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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Delgado, The Fish, And ESPN's Implausibility Field

Okay, so you've probably heard that Carlos Delgado, the last major free agent left this offseason, has signed with the Marlins, to the tune of $52M/4 years. But how about this Eric Cabell-penned sidebar:
... you take a career American Leaguer and throw him into the NL, where he cannot take days off at DH, where he faces all new pitchers and a league ERA half a run lower, and in a lineup that will hinder his chances of ever approaching 130 RBI again, and Delgado must drop on our preseason rankings.
Now, the DH I can buy, but not the league ERA. The reason the NL has an ERA half a run lower than the AL is arguably because of the DH, not because the pitching's so much better. Using ESPN's park factors, the difference between the leagues' average park factor is extremely close to zero.

Comments:
Beltran? I thought he signed with the Mets...
 
Rob--

The league ERA might not make Delgado a worse hitter, but the fact that fewer runs are scored in the National League may make Delgado a less productive fantasy player (due to a drop in run scored and RBIs), which is what Karabell was talking about. Still good, but probably not as good (again, in fantasy terms) as if he went to Texas. As far as the league-switching thing...there must be some kind of study on this phenomenon, somewhere...
 
One Carlos too many this offseason... sheesh...
 
Anon -- I certainly would agree that changing leagues -- heck, even changing divisions -- is likely to affect him, considering he wouldn't be as familiar with the pitchers. But the question remains -- why are fewer runs scored in the NL? And my answer is that the DH is the causitive function here. The difference comes because the pitchers don't have to face the weak-hitting pitcher every ninth plate appearance. Or do you argue that offensive players suddenly get worse when translated to the NL? That, essentially, is Cabell's argument, and I haven't seen a scrap of evidence supporting such a claim.
 
"Or do you argue that offensive players suddenly get worse when translated to the NL? That, essentially, is Cabell's argument, and I haven't seen a scrap of evidence supporting such a claim."

I don't think we can say what Karabell's argument really is. He could just as easily be demonstrating that the move to a league where fewer runs are scored will likely have an adverse effect on Delgado's runs and RBIs (which is perfectly logical). And it doesn’t matter why fewer runs are scored in the NL (although I believe you are right about the DH, Rob) – it’s true, and that evidences his overall point that Delgado is less attractive to fantasy owners in the NL.
 
A plasma physicist at UCLA with an IQ of 180 goes on a driving vacation through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, where the average IQ is 85. If he drives 240 miles per day, how many IQ points does he lose for each day he spends in these states? Please show all work.
 
plasma physicists aside, if the difference in runs produced per league is almost entirely attributable to the fact that the #9 hitter is worse in the NL than in the AL, i would think that the effect it might have on what a guy like delgado produces, from the middle of the lineup, is rather small.

if you want to argue that he will be tired from having to play first base all the time instead of DHing at least some of the time, so be it. perhaps that might hurt his value a tiny bit, though i don't think he's an old man or anything yet.

but i don't see how having a worse #9 hitter would do more than cost delgado maybe a few RBI per season. his production would be a lot more dependent on the guys hitting directly in front of him and behind him. i mean, i don't have any data to crunch, but assuming delgado bats 4th (he'd probably be 3rd, 4th or 5th, right?), the difference in OBP between an NL pitcher and an AL #9 hitter would mean that delgado has an extra runner on base by the time his at-bat comes around for what percent of his plate appearances? it's got to be a pretty small number. and the number of times delgado is able to take advantage of the extra runner is a fraction of that already small number. so, it can't be more than a few RBI, can it?

-vishal
 
Thanks for pointing that out, Vishal. The only difference -- and I was going to mention this before I got caught up in snarky writing -- was that RBIs might be affected but not his rate stats. Now, his VORP might take a hit because he can't DH in the NL, but again this isn't a huge factor. ~500 AB's is a decent number.
 
Yes, exactly. It will hurt his counting stats, which makes him a less valuable FANTASY PLAYER. Moving to the NL doesn't make Delgado a worse player in real life. No one is saying that - not even Karabell. But it will effect his counting stats, which we all seem to agree on.
 
I suppose, then, that exposes my ignorance of how roto games work. They are all based on counting stats? Horrors.
 
Rob--

It's me, anon, again. Yeah, I think that's the confusion--most roto games rely on counting stats. There are variations, but the standard offensive categories for roto are BA, runs, rbis, HRs and steals. Basically, just to reiterate, Delgado will not become a worse player. It's possible that there's some adverse effect from switching leagues (being unfamiliar with pitchers, for instance, not being able to take a day off to DH). He will have at least slightly fewer opportunities to be a "run producer" in the AL than the NL, because of the absence of the DH. NL teams scored an average of 4.64 runs per game last year, compared to 5.01 per game in the AL. I don't have the wherewithal or time to figure out how that translates Delgado's stats, but it stands to reason there is some impact. (I think it's simplistic to say the #9 hitter doesn't affect the 4-5 guys much. By being on base more than a pitcher, the #9 hitter in the AL keeps innings alive, and produces more ABs for everyone else. This affects the whole lineup, it seems to me.) Plus, the park factors of Pro Player and Arlington (the two Karabell was comparing) are substantial, and almost undeniably the choice between those two had an impact on what we can expect Delgado to produce next year. Delgado won't be a worse player, and any kind of stat that controls for league and park would see that, but roto stats aren't that advanced...yet.
 

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