By Jason Wojciechowski on January 16, 2016 at 5:49 PM

Here is a spreadsheet I created that attempts to recreate actual dollars expended on 40-man payroll in 2015 by applying their per-day salaries to the actual numbers of days they're on the roster. (This way, for instance, Ben Zobrist's presence on the 25-man on Opening Day doesn't artificially skew the figure upward, and his absence on the end-of-year roster doesn't artificially skew it downward.)

The total I came up with, which includes the money they owed Nick Punto and the money sent to Kansas City and New York in the Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard trades, but does not include any cash coming back when the amount wasn't reported (e.g. in the Edward Mujica deal), is a bit over $82 million. Cot's Contracts calculated the Opening Day 25-man roster as a bit under $84 million, and the end-of-season 40-man roster at a bit above $84 million, for context. I was surprised to see the figure come in so close to those estimates, but I expect that if you did this exercise for all 30 teams, you'd find more variation, some teams paying much more than either the Opening Day or end-of-year amount and some teams paying much less.

I had to make some assumptions, fill in some values, and generally deal with a lack of information in certain ways:

  • For any player for whom I could not find a major-league salary, I assigned a salary $507,500, which was the major-league minimum for 2015.
  • To estimate the minor-league minimum salary for a 40-man-roster player, I found the cost-of-living increase for 2015 over 2014 and multiplied that by 2014's minor-league minimums. Therefore, for any player who had, prior to 2015, appeared in the major leagues, I assigned a minor-league salary of $82,725. For anyone who had not made such an appearance, I assigned a salary of $41,365. (The 2014 figures I used for this are in the CBA.)
  • A more meaningful salary figure, even ignoring the pittance paid to most minor-league players, would incorporate salaries for minor-league free agents like Andy Parrino and Pat Venditte. I would guess that these players are not making the minimum salary because they were able to sign with the highest (minor-league) bidder and thus were able to negotiate something above the minimum, whether on or off the 40-man roster. Those salaries are almost never reported, though. Therefore, when Parrino was outrighted off the 40-man, I just stopped his line item. Similarly, for the period when Venditte was in the minors before the A's selected his contract, he doesn't count for anything against the total.
  • On the other hand, for players outside the minimum-salary years, I assume they're not signing split contracts and are thus being paid their full major-league salary even when in the minors—see Craig Gentry, for instance.

Feel free to muddle about with the spreadsheet and tell me what I've done wrong.


By Jason Wojciechowski on August 4, 2015 at 8:51 PM

We finally got an A.J. Griffin update, though it's worth noting that the second half of Slusser's tweet is wrong -- Tyler Ladendorf is on the 60-day disabled list, not the minor-league list, the difference being that he's not currently taking a 40-man roster spot. Anyway, the Griffin update is basically "no update." He's not throwing yet.

It's morbid, but we're too the point with Griffin's shoulder now, immediately following Tommy John surgery, where I'm worried about the probability that he never pitches in the majors again. He's still probably more likely than not to do so, but what odds are we talking about that he's Mark Prior? They're not zero. They were never zero, to be fair, but they're a lot higher now than they were two years ago. (In some omniscient sense that's not true, but from our limited information here on the ground, ants that we are, it's close enough.)

What about Joey Wendle? I'm concerned. Scouting isn't stats, but Wendle hit .253/.311/.414 at Double-A last year and is at .274/.308/.405 at Triple-A this year. He's a second baseman, sure, so the bar is low, but it's not that low. These are way below Eric Sogard's numbers in the high minors; Nerd King hit for about the same power, but posted OBPs in the high .300s, not the scraping-the-barrel .300s that Wendle is hitting. (Those OBPs, after all, were what made him such a stereotypical Oakland target in trade.) And remember, Wendle's already 25. He can't spend another two years in the minors figuring it out and still have any upside left in the majors.

Maybe Chad Pinder can't arrive to play shortstop and move Marcus Semien over to second soon enough. (Pinder's 23 and is hitting .316/.364/.469 in Double-A this year and was a reasonably well-regarded prospect coming into the season.)

