NFL playoffs are right around the corner, but ’tis the season for a jolt of baseball excitement too, as teams sign new players. The contracts are getting bigger and bigger, supported by growing MLB revenues. Some of the major signings under the tree this year (more here):
- Zack Greinke, 6 yrs, $147 million (Dodgers)
- Josh Hamilton, 5 yrs, $125 million (Angels)
- B.J. Upton, 5 yrs, $75 million (Rays)
- Anibal Sanchez, 5 yrs, $80 million (Tigers)
But before you start thinking playoffs, remember that many big deals don’t work out. Who will be nice and who will be naughty this year?
The Old Lumps of Coal
From the list above, Greinke is 29 years old, Hamilton is 31, Upton is 28, and Sanchez is 28. Not many young players are available through free agency, but are these 4 to 6 year deals for 28 to 31 year olds a good idea? I tackled this question with my friend Jeff Phillips for ESPN the Magazine in early October.
Specifically, we wondered if long deals for 30 year olds made more sense during the steroid era, when players could recover, train, and maintain more easily. There are two sides of the coin: (1) how has older player performance changed, and (2) has older player compensation evolved appropriately. We focused on players in the top quarter of the salary distribution, since that’s where the big money is spent. To measure performance, we examined average Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP)* by age during and after the steroid era:
Uh oh. Although performance for all highly paid players has gone down, older “stars” have turned out to be coal indeed. Looking year by year highlights the post-PED age decline. Average WARP for older and younger stars was remarkably similar through the steroid era, but older player WARP Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Causal Analysis, Financial Analysis, Prediction, Trades/Free Agency
Tagged age and performance, Age and steroids, aging, aging baseball, Albert Pujols, Angel Pagan, Angels, Anibal Sanchez, average salary, B.J. Upton, baseball, contracts, David Ortiz, Detroit Tigers, ESPN The Magazine, Fielder contract too long, free agent projections, Jake Peavy, Jeff Phillips, Josh Hamilton, lumps of coal, Major League Baseball, Michael Bourn, Mike Napoli, Mitchell Report, MLB free agent market 2013, MLB free agents, MLB revenue, MLB revenue growth, Nick Swisher, older stars, Post-steroid era baseball, Prince Fielder, projected value, projections, Pujols contract, rising salaries MLB, salary distribution, Shane Victorino, Sports, Steroid era MLB, steroids and age, steroids and aging, Torii Hunter, WARP, worst contracts, worst contracts MLB, Zack Greinke
As the college football season gets under way, my buddy Jeff and I put together a brand new college football ranking for ESPN the Magazine (insider required, in print 9/17/2012). We started with ESPN’s pro franchise ultimate standings as a template, and tried to make things as quantitative as we could to make the ranking defensible. We’ve inspired some feedback already. The SEC does well of course but didn’t land the number one team — check it out if you get the chance!
Posted in College Sports, Financial Analysis, Football
Tagged American, College and University, college football, college football ranking, college football season, ESPN, ESPN college football rankings, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN ultimate standings, football, franchise, insider, Jeff Phillips, NCAA Division I-A, Sports, Tyler Williams
My brother Conor (when he’s not blogging about political theory) does some excellent writing about Barcelona’s dominant football team. A couple weeks ago, he took up the age-old topic of fairness in sports in the context of European soccer. In most European leagues, there are no salary caps, revenue sharing agreements, or redistributive drafts. Rather than coddling the worst teams, leagues bust them down a division. Conor defends the uncontrolled European league structures with a call to the benefits of an aristocratic class:
There’s no escaping it. [Barcelona’s] degree of perfection requires an unequal distribution of talent and resources. This concatenated brilliance is probably unjust when measured against nearly any standard of fairness—but it’s also as close as anyone has yet come to fulfilling that specific style of play. FC Barcelona are but one example. For instance, recent Chelsea squads have flirted with perfection of a wholly different style of play. They are no less aristocratic simply because they have refined different aspects of their squad. Their strengths may be different, but they are no less refined for that. Every coat of arms is different—the aristocratic task for each is to live up to their particular identity. Undemocratic though they are, no one will mistake them for ordinary.
For whatever else they do to The Game As A Whole (or As A Spectacle), aristocratic clubs elevate the stakes and—more often than not—the peaks of athletic achievement. If Barcelona regularly administers whippings to clubs in La Liga’s middle and lower echelons, their clásico jousts with Madrid have periodically taken both teams yet closer to the pinnacle of sport.
I find this topic endlessly interesting, especially the comparison between United States leagues and European leagues. The United States redistributes less income proportionally than many other Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Commentary, Financial Analysis, Football, Hockey, Soccer
Tagged American sports more fair than European sports, Barcelona, Brian Urlacher, Carles Puyol, Conor, Conor Williams, diving ruining soccer, diving soccer, diving soccer flopping basketball, European football leagues, European soccer, fairness in sports, faking injuries soccer, FC Barcelona, Kevin Garnett, La Liga, Puyol tough, redistribution in sports, revenue sharing, reverse-order draft, salary cap, salary caps, soccer, Sports, tanking, too much diving soccer, U.S. soccer no dives, U.S. sports fairness, United States
A few months ago, my buddy Jeff and I did some research for ESPN the Magazine on paying college athletes. We ignored all the institutional issues and got right to the accounting: considering costs and revenues, how much profit is each player worth to his team?
We focused on the University of Florida and found that top college football players are worth millions of dollars, while basketball players are worth a couple hundred thousand. Check out the details on the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference blog or in my previous post.
Posted in College Sports, Financial Analysis
Tagged American, blog, College and University, college football, ESPN, ESPN The Magazine, Fair market value college athletes, football, how much should college athletes be paid, should college athletes be paid, Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Sports, University of Florida