Archive for Pitching

What Will Daisuke Matsuzaka Get?

Rumors have it that the Boston Red Sox have paid somewhere between the mid-30s to low-50s in millions of dollars for the right to sign Japanese ace pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. That money gives the Red Sox the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka (through his agent Scott Boras) for 30 days. If no agreement is reached, Matsuzaka must return to Japan for a year before being posted again. So, how much is he going to get paid?

A team will be willing to pay a player a equal to his marginal revenue product (MRP)—the additional value he generates in value to the team. A player in the open market ought to receive a salary equal to his MRP; but, a player with who is restricted in his salary will earn less. I’ve seen several reports that the Red Sox will be paying Matsuzaka ace money, but that is not the case. Part of Matsuzaka’s value will be going to the team that holds his reserve rights, the Seibu Lions of Japan. The salary that any team will be willing to pay him will be his total added value minus the amount paid to his old team. Furthermore, because the bid winner has the sole right to sign him in MLB, it only has to pay him enough to make him want to play in the US over playing in Japan. I’m not sure how accurate this report of his salary is, but translated into dollars, Matsuzaka made about $2.8 million last year. Since his team still owns his rights, I’ll assume he’s good for a raise to $4 million in 2007 (I have no idea if this is a good assumption, if you have better information, please pass it along). Now, the Red Sox have to convince him that playing in the U.S. is worth more than the $4 million he would earn in Japan.

Also, it looks as though he’s going for a three-year deal like most Japanese players. Before even paying him a salary the Red Sox will be paying out between $10-$16.7 million a year for his services. Let’s then assume he’s as valuable as Brandon Webb, whom I estimate to be worth about $20 million year. This gives him a salary of between $3.3 and $10 million. He certainly won’t come for the low number, but the high number surely would do it. But I don’t think the Red Sox would be willing to go to the high end. All they have to do is outbid their competition in salary and compensate him enough to not mind living in the U.S.

So, after all this, I’ll stop being fancy and take a stab. I’ll guess that he’ll be getting a $6 million contract from the Red Sox, who will pay a $36 million bid fee to the Lions. In total, the Sox will be on the hook for about $18 million a year. I’m not buying the $50 million reports unless the Red Sox are planning to sign him for more years and he’s willing to work for peanuts. I guess will find out soon enough.

Update: I was way off. ESPN reports it’s a $51 million posting fee. I think one of three things will happen.
1.) Matsuzaka signs for a five-year deal.
2.) The parties don’t reach an agreement. Maybe the Red Sox were only out to prevent the Yankees from getting him.
3.) We are getting ready to see salary escalation so high that A-rod will wish he had an out clause in his contract.

I’m betting on 2.

Addendum: Can someone find a sources that clarifies what happens if Matsuzaka and the Sox do not reach a deal. Some people are saying that he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but the only document I’ve found says that he would have to be reposted next year. Also, I believe he has two more years of service before he can become a free agent in MLB. Is this correct?

Answer:

If the Sox do not reach a deal by the deadline, Matsuzaka will return to Seibu to pitch next season and the posting fee will not be paid by Boston. Matsuzaka, whose current salary in Japan is $3 million, could then be posted again next year.

Further Addendum: A few other issues that seem relevant. Some people have been discussing whether or not the Red Sox are using their bid to block the Yankees. If this is the case, Bud Selig can intervene and give the rights to the second-highest bidder. However, let’s say that the Red Sox offer him a $6 million/year deal. Boras might argue that a player of this caliber would command a salary of double that to accuse the Red Sox of negotiating in bad faith. However, I think the Sox could easily beat that rap. They would be offering him more than he would earn in Japan, and it’s not the Sox’s fault that the Lions hold his reserve rights. What the Red Sox pay out for him is not the same as his salary. I expect the Sox to play hardball. Matsuzaka has a lot to gain from playing in the U.S. from endorsement deals, so I think it’s going to be difficult to turn down a deal.

