The Baseball Exchange


A word (or many many more) on scouting and stats, plus my perspective on the economics of a new MLB draft rule by 27yankees
August 16, 2007, 8:09 pm
Filed under: Baseball Scouting, Baseball Statistics, New York Yankees, Player Draft

Hi all, TwentySeven in today with a few minutes of spare time! Yay! So anyways, I was thinking it might be interesting to talk a bit about some ways to analyze players and stats.

First the word on scouting. One thing you have to consider that isn’t always considered is whether the “name value” of a player is making him look better. Recently, I watched Jeff Samardzija pitch for the Cubs in the minors, and I’d been watching a couple of starts. He wasn’t all that bad, but he wasn’t great either. If I had been less talented, I might have said, “Oh, he’s Jeff Samardzija so I’m probably just looking for the wrong thing”. But the truth is, most of us can recognize a pretty decent pitcher. What you need to say is “If I didn’t know the name of this guy, would he be all that impressive? Would I ask myself, ‘Who is this?’?”… That sort of thing. It’s really good to put it in perspective.

Now, for stats. An important thing to recognize is what the stat is actually measuring, and what actual value the stat holds. For example, recently my friend made some bizarre statistic like “Average pitches in an at-bat per strikeout divided homers” or something weird like that and said, “And Sean Casey is the leader in the majors, so he’s really more valuable then anyone recognizes. I think he should bounce back over the next year.”

Really? What does that stat really mean? What are you measuring? That ridiculous stat that I made up just now because I don’t remember what my friend said really doesn’t measure anything at all. Just because you got it by multiplying baseball stats, doesn’t mean it measures anything valuable.

In addition, you need to consider the actual value of the stat. For example, consider the strikeout. You might say that some minor leaguer is really good because he never strikes out, and his strikeout/at-bat ratio is 0.001 or whatever. Because, the truth is that strikeouts really aren’t all that bad. For that matter, players who rarely strike out are often sacrificing other, more important, stats for their strikeout prevention. This season, the players who are striking out the least include Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, Paul Lo Duca, Kenji Johjima, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kendall, and Casey Kotchman. Of those, Pedroia, Kotchman, and Polanco have been good hitters and Johjima has been decent for his position. Pierre, Castillo, Kendall, and Lo Duca, have all been pretty poor hitters. Just think about it.

By the way, this info on strikeouts really leads into what I plan to write about next – strikeouts and walks. I want to look at correlations between them, the actual negative value of a strikeout (which I suspect is really low compared to what people typically say), that sort of thing. Cheers!

Finally, I want to talk a bit about a new rule that MLB has instituted for the draft which I suspect really harms teams like the Yankees and Red Sox who are high salary, high wins, draft at the end of the round.

The new rule says that if a team doesn’t sign a pick, the next year they get the following pick in the draft as compensation. If Team A drafts 1st overall and doesn’t sign their first pick, the next year they get the second overall pick. This rule is intended to give the teams more leverage against guys like Scott Boras and also is supposed to make the bonuses given to players more in line with what the MLB recommends. Unfortunately, this creates a dilemma for teams at the end of the round for two reasons. For one thing, teams that are consistently among the top winners are also consistently at the end of the draft, which means that the overall talent of their drafts will get worse and worse as more and more compensation picks come up at the beginning of the round.

In addition, it actually lowers the team’s leverage for signability draft picks. The way the rule is intended to work is that if a player has huge demands, the team can just say, “Well we won’t sign you and next year we will just draft a player of equal talent”. Unfortunately, players who fall in the draft (like Rick Porcello did this year) due to signability issues, will get a huge advantage in leverage. Rick Porcello was expected to be a top-three pick until he picked Scott Boras as his agent, which made him fall to pick number 27 for the Tigers. You would think that the new rule means that he would have less leverage. Unfortunately, the Tigers aren’t likely to find a player as good as Porcello is next year with the 28th pick. So, the Tigers had less leverage and thus had to give Porcello a bigger contract. Hence the tie for the record contract for a high school pitcher.

Bud Selig has good intentions, but he fails miserably.

-TwentySeven

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