Monday, July 16, 2007

Will Young Be A B?

People who use the decision to hold on to Alfonso Soriano last year, with the decision to hold on to Dmitri Young this season are missing the key factor. By not trading Soriano, the Nats walked into two extra draftpicks. Ideally, it'd have been a first rounder and a sandwich pick, but they netted Jeff Smoker, a first-round talent, -- SIGN HIM CHEAPOS!1!!!! -- and Jordan Zimmermannnnn, who's eating batters alive in Burlington, VT.

With Dmitri Young, there's likely no safety net. They either trade him for the crap other teams are offering, or they let him waddle around the clubhouse for the rest of the season, either to re-sign him (which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world) or to let him waddle elsewhere, receiving nothing in return.

So they should trade him now, taking whatever crap other teams offer, since it's a use-it-or-lose-it kinda proposition with Dmitri. The catch is that there are lots of other DH/1B types out there, and the supply likely exceeds the demand, further lowering his value to other teams. So it's not going to be easy, and it's likely that if a move is made, it's going to be more of a Daryle Ward-type deal than a Livan Hernandez-sized one. (No, those weren't fat jokes)

There is a little wrinkle though. There's an outside chance that Dmitri could net some compensation. Let's take a look at that.

Free agent compensation is determined by the dreaded Elias Sports Bureau. The formula they use have never (as far as I know) been released publicly, but the general concepts are known. Players are grouped by similar position -- in Dmitri's case, he's with other 1B, DH's and OFers -- then ranked in a series of stats. For that group of players, they consider Plate Appearances, Batting Average, On-Base %, HR and RBI. They weigh each of those factors for what the player has done over the previous two seasons. I've heard that they pro-rate some of those stats for time missed on the DL, but I can't find any actual confirmation of that.

Once the players are ranked and given a score, the top 20% of the players are assigned as Type-A free agents. The next 20% are Type Bs.

(The formulas are a complete joke, and they usually bear little resemblance to how players actually perform, but that's a debate for another time)

Last year, Dmitri Young was a ... nothing
. He ranked 75th out of the 113 AL 1B/DH/OFers. His 'score' of 40 would've placed him 74th in the NL, just ahead of Endy Chavez. (Is that ironic or not?)

To gain compensation this year, he'd have to move up 30 places or so in the standings. To get a feel for what he'd need to do, I decided to look at what those players did right around the Type-B cutoff.

Assuming things are relatively constant from year-to-year -- which I don't know if you can do, but if you're looking for precision, you ain't payin' me enough -- he'd need to finish 46th. I spit out the stats for players 10 places above and 10 places below. Then I summed up their stats and figured out what the 'average' player in that area did. If you want the full spreadsheet, it's here.

If we compare that to what Young has done since 2006, we can get a rough idea of the chances of him netting a pick.
     Average    Dmitri
PA 830 503
AVE .281 .304
OBP .345 .352
HR 23 15
RBI 90 72

Dmitri is ahead in 2 of the categories, and has a good chance of finishing ahead in the RBI total. He likely won't reach the PA mark, but another 250 or so would put him just short of the total. He'll be short on homers, but not terribly so.

Among his 'cohort's, Young would have the second highest average, and is middle of the pack on OBP. If he gets up to about 750 total PA, that's a total that would've placed him 12th -- middle of the pack -- in the group. He'll easily be top-10 in RBI in that group.

Add it up, and he's likely in the upper half of that group. He's likely going to be a Type B Free Agent.

If that's the case, the Nats' decision could change. The offers they get would likely not be any better than the supplemental draft pick they'd get for letting him walk at the end of the year.

Of course, letting him walk at the end of the year isn't quite that easy either. First, the Nats would have to be willing to offer him salary arbitration -- tho many teams have a wink-wink agreement for their players to decline, if offered. And there'd also likely be a lot of pressure for the Nats to re-sign him anyway, which would mean no pick anyway.

