Saturday, February 28, 2009

Arbitration Wrap-up – 2009 (A Guest Post By Bill Gilbert)

Bill Gilbert has been involved in arbitration hearings and is the president of the South Texas chapter of SABR (aka the Rogers Hornsby chapter)

In 2009, 111 players filed for salary arbitration. Before players and clubs exchanged figures on January 20, sixty five of these players had agreed to contracts with their clubs. Of the remaining 46 players only three players actually went to an arbitration hearing, tying the low point set in 2005.

(editors note: the third column shows what the player wanted in $1,000s and the next column shows what the club offered)

It was the first time that the majority of the decisions went in favor of the players since 1996. Since the first hearings were held in 1974, the clubs have won on 280 occasions and the players have prevailed 207 times.

By my count, here is the breakdown of the 111 cases.

93 players signed one-year contracts

15 players signed multi-year contracts.

3 players had their salary determined at an arbitration hearing.

There are two situations where arbitration can come into play. By far the most common is the one involving players, under control of their clubs, with 3 to 6 years of major league service (MLS), plus the 17% most senior MLS-2 players, referred to as “super twos”. Of the 111 players who filed this year, 109 were in this category.

The other situation involves free agents. When a player with 6 or more years of major league service files for free agency, his club has the option of offering arbitration. A club must offer arbitration in order to get compensation in the form of draft picks if the player signs with another club. If the player accepts arbitration, he is no longer considered a free agent and he becomes bound to that club. If a player refuses arbitration, as most players do, he is a free agent who can sign with any club including the one he played for last year. Of the 24 free agents who were offered arbitration this year, the only two that accepted were Darren Oliver of the Los Angeles Angels and David Weathers of Cincinnati.

With the economic uncertainties this year, the market was more difficult to read. A number of free agents, such as Jason Varitek of Boston, Orlando Hudson of Arizona, Orlando Cabrera of the Chicago White Sox and Jon Garland of the Los Angeles Angels would have fared much better if they had accepted arbitration. Clubs also had difficult decisions to make and recognized that in a declining market, some players would likely be paid much more in the arbitration process than their market value. This led to non-tendering arbitration eligible players like Ty Wigginton of Houston, Willy Taveras of Colorado, Takashi Saito of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tim Redding of Washington.

The arbitration process is designed to promote a settlement at a salary in line with that of other players with comparable performance and service time. Players eligible for arbitration for the first time receive a large increase in salary since they have no leverage in their pre-arbitration years when their salaries are under control of the clubs. Players who have been through the process before also generally receive salary increases depending on their performance in the preceding year.

Players that settle prior to hearings are frequently able to include performance bonuses, based on playing time, and awards bonuses in their contracts.

The big winners in the arbitration process this year were Nick Markakis of Baltimore and Ryan Howard of Philadelphia. Markakis, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, signed a six year contract for $66.1 million, which carries him through 3 years of arbitration eligibility and 3 years of free agency. Howard, who won at a hearing in 2008, received a three year contract for $54 million which takes him through his arbitration years.

The relatively quiet arbitration season this year suggest that the system is working as designed in achieving benefits for both sides. Players with 3 to 6 years of major league service receive salaries that are influenced by their market value and Clubs are able to retain the rights to these players through 6 years of major league service before they become eligible for free agency.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How Good Has Albert Pujols Been And How Good Will He Be?

This issue came up recently on the listserv of the Hornsby (or south Texas) chapter of SABR. Bill Gilbert wrote a report on Pujols, pointing out that he is now 4th all-time in SLG and 5th in OPS. But as he gets older, those ranks might slip. This got me thinking about how much a player might slip in percentage rankings since they might not be as good as they age.

So I looked at where some players (probably not a very scientifically selected group) ranked at early and late stages of their careers. I tried to find periods that parallel Pujols so far. But I was not always able to. In the table below, I either divided a players career roughly in half, or did the first 8 years and next 8 years 9since Pujols has 8 years so far). Then I also simply used when a guy really started to dropoff as a dividing line. The last 10 lines are all power hitting 1B men. Those guys I found by getting the top 10 all-time in SLG relative to the league average with 5000+ PAs using the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. That should give a group that is like Pujols (Greenberg and Mize don't appear due to WW II gaps).

