Archive for March, 2007
Baltimore Orioles (2006) Hitters $Value (in millions) Miguel Tejada $11.51 Ramon Hernandez $6.86 Kevin Millar $6.44 Nick Markakis $6.22 Melvin Mora $6.10 Brian Roberts $6.08 Corey Patterson $4.31 Jay Gibbons $4.25 Jeff Conine $3.43 Javy Lopez $2.30 Chris Gomez $1.95 Brandon Fahey $0.98 David Newhan $0.70 Fernando Tatis $0.70 Jeff Fiorentino $0.37 Luis Matos $0.31 Howie Clark -$0.01 Luis Terrero -$0.07 Danny Ardoin -$0.19 Chris Widger -$0.20 Eddie Rogers -$0.22 Raul Chavez -$0.24 Pitchers $Value (in millions) Erik Bedard $14.45 Daniel Cabrera $11.81 Rodrigo Lopez $8.62 Adam Loewen $8.32 Kris Benson $6.91 LaTroy Hawkins $3.81 Chris Britton $3.70 Chris Ray $3.35 Todd Williams $2.57 Bruce Chen $2.14 Kurt Birkins $1.80 Sendy Rleal $1.33 John Halama $0.90 Jim Brower $0.80 Julio Manon $0.72 James Hoey $0.56 Brian Burres $0.45 Winston Abreu $0.45 Eddy Rodriguez $0.15 Tim Byrdak $0.06 Russ Ortiz $0.00 Jim Johnson -$0.02 Eric DuBose -$0.09 Hayden Penn -$0.24
Values from The Baseball Economist.
Florida Marlins (2006) Hitters $Value (in millions) Miguel Cabrera $18.70 Hanley Ramirez $10.03 Dan Uggla $8.93 Josh Willingham $8.83 Mike Jacobs $6.13 Wes Helms $5.89 Miguel Olivo $3.46 Jeremy Hermida $2.78 Alfredo Amezaga $2.46 Joe Borchard $2.23 Cody Ross $1.62 Matt Treanor $1.06 Reggie Abercrombie $0.76 Chris Aguila $0.46 Jason Wood $0.42 Paul Hoover $0.07 Robert Andino -$0.24 Matt Cepicky -$0.28 Eric Reed -$0.59 Pitchers $Value (in millions) Dontrelle Willis $14.63 Scott Olsen $11.07 Josh Johnson $10.94 Anibal Sanchez $7.49 Ricky Nolasco $7.18 Brian Moehler $5.18 Joe Borowski $4.65 Matt Herges $4.52 Randy Messenger $3.28 Taylor Tankersley $2.94 Logan Kensing $2.21 Renyel Pinto $2.15 Sergio Mitre $1.87 Todd Wellemeyer $1.61 Chris Resop $1.43 Jason Vargas $1.40 Carlos Martinez $0.95 Franklyn German $0.71 Jose Garcia $0.69 Yusmeiro Petit $0.64 Jeff Fulchino $0.02
Values from The Baseball Economist.
I’ll be on “The Afternoon Blitz” on WSFN and WFNS “The Fan” SportsRadio 790-AM & 1350-AM in Waycross and Brunswick, GA at 5:30pm this afternoon (March 30). Maybe there will be some Adam Wainwright fans tuning in.
Steven Levitt points to an article in The New Republic on how freakonomics is ruining the discipline of economics. In this sense, “freakonomics” is not the book, but an approach used by economists to examine topics that may seem a bit atypical to non-economists. Alex Tabarrok reveals a bit more of the article so we can see what the critique is.
A typical conversation around the snack machine at the National Bureau of Economic Research, where many Harvard students had cubicles, went something like: Hey, did you hear that so-and-so found this crazy example of excess tax refunds in western Manitoba in the early ’60s? At which point the other would reply, Uh, no, wow, that’s, uh, great, and then scamper back to his desk to brainstorm for some similar quirk of public policy. At an age when most people brood that life is too random and arbitrary, these people’s biggest complaint was that it wasn’t random and arbitrary enough.
In retrospect, I have come to see this as the moment I realized economics had a cleverness problem. How was it that these students, who had arrived at the country’s premier economics department intending to solve the world’s most intractable problems–poverty, inequality, unemployment–had ended up facing off in what sometimes felt like an academic parlor game?
Well, if you want to talk about frivolous applications of the economic method, I think sabermomics might be near the top of the list. After all, while I suspect most Americans think baseball is more interesting than the big topics, no one (OK, maybe only a few people) would declare baseball more important. However, I’m not planning on shutting down my operation any time soon.
Economists most certainly should study important questions. I’ve done plenty of research on topics that have nothing to do with sports—all with more relevant real-world applications—yet that shouldn’t stop me from studying puzzles that intrigue me as an economist. An unanswered puzzle means there is something about the world that we can’t properly explain. The answer might yield only the acquisition of knowledge about this subject, or it might have indirect applications that can help us solve more important problems.
For example, 50 years ago, the late Simon Rottenberg published a paper “The Baseball Players’ Labor Market” in The Journal of Political Economy. Coincidently, this journal is now edited by Steven Levitt, and it is a mainstream top-tier journal.
