Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Positively, Quantitively Bad
2007-01-05 08:20
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 these two 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:
Matt Murton
Juan Pierre
Carlos Zambrano
Aramis Ramirez

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.

2007-01-05 09:39:42
1.   Schteeve
I will be shocked, did you hear me, SHOCKED! If Zambrano is a Cub on Opening Day 2008.
2007-01-05 13:08:43
2.   The Boar
I can't imagine why, Schteeve. Z's gonna get a bunch of money, sure, but why wouldn't the Cubs pony up the cash? He's their best player by far, and they clearly have a bunch to spend. Zambrano apparently wants to stay, so when Hendry offers a 10 year, $200 million contract this spring training, he'll accept it.
2007-01-05 13:53:00
3.   Schteeve
2 I dont' think Hendry is that dumbsmart.
2007-01-05 14:22:37
4.   Derek Smart
I think the one question you'd have to ask in this is "who was the last Cub player Jim Hendry lost to free agency despite his best efforts to sign him?" I may be missing something (and please correct me if I am), but I believe the answer is "no one."

Hendry has his faults to be sure, but if there's one thing he's been willing and able to do it's make sure he keeps the players he already has when he believes they're a key to the team's chances for success. Unless he's evaluating Zambrano in a completely different way from everyone else on the planet, I think the only thing that will keep Z from staying in town is if he flat-out doesn't want to be here.

2007-01-05 18:48:50
5.   Phil Bencomo
4 Agreed.

If Hendry's spending spree accomplishes nothing else, hopefully it at least convinces Z that the Cubs do want to win. If he doesn't accept a long-term deal this winter, it will surely be because he doesn't see the Cubs as a competitive club. Above all else, I think Carlos just wants to win.

2007-01-06 07:48:36
6.   Sandus
Alfonso Soriano's numbers:
2006 Salary - $10,000,000
2006 WS$ - $7,772,975

Using this system (without considering the length of the contract), it looks like the deal we once considered extravagant was pretty spot on. You think GMs actually use this information too?

2007-01-06 13:58:36
7.   NBarnes
6: I doubt it, especially the Cubs. They pay too much for relivers, who notoriously have trouble getting big WS totals due to limited IPs.

As for Soriano, while it's possible that Hendry thinks that Soriano will average his 2006 production over the next three years, he'd be nearly alone in thinking that. And if Soriano doesn't, his $WS numbers quickly begin to resemble Pierre's.

2007-01-07 17:25:46
8.   rynox
Cedeno should have been paying the Cub's... lol... I love it.

That's a great concept, Baker, Cedeno, and Perez will be getting bills in the mail.

2007-01-07 18:11:33
9.   Wrigleyville
Cedeno is holding up his end of the bargain by stinking it up at the plate in winter ball, batting .226 with 2 homers and 17 RBIs in 39 games, according to

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