In 1881 the future National League wanted to upgrade its image and target a more upscale fan base by doubling ticket prices, banning gambling, and outlawing alcohol sales. Several team owners who happened to be brewers refused to accept the new rules and banded together to form what would eventually become the American League. The National League attempted to discredit the new league by dubbing it the Beer and Whiskey League. This, of course only made the new league more popular. Duh!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Oh, Me So Around the Horn-y (Full Metal Jacket Edition)

“There is no racial bigotry here … Here, you are all equally worthless. ”
Well, let’s begin at the top with our weekly Crosby Watch:

GABAVGOBPSLGBBSOSB


Bubba
813.231.231.692020


Bobby
1451.196.263.3335200


Bubba finally got some more playing time this weekend but, unfortunately, did squat. He got to start Wednesday in Chicago and Friday in New York (against the Bridesmaids) and in eight at-bats, he produced a whopping one run. Bobby hasn’t fared much better and is not on the south side of the Mendoza Line. Of course, if Bubba boy keeps up his pace, Bobby should have company soon.

“Were you born worthless or did you have to work at it?”
We’re happy to offer for the first (and hopefully not last)time ever, the official Beer and Whiskey power rankings. Basically, what I’ve done is taken three team hitting stats (AVG, OBP, SLG) and three team pitching stats (ERA, total K, WHIP) and ranked the teams accordingly with one point going to the top ranked team and fourteen points going to the bottom-ranked team in each category.

For example, Minnesota had the highest team OBP and the second highest team AVG and SLG: that’s one point for their number one ranking and two points for each of their number two rankings giving them a total of five points in complete offense. Likewise, Boston’s pitchers had the number one rated team ERA, were second in total strikeouts, and had the fifth best WHIP giving them a total pitching score of eight. Remember, the lower the number the better the team. I put the collective team score in parentheses.


OffensePitchingOverall

Minnesota (5)Boston (8)Texas (24)

Texas (8)Oakland (14)Baltimore (28)

Kansas City (12)Baltimore (15)Minnesota (32)

Detroit (12)Texas (16)Boston (35)

Baltimore (13)Chicago (18)Chicago (39)

Cleveland (19)Anaheim (21)Oakland (41)

Chicago (21)Tampa Bay (22)Detroit (42)

Anaheim (23)Seattle (24)Anaheim (44)

Oakland (27)Toronto (25)Cleveland (50)

Boston (27)New York (25)Kansas City (51)

Seattle (33)Minnesota (27)Seattle (57)

New York (36)Detroit (30)Tampa Bay (61)

Tampa Bay (39)Cleveland (31)New York (61)

Toronto (40)Kansas (39)Toronto (65)


Now, you might be thinking, “This is the dumbest ranking system I’ve ever seen. How can the Rangers be ranked number one and the Yankees ranked second-to-last?” Well, as ye olde sage, Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News/Fox Porn Sports reports, even Mr. Moneyball himself, Billy Beane, has observed that the Rangers have suddenly become “a team on the rise.” I know it’s early and I know the Rangers will eventually sputter at some point in the summer (or at least that’s what I hope so that the Mariners will have the consolation of at least not finishing last) but their youth movement really seems to be working.

Over the winter, many disgruntled Bridesmaid’s fans (also known as Red Sox Nation) had pointed out that losing A-Hole to the Yanks would not be that detrimental because “losing follows that guy wherever he goes.” What at that time just seemed like sour grapes just may become far more prophetic than anyone had possibly imagined. A-Hole leaves Texas, the Rangers look impressive. A-Hole arrives in New York and suddenly there is a funny smell in the air.

Anyhoo, what I like most about these numbers at this early point in the season is that it represents each team’s performance during the heavy intra-division phase of the schedule. In other words, these numbers are likely to change radically not only because more games will be played and statistics will stop looking so out-of-this world (unless you’re Barry Bonds in which case a .400 batting average will begin to look like a slump) but because each team will be playing a greater variety of opponents.

Is the AL Central truly the “weakest” division in baseball? Well, judging from the fact the bottom-three ranked teams are the Drays, the Stoneboners, and the Blays, I’d have to say that that particular distinction would have to go to the AL East.

“I wanted to meet stimulating and interesting people of an ancient culture, and kill them.”
Last week, I mentioned that Niehaus and Rizz chuckled at the phrase “lovely Detroit.” Personally, I thought they were just making fun of Detroit as being anything but lovely – and really, if you’ve ever been to Detroit, you’d understand how the phrase “lovely Detroit” could in fact be rather funny. Well, special thanks to Ann-Marie for writing in and offering the following clarification as to what was really going:

Detroit can be lovely -- or lovely enough. But Rick Rizz has a bad history there. When the idiots (Monaghan) running the Tigers fired Ernie Harwell in the early 90s, they brought in Rick Rizz for the broadcast. It was such an unpopular move that Rick was never going to have a good call in that town. With everyone longing for the sweet accents of Ernie Harwell, "Good-bye baseball" became synonymous with management idiocy. He may not like Detroit, but in this case Detroit started it.