Then I found each guys offensive winning percentage (OWP) for the given period. OWP is a Bill James stat that says what a team's winning percentage would be if it had a lineup of 9 identical players who all hit alike and they gave up an average number of runs. Since I got the data from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, it is park adjusted. I also found where he ranked all-time for the stated years or up to a certain year. The normal PA minimum was 5000. But if a guy had, say, 4900 PAs in his first 8 years (or whatever the time periods was), I used that for both periods shown.

There is quite a variety of outcomes. Some guys fall quite a bit in the rankings due to a much lower performance in their 2nd half. Some actually did better and rose in the ranks. So based on this, where Pujols ends up is not clear.

I also took all the players who had 5000+ PAs before the age of 28 who also had at least 2500 PAs from ages 29-36. Of the 75 players in the first group, 49 made it into the2nd group. Only 16 of the 49 had a higher OWP from 29-36 than they did up to age 28. Roberto Clemente was the one real big gainer, .162 (from .531 to .723). The average change was a loss of .030. Only 8 of the 75 guys from the first group had 5000+ PAs from age 29-36. It seems like the chances Pujols will even get 5000+ PAs over the next 8 years is low. But there might be something I am missing here.

The other thing I did was to look at the normal performance trajectory as players age. I found all the players who had 15+ seasons with 400+ PAs up through 2005. Then I found the average OWP for each age from 20-40. The graph of that is below.

It looks like the ages 21-28 are symetric with the next 8 years. So the overall OWP is the same in each period. If that happens for Pujols, then he will not change much. Without getting into the details, I calculated his OWP will be .768 over the next 8 years based on what he has done and what the historical trends are. I project that if he plays until 40, he will end up with about a .755 career OWP, staying 10th (Musial is 11th at .752). For what is probably a more scientific treatment of aging and performance in baseball, see PEAK ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AND AGEING: EVIDENCE FROM BASEBALL by J.C. BRADBURY.

Below is the current top 10 in career OWP with 5000+ PAs

1 Babe Ruth .852
2 Ted Williams .832
3 Barry Bonds .810
4 Mickey Mantle .801
5 Lou Gehrig .797
6 Rogers Hornsby .787
7 Ty Cobb .781
8 Joe Jackson .780
9 Dan Brouthers .770
10 Albert Pujols .769

One last thing about Pujols. His career really does not have the kind of rising arc that the historical trend shows. So we can't be sure how any of this applies to him. Here is the chart of his OWP by age:

If we take his .827 at age 28 and then project each year forward using the changes in the typical trend, he would get .830 at age 29, then starting at age 30 and going on through age 40, he would get


Roughly he will have an OWP of .784 over the the rest of his career.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Which Pitchers Improved The Most In 2008?

I used two different stats to determine this. The first was an imputed value for ERA based on HRs allowed, walks and strikeouts (sort of a poor man's DIPS ERA). The other was RSAA from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. "RSAA--Runs saved against average. It's the amount of runs that a pitcher saved vs. what an average pitcher would have allowed." It is park adjusted.

For the first measure of imputed ERA, I ran a regression using all pitchers who had 100+ IP in either of the last two seasons. There were 284 cases. The resulting regression equation was

ERA = 3.16 + 1.37*HR + .365*BB - .226*SO

Those are all per 9 IP. Walks include HBP. Then I took only pitchers who had 100+ IP in both seasons, found an imputed ERA for each of them in each season, and then found their change. They were then ranked from lowest to highest. Lowest would be most negative, so those are the ones that improved the most. Here are the ten best:

Now the ten who declined the most.

Now the ten best using RSAA. It is on a per 9 IP basis.

So Sanatana allowed 1.08 runs more than average per 9 IP in 2007 and allowed .95 less than average in 2008. So that is a swing of 2.03, which was the best improvement.

Now for the ten who declined the most.

