I’ve been thinking about the value of coaches lately, in part because the Cardinals only had to shell out $750,000 per season to make Dave Duncan the highest-paid pitching coach in baseball and in part because the Phillies let first base coach Davey Lopes go over failed contract talks that probably involved a difference of $100,000 or less.
If someone like Duncan who’s considered one of the best pitching coaches in baseball history is only worth $750,000 per season and someone like Lopes who’s been praised constantly for his huge impact on the Phillies’ historically great stolen base numbers leaves over an extra $100,000 … well, do teams really value coaches very much?
After all, the average utility infielder makes more per season than both Duncan and Lopes combined.
It’s a tough question to answer, largely because it’s tough to evaluate coaches in anything resembling the way we evaluate players. There are enough statistics and metrics and tools for me to opine with a decent level of confidence that, say, Albert Pujols is usually worth about 85 runs per season above a replacement-level first baseman. But how much is Lopez worth above a replacement-level first base coach?
I have no idea, but Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley crunched some numbers in an effort to find out and what he found is pretty interesting. I won’t spoil the conclusion because you really should read the whole article, but I will say that like me he agrees the Phillies letting Lopes go over $100,000 would be a mistake. And unlike me he has actual data to support that opinion. Check out Baer’s analysis and also read the comments section for an interesting look at the value of top-notch coaches.