The Gray Pages

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Real salary costs

The Boston Globe has a graphic that shows what I've been trying to say for years: the difference in the Red Sox' and Yankees' payroll isn't merely salaries.

Here's how it breaks down:
Payroll: $135 million
Revenue sharing: $42 million
Luxury tax: $3 million
Total: $180 million

New York Yankees
Payroll: $207 million
Revenue sharing: $63 million
Luxury tax: $25 million
Total: $295 million

Difference: $115 million. Difference without revenue sharing: $94 million.

I separate out the revenue sharing, because I consider payroll and the luxury tax on that payroll to be something of a choice. That difference of $94 million is greater than the entire payrolls of all but 5 teams -- the Yankees, Boston, the Mets, Philadelphia, and Los Anaheim. A simple cardinal ranking of payrolls -- showing NYY first and BOS second -- is highly deceptive. The Sox spend $17 million more (on salaries alone) than the Mets.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

No, they can't take that away from me

I was rooting for the Spurs to win Game Three and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.


With Bobby Crosby back, and Eric Chavez hitting, this is suddenly not a bad team. Too little, too late? Only time will tell. I'm Bart Simpson.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Again with the Yankees

Tom Verducci: "By now it should be obvious that the guy can't hit, especially for extra bases, and he has no business taking up a roster spot, so it's time for the Yankees to consider his inflated salary as sunk money and just release him. And come to think of it, the same could be said for Jason Giambi.

"The albatross is Tony Womack."

And, then, on Giambi:

"Yes, but Giambi still gets on base, you say. The man has a .383 OBP, after all! Chill out. Giambi is the embodiment of the foolishness of putting your faith in one statistic. His OBP is hugely devalued by his inability to run or to hit for extra bases. "

More on the Empire

Bruce Markusen write a thoughtful version of my previous post at

He has five suggestions: (1) trading for a centerfielder, (2) putting Bernie Williams at DH every day, (3) platooing at 1B with some guy I've never heard of, (4) benching Tony Womack, and (5) Randy Johnson returning to form.

I think the most interesting of these is the benching of Giambi. I look at Roid-Boy's stats and the thing that jumps out at me is the OBP -- .383 as of this writing (and .425 in 22 home games). I'm not saying he's a complete player, but that OBP is better than David Ortiz and Raphael Palmeiro (and Carl Everett, Erubiel Durazo, and Ruben Sierra). One stat does not tell the whole story, of course. He hits so rarely and with so little power that he's dead last in slugging percentage among that same peer group of AL DH's.

So, I'd figure that there's a place for him -- but Markusen disagrees, noting that without any speed, it takes three hits (or presumably a homerun) to knock Giambi home when he does reach base. This all makes sense, and I think it highlights the importance of not overestimating OBP as the end-all-be-all of statistics, something that I'm often guilty of.

Monday, June 13, 2005

If I ran the Yankees (and actually wanted them to succeed)

Catcher: Posada three out of four games, never on day games after night games. Cut Flaherty and depend on the backstop the rest of the time.

First base: Tino Martinez against righties, Jason Giambi against lefties. Pinch runners and defensive replacements made after the 7th inning, no exceptions

Second base: Robinson Cano against righties; Rey Sanchez against lefties and allow the pitchers to bat for him.

Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez

Third base: Alex Rodriguez

Left field: Matsui

Center field: Derek Jeter

Right field: Gary Sheffield

This is impossible. Which is why I'm so glad that some guy wrote this piece. It's not merely that the Yankees are expensive -- the $205 million often cited for their payroll ignores the $40 million in luxury taxes that they're paying. It's that their entire roster is so inflexible. I'm a big believer in using the DH to give full-time players a lighter day now and then, but Giambi, Sierra, and Williams are basically full-time DHs. And Tino Martinez is no spring chicken, either. He'd be the perfect DH/1B, but New York already has three of those.

