Monday, July 30, 2007

Why I Like The Braves Adding Mark Teixeira

1. On Baseball Reference, the player most similar to Mark Teixeira at his current age is... Fred McGriff. And McGriff's next few years of OPS+: 157, 147, 165.

2. Teixeira means Andruw Jones gets to move from a significantly underperforming cleanup hitter who makes a lot of outs early in the lineup into a kind-of underperforming 5th hitter who makes a lot of outs a little later in the lineup. Teixeira means Jeff Francoeur gets to move from a decent 5th or 6th hitter into a good 6th or 7th hitter. Teixeira means Brian McCann gets to move from a pretty good 5th or 6th hitter into very good 6th or 7th hitter. More on this in a second.

3. Teixeira will mean more wins to the Braves. How many more is up in the air, but he'll mean more. Assuming no improvement by Teixeira (a conservative assumption, since he'll be moving to a league with worse pitching and to a team with better players in the lineup - meaning better pitches to hit), he'd be worth, on his own, about 2 more wins to the Braves (his current WARP3 is 5.4, and a little more than a third of the season remains). Wait... let me adjust that. Teixeira's WARP3 is affected by the fact he's missed 27 games this year so far. If he's got 56 games left with Atlanta, and he'll only play 125 total, that might mean we're up to 2.5 wins - and that assumes no improvement. Second adjustment: the players Teixeira will be replacing aren't "replacement players". Those 2.5 wins I've mentioned only would be an improvement if the guy he's supplanting is a "replacement player". If the guy he's replacing is better than replacement (which would be, y'know, normal), then those 2.5 wins would shrink. Luckily (sort of) for the Braves, the guys who have played at first this season aren't even replacement level. Thorman's WARP1 is negative right now. Craig Wilson's was too. Franco was at 0 most of the year. Saltalamacchia was the only guy with a positive WARP number, but that wasn't even worth a single win. I think it's a safe assumption to make to say that the Braves' output at first was costing them wins rather than helping them get wins. I'd guess that by simply not playing Franco or Thorman, that's worth an additional half-win. That brings us to 3 wins. Now, as I wrote above, I think Teixeira will mean the other guys in the lineup will see better pitches, or get protected better, or have more opportunities to drive in runs (Teixeira's OBP is the highest of his career). This is the murkiest part of the equation, but if the addition of Teixeira will increase the win totals for 6 other players in the lineup by just a half-run each, that's 3 more wins (I'd bet that moving Andruw down the lineup is probably worth one by itself). I think these are conservative estimates, but my guess is that adding Teixeira is worth 6 more wins the rest of the way. If he improves on his performance this season, he's worth even more than that.

4. Using an estimate of 6 more wins by adding Teixeira to the Braves, here's what that's worth. Using the studies and numbers in the recommended book Baseball Between the Numbers, six additional wins are worth approximately $4.5 million (see Ch. 5-2, Table 5-2.1) for the regular season wins. That additional amount covers Teixeira's salary the rest of the year (about $3.5M). The real value, however, is in making the playoffs. A playoff appearance is worth approximately $30M to a franchise. If Teixeira's addition means the difference between making the playoffs and not, his addition would be worth $30M to the team. And if you look at Fig. 5-2.4 of that same chapter, you can see the logistic regression analysis for probability of making the playoffs. Based on the Braves' results thus far, they're on pace for about 85.5 wins. According to the regression analysis, that's equal to approximately a 10% chance of making the playoffs. Add 6 wins to the Braves, and that'd raise them to 91.5 wins. 91.5 wins is equal to a 75% chance of making the playoffs. That's a massive difference - and uses the biggest swing of the regression curve. Let's use a poker analogy: if you, by betting 1/8th the pot (the cost of adding Teixeira's salary is your bet, the pot is the potential added revenues of making the playoffs), you increase your chances of winning the hand by 65%, that's the smart play, isn't it? If Teixeira's worth only 3 wins more to the Braves, the probability of making the playoffs increases from 10% to about 40%. 4 wins = increase from 10% to 50%. 5 wins = increase from 10% to 63%. If Teixeira is worth more than 6 wins, the probability starts to approach a sure thing (7 more wins gets them above 85% probability of making the playoffs).

All this is just for this season - but if Teixeira helps the Braves make the playoffs (assuming they wouldn't without him), he just added $30M in revenue. And that would make an extension more palatable for him.

I think it's a good deal for the Braves to add Teixeira. And I'm starting to get fired up about this team. And if Dotel comes aboard too, damn.