Bang for the Buck: Pitchers


About two weeks ago I examined the Yanks’ 2008 offense using Fangraphs’ new replacement value section, which expressed each player’s output in an actual dollar figure. Simply put, the determination of a player’s value is dependent on both their offense and defense relative to their position, and I used Ryan Howard ($15.2M value) and JJ Hardy ($25.0M) as examples.

This week David Appelman & Co. have added pitching win values to their already brilliant site, which expresses a pitcher’s true worth in a nice and easy dollar amount. Unfortunately the determination of these values is way more complex than it is for the position players, because factors like run enviroment and leverage are such major considerations. Dave Cameron (of USS Mariner fame) will be explaining what goes into all of this via a weeklong series which began on Monday. Yesterday he touched on the use of the Fielding Independant Pitching (FIP) statistic in lieu of ERA in the calculation, and then the determination of replacement level for pitchers.

I became an engineer because I enjoy seeing and understanding how things work, so I’m going to definitely going to check out the rest of Dave’s posts this week to see the nuts of the bolts of these calculations. If you’re not a total nerd like me and couldn’t care less how these things work, then let’s get right to it and see what kind of value the Yankees got out of their pitching staff last year.

A decent sized table is after the jump.

Player Pitching
Value Salary
Mike Mussina 52.9 $25.6M $11M
Mariano Rivera 42.2 $22.7M $15M
Andy Pettitte 46.0 $21.7M $16M
Joba Chamberlain 35.1 $18M $0.39M
Chien-Ming Wang 21.2 $9.9M $4M
Darrell Rasner 13.3 $5.9M $0.39M
Brian Bruney 7.1 $3.5M $0.725M
Damaso Marte 6.0 $3.0M $0.67M
Phil Coke 5.3 $2.9M $0.3983M
Phil Hughes 5.6 $2.5M $0.40635M
Edwar Ramirez 5.3 $2.4M $0.39M
Dan Giese 4.8 $2.2M $0.175M
Jose Veras 4.3 $1.9M $0.39M
Sidney Ponson 4.0 $1.7M $0.23M
David Robertson 3.0 $1.4M $0.141M
Al Aceves 2.7 $1.2M $0.069M
Carl Pavano 2.2 $0.9M $11M
LaTroy Hawkins 1.5 $0.7M $3.75M
Ian Kennedy 1.6 $0.7M $0.394275M
Jon Albaldejo 1.4 $0.7M $0.393225M
Kei Igawa 0.8 $0.4M $4M
Humberto Sanchez 0.0 $0.0M $0.39M
Scott Patterson 0.0 $0.0M $0.0009M
Chris Britton -0.2 -$0.1M $0.39M
Ross Ohlendorf -0.6 -$0.2M $0.304M
Billy Traber -0.9 -$0.4M $0.5M
Kyle Farnsworth -3.6 -$1.5M $4.04M
Total 261.0 $127.7M $75.53705M

The “Pitching” number in the table is the number of runs the pitcher prevented above replacement level. The simple ten runs equals one win rule isn’t accurate for pitchers in this application; starters and relievers have their own unique conversions, which is why some guys have a higher value than others despite fewer runs prevented.

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Yanks received more value from their pitching staff than salary owed, that’s the whole point after all. Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte made just about every start, and even though he missed most of the season, Chien-Ming Wang was still a bargain because he was so great in the first half. A bullpen full of dirt cheap yet effective middle relievers also helped out. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes … just imagine if they contributed 400 innings instead of 135.1 combined. Overall, the Yanks received a 169.06% return on their pitching investment, polar opposite of the 64.9% ROI they got out of their position players.

Combining the pitchers and position players, the Yanks dished out $212,825,550 in salary (based on my approximate calculation) and received $216,800,000 worth of value, a 101.87% ROI. They barely broke even, which is pretty bad, and I only counted the players that actually suited up for the Bombers last year, not the entire 40-man roster. The Rays, on the other hand, received a ~345% ROI on their total payroll from their position players alone. Tack on the pitchers and you’re probably looking at a 550-600% ROI. I guess you can take solace in the fact that the Yanks’ return would have much better if Chien-Ming Wang, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Phil Hughes stayed healthy all year and had representative seasons.

