Friday, December 17, 2004

Trash Talk

From Rob McMillin in the comments:
Tom, I'm scraping my jaw off the floor after reading your alternatives when I ponder that you actually consider them alternatives. Stats-based analysis is what you do best. Please show me how any of the scrubs you would plug in at third -- or anywhere else on the field -- are going to replace Beltre's 2004 production. This was an offensively dismissive piece for those of us who realize that Beltre's 89.1 VORP won't be easy to replace. Yes, my reaction to Beltre's departure has been very emotional, but before you decide that it's just not important, you'd better have a realistic plan that doesn't involve the team descending into mediocrity.


Rob, here's the thing. I gave a list of alternatives which would be a) cheap and b) around average. The key is that they are both. Yes, an expensive Tony Batista signing would be apocalyptic. But it's not going to happen.

I don't like using the term Moneyball, but I think you can boil its thesis down to this: a team has a finite amount of resources, and the key to winning is to maximize the productivity created by those resources. If a team reduces the amount of resources it spends to win, that decreases winning. If it decreases the efficiency with which it uses those resources, that decreases winning.

So far, the Dodgers have done neither of those things. In fact, DePodesta said yesterday that the payroll would be $100 million and it would be ridiculous to think otherwise.

If the Dodgers bring back all of their arbitration eligible non-free agents they will have at least $20-25 million left to spend. Even if the free agent market is totally dry - and it isn't - there are still teams looking to free up payroll in a number of ways.

Yes, it's still possible - some might even argue it's likely, though I wouldn't - that DePodesta will mess up and not find any useful way to allocate those resources. If that happens, I'll be angry. But that simply has not happened yet.

Jeff Kent will not replace the 2004 productivity of Adrian Beltre, but he will replace a good deal of it. Kent was good for a 55.2 VORP last season. Throw in Beltre's minor edge in defensive value and that's a four win swing. Heck, let's add in an extra win for the difference between Jose Hernandez and Antonio Perez. Where are we going to get those wins from?

Well, Hideo Nomo ain't coming back, and his vorp was negative 23.2. But I guess that's balanced out by no Paul Lo Duca. But odds are that whatever the Dodgers do at catcher will be, even if by a slim margin, above replacement level, so that gives us back 15 runs. But we're still missing four wins.

Four wins. $20 million. That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a difficult task.

The thing is, and I wrote this before, teams do not need slugging third basemen to compete. They need a sum total of talent. Just because Brian Myrow or Kevin Youkilis or Alex Cora is not your idea of a great third baseman does not mean that the team becomes worse when they're used to replace Adrian Beltre because the team can (and will) make other improvements.

Hell, maybe they won't. Maybe DePodesta will screw it all up and reveal that Ayn Rand put him up to it just to dash the hopes of countless Dodgers fans. When that happens, be angry.

When one player leaves, don't be angry. Be analytical. Don't look at the team's public statements and try to parse them so as to come up with the worst interpretation possible; that doesn't help anyone. Don't compare rumored deals to prison rape. If the team ends up winning 60 games and Frank McCourt comes up behind Vin Scully and whacks him over the head with a chair while Vince McMahon emerges from the visitor's dugout with an evil grin, you might look like a genius, but so will every other beer and tacos couch potato and hack columnist. If the team wins 100 games, you'll be competing for Jon Edwards' title.

If, absent unforseeable, catastrophic injury, the Dodgers don't win 89 games - their Pythagorean total last season - this season and fail to make the playoffs, I will shut down this blog, move to Southern California, and scrub Rob McMillin's bathroom floor for a month. When that's done, I'll determine how many beatings to distribute among Paul DePodesta and Frank McCourt for sealing my fate. I'm a very, very, non-violent person, but for you, Rob, this I will do.

Comments:
Tom,

You've mentioned Youkilis a couple times now; have you heard anything about Boston wanting to deal him, or is that just conjecture on your part?

I'm sure the Dodgers would have interest in the Greek God of Walks. How much do you think they'd have to give up?
 
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Hey Tom, looks like the Dodgers signed your 11th option that just missed the cut... Jose Valentin. How about a new list for his possible platoon mate?
 
Got it, Tom. Not to be having emotional responses to offseason moves. Anything else? Come on, it's not gonna happen. I'll get to the analysis presently. But... watching Beltre walk out the front door after he's had one good season is just hard to swallow.
 
It's hard for me to swallow too, Rob. Perspective is hard, you know, and in most areas of my life I tend to lose it. But I guess when it comes to baseball I'm a tad ahead of the perspective curve.
 
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