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Quantitative Baseball

a baseballFinally, my baseball post! I’ve been mulling this one in my head for quite some time, trying to figure out the best way to tackle it. I’m tired of thinking about the right way to go about it because it is rather broad.

Over Christmas I set out to find a way through statistics to rate starting pitchers on a one to five scale, with one being an ace and five being a number five starter. I toyed with stats for about a week and devised a formula that appeared to be very effective. Then, I took the formula and tweaked it again, this time figuring out how to incorporate relief pitchers on the same scale. An average relief pitcher rates around a six on the scale, which does make sense since most relievers are still pitchers who were not good enough to make the starting rotation. However, elite relievers do score as high as many quality starters.

With a pitching formula having been devised, I set out to make a formula for position players to accompany it. This was tricky because, while I obviously used completely different statistics, I wanted the results to correlate with the one to five scale I had already established with the pitchers. This took a little bit of time.

However, once I was satisfied with both formulas, I took the next step – trying to figure out a player’s dollar value on the open market. To do this I used 2007 contract figures for hundreds of players that have signed free agent deals (in other words I did not consider arbitration-eligible players or players too inexperienced to even be arbitration eligible).

So, to quickly recap, I came up with two formulas over Christmas break, one for pitchers and one for hitters, but they are supposed to produce results that can be directly compared (this means a hitter valued at 2.5 is just as good as a pitcher valued at 2.5). Then, with these formulas, I project the player’s value on the open market. If you want to know the exact formulas, e-mail me and I’ll be glad to share them with you. However, they are going to look like a mess if I stick them in this post and experience has taught me that most people gloss over the formulas and go straight to the results.

Though my study is rather empirical, the formulas I have come up with show lots of promise as being an effective tool to evaluate players. According to them the best hitter in baseball is Albert Pujols (-0.1 rating) and the best pitcher is Johan Santana (0.5). Only seven pitchers rated as aces in 2006 (1.5 or lower on the scale, since anything below 1.5 would round down to 1). They were Santana, Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, Francisco Liriano, C.C. Sabathia, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt. Most people would agree all of these pitchers are among baseball’s finest.

As far as money goes, one of the more interesting cases is Barry Bonds. He will earn $16 million this year (if his contract is ever finalized) and, based solely on his numbers last year and including injuries his rating is 1.0 – and his value on the open market based on my formula is $16.75 million.

Looking at the Mariners, Ichiro was their best offensive player (2.4) with Raul Ibanez a fairly close second (2.9). For those on the “Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre are overpaid” bandwagon, the formula backs that up. Sexson should make around $5.2 million and Beltre about $5 million. They will make $14 million and $11.5 million next year, respectively.

Like I said, if you want to know more about the formulas, e-mail me. I plan to use them with virtually all of my baseball analysis. Though I derived them empirically the results are promising.