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Best values among Elias Type A and B free agents

The Elias rankings, used to determine free-agent types, are now public, thanks to MLBTradeRumors. To the extent that teams consider these types when making decisions on which of their own players to offer arbitration to, which free agents to attempt to sign and even — in the recent case of the Blue Jays — which players to trade for without much intention of having them ever wear the uniform, the Elias ratings matter. But, as with any system that uses suboptimal statistics to assess player value, the Elias ratings — which use pitcher wins and losses, for example — offer a potential market inefficiency for general managers.

Elias reportedly uses player stats from the past two years in their ratings. Whereas they use their own proprietary melange, we ran the two-year numbers for free agents using their Wins Above Replacement. WAR is far from perfect, and many other factors are useful for determining a player’s worth, but our wager is that it is preferable to Elias’s system. If that’s true, we might expect that smart GMs will exploit this inefficiency, avoiding the "overrated" players and seeking "underrated" players.

This week, we’ll look at the best of the Type A and B players, the worst of the A’s and B’s and the best of the players who were neither.

Today, let’s look at some of the A-list players who appear to be worth their rating, listed by the ratio of their Elias score to their two-year average WAR:

Type Player Elias ’09 WAR ’10 WAR Avg WAR Ratio
A Cliff Lee 87.5 6.6 7.0 6.8 12.9
A Carl Crawford 85.1 5.7 6.9 6.3 13.5
A Adrian Beltre 81.6 2.5 7.1 4.8 17.0
A Jayson Werth 91.8 4.9 5.0 5.0 18.5
A Derek Jeter 91.3 7.1 2.5 4.8 19.0
A Derrek Lee 74.2 5.2 2.0 3.6 20.6
A Victor Martinez 87.1 4.1 4.0 4.1 21.5
A Carl Pavano 75.6 3.7 3.2 3.5 21.9
A Paul Konerko 78.1 2.5 4.2 3.4 23.3
A Ted Lilly 80.1 3.8 2.3 3.1 26.3

These players would seem to be legitimate "A" players, more worthwhile for a team to lose draft picks for than the others. Given that these guys are legit and that in 2009 only two of the 24 free agents actually accepted arbitration, these guys should be locks for receiving arbitration at minimum from their most recent teams.

Okay, so what about the B-list? Since there’s really no penalty for signing one, understanding their value is more a concern for their most-recent teams. However, Type B players also offer the biggest opportunities for signing teams, because they can be had with relatively little penalty.

Type Player Elias ’09 WAR ’10 WAR Avg WAR Ratio
B Hiroki Kuroda 68.2 2.2 4.2 3.2 21.3
B Juan Uribe 65.6 2.8 3.2 3.0 21.9
B Javier Vazquez 72.0 6.5 -0.2 3.2 22.8
B Orlando Hudson 70.2 2.9 3.1 3.0 23.4
B Lance Berkman 64.8 3.4 2.1 2.8 23.5
B Miguel Olivo 65.3 2.0 3.2 2.6 25.1
B Adam LaRoche 61.7 2.6 2.1 2.4 26.2
B Aubrey Huff 60.0 -1.4 5.7 2.2 27.9
B Johnny Damon 74.4 3.3 1.9 2.6 28.6
B Alex Gonzalez 61.4 0.6 3.4 2.0 30.7
B Brandon Inge@ 67.3 2.2 2.1 2.2 31.3
B Kevin Millwood 58.6 2.4 1.3 1.9 31.7
B Omar Infante 62.3 1.2 2.7 2.0 32.0
B Felipe Lopez 67.5 3.9 0.2 2.1 32.9
B Hideki Matsui 73.3 2.5 1.9 2.2 33.3
B Jose Reyes@ 62.4 0.9 2.8 1.9 33.7
B Mark Ellis 74.4 1.2 3.2 2.2 33.8
B Carlos Pena 64.8 2.8 1.0 1.9 34.1
B Aramis Ramirez 63.2 2.6 0.9 1.8 36.1
B David Ortiz 75.0 0.8 3.3 2.1 36.6
B Hisanori Takahashi 58.7 1.6 1.6 36.7

@ has re-signed with team

The B-list offers more opportunities than the A-list, since you can hypothetically get the same value for less cost. Among the best buys, Hiroki Kuroda is a textbook example of Elias’s loony system. He likely gets downgraded because of his sub-.500 win-loss percentage the past two years (.487), and yet along with Javier Vazquez (.556 Win%), has been a better pitcher than all but two of the 17 A-rated pitchers. We’ll see which savvy GMs sign them, assuming that they make it to free agency. Oddly, though, their current teams — the Dodgers and Yankees, respectively — will be less inclined to offer them arbitration, since they stand to gain “only” a sandwich pick as compensation for losing a type-B player.

Other notable B’s include Juan Uribe and Lance Berkman, each of whom averaged a higher two-year WAR than Type A’s at their respective positions: Miguel Tejada and Adam Dunn (though given Berkman’s decline, his higher average WAR may be misleading, especially since Dunn is coming off a 3.9-WAR season). To give you an idea of the dearth of free-agent talent at 2B, there are no Type-A second basemen, though Orlando Hudson and Mark Ellis represent good values as Type B’s.

As for the Cardinals, who have occasionally been rumored to be interested in Tejada for at least a year, we would recommend setting their sights on Uribe, who, ceteris paribus, represents a smarter move (though we confess neither excites us). O-Dawg or Ellis might, too, be low-cost (in terms of draft picks, anyway) options at second base, where the Cardinals have heard grumblings of dissatisfaction for more than a year now.

4 Responses to “Best values among Elias Type A and B free agents”

  1. The Ray Area | The exaggerated bullpen problem Says:

    [...] has been through the list of Type A and Type B free agents compiled by Elias and identified the best and worst values based on each player’s two-year WAR.  Notice anything?  Dan Wheeler is the [...]

  2. mikkyld Says:

    While I agree that using wins and losses to value a pitcher is misguided, WAR isn’t that much better since it uses highly subjective defensive analyses that cannot even agree among themselves.

    When defensive stats become more objective and therefore more reliable, then you can use WAR to compare players but not before in my view.

  3. Pip Says:

    You are correct in that WAR still contains some subjectivity. My point isn’t that WAR is perfect — I actually state that — but that it’s the best that we have at the moment. If you’re a GM (or even a fan), you don’t really have the option of saying “I can’t judge player value until I have a perfect system.”

    Do you have a suggestion for a better stat to use?

  4. Friday Links (19 Nov 10) – Ducksnorts Says:

    [...] Best values among Elias Type A and B free agents (Fungoes). Pretty much what the title says. There’s a flip side as well. Beware of catchers and relievers. [...]

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