The Nats know the formula and what goes into it. And they have access to better stat databases than I do. I'm sure they've got some lowly intern (or $20K schlub!) working on this very question, using up-to-date stats.

But the TRADE DMITRI!1!!! answer isn't nearly as clear cut as I thought it was a few hours ago.


  • Great post, adding some facts and thought and stuff to a much-bullshitted about topic.

    I am stunned he could be a B.

    Keeping him also means we keep the risk of (i) injury, (ii) personal meltdown, or (iii) performance crater.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 7/16/2007 9:45 PM  

  • The B thing stunned me, too. But if you look at the stiffs in the middle, there's not a lot of difference between the 35th ranked OFer and the 80th. That's even more grist for the right half of the bell curve mill.

    Good points on keeping him. I wouldn't worry about ii. But Performance cratering is likely. The guy's playing out of his mind. Fat 33 year olds don't have career years and repeat them. (Especially when they have a career high in batting average on balls in play!)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/16/2007 9:50 PM  

  • Not to quibble, but my thought was that the risk was that he would performance crater this year and so keeping him wouldn't net a B.

    I'm not as worried about the year to year risk since every player has such risks.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 7/16/2007 10:19 PM  

  • Ah. There are only two rate-based stats in the forumla, Average and OBP. He's above average in both, and far enough in average that even a bad second half would keep him on the plus side.

    That's where knowing how those factors are proportionally weighed would be a big help.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/16/2007 10:21 PM  

  • Dammit Needham, this is the post I was planning on doing sometime last week (Lord I'm lazy) and tonight I was even going to punctuate it with a dollop of "3-Run Homer!!1!" for the fanboy types.

    Nicely done, but if you were a real citizen journalist you probably could have gotten access to the Elias stats. Betcha Gleeman has one of the ESB guys chained up in his basement.

    By Blogger Nate, at 7/16/2007 10:32 PM  

  • You have a blog!?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/16/2007 10:40 PM  

  • If anyone reading this wants to know what pricks Elias is (are!?), read The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz.

    It's a dry, but informative book about the history of baseball statistics. (Which is probably more exciting of a topic than that sounds)

    A certain nameless Japanese-loving Nats Blogger should know where my copy is.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/16/2007 10:42 PM  


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/17/2007 1:31 AM  

  • Signing Young would be a huge mistake for the future. Sure, they'll get some lame prospect for him in a trade, but that's better than a lame 34 year old next year. And besides, Johnson has to get fit sooner or later, then what's he good for? Interleague play?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/17/2007 2:32 AM  

  • I say keep Dmitri and trade Johnson - Nick's overrated and always hurt.

    By Blogger logan, at 7/17/2007 7:34 AM  

  • Nick Johnson hits for average, power, and takes walks to get on base. He's also better defensively than Dimitri, not to mention younger and less blimp-like. Keeping Meat Hook is the worst possible option.
    Everybody is high on him right now, but that is the reason to sell while he's hot. That's what smart teams do. His value will never be higher, and we would really be doing him a favor by getting him to an AL team that has a chance to contend.

    By Blogger Rob B, at 7/17/2007 8:00 AM  

  • I don't think anyone (well, rational people) is saying sign Dmitri at the expense of Nick Johnson.

    There are a few options now, though, that weren't there before.

    They can trade him now, which the overnight anonymous thinks will be easy. It won't. There are players like Adam Dunn, Mark Texeira, Carlos Pena, Scott Hatteberg, etc, who'd be available in a trade. There's just a huge glut of Dmitri-like players, which means the return the Nats could get for him are below what you'd expect.

    If that's the case, keeping him til the end of the season makes sense, IF THEY THINK, he's going to be a Type B Free Agent. I'm still not sure that he's going to be, but the look at the numbers in this post make it seem like he's pretty close. If he is, they can get an extra first-round (a supplemental) pick for him, which is likely higher value than the prospects they'd get from dealing him.

