Turn Off Ads?
Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Look Sharp (from Nate Silver @ BP)

  1. #1
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    15,754

    Look Sharp (from Nate Silver @ BP)

    I don't have the time (or the permission) to repost the entire article, but Nate Silver has a great piece up on BP right now about the makeup of teams in terms of production distribution. Mods, please remove the quoted section if I shouldn't be borrowing it from BP, but this pretty much tells the whole story.

    The horizontal axis now represents run differential, with the better teams toward the right, while the vertical access now represents what I’m calling “sharpness”. A team is “sharp” if, like the Yankees, it has a large degree of variance in its talent base—some very good players, but also some very poor players. A team is “flat” if, like the Brewers, its value is distributed fairly evenly across its roster.

    * 1F: Strong, Flat teams. These are clubs which have very few weak spots, but perhaps only an average amount of star-level talent. Examples: Brewers, Diamondbacks.
    * 1N: Strong, Natural teams. Plain ol’ good baseball teams, with their share of strong spots and not too many weak spots. Examples: Mets, Tigers.
    * 1S: Strong, Sharp teams. Perhaps the most interesting category, these teams have plenty of star talent but also a handful of grave weaknesses. Examples: Angels, Twins.
    * 2F: Average, Flat teams. These are .500 clubs with well-rounded rosters but few All-Stars. Example: Orioles; the Giants are the only other club in this region, but that’s a bit strange considering that they have Barry Bonds.
    * 2N: Average, Natural teams. Average in every way, shape and form, these teams have the usual array of strengths and weaknesses. Examples: Mariners, Blue Jays.
    * 2S: Average, Sharp teams. Teams with plenty of star-level talent, but which have holes in the lineup that preclude them contending for a title. Examples: Yankees, Marlins.
    * 3F: Poor, Flat teams. These clubs have no glaring weaknesses, but their distinct lack of star talent renders them below average. Examples: Reds, Astros.
    * 3N: Poor, Natural teams. Standard-issue bad baseball clubs. Examples: Royals, Nationals.
    * 3S: Poor, Sharp teams. Finally, we have those teams that are sort of half-full with star talent, but three-quarters empty of the average talent they need to build a winning baseball team. Example: Devil Rays.

    As you can see from the attached image, the Reds aren't horrible in terms of raw total production. However, the Reds (to date in 2007) are the flattest team in baseball. That is, they have the least variation in their production base. As you can see, the most productive teams in baseball are the ones that aren't too "sharp" or too "flat". Why is this and why is it a problem for the Reds?

    The answer to the first question is easy.
    Too flat
    - Hard to improve the team because it takes a very productive player to realize gains over a mediocre one (it's easier to upgrade over Tony Womack than Brandon Phillips). But you do have a solid base to work from.
    - It's hard to "get hot" because it requires multiple people to all do well at the same time. Sure, you're also more slump proof, but being locked in to a level of performance is only good if you're the best team.

    Too sharp
    - Your production rides in the hands of a few select people and therefore is subject to random variation. Sure, they can carry you, but if they slump, you slump. If they get injured.... you become the Cardinals.
    - Easier to improve the team because you can improve it at so many positions, however, if something happens to your star(s), you're in deep crap.

    The Reds have the flat problem. How do we improve this team? We're "decent" almost everywhere, but not excellent anywhere. To truly improve over where we're at, we need stars to replace average guys. There are no more cheap incremental gains, outside of a few spots in the bullpen that are giving us horrible production. Unfortunately, stars are hard to come by and aren't cheap in FA. If you do develop stars as a small market team, you HAVE to hold on to them because you aren't going to be able to win without their production and you aren't going to be able to sign them in FA. I'm looking at you Kansas City.

    Given finite resources, the Reds would be incredibly stupid to try and compete with a flat roster as they simply cannot afford enough production. Rather, we should be devoting good resources to some very good players and then trying to realize some incremental value out of the rest of the roster. Call it the Oakland or Minnesota approach (both 1S teams)... Right now, we're pretty much the opposite.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 05-31-2007 at 04:14 PM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

  2. Turn Off Ads?
  3. #2
    Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    Richmond, Indiana
    Posts
    1,680

    Re: Look Sharp (from Nate Silver @ BP)

    Maybe it's me but this seems to be a good reason to "blow it up, Wayne". I've said this before, but i feel you have to have bell weather star (stake in the ground). The Reds have to have a level of sophistication to grow. At this point --they have to make spot decisions. I just don't think they have the type of team or a GM that can do such a thing.

