Friday, May 16, 2008

Soriano vs. Counsell

Carl and I have mentioned before what great fans we are of the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis. In it, it is explained in great detail what players constitute the best investment for a baseball team from a statisical point of view.

Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A's brought in several statiticians to his staff, and replaced several "old hands". In other words, he wanted to see from real numbers which players were the best value as relates to winning baseball games. Here are my biggest takeaways from the book:
  • Defense matters little
  • The playoffs/world series are a crapshoot
  • Walks are king
  • On base percentage (walks are a function of this) is king
  • Stolen bases are bullsh*t
  • Don't pick up players on your team that haven't proven that they can play professional baseball (this is especially funny when you look at what NFL draftees get before they play even one down in the NFL)

I have given up trying to figure out the bizarro world of economics that the NFL functions in, so will make a crack at comparing two current day players in baseball, look at their numbers, and make some conclusions based on statistics with the emotion removed. Well, maybe I will put a little emotion in there.

The Cubs have a player named Soriano and Carl and I agree that he is probably one of the biggest stiffs in the league for what he gets paid, statistically speaking. Emotionally, he is a fan favorite. But look at what he has done so far this year.

He his hitting .257, with an on base percentage of .298. In 113 at bats so far in 2008 he has 7 walks (6.2% of at bats) and 20 strikeouts (17.8% of at bats). Take a look at his salary, from the Chicagoist:

While most of the city's sports media are beside themsleves with the news of the signing, Chicagoist is shaking our head. $136 million is a ton of cash, even for the Cubs. And to a player who'll be 31 when the eight year deal begins? Who they gave the no-trade clause other teams wouldn't? The Cubs will now be on the hook to pay him $17 million through 2014, when he's a 39 year old washed up has-been. And they can't trade him unless he wants to go someplace.

That is a lot of coin. Soriano will get paid $14m this year.

But perhaps I am being unfair to Soriano with my statistical snapshot of this year. Lets take a look at his career thus far, since he started with the Yankees in 1999:

4,594 at bats, with 262 walks (5.7%), 986 strikeouts (21.5%), .281 batting average, .326 on base percentage. Ugh.

Now, lets take a look at one of my favorite current players on my beloved Milwaukee Brewers, Craig "old man" Counsell. I made up that nickname myself, since he is almost my age.

Craig will make in the neighborhood of $3m this year. He isn't a day to day player, rather fills in when guys need a day off, or when they are injured. So his stats for this year:

51 at bats, 5 walks (10%), 10 strikeouts (20%) hitting .235, on base percentage of .316. Not bad for an old man. Lets take a look at his career stats:

3779 at bats, 465 walks (12.3%), 527 strikeouts (13.9%), average of .257, on base percentage of .342. You go Craig! From these numbers, Counsell is by far the better money value, as he gets paid $11m less than Soriano.

Of course Soriano's power numbers are much better than Counsell's, if that is your thing. Soriano has 247 HR and 648 RBI over his career, where Counsell has 34 HR and 308 RBI. So do you want someone who hits a lot of homeruns or someone who gets on base more, strikes out less, and is a great utility player? Moneyball says the latter.

Now, it is time to get a little emotional. I have watched Soriano a few times this year and he is quite a sorry player in my opinion. I simply can't believe the plays he makes in the outfield - I mean the poor quality of plays. Counsell seems to have a great attitude every time he plays and can still throw the leather around at times. In the big picture defense (if you believe Moneyball) doesn't play that huge of a role in the game, but I still like to see guys try their best. Counsell was the NLCS MVP once, and is now reduced to a utility guy. But I never hear him complain or bitch - all he does is get on base when he can and play hard. As for Soriano I can't say that I have seen him enough to make a good opinion, but from what I have seen he seems to thump his chest pretty hard for the stats he is putting up, and I have seen several dismal plays in center field at Wrigley out of him this year. Here's hoping he keeps up the shoddy work, and here's to yet another huge money sieve on the north side of Chicago. If you believe the stat work in Moneyball (and I do) Soriano has to be considered one of the players in the league that is the most overpaid for what he does - or doesn't.


Carl from Chicago said...

Soriano hit 2 home runs today and was momentarily hot... so at least for a bit we are getting our $ worth. But in the long haul, until he is in his late 30's, is another story.

Gerry from Valpo said...

The Tribune Cubs are spending money like Todd Stroger and the Crook County Board because the pay out will be inherited by a new owner. In the case of the board, by future taxpayers. It's the Chicago way and that's the bandwagon the Cubs chose to jump on.

Every off season Cub-leaning sports writers and Cub fans insist on this player or that player as being the one key to winning it all. It always involves spending big money. it usually fails.

But the fans need a billy scape-goat to blame each season's failure on and it looks like Sorry-ano could be the 2008 version of Bartman.

Carl from Chicago said...

Wow... Soriano is on a tear. For a bit here the cubs sure are getting their $ worth

Dan from Madison said...

Give it a week.