Sunday, August 29, 2004

Jason Kendall, Part One

In this morning’s Around the Majors over at The Hardball Times, Lee Sinnis noted that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Dodgers are interested in acquiring Jason Kendall. Here’s the original (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04241/369318.stm, 8/28/04):

Another player who was placed on waivers is Jason Kendall, and the Dodgers have
expressed interest in acquiring him, just as they did before the non-waiver
deadline July 31. However, sources said a trade, if one happens, would more
likely occur in the offseason.
Kendall will earn about $1.6 million for the rest of this year. He’s on the hook for 10, 11, and 13 million dollars for 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively. I have no good idea how much of that the Dodgers would have to take on in any of those years in a trade.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that they trade David Ross and Chuck Tiffany to the Pirates for Jason Kendall and the Pirates pay about a third of Kendall’s salary in each of those years so that the Dodgers owe Kendall $23 million for 2005-2007, plus $1 million for the rest of 2004. From a Pittsburgh point of view, this is a good deal, and I can’t imagine them turning something like that down.

Right now, the Dodgers catcher situation is slightly above replacement level. Using Wins Above Replacement (WARP1) from Baseball Prospectus, which measures both offensive and defensive contribution, Brent Mayne is 0.4 wins above replacement level for the year and Dave Ross .6 wins above replacement. That’s one win above replacement over 78 adjusted games at catcher. Kendall has 5.6 wins above replacement in 115 adjusted games. So if Kendall played 25 games over the rest of the regular season (the Dodgers have 32 left), we could expect a contribution of 1.22 WARP vs 0.39 WARP for Dave Ross in that same time, meaning we could expect the Dodgers to finish with one extra win in the standings. With the extra days off in the playoffs, Kendall would play every day and, if the Dodgers were to play the maximum number of playoff games, 19, could contribute an expected 0.92 WARP versus 0.24 WARP for the Mayne/Ross combo. Given the Dodgers’ 5-game lead and that the Padres and Giants are not great bets to outplay the Dodgers over the next month, the extra game advantage is probably not worth much. The real question is how much of a difference Kendall would make in the playoffs.

This is why I need to have a blog. To answer a somewhat simple question like this, I made an entire chart of the WARP for the playoff lineups of each of the likely NL playoff teams. I figured that all of the regular position players would play every game, so I used the Davenport cards at Baseball Prospectus to find each player’s WARP and divided it by AdjG (resulting, basically, in wins per 9 innings). I then totaled each team's WARP/AdjG and multiplied by 5 and by 7 for a 5-game series and a 7-game series (and also by 162 for contrast). Since pitchers don't play every day, I prorated pitching innings by choosng the four likely playoff starters, multiplying their WARP/AdjG by their IP/GS and dividing by 9 and then dividing by four (since there are four starters, and though starting distribution is uneven over the course of the series this is still a roughly accurate snapshot). That left several extra innings of pitching per game, and I arbitrarily assigned inning workloads to each relief pitcher based on their past workload and how I expected they'd be used. The innings were assigned so that a team would total nine innings of pitching per game-- that is, the sum of the coefficients of each players WARP/Gm would be 1. Yes, I probably made that more confusing just now, but if you have questions about my methodology email me and I'll send you the Excel file. Here are the numbers:

CubsWins/GameBravesWins/Game
Barrett0.03854Estrada0.048626
Lee0.05309LaRoche/Franco0.020513
Grudz/Walker0.044481Giles0.053797
Ramirez0.048869C. Jones0.043478
Garciaparra0.059701Furcal0.058883
Alou0.038396Thomas/Marrero0.060606
Patterson0.048093A.Jones0.051071
Sosa0.052128Drew0.078924
Hawkins0.046914Smoltz0.049123
Mercker0.019048Reitsma0.023111
Remlinger0.009877Alfonseca0.031746
Rusch0.005848Cruz0.017361
Wood0.050737Wright0.039886
Zambrano0.056913Ortiz0.035706
Clement0.046388Byrd0.035269
Maddux0.035897Hampton0.020788
Total0.654918Total0.668888
5-game wins3.274595-game wins3.34444
7-game wins4.5844267-game wins4.682216
162-game wins106.0967162-game wins108.3598
CardinalsWins/GameDodgersWins/GameKendall wins/G
Matheny0.018757Ross/Mayne0.0128210.04861
Pujols0.07853Choi0.04385
Womack0.031Cora0.055499
Rolen0.082508Beltre0.08516
Renteria0.035294Izturis0.038057
Sanders0.039953Green0.028902
Edmonds0.094488Bradley0.054665
Walker0.067039Finley0.038211
Isringhausen0.054444Gagne0.081429
King0.025455Brazoban0.014286
Tavarez0.038596Carrara0.035613
Kline0.024691Alvarez0.006403
Eldred0.001852Sanchez0.002315
Marquis0.03098Perez0.017302
Carpenter0.03219Weaver0.033757
Suppan0.018988Penny0.045232
Williams0.019987Lima0.018986
Total0.694754Total0.6124880.64828
5-game wins3.4737685-game wins3.062443.24139
7-game wins4.8632767-game wins4.2874164.53795
162-game wins112.5501% improvement5.84348
162-game wins99.22306105.021

It should be fairly obvious that this is nothing more than an educated snapshot, but it's probably pretty useful. Remember, this is a projection of how successful teams would be in the playoffs using playoff lineups and rotations (I didn't work pinch hitting in, but I don't think there are any real standout pinch hitters). As it stands, the Cardinals are substantially better than the other teams, the Braves are second best, the Cubs just behind them, and the Dodgers are the worst team. With the projected value of Kendall, however, the Dodgers close most of the gap. Here are the estimated win percentages for the Dodgers against each opponent, with and without Kendall:

Without KendallWPCTWith KendallWPCT
Cubs0.46761Cubs0.494932
Braves0.45784Braves0.484595
Cardinals0.44079Cardinals0.466554


Is getting just under 6% better worth taking on a million in payroll and giving up David Ross' potential? I feel much less sure about this than I did about the A's in my Jeff Kent post. The Dodgers stand to improve about 5.8% by increasing their payroll (in our hypothetical situation) by about a million from its current 90-100 million figure (I would get a more exact figure but I haven't seen the amounts of cash that changed hands in the D'backs and Marlins deals). So a 1% increase in payroll could yield a 5.8% increase in results. I think that, all else being equal, that is certainly a good deal (compare to the A's and Kent: a ~2% increase in results with a 3% increase in payroll). All else may not, however, be equal; in part 2 I'll look at the effects of acquiring Jason Kendall for 2005-2007.



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