    I just feel like it would be easier to rebuild if the team was different.

  4. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Posts
    796

    Re: Look Sharp (from Nate Silver @ BP)

    This chart makes it appear that these data are static--they're not.

    More importantly, these axes oversimplify the issue quite a bit; there are a other important axes not included in the chart above:

    *age of the talent base
    *potential upside (vice current production)
    *price tag, including # of years before arbitration and free agency
    *pitching vs. hitting--more volatility on pitching side
    *talent pipeline, i.e., minor league talent
    *MLB-ready talent depth at a given position--excess talent is easy to trade

    Overall, I think the Reds are strong in a number of areas not covered in the two-dimensional graph above. They have key players locked up for several years cheaply (Ross, Hamilton) or guys that have several years before their likely peak seasons (Encarnacion, Phillips, half the bullpen). In fact, I think the Reds are in a relatively enviable position with young, MLB-experienced, pre-arb talent. Arizona and Milwaukee are the only two teams coming to mind that exceed the Reds on those two fronts.

    Moreover, I think the Reds can be turned around fairly quickly if the Reds take a few chances on players, and I'll give you an example.

    At the end of the 1987 season, the Reds had a bunch of mediocre pitching. The likes of Bill Gullickson, Ted Power, and Guy Hoffman were all OK pitchers, but it was clear that the talent on the pitching side of the ledger was flat. . . So the Reds went out and targeted two talented young pitchers, who both came with warts--Danny Jackson and Jose Rijo. So the Reds bit the bullet on the timeline, swapped hitting for pitching, and rolled the dice on young pitching talent, and those guys served as the best pitchers on a championship team a few years later.

    (Aside: the Reds transformation from a offensive team to a fielding-and-pitching club during the 1987-1990 years was quite astounding and should be examined more in depth, given the current state of the club.)

    IMO there many ways to upgrade the team because it is fairly common to find trading partners that are trying to shore up their holes, are shedding payroll, need younger talent, going all-out to win, etc.
    Last edited by D-Man; 05-31-2007 at 09:17 PM.

  5. #4
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    15,754

    Re: Look Sharp (from Nate Silver @ BP)

    Very true D-Man, the Reds are certainly not locked in to the current state of the roster. However, that doesn't mean we're in a great situation. You astutely point out the acquisitions of Rijo and Jackson. However, you make it sound like it's easy to go do that.

    The Reds were extremely "lucky" that both Rijo and Jackson turned out to be such great pitchers. We could go get two similarly promising prospects and not be so lucky this time around. Also, consider who we gave up to those guys:

    Kurt Stillwell: #2 overall pick in 1983, just 22 when traded
    Ted Power: great reliever just off a season as solid league average starter
    Dave Park: slugger coming off seasons 34/125, 31/116, and 26/97

    So who are the comps on the current Reds for these guys:
    Jay Bruce? Matt Belisle? Ken Griffey Jr?

    So what happens if those two pitchers you acquire don't pan out the way they did. The key issue is that with a team like the Reds, you have to get star level talent to really improve. If you trade Griffey and get a league average starter, how much better are you? Are you going to get Joe Nathan for Jay Bruce?

    Where you say "the Reds can be turned around fairly quickly if the Reds take a few chances on players"

    I say "the Reds can be turned around fairly quickly if the Reds take a few chances on players and those chances work". You cannot overstate that last point and just how difficult it is. If it were easy to trade mediocre players for stars, you'd see it happen a lot more often. More often than not though, you end up just swapping your mediocrity for somebody else's. It takes skill and luck to trade your way to success, not just skill.

    I agree with your points 100%. This sort of analysis isn't the be-all end-all. However, what's truly telling to me is the lack of teams in the 3S quadrant. Teams with star level players (and thus a great variation -- aka Sharp) just don't suck, regardless of the rest of their talent-base unless it's truly horrible.

