Our Baseball Presidents, Part 2


Nixon likely had the best fan connection to the sport. Avidly aware of the game, and documented his stuff. Meanwhile George H.W. Bush likely had the best skills, though Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton and Harry Truman were very proficient. (Eisenhower a high school player, and self-proclaimed semi-pro.) John Thorn again writes up a gem.

Originally posted on Our Game:

Teddy Roosevelt's Lifetime Pass, 1907

Teddy Roosevelt’s Lifetime Pass, 1907

Let’s resume our racehorse run through America’s baseball Presidents. When last we left our heroes, William McKinley had just promised to throw out the first pitch at the Washington home opener in April 1897 (http://goo.gl/ogDGrb). Although more than a hundred Senators and Congressmen showed up, and the club constructed a Presidential box complete with bunting, the honoree did not appear. Six months into his second term, an assassin’s bullet and ensuing medical malpractice brought us a new man in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt, who advocated a strenuous life and vigorous sport but detested baseball. His sons Kermit and Quentin played baseball but their exploits elicited little interest from Dad. Daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, “Father and all of us regarded baseball as a mollycoddle game. Tennis, football, lacrosse, boxing, polo, yes: they are violent, which appealed to us. But baseball? Father wouldn’t even…

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Our Baseball Presidents


Part II provides the modern connections. In my forthcoming book, I name chapters on behalf of the Presidents. John Thorn does great justice always to the sport.

Originally posted on Our Game:

Lincoln learns of his nomination, 1860,  by Homer Davenport

Lincoln learns of his nomination, 1860, by Homer Davenport

The other day I posted an article about Woodrow Wilson that attracted rather a lot of attention. While preparing that story I inevitably came upon a number of odd bits about our other Presidents and their ballplaying days and ways. The subject has been well covered by others, particularly in terms of first pitches and World Series victors’ visits to the White House. My friends Bill Mead and Paul Dickson wrote a fine book on the subject twenty years ago, Baseball: The Presidents’ Game. Because there’s no point to my doing indifferently what they have done well, I’ll provide here a racehorse run through Presidential baseball bits that may yet be unfamiliar; not every POTUS will get a nod. Some of these notes reflect recent research.

George Washington: First in war, first in peace, and first prez to play ball. General Washington…

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Draft, International Values Increase By 1.7 Percent


The money MLB teams will spend to secure the next superstar.

Originally posted on Callis' Corner:

The assigned values for picks in the top 10 rounds of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and for each team’s four international slots have increased by 1.7 percent over last year’s figures, according to a document I’ve obtained.

The total of the Draft bonus pools for all 30 clubs equals $205,786,400. The total of the international bonus pools for all 30 teams is $79,194,000. The industry as a whole spent $219,302,880 on Draft bonuses in 2013, and had paid out $88.7 million on applicable international bonuses through Feb. 9 (the signing period runs through June 15).

The Marlins, who have more selections (13) in the first 10 rounds than any club, have the highest Draft pool at $14,199,300. The Astros, who own the No. 1 overall choice for an unprecedented third straight year, rank second at $13,362,200. That top pick is valued at $7,922,100, just shy of the all-time Draft…

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Miguel Cabrera: Detroit and High Finance

The Tigers have made the biggest moves of the 2014 off-season. Late 2013, they swapped Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, to the latter’s delight, given his recent comments on Texas GM Jon Daniels. Detroit gained substantial salary relief – $76M over Fielder’s contract – enough to consider extensions offers to Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera.

Scherzer was reported to have turned down $24M for 6 years. $144 million to a soon-to-be 30 year old pitcher is no small offer. Though, given the $155M Masahiro Tanaka contract, and Kershaw’s megabucks of $215M, it wasn’t top dollar for this Scott Boras client. After the statements made by Detroit, it seems pretty difficult to see Scherzer hanging around.

But no one could have projected the Cabrera extension. Seemingly, the biggest overpay ever, Robinson Cano not far off this basic, money-crazy path. As Dave Cameron stated:

“This isn’t a young player with breakout potential whose cost could dramatically increase as he gets closer to free agency. In reality, Cabrera’s value can only really go down, given that even he likely can’t put up another 192 wRC+ season. The Tigers already paid for the rights to his 2014 and 2015 seasons, and while Cabrera might have wanted a long term commitment, they didn’t have to give him one now.”

But to be also fair, Cabrera’s enormous gain was Fielder’s and Scherzer’s loss as Detroit didn’t hurt themselves as much people think.

1) At a discount rate of 3.5%, Cabrera’s contract (excluding his prior deal and future options) is worth about $199M.

2) Scherzer’s potential 6-year contract would have been valued at $123M.

