Thursday, May 24, 2007

The return of good pitching = good stuff

Taking two of three from the first-place Brewers? Yes, I will take that.

Of course, both those wins come on the back of (a) the great Dodger pitching and (b) His Dreaminess, Russell Martin (though, I will note that tonight, Juan did have a good game, kinda). Not much has changed since the four-game losing streak (except, of course, the pitching is back on track).

1. Juan gets lucky as Tony Graffanino forgets to make a play. It's scored an infield single; he'd come around to score on Martin's bases-clearing double.
2. Graffanino makes the play this time. Grounded to third. #159.
3. Singled to center!
4. Walked(!), stole second, got to third on a balk(!), and scored on a sac fly. One manufactured run! Ned must be so happy.
5. GIDP. #160 & #161.

What's that add up to? 2-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored. That's a good game.

If I were a mean, nitpicking, Juan Pierre-hatin' bastard, I'd point out that one of those hits is really Graffanino's boneheaded mistake, and that even with that "hit," Juan still managed to be responsible for three of the team's outs. I suppose if I were that person, I'd have something of a point -- even when Juan Pierre has a good game, scratch the surface and it doesn't shine quite so brightly.

But I'm not going to point that out. I'm going to bask in the glow of Martin's fantastic play and the Dodgers' win.

Pace: 555 or so.


jimbilly4 said...

Not only did Pierre manufacture that run by WALKING, stealing, and intimidating the pitcher into a balk, he gave Martin the opportunity for an additional RBI.

All around a good day for Pierre, iffy-hit be damned. I am so delighted I have changed my mind about trading him for a pitcher without a throwing arm (see previous comment thread).

Humma Kavula said...

I saw that comment where you took it back. You said that it would be a mistake to trade a player with positive value for a player with no value.

But this assumes that Pierre has positive value. At the moment, his Value Over Replacement Player stands at -1.6. If you believe VORP, the Dodgers would have won more games so far this year if they had picked someone up off the minor-league scrap heap and played that person in CF instead of Pierre.

Is Pierre likely to continue to have negative VORP? That's the question. The answer is "probably not, but jeez, he really could."

As long as you don't mind entering Bizarro world, here's another question: if you demoted Pierre to the bench, would Pierre continue to have negative VORP? The answer, I think, is "almost certainly not." That said, his VORP-per-dollar would be pretty freakin' low.

Ultimately, I think you're right. It wouldn't make sense to trade Pierre for Ryan -- that is, a known quantity of probably just-above-zero for five years versus a promise of zero production for a year and a half, but the possibility of a brighter future.

That said, even though I probably wouldn't do the trade, it's a lot closer than it should be.

jimbilly4 said...

One thing to recall is that a replacement player has value. The average minor leaguer is not good enough to be a replacement player. The point of VORP is to try and quantify how much a player is worth over taking a chance on the next prospect in your system. A low VORP means don't pay the vet much or give the kids a chance, it doesn't mean worthless. Occasionally teams have no one in their system ready to play a position. For them a even a relatively negative VORP player who plays that position has value.

I also find it hard to believe he can continue to hit this bad all year. He is only 29 years old. He already looks better in the outfield (not good, but better). I think his VORP at the end of the year will
be positive, which is the basis on which I was considering the trade.

If you can guarantee me he will continue to be this bad and Ryan will be ready to play mid-2008 I probably do the trade, but sadly baseball like life does not come with guarantees.

Humma Kavula said...

I see what you're saying, but how else do we measure "value?" There are two ways to look at this.

One is that Pierre is infinitely more valuable than Ryan just by the mere fact that he's producing anything at all. This argument has some merit: a player that gets just a handful of hits is more valuable than a player who doesn't produce anything at all.

On the other hand, things get fuzzy when we remember that the roster spot that Pierre takes up has value in itself. As part of taking up that roster spot, Pierre is expected to pull a certain amount of weight by contributing towards wins. If he doesn't hit well enough -- if someone else, a guy at AAA, say, could put up better numbers for very little additional cash -- then Pierre's "value" goes down.

