One of the more perplexing aspects of being a Pirates fan is the term value. We use the word probably more than any fanbase in the league. Our friends in the blog-o-sphere use it incessantly, and the mainstream papers also give the word a p90x like workout as well.
So what is value?
Well to the Pirates community it seems pretty clear that value is mainly what a player will return in a trade. Joel Hanrahan wasn’t traded at his peak value. Garrett Jones is currently at his peak value. I’m sure there are more examples out there, but these are the two most recent.
Is that what value truly is though?
Another usage of the word value is in contracts. What is a good value in regards to contracts? Usually it is production vs. cost. The Pirates are constantly looking to maximize every dollar spent, getting the fullest production for each dollar.
In theory that is a great plan. Afterall who wants to spend a lot of money and not get the most for it? It’s also a flawed premise. Getting more out of less is not necessarily the same, or even better, then getting less out of more. A big contract, paid to a great player who underachieves a bit still might help a team more than a mediocre player, making little money but overachieving a little bit.
It’s when you pay big money to a guy that completely falls off the face of the earth that kills small market teams like the Pirates.
Signing guys hoping they rebound is a way the Pirates try to find these value players. More often then not they have failed, which of course means they’ve gotten no value out of these players. When these moves do succeed the players often don’t stick around too long.
Jeff Karstens probably represented good value. He got to a point where his compensation was closing that value a bit so the Pirates got rid of him. Joel Hanrahan’s price was getting too close to fair market value, therefore he had to be moved.
Value and production can’t be reconciled, because it’s in the eye of the person making the moves. Everyone’s version of production is different.
Joel Hanrahan returned Mark Melancon. I like Melancon. I agree he has a chance to succeed. At the same time, will he provide the production of Joel Hanrahan? Probably not. Evidence for his rebound is aplenty, but was his 2011 even that good?
One argument is that he will cut down on the homers. I agree with that, and have said as much in another post.
The other argument is that his good 2011 season in Houston is a likely indicator of what he can do in the NL Central. Both of these discount his ERA last year due to the homers, so let’s do the same thing.
|Boston Red Sox||0||1||9.00||1||1||0||1.0||0||3||0||4.000||0.0||0.00|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||1||0||0.00||1||1||0||1.0||0||0||2||0.000||18.0|
|New York Mets||1||0||4.50||2||1||0||2.0||0||1||1||1.500||4.5||1.00|
|San Diego Padres||1||1||3.86||5||2||1||4.2||0||3||7||1.714||13.5||2.33|
|San Francisco Giants||1||1||5.79||4||3||2||4.2||1||2||2||1.929||3.9||1.00|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1||0||2.57||6||6||3||7.0||0||3||3||1.571||3.9||1.00|
|Tampa Bay Rays||0||0||33.75||1||0||0||1.1||1||1||2||5.250||13.5||2.00|
|Toronto Blue Jays||0||0||0.00||2||2||2||2.2||0||1||4||1.500||13.5||4.00|
|WP lt .500||4||2||1.30||41||26||13||41.2||0||9||41||0.768||8.9||4.56|
|WP of .500+||4||2||4.68||30||21||7||32.2||5||17||25||1.806||6.9||1.47|
So what do we get?
First off the touted 20 saves is a decent number, but 13 of them came against sub-.500 teams. He got it done against the worst teams.
In fact a full 25% of them, five, came against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team he obviously won’t get to face in the NL Central. So he won’t have the Pirates to feast on anymore. St. Louis and Milwaukee destroyed him in 2011, so he’ll have to really dominate the Cubs and Reds to copy those numbers.
It’s striking to me though that he had a 0.768 WHIP against sub-.500 teams but a 1.806 WHIP against .500 + teams.
Maybe that 2011 season wasn’t as good as some would have you believe?
Part of the reason given for trading Hanrahan is how inconsistent relievers are. Why then are we trying to predict how Melancon will do when he is an absolute textbook case of this?
So back to value. Does Melancon represent that? Not necessarily. He is a question mark, at best. He represents cost savings sure, but value is a tougher thing to peg.
And in my opinion there is another thing to consider that we often overlook. The value players have to a team. I’m not talking veteronsity per se, I’m talking about what these guys give. We often overlook that. In their best years Hanrahan was a net + in WAR of 1.5. Last year? Hanrahan was worth 1.7 WAR over Melancon. Those numbers aren’t insignificant.
They represent real value to the team on the field. Whether Melancon takes over the closer role is immaterial to the discussion. That’s a potential hit to the bullpen of a fairly significant WAR.
The most important value is what these players provide the team, not what they cost while doing it.
The best teams are the teams that keep parts of the band together. Continuity in any enterprise is important. The best companies retain talent. The same holds true for the best sports teams. You may not believe it, but working together and having some sense of consistency makes everyone’s job easier. You know what to expect, how to work with people.
It also makes your company, or team a more attractive place for the best talent.
Loyalty and respect are very real in sports. They are very real human emotions. And that’s what we’re dealing with. Value does not mean cheap. Value does not mean you have to trade players once they hit a supposed peak. Value is what players bring to the table ON THE FIELD.
The quote “There are three lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics” is perfect for the conversation that has been making the rounds on the internet in regards to the Pirates. Not everything is statistically quantifiable, and misuse of statistics in this conversation has been rampant.