A quick post today on Wins Above Replacement and our starting rotation. Tango has a nice post on how to calculate it and some other concepts associated with WAR.
WAR is wins above replacement. Replacement is defined very specifically for my purposes: it’s the talent level for which you would pay the minimum salary on the open market, or for which you can obtain at minimal cost in a trade.
A replacement level player is freely available talent. The kind of player you can either pull up from your AAA roster, find on waivers, or easily trade for. Since we are talking about pitching, consider guys like Pat Misch, Steve Hammond, Matt Palmer, or any of the bulk of starters in AA Fresno right now. These guys are replacement level pitchers.
At it’s core, WAR allows us to evaluate players in a quantifiable way and see what “value” they bring to the table. I’ve ran the numbers for our starting pitchers but a quick preface on the following chart and some of the numbers.
~ WAR is wins over replacement, that is, how many wins a player has credited or debited over what a replacement level player would have done.
~ $WAR is how much that player is valued. Salary for replacement level talent is set to $0.4M, or league minimum. In the free agent market, major league teams pay about $4.4M per win above replacement level. This works out to (WAR*4.4) + .4 = $WAR. This lets us see how much a player’s wins are worth, and in turn, how much that player is worth.
~ Actual is how much money the player is actually making this year. As with $WAR and the value column, numbers are in millions. For example, Lincecum is making league minimum this year, or $0.4M. All salary numbers were pulled from Cots Contracts.
~ Value is $WAR (our estimate of how much a player is worth) subtracted from Actual (how much the player is actually getting paid). This will give us an idea of which player are bargains and which players are not.
~ The numbers used for the pitchers in this chart are current as of August 12th, 2008. A caveat with this is that with 45 games remaining in the season, these numbers will surely change. This post is a valuation of what these pitchers have been worth at present time. Zito could improve, or he could get worse. Same with Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, or Correia, they will all look different at the end of the season than they do right now.
~ Touching on that last point, I’ve rounded the innings pitched total for each pitcher either up or down. For example: Zito has thrown 121.2 innings this year, which I’ve rounded up to 123 just to make calculations easier.
Now, let’s check out our numbers.
Lincecum leads the staff with 5.55 wins above replacement. Matt Cain has also pitched well this year, ranking second to Lincecum with 3.47 wins above replacement. Sanchez has added 1.83 wins above replacement and Correia has added 0.25 wins above replacement — remember that Correia has thrown less than 100 innings this year so his numbers should be judged with a skewed eye. Zito has pitched just under replacement level this year with his contributions totaling -0.02 wins under replacement level. Whether or not Zito can rebound is a discussion that’s been covered thoroughly on this site, but the Giants can’t be happy with his perfomance this year. Zito is performing on par with what you would expect Pat Misch, Brad Hennessey, Steve Hammond, or Matt Palmer to do in the same inning sample.
If Lincecum’s WAR holds steady in the 5-win range for the rest of the season, he would be valued at around $24.84M on the free agent market. That’s an incredible value that the Giants are getting from Lincecum right now. I haven’t seen other numbers but I’m guessing that’s the best in baseball if not in the top three. His combination of low salary — he’s making league minimum — and high wins added make him a super value. If Cain hit the free agent market and stayed in a 3+ win range, he’d be valued around $15.65M. The Giants are paying him $0.8M this year. Even with his salary kicking up to $2.65M next year, Cain should still be a great value if he can retain this level of production. Sanchez is valued at $8.44M making him attractive, in that he’s only earning league minimum as well. The Giants have a solid, cheap, and most importantly, good trio of young pitching to work from.
While the trio of Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez would make the most conservative of penny pinchers happy, the Zito contract looks incredibly bad in the same light. The Giants are paying $14.5M this year for a replacement level performance from Zito. Zito’s free agent market value doesn’t even surpass $1M a year, he’s actually worth less than league minimum.
Moving on to the ‘Value’ column, like we stated above, the Giants are doing great with Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez. Lincecum’s value is insanely high at $24.44M. Cain’s $14.95M and Sanchez’s $8.05M also prove to be good buys for the Giants. Correia is decent and he’s making about what he should. Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez are all underpaid. Try and not to spend too much time gazing into the Zito value colum because you might go blind. It’s very possible that the Giants have the best buy in baseball (Lincecum) and also the worst buy in baseball (Zito) on the same roster and in the same rotation. Also, keep in mind that this table is using Zito’s ’08 salary of $14.5M, next year it kicks up to $18.5M for the next three years, making it even more difficult for Zito to contribute positively to the Giants roster. In 2012 Zito will earn $19M and in 2013 he’ll earn $20M. Ouch.
So, to wrap things up, the Giants are getting phenomenal value from Lincecum and Cain. Pretty good value from Sanchez and Correia’s value is still up in the air. Zito, however, is an anchor that will pull the Giants under. If not now, then soon, especially when the Giants are paying him $18.5M a year to hopefully pitch at or around replacement level.
Zito bad. But, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know.