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Bean Ball, Missed Opportunity, WAR

By Mike Silva ~ August 6th, 2009. Filed under: Morning Digest.

- Lost in all the talk about the Yankees fifth spot is what a great opportunity Ian Kennedy and George Kontos would have if they were healthy. IPK would probably been the first to get the call since he actually has big league experience. There were questions about whether IPK is out for the season. Apparently he hopes to see minor league action again this year. I do know that Russ Ortiz and Jason Hirsh are not the answer.

- Another missed opportunity was Paul Byrd. I wrote on Saturday how he would be the perfect 5th starter because of the fact he has averaged about a 4.50 ERA over the last few seasons in the AL. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sox signed him to keep him away from the Yanks. Either that or something is up with Smoltz and Dice-K’s health.

- I read the debate about whether David Wright should have charged the mound during yesterday’s ballgame. Wright is a great player, but fiery team leader is just not in his DNA. Charging the mound would be out of character for him and I am ok with that. Wright, just like Mike Piazza, is a leader by example.  It just means that you need to get “spit and vinegar” from other parts of your clubhouse. Part of building a good team is having the right talent, but also, personalities. The Mets are lacking in both right now.  Asking David Wright to be more someone he is not is just plain unfair.

- Over/Under on John Henry silly comments this series? He has been quiet on Twitter lately. His last tweets were about home sales being up in the month of July. Hey John, can you help me get my property value up and buy that damn foreclosure in the neighborhood?

- Not sure how Bobby Parnell will fare as a starter. He is essentially a fastball pitcher that has really never shown consistency with his breaking stuff. He can get away with that for one inning, but as a starter I think he will be a disaster. Does it matter at this point? I know he is struggling, but I would like to see Brad Holt get his feet wet. It might be good for his development.

- How ironic would it be if both Cody Ransom and Angel Berroa wind up on the Mets? With the injuries that could be a DP combo.

- Peter Abraham points out on twitter that A-Rod has gone over 60 at bats without a homer. It’s his longest as a Yankee.

- I still am surprised that Yankees haven’t tried to stretch out Aceves for that fifth spot. Melancon is pitching better so you definitely could afford to move Aceves to the rotation. The fatigued shoulder probably is the main reason, but that probably means he can’t pitch everyday anyway. See if you can piece him together for 5-6 innings every fifth day.

- Jon Heyman believes that J.P. Ricciardi is a lame duck and botched the Halladay talks. Chris has been critical of the way many of the teams have handled their negotiations. We got an angry response to Frank’s claim of “collusion” by teams asking for Hughes and Joba. In the end, Ricciardi made the same mistake that Bill Smith did with Santana- he didn’t focus on exactly what he wanted, but rather, waited for a team to open up the vault. That never happened and the deadline has come and gone. Now you have ownership, fans, and Halladay annoyed.

- Taking on runs is always important for winning ballclub’s. The Yankees did that last night, which was important, because now Mariano goes into the Boston series rested. Peter Abraham goes on to point out that Eric Hinske has 9 RBI’s in 24 AB’s and Jerry Hairston Jr. already has made an impression in his first 4 games. Knew that would happen. Paging Jose Vizcaino.

- Throughout the rest of the season we will be looking towards 2010. Amazin Avenue’s James K, the resident NYBD ombudsman, broke down players to avoid this offseason. It’s a good read. I don’t agree with his assessment of clubhouse chemistry being overrated, since that has been disputed by just about every baseball person I talk to, but he is right to avoid Nady, Dice K, Kendall, and Abreu. Thinking of Abreu playing the outfield at Citi is downright scary. I am not quite as convinced about Hudson, Bay, and DeRosa although very dubious about any kind of long term commitment. As for using WAR, any stat that uses a fictitious player as its benchmark automatically gets thrown in the trash by me.  James you had me up until you cited WAR.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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15 Responses to Bean Ball, Missed Opportunity, WAR

  1. big baby

    you’re an idiot

  2. steven gerrard

    So what stats do you use? And, the baseball people you talk to? Do they include Mets people, because you can take what they say and throw it in the garbage by me. Along with batting average.

  3. Ryan

    You’re kidding right? It doesn’t surprise me that you dislike stats like WAR and others based on the infamous “Replacement Level Player”. Appreciating them requires basic reading comprehension skills and 5th grade level math. It goes without saying, but your site loses credibility when you throw out widely respected statistics because you won’t take the time to understand them. And just so I can end this rant with some education, here’s a primer on Replacement Level:


  4. BlackOps

    Instead of WAR, we should use RBIs and wins to evaluate players! Come ON… I mean, those stats have been around forever, so they have to be the best, right?

