Thursday, November 03, 2005

Adam & Abe

In the comments to the Red Sox post-mortem (may they rest in peace), I was asked to explain my fondness for a certain relief pitcher the Jays may be courting.

Leaving aside his shock of blonde hair (I’d hate to sound like a scout), let’s travel back in time to mid-March of this year when I and thousands of others were contemplating the following 2004 stats lines in our annual fantasy drafts. Let’s call these two players Adam and Abe:

IP 87 K 122 BB 35 HA 64 ERA 2.28 WHIP 1.14

IP 84 K 123 BB 33 HA 51 ERA 1.82 WHIP 1.00

For all intents and purposes, Adam and Abe were the same person. Both had put up prodigious Kd9 numbers. Both were young, and slated to be their team’s closer for 2005. Neither had gone through a regular season with that responsibility.

Faced with this information, the experts were unanimous. To pick just one source, CBS Sportsline declared that we should “expect top-five saves totals” from Abe, and spared no superlatives. Towards Adam they were complimentary, but suggested owners should “draft him in the middle rounds of mixed leagues after the elite closers are gone. ”

Oddly, the advice about Adam was useful, but for the wrong reasons. From a talent perspective, there should have been little difference in the projections for these two players in 2005. Nor should Saves have factored into the equation much – over the course of a season, only 14 extra save opportunities would present themselves to the better team, and neither would use its closer for every opportunity.

But in talking up Abe's talent to the point where he became one of the most desirable relievers on the market, the experts depressed the market for Adam. Owners who were focused on value ignored Abe – someone would pay a high price for him by taking him in an early round (in my league someone paid an even higher price by expending one of their keeper slots on him). Instead, the value-owners used their early picks at a different position, then in a much later round picked up Adam, expecting the same superior production as that offered by the more expensive Abe.

And that is the moral of the story. How Adam or Abe actually performed in 2005 is irrelevant - we don’t get to make these decisions with the benefit of hindsight. As it turns out, their performances were very similar once again – only this time Adam (BJ Ryan) had the slightly better stats line, while Abe (Francisco Rodriguez) recorded 9 more saves.


At 8:37 AM, Blogger Kevin Kimmis said...

It's obvious you think he's a quality closer. So the question then becomes: Sticking with your Buffett-esque value investing strategy, what should a quality team be prepared to pay for him?

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Ryan's a great reliever (I prefer to think of the bullpen as a bunch of relievers, rather than as specific role-players).

He was also a bargain in fantasy drafts. But he's not a bargain in real-life. I don't think the Jays should pay him what he earned in 2005 ($2.6 M), and they certainly shouldn't pay him more.

On the other hand, Batista made $4.75 M last year. I consider that an appalling figure (you could pay a dozen young relievers for that money, and focus on their development).

Or the Jays could troll for guys like the recovering Grant Balfour.

I'll follow-up later with a note on how I'd fill up the bullpen.


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