoutlangus 41.0 1.9
MStanton 57.7 3.1
BLivingston 56.3 1.6

BBray 14.3 2.6
BBray 14.3 0.4

MMcBeth 19.7 1.8
EMilton 31.3 0.4

JCoutlangus 41.0 1.3
EGuardado 13.7 -1.0
BSalmon 24.0 1.3
MMcBeth 19.7 -1.4
GMajewski 23.0 0.4
RCormier 3.0 -1.4
EGuardado 13.7 -0.3
ERamirez 16.3 -1.9
RCormier 3.0 -1.3
RStone 5.3 -2.8
TShearn 32.7 -2.6
49.0 -3.4
ERamirez 16.3 -3.2
MStanton 57.7 -5.2
MGosling 33.0 -3.7
GMajewski 23.0 -7.6
VSantos 49.0 -4.0
MGosling 33.0 -8.1
RStone 5.3
KSaarloos 42.7 -9.1
KSaarloos 42.7 -5.0
TCoffey 51.0 -10.4
PDumatrait 18.0 -5.6
PDumatrait 18.0 -17.1
TCoffey 51.0 -6.4

Brief Notes:
  • Aaron Harang was clearly the most valuable pitcher on the staff. Duh. However, his value estimate of 61 runs above replacement also puts him well over top-ranked position player Brandon Phillips, who I estimated at just shy of 40 runs above replacement. Phillips' outstanding PMR ratings will give him a bit of a boost when I update those numbers. Nevertheless, it will not be enough to catch Harang, the 2007 Reds MVP.
    • As an aside, a 5.5 WAR pitcher, which is what Harang could potentially be projected to be in the future based on this analysis, is worth roughly $24 million/year as a free agent according to Tom Tango's pay scale. Even if he "declines" to average "just" 4 WAR a season from here on out, that's still worth $20 million/year. That 4-year, $37 million extension prior to this season is looking pretty darn good, eh? One of the moves that Krivsky really got right.
  • The player getting the biggest boost in the FIP Runs column is Matt Belisle, who goes from scrub to respectable. Belisle's peripherals weren't terribly different from those of Bronson Arroyo, but his BABIP was a tad high at 0.326, and his FIP (4.54) looks a lot better than his actual ERA (5.32). If he can post a mid-4's ERA next season it would go a long way toward solidifying the Reds' rotation.
  • Falling the other direction was Jared Burton. Jared had a fine first season, especially given that he was making the jump from AA to MLB this year. Nevertheless, his walk rate (4.9 bb/g) was unacceptably high, and will have to improve if he's going to continue to be successful out of the pen. Fortunately, at least as a trend, his control was much improved during the last month or two out of the pen, giving hope that he can really be a force next season out of the pen.
  • What on earth happened to Todd Coffey?
Update (12/3/07): The reliever values reported above should be considered preliminary. As detailed in the comments below, I neglected to consider leverage when assessing reliever value. I'm working on an adjustment to correct this problem. Basically, David Weathers gets a nice boost. :)

The next in the player value series is a piece on runs environments, including park factors and custom team linear weights. That might get delayed for a bit though--I'm writing for the Hardball Times Season Preview again this season, and that's going to occupy a lot of my time over the coming weeks. Should be fun! BTW, if you haven't already, go here and order both the Hardball Times Annual and the Season Preview together and get a 10% discount (use code HTC08)! :)
Aaron Harang photo by Charles Rex Arbogast

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reds Sign Francisco Cordero (probably)

The scuttlebutt is that the Reds have reached a preliminary agreement with former Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers closer, 32-year old RHP Francisco Cordero. Reportedly, it is a 4-year, $46 million contract, which, Ken Rosenthal says, would be the richest 4-year deal ever given to a reliever. That comes to an average of $11.5 million per year. Therefore, Cordero essentially replaces Eric Milton on the roster, and will be (I think) the Reds' second highest paid player behind Adam Dunn. Big time signing. Here's my take on him:


Francisco Cordero (6'2", 235 lbs) hails from the Dominican Republic, and was signed in 1994 as a 19-year old undrafted free agent by the Detroit Tigers. Over his first several years in the minors, he was used as a starter, but he never seemed to put it together. Then, in 1997, he was converted to relief, and immediately put up stunning numbers: 0.99 ERA in 54.3 innings, striking out 67 while walking just 15 in Single-A West Michigan. Just two years later, in 1999, he made his debut with the Detroit Tigers at age 24.

