Baseball Posts

So at this point you’ve probably noticed that I’m not writing about much other than baseball lately.  And the regular season doesn’t even start until April!  It may be a phase I’m going through, to be sure, but I’ve started writing elsewhere when I’m writing about baseball.  For now at least I’m calling it the Baseball Economist.

This will allow me to keep a different focus here that keeps with the themes of the blog.  I’ll occasionally post here (and you’ll see in my twitter feed) about what I’m talking about over there, but if you’re interested in baseball at all you’ll want to subscribe to that blog somehow too.  You may see this blog with not much appearing for periods of time when I’m only interested in writing about baseball.  I don’t think it’ll be my only interest for long, though.



How it Plays Out…

So I wrote earlier this week about Chris Carter still being an unsigned free agent after leading the National League in home runs last season.  I expected that someone would sign him before the season began, but it’s hard to know what was holding things up.  Was he looking for a multiple year contract?  Was he setting his salary sights too high?  I haven’t see what might be known about that, but as a reminder, I said in that post:

Additionally, a player like Carter, who is not a fantastic fielder or base runner has limited use in the major leagues.  Your “power hitter” can play limited positions in baseball, especially in the National League.  You’re limited to first base, left field, and the designated hitter (in the American League only).

An AL team did sign Carter…the New York Yankees.  The Yankees consistency have one of the highest payrolls in Major League so the money isn’t a major issue for them.  They signed Carter for a one year, $3.5M contract.

Carter earned $2.5 million with the Brewers in 2016 and he could provide some pop to a Yankee lineup that needs it, especially after losing Carlos Beltran (22 home runs) at the 2016 trade deadline and Brian McCann (20 home runs) to a trade with Houston this offseason.

Source: What Are The Yankees Getting In Chris Carter?

Economics are economics.  What the marketplace (in this case MLB teams) values gets more money, and what the marketplace has a lot of becomes less valuable.  Carter perhaps could have stayed in Milwaukee for a one year contract at $3.5M but by the time he and his agent were ready to go to that price/term the Brewers had moved on.  There may have been a broader market for the power hitter earlier as well, but the longer he waited the less valuable he became because fewer teams were in the market for a hitter with limited mobility.

I was talking with a co-worker today about one of the things I like about following baseball.  I get the “fix” on big negotiations and crazy deals and intelligent decision-making with zero responsibility.  Additionally I get to see the results in a fairly short time span, when most of the work decisions I make take months and years to work themselves into results.  Most of what happens in baseball, at least at the level I have been following, works out in hours or days, and at worst in a few months.  We know already what happened to Chris Carter and that he’ll be wearing Yankee Pinstripes and showing up at their Spring Training in Tampa in just a few days.  Likely he makes the big club and he’ll be playing against the Red Sox and Orioles in April..and may even get to hit a homer against the Brewers when they come to Yankee Stadium in July.  I’m sure that would be fun for him!

First Month Goals: #optimism update

So I told you about my extremely ambitious goals for the year.  I had set intermediate goals for the month of January, and hit most of them.  Sadly, the ones I missed are the big ones and we’ll have to do some catching up.

  • I wanted to get in 120,000 steps.  I made more than 146,000
  • Goal was 10 trips to the gym:  hit exactly, including one in a hotel room in DC
  • I wanted to get under 230 pounds.  Made it!  (goal for end of February is under 224)
  • Make 100 foul shots with each hand:  only made 85.  😦
  • Chin-ups exercise, machine, at 90 pounds.  Check.
  • Select and Italian program:  started Duolingo and have a 14 day streak already and have hit “9% fluent” so I’m pretty pumped about that one.  Only about 2 months until my big trip to Italy.
  • Write and publish 2 blog posts:  barely, but yes.
  • Run 0.2 miles consecutively in a walk/run mix:  made 0.25.
  • Finish one book.  NOPE.  😦
  • Books packed and plumbing done at the old house:  NO.  Double 😦
  • FW worship ramping up:  Big improvement but didn’t quite make the number I had set for the month.

