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Baseball in December

Another week, another DVD bought. This time, it was Spider-Man 2, which was my second-favorite movie of 2004 behind last week's purchase, The Terminal. Of course, like a kid who just opened that toy he's been coveting for months on Christmas day, I had to drop everything and watch it immediately after getting back to my place. Or, in the case of the toy, play with it immediately after opening it. You get the picture. A couple of other thoughts I've been saving up …

  • My daily Bowden Complaint is actually a thank-you to his former employer, the Cincinnati Reds, for saving him from himself by re-signing Paul Wilson. The Reds gave him a pretty good chunk of change ($8.2 million over the next two seasons), which is probably more than he's worth.

    But before I get into the whole dollar value thing later, I want to talk briefly about what Wilson's become, which is a pretty consistent 4th or 5th starter, and how he got there. Back before the 2001 season, Wilson was in the "sleeper" column of my fantasy baseball draft sheet, as he was coming off a terrific year with the Devil Rays, posting this line in 51 innings:


    Most impressive was the one homer he allowed and the outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio. I was pretty sure the Paul Wilson the Mets had hoped to see before destroying his arm had finally arrived, but after 2001, I was pretty sure I was wrong. He had another decent year, posting another K/BB ratio of more than 2 and striking out 7.08 batters per nine innings, but his hit rate and home run rate skyrocketed. In 2002, his downward slide continued, as his hit and home run rates went up again, and his strikeouts dropped by 28 percent from the previous two seasons.

    The Devil Rays eventually gave up on him after 2002, letting Wilson sign with Cincy, and good things have happened for him since then. Look at his trends since 2002:


    His steady improvement over the past three seasons is encouraging, but all things considered, it looks like he's settled into an auto pilot mode where we can expect these 185 inning, 4.50 ERA performances for at least three more seasons. He definitely isn't going to run out of gas while he's under contract with Cincinnati, which makes today's announcement only a partial waste of resources for the Reds. I still think similar, less-expensive options are available on the free agent market (Kris Wilson, anyone?), but on a staff with some young arms with promise like Brandon Claussen and Jose Acevedo, Wilson will be a reliable guy Dave Miley can throw every fifth day.

  • Getting back to dollar values, baseball fans typically enjoy discussing how much a free agent is "worth" on the open market. Quite frequently, there are also disagreements between fans, agents, and teams alike on that issue, because putting a dollar value next to a free agent's name is an objective thing. The market usually plays a large role in determining how much money each player will get. To help with this, teams have been given the option of getting a suggested dollar value on a free agent from the commissioner's office.

    Basically, the free agent market is all a giant mess right now, but if you're like me, messes can be fun. The Hardball Times has developed a cool thing called "Net Win Shares Value," a calculator that estimates "how much a player was worth, given his contribution to the team's wins and the conditions under which he signed his contract (free agent, arbitration, etc.)." I particularly like the concept of using Win Shares to determine a player's value on the open market, because Bill James' system, flawed as it may be, is still centered around wins and losses, which is the point of baseball in its most watered-down form.

    Just for fun, I put in Paul Wilson's information, and the result was a Net Win Shares Value $1,241,994, or significantly less than the $4 million per season deal he signed with the Reds. I can't lay claim to how accurate the NWSV is, but it's really cool no matter what. Assuming the system is accurate, major league GMs and front office-types might be well-advised to at least take a look at this thing. Here are some other projections for prominent free agents:

    Carlos Beltran: $14,319,732
    Adrian Beltre: $20,014,876
    Carl Pavano: $10,733,901
    Matt Clement: $3,773,169
    Brad Radke: $8,624,588
    Troy Glaus: $4,616,894

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