Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, CJ Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore, Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, and Jonathon Papelbon. By now, most of the sports world is aware of what these players have in common. They will all be the major free agents on the baseball’s market, in the coming months. These players have been the ones getting the most media coverage, but there is one free agent, for a reason unbeknownst to me that is flying underneath most expert’s radar, who should be valued higher than many of these free agents. The player I am referring to is starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Jackson, has played for 6 MLB teams, yet is only 28 years old, he has thrown one of the ugliest no hitters of all time, I could nearly make an entire 25-man roster with the players he has been traded for, and he won a world series just a short week ago with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jackson’s movement is joked about and discussed a lot on the blogosphere, (the Jackson for Daniel Hudson deal, has been discussed in great detail on this blog), but his value as a free agent seems to be ignored.
CJ Wilson is receiving most of the free agent starting pitching attention, which will most likely lead to him being overpaid for, possibly a deal over 5 year/$100 million range. Many believe the market drops off from there, and these “experts” have Mark Buehrle and Hiroki Kuroda ranked next, but when the numbers are analyzed is Jackson the most viable option? Jackson is the youngest of the four pitchers, 28 (Wilson will be 31, Buehrle will be 33, and Kuroda will be 37). Over the last three seasons, Jackson has averaged a WAR of 3.7, Wilson has an average WAR of 4.2, Buehrle sits at 3.5, and Kuroda’s average is 2.9. Based on WAR, Jackson is the second best free agent option for a starting pitcher, to take it a step further I’ll analyze the four pitchers xFIP over this same span of time. Jackson’s xFIP ranks third (3.92) behind Kuroda (3.54) and Wilson (3.56), but ahead of Buehrle (4.28). Jackson’s numbers are solid and consistent, he has yet to miss a start in five seasons as a full-time major league starter. While Wilson only has two seasons as a starter under his belt, while they were spectacular (his 5.9 WAR last season ranked 7th amongst starters) he still has three years less experience than Jackson.
If over the next 5 seasons, Jackson does not progress or regress and continues to average a WAR of 3.7 (I would postulate that a 28 year old former super prospect would improve as he crosses the 30 mark), what would he be worth to the team who signs him? Based on Fangraphs’ value measure ($4.5 million per WAR), with a team being smart and paying him based on this number, and not taking into account that the market will be inflated in five seasons to a point that one win will be worth more than $4.5 million, they should give Jackson a 5 year/$82.5 million contract. That type of deal, is almost “Wilson money” and I would bet many experts would say there is no way an “inconsistent” starter like Jackson is worth it. Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander, recently, have signed similar deals (they would have made much more on the open market). Jackson is not as valuable as Weaver or Verlander, but he is worth almost the money they're paid. Jackson will most likely sign a 3 to 4 year deal in the range of $8 to 11 million per season, which would mean he would be highly underpaid. And any team in need of an above average 3rd or 4th starter would not regret getting a deal on Jackson.
If I was running a baseball team and had around $12-15 million to work with in free agency this offseason, Edwin Jackson would be the guy, who I would invest in. Jackson does have Scott Boras as his agent, and its highly possible Boras will inflate Jackson’s ability and worth to something higher than I just laid out, thus he will be “overpaid” for, but I feel as though that is unlikely. A 28 year-old, who has pitched in both leagues, pitched in the postseason/World Series, and still has potential to get better, will be worth every penny, that a team decides to spend on him this winter. Sign Edwin Jackson.
The Detroit Tigers with twin-aces Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, and the St. Louis Cardinals, baseball’s hottest team, are now the sexy pick to meet in a rematch of the 2006 World Series. After beating the two top favorites in the division series, it makes since for people to be excited about the Tigers and Cardinals. However, a seven game championship series is much different than a five game series, while anything can happen in a five game series, when two more games are added into the equation statistics become a lot more formidable. And when the statistics are brought into the equation, there is a quantitative advantage for both the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Rangers, as many would expect, are a better hitting team than the Tigers. The Rangers have a team WAR of 38.9 (best of any playoff team) and a team wOBA of .348 (also the best of any playoff team). While the Tigers sit at a WAR of 28.5 and wOBA of .336. Some would argue that seeing Verlander and Fister twice in a seven game series could neutralize the highly talented Rangers’ offense. And I would agree Verlander (7 WAR, 3.12 xFIP) and Fister (5.6 WAR, 3.61 xFIP) are as good as any starter the Rangers have to offer. But great pitchers are not invincible, as shown in the Phillies’ series, with both Halladay and Lee losing starts, as well as, in Tigers’ ALDS series, in which Fister lost Game 1. Many people would be surprised about two facts about the Rangers team pitching though.
