Some thoughts on replacement level players

I’ll bring the discussion that John Bai started on LL over to HR. The topic is Freely Available Talent (or Replacement Players) v. Average players.

A few thoughts:
1. Success is defined in wins and losses, not wins per dollar spent. The second is rigged in favor of teams that spend less money.
2. Superstars rarely hit the open market. When they do they can pick and choose where they want to do. Most of the time they don’t want to go to losing teams (A-Rod being the exception).
3. Freely available talent is freely available for a reason. Greg Dobbs is an excellent example of this. Dobbs actually had a decent season last year, but who saw that coming? Except for Pat Gillick. In order for the Mariners to get a shot at such a player, another team must first decide they are of little value.
4. Billy Beane is a savant. Just because he is exceptional at pulling rabits out of the hat, doesn’t mean that the average GM, can be expected to do this on a regular basis.
5. Freely available talent matters more to small budget teams. Teams like the A’s need to get more out of every dollar than do the Mariners in order to get the same win/loss record.
6. This is a seperate argument than the one about prospects getting major league time. Replacement level players are from the Rick Short pool of AAAA ballplayers. Club controlled guys don’t factor into the freely available pool.



4 Responses to Some thoughts on replacement level players

  1. SABR Matt says:

    The baseline is always set wrong too. When people go about creating a baseline to use as their replacement level, what they typically do is gather up a list of players who were not full time players but who had some small job in the majors.

    There are two problems with this.

    1) It counts great performances from prospects who broke in late (see: Jeremy Reed 2004 as an example…or better yet…see Francisco Rodriguez!)

    2) It counts only major leaguers. The replacement pool also contains a group of players who never get a chance in the big leagues even though they might be very close in talent to those that do. It could be a 50/50 ratio or more of AAAA guys who don’t make the trip up to AAAA guys who do. The replacement level should count those missing players as ZEROES…or at least attempt to extrapolate how they would perform.

    The first problem is one of including players who are not freely available and do not represent the true options a GM has. The second problem is one of excluding guys who ARE among the choices a GM has.

    Walking around wielding the replacement level like a blunt instrument and laughing at people who prefer to use other baselines to measure value is what I like to call arrogignorance. Arrogances and ignorance in the same package.

  2. SABR Matt says:

    Another point…

    The replacement level we see quoted is the arithmetic average of dozens and dozens of points in the sample. But here’s the problem with using that as a baseline…even ignoring all other points I just made and Coug already made in the original post:

    The RLP baseline comes with much higher RISK. At the average-player level, about 60% of the guys you pick who are near there at any given time will do a little worse than average and 40% will do a little better (imagine a bell curve with a little skew to the right).

    At the replacement level, 90% or more of the players you pick will flame out in a spectacular ball of fire that can be seen from Jupiter. 10% will do much better than the baseline when given a chance. For every one Jack Cust, there are 9 Wilson Valdezes out there…for every one Ben Weber there are 9 Jason Davises. For every one Jeremy Guthrie there are nine Ryan Feierabends.

    The average is not representative of what you can expect with your next draw at the RLP bargain bin.

  3. Ken says:

    I didn’t read the thing on LL, couldn’t find it, so if I’m off the reservation here, sorry. In any case the thing that I don’t like about a stat like VORP is that it misuses replacement. Last year, had Richie Sexson died, the replacement wouldn’t have been a 4A guy, it would have been Broussard, now Broussard would have had some at-bats anyways, so those at-bats would be taken by a replacement player. In reality, the untimely death of Big Sexy results in 80% at bats by your best bat off the bench (pick your percentage, I don’t care) and 20% by a replacement level, not 100%. Obviously every position on every team is different, but maybe somebody in the future (or maybe it has been done) could look by position at how the players who were not the #1 starter performed, and define that as replacement. Even then, you’ll have problems, but I would say that seems reasonable.

    If you are coming from the perspective of Bavasi then you should be comparing everything to replacement level, although that level varies. Silva’s marginal production is his production compared to the next best option whoever that is, and then he would decide if whatever that number is is worth the price it carries. Bavasi shouldn’t worry about league average in these cases. Comparing Silva (or whoever) to an average player is pointless, if there is no average player available, why compare him to that.

  4. Ken says:

    Brent, out of context like that I don’t know what you’re point is or how you feel about replacement players. Care to elaborate?

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