    As an organization, my focus would be on developing that core of a few star players and spend less time and resources on the rest. Once you've got a core in place, then fill the gaps, hopefully on the cheap with talent that might develop in to your next stars. The Reds never were able to get a core of top talent good enough to take them to the top. The kept on throwing dirt around the sides hoping it would build the mountain higher when they were just flattening it out.

    As Stormy has very well articulated, if this team cannot win in it's current configuration, it should be devoting itself to identifying the core that can. Yes, I've oversimplified the issue. However, the Reds continue to fill our a roster with low upside, low-mid salary guys. The Reds have spent an all-star's worth of money on players that will not be positively contributing to the team. For a team with limited financial resources, those resources need to go towards production that cannot be gained elsewhere, not on production that is more easily replaced on the cheap. Meanwhile, they need to be taking every opportunity to realize potential talent from within.

    You're right, it can be turned around quickly by trimming frivolous payroll expenses and focusing it on talent that is more difficult to develop in house, freeing roster spots for higher potential youth, and making a few smart trades than pan out to build that star level producing core. I'm just not convinced that current leadership is following that plan.

    One of the disadvantages of such a flat roster is that any single upgrade carries slightly more risk and less potential gain. Let's say you have two rosters:
    Team A: 3 100 VORP players, 22 0 VORP players: 300 VORP
    Team B: 25 12 VORP players: 300 VORP

    If this is a winning team, I'd rather team B without a doubt because of the security involved. However, if this is a losing team, give me A by all means. I have 22 chances to gain a whole lot of production with very little risk. If I swap 3 0 VORP players for a top prospect and he doesn't pan out, oh well. I'll just grab 3 more from my organization and give them a shot. If that guys odes pan out, I'm up 100 VORP and can replace the other two 0 VORP guys.

    However, if I'm team B, I have to risk the 12 VORP I'm getting already to hopefully get improvement over that amount. If I do get it, I'm up 88 VORP (12 fewer than team A). If he doesn't, I'm down 12 and have to hope I can replace it. There's a certain momentum, if you will, that is difficult to break. In order to give Votto a chance, the Reds have to risk losing the production they're getting from Hatteberg. Sure, Votto might be a big improvement. But if he doesn't pan out, we're a worse team than we were. On the other side, if Bobby Livingston doesn't work out, we've got 5 more guys who might.

    Of course, the real goal is getting the most total team production possible. The most productive teams, namely the Mets and Red Sox, are almost exactly neutral. Why is this? Two reasons: 1.) They have star players giving them lots of production and 2.) They have decent players surrounding those star players giving solid production and keeping the roster from being too sharp. However, building a roster like that usually takes a lot of money because you have to pay the stars and then you have to either be very lucky to have that much more decent talent or you have to spend good money on those mediocre filler guys.

    Teams like the Reds don't have the money to pay both the stars and the mediocre guys. If you pay the mediocre guys, you have to develop the stars and then move them out when they get too expensive. If you pay the stars, you have to develop the mediocre guys. If you go the second route, you leave open the opportunity that you will develop stars to compliment the ones you are already paying and BAM, you can compete with the big boys.

    The 2003 Marlins won the World Series with a payroll of about $45M. They paid 4 players more than $3.5M. Those 4 players were the top 4 hitters in terms of VORP, including team leader and hired gun Pudge Rodriguez. However, they also got massive contributions from Juan Pierre, Brad Penny, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, and Mark Redman -- all young guys in arbitration making a few million bucks at most with a ton of upside. How did the Marlins get those guys? They either developed them or traded for them by shipping out mediocre talent which was overpriced given the production and upside (Matt Mantei, Antonio Alfonseca, Charles Johnson, Preston Wilson, etc.) By developing the vast majority of the roster and paying a "sure thing" good money, the Marlins caught lightning in the bottle in 2003 and built the foundation of a sustainable talent base for the future. They currently sit as a slightly sharp team with a league average run differential and flexible roster and payroll. A good place to be for future growth.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 05-31-2007 at 10:37 PM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

  6. #5
    Member
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Posts
    796

    Re: Look Sharp (from Nate Silver @ BP)

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    So what happens if those two pitchers you acquire don't pan out the way they did. The key issue is that with a team like the Reds, you have to get star level talent to really improve. If you trade Griffey and get a league average starter, how much better are you? Are you going to get Joe Nathan for Jay Bruce?

