Putting Current Dollars to the Jayson Werth Contract. It Still Makes Sense

Jay Jaffe in Sports Illustrated is trying to figure out what the current batch of free agents are worth.  The first one he tackled was Jacoby Ellsbury.  Turns out he came up with 7 years and 126 million.  Does that sound familiar, it should, because that is the Jayson Werth contract figures.   There are some in the Washington DC and national media that are obsessed with the contract and repeat it dollar figure like it is attached to his name.  I decided to apply the same process to Werth and see if his contract works with an understanding of WAR dollar inflation, his last four years, and his projected next four.

Jaffe, uses a formula to determine contract values that involves the expected cost per win based on WAR.  Due to inflation, a win is worth 5.28 million this year and grows 5% every year.  One might argue that the new TV deal is going in increase the cost per win in the future, but in order to do this exercise you need to make some assumptions.

The next thing he does is anticipate a players baseline WAR which is a weighted WAR over the last four years.  Werth is really hard to figure out  because of his injury last year he only posted a .7 WAR also due to a ridiculously bad UZR fielding rating.  This obviously impacts his weighted average, but that is what happened, so I am rolling with it.  His WAR over the last fours years stacks up 4.9, 2.3, .7, and 4.6 this year.  This projects as a baseline of 3.03 WAR for next year.

The final piece is the expected decline in performance which is calculated to be a loss of .4 per year after the age of 30.  Lets see how this works out.  We are going to assume that he played way over his head this year and will crash down to a more realistic level next year for a player his age.

Age WAR Market Prod
33 4.6 $5.28 $24.29
34 3.0 $5.54 $16.82
35 2.6 $5.82 $15.34
36 2.2 $6.11 $13.66
37 1.8 $6.41 $11.77
Total 14.3 $81.87

The last piece of this puzzle is how much the Nats have committed to Werth and that is a 18 million a year average or 90 million.  So according to this calculation the team is overpaying him a little over 1.5 million a year based on the last five years of the contract.  Lets assume that he didn’t play that far over his head, the Jayson Werth of 2013 is the real deal.  The base year for his performance is this year and not an average of the last four because his first year with 2011 and 12 seasons were not very good representations of him over the last 8 or so years due to his injury and the struggles he had adjusting to his contract and new team.  If we just assume the 2013 season as his base season and a regressing of .4 from here on out the numbers look a little better.

Age WAR Market Prod
33 4.6 $5.28 $24.29
34 4.2 $5.54 $23.27
35 3.8 $5.82 $22.12
36 3.4 $6.11 $20.77
37 3 $6.41 $19.23
19 $109.68

Remember the Nats owe on average 90 million for the last five years of his contract and he looks to be a 20 million dollar player based on the market inflation per win.  Now, the truth is, we have no idea which numbers are right, but we do know that the 2013 season, has put him back on track to validate the faith Rizzo had in him 3 years ago.  Interestingly, this process of decreasing a players production by .4 a year would have actually never predicted Werth’s 4.6 WAR season in 2013.  According to the formula, he should have put up a 3.8 WAR this year.  By exceeding his projected WAR, he added value back to his contract, something he can do again by exceeding 3.4 this season.

One more point to add; the WAR $ market figure is an average.  A win for the Mets or Marlins doesn’t do much for their season.  A win for a competing team like the Nats could mean the difference between the playoffs or not.  This is another way of saying that a win for the Nats is worth a lot more that it is for a rebuilding or middling team.  One of the big criticisms about the Werth signing to begin with was the shock that a team like the Nats would dare sign a big free agent because they were not a winning team.  After two years of winning baseball, I think those types of criticisms are in the past.  Below is a marginal win curve developed of Nate Silver back in 06 when the cost of  a win was less.  What is clear to see is that the Nats are very much in the window of 82 to 90 wins where a win is worth a lot, and that is why the Werth signing still makes sense.

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MLB Network Names Denard Span’s Catch Against the Giants the 73rd Premier Play of the Year

MLB is now in their off-season programming mode, and one of those programs is to list the best plays of 2013.  Spans catch, which bailed Soriano from a blown save and won a game in August, made the list:

It was covered in detail on the MLB Network.  Not only did they include the Charlie and Dave’s broadcast on 106.7, but they included Harper reaction after the play just standing over Span and yelling.  Was this the play of the year for the Nats? It was a game saving play that required elite skill to accomplish. www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeFmmqaJQug

MLB included the interview with Julie where she alerts him to the impending Gatorade bath and he moves faster than he does off the crack of the bat:

Then they actually went to a special MLB 360 graphic where they looked at how far Span had to cover to make the catch.  That play got more attention than any play on the two hour special including the #1 play, Ortiz’s homer against the Tigers.