  5. Chris Silva

    The fact that you believe that is a problem

  6. RexS


    Any stat that uses a fictitious player as a benchmark is thrown in the trash?

    Do you have the capacity to understand how incredibly stupid that is?

    A replacement player is an average organizational player in AAA. The whole idea of replacement is based on opportunity cost; it is a huge advance in the way we evaluate players. Basically it tells you what you’re paying for. Using WAR, you can tell that Omar payed Ollie 12M to put up a performance inferior to the average AAA callup.

    What do you like? Pitcher-wins? Batting Average? Matt Cain is contending for the Cy Young this year after being 8-16 last year. He’s basically the same pitcher. There was a year in the ’80s when only one guy hit over .300. Do you want to compare him to Dante Bichette in 1996 with the Rockies, or any of the other players who suddenly found their stroke in Colorado only to lose it when they left?

  7. Chris Silva


    The problem with the fictious player is that it could be anybody to prove a point. If your looking to backup a certain idea you use a certain “fictious” player as a benchmark. Numbers are not gospel because they can manipulated to exzude a view point of agenda. Opportunity cost is a terrible example because its a generated number based on forecasting and projections. In reality, its nothing more than an indication of a missed opportunity. For example, the Mets will have an opportunity cost of $10M if they do not put a team store on the Upper Deck Level. That doesn’t mean they will generate that revenue or exceed it if they put that store there. Very speculative stuff. Other than the realization that your missing out on something the number doesn’t mean anything. Pitcher wins holds merit but it can’t be a deciding factor because many guys win less games because bullpens blow leads, hitters don’t hit that night etc. Look how many games this year Santana should have gotten wins but those things happened? I like how you made that Dante Bichette reference but thats exactly what you guys do with these stats. You go out and find the numbers that say what you want them to say. You can try to make the sport and people robotic but it doesn’t work that way. These stats are cute and nice but just a couple of pages of a larger scouting report covering other things. All the stats in the world, at the end of the day decisions have tons of factors. Manny Ramirez is a statiscally treasure but he’s a dope and more trouble than he’s worth. Hence, why Boston was trying to trade him for years.

  8. tim

    When you criticize something you don’t understand, you make an ass out of yourself.

  9. RexS


    Replacement level is not a hypothetical thing that something made up. It’s based on the expected level of performance from the average AAA call-up. This talent is free in baseball terms (i.e. they cost the minimum amount that one pay while still fielding a major league team) so the value of a player is weighed against the benchmark of free talent.

    The concept of replacement economics is the reason why players like Timo Perez and Luis Lopez are having a harder time getting contracts. GMs understand that marginal veterans like these do not provide much more than the average AAA call-up would, and so allow these positions to be filled by call-ups until they find something better while spending their resources elsewhere. What is the flaw in this thinking?

  10. Chris Silva

    Expected level of proformance? I mean let’s put things in prospective you can expect what you want but that doesn’t mean its a fair expectation. The math is easy but the theory has a lot of holes in it. GM’s dont need this fancy theory to decide not to bring up Timo Perez and Luis Lopez. Perez has always been too small and not enough hitting talent. Lopez is a late 30′s backup middle infielder who is at a disadvantage because a younger player like Alex Cora will get the spot before he does. He’s in the same category as Ramon Martinez . Keep him around if you need him for a weekend. This theory is bogus because any personal with knowledge of the game doesn’t need a formula to dictate this. Also, I think you miss the point that there is other factors that weign in like player options, organizational position, and the ever so popular politcal garbage that you see. The theory of these stats is very unproven and quite frankly it seems more like a tool that was created to get a job in MLB. I searched the internet and other than those who have created this I don’t find any information from anybody else. It might be nice for a scouting report amongst the other information but other than that its useless. Using WAR for other than comparing one borderline Major Leaguer vs another. Ok I’ll accept that better than using this to describe the Jason Bay’s Bobby Abreu’s of the world. It’s not a fair comparision and any team deciding between those players doesn’t have an option in the mix coming up from AAA instead. Well, maybe I’m wrong if you Kansas City or Pittsburgh thats probably the case. Nice theories but baseball is a team sport and you cant use math to put together the most possible wins. Will Carroll develop these theories because its a way for him to get a contract with MLB for this. Until he proves this case much much more it is what it is.

