Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Player Valuation

Joe Sheehan had a great column yesterday about all the goings on with the hot stove season thus far. In it he provides a really good assessment of what we've seen from teams in terms of player valuation:
I keep coming back to the trend line of the last few offseasons. The
industry is getting smarter, valuing things that matter—expected on-field
performance, applied skills, proper evaluation—over a knee-jerk preference for
experience. Teams are coming around to the idea, first expressed by Bill James
in the 1980s, that talent in baseball is not normally distributed, that for
every great player there are multiple above-average ones, and for every
above-average one many average ones. There’s no reason to pay extra money for
average performance, and the vast majority of players are at that level or
below. The majority of baseball players, even major leaguers, are fungible. If
you pay $4 million each for three players who will produce $2 million worth of
value, you’ve wasted six million that could be better spent on high-impact
players. The key mistake that continues to be made—and we’ve seen it with
Kendall and the Royals, Ivan Rodriguez and the Nationals, Brandon Lyon and the
Astros—is money wasted in dribs and drabs on players who are fungible by teams
that have no reason to chase wins.

This is an important concept when we're talking about moves for the Orioles. Yes, the Orioles could overpay a bit to lure Carlos Delgado or Nick Johnson for two or three years, but that ties up money that could be better spent on legitimate long-term solutions or contract extensions for players like Matt Wieters or Adam Jones. That's one reason I like the Millwood deal; it involves no commitment beyond 2010, and thus has no effect on whether the Orioles could pursue a top talent for the corners or the starting rotation. I know there are lots of non-believers out there, but the difference between the Orioles under MacPhail and the club under Flanagan is night and day.

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