May 2006

All the Money in the World

Roger Clemens has made some $120 million in MLB salary alone over the course of his career, which is plenty much to spend, but apparently not enough to turn down another $9-12 million to take a late summer swing.

Yeah, I know. You’d take it, too. No blame.

Of course, the question with the Rocket isn’t whether you or I would take the dough to pitch in the big leagues for a few months– most of us would carry his bags for free. But rather, if you ran the roster, would bucking up so much for Clemens really be prudent? Is he still worth it– for half a season, no less?

First– some perspective. The highest-paid pitchers in baseball are the Yankees Mike Mussina ($19 MM), Houston’s Andy Pettitte ($16.43 MM), and the Yankees’ Randy Johnson ($15.66 MM). Even at the rumored low-end, Clemens’ extrapolated salary ($18-24 MM) figures to rival them all.

More importantly, Clemens’ take far outpaces the value of baseball’s top pitching performers this season. In dollar terms, PROTRADE’s Moneyball Player Valuation System ranks Tom Glavine of the Mets ($16.74 MM), Mussina ($15.48 MM), Toronto’s Roy Halladay ($14.18 MM), Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir ($13.93 MM) and Chicago’s Jose Contreras ($13.48 MM) as the top contributing pitchers in the majors.

The most valuable player in baseball this season has been St. Louis’ Albert Pujols ($32.68 MM). In fact, the performances of only Pujols and Colorado’s surging Brad Hawpe ($25.81 MM) have been better than the top of Clemens’ proposed salary range.

So does this mean the 43 year-old pitcher wouldn’t be worth the dough? Not exactly.

Consider that Clemens is reportedly expected to take the mound for the first time again in early July. Over the second half of the regular season, he’ll get 15 or so starts over about 75 games for the Astros, Rangers, Yankees, or Red Sox– whomever happens to woo his favor.

Last year, Clemens averaged 1.63 Moneyball Runs per game over his first 15 appearances, equal to $15.10 million in Moneyball Salary if he kept up the pace. Even at the low end, he’d be overpaid.

But the Rocket isn’t coming to play in the dog days of summer. He’s eyeing crunch time, when everyone wants Clemens on the mound and when, he has traditionally played his best.

To be sure, last season he averaged 1.95 Moneyball Runs from starts 16-21, which would correspond with the postseason this time around. That’s equal to $17.54 million in Moneyball Salary, which means the buyer is still overpaying but they’re getting closer.

And that’s the real point, isn’t it?

In measuring what a player should earn based on his performance, we’re taking a mechanical view of worth. This is hugely valuable if you’re evaluating 99% of MLB players in long-term team situations. But in this case of Roger Clemens, a future Hall-of-Famer who can lift a contender over the hump here-and-now, his presence is… well… priceless.

What would Houston or Texas pay to win their first-ever World Championship? Pick a number, any number. That’s what Roger Clemens is really worth, even if he only comes around again for a autumn bow.

And I know he’s worth nothing to me as his place on a Red Sox roster would just taint our second World Championship in 88 years…

Altitude Sickness

Humidity makes baseballs moist and heavy. That’s the drill in Colorado, according to published reports, where the Rockies stick them in a humidor, vying to keep hits in Coors Field, the ball park once notorious for its batter-friendiness.

To be sure, the reputation was warranted.

As measured in total combined runs scored per game, Coors topped the majors in three of the past four seasons, placing second to Texas in the other. Teams averaged some 12 runs per in the high-altitude venue, where the ball is widely-believed to travel 8-10% farther.

We even accounted for the hit-happiness of Coors in devising PROTRADE’s Moneyball scoring system, ratcheting up run-scoring expectations for any situation playing out in Colorado. The net over nine innings is significant– 2.25 runs extra, when compared to a “normal” ballpark.

The question this year is how and why Colorado suddenly became so “normal” itself. Teams are averaging a measly 8.85 runs at Coors so far this 2006. Only the Yankees, White Sox, Twins, Tigers, and Royals home fields have been stingier.

So how has Coors suddenly gone from worst to close to first?

“People don’t want to accept the fact that maybe we’re pitching better,” explained Colorado’s Jason Jennings to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

It figures that Jennings, whose 4.94 ERA this year has been a hint better than his career 5.02, would give credit to himself and the Rockies staff. No major leaguer would readily admit that their success is thanks to a crafty team equipment guy.

Colorado started using the humidor in 2002, and the team saw 12.21 runs scored per game at its new field. That number has stayed relatively constant since, jumping from 11.94 to 12.69 to 11.09.

At less than nine runs, 2006 is, so far, a major anomaly.

