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
David Schoenfield put up a fairly useless blog post about the Tigers signing Prince Fielder yesterday. It just became even more useless, as ESPN confirmed that Cabrera will shift to third base to accommodate Fielder (Schoenfield said this would never happen). I knew about this way before ESPN, thanks to Brother Evan passing along a local news link.
The real issue with Schoenfield’s post Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Financial Analysis, Trades/Free Agency
Tagged Albert Pujols, baseball, brother Evan, Cabrera moving to third, Cabrera too fat to play third, Cabrera will play third, David Schoenfield, Detroit Tigers, ESPN, Fielder, Fielder contract too big, Fielder contract too long, Fielder signing, Los Angeles Angels, Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Ilitch dumb, MLB, Prince Fielder, Prince Fielder bad contract, Prince Fielder contract worth it, Prince Fielder too much money, Tiger, Victor Martinez, Victor Martinez ACL, Victor Martinez injury, Victor Martinez out for the year, World Series
My boyhood memories are coming back full force: Prince Fielder is coming to Detroit to play for my Tigers! Fielder’s dad Cecil (former Tigers masher) might be the most surprised, since they don’t get along. The money is huge (9 years, $214 million), but my immediate reaction had to do with the logjam at first base and DH. The thick brothers (Cabrera and Fielder) should be able to share this year (except at the buffet), but what about when Victor Martinez (the Tigers’ third best hitter) comes back from his ACL injury next year? He’s primarily a DH at this point. This signing makes me think more news is on the way. Maybe Martinez is secretly 41 years old. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Cabrera will have to move — Fielder doesn’t want to play DH.
Is the contract reasonable? Once the details come out, some dummy will comment that Fielder won’t be worth the money at the end of the nine years. That’s not really relevant (as I’ve written before) Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Financial Analysis, Trades/Free Agency
Tagged baseball, Cabrera is going to play third, Cabrera moves for Prince Fielder, Cabrera third base, Cecil Fielder, Detroit, Detroit can't afford Fielder, Detroit Tiger, Detroit Tigers, fat, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Ilitch, Mike Ilitch spends too much money, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, Prince Cecil Fielder don't get along, Prince Fielder, Prince Fielder contract, Prince Fielder hates his dad, Prince Fielder signs with the Tigers, Prince Fielder Tigers, Prince Fielder too much money, Tiger, Victor Martinez, who will play first base in Detroit, who will play first base Tigers, why did Prince Fielder sign in Detroit?
There’s another nice summary piece by Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution) and Kevin Grier at Grantland this week (thanks to my PhD buddy Felipe for passing it along). Their topic: the college football bowl system. Their conclusion:
In sum, we have a system where the games are not designed to produce the best on-field matchups, the competitors often lose money [since no one watches most bowl games] but fight fiercely to participate, outsiders and observers complain vehemently, and the organizers amass and waste a great deal of money with little oversight.
They also note Continue reading
Posted in College Sports, Common Sense, Financial Analysis, Football, Innovative Ideas
Tagged BCS, bowl games, CFPL, college football, college football playoff system, College Football Premier League, Kevin Grier, Marginal Revolution, NCAA, Super Bowl, Tyler Cowen