3) Scherzer will cost Detroit $15.5M in 2014. If Detroit does not get to the playoffs, or is not even close in July, Scherzer, hits the trade block. If they are playoff bound, he’ll pitch for his biggest payday ever. It very well behooves Detroit to trade him – certain to get a top 10 pitching prospect or 2 top bats -  if the right contending team is in the hunt. A team that has a closing window of opportunity (Baltimore – with Chris Davis) and might be close and has pitching prospects Detroit covets. Detroit may be better in 2015 with SS Iglesias back, and say another pitcher to plug into their rotation. Or rising OF prospect to plug into their lineup.

4) Fielder trade savings are at $64M for the duration, if Detroit buys out the final year of the Kinsler’s contract.

5) The biggest hit to the Detroit’s finances are long-term (greater than 7 years), not short (1-7 years).

6) The owner is not looking 7 years out, as Cameron reflected rightly, 84-year old men (Ilitch) are not worried about the overall sustainability of a baseball franchise. They have a billion reasons not to really care. Even if they lose $20-40 million, they won’t go broke. And they won’t lose 20-40 million…

7) TV deals to come are expected to provide more revenues than the cost of even this ONE contract. (Even if that market is changing too – in decline by 2018 or 19.)

The point is: Detroit could have been much more conservative with its offer. But, the money saved on the Fielder trade, and now, the unlikelihood of signing long-term Scherzer, makes this move a slight wash in red ink, not a gusher. Could Detroit have spent better? Sure. Has that been their calling card recently? Nope.

A further breakdown shows that if interest rates rise to more normal, historical levels (5-6%), the money will not be a substantial issue (see below). Sure, 31M is a whole lot of money for a certain decline in Miguel’s performance. But here’s a thought: will he be more productive than Alfonso Soriano and his 18M in 2014 (1 WAR); or will Miguel maintain 3-5 years all-star levels of performance which will lead to a Detroit World Championship, then fall completely apart??

Cameron thinks not, as this quote states: “As good as Miguel Cabrera is now, the history of big heavy guys in their mid-to-late 30s is almost universally awful. Guys the size of Miguel Cabrera just don’t age well, as their bodies begin to betray them and they spend significant periods of time on the disabled list.”

Albert Pujols. Matt Kemp. Carl Crawford. Ryan Howard. Alex Rodriguez…(aside from PEDs)

Lastly, while I think it is bad precedent to shell out $31M a year for any player (especially, over 30) in any sport, it is the nature of the beast. As long as millions of fans pay billions in cash to go to games, and enough multi-billion dollar television deals get made (though valuing rights for 25-30 years to me is pretty arbitrary, given NO ONE knows what landscape will exist), players will get their percentage of the revenues. Owners will spend $500M, or more, in an offseason, to secure name guys as both LA teams, Detroit, New York, Texas, and Philadelphia haven’t shown much restraint recently on doing this exact method.

So, why would that change, ever?



Calculated Cost of Extension of Miguel Cabrera

Calculated Cost of Extension of Miguel Cabrera











TV Economics of Baseball: Bubble of Money Will Drive Up Salaries And Burst


Touched on the TV Model changing…worth a read, given the recent FA spending noted at MLBTradeRumors.com and others.

Originally posted on Deepcenterfield MLB:

Your Dollars At Work To Fuel A Bubble

Unless you have been in a coma since 2008, you have heard that the U.S. Fed has employed quantitative easing (QE) to increase liquidity for their BFFs: the U.S. Banks. From investopedia:

A government monetary policy occasionally used to increase the money supply by buying government securities or other securities from the market. Quantitative easing increases the money supply by flooding financial institutions with capital, in an effort to promote increased lending and liquidity.

Onto the MLB. The TV powers that be, have employed a similar type of quantitative easing, providing a huge liquidity bump for the 30 MLB teams bottom lines. (For the actual watching of Fox, TBS, or ESPN a fan can just watch with sound on mute while listening to someone more tolerable.)

The megadeals: ESPN will increase their contribution from $306 million to $700 million per…

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Macrosabermetrics: Evaluating MLB Team Resources to Produce Wins (1998-2013)

There are many models generated in the field of sabermetrics. From the Pythagorean Run expectation (exponent 1.83ish), OBP/SLG to get runs scored; to linear weights, wOBA, position weight, and FIP to find WAR. And more models are focused on the microsabermetrics: swing%, balls outside the zone, pitch f/x, field f/x, event sequencing, and so on. I tend to the macro side, because things are clear enough to see for the average fan.