I wrote about the inefficiency in the Yanks’ roster building strategy briefly at Newsday yesterday. The Yanks have been spending too much money and not getting enough results for years now, and the answer continues to be spend more money. At some point, something has to give.

If you’re interested in reading more about the values of free agents and draft picks, and I suggest checking out these posts by TusconRoyal at Beyond the Box Score and Victor Wang at THT, respectively. Beyond the Box Score also posted a spreadsheet today that will allow you to calculate these values for yourself.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Ed says:

    If about 100 innings of Joba is worth $18 M, with a good chunk of that being from lower value bullpen innings, think what 200 innings of him starting is worth…

    • Chris says:

      The bullpen innings in general should be higher value than starters innings. You can much more easily control the leverage of a reliever than you can with a starter.

      • radnom says:

        True. But 6+ innings from a starter is worth more than 2-3 (more likely) high leveraged innings thrown by a reliever over those five days. Joba’s value would only increase after a full season starting.

      • A.D. says:

        Someone had the quote the other day, how in this calc relievers were fundamentally going to be worse less than starters, because someone pitching the 8th isn’t as important as the starter that day.

      • Ed says:

        Check out the link that explains the calculations.

        The gist of it is more players are capable of being relievers than starters. The result is a replacement level reliever will have a better stat line than a replacement level starter. As value is based on what a player offers compared to a replacement level player, the same stat line from a starter is worth more than from a reliever.

        Another tidbit from the article – if you take a team with a league average offense, defense, and bullpen, but a replacement level starting pitcher, your odds of winning any given game are 38%. If you go league average offense, defense, and starting pitcher, but replacement level bullpen, you get a 47% chance of winning.

        • BJ says:

          Just wanted to add that this only applies if the opponent is league average as well. But yeah, it does show how much more important the starters are. Still, the author leaves out the fact that a league average starter would be a .12 advantage for approximately 1/5 of the games, while a league average bullpen would would be a .03 advantage for all of the games. The starter IS more important and less replaceable, but not by as much as the author implies.

  2. When you have players that are as highly paid as guys like A-Rod and Jeter, it is by very nature harder to get a good return on the investment.

    Given that I think Alex makes more than the Rays team combined, it makes perfect sense that the Rays ROI would be so high.

    • radnom says:

      “When you have players that are as highly paid as guys like A-Rod and Jeter, it is by very nature harder to get a good return on the investment.”

      Well, that depends if you are looking at it from a purely statistical sense or if you consider marketing/merchandise. I know the Yankee ownership certainly cares about the later, and taking that into consideration makes those players very good investments.

      • Mike A. says:

        See, that’s what I don’t agree with. I think the winning draws fans, regardless of who’s on the team.

        • radnom says:

          Do you think anyone really gets excited for a San Antonio Spurs game?
          Sure, true fans enjoy a winning team, but there is a huge market out there that wants the drama and excitement of the ‘big name’.
          You don’t think you can have a very good, but very boring, team? (ala the Spurs of the past few years).

          You have to realize the people on this site and other Yankee blogs are a vast, VAST minority among Yankee fans.

          And yet, how many of us went out and bought a new Sabathia or Texiera jersey in the last few weeks?

          • Mike A. says:

            Oh I’m not denying that stars bring fans, or course they do. The dynasty teams didn’t have any huge mega stars like A-Rod or CC, but they still packed the stadium.

            • radnom says:

              Yeah, but they did have big personalities and star players, Jeter, Clemens etc…those were still damn good teams.

              And bringing up the dynasty teams only helps prove my point. The last 8 years they Yankees won 0 world series, signed guys like Giambi, Mussina etc and have seen attendance do nothing but go up.

              Also I wasn’t mentioning specifically attendance or TV sales, there is a lot else that goes into the economic value that a player brings to a team.

        • Ed says:

          I think that’s true in most cases, but you occasionally get a player that’s on another level. Here’s some details on Jeter that were told on the stadium tours.

          Jeter has two lockers in the clubhouse – one for his stuff and one for his fan mail. The fan mail locker fills up and gets emptied by his assistants about 3 times a week.