What make the catch extra cool is that it happened right in-front of the Natitude sign.  I am sure the special will be in continuous loop throughout the off season.

Also the LaRoche hot shot grounder against the Dodgers was 64 “That ball caught LaRoche”.  While the list looks like it was intended to be a countdown, the Span play looked to be strategically placed in the countdown as a tent pole in the first hour.

Review: Turner Field

My review of Turner Field is remarkably biased.   I am incapable of separating the stadium from the team I despise.  I despise the Braves for their shady scouting practices (ever wonder how Jayson Hayward slipped all the way to 14th in the draft), how poorly they represented the NL East in the playoffs, and how they are then biggest obstacle to a decade of Nationals domination.

Turner Field is a direct mirror to the city of Atlanta.  That is to say, very generic, little charm, and a terrible location. Coca Cola and Chick-fil-A billboards are everywhere and mediocre bar-b-q seems plentiful. Unlike virtually all successfully designed stadiums that integrate or define a new neighborhood, Turner Field is located in the middle of a parking lot near, not in downtown Atlanta. So far, attempts to develop the area around the stadium are mired in bureaucratic city planning nonsense (let’s build a ferris wheel or another convention hotel)

English: Turner Field - Atlanta Braves play he...English: Turner Field – Atlanta Braves play here – player memorial numbers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It appears there is some kind of informal dress code which goes as follows: Women:  Cut off jeans and cowboy boots, lots of makeup and an Upton Shirsy. (I couldn’t find anyone who was positive if they were wearing B.J. or Justin) Men:  Wear a shirt, untuck it, and never actually watch the game. Only watch the roughly 1000 TV positioned around the stadium and talk on your cell phone.

The stadium is just like every other stadium developed by Populous over the last two decades.  That is to say, it is sorta like Nats Park, but worse because it is filled with people rooting for the Braves.

755 club

A unique featuresof the park is Club 755, which my ticket gave me access to.  If Tuner Field is a great reflection of Atlanta, Club 755 is a fantastic reflection of Turner Field.  It is an upscale vodka bar type area accessed through the club section It allows you tonot watch the actual game in an air-conditioned environment.  There seems to be an obsession with Hank Aaron around the park, a player who played a majority of his games for a team (albeit the same franchise) in another city.  It seem like an over-correction to some previous franchise slight and ambivalence over his usurping Babe Ruth as the home run king in the 70s and a complete refusal to acknowledge Barry Bonds existence.

 club 755

The park appears to be an elaborate construct to sell Braves merchandise.  Every 50 feet there appears another kiosk to purchase your Chipper Jones doll or one of the various incarnation of their hideous hats.  All of this is more about growing the Braves brand and less about the on field product.

hats        big and tall

The Turner Field game day experience also has some remarkably annoying quirks.  The tomahawk chop is derivative of Florida State. The seventh inning stretch seems to be an homage to Baltimore Orioles seventh inning stretch. Thank God I’m A Country Boy is an already overplayed “tradition” in Baltimore, but at least the O’s have a folk tale to go with it.  The team mascot is simply ridiculous.  Homer (really) is a baseball head wearing a Braves uniform, you know exactly like Mr. Met.

mascot

The stadium is generic, the traditions are derivative, the fans are the worst.  The stadium is even named after a wealthy but obnoxious former owner. Come to think of it, the name fits.

field

Three Reasons the Nats Should Not Trade Denard Span

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Nats are listening to trade offers for Denard Span.

Now, this doesn’t mean the Nationals are going to trade him, or even that they want to trade him. This might be a smokescreen. After all, somebody leaked this story, and they did it for a reason.

1.  He was one of the most valuable players on the Nationals last year.

I don’t think most Nats fans understand what a good player Span was because, lets face it, he was 8th best hitting position player on the team.  That is another way of saying he was the worst hitting everyday player.  He did lead MLB in triples this year.  That has to be worth something right?