That offseason, the Rangers acquired Francisco in a large deal that ended Juan Gonzalez's first tenure with the Texas Rangers. After struggling and missing time due to injury over his first two years, Cordero finally settled into the big leagues for good in 2002, and took over the closer's job for good in 2004 at age 29. Acquired by the Brewers in '06 as part of the Carlos Lee deal, Cordero was the cornerstone of Milwaukee's bullpen last season. And now, with this signing, he's a Cincinnati Red.

Recent Stats:
Year Age Team IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 %GB
2005 30 TEX 69.0 10.3 3.9 0.7 42.9% 0.332 3.39 3.15 0.234 0.315 0.356 0.671 3.8 8.9
2006 31 TEX 48.7 10.0 3.0 0.9 43.3% 0.371 4.80 3.43 0.265 0.324 0.395 0.719 4.5 4.3
2006 31 MIL 26.7 10.1 5.4 0.7 32.8% 0.313 1.69 3.67 0.213 0.321 0.351 0.672 3.5 5.1
2007 32 MIL 63.3 12.2 2.6 0.6 40.5% 0.342 2.99 2.24 0.218 0.272 0.314 0.586 3.0 15.0
3-Year --- --- 207.7 10.8 3.5 0.7 41.1% 0.342 3.38 2.97 0.234 0.261 0.352 0.612 3.7 33.3

Cordero is the consummate power closer. His strikeout rates have always been high, and while they peaked a bit last season, we can reasonably expect 10+ k/9 rates from him next year. He is something of a fly ball pitcher, but his excellent strikeout rates seem to have helped him keep the ball in the park, even when he was pitching in the bandbox that is Ranger Ballpark (or whatever they call it these days). His walk rates can sometimes get out of hand, but that's the only thing that keeps him from being absurdly dominant. But the guy has been nothing but quality since 2002.

I see no red flags in his numbers (except maybe his age...more on that later), so I don't think it's unreasonable to anticipate something on par with his 3-year averages next season: 3.4ish ERA, 10+ k/9, 3.5 bb/9, less than 1 hr/g. That's a kind of weapon the Reds haven't had coming out of the pen in years.

Pitchf/x "Scouting"
To see what's behind those numbers, here's a pitchf/x profile on Cordero, courtesy of Josh Kalk's blog (horizontal break is from the perspective of the catcher):
Hard, Hard, Hard. The big right-hander touches 100 mph with his fastball (average of 96 mph), which tails back in on the hands of right-handed batters as much as 10 inches. His slider can also come in at over 90 mph (average of 88 mph), and has a typical break that is ~12 inches different from that of his fastball (Euclidean distance...sorry, too lazy to deal with trig tonight!). Overall, Kalk's data indicate that Cordero throws his two pitches at roughly the same frequency, though he favors the slider a bit vs. righties and the fastball a bit vs. lefties.

Evaluation of Signing

Basically, Cordero's been everything that the Reds' bullpen has not over the last three years. He throws hard, misses bats, and has been consistently effective. He has been quality. And if he can maintain that performance next year--and I see no reason he can't--the Reds bullpen should be substantially improved.

The question, of course, has to do with the cost. I don't have a lot of experience trying to assign dollar values to player production, but I'm going to give this a go.