    Where you say "the Reds can be turned around fairly quickly if the Reds take a few chances on players"

    I say "the Reds can be turned around fairly quickly if the Reds take a few chances on players and those chances work". You cannot overstate that last point and just how difficult it is. If it were easy to trade mediocre players for stars, you'd see it happen a lot more often. More often than not though, you end up just swapping your mediocrity for somebody else's. It takes skill and luck to trade your way to success, not just skill.

    I agree with your points 100%. This sort of analysis isn't the be-all end-all. However, what's truly telling to me is the lack of teams in the 3S quadrant. Teams with star level players (and thus a great variation -- aka Sharp) just don't suck, regardless of the rest of their talent-base unless it's truly horrible.

    As an organization, my focus would be on developing that core of a few star players and spend less time and resources on the rest. Once you've got a core in place, then fill the gaps, hopefully on the cheap with talent that might develop in to your next stars. The Reds never were able to get a core of top talent good enough to take them to the top. The kept on throwing dirt around the sides hoping it would build the mountain higher when they were just flattening it out.

    As Stormy has very well articulated, if this team cannot win in it's current configuration, it should be devoting itself to identifying the core that can. Yes, I've oversimplified the issue. However, the Reds continue to fill our a roster with low upside, low-mid salary guys. The Reds have spent an all-star's worth of money on players that will not be positively contributing to the team. For a team with limited financial resources, those resources need to go towards production that cannot be gained elsewhere, not on production that is more easily replaced on the cheap. Meanwhile, they need to be taking every opportunity to realize potential talent from within.

    You're right, it can be turned around quickly by trimming frivolous payroll expenses and focusing it on talent that is more difficult to develop in house, freeing roster spots for higher potential youth, and making a few smart trades than pan out to build that star level producing core. I'm just not convinced that current leadership is following that plan.
    Every year there are a half-dozen or so players (pitchers especially) that dramatically emerge to make a huge impact:

    *Pierzynski was traded for Liriano, Bonser, AND Nathan when he was a struggling starter.
    *Esteban Loaiza was picked up for a few $M and won a Cy Young Award.
    *Loaiza was flipped for Jose Contreras, the proverbial high-risk high impact pitcher. And Contreras fronted a WS champion.
    *Foulke was swapped at his lowest point in his career for Koch at his highest point.
    *Randy Johnson (THE Randy Johnson!!) was traded last offseason. Of course there were mitigating circumstances, but he WAS available.

    Is it easy to find and acquire these guys? No. But it does happen every year. You're right, if the front office was willing to accept risk (both the good and bad), AND devoted resources to identifying and trading for the *right* guy, then we wouldn't be having this discussion now.
    Last edited by D-Man; 05-31-2007 at 10:58 PM. Reason: forgot Pierzynski trade also included Liriano and Bonser


Turn Off Ads?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Board Moderators may, at their discretion and judgment, delete and/or edit any messages that violate any of the following guidelines: 1. Explicit references to alleged illegal or unlawful acts. 2. Graphic sexual descriptions. 3. Racial or ethnic slurs. 4. Use of edgy language (including masked profanity). 5. Direct personal attacks, flames, fights, trolling, baiting, name-calling, general nuisance, excessive player criticism or anything along those lines. 6. Posting spam. 7. Each person may have only one user account. It is fine to be critical here - that's what this board is for. But let's not beat a subject or a player to death, please.

Thank you, and most importantly, enjoy yourselves!


RedsZone.com is a privately owned website and is not affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds or Major League Baseball


Contact us: Boss | GIK | BCubb2003 | dabvu2498 | Gallen5862 | LexRedsFan | Plus Plus | RedlegJake | redsfan1995 | The Operator | Tommyjohn25