As the Red Sox and Nationals look to the trading deadline, they have to see in the Yankees a worst-case scenario of what depending on old, "proven" players can provide. Shorter contracts are better than long ones. 26-year olds are better than 36-year olds. And if the Sox have to take a year off because Schilling never heals, then I'm more than happy to wait until next year when the entire infield (except Edgar Renteria) might turn over and we'll have Hanley Ramirez at third, Dustin Pedrodia (however he spells it) at second, and Kevin Youkilis at first.

Though they really need to be playing Youk now.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Miguel Cabrera ...

... was hit in the face by a pitch in the top of the 6th on Sunday's (June 5) game. John Valentin, one of my favorite Red Sox, was hit in the head by a pitch in 1995, and was never the same player again. I hope Cabrera recovers, but his at bats since have left him hitless.

Sunday, top 9: strikeout
Tuesday: Fly out, Fly out, Strike out, Strike out
Wednesday: Walk, Fly out, Pop out, Line out

Eight plate appearances, one walk, no hits, three strikeouts.

It's something I'm keeping an eye on.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Why are the Nationals good? A look at the offense.

I've spent a good percentage of the time on this blog making predictions, but very little analysis (or anything else for that matter). I started the year assuming that the Nationals would finish in last place, and recently revised that to say that they'd finish fourth. And, really, even that was my way of saying that they'd be in the second-tier jumble of the NL East behind Florida and Atlanta with New York (N) and Philadelphia.

Now, after taking three of four from the Braves, I have to admit that this isn't a bad team. In fact, it might actually be a good team. The Marlins now come to RFK, having lost three of four to the Pirates (oddly, the Marlins never win in Pittsburgh). Trailing the division-leading Marlins/Braves by only 1.5 games, it's actually possible that the Nationals will be in first place by the time I leave Sunday's game.

How did this happen?

First, it's important to realize that the Nationals have been somewhat lucky. Bill James, quite a while ago, came up with a predictive model of how many wins a team should have based on its runs scored and runs allowed. It makes sense. You win individual games by scoring more runs than your opponents, so you ought to have a higher winning percentage -- over the course of a season -- by outscoring your opponents, too. The Nationals have scored 217 runs and allowed 235, so it would be reasonable for them to have lost more than they've won instead of their two-games-over-.500 record. (Even these models have admitted that other factors play into record, so there's a margin of error of about five games by the end of the year.)

Under James's model, the Nationals could be expected to have a won-loss record of 25-29 right now instead of 28-26. Even at that pace, the Nationals would be a 75-win team. Not bad. Not bad at all.

When I look at the team's success versus what I had expected, I look at the players that have been better that I thought. Four players have carried the bulk of the offense: Nick Johnson, Jose Guillen, Brad Wilkerson, and Vinnie Castilla.

Runs Created is a monster of a stat that I don't understand but always seems to do a good job highlighting the offensive talents of a player in one number. Basically, it says that the total number of bases a batter accumulates make him good. Here's the formula:
[(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times (Total bases + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF))

So, have Nick Johnson, Jose Guillen, Brad Wilkerson, and Vinnie Castilla been better than I thought?

Nick Johnson (Age 26)
Career: BA: .267; SLG: .435; OBP: .383
2005:. . . ..333; . . ..529; . . ..442

Jose Guillen (29)
Career: .276, .447, .323
2005: . .299, .523, .333

Brad Wilkerson (28)
Career: .261, .466, .369
2005: . .281, .453, .359

Vinnie Castilla (37)
Career: .280, .488, .325
2005: . .287, .448, .358

Now, I think it's reasonable that Johnson would get better this year -- most players peak at 27 or 28 and maintain that level for a couple seasons. But not this much better. He's been hampered by injuries throughout his career, so maybe this is the player he really is. Let's hope so. Guillen is having similar improvements, but I think he's also playing over his head just a bit. Wilkerson is doing what you'd expect. Vinnie Castilla has been a huge surprise. This is a great season for a player at age 37. Plus, his career batting numbers have been aided by Coors Field. I thought he'd be terrible. Yet, among National League third basemen (his peer group, no?), Castilla is seventh in runs created. Perfectly average. I'm stunned.