A little history. Recently I posted about baseball's best value players in 2009. Mostly, these were Tim Lincecum, Ben Zobrist types -- young, cost-controlled players who put up at least 5 wins above replacement level for well under $1 million. To find and value these guys I downloaded salary data from the Associated Press and merged it with WARP1 data from Baseball Prospectus. I then divided the salaries by the WARP1 data to estimate how much a player was paid for the marginal wins he contributed to his team.
But, I ran into a problem. The method only worked if a player contributed at least one full win above replacement level to his team. Players who only gave their teams, say, half a win, couldn't be measured this way. If a player earns $10 million and generates 4 wins its fair to say that his team paid him $2.5 million per win. But, if that same player earns $10 million (steals $10 million?) and only gets his team 0.5 wins its not fair to say his team paid him $20 million for a full win. The math may work that way, but baseball doesn't. Nevermind players who actually cost their teams wins. My methodology would mean a negative output in their cases. Nonsense.
So, I went back to the drawing board to figure out how to estimate the cost of a bad player. I decided to start with the player's entire salary. The team isn't getting that back. The real question was how to value the cost of a player's failure to contribute. I decided to penalize the player at $400,000 per win subtracted from his team. This means that if a player earns $1 million and posted a WARP1 of 0.5 he cost his team $800,000: $1 million in salary, minus half of the cost of a replacement player, which is $400,000. The player is rewarded for contributing something.
If that same $1 million player produces a WARP1 of zero then he costs $1 million per marginal win, which is his salary, since he procued no wins. If, however, that player is like Brad Lidge and posted a WARP1 of -4.6 (no, seriously, you can look it up) then he cost his team $13.840 million dollars. That would be his $12 million salary, plus the 4.6 wins the Phillies would have won with, literally, anyone else pitching in Lidge's place, multiplied by the $400,000 they would have paid that player. And with that, I have to issue a retraction. Brad Lidge was not the worst and most expensive player in baseball, as I mentioned in my first post on this subject. He was just the worst player in baseball. Believe it or not, other guys were ultimately just about as bad but more expensive (but not a lot of guys). Which guys? These guys:
1) Alfonso Soriano - $17 million salary, WARP1 of 0.2, cost his team $16.920 million.
A man of superior intelligence recently identified Soriano's contract as one of baseball's worst. I forget who this super-genius was. But, let this serve as one more example why. The Cubs paid Soriano $17 million for N-O-T-H-I-N-G. He's never played more than 135 games in Chicago and last season he posted an OPS+ of 84.
2) Jason Schmidt - $15.2 million salary, WARP1 of -0.5, cost his team $15.4 million.
That same super-genius somehow missed Schmidt and his $15 million-plus annual salary when he researched baseball's worst contracts. Well, this time we caught Schmidt. And, frankly, Yankeeist shouldn't have missed him the first time. Jason has made $15 million with the Dodgers each year since 2007 and only appeared in 10 games that whole time. He missed all of 2008, but still got paid. The Dodgers could have paid me a lot less for, literally, nothing. I would have done it for $1 million. Happily. The ethical thing for Jason and his 2009 70 ERA+ to do would be to give the money back. I'll go hold my breath.
3) Vladimir Guerrero - $15 million salary, WARP1 of 0.7, cost his team $14.7 million.
The WARP stat is probably penalizing Vlad for only being a DH. Then again, he only played 100 games and on a run-scoring-machine of an Angels team knocked in only 50 RBI. Hideki Matsui earned less money, played more games, and knocked in 90 RBI. Yeah, the Angels noticed that too.
4) Brad Lidge - $12 million salary, WARP1 of -4.6, cost his team $13.84 million.
According to Baseball Prospectus, no one in baseball was worse than Brad Lidge last year. Larry and I were talking about this yesterday. Lidge didn't even pitch 60 innings yet still cost his team more than 4 wins. That's so bad that, actually, I'm impressed.
5) Jeff Suppan - $12.75 million salary, WARP1 of -0.3, cost his team $12.9 million.
Unlike Jason Schmidt, Suppan was Barry Zito bad. He wasn't hurt, but the good people of Milwaukee wish he was. He started 30 games of 70 ERA+ ball and earned more money than this guy. And this guy. And this guy. Combined.
6) Jeremy Bonderman - $12.5 million salary, WARP1 of -0.3, cost his team $12.6 million.
Wait, the Tigers can't trade this guy in a salary dump? I'm so shocked I need medical attention. Remember when he was dealing against the Yankees in the 2006 ALDS? Me too. Bummer he spent the last 2 seasons on the DL.
7) Carlos Silva - $12.25 million salary, WARP1 of -0.9, cost his team $12.6 million.
Wins and losses really are meaningless for a pitcher, but if you're so bad you lose 15 games then you really suck, which is how much sucky Carlos Silva sucked in 2008. Wow. In 2009 his ERA+ was 50. I don't even have a joke. Fortunately he had the good sense to injure himself. Had he pitched more than 30.1 innings in 2009 he would have rocketed to last place on WARP1 list. Brad Lidge, let that be a lesson to you, next year tear your rotator cuff. Philly has suffered enough.
8) Jose Guillen - $12 million salary, WARP1 0f -1.4, cost his team $12.6 million.
Is it just me, or does it seem like every time a small market team has a high-cost player on its team he posts an OPS+ of 80 or so? I never thought it was possible, but I feel even worse for the good fans of Kansas City. Also, in looking Jose's stats up, I learned that Ozzie Guillen's real name is Oswaldo.
9) Troy Glaus - $12.1 million salary, WARP1 of -0.2, cost his team $12.2 million.
Glaus is the first player on this list who was genuinely good until he got hurt in 2009. He's had injury issues in the past, but until 2009 he'd played at least 149 games in 3 of the last 4 seasons. I've got nothing but respect for a career 121 OPS+, even if he does currently reside in the NL Central.
10) Oliver Perez - $12 million salary, WARP1 of -0.4, cost his team $12.2 million.
Ah, Mets fans, you almost made it without having a player on this list. I know enough about your team to know that it stings something extra special that Perez is your representative on this post of shame. Nobody wanted this head case, not even the Amazins, and then he got paid more money than 99.9% of the people reading this post will ever earn in their lifetimes.
To the players on this list I say: Congratulations gentlemen. You suck.