          For most of the rest of the team, they make a small pile in their locker that they deal with about once a week. For most players, it’s a small enough amount of mail that they deal with it personally.

          I believe they said something like 95% of the fan mail the Yankees receive is for Jeter.

          Jeter is in another world from almost every other player in the game when it comes to merchandise and marketing value.

  3. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    Do we really need some fancy schmantzy formula to tell us that Pavano & Igawa were the most inefficient pitchers on the Yanks in ’08?

    But it is interesting in that it shows that Sir Sidney was worth more than his salary. Guess it was all those innings he ate!

  4. A.D. says:

    These calcs seem to favor pitchers, I mean I like Kennedy but if Jose Molina has negative value, than IPK and his 8.00+ ERA in 40 innings should too

    • greg says:

      well it goes by FIP, not ERA, which I’m not sure I agree with, but that explains why IPK had a positive value

      • A.D. says:

        Damn FIP, i see why they do it, but I think of FIP as an interesting peripheral not a foundation

        • Mike A. says:

          I trust it more than ERA. ERA is so dependent on the fielders behind you, that it’s easy for a guy with a 3.20 FIP to have a 4.00 ERA.

          The two best FIPs in baseball last year belonged to Lincecum and Cliff Lee, followed my CC, Haren and Halladay. So at the very least it’s accurate.

          • The two best FIPs in baseball last year belonged to Lincecum and Cliff Lee, followed my CC, Haren and Halladay. So at the very least it’s accurate.

            Although, Lincecum, Lee, CC, Haren, and Halladay were also #3, #2, #4, #17, and #5 in ERA last year, so it’s not like there’s tons of insane, wild discrepancies utterly invalidating ERA vs. FIP (at least at the top).

            I’m with you though, I tend to trust FIP over ERA. I like to list both and note large splits to see which bad pitchers are being masked by their good defense/luck or which good pitchers are being hurt by their poor defense/luck.

            Like Al Aceves and Andy Pettitte, for example.

          • BJ says:

            tRA FTW

            ERA is definitely flawed (takes into account fielding) but FIP does not include enough. tRA adds in pretty much everything that a pitcher can do to contribute to a win, so is the best for these purposes.

    • Ed says:

      Actually, the issue is the calculations work against catchers. No one has figured out a meaningful way to measure the defensive value of a catcher, so they just don’t include it.

      • A.D. says:

        I forgot about that, but even if you take Betemit, he was worth -1.4M last year, I’d argue he had a better year than IPK and his OPS + was far closer to 100 than IPK’s ERA+

        • Ed says:

          I do agree with you that IPK seems out of whack. I expected a negative number as well. My only guess is he had 27 K’s in 39.2 IP. That projects to 136 K’s in 200 IP, which is a decent number and a lot better than Wang has ever done.

          FIP can roughly be summarized as “K’s = awesome, everything else = varying degrees of sucking”, so enough K’s and all else is forgiven.

      • No one has figured out a meaningful way to measure the defensive value of a catcher, so they just don’t include it.

        Good point. That’s why Jason Varitek is going into the Hall of Fame someday, because he has a career UZR/150 of +1,000,000, he created the greatness of Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester from scratch, and his tears cure cancer.

        For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.

        • Gary D says:

          When Jason Varitek gets to the Hall of Fame, the employee at the door is going to ask him to buy a ticket if he wants to come inside the museum. What are you brain surgeons going to say next, Jake Gibbs is a freaking Hall of Famer?

  5. huuz says:

    in order to use ROI-type metrics like this, it is unfair to compare rookies w/ <3 years service time to FAs. There needs to be five categories:

    0-3 years serive time
    1st year arb.
    2nd year arb.
    3rd year arb.

    it is nearly impossible for any FA to compare favorably in ROI terms w/ a second-year player who puts up similar numbers. that is why i find it disengenous to compare the Rays’ ~500% ROI to the Yanks’ 1%.

    The current MLB system almost prohibits teams like the Yanks to have access to the type of talent that enable the Rays to exhibit a %500 ROI. we haven’t drafted near the top-ten of the draft in 15 years!