Again, big thanks to Ann-Marie. I know I’ve said this before but I think it bears repeating: our readers are not only smarter than we are but obviously far better informed which begs the question, why the hell do you bother reading this stuff I post?

“Today you are no longer maggots. Today you are marines.”
Well, apparently, managers all over the American League must be reading Beer and Whiskey. Perhaps they stumbled upon this blog while shopping for cheap booze on the net. If you recall, dearest reader, I did a quick post Friday Night/Saturday Morning praising Jim Tracy for using Eric “the second G is silent” Gagne in Friday’s game against the Giants. With the score tied 4-4, Tracy sent in Gagne to pitch the top of the 9th and 10th innings. Well, Joe Torre and Ken Macha finally got with the program and used their respective closers in non-save situations.

On Saturday afternoon’s marathon between the Bridesmaids and the Stoneboners, Torre sent in Mariano “cruising the French” Riviera (and no, that’s not a typo, I meant to spell his name that way) to pitch the top of the 9th and 10th innings with the score tied 2-2. Granted, the Stoneboners lost but still, at least this time Torre gave his team a chance to win.

Even more miraculous is that Torre once against sent in Mariano to pitch the top of the 9th inning on Sunday when they were down 0-2 (hmmm, is this déjà vu all over again?). Meanwhile, back on the left coast, Ken Macha brought in Arthur Lee Rhodes of Waco, TX to pitch the top of the ninth inning while down 3-4 against the Halos.

“You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece.”
By the way, if you’ve read Jim Bouton’s Ball Four then you may already be aware of this rather hilarious bit of trivia. In his chronicle of the 1969 season with the newly established Seattle Pilots baseball team (doomed to move the next year to Milwaukee and become the Brewers), Bouton mentions at one point a young ball player who had unfortunately become the butt of a league-wide joke. Apparently, this ball player was so ugly that he became the standard (or the ugly stick) by which all other ugliness was measured. And who was this unfortunately ugly fella? Well, none other than the 1971 National League MVP, Mr. Joe Torre.

“What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?”
When Joe “The Natural” Mauer went down, there was a collective gasp and groan throughout Twinkieland. Suddenly, the sky – or at least that big off-white baggie – didn’t seem so bright and shiny. The air in the metrodome suddenly felt less fresh(ly recycled). Gasp … coming in to replace the wunderkind was the broken-down, grizzly veteran: Henry “that means white in English” Blanco, a career .219/.295/.353 hitter. But then, on April 10, just two days after “the disaster” old Mr. White stepped up to plate against the “hot” Detroit Kitties and behold, the lord sent down a wondrous ray of light.

In five plate appearances, Mr. White managed two walks and two homeruns. Then, the very next day, he got a single, a double, and a walk in five plate appearances. And suddenly there was once again much rejoicing in twinkieville. So, what’s the moral of the story? Well, while Mr. White will certainly not continue to hit at a .313/.411/.602 pace (15 games, 48 at-bats), he won’t have to. Mauer is expected to return to the lineup sometime in May. As long as Mr. White can remain “white hot” for another two or three weeks, the twinkies should be ok.

“This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life.”
Ok, so here it is: my formula to calculate an Affordability Index. Now, before I get into the specifics of the formula, I want to make one thing clear. The Affordability Index is not intended to figure out the value of a player on the open market. I’m not really concerned with what Magglio Ordoñez can get on the open market. If you play in a rotisserie league and every team has the same payroll then flat across-the-board evaluations work just great. For instance, Richard C., had sent in an e-mail informing me of an excellent financial analysis done by the folks at “Leone for Third.” According to L43, a player’s financial value should be tied into his VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). If you multiply a player’s VORP with a constant then that should give you a fairly good ballpark (no pun intended) on that player’s projected salary. The particularly interesting aspect of this strategy is that each position has a different constant.

Again, in a rotisserie league (or if you happen to be Stoneboner and you think of Major League Baseball as a real-life variation of rotisserie baseball) such a formulation would be great but in the reality of baseball’s current economic system, a medium market team like the White Sox cannot afford to pay a player the same kind of salary that a large-market team like the Red Sox or “California” Angels can. It does not matter how much that player might be “worth” in terms of pure dollars, a small market team just cannot afford to match that salary.

So, how much should the White Sox pay Magglio? Or, more specifically, how much can they pay Mags and still have enough money to field a competitive team? Well, that’s what the Affordability Index is supposed to figure out. To some extent, the White Sox need Magglio to give them a “hometown discount” but, as I show below, unless the White Sox are willing to increase their overall payroll by a substantial margin or Mags is willing to seriously take less than what the open market will pay him, the White Sox’s ability to actually “afford” Ordoñez is practically nil.