Tom Tango's current free agent Salary Scale indicates that a 4-year deal worth $45 million (the closest to Cordero's contract) is an appropriate figure for a player capable of delivering 3 wins above replacement (WAR) per season. My player value estimates have Cordero as ~11 RAR per season over the last three years, which translates to ~1.1 WAR per season if you use a 10 runs = 1 wins approximation. Such a player, based on Tango's scale, would be worth ~$4.5 million/year. Eek.

That might be a conservative value estimate, however, because of the high leverage of the situations in which Cordero pitches. To try to account for that, we can look at WPA. Cordero's total WPA from '05-'07 was 3.0 wins above average in 207.7 IP. If we assume that a replacement reliever is a 0.470 pitcher (Tom Tango's number), over 23 games (207.7 IP / 9 = 23) a replacement pitcher would be at -0.7 wins compared to an average (0.500) pitcher. This puts Cordero at 3.0 + 0.7 = 3.7 WAR from '05-'07, or ~1.2 WAR per season. That's slightly higher than my runs-based estimate, but still puts him well shy of the 3 WAR per season needed to be worth $45 million over 4 years.

It's worth noting that a part of the reason that Cordero isn't looking as good as one would hope in these value estimates is because of the rather high baseline for relief pitcher replacement level that I'm using (which comes from Tom Tango). Relief pitching is much easier than starting, and thus replacement pitchers perform fairly close to average in relief and well below average as starters. Tango estimates that a replacement pitcher, as a reliever, will be a 0.470 pitcher (think of that as winning percentage), and has good reason for using that number. But for the sake of argument, let's use Patriot's slightly lower 0.450 replacement level for relievers instead. Over 23 games, a 0.450 pitcher would be -1.2 wins below average. That would put Cordero at 3.0 + 1.2 = 4.2 WAR from '05-'07, or 1.4 WAR/season. .... Which still would put Cordero's value at just ~$6.5 million/season. Assuming I'm doing this right.

As another comparison, JC Bradbury recently reported that he has Mariano Rivera valued at ~$6 million/year over the past three years. Even if you add 25% to that value because of the high leverage in which Rivera pitches (which JC admits he doesn't address), that still puts him at $7.5 million. Cordero has been good, but he hasn't been as good as Rivera, so $7.5 million/year would seem to be at the high end of what he could possibly be worth. I'll try to update this with other valuation systems as I see them.

So, even if we assume that Cordero will maintain his typical '05-'07 performance level over the four years of the contract, it seems clear that the Reds are massively overpaying him...perhaps on the order of double his actual value. ... Now I certainly believe that a team can stand to overpay a player now and then if they are saving elsewhere, so long as that player is making the team better. But it's kind of hard to justify paying someone twice what they're worth over a four-year deal.

Further complicating the issue is the question of Cordero's age. He turns 33 in May of next season, and will be 36 at the end of his contract. So what is the probability that he will maintain his level of production through 2011? Well, BPro hasn't yet updated their PECOTA cards following Cordero's excellent 2007 season, so think of this as conservative...but here is Cordero's "Stars and Scrubs" chart prior to last season:
My interpretation of this figure is that PECOTA predicts a drop-off in Cordero's performance both in '08 and '09, and then stabilization over the last two years of the contract. It does indicate a 30-40% chance that Cordero might maintain effectiveness ("regular" band) over the full contract. But his chances of being a "star" (which you'd hope a $11 million/year closer would be) drop to almost nothing by '09, and the 50% prediction is that he'll degenerate into a "scrub" pitcher by then. Not good. I'm guessing that this figure will look slightly more optimistic after factoring in what he did in 2007, but it probably wouldn't shift the decline estimates by more than a year or so in the Reds' advantage.


So, in sum, I'm torn about this signing. I'm really excited to see Cordero in the Reds' bullpen next year, and I really do think that--assuming the deal goes through, and they don't have to make substantial payroll adjustments following this signing--the Reds have demonstrably improved heading into next season.

