Opening the Mailbox

Welcome to the first edition of the Sabernomics Mailbox. If you have a question that you would like me to answer, just submit your question here, and I will do my best to answer it in the next round.

How about a post on Willie C. Harris? Is he the future center fielder in Atlanta (and possible leadoff hitter)? Does his recent offensive surge decrease the Braves’ valuation for re-signing Andruw?
— HM

Hey, you’ve got to love how well Willie Harris has been playing. All of us at Kennesaw State are big fans of our former student. However, I’m afraid that he is not a part of the Braves long-term plans to replace Andruw. While his 2007 OPS+ is a magnificent 158, for his career he has posted an OPS+ of 68. Harris is in the class of former Braves like Dewayne Wise, Nick Green, and Charles Thomas. These are guys who had some success with the club in small samples, but ultimately they reverted to their historical weak play. Now, this doesn’t mean Harris hasn’t found a way to improve, but I think it is unlikely. That won’t stop me from rooting for him! I think his best shot is to hang on as a defensive super-sub.

As for the Andruw Jones back-up plan, that’s a tough one. I thought it was Langerhans, but now that he’s gone the Braves may be looking to keep AJ. Although, the Pravda (the Braves PR dept.) seems to be leaking anti-Andruw propaganda rather than supporting him during his current slump. The problem is that the Braves desperately need pitching, and the team may decide it’s resources are better spent fortifying the rotation. Brandon Jones is having a decent season at Mississippi (.820 OPS), so he might be ready to take over next year. However, I think he’s more likely to make his debut mid-season next year than start the year in center.

Since the draft is rapidly approaching, I am wondering about the economics of “signability”. How do teams assess the risk/time value of potential draft picks like Matt Wieters. Some prognosticators have him dropping as far as #18, even though he is considered the 2nd best pick by many, due to the Boras factor.
— Terry

Well, signability is an important consideration, because if you draft a player who doesn’t sign, you’ve lost your pick for that year. The new collective bargaining agreement includes a provision that gives teams a compensation pick of nearly equal draft slot in the following year if they fail to sign a drafted player. This gives clubs a slightly stronger bargaining position.

As to specific risk assessments that teams make, I don’t really know. I don’t think Boras is as big a deal as he is made out to be. The best players, who have the most bargaining strength, are the same players who pick Boras as there agent. The draft creates a bilateral monopoly situation, where the team has sole rights to the player and the player can choose (depending on the situation) to go to college, junior college, or sit out a year. I won’t go into the specific of bilateral monopoly here, but it means that players and teams are likely far apart in terms of what they expect the other party should be offering. It’s a natural result of the process, nothing personal. I do think that Boras has been instrumental at pushing what agents can do, but the disagreements between players and teams would be just as difficult without him. He is unfairly criticized, and he deserves credit for being a good agent.

Is a team’s winning percentage in 1-run games a good indicator of overall performance? How about a team’s winning percentage in blowout victories? Which (if either) is a better indicator of success?
— ND

Ability to win close games doesn’t appear to be a skill, and it is something that is difficult to measure. But just think about it: the closer the game, the more likely it is that a fluke play is going to determine the outcome of the game. As for records in blowouts, I think there is a bit more information. Fluke plays aren’t going to have as big of an impact. I think it’s best to evaluate teams by the sum of everything they do. I look at the difference in runs scored and runs allowed (a Bill James discovery). When I see the a big disparity between this difference and the W-L difference, I expect some mean reversion. Baseball-Reference reports this information on its expanded standings pages (AL|NL).

Do you really like the snapshot stuff that hovers over the links? I find it quite distracting, actually.
— Skip

Funny thing. I get comments on snap previews all the time. Half say they love it, half hate it. I liked it initially, but I do find it annoying at times. A while ago I was getting ready to disable them when I realized that there is a compromise. When you get a preview as you roll over a link, you can click on “disable” at the top, and they should not pop up again. Let me know if this feature doesn’t work for you.

Mr. Bradbury, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?
— Lisa S.

4 Responses “Opening the Mailbox”

  1. Jonathan says:

    Good clip.

  2. Pizza Cutter says:

    JC, David W. Smith (the guy who runs Retrosheet) did a study at SABR showing that the good teams are actually the ones who do better in blowouts, as opposed to one-run games.

  3. Brent says:

    Pertaining to Boras, I do know that some teams simply will not deal with him if at all possible. That’s why Wieters, if KC takes Porcello, should slide down to Washington or Milwaukee at 6 or 7. I think a lot has to do with the principles of the organization, scouting director, and general manager.

    On a side note, Will Carroll of BP thinks Scott Boras would make a great commissioner when Selig steps down. What does anyone make of that? (I agree that he’d be decent, but I’d have some reservations)