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Friday, April 14, 2006


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"Sheehan ends the article with some nonsense about how the deal isn't financially sound, but since Sheehan has as much access to the Red Sox' books as we do, we'll just let this one go without comment."

Wait a second there. Does that mean that Giambi's deal with the Yanks is actually financially sound? I know that you think otherwise (as do I). But certainly the Yanks front office has access to their books, not us. And last time I checked neither of us were uber economists. I still think we're both right.

Those statheads always fail in one overwhelming department; the intangibles. All the numbers in the world cannot show the electric spark that a certain player brings to the game, the natural instinct. Papi crushing one out in the most key of moments, Jeter flying out of nowhere to make that miracle play against Oakland. Guys like Jeter and Papi not only bring their own fierce brand of competitiveness, they make everyone around them better as well. All the numbers and Sabermetrics in the world cannot predict or show the intangible elements in a baseball player which makes him an ultimate gamer.

I think it all depends on what assertion you are making, obviously. I would assert that Giambi's deal was a bad one from a purely baseball performance standpoint (based on what kind of player he's been for the Yankees). That is, what kind of production are they getting for their money out of the player and could they have been a better team through smarter redeployment of the same amount of money.

But saying that it is detrimental to the financial stability of the Yankees is an unknown. I simply don't have the right information to be able to make that assertion. Sheehan gets dangerously close to saying the Red Sox made a bad move from both an on-field performance standpoint as well as a financial standpoint. I can buy the former much more readily than the latter. Sheehan makes it out as if the Red Sox should just assume that they have the PR clout and such an important place in the hearts of all New Englanders to be perennially popular, and not overpaying Ortiz could be compensated for through alternate, more responsible signings. Sheehan probably forgets that there have been times when the Red Sox weren't a very big draw. Look what has happened to the Bruins and, to some degree, the Celtics. The Sox, as a business, simply can't assume that they will always sell out, that they will always be the primary apple of our eye. They have to make selective signings to deal with the public relations of things and the finicky emotions of us fans. Not that Ortiz' extension is just a sop to the fans; it's not - the man has proven he can play. For example, Johnny Damon was not offered enough for him to want to come back, despite his popularity and his abilities - a sign that they aren't enslaved by this mentality. But Ortiz also shows they are concerned with it. Though his performance in pure baseball numbers may not (for Sheehan) validate his contract, the Red Sox clearly believe his value to the franchise on many other levels will.

A bit of anti-intellectualism here? For the record, Sheehan only uses those comps because there are so few 30-y-o DHs, and he never suggests that Ken Phelps is a legitimate comparison.

I do agree, however, that the BP method of assigning dollar value to vorp or warp or whateve, and then wins--and even with all of their caveats--pushes the analytic envelope to the point where you can't close the thing, even with a boat load of scotch tape and sting.

apologies for the typos, btw. after some nasty oral surgery this morning, i'm hopped up on painkilllers, which, i can assure you, ARE NOT F"ING WORKING.


I think you're having it both ways, SF. Before Damon was signed, I mentioned (wrongly, apparently) that the Sox front office was in a bind if it wanted to follow its risk management philosophy while appeasing its fanbase. You claimed that Sox fans were not so provincial and sentimental, and would still support the team even if Damon departed. Why should your assertion change in the event of Ortiz testing the market?

No, not anti-intellectualism. Just some straightforward acknowledgment of the limitations of Sheehan's analysis. He doesn't directly compare Ortiz to Phelps et. al, but his samples of "comparable" players includes many suspect characters. That may not be due to Sheehan's inclinations but to the rather limited number of guys who were exclusively Designated Hitters at about the same time in their careers. His method doesn't treat outliers any differently than anyone else, which I guess is why it is both useful and frustrating. The sheer "objectivity" of it is therefore limited, as we all seem to agree.

But as I said, YF, it's not necessarily the statistical analysis that Sheehan uses to project what might happen to Ortiz that I have a problem with, it's the authority with which he assesses the needs and objectives of the Red Sox as a financial organization.

(And sorry about the oral surgery. My suggestion? Start drinking heavily.)

You claimed that Sox fans were not so provincial and sentimental, and would still support the team even if Damon departed. Why should your assertion change in the event of Ortiz testing the market?

I think this is still correct, in the context of the current team. There were enough characters/homegrowners to weather the Damon departure, enough recent success and possibilities of success in the near-term, and enough guys coming into the system that I believed people would stay interested. And I also believe that the Red Sox have shown a proclivity for understanding how to build a team for the near and the long-term, so with this Ownership I stand by my comments; I think a majority of Sox fans understand what they are doing. But that's not the same as saying it will always be so. That's fair, no? If the Sox had let Tek go last year, then Damon this year, and then a specter of Ortiz walking after next year we might be talking differently.

I believe the Sox had to make that deal. And the Jeter comparison is appropriate, right on down to the stat geeks knocking him for deficiencies derived from sketchy statistical measurements.