Also, are the Red Sox banking on an influx of revenues from Japanese fans and advertisers? Certainly, there will be some money from Japan, but I can’t imagine it would be that large. As I just mentioned, I think the player will reap most of the benefits from endorsements. Following baseball from the other side of the world has to be difficult. Do the Red Sox think they can get NESN on Japanese television? If so, then he probably is very valuable. But if it means that the Sox forgo singing Zito and J.D. Drew by spending $30 million on Matsuzaka, what is that going to do to Boston fans who value winning?

From the article mentioned above:

To calculate Matsuzaka’s financial impact on the Red Sox, Boras said, he will use Hideki Matsui as a benchmark. Boras said he’s heard from Japanese sources that Matsui brings in $21 million per season for the Yankees in advertising and marketing, so he wasn’t blown away by the $51.1 million bid.

That’s bull. I don’t think anyone will be impressed by what Boras as heard. Put some numbers on the table and then that’s something impressive.

It looks like the Sox are trying to buck the trend of signing a Japanese players to three-year deals.

The Sox, meanwhile, likely will try to tie him up for five years, but at somewhere in the $12 million-$13 million range.

This makes a lot more sense—an average of $22 million/year over five years—but it’s still a lot more than I thought he would get.

Thanks to Baseball Musings for pointing me to the article.

Baseball Awards

Again, I find myself having to apologize for not posting. I actually had planned to be writing a lot this week, but a few things just fell in my lap. I’ve got a book review or two on the way, and I’m going to do some more season-in-review stuff soon. I promise.

So, for those of you who are checking in, I’m going to dole out my 2006 awards (see the Internet Baseball Awards at Baseball Prospectus).

NL
MVP: Albert Pujols – just ahead of Brandon Webb and Ryan Howard.
Cy Young: Brandon Webb – the second most valuable player in the majors.
ROY: Josh Johnson – edges out teammate Hanley Ramirez.
MOY: Tie, Everyone not named Joe Girardi – if you’re going to butt heads with your GM, make sure he’s not Larry Beinfest.
GMOY: Larry Beinfest – one of the best, who hasn’t gotten much credit for his work with a tiny budget.

AL
MVP: Travis Hafner – How good was Travis Hafner? So good that he beat out David Ortiz with 123 fewer plate appearances. And he didn’t even make the All-Star team.
Cy Young: Johan Santana – just edges out John Lackey.
ROY: Justin Verlander – the popular choice, Francisco Liriano, come in second.
MOY: Jim Leyland
GMOY: Tie, Terry Ryan and Mark Shapiro – Both put together good teams on small budgets. The Twins keep doing what they do. Cleveland played much better than their record. I’m looking out for a monster 2007 Indians squad.

The Southpaw

Jeff Merron is now writing for 108 Magazine, where he’s running The Southpaw blog. You may remember him from his extensive article on Leo Mazzone last year for ESPN.com.

With the passing of Syd Thrift last week, Jeff decided to publish his full interview with Thrift that he used in his profile of Mazzone. Thrift is the man responsible for ending Mazzone’s playing career and giving him his first coaching job. Here’s an except.

THRIFT: A lot of the pitching coaches try to get everybody to pitch the way they pitch. That’s the mistake they make.

JM: But they know Leo doesn’t do that, right, I mean Leo doesn’t keep anything secret?

THRIFT: No, no, no he’s wide open.

JM: So, if let’s say I were trying to become a pitching coach, I…

THRIFT: You’d go learn from him, wouldn’t you?

JM: What’s your favorite thing about Leo?

THRIFT: My favorite thing about Leo is that he’s a teacher. You know a teacher is sometimes a person who can take information and give it to another party. Sometimes though without even realizing what’s happening, you know? It just happens. And I think the main thing is, the reason he has great results is the players and the pitchers trust him. They trust him and they respect him.

Also, check out his discussion of Johnny Sain.

Wickman and Smoltz

In the past two days, the Braves made moves to keep two veterans on the roster for 2007. On Wednesday, the Braves announced the signing of Bob Wickman for $6.5 million. On Thursday, the Braves picked up Smoltz’s option that will pay him $8 million. Both moves have been hailed by the media and fans as great moves. The funny thing is, all this praise comes without the discussion of compensation. Though both of these pitchers have been excellent for the Braves, one of these deals is bad, the other good.