  11. RexS

    In reality guys like Alex Cora and Timo and Neifti and on and on used to have an easier time getting big-league contracts because managers didn’t realize that they were no better than free talent. (Omar still doesn’t get that Cora’s production could very nearly be replaced by waiver talent.) This expectation of talent isn’t made up. It is based on how well career AAA players have historically done when called up. Teams built with players from one league below can win about 50 games out of 162. The concept of WAR is, if I replace one of my replacement players with, say, Jeff Francouer, how many wins should I expect to gain from that? The answer is that despite Frenchy’s hot start with the Mets, over the last two years he has done worse than the average AAA call up (significantly worse, I might add) and should not be significantly better overall this year (though he might be with the Mets, depending on how long his hot streak lasts). Ryan Church has not been any great shakes, but is significantly better than a replacement player.

    This is why a stat like WAR is so useful. Players like Francouer and Church can be difficult to gauge and compare because their stats don’t ump out at you. A comprehensive player-value stat like WAR tells us that Church’s superior defensive abilities and Frenchy’s inability to get on base at a clip higher than 29%, overwhelms Frenchy’s power advantage and makes Church the better player by far.

    The formula from which this is calculated can be found in several places, including Wikipedia. WAR assesses a player’s contributions on offense and defense, on offense assigning run values on various events (hits, home-runs, walks, etc) in accordance with one of several variations of Tom Tango’s baseruns formula. Tango basically compares the relative value of these events in scoring runs to the frequency with which each hitter produced these events and assigns the value of the hitter based on that. Tom Tango now works for the Mariners. They used to be run by one of those old-school-baseball-guys who think in similar terms as the NY baseball media and it earned them Charter Membership of the 100L/$100 club. Think about that. The Bill Bavasis of the world are probably as insistent as you that “you’ve gotta see a player to truly value him and the trained eye is the best judge of talent”, etc. The result is that they end up costing their teams hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of losses, and years of lost seasons. They are wrong.)

  12. Chris Silva

    Very interesting stuff and I understand what these formulas are trying to say. But, its kind of like logorhytms and proofs in high school math. It helps make you think a bit more in depthly, but at the end of the day its useless. I think the Franceour/Church trade is a great example that you used. The numbers you produced are irrelavant to the situation at hand. It was a necessary trade that both teams had to make. Each team had an unhappy player who’s performance was being affected by this and need a change of scenery. Their contracts were close in value (Braves kicked in the difference) and it was a low risk move. Church and Franceour are comparabley defensively in regard to range, but Franceour brings higher value with a much stronger throwing arm. Runners thinking twice about taking the extra base, doubles that are kept to singles, or runners not tagging up can’t be measured by numbers. His arm strength and fact that he is a righty hitter fills the need. Hitting wise Church has more talent but lacks the ability to show consistency. Franceour could be a Pat Burrell type hitter, however, he continues to have a long swing and chase pitches in the dirt. Deal made sense for Mets because they were getting comparable player that is 5 years younger and brings a more valuable skill in his throwing arm.

    Now, if WAR and all this stuff is used in the scouting reports (which I’m not saying it isn’t) but what part of that weighed into making this decision? One team dumping its problem off in exchange for somebody else’s problem. How much will these players impact their new team in wins? Directly, probably very little. Franceour has a better chance with throwing a runner out or hitting a game winning homerun. Church is going to see limted playing time in Atlanta platooning with Diaz. Baseball is a team sport and its very difficult to start attaching wins to individual players.

    These are very nice formulas which have “nice little information” to look into. But, where I have the problem is that you guys are making it a bigger deal than it really is. It’s part of the report and the main stats of Batting Average, RBI’s etc which always be the main barometer. These stats can be made to say whatever somebody wants to say. It’s no different than doing marketing surveys. You solicit a certain demographic and your going to get results based those 100 people. It’s not very useful in the bigger picture because its very hard to validate the authenticity of those results and how translate it into an effective decision. This stuff is better served for Rottissere leagues and things like that. Where it is soley driven by numbers and the human factor isn’t there. Personally, I feel this is more driven by an agenda to get paid for this concept.

  13. RexS

    WAR in 2008 predicted that the Mets would win 88 games. They won 89. There is an enormous correlation in the Tom Tango Baseruns metric and the amount of runs teams actually score. On offense at least, the Baseruns metric on which batting WAR is based, works.