Span’s play in Center Field this year more than makes up for hitting.  Wins Above Replacement was invented for a guy like him.  WAR takes into account all aspects of a players game.  By using WAR, you get a much better picture of how good of an all around player Span is.  He had a WAR of 3.5, which means he had the forth best season on the team.  Every player contributes both on offense and defense.   If you combine his base running and hitting he was a little above the league average  of 0.0, but well above if you count his fielding.  He won the Wilson Defensive Player of the year for the Nationals. If you take Span out CF and don’t replace him with Carlos Gomez  you make the Nats pitching staff worse, that’s just math.  His ability to catch balls in the gap with as much grace as anyone in baseball, improves the Nats in ways that don’t necessarily show up on the score cards.

Name Offense Defense WAR
Ian Desmond 15.4 11.6 5
Jayson Worth 36 -9 4.6
Bryce Harper 22.6 -2.1 3.8
Denard Span 0.2 12.4 3.5
Ryan Zimmerman 20.7 -12.3 3

2.  He is one of the best Center Fielders in Baseball

If the Nats were to trade Span they would still need to fill the position.  Lets see how Span stacks up against the rest of baseball.  Here are the top 10 CF in baseball last year as per WAR.

Name WAR
Andrew McCutchen 8.2
Carlos Gomez 7.6
Jacoby Ellsbury 5.8
Shin-Soo Choo 5.2
Adam Jones 4.2
Coco Crisp 3.9
Denard Span 3.5
Brett Gardner 3.2
Desmond Jennings 3.2
Austin Jackson 3.1

Well, it turns out when you factor in Span’s Defense he is a top 7 CF in baseball.  Remind me again why we are even engaging in this “trade Span” speculation.  Of the other CF above him it just so happens that Ellsbury and Choo are free agents this off-season.  Ellsbury wants a huge contract (100 mil +) and Choo is not actually a CF, he is a corner outfielder that runs out to CF every inning (-17 UZR/150).  Anybody else in baseball would have actually made the Nats worse last year.

Span was also a finalist for the NL Gold Glove this year, but rightly lost to Gomez.  If he had been in the AL, advanced metrics say he would have been the best fielding CF in that league.

3.  He fits perfectly into the Nationals big picture

The Span trade was so good for the Nats for a couple of reasons.  He has a very reasonable contract for the skill set he provides. This year he is owed 6 mil and the team has an option to bring him back in 2015 for 9 mil.  To put that into perspective, Fangraph places his value at 17.6 million.

The second reason he fits into the team’s plan is the top position prospect in the Nats Organization in Brian Goodwin who is currently playing in AA.  He is probably a year or two away from contributing at the MLB level.  It seems like Rizzo knows what he is doing.

Let me shoot down right now some of the arguments  for trading him:

Span can’t his lefties:  He didn’t his lefties last year, but for his career that hasn’t been the case.  Even with his bad split this year he is a career .281 vs L and .284 vs R. Span has played 6 season in the Majors, he has a track record, and it is good.  2013 was his first year facing many of the NL pitchers.  He should be better in his second year in the league as his second half stats indicate.

Span isn’t a good lead off hitter: Span doesn’t have a great OBP for a lead off hitter, but in the second half of the year he was 3rd on the team behind Werth and Harper.  The whole lead off hitter thing is a little overblown.  The lead off hitter only is guaranteed to actually bat lead off in the first inning.  He is a good base runer (20 SB) not a disruptive force, but he also doesn’t make dumb mistakes either.  I think the Nats have been in search of a lead off hitter for 10 years, Span is the closest they have come to an actual one yet.

Finally, this team in a two year window with this current group of players.  It should be adding talent not trading it away.  Span’s skill set matches perfectly with Worth and Harper in the outfield.

This whole idea of trading Denard Span is simply foolish.

Three reasons the Nationals should trade Denard Span

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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported yesterday that the Nats are listening to trade offers for Denard Span.

Now, this doesn’t mean the Nationals are going to trade him, or even that they want to trade him. This might be a smokescreen. After all, somebody leaked this story, and they did it for a reason.

But assuming the Nationals actually are interested in trading Span, here are three reasons why it would be a good idea.

1. He can be replaced.

The Nationals have a highly rated centerfield prospect, Brian Goodwin, who just completed a full season in AA where he played solid defense and got on base at a .355 clip. Goodwin is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League where he is getting great reviews. Goodwin’s star is on the rise. Last week, I ranked him as the Nationals 11th most valuable player, ahead of Denard Span.