But at the same time, my best estimate is that the Reds will be paying about twice what Cordero has been worth. I'll be interested to see other estimates on this, but I'm guessing my numbers are pretty close to accurate (maybe +-$2 million at worst?). Add to that the fact that we're going to be paying that kind of money to a pitcher headed into the twilight of his career, and you have me pretty worried. Again, I think it's ok to overpay here and there if you can save elsewhere and if the player clearly improves the ballclub. But this is kind of extreme...

But what's done is done. Let's all hope for the best, and try to avoid calling for his head the first time he blows a save, eh? If nothing else, the Reds should have a really good closer next season, and that's going to be fun to watch.

Update: Some other value estimates or projections from folks around the 'net:


Cordero, Francisco that is, is a stud reliever/closer. One of the 3 or 4 best in baseball right now.

He is around .5 runs per 9 better than the average closer, which is worth around an extra .8 wins or so (above an average closer). I don’t know what an average closer gets paid on the FA market. Maybe 6 or 7 mil? So Cordero would be worth 8 to 9, which implies he is worth 2 WAR.

At this point I don’t know what a replacement reliever is as compared to average. I really don’t. I would think that you could take a replacement pitcher, turn him into a closer and he would be a run worse than an average closer at worst. Maybe .75 runs. At a run worse, that would mean that a replacement closer would be 1.7 wins worse than an average closer, so that Cordreo would be 2.5 WAR.

So let’s say 2 to 2.5 WAR, whatever that is worth for 3 years. [Note by Justin: By Tango's scale, over 4 years, that would be $24-34 million. Higher than my estimate.]

Dan Symborski with his ZiPS projections:
2008 ZiPS Projection - Francisco Cordero
Projection 5 2 71 0 70 61 26 5 27 80 3.34
2009? 5 3 73 0 72 64 27 5 27 78 3.37
2010? 5 2 71 0 70 63 26 5 26 75 3.34
2011? 5 2 71 0 71 65 27 5 25 73 3.42
Opt. (15%) 6 2 76 0 78 62 22 4 23 95 2.54
Pes. (15%) 3 3 59 0 56 54 26 6 25 61 4.18
Top Comps: Robb Nen, Troy Percival
[Note by Justin: That's very encouraging--ZiPS is a fine projection system.]

Cordero: 4/46, paying for 3.0 WAR.

A 3.0 WAR implies a relief pitcher (72 IP) with a win% of .700. This is calculated as:
(.570 - .470) * 1 = .100
+(.708 - .570) * 2 = .260

where the “* 2” is the LI. The total wins is +.376 per 9 IP, or a total of 3.0 WAR.

In post 60, I had Mo as a .700 pitcher (3.0 WAR). I can’t have Cordero that high. I would say .625 or .650 pitcher, which implies a WAR of close to 2.0, or a salary of 3/23.

A great reliever, obviously. Since 2002, his WPA has been +9.3 wins, with an LI of 1.9, on 407 IP, which means his unleveraged WPA is .610.

Relievers are incredibly overvalued, and this is yet another case. I’d like to know what was his second-best offer on the table.

I’m also not too concerned about his age. If he’s throwing fastballs with movement at 96, he’s got a “young arm”. It’s like Mo. I would guess that all old starting pitchers who used to have plus fastballs should be turned into relievers.

[Note by Justin: the difference between his and my estimates is that he incorporates an additional reward for exceptionally good relievers (performance above 0.570 is given extra merit), which essentially means the bar isn't as high to get to 3 WAR. I'd put more faith in his work than mine--as I said, this was my first go at this type of estimate. It's also worth noting that his 2 WAR estimate converges with MGL's 2-2.5 WAR estimate. This means that the Reds are probably overpaying by $10-20 million over the course of the contract.]

J.C. Bradbury (I quoted him above regarding Rivera, but here's his take on Cordero):
The contract for Cordero is simply awful. If the Reds are trying to be taken seriously by flashing some dollars, then flashing their money is all they are accomplishing. Cordero is an excellent reliever, but I don’t see how the Reds can justify spending $11.5 million/year for four years on a pitcher about to turn 33 for a team that doesn’t appear to be built for success in this timespan. Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey are gone after 2008 and Arron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are due big raises. I understand that there may be help coming from the farm, but I do not think that expectations are rosy enough to justify spending big money on a closer just yet. If the Reds put that money in other places, I believe the team would be more competitive in the near term.