Bob Wickman is not worth $6.5 million, especially on a team that complains its budget is stretched. First, Wickman’s time in Atlanta is probably a poor indicator of how he’s going to pitch next year. So far, he’s thrown a grand total of 23 innings, all excellent. He should be commended for that, but his career performance indicates he’s not that good. In 2004 and 2005 he posted FIP ERAs of 4.37 and 4.53—that’s average— compared to his excellent 2.9 in 2006. What’s the big difference? Home runs—the least stable of the DIPS triumvirate—surrendering 1.28 per 9 innings in the previous two seasons compared to 0.34 in 2006. Both his strikeouts and walks are up, too. I’m scared.

Second, he’s neither young or in shape. Thank goodness the Braves only signed him for one year.

Third, I estimate that Roger Clemens is worth about $70,000 per inning pitched. If he pitched Wickman’s 2005 62 innings he’d have generated about $4.3 million for his team. Wickman isn’t as good as Roger, either. Of course, this may all change given the increased revenue flowing to owners. Once the free agents signings start, we may find out that these guys are worth a lot more money. In any event, I don’t think Schuerholz got a deal by signing him early.

Yeah, I understand that the Braves need a reliable reliever, but they need a lot of other things too. I don’t think this is the most efficient way to increase the teams difference in runs scored and runs allowed. So, once again I’ll be the dissenting Braves fan who doesn’t like the move. What do I know? I guess I’m just a stat-geek with a pocket protector.

Smoltz, on the other hand is a bargain. He’s getting older and will fall off some, but 200 innings of Smoltz-quality pitching is worth way more than $8 million—heck, that’s only $1.5 million more than Wickman. I value Smoltz at close to $14 million. It was certainly a no-brainer for the team to pick up the option. I suspect Smoltz knew that when he complained, but I think it’s more frustration with the management. There’s a lot of tension in that clubhouse, which isn’t surprising with a losing team.

Grading the Braves Pitchers

Here are my grades for pitchers. You do not receive extra points for being young, old clutch, or gutsy. Pitchers get one grade, even if they pitched both as a starter and reliever.

Starters: C-
John Smoltz: A
Tim Hudson: C
Chuck James: C
Horacio Ramirez: C
John Thomson: C
Kyle Davies: F
Jorge Sosa: F

John Smoltz is proving to everyone that Schuerholz was wrong to put him in the bullpen. You know that’s got to make him smile. What’s wrong with Huddy? The Braves just have to hope he rebounds, rather then pitching like Horacio Ramirez. Tim, that slot is taken. Chuck James pitched well for a rookie, but he’s got to limit the long balls. Kyle Davies isn’t ready; another case of the Braves rushing a youngster. John Thomson started off great, but then must have asked Tim Hudson for some advice, because he just collapsed. Couple his performance with his injuries and he’s looking at a tough year on the free agent market. Jorge Sosa, DIPS proponents thank you for making the point.

Relievers: C
Bob Wickman: A
Chad Poronto: B
Mike Remlinger: B
Macay McBride: B
Tyler Yates: C
Lance Cormier: C
Ken Ray: C
Kevin Barry: C
Oscar Villarreal: D
Chris Reitsma: F

I think the bullpen looks a little better than it was because when you blow the lead in the bottom of the ninth, the other team doesn’t keep batting. You couldn’t ask for anything more from Wickman. I wonder if anyone in Cleveland thinks he was slacking. Poronto had a career year; good for him. I thought Remlinger shouldn’t have made the team, but now think he shouldn’t have been cut. McBride turned his F-season around. If he keeps his walks down, he’ll be good. Tyler Yates, yuck. Lance Cormier, ehh. Ken Ray was a nice story, but he wasn’t very good. Kevin Barry: freed, but so what? The Vulture at one point was pitching almost as bad as Reitsma, but no one noticed because of it. He pitched nicely as a starter at the end of the year, but it’s not enough to make up for his atrocious first half. Closer material? I don’t think so. At least he stayed healthy. For Chris Reitsma’s sake, I hope his injury was responsible for his poor pitching.

