So, yeah, I'm supposed to be working on some "So what is..." posts for the Stat Glossary, but I don't really work here, so I'll get to it in my own sweeet time. And, yes, I should really be working on, you know, work, but whatever.
Anyway, I recently did an article at Driveline Mechanics (where I actually "work") ostensibly about how good the 2009 Oakland As' rotation is projected to be. Given recent discussions here about newer stats as well as comparing the As and the Royals in 2009.
This isn't the first time I've done something like this, but (I ope) I've learned a lot since my conversions of the Bill James Projections, I hope, and we now have the numbers in from the best projection systems: Sean Smith's CHONE, Dan Szymborski's ZiPS, and Nate Silver's PECOTA. So, using FIP as my go-to stat for the sake of this post, let's see what the projection systems say. Who knows, maybe this can get the horse trotting towards revising our initial projection (based primarily on CHONE).
If you want to read all about the metholody in-depth, check out the first part of my post at Driveline. In short, here are some "highlights":
- I use Baseball Prospectus' playing time estimates. No, they aren't perfect, but the ones for the Royals actually are pretty close to our own earlier community projection, anyway, and we can avoid "fan bias," at least.
- I not use Pythagorean win% against league average performance to determine replacement level. .500 is average, obviously. For starters, replacement level is generally .380.
- Replacement level is adjusted for the superior talent in the AL. For starters in the Al, replacement level is .370.
- Projected League Average ERA for 2009 is 4.45, derived by way of a weighted average (I think it may be a bit better than that, but the numbers say what they will).
- When calculating WAR, (crude) adjustments are made to be on a RA rather than ERA scale to be more accurate and make sure that pitchers aren't undervalued vis-a-vis position players.
- Furthermore, runs-to-wins conversion is "customized" for each pitcher since they set up their own run environment, this accounts for each run be more/less valuable for good or bad pitchers.
Remember -- these aren't my playing time or FIP projections, PT is from Baseball Prospectus, and the FIP is the average of the FIP posted at FanGraphs for CHONE and ZiPS, and the FIP I calculated from the PECOTA spreadsheet... so away we go. "RAR" is Runs Above Replacement; "WAR" is Wins Above Replacement.
Not too many surprises here. Yes, we can argue about Zack/ch/qq if we want, but remember that projections regress towards the mean. Meche and Greinke come off as good #2 pitchers who are also very durable. After that, well, like we thought, Bannister, Davies, and Hochevar all look like #4 pitchers in 2009 to the projection systems (CHONE and ZiPS being exactly the same re: Davies and Hochevar is sort of a funny coincidence).
What's up with Ho-Ram? He looks like a kick-ass deal all of the sudden, a #3 starter at a #5 price... well, the numbers are what they are, but I can't help but think they're a bit influenced by this time in 'pen last season. So I also listed a "Ho-Ram," where I added 1 to his FIP. Hey, I know it's speculative, and it would be awesoe if he was as good as the raw numbers in the projections suggest -- he'd better get more than 60 innings then, and much faith in Dayton Moore would be restored. Here's hoping, but hope in one hand...
So how does it all add up? I'll leave Ho-Ram's numbers unaltered here so that we can all feel good about it and I don't seem like the biased jerk that I really am.
[NB: All dollar values are millions. I've taken the dollar value of each WAR in 2009 to be $4.62 million on the basis of Colin Wyers' finding that the cost was $4.2 million in 2008 and assuming the general 10% annual inflation of that salary + $0.4 M replacement player salary. It seems too early to say for sure how to adjust for the new economic climate, and it's better to adjust too little than too much... Note also that this just notes the value of the contracts as if they were free agent contracts. to correctly get a read on how "good" they are, we need to take into account which are signed pre-FA or pre-arb, which reduces their value. I had to guess at some, like Ducky's and Rosa's.]
12.4 Wins Above Replacement, or ~$60M of performance for ~$23M. $37.4M. Not bad. Keep in mind that most of those contracts are pre-FA or pre-arb, of course. No, you probably don't care about David Glass's wallet, and I don't either. But as I said else where, the real currency of baseball isn't pitching. It isn't outs. It isn't runs. It isn't even wins, although that's the closest. The real currency of baseball is currency. That's how you buy runs and wins.
How about a little comparison between the As and Royals? Believe it or not, Dana Eveland has the best projected FIP (3.82) of all the pitchers, and the highest win% (.569). Greinke is second, then Justin Duchsherer, then Ol' Gil. On the other hand, playing time matters, and Meche and Greinke are projected to have more innings pitched. Sean Gallagher is projected as perfectly league average, and better overall than anyone else in the Royals rotation except if Ho-Ram is Super-Ho-Ram and gets a bunch of innings.
The Royals get the overall nod, though, with 12.4 projected WAR for 2009, compared to the As 11.7. Almost a win... but the Royals are paying $23M for all of those pitchers, while the As are paying about $7M. The Royals have better players (barely, and counting on Ho-Ram being very un-HoRamlike), but the As are paying a lot less. For better or worse (and I don't think the Royals are overspending on their starters overall), that's what the concept of "Moneyball" is all about.