Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cabrera's Value

On the local SABR mail list there's been a discussion on what Orlando Cabrera is worth. We've seen a similar debate several places the last week. One side looks at his stats and points out that he topped out at "servicable" offensively and "suspect" defensively. The other side looks at the run the Twins made with him in the lineup and looks for impacts beyond the stats.

This debate gained a little momentum this weekend when Ron Gardenhire suggested that the Twins might still like Cabrera at second base as if this is a realistic possibility. It isn't. The Twins can find plenty of better free agents to play second base at a salary that is less expensive than Cabrera. And Cabrera can find a lot better offers that allow him to play shorstop. Sometime managers just want to say something nice about their ex-players. That's all this means.

But Cabrera's value takes a little twist when one looks at a neat statistic that's growing in popularity called Win Probability Added or WPA. To borrow from Denny Green, it is what is says it is: it adds (or subtracts) the affect a player had on the game by measuring how that player affected the probability of his team to win.

For instance, if player hits a single in four at-bats his WPA could vary significant depending on when he made those outs or got that hit. If he struck out three times while the bases were loaded and there was one out, his WPA for that game would likely be horrendous (and he would replace Punto as the voodoo doll of choice amongst Twins fans). If, on the other hand, he made three innocuous outs but got a key single in the bottom of the eighth that drove in the tying and winning runs, his WPA would be quite high (and he might be the player of the game.)

In other words, WPA goes beyond a player's overall statistics and beyond the myth that those hits are spread out more or less evenly. Some of those hits (or outs) are exceedingly more valuable than others, both positively and negatively. It often explains why fans who watch games thing a player had a better (or worse) year than his stats indicate.

It certainly could with Cabrera. His overall stats were mediocre, but in two months he posted a WPA of .527, which ranked fourth on the Twins hitters over all of 2009. Here's the list, by the way:

Name WPA
Joe Mauer 3.64
Jason Kubel 2.20
Justin Morneau 0.78
Orlando Cabrera 0.53
Michael Cuddyer 0.48
Matt Tolbert 0.30
Joe Crede 0.12
Jose Morales -0.12
Delmon Young -0.14
Denard Span -0.15
Brian Buscher -0.29
Mike Redmond -0.43
Alexi Casilla -0.61
Nick Punto -0.84
Brendan Harris -1.35
Carlos Gomez -1.97

Cabrera might not have had a great stint with the Twins statistically, but he absolutely made a difference in whether or not they won games in his two months here. Now that doesn't mean a thing for the future. It doesn't justify resigning him, and I'm far more excited about getting JJ Hardy here than I would have been if he returned.

But the love for Cabrera isn't just blind homerism. Indeed, it suggests a level of attention beyond overall stats, and an awareness of the situations in which those stats were compiled.

Coupla Notes
1. I haven't mentioned it much lately, but you can still download 1/3 of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook absolutely free at I have no idea why you wouldn't. What else are you doing today?

(You can also now by the hard copy, too!)

By the way - wanna guess who our very first trade target was? Yep - J. J. Hardy.

2. A couple of days ago I mentioned that Twins fans shouldn't discount the possibility that some top-notch Type A free agent second basemen might be available without needing to give up a draft pick. Recent news supports that.

First, we found out that the Tigers are desparate enough to cut payroll that they're willing to trade Curtis Granderson or Edwin Jackson. These guys are key cogs on their team, and they're both going to be WAY below market value next year. If they Tigers need to part with them, they certainly aren't going to offer Placido Polanco arbitration that could pay him at (or above) market rate next year.

And now we've found out that the relationship between Orlando Hudson and the Dodgers is icy, but the Dodgers have been talking to the Mets about Luis Castillo. It sure sounds like both sides are ready to move on, but the Dodgers have to realize that if they offer arbitration, Hudson will have to take it. I'll be surprised if they offer it. I'll be shocked if he doesn't accept it if they offer it.

1 comment:

sploorp said...

Hudson at 2nd is intriguing. What's the deadline for Teams to offer arbitration?