Gorzelany really had a miserable year, being worst in both methods. The first method only takes into account what the pitchers did (but it is not park adjusted). The second method is park adjusted but is not solely determined by the pitcher. Anyone who made both lists either really did alot better or alot worse than the year before. Interesting that Mussina made the best by the RSAA method. He was also 14th by the imputed ERA method. There were 93 pitchers in all. The correlation between the change calculated by the two methods is -.67 (that negative makes sense since a positive RSAA is good). The more runs you save, the more your ERA will be below average.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Positional Hitting Over Time (Part 2)

Part 1 was a few weeks ago (you can scroll down to see it). I looked at the slugging percentage (SLG) divided by the league average for all 8 every day fielding positions. Here I look at how many players in each decade were among the top 100 or 200 seasons at each position in offensive winning percentage (OWP). OWP is a Bill James stat that says what a team's winning percentage would be if it had a lineup of 9 identical players who all hit alike and they gave up an average number of runs. Since I got the data from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, it is park adjusted. The PA minimum was 400.

The first table is the top 100. The second table has the top 200. After the tables is a little discussion then there are two more tables. In those tables I adjust the figures to account for the different number of teams in baseball at different times.

One general comment is that using the Sinins database, a player is listed at the position he played the most. Jimmy Dykes is a SS in a year he only plaed 60 games there. It might be better to only use seasons with 100+ games at a position. Maybe if I get time someday I will do that. Then guys like Dykes could be put into the utiltiy category. Musial had 3 at 1B, 1 in LF, 1 in CF and 4 in RF. He gets lost in the shuffle and deserve to be remembered because he is Polish.

1B-In the teens, the only one in the top 100 was Jack Fournier in 1915. As you might guess, Gehrig(7) and Foxx (6) dominate in the 1930s. Greenberg and Mize had 2 each. In the 1950s, the only one is Musial (he also appears as CFer in 1952). Thomas (6), McGwire (5) and Bagwell (3) are the big names that caused the surge in the 1990s.

2B-The first three decades are dominated by guys like Lajoie (9), Collins (10) and Hornsby (9). Hornsby had another in 1931 (and 2 at 3B in the teens). Then there is a big drought in the 1940s through the 1960s. Joe Morgan (6) and Rod Carew (3) are the big names in the 1970s. But Mike Andrews has one, too! In the 1990s, Alomar and Biggio each had 4.

SS-Honus Wagner has 9 in the first decade (and 2 in the teens plus 1 in RF in decade 1). Wagner has 9 of the top ten all-time. The only 2 in the 1920s were Dykes and Joe Sewell. Arky Vaughn has 6 in the 1930s (plus 2 in the 1940s). Boudreau leads with 4 in the 1940s. In the 1980s it was Trammell (4), Ripken (3) and Yount (3). Larkin had 5 in the 1990s. AROD has 2 in the 1990s and 6 in the 2000s (plus 3 at 3B). Jeter has 2 in each decade.

3B-In the teens, Baker has 4. But Hornsby has 2 more. The drought from the 1920s-1940 is incredible (maybe defense was considered more important). One of the few is actually Mel Ott in 1938 (he played 113 games at 3B). Mathews has 6 in the 1950s (and 2 in the 1960s), with Rosen getting 3. Minnine Minoso got 1! (68 games, more than either LF (44) or RF (42)). Dick Allen leads the 1960s with 4, Santo had 3. Schmidt had 3 in the 1970s and 5 in the 1980s. Brett was 2 & 3. Boggs had 5 in the 1980s (and 1 in the 1990s). Randy Ready had 1 in the 1980s. Chipper Jones had 5 in the 2000s and 2 in the 1990s. AROD has 3 in the 2000s.

LF-Not counting Bonds, Ruth and Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson has the highest ever for a LFer (.859, 1990). The only two from the teens are Sherry Magee and Ruth, who has 3 in the 1920s. Williams has 7 in the 1940s (he missed 3 years in the military, remember!) and 7 in the 1950s (missing 2 years to the military and in 1959 he had 331 PAs (although OWP = .555)). Keller had 4. 2 of the 5 in the 1960s are Carl Yastrzemski. Boog Powell is one! But intersting how the 1960-80s are light. Bonds has 9 in the 1990s and 6 in the 2000s.