    • Mike A. says:

      The current MLB system almost prohibits teams like the Yanks to have access to the type of talent that enable the Rays to exhibit a %500 ROI. we haven’t drafted near the top-ten of the draft in 15 years!

      That is patently incorrect, and I thought we debunked this myth long ago. The only players on the Rays’ WS roster last year that weren’t available to the Yanks at one time or another were BJ Upton, Evan Longoria and Scott Kazmir, who were drafted before the Yanks picked.

      • huuz says:

        if you removed David Price, Upton, Longoria and Kazmir from their roster they wouldn’t be that sucessful of a team. That is the bulk of the talent on that team.

        • Mike A. says:

          I forgot about Price, my bad.

          • Jay CT says:

            Yeah true, but wouldn’t you also have to say that the Pirates have not done what the Rays have done? In other words, you still need those rookies to perform like the superstar vets, which is still rare.

        • Ed says:

          Price only threw a few innings last season, so while he’s a huge part of the team going forward, they were still a team good enough to make the World Series without him.

          Kazmir was obtained by Tampa in exchange for Victor Zambrano. Zambrano was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees. Theoretically, if the Yankees hadn’t realized in 1996 that Zambrano sucked, Kazmir could be a Yankee today.

      • huuz says:

        That is patently incorrect, and I thought we debunked this myth long ago

        also, i must have missed this, please post the link, so i can read it.

        thanks in advance.

        • Mike A. says:

          I didn’t post it anywhere, but it was explained all over the place – ESPN, BP, countless other blogs – that the Rays weren’t built through high draft picks alone.

          Guys like Shields and Sonnanstine were drafted in the teen rounds. That’s not the benefit from having high picks, it’s good scouting.

          • Dwnflfan says:

            My argument would be that the Yankees ARE putting together their teams smarter now but they’re still a year or so from really reaping the benefits. They did spend a lot of money on FA’s this off season but their young players that were infused into the system starting with Cashman’s victory in the front office power struggle are starting to replace the high priced free agents. According to Cashman the scouting staff was sub par, and who can argue with that considering their drafts, but has been rebuilt. The Oppenheimer drafts have been productive, possibly until this past year, and have already produced some ML players and promise contribute many more. Time will tell but we’re all aware that are once barren farm system is now stocked with arms even with the graduation of a few of the gems.

            You can’t undo a decade of poor decisions due to front office in-fighting over night. Steps have been taken and they SEEM to be going in the right direction with their focus on stocking the minor leagues and smarter FA signings. Sure we all have our own opinions. Personally I’d budget at least somewhere between Damon’s salary and Jeter’s salary for the draft and international FA signings every year. I figure the young cheap talent that would start spewing from your system a few years later would more than make up for the need to reduce your payroll by one top level veteran player nearing the end of his productivity.

            It’s funny to think of it this way but if Cashman’s plan works the Yankees will be perennial WS contenders with teams sans overpaid vets playing out the string and stocked with a mixture of young homegrown players and top-of-the-line FA’s. And we’ll owe it all to the 2004 Red Sox for shocking Steinbrenner into turning over more control to Cashman.

            • Old Ranger says:

              Very stellar post, I think (as do others) Cashmans’ approach is the right one. His mentor was “Stick” Michaels, who did a good job in the draft also. Stick was GM, when King Geo. was suspended, so he more or less had things done the way he wanted. Now, let’s see if Cash can do the same, it will take a while to show up.

            • Jay says:

              Exactamundo, Dwnflfan.

    • Chris says:

      The key is that you need to look at these over a longer period of time to really gauge whether they’re getting a good ROI. Certainly the Rays had a great ROI this year, but I would guess that it wasn’t so good the first 10 years of their existence as they failed to win 10 games in any year.

  6. Duke says:

    Scott Boras is taking multiple trips to Disney Land.

  7. ikl says:

    Explain to me again why Andy Pettitte for $12 Mil / 1 year is a bad deal. If these numbers are anywhere near accurate, he doesn’t even have to improve over last year to be worth it. Just not get hurt. And being able to bring him back without any sort of long term commitment is also an added plus – less downside risk.