Surely, Goodwin has zero at bats above AA and he will likely face an adjustment to major league pitching. But defense is defense. He won’t struggle in centerfield. Considering Span’s biggest contribution to the Nationals is defense, it’s safe to say Span can be replaced. This leads to my second point…

2. Denard Span can’t hit lefties.

Span was brutal last season when facing left-handed pitchers, hitting .223 with a .278 OBP. He only had five extra base hits. Span’s numbers were far better against right-handers, but these splits are unacceptable, particularly for a player expected to bat leadoff.

Span’s 2013 numbers against lefties are below his career averages. Span might return to the mean next season. Perhaps his struggles can be attributed making an adjustment to National league pitching. But the Nationals don’t have time to wait. Span’s splits make him qualified to be a platoon player, not an everyday centerfielder. The Nats need an everyday centerfielder.

3. Now is the time to trade him.

Span has one more year on his contract with a team option for 2015 at $9 million. Span’s numbers in 2013 make it less likely the Nats will exercise that 2015 option. The Nats have many escalating salaries on their team. In 2015, Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond will be entering their final years of arbitration with lucrative contract extensions possible. Stephen Strasburg will enter his third year of arbitration. A $9 million salary may be too expensive for this team to swallow.

If this is indeed Span’s last year on the team, now is the time to trade him. Under the new free agent compensation rules, the Nationals wouldn’t get a draft pick if they simply let him go. It is better to trade a player too early than too late. The Nationals last season traded Michael Morse with one year left on his contract, netting a significant return including serviceable reliever Ian Krol and top prospect AJ Cole. If Span isn’t in the Nats long term plans, they should do it again. There are plenty of teams out there that need a centerfielder.

You know, teams that don’t have a Brian Goodwin waiting in the minors.

The Denard Span trade, in my opinion, wasn’t a failure, but it wasn’t a huge success either. Span played great defense, but he simply didn’t get on base enough. A player with no power like Span needs to get on base to be effective.

For fans like me tired of seeing him weakly ground out to second, a trade may not be a bad thing.

Why was Jayson Werth snubbed for the Silver Slugger

Jayson Werth was snubbed for the Silver Slugger award in 2013.  This is particularly egregious because based on wRC+, a stat which uses wOBA and adjusts to the park factors (more on that later) Jayson Werth was the 4th best  hitter in the MLB last year after Cabrera, Trout and Davis.  According to wOBA , probably the best overall stat to gauge offense production, Werth was the 2nd best hitter in the NL by .001 to Paul Goldschmidt, but once you factor in the games Goldschmidt played in Coors field Werth comes out a little better.

For the record the three outfield winners should have been Werth, McCutchen and Choo, but I have no problem with Cuddyer (the batting champion) winning because he was more than just a slap hitter, but Coors field pads his stat line. How did Jay Bruce get the award?  He wasn’t even the best outfield hitter on his own team?  I wouldn’t even have Bruce in the top 15, but the voters for the Silver Slugger did.

The reason why Bruce was on the list and Werth was snubbed is because of who votes on the award:

As determined by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball (MLB).

Jay Bruce led all NL outfielders in homers and RBI.  I can almost hear some of the more traditional managers and coaches looking at those easy to understand stat lines and filling out the ballot.  This is sad, because the Silver Slugger rules try to drive the voter to consider a more holistic approach to voting.  Here are the actual rules:

The Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Awards are the top offensive honor in Major League Baseball ®. Coaches and managers of Major League teams vote for the players they feel are the best offensive producers at each position in the field in both the American and National Leagues. They base their selections on a combination of offensive statistics including batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, as well as the coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value. Managers and coaches are not allowed to vote for players on their own team.

The rules actually go out of their way to not include the stat lines like HR and RBI when considering the winners.  So lets take the award at its word and compare the winner Jay Bruce vs Jayson Werth.

Name AVG OBP SLG
Jayson Werth 0.318 0.398 0.532
Jay Bruce 0.262 0.329 0.478

Please notice that using the Silver Slugger’s own selection criteria Bruce isn’t even in the same zip code as Werth.  There is no way anyone could look at those two lines and come away thinking that Bruce was the better hitter.  Which means that Bruce won the award on the final catch all “general impression of a player’s overall offensive value”.  The case for Bruce is that he played in virtually every game and racked up an impressive amount of “counting stats”.  Werth missed about a month of the season, thus Bruce had about 150 additional plate appearances and had slightly more hits and home runs and did have more doubles and RBI.

One thing that Bruce had going in his favor is his home run total, even though Werth had a better SLG average.  I am pretty sure that if Werth had Continue reading “Why was Jayson Werth snubbed for the Silver Slugger”