Though players on the DL need to be on the 40-man roster (I think), they do not need to be on the 25-man; therefore, even though they're contributing zero, it's OK, because the DL is built into the system to accommodate that.

Bringing this back around to the point... it all depends on how much Pierre is producing and if it's enough to cover his roster spot. It may be -- I have no idea how low the threshold is. But you need not compare him to the guy on the DL, who isn't expected to produce anything.

Humma Kavula said...

Putting my last point more clearly, which would you rather have?

Pierre & Gonzalez
Kemp backing up in case of injury to Gonzalez
No expensive pitcher on the DL


Kemp & Gonzalez
Mitch Jones or some other scrub backing up in case of injury to Gonzalez
Expensive pitcher on the DL

I'd probably rather have (a), especially when you consider that Gonzalez will probably get injured at some point and Kemp will come up. So I've probably written all this for nothing. But my point is: if I can only say that I'd PROBABLY rather have (a), that gives you a good idea of how low Pierre's value really is.

jimbilly4 said...

To over-analyze this:

VORP is fine for comparing two major league players (fine as far as reducing a player down to a single number can ever be fine). I was just taking the opportunity to exercise a tiny pet peeve: Replacement players don't necessarily grow on trees. OK, left fielders and 1st basemen might be arrayed in grove after grove, but as you get to more and more difficult defensive positions sometimes it may be hard to get a replacement player.

By definition, half the replacement level people you replace someone with will have negative VORP. And these replacement players can easily be distributed unequally throughout different teams, so that your club has nothing but negative VORP replacement catchers. (See Dodgers 2005, pre-Navarro).

The bottom line is that a negative VORP does not imply negative value. It does point to a need that probably should be addressed, as a good GM should be able to make some sort of move to get an upgrade. A replacement level player shouldn't be impossible to find, although I imagine if you have a terrible farm system and no money you could be in for some difficulty.

This is a huge digression, because I don't think Juan fits this argument. Kemp could take his place. Clark or Bigbie could probably step in. Maybe even Ethier, who has shown some decent outfield chops. While many may disagree whether Juan is a good lead-off man (or whether a team really needs "a lead-off man") we have one of those already as well. No trade is needed to fill his position. There is only his large contract and a GM's pride/public perception.

Humma Kavula said...

I believe you are confusing replacement-level with "average." The whole point is that replacement-level players DO grow on trees. That's why they're replacement level -- they're easy to replace. It's defined as -- here, I'll get it --

"Replacement level is the *expected* level of performance the average team can obtain if it needs to replace a starting player at minimal cost. Individual replacements can perform above or below the expected level..."

That expected level of performance -- the expected level the average team can obtain if it needs to replace a starting player at minimal cost -- is very low.

And right now, Juan Pierre is performing beneath that level.

Man, that Pierre-for-Ryan trade is looking better all the time.

jimbilly4 said...

I am not confusing the two. My whole rant is that the mathematical concept of a replacement player ignores the fact that they are distributed unevenly and it is not always easy to grab and replace, particularly the more important the defense is.

To put it another way, if you moved the 51s to Los Angeles they would have an average VORP that was negative. That is one source of replacement.

Another source is trades. The 23-25th man on most major league rosters would probably all be considered replacement level players, but depending on injuries, etc you might have trouble trading for the replacement level shortstop or catcher that you need. Most teams like having a decent backup, even if he is good enough to start on someone else's team. A good GM should generally be able to finagle one, but depending on demand it could be costly.

To show I do know the difference, while Juan is skirting the replacement player line, he is much worse than the average major leaguer. I also clearly pointed out that my whole VORP babbling has nothing to do with Juan, who is eminiently replaceable by the Dodgers already in our system, not to mention the trades a GM with our money and player depth could manage.

Bottom line -- 0 VORP does not mean 0 value as the market is far from frictionless with players owned half their careers. That is why I said Juan had value (while someone who can't play has none).