Baseball is learning what value really is

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Matthew Leach at MLB.com has a story up today that explains how baseball’s middle class — average veterans, mostly — is feeling the pinch in the free agent market. It’s a brains thing just as much as it is a money thing:

As teams — and outside
analysts — devise ever-cleverer means of evaluating talent, the wheels
of player acquisition spin differently. Members of MLB front offices
have ever-better tools for assessing the players they’re signing. That
makes it less likely for mediocre players to get big deals.

“It’s a combination of things,” said Brewers assistant general manager
Gord Ash. “Of course there are the general economic concerns, but there
is also more data going around, like FIP [fielding-independent pitching
statistics], and others that give you a better feel for a pitcher
rather than the traditional wins and losses and ERA.”

This is not news to the sabermetrically-inclined among us, as we have been beating the drum against spending big money on anything other than guys who are clearly superstars for a long time. Indeed, a roster filled with a handful of legitimate top-dollar talents and rounded out with rookies, near-rookies and low-dollar veterans on single year deals is probably best suited to compete, both on the field and economically.  It’s clearly not news to most front offices too, as the days when guys like Pat Mears got multi-year deals are a distant memory for almost any team.

But check out that quote from Gord Ash. Then compare it to the aggressive dismissal of advanced metrics by the majority of your mainstream baseball writers and ask yourself if the statheads are really as out-of-touch as they’re made out to be.  If anything, the geeks and the game’s movers and shakers are speaking the same language.

Tony Clark: Universal DH ‘gaining momentum’ among players

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark met the press late this morning and covered a wide array of topics.

One of them: free agency, which he referred to as being “under attack” based on the slow market for free agents last offseason.

“What the players saw last offseason was that their free-agent rights were under attack on what has been the bedrock of our system,” Clark said. He added that they “have some very difficult decisions to make.” Presumably in the form of grievances and, down the road, a negotiating strategy that seeks to claw back some of the many concessions the union has given owners in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. CBAs, it’s worth noting, that Clark negotiated. We’ve covered that territory in detail in the past.

Of more immediate interest was Clark’s comment that the idea of a universal designated hitter is, among players, “gaining momentum.” Clark says “players are talking about it more than they have in the past.” We’ve talked a lot about that as well.

Given that hating or loving the DH is the closest thing baseball has to a religion, no one’s mind is going to be changed by any of this, but I think, practically speaking, it’s inevitable that the National League will have the DH and I think it happens relatively soon. Perhaps in the next five years. The opposition to it at this point is solely subjective and based on tradition. People like pitchers batting and they like double switches and they like the leagues being different because they, well, like it. If the system were being set up today, however, they’d never have it this way and I think even the DH-haters know that well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dislike a universal DH, but it does mean that you can’t expect the people who run the game to cater to that preference when it makes little sense for them to do it for their own purposes.

Anyway, enjoy convincing each other in the comments about how the side of that argument you dislike is wrong.