Then again, so has been the Rockies performance across the board. Their team ERA is 4.35– a world better than their last two woeful seasons (5.13 & 5.54), over which they managed 67 and 68 wins, respectively.

At 22-19, Colorado is on pace to win 88 this year.

For a franchise that hasn’t cracked .500 in six years and hasn’t sniffed the postseason in a decade, it’s only natural that such new-found success would be met with conspiracy theories. It always pays to be skeptical, but this Mile High mystery isn’t quite ready for Rod Serling.

Say It Ain’t So, Wily Mo

Red Sox Manager Terry Francona says that while CF Wily Mo Pena hastrouble with the glove, he more than makes up for it with his bat.

"He’s not a prototypical centerfielder," Francona said when asked how
Pena would fill the void left by injured starter Coco Crisp. "I do think
his offensive production will outweigh the tough chances in center
field."

Francona didn’t say anything about horseshoes, as he might not be aware
that his husky outfielder has been the luckiest hitter in baseball this
season. Hitting .308, PROTRADE’s Moneyball Valuation system says he
should be hitting just .173.

Keep in mind that playing in Fenway puts Pena in the best position to be
"lucky" as 350 yard fly balls to left aren’t hits in many other parks
but clearly the Sox will need Pena to step up his performance even more.

Last week, we showed you how fans can figure out which players really
should be feeling lucky. Here’s our second installment of PROTRADE’s
lucky/unlucky Top Ten.

PROTRADE’s Lucky Ten
  Player PT AVG   AVG 
1 Wily Mo Pena (BOS) .173 .308
2 John Rodriguez (STL) .292 .380
3 Trot Nixon (BOS) .224 .307
4 Ben Broussard (CLE) .328 .400
5 Hanley Ramirez (FLA) .244 .315
6 Willy Taveras (HOU) .216 .286
7 Eric Hinske (TOR) .245 .311
8 Willie Bloomquist (SEA) .261 .327
9 Omar Infante (DET) .212 .268
10 Gerald Laird (TEX) .269 .325
 
PROTRADE’s Unlucky Ten
  Player PT AVG   AVG 
1 Aubrey Huff (TB) .263 .156
2 Yadier Molina (STL) .265 .165
3 Edgardo Alfonzo (LAA) .208 .114
4 Barry Bonds (SF) .329 .236
5 Juan Uribe (CWS) .267 .178
6 Tony Clark (ARI) .236 .149
7 Eric Young (SD) .295 .209
8 Russell Branyan (TB) .262 .179
9 David Bell (PHI) .330 .252
10 Luis Matos (BAL) .196 .119
 

Meet baseball’s $36 million man

What’s a player really worth?

Stuck with traditional statistics, that depends upon how you feel. Are homers the key? How about hits? Is batting average most important of all? Should pitchers be judged on ERA? Or is all about wins?

They’re all great questions that, posed to your average fan, will result in an inevitable range of subjective answers. We value different skills– and, accordingly, different players–for different reasons, none of which have quite everything to do with winning, and all of which should be consumed only with a healthy dose of dollars-and-cents perspective.

Regular readers and active traders know how PROTRADE’s Moneyball Valuation System offers clarity, objectively measuring a player’s total game. But in sports, better performance means more dollars. That’s why last week, we started calculating MLB Moneyball Salaries, converting those performance ratings into cold, hard currency.

Yankees SS Derek Jeter is hitting .339 this season, playing like a $5 million per year major-league superstar. Problem is, he’s actually a $20.6 million per-year major-league superstar. He’s been good this season, but not good enough to earn his considerable keep.

Meanwhile, $20.4 million per-year Bronx superstar Jason Giambi is outplaying his pay grade. PROTRADE values his season-to-date performance (extrapolated through 162 games) at $25.6 million.

Yankees P Mike Mussina is just about earning his $19 million per-year salary, exactly. And newbie CF Johnny Damon– he’s been worth about $18 million thus far, $5 million better than the $13 million Boston wouldn’t pay.

In rejecting Damon’s hefty salary demands, the Red Sox proved the point that even "big market," wealthy teams care deeply about value. Boston could have afforded the All-Star, and he might have even proved a better CF option than anyone the team might recruit to fill his void. But at $13 million per-year, they made the decision that Damon wasn’t worth it.

Browse our Moneyball numbers, position-by-position, and it isn’t hard to see why. Among CF, only the Mets’ Carlos Beltran ($13.6 million), the Braves’ Andruw Jones ($13.5 million), and the Cards’ Jim Edmonds ($12.1 million) earn in that range. This season, Beltran ($16.8 million Moneyball Salary) and Jones ($15.4 million) are outperforming their salaries. But Edmonds–  he’s playing at but a $2 million clip.

