Thursday, June 11, 2009

More Worthless: Wang Or Papi?

The parallels between these two didn't become apparent to me until I read this post on Mass Hysteria, which seemingly took just as much pleasure in Chien Ming Wang's demise as we have in Papi's. They have more in common than just their names being euphemisms for one's penis.

In the first inning of last night's game, we saw a clash of fallen heroes: Papi, the populist champion of Red Sox Nation and Wang, the most revered athlete in the island nation of Taiwan. The Dominican native has long dominated the battle between the two. In 44 plate appearances against Wang, Ortiz was hitting .432/.523/.703 with 7 walks. He worked another base on balls and won the symbolic battle of two stars wrapped in momentarily coinciding downward spirals.

Both have been a terrible detriment to their teams this year, but in different ways. If these two were actual methods of torture, Wang would be more like waterboarding (brutal for short stretches) whereas Ortiz is the equivalent of Chinese water torture (a slow drip that eventually drives you insane). So which is worse?

According to FanGraphs, Papi is far less valuable than Wang. He clocks in with a value of -$4.7M and a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of -1.0. Surprisingly, Wang is "only" costing the Yankees $600,000 and one tenth of a win. It would seem that the formula FG is using is letting Wang off the hook since he only pitched 21 1/3 innings so far this year. This should instead count against him, since his lack of length taxes the Yankees bullpen and has stranded them in every one of his starts. You can do a lot of damage in 21 1/3 innings. And Wang certainly has.

A starting pitcher has the ability to sabotage a game in a way no other player does. A starter giving up 6 runs in two innings is less valuable than anything a position player could do. Yes, even going 0-7 with 3Ks and leaving a small army on base (while DH'ing).

Here are Wang's 5 starts this year:

There's no way those only cost the Yankees 1/10th of a win.

In order for the Yankees to win any of those games, they would have to score more than the number of runs he allowed, obviously. Based on the Yankees offense this year, here are the probabilities that they score X or more runs in any given game.

Of course, this assumes that the bullpen is going to be perfect throughout the rest of the game, which is extremely unlikely when Wang averages only 2 2/3 innings per start and the Yankees bullpen has an ERA of 4.91. That number might even be a little favorable considering when you need to get 6 1/3 innings from the pen, you are using mop-up men or overtaxing your competent relievers.

So if you project how many runs the bullpen is likely to allow on top of Wang's performances and line those up with how probable it was for the Yankees to score more runs than that, you'd come away with a much better estimate of just how bad Wang has screwed the Yanks in his starts so far this year.

SPW% is the likelihood that the offense would score more runs than the pitching staff allowed in any given game. The most runs the Yanks have scored this year is 12 and that was only once, hence the 0% chance of winning the game against the Indians (which of course they lost 22-4) and the 1% chance against the Rays (2% chance they score 12 runs and 50% they win in extra innings).

Add those percentages up and you get a 54% win probability out of a total 500%. That's not costing the Yankees 1/10th of a win, friends, it looks a lot more like negative 4.5.

This obviously isn't overly scientific or definitive, so what do you think? Who would fetch the ham sandwich on the trade market and who would come with chips? Which one of these guys would you rather not have?


  1. Easy, Ortiz is the worse option because he's sitting in the middle of the Boston lineup EVERY NIGHT. Wang's only participated in 5 games this season, and we have Hughes to back him up (is cleaning up wang's shit his new job?) This is way better than hoping and praying ortiz will return to his dominant ways...which is not happening. I don't think we're be a game behind the sox if papi isn't ass.

  2. So, Buster Olney is reporting that Wang is staying in the rotation, but that he could be skipped and start next Saturday. This can't happen as it would be the dumbest possible move to make. Oh wait, the Yankees haven't proved that they won't make the dumbest decision possible.

  3. Frigidevil - I think you're probably right that Papi might subtract more value from the Sox on a long term basis, but Wang basically cost the Yanks at the very least, two or three wins. Would you rather have several catostrophic blows, or a weight that drags you down slowly.

    Gripp - I agree that skipping him is inadvisable because it will mess with his rest once again, but it will put him in line at Florida next Friday night. That would be pretty much the ideal setting for him to succeed (away from the boos at home, in a big ballpark against a marginal national league line-up).

  4. I'll weigh in here. I'll still take Wang over Papi. It's not a pleasant choice either way. But the Yankees are on a year-to-year basis with Wang whereas Ortiz is signed at $12.5M/yr for the remainder of this year and the next. He also has a $12.5M club option for 2011, but right now there's a better chance of me DHing for the Sox in 2011 than Papi. Added bonus for the Sox: no buyout on the option.

    More than that, and maybe this is wishful or unobjective on my part, I think there's a better chance of Wang returning to form, or something close to it, than there is for Ortiz.

    Wang is 29. His issues appear to be either directly or indirectly related to his lis franc injury from last year. At least they have a root cause for his issues. Hopefully they can fix them.

    Conversely, Ortiz is 33, or perhaps older if you believe Simmons. While he should be on the downward slope of his career at this point, that slope should not be infinity. No one seems to know what's wrong with him. I'm certainly not going to suggest steroids so that he can go all Raul Ibanez on me. But we know it's not his eyes.

    Perhaps Ortiz is just one of these extreme statistical outliers, like Dale Murphy, that goes straight from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the valley in a year's time. Ortiz' asecendence was meteoric; perhaps his fall will be as well.

    As for what to do next with Wang, I have absolutely no friggin clue. There's no sense in me sitting here continuing to beat Barbaro about how badly his rehab was handled. I have no clue whether pitching out of the pen or staying in the rotation serves him or the team best at this point. I was getting a bit encouraged with the little progress he had made in the pen and in his first start, but yesterday was very very bad. I fear 2009, like most of 2008, may prove to be a total loss for the Wanger.

  5. Good points about the age and salary, Matt. That pretty much puts the "argument" to bed.