Thus, when analyzing the 2011 ALCS it is not a competition of whether the Rangers hitting can be better than the Tigers pitching, it is the fact that the Rangers are the defending American League champions, who are a better team this year than they were last year, as well as, a better hitting AND pitching team than the Tigers, this season.
The matchup in the National League Championships series pits two NL Central Division rivals against one another, and is also a rematch of the 1982 World Series (Milwaukee’s only trip). Both teams needed 5 games to win in the NLDS, and both teams used their respective aces in order to win Game 5. Milwaukee won the N.L. Central by 6 games over St. Louis. Thus, by going by records between two teams in the same division it seems as though Milwaukee is a better team. But some would argue that St. Louis is “hot” right now, by the way the ended up reaching the post-season in the final month. However, both teams won 7 out of their last 10 games to end the season, and each team won 3 out of 5 in the NLDS, so to say the Cardinals are hotter than the Brewers, when each team has won 10 out of their last 15 doesn’t solidify a point at all. Instead, I would much rather look at the season statistics to see, which team looks better coming into Sunday’s Game 1 in Milwaukee. The first and main advantage for the Brewers is that they have homefield in the series, for some teams this is not a huge deal, but for Milwaukee it most definitely is, in the regular season the Brewers were 33 games over .500 at home, while they were 3 games below .500 on the road. In the NLDS the Brewers won all 3 games at home, while losing both games played on the road in Arizona. The second advantage the Brewers have over the Cardinals is they pitch better. The Brewers’ pitching had a team WAR of 18.1 and xFIP of 3.58, while the Cardinals had a WAR of 14.3 and xFIP of 3.79. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Edwin Jackson are good for St. Louis, but not of the same caliber as Yovani Gallardo, Shawn Marcum, and Zack Grienke. However, the Cardinals have already beat a team in the NLDS who’s pitching was much better than theirs, and that was because St. Louis is the best hitting team in the N.L. (34.3 WAR, .332 wOBA). Those numbers were a huge advantage over the Phillies’ bats, but the Brewers lineup that features Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Nyger Morgan, and Ryan Braun, is only slightly worse than that of the Cardinals. The Brewers have the N.L.’s third best offense (32.9 WAR, .327 wOBA), which over the course of a seven game series could outhit the Cardinals. Thus, the Brewers have two distinct advantages over St. Louis, while St. Louis only has the one slight advantage on Milwaukee.
Most times, in the LCS format the better team comes out on top, for this reason, based on the numbers it is not hard to see that a World Series matchup, between two teams who have never won the big one before could occur. With the Texas Rangers visiting the Milwuakee Brewers (who have home field due in large part to a Fielder homer off Wilson) in the 2011 World Series.
Let me paint a picture for you: Adam Dunn arrives at U.S. Cellular Field and sees Kenny Williams standing outside with 12 million of Jerry Reinsdorf’s money, lighter fluid and a match.
Dunn: “Kenny what in the world are you doing??”
Williams: “Just setting this money on fire, it’s a fair reenactment of your 2011 season”
This week, the Chicago Cubs fired their GM Jim Hendry for a multitude of reasons. The Cubs have a 130 million dollar payroll, a 16 game below .500 record, a laughable starting rotation (I still do not understand how Randy Wells is in the majors), and half their payroll is Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, and Ryan Dempster. A casual baseball fan would be able to tell the Cubs have some serious baseball and economic problems in their front office. But there are two baseball teams in Chicago, and the South siders need to get rid of their General Manager as well.