    • Jay says:

      Wow! You really don’t understand why paying somebody for what they did last year when they stunk the entire second half and therefore may be injured is a risky move?

      I also think their methodology is seriously screwed up. According to them, Darrell Rasner, with 113 innings pitched, and giving up 5.40 runs per 9 innings pitched, was worth $5.9 million?!? Give me a break.

      But let’s use their numbers anyway. They say Danel Cabrera with his 180 innings pitched to an ERA of 5.25 — which is below Pettitte’s second half ERA and roughly in line with his innings pitched after the All Star Break — was only worth $6.1 million. That’s more or less what I think Pettitte would be worth if you could count on him annualizing his Post All Star Break numbers from last year.

      But just because he’s worth it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for the Yankees to pay it. If Pettitte is injured and they have to make up those innings, the dominos start falling again like they did last year. The Yankees can figure out some way, whether it’s by trade or by free agency or something else, to arrange for a lower risk alternative. And if Andy does bleed pinstripes, he could show he’s still healthy in a few months and then join the team Clemens style mid year and get a better payday once he shows he’s healthy and sound — whether the $ come from the Yankees or from someone else.

      Let’s wait and see what Pettitte gets from anybody else in this market where pitching is so scarce. If he gets $10 million guaranteed from anyone other than the Yankees, I’ll be very, very surprised.

      That said, neither you nor I nor the Yankees know if he’s injured. So one of us is pretty much guaranteed to look like an idiot. And it’s just as likely to be me as you. I just don’t think the Yankees have to take that much of a gamble — unless they have information that gives them comfort (like the information they had with Javier Vasquez, Randy Johnson, and Carl Pavano).

      • ikl says:

        Most pitchers look bad when you only consider their worst stretch of the season. Pettitte has a long track record and isn’t especially injury prone. If the Yankees think that he was bad in the second half because he was hurt, then fine. Since he was on their team, they should have a better read on the situation than anyone else does. If not, then you are just cherry-picking stats to make Pettitte look bad.

        Of course Pettitte could get hurt. Pitchers get hurt a lot. It is a risk for any pitcher. At his age, I wouldn’t want to give him a long term contract. But a one year deal really isn’t too big a risk and has plenty of upside. Look at what Mussina did last year. It could go either way. If the expected value is a sub-par Pettitte season is significantly better than $12 Mil, then this looks like a good risk.

      • Ed says:

        That said, neither you nor I nor the Yankees know if he’s injured.

        The Yankees sent him for 2 MRI’s in the second half last year, so I think they have a pretty good idea of his health. They’ve also said that he had a shoulder injury that was less severe than Joba’s.

        • Jay says:

          Wow. There’s an exact science for you. The MRIs never lie. To hell with it — pay him $16 million.

          If there was no health issue, what’s your thinking on why he stunk up the joint so bad after the All Star Break? You don’t give up a 5.35 ERA, a 1.53 WHIP and a .302 batting average against for no reason. What’s your theory exactly?

  8. steve (different one) says:

    Mike, perhaps you can explain to me how this formula gives Pettitte more value than Santana last year.

    doesn’t pass any sort of reasonability test.

    • Mike A. says:

      It has to do with their FIP, which is dependent on walks, strikeouts and homeruns (things a pitcher can control). Johan’s was 3.51, Pettite’s 3.71. Then once you factor in the difference in leagues (a replacement level NL pitcher >> AL RL pitcher), parks, leverage, it draws them closer together.

      Once they finish explaining the entire process I’ll be able to give you much better answer. But Pettitte did run into some bad luck last year, I spelled it out in this post:


  9. Jay CT says:

    Seems that they value the Yankees have gotten from Wanger, they would be better off buying a couple of his free agent years at a low rate. He will get 15 million a year like Lowe at the least, so if they bought him out at 9 million a year, wouldn’t they save money? I know big market teams like roll the dice, but it just seems to make sense to me.

  10. Manimal says:

    Farnsworth owes us money. Thats sad.

  11. Manimal says:

    And it looks like we got a bargin with CC, he was valued at 34.2 million.

  12. “The Yanks have been spending too much money and not getting enough results for years now, and the answer continues to be spend more money. At some point, something has to give.”

