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November 22, 2006

Just venting

Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau were crowned the Most Valuable Players in their respective leagues.  Neither choice was particularly insightful, but neither choice was terrible, either.  I would have voted for Carlos Beltran in the National League, with Howard probably third on my ballot behind Albert Pujols.  Still, if you want to vote for a guy who hits 58 home runs, I won’t complain.

The choice of Morneau is less defensible, but not horrible.  Good buddy Aaron Gleeman makes the case that Morneau wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team, but once you accept that baseball writers simply aren’t going to choose a pitcher for MVP (unless he’s a lights-out reliever), the choice of Morneau over Mauer becomes defensible.  Not right, mind you, just defensible.  After all, the guy did lead his team in batting WPA by a good margin.  As JP says, While Morneau’s selection was a head scratcher, it wasn’t even in the top five greatest injustices (according to Win Shares) in the past twenty years.

But something truly inexplicable and horrendous happened yesterday; the sort of thing that makes you throw up your hands in disgust.  Word is that the Dodgers are about to sign Juan Pierre to a five-year deal worth $44 million—just about $9 million a year.  I know that this is the year of outrageously paid free agents, but this signing is just terrible no matter what other players are receiving.

I know a lot of people feel differently, but I actually understand the outrageous Soriano contract of $17 million a year for eight years.  I mean, it’s clearly outrageous, but I understand the underlying economics that led to it.  The Pierre deal is different.  It’s the result of not understanding what makes baseball players and teams successful.

Juan Pierre is at best an average defender in center field, he has no power and here is a graph of his career walk rate (courtesy of Fangraphs):


He was two Win Shares Above Bench last year, and one the year before.  Even if you apply my Net Wins Shares Value findings (which you shouldn’t, at least not without a lot of other considerations), Pierre is worth $4 million a year, at most.

Salary inflation results in outrageous salaries for really good players, but it doesn’t justify bad judgement.

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