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Federal Register, June 12

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"If I ask you to bunt, I expect Major League players to be able
to sacrifice 100 percent of the time." ---Frank Robinson

  • The Colorado Rockies come to RFK Stadium on Monday for the first of a four-game series (for more on the opponent, see Purple Row), and one would imagine the scene will resemble one of those Applebee's commercials where the old coach is lured unsuspectingly to dinner and is surprised when people have planned a tribute at the old neighborhood grill. Carroll was a fan-favorite last season, his sale to the Rockies shocked some of the RFK denizens, and his team-first, fundamentals-heavy approach to the game certainly appears to stand in sharp contrast to that of his cantakerous, execution-inhibited replacement, Damian Jackson. (Of oourse, Carroll can't play centerfield; maybe Jackson can't either, though, come to think of it.)

    Although Carroll is performing well for his new team, the reality is that he's rather talent-thin. But that doesn't really matter. In his one season in Washington, he was always in the game, always willing to help his team, and mostly able to execute his role within the context of what Frank Robinson required of him.

    And tonight he is certain, as Marv Albert might say, to hear it from the crowd.

  • In a recent diary, Daedalus pointed to an interview Redleg Nation conducted with Reds' TV analyst Chris Welsh. In the final segment of an excellent three-part series, Welsh speaks candidly about a number of topics, including---surprise, surprise!---Jim Bowden:
    RN: You were here through the Bowden and O?Brien eras, how is the atmosphere in the clubhouse different now?

    CW: The players aren?t making fun of the general manager, they did during those other two eras. For the most part, the players saw the phoniness of Jim Bowden. They just saw Dan O?Brien as ill suited for the job of being the Reds GM. That?s the players, that?s not my opinion.

    . . .

    I think they?ve got a plan now. I don?t think Bowden ever had a plan.

    To be fair, Welsh also spoke candidly about Bowden's successor, Dan O'Brien---and far more than candidly about others in the game, including Dick Williams.

  • Setting the Way Back Machine to about five weeks ago, I link to a humorous comparison between Ted Lerner and Ted Leonsis at Beltway Sports Beat.
  • Is Alfonso Soriano enjoying a typical "salary drive season"? To some extent, the answer almost certainly has to be yes . . . assuming such a thing exists.

    According to Baseball Between the Numbers (by "The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts"), the answer is yes . . . to some extent. By the measure known as WARP ("Wins Above Replacement Player"), which factors both offense and defense, the average contract-year player does outperform his performance in seasons directly prior to and subsequent to the contract-year. The contract-year player markedly ups his WARP value, by an average of 9.4 percent above both of the seasons flanking the contract-year. This is despite the fact that the average contract-year is further removed from the player's theoretical peak than the season preceding the walk year. Part of the difference is explained by increased playing time during the walk year---which makes intuitive sense, seeing as a player striving for dollars will tend to be less conservative about recovery time, so as to rack up the counting stats---but doesn't provide a complete explanation:

    Indeed, players do play or pitch in more games in their walk years, by a margin of 6.3 over their prewalk seasons and 4.8 over postwalk seasons. The bump in playing time explains away part of the walk-year WARP advantage, but, in light of what we learned about average age and the degree of the WARP edge, it's not enough to nullify the trend completely.

    (BBTN, p. 202)

    In other words, in addition to playing more during a contract-year, players tend to play better, too.

    What does this mean for Soriano? Well, I think we can all see that he's enjoying a career year. That's why he's turned himself into a fan favorite; he's playing like a true superstar. And this also means that, if the Nats are inclined to re-sign him (and, just as importantly, if Soriano is inclined to re-sign with the Nats---certainly not a given at this point), they will be paying in large part for this half-season.

    But, anecdotally at least, Soriano is a decent bet to retain value post-free agency. The Prospectus book distinguishes "young players' skills" free agents (like Barry Bonds, 1992-93) from "old players' skills" free agents (like Greg Vaugh, 1999-2000) and concludes that the former class of players is by far the better bet to retain value. This is no surprise---it's an observation Bill James made more than two decades ago.

    Soriano, blessed with power and speed, is a young-players'-skills type of guy. But, again, whichever team signs him for '07 and beyond will be paying a lot of money for his '06 value, and it seems doubtful he'll retain that much value. The long and short of it, for the Nats, is whether the team believes he'll still be an impact player at age 34 or 35, when a rebuilt Nats might first be able to compete for a pennant.