    There is a lot of mythology surrounding the Francouer for Church trade. In reality, had Francouer gotten off to a slow start, nobody would be talking about the change of scenery. Francouer has drawn one unintentional walk as a Met. His skills remain the same. He is on a hot streak, and when he settles into his real talent level he will be the same sub-major league performer that he has been these last 3 years. He will continue to be a sub-major-leaguer until he learns how to take pitches, a skill which at this point looks like it may never develop. The Mets will only get something for this deal if they quickly stick Frenchy in the minors and keep him there until he learns how not to swing at everything.

    If the Mets had Church instead of Francouer since the trade, they would probably be slightly better off, even with Frenchy’s hot streak. Frenchy has shown more power than Church, but continues to make more outs and has played far inferior defense, including two spectacular errors that Church would not have made and not getting to several balls that Church would have made easily.

  14. Chris Silva

    It’s very speculative what Church would have done. Its fair to argue in those games where Franceour made the errors, Tatis could’ve been playing that day instead of Church. Also, its hard to say what would’ve happened with a different defender. I’m not familiar with the plays your referencing but the errors aren’t soley based on skill. Everybody makes errors and Church could very easily suppliment fielding errors for throwing errors. You can’t compare the offensive part because they’re not facing the same pitching in the same ballparks. Church could’ve played 80% of his games in Atlanta, where Franceour played 50% at Citi field and the rest on the road. The road games could vary with Franceour playing in San Diego while Church is in Philadelphia. These numbers can’t predict what somebody will do vs another because the competition isn’t identical. Church may be seeing more fastballs because the hitter in front of him gets pitched around. Both players are very similiar to their capabilities as a realistic assesment of their capabilities:

    .270 20HR 70RBI’s 320 OBP

    .255 -.260 BA 25HR 80-85RBI’s

    These are the types of players their skills dictate under optimal conditions. Defensively you’ll see more outfield assists from Franceour but possibley more dropped fly balls. Church gives more flexibility being able to play RF and LF plus probably more adequate fielding. But, hard to prove as Church is dealing with a smaller outfield to cover where Franceour now has to cover large gaps. Come up with any formula you want but its very hard to predict the outcome with these numbers.

    The stats you produced for wins I would have to look up to see how it was calculated. I would be more impressed if it was done prior to the season, but if it was modified throughout the year I find it much easier to come in the ballpark of the actual.

  15. RexS

    The win stat basically follows a set formula for valuing how many wins over a replacement player each player is worth. If you add up all the 2008 WAR performances and then add the total to the Replacement Player Team (generally close to 50 wins) you get 88 wins. The Mets won 89 games. Their Pythagorean record and Third-Order Record also say 88, which means they got a bit lucky in 2008. (These stats can’t take into account things like whether a groundball pitcher gets his double plays in 1-1 games or in blowouts, which produces these discrepancies.)

    The point is that it’s a set formula, and if you contrast the expected win total of a team with the team’s actual wins, the correlation is very strong, with only a few outliers. (The 2006 Mets, interestingly enough, were an outlier, having won about 5 more games than they were expected to win. A shrewd GM would have noticed this and understood that the Mets were not as good as their record in 2006 and prepared to improve it or expect a severe drop in wins. Omar–another old-school baseball guy who knows that the best way to judge a player is to see him etc.–did nothing except piss away talent that year and sign Moises Alou and Scott Schoenweiss and lo and behold, the severe drop in wins.)

    Re. Church and Francouer, I wasn’t necessarily referencing their performances since the trade. I’m talking more about their general skill set and dismissing the “change of scenery” talk. I’m saying “given Churchy’s and Frenchy’s skill sets, It’s very possible that despite their respective slow and hot starts, Churchy would have still been more valuable to the Mets had he been with us”.

    Why do I say this? First of all, if we had a manager who knew what he was doing, as soon as Castillo went down, we could have had Church in the #2 spot in the order instead of the offensive liability Alex Cora. (Frenchy’s sub-.300 OBP makes him even more of a liability in the 2-hole than he is everywhere else.) That would mean that we would very often have one more baserunner and one less out for David Wright, Brian Schneider, and Daniel Murphy (who, sadly, our our best hitters after Wright with the rash of injuries). This would probably have resulted in more runs overall. The kicker, however, is Church’s superior defense, where he crushes Francouer in terms of range with only a slightly weaker arm. Frenchy has allowed several hits to right on balls Church easily runs down (and Church almost always plays right or-in a pinch-center when he plays).

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