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True Value

First things first – the postseason honors have begun to arrive (no, not the ones we’re really waiting for – the MVP and Gold Gloves) but, in some ways, those that matter more. The Fielding Bible Awards are in and, in what should be no surprise at all, both Albert and Yadi affirmed their status as the greatest defensive players in the game at their respective positions by winning those awards. The Fielding Bible Awards are given out to one player only per position, as opposed to the Gold Gloves that are given to one player in each league at each position. Albert’s the only 3 time winner of a Fielding Bible Award and Yadi won for the 2nd year in a row, as well.

Every year, Tom Tango asks his readers to evaluate defensive players by what they see, rather than looking at statistical metrics and, surprisingly, every year the voting ends up looking pretty solid when compared to the metrics. Once again, Albert and Yadi won the Fans Scouting Report as well. I wonder if fans’ perception of these 2 players defensive abilities will end up being reflected in the more well-known awards – the MVP and the Gold Glove. Yadi deserved a GG last year (and Pujols won one) and Pujols again should win this year. A few weeks ago, I argued that this year was probably Yadi’s worst defensive season yet and, probably, his best season overall considering the strides he made at the plate. I’m not sure he deserves a GG this year, though John Dewan and Tango’s fans seem to disagree. We’ll see. It’ll also be interesting to see if Pujols’ defense, which now appears to be widely regarded as the best in the league at his position, helps him win the MVP despite the Cards’ 4th place finish.

Today I want to look at value. Which Cards’ players were the most and least valuable last season. In using the term "value" here, I’m not seeking to figure out who our best players were or even who contributed the most to Cards’ wins. That would be a spectacular waste of time since we all know the answer. By "value" here, I want to look at who provided the most production per dollar. Who was the best bargain and who did we overpay the most? Albert’s undoubtedly our best player but we probably got more production per dollar from Ryan Ludwick since his salary was 1/39th Albert’s.

The aforementioned Tom Tango has determined that the market value of a marginal win – a win above what a replacement-level player would provide – is worth about $4.4 M. An "average" major league ballplayer is 2 wins above replacement level – thus worth about $8.8 M per year.

What’s striking about the Cards’ payroll last season is how many relatively high priced players we had who produced absolutely zero. Most, of course was due to injuries. Still, if you combine Carpenter’s, Izzy’s, Encarnacion’s, and Mulder’s salaries, we paid $31.5 M to get negative 1win above replacement. Put another way, we paid more than $31 million to 4 players to play 1 win worse than replacement-level players would’ve played. That’s nearly 30% of our payroll that went to guys who were about the same or worse than Memphis Redbirds would’ve been. If you like, add in Pineiro and Kennedy to those 4 and that brings us to about .7 wins below replacement for a total of $40 M. About 40% of our payroll was worse than replacement level. It’s amazing that we could win 86 games w/ numbers like that. Successful teams don’t often carry so much dead weight. (Still think Pujols wasn’t valuable, voters?)

WAR is wins above replacement. Value per WAR is the expected market value of their performance based on their WAR. Salary is 2008’s salary in millions. Value to team is the difference between their value per WAR and their 2008 salary. Positive numbers mean the player performed better than expected to based on his salary (i.e.: he was underpaid). The opposite is true for negative numbers.

WAR Value per WAR Salary Value to team
Ludwick 5 $22 $0.411 $21.589
Pujols 7.7 $33.88 $16 $17.88
Wainwright 3 $13.2 $0.5 $12.7
Wellemeyer 3 $13.2 $1 $12.2
Lohse 3 $13.2 $4.25 $8.95
Lopez 1.7 $7.48 $0.13 $7.35
Skip 1.7 $7.48 $0.396 $7.084
Yadi 2 $8.8 $1.75 $7.05
Ankiel 1.7 $7.48 $0.9 $6.58
Looper 2.1 $9.24 $5.5 $3.74
Perez 0.2 $3.08 $0.39 $2.69
Glaus 3.3 $14.52 $12.5 $2.02
Springer 1.1 $4.84 $3.5 $1.34
KMac 0.1 $1.32 $0.39 $0.93
Franklin 0.7 $3.08 $2.25 $0.83
Miles 0.3 $1.32 $1.4 -$.08
Kennedy 0.3 $1.32 $3.5 -$2.18
Izturis -0.3 -$1.32 $2.85 -$4.17
Pineiro 0 $0 $5 -$5
Carp 0.3 $1.32 $10.5 -$9.18
Izzy -1 -$4.4 $8 -$12.4

Is a $21.5 M benefit to the club enough evidence to support the notion that Ryan Ludwick ought to get some top-10 MVP love? If it’s not, there’s something wrong. Pujols is simply tremendous and, while people may complain about players’ salaries, it’s indisputable that Pujols is one of the most UNDERPAID players in the game – despite being the highest paid player on a $100+M payroll team. Lopez’s salary and numbers reflect those w/ the Cards only. The Cards were responsible only for a prorated portion of the league minimum – roughly $130K. He was tremendously valuable over his 2 months in uniform.

We’ve got to get more out of our middle infielders – we know that. Our right-handed relief corps, Izzy excepted, was pretty good. Moreover, Perez and KMac are young and should get better. Our starters, Pineiro excepted, were pretty good. Aside from Wainwright, they’re not standouts and his value would’ve been higher had he not missed 2 ½ months or so. If the wagonmaker had pitched the entire season, his value would’ve likely been up over $20 M. We got a ton out of Lohse, even more than I expected going in, and I was pretty sanguine on the signing.

Aside from that, I think the numbers speak for themselves. It should add a little insight to the numbers that Looper can probably expect this offseason as he goes for his first free agent contract as a starter. He’ll likely get at least 2 years, and maybe 3 in the $16 – 26 M range. It also gives us an idea as to what kind of numbers Ankiel’s likely to get after next season if he continues to improve. He was worth $7.5 M last season and had only 463 PAs. If he can play 140 games this season and get up over 600 PAs, he’s going to get at least $10 M per season for 3-4 seasons.

Finally, I think we can see what opportunities will open up once we are able to extricate ourselves from some of that contractual dead weight. If Carp can’t provide us anything, that contract’s going to be a heavy weight going forward as it escalates.