Rottenberg was most interested in how baseball’s reserve system, which bound players to teams, affected the allocation of talent across the league. Rottenberg determined that no matter who owns the right to employ a player in baseball, the player will still play for the team that values the player the most. A free agent will sign with that team, or that same team will purchase (possibly via barter) that player from the club who owns the player’s rights. This result, now known in the “invariance principle,” mirrors the results of a much more famous paper published by Ronald Coase four year later. That paper, “The Problem of Social Cost” developed the Coase Theorem, and is rumored to be the most heavily cited paper in social science, and it subsequently won Coase the Nobel Prize.
This is a lesson in serendipity. While Rottenberg doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his finding—although he didn’t stress its other applications and Coase still deserves his Nobel Prize—it demonstrates the importance of seeking answers to questions that may seem to be trivial and with little obvious direct application. This knowledge from academic pursuits spills over. Some spillovers may be theoretical, others may be involve new empirical techniques, or they may develop a new way to think about an old problem. Failure to answer seemingly trivial questions may actually slow our progress in answering big questions. That the puzzle exists is sufficient motivation to study it.
While there is no doubt that the opportunity cost of freakonomic analysis is the direct study of important questions, but it is not as if no one is aware of this. Believe me, if I thought I had the cure to world-wide poverty, I’d change the focus of my research. Any social scientist would do so. But, in the meantime, I hope economists are not discouraged by freakonomics backlash. It makes the economics discipline more fun and more productive.
I have two radio appearances tomorrow.
At 11am I’ll be on “The Boog Sciambi Show” on 790 The Ticket in Miami. Braves fans ought to know Jon “Boog” Sciambi as the Braves new TV analyst on FSN South and SportSouth. I’ve enjoyed his Spring Training coverage quite a bit. You can listen to the show live here.
At 8pm I’ll be on the “Sportsline with Steve Davis” on WBAL 1090-AM in Baltimore. You can listen to the show live here. I don’t know if the opportunity will arise, but I will be happy to answer any call-in questions. 😉
Baltimore, MD 1090-AM WBAL “Sportsline With Steve Davis” 8pm
Waycross and Brunswick, GA 790-AM & 1350-AM The Fan SportsRadio “The Afternoon Blitz” 5:30pm
Miami, FL 790-AM The Ticket “The Boog Sciambi Show” 11am
For you baseball history buffs out there, the spring issue of 108 Magazine is about to be released. Jeff Merron offers a sample from the upcoming issue at The Southpaw, discussing the day Leo Mazzone was foiled by swarm of grasshoppers.
The attack would have been a surprise in any situation, but baseball has rules, and none of them say anything about grasshoppers. Faced with an unprecedented situation, the players, coaches, and umpires tried to keep on keepin’ on. Current Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone was one of the Texas League’s top hurlers that year, making his way up through the Giants organization. He took the mound for the visitors from Amarillo in the bottom of the first.
“I started that game. It got so bad the ball was hitting grasshoppers 60 feet, 6 inches to home plate. You couldn’t see. We had to change balls every pitch.” Mazzone, clearly distracted, surrendered two free passes. “I didn’t walk anybody that year, [but] you just couldn’t concentrate on your target. You couldn’t see it, and you had all these damn things flying in your face and up your ass.”
Yuck! There is no pitch like the old grasshopper guts ball.
I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the economics of baseball or sabermetrics (the statistical analysis of baseball).
Brian Borawski: When I first read the title of your book, “The Baseball Economist,” I figured that the book was going to deal with a lot of baseball business issues. While it does deal with things like whether baseball is a monopoly or not, it also touches on much more than that. When the book idea was first conceived, what was your overall goal for the book?
J.C. Bradbury: When I first started out, the business of baseball angle was the first topic of the book I planned to cover. In fact, the last three chapters of the book on the weakness of Major League Baseball’s monopoly power were the first chapters I wrote. However, I quickly realized that I wanted to have some more fun with baseball, and concentrate on questions that are relevant to economics but do not have business implications.
There is a big misconception out there that economics and business are the same things. Economics is a social science with a universal theory of human behavior. If you want to understand business, you have to study economics, but there are many other topics that economists study outside of business. For example, I did my graduate work at George Mason University, which is known for its application of economics to politics—a field known as public choice. Naturally, as a baseball fan, I had lots of questions about the game that I thought economics could help answer. And I’m not the first economist to look at the game like this.
This approach is very similar to the approach taken by sabermetricians, which is something I discovered after meeting Doug Drinen while working at The University of the South. Doug is a mathematician with a background in sabermetrics. He grew up buying the Bill James Abstracts, and has contributed several important studies to the sabermetric world. Right now, most of his work is in football over at Pro Football Reference. We would talk baseball quite frequently, and I learned a lot from him. Several of the chapters in the book had their origins in our lunchtime discussions.
My goal of the book became to highlight topics that I thought economic thinking could contribute something to baseball fans seeking to know more about the game. As a secondary motive, I was hoping to teach a little economics through a fun subject so I decided to minimize the business aspects and concentrate on the fun stuff.