Now, I realize I’m just going on and on and not getting to the actual formula itself. That’s because I’m a bit worried about whether the formula is any good. I teach English for a living. I suck at math and I’m generally a disaster when it comes to numbers. I would like you to think of my formula as not only a work-in-progress but as the Sabermetric equivalent of open-source software. Go ahead and take my formula apart (I promise not to cry) and rework it, develop it, refine it, etc. So, finally, without any further delay, I present to you the Affordability Index:

(TP-FC) ^ 3 / PV ^3



Huh? What the hell do these stupid letters mean? Well, let me explain (hold on to your seats … this should be a doozy of a ride).

TP= team’s Total Payroll in millions
FC= Franchise Constant
PV= Player Value

Ok, a team’s total payroll is fairly self-explanatory. If you’re curious you can go to ESPN.COM and get the 2004 opening day payrolls of every team. The “^” symbol means “raised to” as in (TP-FC) raised to the third power.

The Franchise Constant, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. Basically, here’s the formula for FC:

(TP-30)^3/TP^2



Ok, so let’s stick with the numerator for a bit before I start explaining the denominator (PV). In any fraction, the larger the numerator the greater the whole number (assuming the denominator is a constant). This means the greater the team’s Total Payroll, the greater the Affordability Index will be. Makes sense, right? The more your team is willing to spend, the more they can pay a certain player.

Just for grins and giggles, I’ve calculated the Franchise Constant for four teams: The Mariners, Angels, Red Sox, and White Sox. I’ve chosen these teams because one (the Angels) just extended a contract (Anderson) while two other teams (Red Sox and White Sox) need to deal with some potential free agent issues (Nomar and Magglio, respectively). The addition of the Mariners is just because I’m a Mariners fan.

So, here’s the opening day payroll for the four teams (and to make my math easier, I’m rounding to the nearest million. If you want to do the math taking into consideration, for example, that Boston’s payroll is not $125 million but, rather, $125,208,542, then go right ahead). After each payroll figure, I have their Franchise Constant:


Total PayrollFranchise Constant

Mariners
$82 Million20.91

Angels
$101 Million52

Red Sox
$125 Million54.87

White Sox
$65 Million10.14


You will notice that the relationship between TP and FC is not linear. The overall payroll of the Red Sox is approximately twice as much as that of the White Sox but their Franchise Constant is over five times larger. This is because a larger payroll allows for greater flexibility not with just one player but with an entire roster of players.

Ok … so, let’s take a look at Player Value which I calculate as:

62- (.5*WS) - (20*OPS)



WS of course means win shares and you all know what OPS is. Thanks to those nice guys at the Baseball Graphs, you can find 2003 American League Win Shares on line. So, here is a chart of four players (one from each of the above teams) with their 2003 WS, OPS, and the calculated PV. I should point out that the reason I’m looking only at the 2003 numbers is basically because I’m lazy and I cannot find Win Shares for the other years. Arguably, as other have pointed out, averaging the last three complete season would be more accurate but, again, this is just an exercise to show you how the formula works.


WS/OPSPlayer Value

Bret Boone
30/.90129

Garret Anderson
25/.88632

Nomar Garciaparra
25/.86932

Magglio Ordoñez
23/.92632


The better the player, the lower the PV. Hence, amongst these four players, Boone actually calculates as the best player with Nomar and Anderson being about the same. Of course, we can make alterations to take into account defense and the value of a particular position but, like I said before, this is just the first draft of what I hope will be a long and fruitful work in progress. To some extent, the problem with using Win Shares is that it’s a statistic that is somewhat dependent on the team’s performance. No matter how well you play, if the team does not get a win then you do not get a win share.

Now we have the denominators and numerators. Brett Boone is currently making $8 Million this year. Is he worth that much? Well, let’s plug in the numbers for the Mariners:

(82-20.91)^3 / 29^3 = 9.34



I would contend then that Boone is worth 9.34% of the Mariner’s total payroll or approximately $7.7 Million. In other words, he’s getting paid exactly what the Mariners can afford to give him. If Boone were a free agent being courted by the Red Sox (who have a significantly higher payroll) then you could plug in Boone’s PV into the Red Sox formula which would look like:

(125-54.87)^3 / 29^3 = 14.10



The Red Sox can afford to give Boone 14.10% of their total payroll which would translate to approximately $17.5 Million. Now, should the Red Sox give Boone $17.5 Million? No, of course not but that’s because the only other team that could really afford to give him anywhere near that amount would be the Yankees. The $17.5 Million figure is simply the ceiling on how much the Red Sox can afford to give Boone and still have enough left over to field a competitive team. There are also other considerations such as potentially declining performance (due to age).

Ok, I think my brain is about to explode so I’m going to stop, go take a walk, and rest. Sometime in the next few days I will run the calculations for Nomar, Magglio, and Garret (and you’d be surprised at how overpaid Anderson is according to my Affordability Index). Whew.