For this study, I referenced and used the following sites:

  • Baseball Prospectus – player compensation; draft model for value Andrecheck
  • Baseball America – top 100 prospects by year
  • Baseball Reference – salary, WAR and trade study (nixed)
  • Beyond the Box Score – a study on $/WAR by year back to 1996
  • Cot’s Contracts – salary comparison
  • Economics Website (aier.org) – inflation index
  • Fangraphs – Rookie WAR by year and type from 1998 to 2013; WAR by teams.
  • Sean Lahman Database (2013 version) – salaries, wins, etc.
  • USA Today – salary comparison

As you can tell, I didn’t just reference one or two sites for salary. In fact, by my account, they all differ in one way, or another. Bonuses applied differently; incentive payouts unadjusted; deferred payments not considered in the salary basis. But for the most part, the differences were small in comparison to Lahman, maybe 500K to 2M per year, about 30% spot on compared to Cot’s. So instead of looking into 480 teams and 25-30 players and seeing where the problem lay, I went with GED (Good Enough Data). When its totaling to 1.5B or 3.1B(Yankees), what’s 10M among baseball billionaires?

Salaries Son

You can’t win in the regular season without money in baseball unless you are Billy Beane. That would be the first substantial conclusion to draw from this analysis. Oakland is the best run, most efficient organization over the last 16 seasons. And it is not really all that close. But let’s get to the meat of what was done.

  1. Compiled Salaries
  2. Inflation Adjustment – it resulted in nearly identical R-squared to basic salaries
  3. Rookie Salaries by Year set baseline for salary on a team
  4. Baseball America Top 100 prospects from 1990-2014 generates model for WAR similar to a draft study performed
  5. Fangraphs Rookie WAR relates to prospects success rate (assumption); though it would not be that hard to do the finite analysis
  6. Average WAR for period is set at $4.8M/WAR
  7. Minimal Salaries for having a team are calculated for the duration
  8. Wins for 1998-2013; WAR level at .294 times 162 games for 16 seasons.
  9. Calculate Win Expectations for further analysis
  10. Test a Bullpen theory
  11. Do Math on outlier teams
  12. Linear Analysis and Graphs
  13. Note: I compiled the salaries together because it shows closely the total investment in ballplayers over a span. If you buy FAs just for a season, to bump payroll (Miami), but sell them for prospects, at some point, the investment is basically the dollars shelled out and the prospects received. If they are rated well, and turn out for you, you gain value (thus the prospect value).

These are the charts:


As you can see rookies have been producing more as of late, particularly pitchers. Rookies are accounting for 8-12% since 2005, around the time Moneyball and sabermetrics started influencing FOs. Or as salaries rose, finding cheaper talent (relievers, for one) made sense. Lots to explore, but just one piece.


Next BATTER WAR as it relates to salary. Chicago, Washington, and Pittsburgh were woeful compared to what others did for the same price or less. Even Oakland, which will see pitches even better, did fairly well. Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta and St. Louis get bang for the bucks.


Pitching was the key to Oakland’s success over the last 16 seasons. Huge differential from the MLB trend line. San Diego and Milwaukee show their weakness here for the dollar spent. Minnesota is also hugely effective. As you will notice, wherever the Yankees are on the left, Boston is about 20-30% behind on cash, but “in the ballpark” on results.

Baseball America and Fangraphs information

Baseball America and Fangraphs information

Prospect equation graph for perusal again. I used this as a basis to formulate what the theoretical prospect WAR should be. As guys are on the list 2-3 seasons, it’s very crude. Yet, it’s a start to seeing how far it falls off.

Macrosaberfinal  this gives a summary of what is in the next graph.

I did not include everything in this analysis for show.  But the graphics and the excel file show a tendency that the best FO team management over the past 16 years were:


Best Teams

  1. Oakland A’s
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. St. Louis Cardinals

While, the Worst Teams were:

  1. Baltimore Orioles
  2. Chicago Cubs
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Now, recently history (2011-2013) can’t undo bad franchise operations of the prior decade; neither can a few bad seasons undo the great run of the Yankees – who are decidedly average – and drove the outlier too. (More money always helps.)

Oakland developed their rookies compared to their prospect rankings at a 16% clip. The Cubs, at 3.77%. By prospect rankings done by Baseball America, the Cubs had greater potential in their minors, yet, their rookies failed at nearly a 4x clip to the A’s. (Again: this is not a perfect analysis – rookie players tend to be highly thought of prospects, else they would not receive the MLB promotion…not all, but enough to draw a link.) This shows why the Cubs are hard at the minor prospecting and development academy.  Tampa Bay and St. Louis did fairly well; though Tampa had a streak of a highly-rated system.

Yet, based on the analysis, prospects development rate showed no correlation to winning. The adjusted R-squared was minutely negative. In short, it might not give all the advantages some say it does.

On the final graphic, if you REMOVE Oakland from the analysis, the R-squared jumps to 68.9%. Meaning more than 7% of the variation is due to Oakland’s performance. I’d say that suggests just how different they are from the rest.

When Baseball Entwines With School: Clips on Sabermetrics, General Management, Markets

A quickish sabermetric presentation using clips from various sources. TWIB music ends the film piece. Forgive my editing work. First video culled together.