PTI on SP-RP Conversions


Why do major league GM's give $100M contracts to starters generating 4.0 WPAs, but only $10M contracts to setup relievers generating similar 4.0 WPAs?

I suggest skipping the article below, and simply going off and spending a day thinking about the question above.  It will be one of your most edifying baseball meditations.  ;- )

Do you suspect that GM's spend more $ per WPA in the rotation ... because all GM's are stupider than you?  If so, you are definitely on the wrong website.  :- )   Close the door quietly on your way out.

Is it because we just hit one of the 800 out of 1,000 lightbulbs that are dark for us?   If so, what is my learning opportunity here?

Phillippe Aumont, as a healthy #2 starting pitcher throwing 96 mph, would command 7/$120M on the free agent market.  As a healthy setup man of exactly the same ability and of very similar WPA, he would command 3/$18M or so.

Whatever the reason:  why VOLUNTARILY convert a $120M resource into an $18M resource?



Why the “panic” in the blogs sphere?
A top RP makes about the same WPA as a SP.

Pitchers WPA 2008:

Cliff Lee 5.96
CC Sabathia 4.74
Tim Lincecum 4.59
Johan Santana 4.08
Ryan Dempster 3.54

Brad Lidge 5.37
Mariano Rivera 4.47
Joakim Soria 4.08
Carlos Marmol 3.77
Bobby Jenks 3.47

So if Aumont becomes a top RP he can be as valuable to the team as a SP in terms of WPA.

And if GMZ thinks Aumont has a bigger chance to contribute as RP than why not think its a better move?

Pehaps Joakim Soria should get a  C.C. Sabathia-type $150MM contract?  :- )


Is there consideration to moving pitchers like Matsuzaka-san and Uehara-san to the bullpen, when they are throwing well in the rotation?   ... with similar WPA pending, but plus a guarantee against injury?  If Yu Darvish is equally valuable as a reliever or starter, why subject his arm to the risk of so many innings in the rotation?

How about moving Felix Hernandez to relief?  His WPA can be higher in the 7th and 8th innings than it would be in the 9th.



If this were a sound paradigm, wouldn't SOME great HOF managers have exploited it, deploying Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal or Whitey Ford or Roger Clemens to tie games in the 6th and 7th innings?

One difference between Dr. Detecto and many other sabermetrcians:  I am very slow to believe that Earl Weaver, Casey Stengel, Walter Alston, and Tony Larussa were all dumb together.  Where there is a UNIVERSAL consensus throughout baseball history, I tend to believe that the "natural selection pressures" of baseball streamlined the strategies into something resembling correct mode.

Perhaps on Neptune, cars run very well on square wheels, but I kind of doubt it.  And maybe all of history's starting pitchers were deployed incorrectly, but I'll need a lot of strong evidence towards that.  WPA does not qualify.

Lots of GM's will spend $100M, $150M for just the right starting pitcher.  Will any of them spend that for the right relief pitcher?   How much will ANY of them give for a setup man who is generating high WPA's?

The ratio of $/WPA is higher for good starters (vs good setup relievers) not by a ratio of 2:1, but by a ratio more like 5:1.   Why is that?


Note that there is no reason at all that a pitcher need "close" to achieve 4.00 WPA's.  As Bill James has shown, he would have a much easier time piling up WPA's by entering tie games in the 7th, 8th, or 9th.  So there are no worries at all, moving your ENTIRE BIG THREE to the bullpen.  They'll all get 50-70 high-leverage innings.


I do admire "fresh perspective."  Go ahead, get crazy, give us your fresh ideas :- ) but please do be sure that you are aware that your ideas are the ones that bear the burden of proof ...

I'm not closed-minded, but some ideas don't pass the chuckle test.  As Bill James said, if your formula tells you that Bob Stinson was a better defender than Johnny Bench, look for a new formula.

And the idea that Joaquim Soria might help this club as much as Tim Lincecum would?  That doesn't pass the chuckle test.


Dr D


Taro's picture

Not to pile onto Naka-san, but heres a repost from MC:
With all due respect Naka-san.. The GAP in WAR between the SP/RP leaders last year was 5.1 WAR (Cliff Lee and Lidge). Meaning that the DIFFERENCE between those two players last year was a superstar level position player.
Its just much, much, much more easier to come by elite relievers than it is to come by elite starters.
I AM with you on the trade front though. Maybe we establish these guys at the MLB level and then trade them for shiny SP/position player specs?


Right. No disrespect to Naka-san whatsover. He points out a WPA argument, made elsewhere, that is an interesting tennis volley in the discussion.
IMHO it is a volley that bounces short and high :- ) but...

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