Not Graded
Dany Baez
Blaine Boyer
Joey Devine
Wayne Franklin
Peter Moylan
Anthony Lerew
Jason Shiell
Travis Smith
Phil Stockman

As you can see, there is hope here. This Braves pitching staff was not good, but it could have been a lot worse. In fact, the difference in making the playoffs may have been Leo Mazzone. This is not to put down McDowell, either. Simply, the transition costs are large and I think that has reflected tough years for both McDowell and Mazzone. One thing that is clear is that Leo was not a problem, which the Braves P.R. machine was selling to anyone who wasn’t even listening. If Schuerholz valued the post-season streak, he should have ponied up the dough to keep Leo. For the price of Daryle Ward, he probably could have kept him. Oh well.

The good news is that if the Braves can get a few more arms, and find the real Tim Hudson, the team has enough bats to contend next year. Finding them is easier said than done, but the Braves are in a better position than a lot of teams. One thing I would advise against is re-signing Wickman. He was great for the Braves, but I don’t expect it to continue. It’s a great opportunity to overpay. Twenty innings is a small sample. Also, don’t get too excited about Mike Hampton coming back. He’s a C pitcher, and the team has enough of those. Blaine Boyer? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be excited about. 2005 was good in a very small sample. John Foster? He’s just not very good. Joey Devine? Who knows what this kid will be.

Is Oswalt Worth It?

Yesterday, Roy Oswalt signed a 5-year, $73 million deal with the Houston Astros, which averages out to $14.6 million per year. That’s quite a contract, and the obvious question is: “how much is Roy Oswalt worth?” Last year, I developed a method for valuing players based on player contributions to winning and what those wins translate into in terms of team revenue. It’s a method that I detail in my book, which will be out in March. Whenever I see a contract like this signed, I pull up the numbers to see what I’ve predicted he’s worth. In 2005, my model predicts that Oswalt was worth $14.9 million dollars, which is pretty darn close to his new annual salary. That made him eighth most valuable player in baseball that year, and only $50,000 less than Roger Clemens, who threw 30 fewer innings.

Oswalt has been consistent over the past three seasons, so I think it’s reasonable to expect him to continue at his current level of performance over the next few years. The bad news for the Astros is that they didn’t get a bargain. The good news is you get what you pay for, and Oswalt is pretty darn good.

Do Southpaws Get a Fair Shake in MLB? Part 2: Pitchers

My first attempt to look at the compensation of lefties in the big leagues focused solely on hitters. I found, contrary to findings in “the real world,” that lefty hitters earned about a quarter of a million dollars less than equally skilled right-handed batters. However, there are few problems with the analysis; the biggest one being that I only used hitting stats and lefties don’t play a few positions of high defensive importance. I can think of some ways to control for this, but all of them are a royal pain. Instead, let’s look at pitchers.

Just like in the analysis of hitters, I include only pure left and right-handed players—no switch hitters or players who throw and bat with opposite hands. I estimate the impact of pitching performance (estimated through strikeouts, walks, home runs, and innings pitched), age, and handedness on yearly salary for free agent eligible pitchers. I used two samples: more than 100 innings pitched and less than 100 but with a minimum of 30 innings pitched. This should roughly capture starters and relievers. I care less about that starter/reliever designation than I do about getting an adequate sample size.

The results are interesting. For the starters sample, lefties earn about $233,000 more than equally skilled right-handed pitchers. This fits with the findings from the general work force. Again, the relationship is not statistically significant, but it’s close, with a t-statistic of 1.55 (p-value of 0.12). This is about 7.5%, which is about half as large as the effect found in the general labor force. I find it interesting that you often hear left starters described as “crafty.” Maybe there is something to it. These guys are deceptive and smart, and have higher opportunity costs outside of baseball. I’d be curious to see the handedness of pitchers turned TV commentators, scouts, instructors, etc.