CF-Besides Mantle, Cobb, Speaker and DiMaggio, the best ever was by Cy Seymour (.825, 1905). Cobb has 10 in the teens (and 3 in RF in decade 1) and Speaker has 7. DiMaggio has 4 in the 1940s and 2 in the 1930s. Maybe it is no surprise how incredible the 1950s are. Mantle had 8 and Mays had 5 (missing 2 years). Snider and Doby each had 3. Then there is the Musial season and one for Tito Francona. Mays had 6 in the 1960s while Mantle had 4. Aaron and Kaline each had 1. Then we have quite another drought. Griffey had 4 of those all in the 1990s. I can't imagine any reason for this. Has defense become more important for CF?

RF-In the first decade, Cobb and Flick each had 3. Honus Wagner had 1, too. Joe Jackson has 3 in the teens. Ruth has 6 in the 1920s (and 4 in the 1930s). Heilman had 5. Ott has 5 in the 1930s (and 1 in the 1920s and 2 in the 1940s). Musial has 4 in the 1940s. Aaron had 1 in the 1950s and 2 in the 1960s. Maybe he does not have more since he was so consistent. Frank Robinson had 4 in the 1960s. Only 2 guys since 1970 have as many as 3. Reggie Jackson and Shefield, 3 each.

C-Not many before 1920. Bresnahan had all 3 in the first decade. Dickey had 5 in the 1930s and Cochrane had 4. Hartnett had 2 in the 1920s and 2 in the 1930s. The only 1 from the 1940s was Lombardi and that was in a war year, 1945. Berra had 5 in the 1950s and Campanella had 3. Bench, Simmons and Tenace all had 3 each in the 1970s. Fisk had 2. Simmons has 1 more in the 1980s. Piazza had 6 in the 1990s plus 2 more in the 2000s.

For the tables below, I divided the absolute total for each position in each decade by the number of teams in MLB that decade. That got multiplied by 30. The first one has the top 100. The second has the top 200.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

MVP Awards And Award Shares By Position

I used the baseball writers award given since 1931. I added up all the MVP awards and shares by regular postions. An award share is figured by dividing the points he got by the maximum possible points. The first I ever saw of this was by Bill James back in the 1980s. If you came in 2nd, but your points added up to 25% of the max (if you got all first place votes), you get a .25 share. Right now, the system is 14 for a first place vote, 9 for second and so on. It may have been different in earlier years. The last paragraph has more technical notes. Anyway, here are the awards by position since 1931

1B 26.1
2B 10
3B 14.35
SS 15
LF 21.67
CF 14.21
RF 20.09
C 13.74
DH 1.83

Now for the shares. BR lists the top 200 in MVP vote shares. But they include the different awards from before 1931. I removed any shares from those cases. Here how the positions ranked

1B 78.89
RF 68.30
LF 56.65
3B 34.82
SS 34.71
CF 33.18
C 23.86
2B 22.72
DH 9.30

Now some of the guys actually had quite a bit of their shares from before 1931 and only a little after. So I removed anyone who had any shares from before 1931 (so even now their post 1931 data does not count).

1B 67.68
RF 61.66
LF 52.88
3B 34.77
SS 33.72
CF 32.92
2B 21.48
C 20.05
DH 9.30

Which ever way I do it, it seems that the writers like to reward 1B men, RFers and LFers and don't like to reward 2B men and catchers. Maybe things would look better for 2B men if I had included pre 1931 info. There were 2B men like Hornsby, Lajoie, Frisch and Collins. But I was mainly interested in looking at who the writers like.

If a player split time between two or more positions, I divided up the award or share proportionately. If he played 25% of the time at one position and 75% at another, he got .25 for one and .75 for the other. I did not count time at any position that was less than 10% of the total. I used Baseball Reference for the data. I used innings played where possible and games other wise. If games added up to more than 154 or 162, I just had to suppose that the percentages still held. Players do switch between positions during the game. When innings are not known, it can add up to more than 154. For DH cases, I also used games. DH is never listed by innings played, just games.