And I wholeheartedly agree that sabermatricians go OTT when they try to inject money into their half-baked formulas. As was said earlier, if you can’t see the ledger, you can’t assign any level of monetary value to a transaction. Money paid cannot be measured against statistics, unless you’re in an auction fantasy league.

Speaking of which, I own Ortiz in my keeper league and couldn’t be more thrilled that he’ll stay in Fenway, except when he tees off on the likes of Jared Wright.

"As was said earlier, if you can’t see the ledger, you can’t assign any level of monetary value to a transaction. Money paid cannot be measured against statistics, unless you’re in an auction fantasy league."

I think I basically I agree with this assertion, except I'm sure that the Rangers overpaid for Chan Ho Park. Am I contradicting myself?

First, I should say that I read BP all the time. I believe wholeheartedly in the statistical revolution that has been sweeping baseball and I think BP has done much to raise awareness of this and contribute to a better understanding of who is and who isn't a good ballplayer. I believe there are facts that you can glean from statistics that you can't from watching a player any number of times. Also, the statistical revolution has shown us how traditional statistics are frequently inaccurate and/or misleading in determining actual player performance.

That said, Joe Sheehan is hardly a statistical analyst. For the record, I'll say that neither am I. However, I don't masquerade as one, which would be the first of many differences between us. His comments on Ortiz are just par for the course with him. He is a commentator on a statistically analytic website, not an analyst. He's paid to publish his opinions, which in many cases (including this one) I don't agree with, which is fine. What I disagree with is the smugness with which he writes. He cloaks his opinions in statistics, but he's not a statistician. This fact does not prevent him from writing as if his opinion is the fact of the land. Frankly, it pisses me off.

As to his assertion that the deal is a bad one, it very well could end up being so, but I feel that there is very little evidence both in Sheehan's article and in reality that it will turn out so. Of course that doesn't prevent Sheehan from... well, I've already said that.

The fact is that Ortiz is a guy who can't play defense very well and is able to take advantage of the green monster in half his games. Still, he's an excellent hitter, and the fact that he doesn't play the field only increases the likelihood in my mind that he'll stay healthy and continue his hitting with probably some modest decline due to age at the end of the contract.

i find it interesting that value stops at a figure on a contract. ortiz has become the face of baseball internationally. he's bigger in the DR than albert or manny. remember when the cost of matsui's contract was to be offset by jersey sales? what about leadership skills and clubhouse conduct? when you make guys around you better, isn't that worth something? is there a variable or dollar value for clutchness? 50 million for the most impactual hitter in baseball sounds right. part of me also feels he's getting reperations for his less than market value contract over the last 3 years.

I think that there is a lot of precedent for players with Ortiz' skill set and body type not aging well. BP's flagship analytical tool, PECOTA, is driven by comparables, so it's not surprising to see that they don't look favorably on the Ortiz deal.

Here I'm going to contradict myself again, but I think it's fine to quantify cpntract value based purely on performance. At the very least it gives you a better understanding of the nature of a player's contract. I would bet that Theo uses a similar valuation tool when he decides what he's willing to give a player. And, of course, I'm suggesting that he factors other things (the player's international appeal, etc.) in arriving at his final numbers.

There's absolutely nothing with looking at contract value based solely on performance. I have no quibble with that method. But that doesn't mean you can draw conclusions about the generic question "was this a good signing" from that method. I bet that narrow analysis is not how the Red Sox look at players. Like you say, Nick, teams like the Sox and Yanks (and most others, probably) do not propose contracts in a vacuum, which is effectively what using statistics only is.

Now, Sheehan doesn't accuse the Sox of doing this, so I don't want to sound like I am accusing him of doing this. But he does posit that the Sox could do just fine financially (drawing fans, etc.) with other players instead of Ortiz, at lesser dollar values. And this is where his method fails him, I think. He may be able to reasonably prove that Ortiz is a likely candidate for a downturn in production. But he also asserts almost equally as strongly that the Red Sox are making a financial mistake, and on these grounds he has almost no material to back up his assertion. There's a disconnect there. If he had left it at a more simple dollars to production analysis for equivalent players under contract it would be helpfully informative (but far less controversial).

uhhhh yeah, young slugger who essentially carried the team to a pennant on his back, who would immediately be snapped up by your bitter arch-rival were he to become a FA. said slugger is a lefty pull hitter, something that would probably boost your rival team's offense to a ridiculous extent.

totally not worth throwing some money at that guy. not at all.

did the BP guys make any mention of the fact that the sox signed ortiz for far less than he could have commanded on the open market, and that both sides had struck an equitable deal to keep him on the team's side while not paying him an a-rod like salary? regardless of whatever number they think is the right one for ortiz in a vacuum, the fact of the matter is it was an incredibly smart and timely negotiation for the red sox, from a business perspective if nothing else.

i guess that's what bothers me about the analysis (or at least your summary of the analysis)--it ignores the business factors at work and doesn't seem to take the context into account, but its conclusion is a comment on a business decision (the signing of a contract and whether or not it's fiscally sound).





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