    Mike, I think your conclusion drawing here leaves a little to be desired. When I read this statement, the old Russo-Schoemaker matrix about Good Process and Bad Outcome popped into my head.

    Scroll down to the four-box matrix halfway down the page:

    Yes, we’ve spent lots of money and not gotten desired results. But, prior to that, we also spent lots of money and had fantasically excellent results. In fact, the entire history of the team, dating back to Jacob Ruppert, has been basically nonstop high levels of spending in the team accompanied by nonstop playoff contention (more or less) with numerous titles accumulated and much more success than lack thereof.

    We know that there’s a correlation between spending premium dollars on premium ballplayers and achieving premium results. We also know that this is not a guarantee of success, just an enhance likelihood of success. But, as “Bad Breaks” can always turn a “Good Process” into a “Bad Outcome”, I disagree with the characterization that the way to solve our title drought is to discontinue the basic philosophy of outspending our opponents.

    • Jay CT says:

      Excellent, excellent blog posting. I assume TSJC will respond in a snarky manner, but how in the hell do you have so many fricken websites at your fingertips all the time? Do you simply google, or are you some sort of a criminal mastermind?

    • Old Ranger says:

      I knew you were more than quick quips and jokes…good show.
      I like your last paragraph best, it hits home.
      Out spend other teams on a player that will (realistically) upgrade a position we need…Tex…and don’t have in our farm system. This a smart use of their money and damn good business use of assets.
      When this team won a lot, it was as you stated…high profile players (and money)…conversely, we used a judicious amount of farm hands to plug in when they showed promise.

  13. Dave says:

    What the heck did the rays value look like? Did pettitte really have more value than salary last year? It sure didnt seem like it. And i could only imagine that replacement level isnt very close to average in the MLB. What exactly is replacement level?

    • Rob in CT says:

      As noted abnove, they used FIP instead of ERA. Pettitte’s FIP was way better than his ERA (suggesting poor luck/fielding).

  14. Rob in CT says:

    This of course attempts to measure value as purely an matter of on the field performance (individual on the field performance, too, right?). The Yankees clearly overpay for the services of, say, Jeter. Ok, but Jeter is more to the franchise than what he does on the field. If and when his performance declines to the point where he’s hurting the team (read: blocking them from playing a superior SS – and no, don’t get into the whole ARod thing please), then ok. But for now, I decline to believe that Jeter is costing the Yankees money.

    The Yanks are inefficient because being in contention every single year is inefficient. So be it.

    • Rob in CT says:

      To clarify my parathetical, I meant to add that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. A playoff team – or even a team that has a legit shot at the playoffs – should have a lot more value than a team that, while it wins only a few less games, is usually out of it (Blue Jays). The Yankees put a contending team on the field every year, and that has got to have a ton of value that isn’t captured by simply measuring the performances by each player on the roster.

  15. Mike A. says:

    Also, some people are taking my “at some point, something has to give line” as “they need to stop spending.” At means that something’s going to have to change soon, and that could just as easily mean more – and lots more – winning.

    • BJ says:

      The problem that I have with your line of thinking is that getting value (which here is exclusively on the field value) equal to investment (in this case slightly higher than investment) is a bad thing. The thing you have to keep in mind is that value is defined by what people are spending for a win on the free agent market. In this way, if you are giving contracts to free agents, you have to pretty much presume that the value you will get is going to be equal to the amount you are paying. In fact, on long term deals, you presume that the the value you will get in the last few years is less than the amount paid, as you expect value to diminish and many contracts are backloaded, and these factors combined can be greater than inflation.

      The way you become “efficient” is by using cost controlled players who have not yet hit the free market. The Yankees have not really employed this strategy and have not been in a position to do so, but with the farmhands maturing they look to be able to do so in the future. Still, considering that the Yankees’ strategy was to go on the free market and find players to fill their needs, you cannot be disappointed that they have a return equal to investment, especially when performance has been so high for so long.

  16. Gary D says:

    Yankees: Immediately go sign Ben Sheets for one year at the $10 million a year with performance incentives that a washed-up Andy Pettitte wouldn’t take and watch the baseball world drool.

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