So for February I have some improvement to make, and will look at adjusting the goals based on this month if necessary.  I’m pretty pumped with quite a few of these and their progress, but this month still needs some serious work.

Counter-Intuitive Moves

I mentioned in a post last week that I’ve been really getting into baseball.  One of the things that scratches an itch for me in baseball enjoyment is that I’m not just interested in how the game itself is played, but the machinations and decisions in the front office.

As I was talking Friday with a friend about baseball I mentioned offhandedly that the home-run leader from the National League (co-leader I later was reminded when researching this post), Chris Carter, remains an unsigned free agent with Spring Training only a couple of weeks away.  Carter had 41 homers last year and 94 RBIs while playing first base for the Milwaukee Brewers.  He was playing out a 1 year contract at $2.5M, and granted free agency at the end of the season.

41 home runs and 94 RBIs is nothing to sneeze at.  So why has no one signed him?  And what did the Brewers do instead of keeping him?  Here’s an article that deals with the logic of Carter (and several other heavy hitters) still waiting for a team in February, and to the point where Carter (age 30) is considering going to Japan to play:

“A run is a run is a run.””What you’re looking for now is good players,” said that exec, who requested anonymity because his organization prefers to have its GM talk publicly about topics like this. “And a good player is a guy who puts runs on the scoreboard or keeps them off. It doesn’t matter how.”

Source: Does baseball still dig the long ball?

Now here’s where I try to write without getting all baseball-geeky (especially since I’m new to the baseball nerd thing, and I still am grappling with understanding things quite frequently).  Note in the article linked above that:

“…not only is the ability to hit 40 home runs now officially overrated, according to modern baseball thinking, it’s now so overrated that it enabled Carter to make history — by becoming the first home run champ in the free-agent era to get non-tendered.

Professional baseball, as you’d imagine, is extremely competitive.  While (especially big market) teams have quite a bit of money to spend, like with any business the people who own/run the team want to get value for what they’re spending.  If they think they can contend for the playoffs, which sells more tickets, they’ll spend more if they have it, generally speaking.  But as Billy Beane is “quoted” in Moneyball:

There are rich teams and there are poor teams.  Then there’s 50 feet of [fecal matter] and then there’s us [the Oakland A’s].  It’s an unfair game.

It’s not a level playing field because cities like Milwaukee and Oakland have a smaller fan base than teams in cities like Chicago, New York, Dallas, Houston or Philadelphia.  And because baseball has yet to enact a salary cap that exists in the NBA and the NFL, teams can spend more if they have more.  And a smaller payroll means teams have to compete in other ways than paying the most for players.  The Yankees will always have more money to spend than the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Additionally, a player like Carter, who is not a fantastic fielder or base runner has limited use in the major leagues.  Your “power hitter” can play limited positions in baseball, especially in the National League.  You’re limited to first base, left field, and the designated hitter (in the American League only).  And even the left fielder and the first baseman need to have some decent mobility.

And so the Brewers chose to go another direction.  I don’t think it’ll be certain until April how they’ll handle first base and the batting order, but Chris Carter wasn’t what their GM wanted to spend money on.  And no other team has an obvious need for him in a way that caused him to be snapped up.  I don’t know what he’ll be worth in Japan, but currently his agent hasn’t found a matching salary with any MLB team.  At age 30 he’s probably desiring a longer than 1 year contract, and if he’s willing to take something around $1M/year he may find it.  If he’s drawing a line at 4 years and $15M (average $3.75M/year) then nobody is willing to pay that.  And only the GMs they’ve talked to, the agent, and Carter himself know what offers are being thrown out and turned down and what their bottom line is.

So while it’s seemingly counter-intuitive to find out that the guy who hit more home runs than anyone else in the National League last year isn’t currently invited to Spring Training anywhere, it’s explainable when we look at what most teams value and have need of in a player.  If you, like the Cubs, have an established gold-glove first baseman and no need of a designated hitter, Chris Carter isn’t attractive at all.