    BUT, that's contingent on the Nats offering him arbitration. They might not want to do that, considering how he'd make starter's money (I dunno... $5 Million?) to be a part-timer. they could always work out a handshake agreement for Dmitri to decline arb (which plenty of teams do tho it's against the rules), in which case, the Nats would have no risk, and would get the pick when he signs elsewhere.

    IF they re-sign him after keeping him, that's the worst outcome in that they won't have gained any picks or prospects.

    If they REALLY want to re-sign him, it makes sense to trade him now, then snap him up in the offseason. At least they'd get something.

    Of course that wouldn't make much sense either because Jim Bowden's strength is turning over rocks and finding the NEXT Dmitri Young. You can always shake out a DH fairly easily. So why commit to a player for a few million?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/17/2007 8:35 AM  

  • The Nats may not sign Smoker.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/17/2007 8:56 AM  

  • Sure. And I may not wake up tomorrow.

    It's written vaguely enough to be useless.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/17/2007 8:58 AM  

  • Ok. So you've made a decent argument today and last thursday for trading for dmitri. But what about the fact that even if the team is not competing in the division, fans want to have something fun to watch. Working in a male-centric retail environment, a cigar shoppe, I always here Guys talking about sports. And most people I talked to were not upset about the compensation we did, or could have got for soriano, but how much fun it was to watch him play. While soriano came with a jarring Price tag, Young does not. He has expressed a willingness to stay with the Nats, and I think, even if he is benched in favor of Nick Johnson will continue to be a positive force in the clubhouse for this young team. If they can sign him for less than kearns I think it is well worth it to keep him on the team for 3-4 years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/17/2007 9:15 AM  

  • Well, I think today's post was more about keeping him. ;)

    I don't think fans are not going to go to the games because they don't re-sign Young. Fewer people know who he is than who knew Soriano. Sure, the average fan doesn't know the compensation system, but when they finally DO sign a real FA -- be it Torii Hunter or someone else -- the marketing push they make will make that guy the next fan favorite.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/17/2007 9:19 AM  

  • what's compensation for a type b? 2nd rounder or 2nd/3rd sandwich pick? mmmmmm, sandwich!

    By Blogger DCPowerGator, at 7/17/2007 9:23 AM  

  • Type A is a first rounder + a sandwich pick.

    Type B is a sandwich pick (between the 1st and 2nd rounds) -- that's where we took Smoker.

    (The exception to A is that if a team is in the top half of first-round picks, it shifts down to a second-round pick)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/17/2007 9:24 AM  

  • Let's not forget one more important factor in this decision:

    As we can see from the Smoker negotiations, it will cost a few million to sign the compensatory pick. A prospect, even an inferior one, brought over in a trade, has already cashed his bonus check. Not saying management is cheap but . . . .

    And, our used car salesman GM should be pointing out that unlike all those other 1B/DH types, Dmitri is a switch hitter, a much better fit for a post season roster. (Texeria is a SH too but he's in another class money wise).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/17/2007 9:27 AM  

  • Are switch hitters really in demand? If someone else is a better hitter, someone else is a better hitter. :)

    Good point about the bonus thing, but at that point, it's a million bucks. They'll have the revenue streams next year to take care of that.

    Still, I don't think they're going to have many meaningful nibbles for him because he's a DH. No playoff team is going to play him at first. And at DH, there are simply too many options for the Nats to get much. Supply and Demand, and all that.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/17/2007 9:29 AM  

  • Speaking of first basemen, the Dodgers are apparently interested in bolstering their bullpen. If the Nationals could somehow land Loney, it would moot all of this Young discussion.

    Bowden should be on the phone right now offering everyone on the ML roster who has value except Zimmerman. You know, Cordero, Rauch, Young...Cordero, Young...did I mention Rauch?

    The Dodgers have a collection of prospects we could only dream about.

    By Blogger RPS, at 7/17/2007 11:05 AM  

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