Even if the Reds could use this final piece, I still think it’s a bad deal. I have Cordero producing $19.6 million over the next four seasons—$26 million more less than he’s being paid. Now, it’s pretty clear that my model isn’t predicting well for “closers.” And while I’m a believer in efficient markets and willing to acknowledge that I might be underestimating closer value, the current closer premium is excessive. And I think that Scott Linebrink’s contract supports my contention.

[Justin note: His estimate on Cordero comes in at $4.9 million/season, which is about where my initial runs-based estimate had him. I think Tango's numbers are more reliable because they take into account the leverage of the situations in which he pitches, but the end result is only a $6 million improvement over the course of the deal.]

More as I find 'em.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Day Link Dump

I thought I'd send out a "Happy Turkey Day" to everyone. My parents were in town a few weeks back and we had our turkey dinner then, so we're going out to eat tonight for the first time in either of our lives. Should be fun.

I've been working up my player value piece on pitchers, but it's been slow going. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day.

Link Dump

Torii Torii Torii

Congrats to the Angels for signing Torii Hunter. I think. Hope his body holds up.

Batting Stat Reliability

Pizza Cutter has a fantastic article at StatSpeak that addresses the question of how many PA's we need to have a reliable indication of what a player will do in the next set of PA's of equivalent number. The results may surprise you:
50 PA - swing percentage100 PA - contact rate, response bias (both just missed at 50… the real number is probably around 70)
150 PA - K rate, line drive rate, pitches/PA
200 PA - BB rate, grounder rate, GB/FB ratio
250 PA - flyball rate
300 PA - HR rate, HR/FB
350 PA - sensitivity
400 PA - none
450 PA -none
500 PA - OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B rate, popup rate
550 PA - ISO
600 PA - none
650 PA - none
Req more than 650 PA's: AVG, BABIP, 2B+3B rate, WPA, WPA/LI
A few quick thoughts after seeing those results:

1) This gives a good reason to pay a lot of attention to batted ball stats, especially early in the season.

2) We have some reason to be skeptical of the surprisingly good first-season performances of Jeff Keppinger and Norris Hopper.

3) I wonder if there is any reason, aside from perhaps historical documentation, to continue doing monthly reviews of the Reds next season, especially when I look at monthly player splits...

Pitchf/x for the masses

You've likely already seen this, but Josh Kalk put out a fabulous pitchf/x tool. It only does a few things so far, but it has the potential to be a great resource for folks like me who are too lazy to put together their own pitchf/x database.

Don't forget to also check out his player cards at Kalk's blog, which features even more information on both pitchers and batters.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nuxhall passes

Joe Nuxhall passed away last night. How incredibly sad. The guy had a great life, to be sure. But I'll miss him, as I'm sure we all will.

I am glad that I finally found a tremendous appreciation of him before he passed thanks to his work on the air this season. And yet, I can't help but wish that I'd had more time with him, because I feel like I took him for granted for most of my life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where should they be playing?

What follows is (mostly) just for fun. Don't take it too seriously.

One of the themes on this blog over the past year or so has been to stress how important fielding performance is to not only how we evaluate players, but also to how well a team can be expected to perform. The '07 Reds are often said to have several players playing out of position (certainly Dunn, but possibly Griffey and Encarnacion, and maybe Phillips, depending on who you're talking to). I thought it might be fun to use data from the Fans' Scouting Report to try to quantify where each player on the Reds' team would be expected to best perform, and whether there was a better defensive alignment than the one the Reds most often used in 2007.

