A Very Amusing Little Bottle Of Wine

An article by posted on October 18, 2011

Unless your internet was down yesterday, it was nearly impossible for you to miss this post by Patrick Flood that was referenced on every saber-friendly Mets site or SNY Blog east of the Pacific Ocean yesterday.

Flood examined 46 multi-year contracts that were dished out to starting pitchers over the last ten years and concluded, “Don’t ever sign a free agent pitcher for more than one year.”

It was a well researched list complete with contract details, years, dollars, ten worst, ten best, all the ones in between, and even that oddly familiar statistic called WAR (What is it good for?).

But while the end-all was what many of us have known all along – that long term deals to starting pitchers are a very bad idea and rarely work out – I was puzzled by some other calculations he had in his post.

Somehow, he determined that some of these bad contracts cost the team more than the actual salary paid to the pitcher. I’m not sure if it’s new or if it’s been around since the Hoover years, but as an example here is what I’m referring to:

  • Orlando Hernandez, Mets, two years, $12 million; 2.1 WAR, $5.71 per win

In that example he deduced that El Duque was worth $5.7MM per win.

  • Oliver Perez, Mets, three years, $36 million; -2.9 WAR, -($12.41) per win

In this one Perez was worth negative $12.4MM per win.

I was stumped. How could Oliver Perez or any pitcher end up costing a team more than what the team paid for them? Doesn’t that fly against the law of physics, mathematics and even logic?

As if this whole Wins Above Replacement theory wasn’t confusing enough at least I think I kind of understand what the gist of it is. But this cost per win statistic seems pretty hard to wrap one’s brain around.

I noticed the first few comments on his thread went into it a little and Flood tried to explain, but…

Ben – I’m just a bit lost on your cost per win numbers. I can see what “X per win” means, but what does a negative “X per win” mean? It’s not like the pitcher paid the team for the win…

Patrick Flood – It’s really nonsense when it’s negative X per wins. It doesn’t mean anything. The idea is that, if a player is worth -1 WAR and the team paid him $48 million, he actually cost the team more than $48 million. He actually cost them $48 million plus whatever they might have made with one more win from a replacement level pitcher.

Ethan - Yeah, it should be titled something like cost per additional win above replacement. or cost per additional WAR. Furthermore, shouldn’t he be factoring in the cost of the replacement level player’s salary if he really wanted that to be accurate?

What?

Now I’m even more confused. Can anybody here explain this to me in 100,000 words or less?

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I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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