The White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams built a team in 2005 that was built around solid position players, an outstanding rotation, and good bullpen. That team brought a World Series to Chicago, and it seemed as though Kenny could do no wrong. Williams, however, has done wrong, time and time again he has been making bad trades and bad free agent deals. The White Sox have made the playoffs only one time since the ’05 run, losing in the '08 ALDS to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The grace period after a World Series victory should be over, and the White Sox should follow the Cubs and start over with a new general manager. Williams has been making deadline deals since 2009 in hopes of seeing his team get back to the playoffs. In 2009 the White Sox traded four pitchers in exchange for Jake Peavy. Peavy was not able to give the White Sox the boost they needed to make the playoffs in ’09, but the four pitchers given up for him, have not been near as valuable as Peavy in the last two seasons. So as of now, the Peavy deal was not a bad one by Williams. Williams really rolled the dice in 2009, when he claimed underperforming Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios (.. and his ridiculous contract) off waivers. Adding Jake Peavy and Alex Rios added essentially 28.5 million dollars in payroll for 2009, but the White Sox were not able to make the playoffs.
In 2010, Williams found himself with a contender at the deadline yet again, here however, is where he really started to frustrate me as a baseball economist. He traded his best prospect, who was already in the starting rotation, Daniel Hudson and his number 8 prospect David Holmberg for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Edwin Jackson pitched well for the White Sox, but added another 9 million dollars for the White Sox. Thus, Williams still had Peavy and Rios, and now with Jackson, he had added $37 million to his payroll, yet where were the White Sox sitting come October time? That’s right, at home, again.
In 2011, the offseason was time for Williams to keep buying players. He locked up ’05 World Series stars A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, as well as, adding a big Designated Hitter in Adam Dunn. These players make in 2011, a collective $26 million. The Konkero/Pierzynski re-signings were not that bad of moves, with Konerko having a big year; however, Dunn has been the worst player in baseball. Thus, in 2011 Kenny Williams decided it was time to be a seller at the deadline, instead of buying players like he had of late. Williams traded Edwin Jackson ($9 million) and Mark Teahen ($5 million) for Jason Frasor ($3.75 million) and Zach Stewart ($414k). So Williams decided to get rid of a mistake in Teahen’s bad contract and acquire a pitching prospect in Stewart and an overpaid reliever in Frasor, all in all, cutting around 10 million dollars in payroll. But wait, the White Sox gave up their best pitcher in Jackson (3.22 FIP and 2.7 WARP) just to cut his 9 million dollar contract? One year before this year’s deadline the White Sox were buyers and traded their best pitching prospect, Daniel Hudson, for Jackson. Now, they have Zach Stewart instead. Daniel Hudson is making $419,000 in Arizona this season, and one must wonder what Kenny Williams was thinking in trading him, Hudson currently has a 2.99 FIP and a 3.3 WARP. Which means, Hudson would be the best pitcher on the White Sox this season, (with a major league minimum contract) but instead Williams has Stewart in his rotation, who has posted a 4.18 FIP and .1 WARP in 4 games with the White Sox.
Acquiring Adam Dunn this off-season for 12 million dollars may have been Williams’ worst move. Dunn has a -14.5 VORP and a -1.8 WARP, currently with a tAV of .230. If his numbers stay where they are currently for the rest of the way he will have cost the White Sox -$5 million dollars this season. So Dunn is paid $12 million to produce, yet has come up with a value of -5 million dollars. Alex Rios, acquired by Williams off waivers in ’09, is making $12.5 million this season, his value is also negative at -$3.2 million. Thus, Williams has used $24.5 million dollars worth of payroll and has gotten back -8.2 million dollars in production from Rios and Dunn. So it has cost him $32.7 million dollars for ZERO, let me repeat ZERO production this season, ($32.7 million is almost the entire Rays’ payroll). Just having Rios and Dunn on his team alone is unforgivable from an economic standpoint, and that is without considering the whole Daniel Hudson-Edwin Jackson debacle.
The White Sox’ official website has the motto “All In.” displayed on the top of every page. Kenny Williams has gone “All In” with his payroll, and moves of late, and if the White Sox fail to make the playoffs, currently 1 game below .500 and 4 games out of 1st place, again this season, Williams should stop gambling and walk away from the table, because at this point he is out of chips.