Some quick background on the methods: the Fans' Scouting Report is based on survey data of (ideally) a large number of "hardcore" fans who see lots of games each year. Each participant is asked to rate players that they saw more than 10 times that season on seven fielding skills, encompassing everything from first-step quickness and maximum sprint speed to throwing arm strength and accuracy. Participants are asked to rate players relative to all other players, not just players at their position. Once the averages are in from those rankings, one can estimate a players' rating at a specific position using a specific set of custom skill weightings for that position.

Below, I've estimated 2007 Reds' fielding ratings at each of the eight positions. Values are on a scale of 0-100, though few players ever top 80. Bold-faced numbers indicate that a player's weighted skill average is above average at a position, relative to MLB norms in '07 (Notes: players had to "qualify" for a position to be bold-faced, so left-handed throwers were not eligible to play C, 2B, 3B, and SS. I also assumed that anyone who could play catcher was already playing catcher, so only David Ross and Javier Valentin were eligible for getting bolded at that position).
Player C 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF
A Dunn 24.4 16.5 18.7 25.3 20.7 21.9 21.9 23.1
A Gonzalez 67.0 61.3 64.1 63.3 64.0 59.8 59.1 60.3
B Phillips 78.4 75.9 80.5 76.3 79.1 79.8 78.7 79.6
D Ross 62.8 49.2 51.3 60.3 53.6 46.5 46.5 48.6
E Encarnacion 46.9 52.0 55.2 50.7 52.1 56.8 56.6 55.9
J Valentin 26.7 24.2 25.5 26.0 24.0 24.6 24.4 25.0
J Keppinger 45.8 43.2 45.7 42.8 43.8 44.2 43.4 44.3
J Hamilton 72.8 63.0 67.0 72.6 67.7 67.4 66.8 68.9
J Castro 60.0 55.4 58.2 55.8 56.3 55.0 54.1 55.2
K Griffey Jr. 63.9 55.8 57.6 56.5 55.7 48.6 48.2 49.2
N Hopper 49.0 51.9 56.5 48.6 53.3 61.2 59.8 60.0
R Freel 46.1 51.0 55.8 47.7 51.6 62.7 61.2 61.3
S Hatteberg 39.5 42.9 44.9 36.1 40.1 42.0 41.1 41.0
League Average 45.8 41.3 57.4 52.5 58.7 46.4 63.0 50.9
As you'd expect, there are fewer above-average candidates for the positions near the top of the defensive spectrum--catcher, center field, and shortstop--than there are for those near the bottom, like first base and left field.

Let's take a quick tour of the Reds' 2007 Starting Lineup:
  • Dave Ross - Ross is rated as an excellent defensive catcher, and that's clearly the only place his meager hitting could even be slightly tolerated. And even that's questionable.
  • Scott Hatteberg - Hatteberg used to be a catcher before blowing out his arm. Now, his arm skills are rated below his other four skills...and overall, he's only rated above average at first base. He's a fine hitter, but his lack of defensive ability really limits his value.
  • Brandon Phillips - Phillips qualifies as an above average fielder at every single position, with the possible exception of catcher (I'm assuming that Fans' ratings of catchers relative to other positions is incomplete). His single best rating, however, was at second base. ... though he'd likely be more valuable at a more challenging position, with little apparent drop-off in skill.
  • Alex Gonzalez - Gonzalez is interesting in that, while not as good at Phillips at any position, his skill set seems a bit more tuned to shortstop than Phillips'--mostly due to his high arm rankings relative to his other skills.
  • Edwin Encarnacion - Here's one that's interesting. Edwin is rated as a tad below-average at third base, mostly due to his poor ratings on release and throwing accuracy. His good ratings for speed and acceleration, however, indicate that he could potentially become a good left fielder, perhaps upwards of +7 runs above average. That would more than make up for the -3 run value penalty associated with moving from 3B to LF.
  • Adam Dunn - Yikes. Dunner is rated below average at every position. His highest absolute score was at third base, but there he'd be 27 points (~19 runs) below average. The smallest difference between his rating at a position and MLB averages at that position was... left field, at -24.5 points! I was surprised he didn't do better at first base (-24.8 points), which has a lower threshold, but his terrible ratings for Hands, Instincts, and Acceleration absolutely killed his rating at that position. Maybe moving him to first base isn't the answer...?
  • Josh Hamilton - The Fans loved Josh, and if he threw with his right hand, he's be just like Phillips--above average anywhere you put him. As it is, even though he's just slightly above average in center field according to these numbers, he's most valuable there...though his outstanding throwing arm makes him a more naturally superb right-fielder.
  • Ken Griffey - Junior's poor speed scores make him a poorly suited for the outfield, but the fact that he throws with his left hand rules out most infield positions. Because of the weak fielders at first base and left field, however, he rates as above-average in those spots.
Of course, just because a player is best suited for a particular position doesn't mean that's where the Reds should play him. They have to determine where each player can be placed (or hidden) to maximize the total fielding of the team. Assuming that the above eight players were going to play, I tried every combination I could think of to maximize the team fielding score. Here's my best alignment, along with the expected runs saved vs. average per season according to the Fans' Scouting Report data:
Pos Name Runs
C D Ross 11.9
1B S Hatteberg 1.1
2B B Phillips 16.1
3B E Encarnacion -1.3
SS A Gonzalez 3.7
LF A Dunn -17.1
CF J Hamilton 2.7
RF K Griffey Jr. -1.2
Huh. Looks familiar, eh? I did try, but I couldn't find a better alignment than what the Reds used last season. The biggest roadblock is Hatteberg, who prevents me from moving Griffey, Dunn, or Encarnacion to first base.

