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Positively, Quantitively Bad
by Phil Bencomo
Quantifying utter badness is not so unlike having a half-dozen decay-ridden teeth pulled sans anesthetic no less: Both are mighty painful, but not without practical benefits in the end.
Take the 2006 Cubs squad. Though the memories evoke thoughts of pain and agony and a desire to forgo such self-inflicted horrors, wading past the emotions can be a fruitful endeavor, for beyond the melancholy lives the land of quantitative data.
One oft-overlooked aspect of the Cubs' 2006 badness is that of contractual value. That is, how much "bang" the Cubs got for each "buck." Injuries surely played a role, but what about those healthy players who were just plain bad? For this, I turn to the Hardball Times. Their latest baseball annual includes a nifty little article by Dave Studenmund (with accompanying 2006 statistics for each eligible MLB player) on Net Win Shares Value. According to Studenmund:
the system evaluates each player and his contract based on his classification (not eligible for arbitration, arbitration-eligible and free agent) and his production (as measured by Win Shares).
Net Win Shares Value is essentially the amount by which a player exceeded the average value of his classification.
For more information, check out thesetwo Hardball Times pages.
As a tool for putting a monetary figure on a player's contribution to his team, Net Win Shares Value (WS$ for short) is excellent. It is no surprise, then, that the Cubs finished dead last in all of baseball at $23,853,000.
In short, Cub players were worth far less in 2006 than their contracts would suggest. Not that we didn't already know that WS$ just quantifies what was plain to see.
For instance, Ronny Cedeno was obviously downright pitiful. (In fact, even I could have contributed more to the Cubs than Cedeno did last season at least I'd manage to draw more than 21 walks.) Even though Cedeno made only a shade over the league minimum salary, his WS$ total was an astonishing $6,099,000. As Studenmund puts it, that negative six million in salary "is the amount [the Cubs] would have to pay other players, on average, to compensate for [Cedeno's] lack of production."
Some other notable 2006 Cubs:
Aramis Ramirez provided nearly $3 million in unexpected production, based on his classification's average value, a feat bested by Matt Murton. Cedeno well, it suffices to say that he should have been paying the Cubs last year for his performance.
Also of note: Carlos Zambrano was worth approximately $12 million last season (add his contract and WS$). By the same math, Barry Zito provided only a shade under $10 million in value. Given that Zito, he of 3.83 ERA in '06, signed for an average of $18 million per year, Zambrano (3.41 ERA and three years Zito's junior) is due for one monstrous payday, whether it be from the Cubs this winter or on the free agent market in the next.