For relievers, the findings are nearly the mirror image, and the estimate is statistically significant. Southpaw relievers earn about $209,000 less than equally skilled right-handed pitchers, which is similar to what I found for position players. Hmm, maybe this has to do with LOOGY duties of lefty relievers. Because many left-handed relievers are used only against other lefties there are a lot of marginal pitchers who hang around. This may reduce the bargaining strength of each other because teams can just say, “look, if you don’t sign this contract I’m just going to bring up some random kid from triple-A or sign Mike Remlinger.” And because there are very few ROOGYs, marginal righties are more likely to find a real job if they are on the margin. OK folks, this is what is called a stretch, but it seems somewhat plausible.

I post the results below. Feel free to add comments.

Starters    
Var.	Coef.		T-stat
K9	$408,358	7.29
BB9    	-$294,948	-3.78
HR9    	-$865,822	-3.65
Age    	$371,375	1.59
Age2	-$4,417		-1.27
IP    	$8,410		5.37
Lefty	$230,654	1.57
R2    	0.47	
		
Relievers		
Var.	Coef.		T-stat
K9    	$219,657	6.92
BB9    	-$186,071	-3.74
HR9    	$269,649	1.81
Age    	$645,741	2.52
Age2	-$9,295		-2.43
IP    	$8,468		2.41
Lefty	-$209,337	-1.98
R2    	0.25
(Constant and year effects not reported)

Sabernomics in Sports Illustrated

Albert Chen mentions my Leo Mazzone study in this week’s Inside Baseball. You can read the first part for free, but you have to subscribe to read the rest.

In 2004 economist and sabermetrician J.C. Bradbury set out to dispel the legend of Leo Mazzone, the pitching coach hailed by many as baseball’s King Midas for his ability to transform journeyman pitchers into All-Stars and routinely roll out some of the best staffs in baseball. Seeking to use empirical evidence to prove that Mazzone’s success in 15 years with the Braves was merely anecdotal, Bradbury ran a study of every pitcher who worked with Mazzone in Atlanta. He was astonished by his findings: Working with Mazzone shaved .60 points off a pitcher’s projected ERA for that season.

Thanks to Albert for mentioning the study, and thanks to Brian for pointing me to the article.

Thoughts on Wickman

So the Braves traded for Bob Wickman yesterday… Eh.

When your bullpen is as bad as the Braves’s is, any help can seem like a good thing. But Wickman isn’t an oasis in the desert, he’s a dew drop on a leaf. Couple that with the fact that the Braves will pay him a guaranteed $2 million, possibly $3 million with games pitched incentives. He gets an $150K bonus for pitching 50, $250K for 55, and $300K each for hitting 60 and 65. So far, Wickman has pitched in 29 games, which puts him on a pace to throw about 50. However, given the state of the bullpen, I think Wickman may see a lot of action soon. Even Chad Poronto, who didn’t join the team until the second week of May, has appeared in 34 games. Remlinger appeared in 36. Why is a GM who puckered up so tightly during the offseason so willing to part with over $2 million for half a season of mediocre pitching?

John Schuerholz thinks highly of his new acquisition.

He’s a stud, and he’s a guy that’s been successful in that job year after year after year.

Wickman’s career year last year was a DIPS miracle. His 2.27 ERA was well below his FIP of 4.53. Remember Jorge Sosa? Many commentators have pointed out that Wickman’s been a bit unlucky this year with a 4.18 ERA. That’s true, his FIP is 3.65, which is slightly better than last year. But most of that is due to his only allowing one home run. I actually like guys who are stingy with the long ball; however, keeping balls in the park isn’t something Wickman is particularly good at. He’s allowed 1.27 HR9 the past two years. Not good. His strikeouts have fallen some this year too, but it’s hard to know what this means due to the small sample.

In addition to paying Wickman’s hefty salary the Braves also gave up the rights to Low-A prospect Max Ramirez. Ramirez has played well, but he’s still very low in the system. He probably should be a little higher, but the depth of the Braves system at catcher keeps him where he is. Some people have argued that it’s no loss for the Braves since they are so deep at catcher. If you own five Ferraris do you sell one for $100 when you determine that you have too many? I’m not saying Ramirez was a bad player for the Braves to give up, but a glut at a position doesn’t justify trading a player for discount price.

