Comments on: VORP Shmorp Economic Thinking about Baseball Sun, 09 Jan 2011 17:16:18 +0000 hourly 1 By: cc Thu, 19 Jun 2008 19:20:31 +0000

marginal players (at least those without tenure) do not need to be paid their MRP.

No, but they do need to be valued as such.

Value needs to take into account opportunity cost. Because the supply of freely available minor league players (by which I mean minor league FAs, Rule V draftees, AAA lifers granted their release when another team offers them a spot in the majors – not prospects) exceeds demand, their salary is deflated below its “value,” here pushed down to the MLB minimum salary.

Thus, if you can get a AAA lifer who produces, say, $5M worth of raw value for $390K, there is a significant opportunity cost to signing a FA instead. So:

Net value
= raw value – opportunity cost
= (FA runs * $/run) – ((AAA runs * $/run) – $390K)
= $390K + ((FA runs – AAA runs) * $/run)
= $390K + (VORP * $/run)

Yes, you can write the same equation using a different baseline, but your constant will be derived from the major league minimum salary ($390K) and the production you can acquire at that price point.

Replacement level is also the only baseline that does not require that playing time be held constant. Using average as a baseline undervalues PT (since average production has value), while using zero as a baseline overvalues PT (a full season of horrific production hurts, not helps, a team). VORP normalizes for playing time so that 20 VORP from a part-time stud is worth as much as 20 VORP from a full-time average player, which is a substantial advantage as a metric.

That’s not to say that VORP is perfect. Defining replacement level is an art, not a science, and the assumption that there is always a replacement-level alternative freely available may not always hold. But it certainly has an important place in baseball economics and sabermetrics, and I really don’t think arguments to the contrary hold water.

By: Jason W Wed, 18 Jun 2008 23:36:52 +0000 JC,

I think you’re making the assumption that there are only two types of baseball fans out there: “dumb” fans who think average, RBIs, and pitcher wins are the only stats that matter; and everyone else, who “really” knows what’s going on. In particular:

If you are just getting in to analyzing baseball, I see no gains to becoming familiar with the concept. Don’t bother.

I consider myself reasonably smart, stat-wise. I understand what VORP is (even if I don’t know how to computer it). I have only the faintest clue what, say, Eqa is, so I don’t use it in my discussions. Similarly, there are things in your blog that I don’t “get,” because, well, you’re an economist with a far better education than I. That doesn’t mean I think it’s useless or you think you’re “cool” because you can go off about marginal value or PrOPS (which I’d never heard of until your Chipper Jones post). And it seems odd that you’d have a beef with people talking about VORP being too esoteric for “regular folks,” yet you use far, far more complex metrics in your writings.

Saying that “there’s no reason for someone to learn about VORP” is like saying you should go straight from using ERA to using xFIP to determine pitchers’ values, skipping right over “intermediate” mechanics like WHIP and opponents’ OPS.

(Level 6 Half-Elf Stat-Head)

By: jpwf13 Wed, 18 Jun 2008 19:55:11 +0000 I really don’t understand JC’s position, it’s almost like he;’s been deliberately contrary.

I think VORP is flawed (and misnamed), but highly useful.
1: It should be “runs over bench” or some such thing rather than “value over replacement player”
2: BPro’s replacement level is too low.

What I find useful about VORP is that it’s a combined rate stat and counting stat.
A: A SS who generates 100 runs is more valuable than a 1B who generates 100 runs. The average SS may produce 60 (bench 40), with 1Bs, the average may produce 80, and you can find any number of lead footed AAAA slugs who could put up 65-70.

B: Hold a mock draft, 2 teams, one drafts by raw runs (linear weights/baseruns/erp/rc, it won’t matter- the other drafts by vorp, until each team has 9 players-
The vorp team will have more total offense by the end.

By: Watercott Wed, 18 Jun 2008 15:01:48 +0000 If VORP didn’t exist, though, how would you translates Jones’ and Infante’s OPS+ into runs/wins? And if you have to perform that translation, why not just use VORP, which already did it for you?

I don’t actually like VORP all that much either, and replacement level really is only useful in certain circumstances, but if you really want something that looks and smells and sounds like a duck, just get a duck.

By: JC Wed, 18 Jun 2008 11:49:24 +0000 Sal,

I would replace Chipper’s expected performance with Infante’s. You could use VORPTM to make such a measurement. I don’t have a problem with this. But, I could make this same comparison if VORP never even existed.

My point isn’t that VORP is an awful or useless stat. To the contrary, there is clearly useful information contained in it. And those who prefer to hold discussions based on this metric should continue to do so. But there is no need for someone who does not speak the language to learn the ins an outs of a new metric, as Sheinin suggests.

What I am bothered by is this clubish (dare I say cultish) use of VORP, which is offputting to those who are capable of understanding similar concepts with stats they can understand. I knew what OBP and SLG were when I played Little League. I understand what league average is. Now imagine you are a columnist who writes about what a good hire Dusty Baker was for the Reds, and you flamed by irate stat-heads claiming, “Dude he played Corey Patterson who has a career VORP of – 27!” I’m just going to delete that. If you say, “Dusty batted a player leadoff with an OBP 100-points below league average,” then I’m more inclined to pay attention.

