Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Getting Your Money's Worth

I want each and every one of you to reference this chart the next time someone complains that the Royals' difficulties arise from a low payroll.

This is a breakdown of the top 10 Royals earners (plus #10's doppleganger), comparing their annual salary to the value of their contributions in pitching, hitting, baserunning, and fielding. I've used Fangraph's numbers for Wins Above Replacement and a portion of Baseball Prospectus' WARP and playing time projection charts. Salary numbers are represented in millions.

1. RF Jose Guillen
Salary: 12.0
2009 Value to Date: (-7.8)
2009 End of Season Projected Value: (-12.6)
Total Return: (-24.6)

You're reading that properly. The only way Jose Guillen breaks even is if another team pays you 12.6 million dollars to play him. It's not a 12 million dollar per year mistake at this point, it's a 25 million a year one.

2. SP Gil Meche
Salary: 11.0
2009 Value to Date: 8.2
2009 Projected Value: 13.3
Total Return: 2.3

Not bad, but this projection assumes that this year isn't over for him because of the flagrant abuse he endured. If it is, you're 2.8 million in the hole, which doesn't look that bad as long as you compare it to Jose Guillen.

3. CF Coco Crisp
Salary: 6.1
2009 Value to Date: 5.6
2009 Projected Value: 5.6
Total Return: (-.5)

Coco's defense was exactly as advertised, but this number doesn't look nearly as good when you consider that the buyout on his option is now a complete certainty and a total sunk cost. In another one of the many sad ways the Royals can be summed up, Crisp is their 2nd most valuable position player despite not having played since early June.

4. RP Kyle Farnsworth
Salary: 4.3
2009 Value To Date: 1.8
2009 Projected Value: 2.1
Total Return: (-2.2)

The 2009 value numbers are based on what turned out to be a very down free agent market. Kyle Farnsworth is the winner of this year's golden goose award, and his contract was already twice too high before the season even got underway. This was like buying a house in Las Vegas in 2007, but the checks still have to cash. Honestly, he's better than I would have anticipated.

5. RP Ron Mahay
Salary: 4.0
2009 Value to Date: (-.5)
2009 Projected Value: (-.8)
Total Return: (-4.8)

6. SP Zack Grienke
Salary: 3.8
2009 Value to Date: 28.8
2009 Projected Value: 38.2
Total Return: 34.4

I could be a killjoy and point out that as absolutely unprecedented as that return is, it will go nothing but down as the backloaded part of the contract approaches and the performance regresses, but I've decided not to be that guy. I'll be this guy instead: What does this team look like without him?

7. LF David DeJesus
Salary: 3.6
2009 Value to Date: 8.0
2009 Projected Value: 9.1
Total Return: 5.5

It's extremely laudable that DeJesus has put up such a high value while posting an OPS+ of 94, particularly at a corner outfield slot. What's making this arrangement work is the best left field defense in the majors, and among the best glove work regardless of position. The Royal regime's long term insistence that David was incapable of playing center field despite evidence for the contrary has clearly been shown as fallacy. At least this year, however, it's hard to cast blame: Coco Crisp is probably the best defensive center fielder in baseball. More on this and how it applies to Zack Grienke later.

8. UTIL Mark Teahen
Salary: 3.6
2009 Value to Date: 5.1
2009 Projected Value: 6.0
Total Return: 2.4

The most valuable player in the majors that nobody seems to want that much, Mark has been quietly solid and has no reason to be ashamed to cash his check. Baserunning still is what moves him from marginal to useful.

9. DH, "1B" Mike Jacobs
Salary: 3.3
2009 Value to Date: (-1.9)
2009 Projected Value: (-3.0)
Total Return: (-6.3)

For comparison, Russ Branyan of the M's:

Salary: 1.4
2009 Value to Date: 11.0
Projected Value: 12.2
Total Return: 13.6

And of course, without the cost of a useful reliever.

Even more telling, Kila Ka'aihue would have had to put up worse offensive numbers than Tony Pena Jr. did in 2008 in order to be less valuable than Jacobs.

10. C John Buck
Salary: 2.9
2009 Value to Date: 2.1
2009 Projected Value: 2.9
Total Return: 0.0

Value for catcher has to be taken with a grain of salt, thanks to woefully imperfect defensive statistics at the position, but Buck is who he's always been: a perfectly average player at his position who seems like he's failing. Plus, this team likes to pay him pretty decent money to backup, even though he offers no complimentary skillset compared to his overstudy. Which brings us to ...

11. C Miguel Olivo
Salary: 2.7
2009 Value to Date: 5.0
2009 Projected Value: 5.5
Total Return: 2.8

Miguel Olivo has some fatal flaws in his offensive game, and they are a perfect reflection of the flaws in the Royals valuations. As such, it's easy to villify but a catcher who hits home runs alone makes him valuable, even if every other skill is completely substandard. Replacement at the position is just that difficult.

Read the follow up HERE.
For pretty charts on the subject, please see THIS.


  1. Good work. I can't believe how quickly it got worse.

    This is what happens when people with a lot of money listen to their eyes instead of their brains.

    What's the chance we could get you hired by KC?

  2. I understand the premise, but when you say something like "Kila would have to put up worse numbers than TPJ in '08 to be worse than Jacobs" it isn't really true.

    All of the money from revenue sharing is free anyway. Spending that money in an attempt to win more games has a higher value than the $'s in a vacuum in the MORP formula, or whatever you're using.