Wickman may pitch well in Atlanta, and I suspect he will make the pen better. But giving up a decent minor league prospect for an expensive half-year rental is something I’d have preferred the Braves didn’t do. I wish the Braves had saved the money for next year. Please oh please, don’t tell me the Braves are only 4.5 games out of the wild card. So what? I don’t see any reason to see this team rising above the other ten clubs still within reach.

Mazzone Homecoming

I’ve been looking forward to Friday for a long time: the O’s come to Atlanta for the first time since Leo Mazzone took his magic bag to Baltimore. I’d planned to go to at least one game, but it looks like I won’t make it. Since I published my study on Leo’s effectiveness last year at The Baseball Analysts, I was curious to see how he and Braves pitchers would do away from each other. The interesting development of Russ Ortiz making his first start under Mazzone against the Braves on Saturday is going to put Mazzone in the spotlight even more.

It’s very hard to get a sense of what has really happened since Mazzone left. For one, there’s the sample size issue. There are so many factors involved in ERA differences across teams, and ERA is a statistic that varies widely; this requires a larger sample than half-a-season. Second, the two teams play in different leagues with very different pitchers. Straight comparisons of ERAs would tell us very little even if we had an adequate sample.

One way to look at this is to compare the pitchers Leo coached last year on the Braves to their performances this year. I looked at this in this post, and found that those pitchers were doing considerably worse this year. Although, I didn’t look at the Orioles.

Another way to look at the issue is compare how the overall staffs of the O’s and Braves are doing this year versus last year. While both teams have experienced some turnover, there are many constants on both teams. So, here is a second way to look at the teams. The table shows the differences in ERAs between this season and last season, with a few corrections.

      		BAL    ATL    Difference
2006 (Raw)    	5.18    4.67    0.51
2006 (RC)    	4.96    4.37    0.59
2006 (LC)    	4.76    4.37    0.39
2005 (Raw)	4.57    3.99    0.58
2005 (LC) 	4.37  	3.99 	3.38
Difference    	0.37    0.38    -0.01

The first row is the raw ERA of both teams in 2006. The second subtracts the difference in runs between this year and last year, as both leagues are yielding more earned runs than last year. The third row corrects for the differences in ERA between leagues, by subtracting the average difference in ERAs between leagues from the Orioles (I could have added it to the Braves). The fourth row lists the 2005 ERAs of both clubs, and the fifth corrects for the difference between leagues. The last row reports the difference between the roughly-corrected 2006 ERAs to the 2005 (LC) ERAs.

As everybody knows, both clubs’ pitching staffs have not done well this year, and their fortunes have been quite similar. What does this show? I have no idea, probably not much at all. It’s likely that both clubs are struggling to adapt to new pitching coaches.

It’s also interesting to look at the ERAs over time. As of late the O’s and Braves have been moving in opposite directions.

Month	O's 	Braves
April 	5.54  	4.56
May 	5.54  	4.48
June 	4.43 	4.98

The O’s have done much better in June, but is this a random fluctuation or a sign of things to come? It’s interesting to note that back in April, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo suggested June as the time Mazzone’s influence would show.

All along Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo has tried to temper people’s expectations about Mazzone. He wouldn’t work miracles right away, warned Perlozzo, who believes that by June people will see tangible evidence of why Mazzone is considered the best pitching coach in baseball.

“I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” Perlozzo said. “Right now with many of the guys being away at the [World Baseball] Classic they’re learning on the job right now. You have certain habits you’re used to. And it takes practice. I think you’ll see [Mazzone’s effect] later on.”

Obviously, it’s too early to tell what is going on, but I watch with great anticipation.

Addendum: I’m going to link to stories discussing Mazzone’s return here. If you see others, I’d appreciate it if you would please pass them along.

MLB.com: Mazzone returns to roots vs. Braves

SI.com: Welcome back, Leo

AJC (Stinson): Mazzone Busy in Baltimore

Baltimore Sun: Mound of Difference

AJC (Moore): Mazzone Not Appreciated Enough