I address every single one of these concerns discussed in the comments in my analysis of baseball. I don’t use VORP. I don’t even know where to find it on the web. And the general response I have received in this thread (see #34, for example) confirms by suspicion that using VORP is more about signaling behavior than anything.

If you use it, I have no problem. Just don’t expect others to use it as well. Engage, maximum VORP.

By: DJ Tanner Wed, 18 Jun 2008 02:30:12 +0000 JC,

I think it is a rather flimsy argument to dismiss a very useful metric b/c you feel that it is esoteric. An explanation of what VORP measures does not have to be complicated. If you feel like quoting that particular stat in a conversation with the “casual fan” all they truly need to know is that: It measures how many additional runs a player contributes to his team (prevents), relative to freely available talent. That’s pretty simple. The person understands the meanings and its usefulness, all in one sentence.

I too like OPS+/ERA+, but statistics do not have to be mutually exclusive. MLB teams, and fans alike, look at very complicated advanced statistics everyday — statistics that personnel in other front offices probably have trouble understanding (i’m looking at you Brian Sabean) — but that has zero impact on their usefulness.

My point: Ok, you don’t like VORP…but, jeez, man…not everyone who tries to quote the thing is a Joyce reading, NPR listening, uptight douche with an inferiority complex. Now, FRAA…that’s a differnt story.

By: Voros McCracken Wed, 18 Jun 2008 00:25:47 +0000 JC’s point, and he’s free to correct me if I’m wrong, is that replacement value is sort of an arbitrary scale where the actual value of the number being measured is no different than if it was presented on a “league average” scale.

And because “replacement level” as a number is inherently arbitrary (while “league average” is not) it’s less useful than simply putting it in the “league average” scale.

It’s not a terrible argument, particularly for players with similar playing time. I’m not sure I agree with it either. Where I believe “replacement level” gains value is when you start to compare players with vastly differing amounts of playing time (like Hall of Fame arguments).

Even then you’re still a bit on “favorite flavor of Ice Cream” territory as there’s plenty of reasonable arguments to using “league average” for Hall of Fame purposes.

I like replacement value as a theoretical concept. Something that I think you need to understand when discussing player “value” in an abstract sense. Practically, you’ll almost never compare a player you’re thinking of replacing with a theoretical “replacement player,” the potential replacements will all have names.

By: Sal Paradise Tue, 17 Jun 2008 23:58:19 +0000 JC, out of curiosity, if I were to ask you, “If Chipper Jones goes down with an injury for the rest of the season, how many games can the Braves expect to lose that they would have won with Chipper?” how exactly would you go about answering that?

I entirely agree with you that the replacement player is not equal to a league minimum wage, but I disagree that VORP isn’t useful in the context of many (real) baseball situations.

By: John Peterson Tue, 17 Jun 2008 19:52:25 +0000 Replacement level is such a fundamental concept in baseball economics.

Please tell me that I shouldn’t expect this kind of pointless obstinacy in your book, which I still haven’t read.

By: obsessivegiantscompulsive Tue, 17 Jun 2008 18:00:59 +0000 Nice discussion. I’ve never quite gotten VORP either, particularly since they make the point of adjusting it by position, but then don’t account for defense at all in the metric, which is definitely part of the value of that ballplayer.

Seems like it should be OVORP instead, so that it doesn’t confuse the people trying to understand it for the first time or people trying to understand the value of VORP vs. WARP, which does account for defense.

Also, I’ve always found where they defined replacement level to be very arbitrary, much like the decision that 100 pitches is bad but 99 pitches is not, for PAP. They make it all seem very scientific, but the explanations I’ve seen makes it seem like it was chosen out of the air.

I think JC’s point is this: whatever adjustment VORP makes to account for a replacement player can be shown just as plainly with any other offensive statistic you chose. He used the example of currency as an example, but I think a better example would be Farenheit vs. Celsius.

You can think of Farenheit as the system JC is talking about, where the replacement player is the point where water freezes at 32 degrees-F. Celsius is the VORP system, where they adjust the Farenheit so that the the replacement player is now defined as zero degrees celsius, so then anything positive is clearly better than replacement and anything negative is clearly worse.

So the point for the VORP supporters is that you can see right away what the +/- for a player is relative to this theoretical replacement player who is available for the grabbing off the waiver wire or via a trade (though in reality, that is not the same cost, a waiver wire would entail just the cost of the player, but a trade would require you to give up another player, theoretically of equal value).

But JC’s point is that you can still discuss the same thing in another way because whether you use the average player or the replacement player as your zero point, the main thing is that you can still see the difference between a replacement player, an average player, and star player. Why is it so important to measure against the replacement level player when you can still see the relative difference, relative value between these three types of players?