1B Albert Pujols is more than making up for his St. Louis teammate. The slugger is performing at a $36 million pace– tops in baseball and enough to make him, at $14 million per-year in contract salary, one of the league’s five most underpaid players.

Who are the others? How about overpaid? On your team? Check out our Moneyball  section today, and root and cheer with perspective.

Feeling lucky?

Chicago White Sox SS Juan Uribe is in an early-season hitting slump, spending much of April below the proveribal Mendoza Line before wrapping the month at a sub-Mark Belanger-esque .167.

Would you believe Uribe if he gave the excuse that he’s been just plain unlucky?

Would you believe me?

Because baseball is a game of inches. And because here at PROTRADE we’ve mapped every one of them, charting every batted ball in the majors over the past four years, calculating the probability that given their direction and distance, they become hits, I can quantify and confirm what Uribe is feeling.

Indeed Juan, you’ve been unlucky.

That’s unlucky, as in considering the balls he’s hit how they turn out in the majors on average, Uribe should be hitting more than 100 points higher– or .277.

At least he doesn’t suffer alone: The Angels’ Edgardo Alfonzo, Padres’ Eric Young, Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, and A’s Mark Ellis all also ended April below .200.

On the flipside, Boston’s Manny Ramirez, Arizona’s Chris Snyder, and Houston’s Willy Taveras should all be hitting below .200 but aren’t. Perhaps they did good works in the off-season.

Look to this space throughout the season for weekly PROTRADE’s Lucky/Unlucky updates. And if you see Jim Tracy, ask him what Freddy Sanchez needs to do to crack that Pittsburgh lineup.

PROTRADE’s Unlucky Ten

Player BA PT BA
1- Edgardo Alfonzo (LAA) .125 .287
2- Barry Bonds  (SF) .250 .396
3- Juan Uribe (CWS) .167 .277
4- Eric Young  (SD) .176 .286
5- Freddy Sanchez (PIT) .352 .458
6- Eduardo Perez (CLE) .300 .403
7- Yadier Molina (STL) .149 .245
8- David Bell (PHI) .247 .334
9- Albert Pujols (STL) .329 .416
10- Mark Ellis (OAK) .185 .269

PROTRADE’s Lucky Ten

Player BA PT BA
1 -Brad Ausmus (HOU) .358 .229
2- John Rodriguez (STL) .424 .302
3- Mark Bellhorn (SD) .316 .193
4- Chris Burke (HOU) .400 .278
5- Prince Fielder (MIL) .343 .236
6- Chris Snyder (ARI) .273 .171
7- Willy Taveras (HOU) .265 .170
8- Kevin Youkilis (BOS) .293 .200
9- Manny Ramirez (BOS) .289 .198
10- Trot Nixon (BOS) .303 .218 

Keep score… like a financier

Would you invest with a money manager who likes Microsoft shares because Bill Gates is a friend? How about a Texo-centric fund that buys Dell because it’s homegrown? Or a St. Louis short seller who fades Tribune Corp. because it owns the Cubs– and he bleeds Cardinals red?

Of course you wouldn’t.

That we don’t have such choices when it comes to growing our investment portfolios is a testament to the fact that the market rewards, and thus attracts, objective decision-making. When real money is an end, emotion-soaked stock picking has a short shelf life.

So what does this have to do with baseball?

Here at PROTRADE, our goal has been to develop a useful alternative to the reigning subjectivity that dominates questions of sport. Who’s the most talented hitter or baserunner? The worst third baseman? The best pitcher in baseball?

Truth-seeking sports fans that we are, we weren’t finding the answers in grudge-laden, know-it-all commentary or the endless breadth of traditional baseball statistic-ry. Lies and **** lies notwithstanding, when it came to baseball analysis, we found it virtually impossible to get to black and white.

Then we remembered the market.

Centered around hard dollars and cents that lead to genuine return, markets speak truth plainly and clearly. If baseball is built around runs leading to wins, why cannot they do the same for America’s Favorite Pastime?

At PROTRADE, we figured that supply and demand could generate sincerity. With this in mind, our one-of-a-kind "marketplace" of professional athletes is built to resemble a trading pit.

Hunting for their own "returns" in our competitive challenges, PROTRADE members buy and sell player "shares" across multiple leagues, including MLB, weighing in on the reigning debate, if with real consequences.

Wondering who’s really hot or not in the majors? Check out our daily trading volumes. Want to analyze a particular player? Go to PROTRADE and study his chart. Think you can see the future? Build your own player portfolio and prove yourself right.

Or wrong. Not that you’ll be worse off for the experience.

Markets speak truth, and the truth sets us free. Even in sports.