One year later: Re-examining last winter’s biggest contracts

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While everyone debates the wisdom of giving $254 million to Albert Pujols or $106 million to Jose Reyes or $77.5 million to C.J. Wilson, it seems like a good time to look back at the biggest contracts signed last offseason:

Carl Crawford: $142 million for seven years
Jayson Werth: $126 million for seven years
Cliff Lee: $120 million for five years
Adrian Beltre: $96 million for six years
Adam Dunn: $56 million for four years
Derek Jeter: $51 million for three years
Victor Martinez: $50 million for four years

Those are the seven contracts that topped $50 million last winter.

At the very least it’s obvious that the Red Sox, Nationals, and White Sox would gladly go back in time and undo the Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and Adam Dunn contracts. Derek Jeter’s deal looks as iffy now as it did then and I certainly wouldn’t be excited to owe Victor Martinez another $38 million now that he’s a 33-year-old designated hitter.

I’m not sure what the point is, other than to say that for the most part every fan base is thrilled when their favorite team signs a big-money free agent and things can change an awful lot in 12 months.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.