Ok, just for fun, here's a lineup of '07 Reds that maximizes defensive skill and ignores offensive value altogether. Think of this as the ultimate run-prevention lineup for the '07 Reds. Runs values are per-season numbers, so this is what Fans say we'd get from Castro defensively if we played him a full year at third base:
Pos Name Runs
C David Ross 11.9
1B K Griffey Jr. 10.1
2B B Phillips 16.1
3B J Castro 2.3
SS A Gonzalez 3.7
N Hopper
R Freel
J Hamilton
Fans data indicates that this lineup would save 50 more runs per season than the standard '07 lineup! That's primarily done by benching Dunn and Hatteberg, moving Griffey to first base, and starting Hopper and Freel in the outfield (there was also a very small boost to starting Castro and third instead of Encarnacion, but we'll ignore that because that's clearly not a worthwhile exchange).

Ok, so would it be worth it to use that lineup instead of the one the Reds actually used? Well, if we assume a full season is 700 PA's, and then pro-rate '07 offensive production using runs above average per plate appearance (RAA/PA, which, I was recently told, is the best-behaving rate stat for offense) for these four players, here's how a season of Dunn and Hatteberg compares to a season of Freel and Hopper on offense:
Dunn 632 31.0 0.049 34.3
Hatteberg 417 13.7 0.033 23.0
Hopper 335 -0.4 -0.001 -0.8
Freel 304 -11.3 -0.037 -26.0
Ok, so based on this (very crude) estimate, the offensive difference between a full season of Hatteberg and Dunn vs. Hopper and Freel is roughly 84 runs! That difference outweighs the fielding bonus we estimated using the Fans' data by something on the order of 3.5 wins. Even if we just substitute Hopper in RF for Hatteberg at 1B (moving Griffey to 1B), the offensive dropoff (-24 runs) isn't enough to pay for the defensive bonus (+18 runs). So it looks like the Reds were right to play the guys they played, where they played 'em. :)


Now, admittedly, there are about a billion holes where I could tear this little study to pieces. But it was a fun exercise, and I think we'll be able to do this sort of thing with much greater accuracy over the coming years as our ability to quantify and assess both fielding skill and fielding performance continues to improve. If nothing else, though, these data indicate that there's not an obvious way in which the Reds could have gotten more value out of their players last year, which has to be considered the null expectation in any study of this sort. I'd be more suspicious of this study if it showed a clear inefficiency!! :)