Dave Dombrowski is out as President and General Manager of the Tigers after a very successful decade-plus run there. It isn't clear yet whose idea this was. Official word is that it was mutual, but who knows what's really going on behind the scenes. The timing, immediately after a sell-off of tradeable assets in acknowledgment of the team's place in the standings, is curious. Al Avila, father of Tigers catcher Alex Avila, will take over.

I have some ideas for what Dombrowski could do next. All the talk is that he'll be a president somewhere -- Seattle, Anaheim, Boston, etc. That makes sense, especially because that was the role he was originally hired for in Detroit. Long before the President-GM duo became all the rage (see Friedman-Zaidi in LA, Sabean-Evans in San Francisco, La Russa-Stewart in Arizona, and Shapiro-Antonetti in Cleveland, off the top of my head), Dombrowski was brought to Detroit over the top of GM Randy Smith. Six (bad) games into the first season of that arrangement, however, Dombrowski fired Smith, took the reins, and that was that.

So here are my two ideas: Billy Beane becomes president of the A's (or some other title, respecting the fact that Michael Crowley is already president, but in a different sense that Beane would be), Dave Forst becomes GM, and Dombrowski fills Forst's vacated AGM role. The A's will have to promote Forst at some point or lose him to another job, so the time is ripe. And surely Dombrowski would love to be an assistant in such a dynamic, interesting front office after 24 years as the top dog in Miami and Detroit. Right? Sure!

Alternatively, he could coach my beloved Lakers. You can't convince me he wouldn't be better than Byron Scott.

Speaking of which, I like the hiring of Al Avila to run the Tigers from here on out because it cuts against the baby GM trend a little, along with Dave Stewart (late 50s) and John Hart (mid-60s). Now, Stewart and/or La Russa might be in the middle of absolutely wrecking the poor Diamondbacks, but Ken Kendrick gets everything he deserves and, in any event, again, diversity is more fun than a bunch of boring white dudes from Wall St. with the same damn haircuts.

In Game of Thrones / baseball news, there's this.

Politics! Just because you had to pay your dues at the early part of your career with inadequate pay, no benefits, inhumane scheduling, and all the rest, that doesn't mean we can't do better for the next generation. The narrative that every past generation has paid their dues so the future generations have to as well benefits exactly one class: the bosses. If you're going to buy the narrative the bosses are selling, I sure as hell hope you're one of the bosses.

This applies in countless areas of the economy, but the ones that come to mind for me include: the entertainment industry's insistence that unpaid internships are the only way to make the business go; the absurdly stressful early years of being a doctor; the absolute grind big law firms expect from their junior associates; and, most relevantly to this blog, the absurd wages and conditions experienced by minor-league baseball players. Maybe that latter group are technically exempt from federal minimum wage laws and maybe they aren't, but there's simply no moral case to be made that it's okay that they're living four to an apartment in some of the cheapest cities around, eating peanut butter from the jar and just hoping to survive to next week.

Not relatedly, but sort of relatedly, stop telling people that there is a way to get where they want to go in their careers. You see this in the journalism school vs. life experience debate, the MFA vs. life experience debate, the law school vs. literally anything else debate, and on any panel about how to make a career in Hollywood. Your experience is your experience. It is nobody else's. Maybe what you did works. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe we need a diversity of experiences!

TV! There's talk of a Revenge spinoff, which of course means the chattering classes are trying to get some hot Nolan Ross action moving. I am in favor. I quit watching the show in the middle of the ... second? season, but I still have a large, comfy place in my heart for good ol' Nolan Ross, the best friend a revenge-seeking 1 percenter could ever have.

All of this is more than True Detective, at least.


By Jason Wojciechowski on August 2, 2015 at 1:47 PM

In at least three venues, I've compared Aaron Brooks to Brett Laxton. I've also said that if Brooks wanted to troll me hard, all he had to do was go out and pitch like a monster. Or, hell, a competent big-league pitcher. Seven and a third innings with five strikeouts, no walks, and one run later, I am trolled. He got me.1

Brooks threw five pitches last night: a two-seam and four-seam fastball (the latter more frequently), a better changeup than I thought he'd have, and both a slider and a curve (at least as far as Brooks Baseball/PitchInfo is concerned -- it's possible that A. Brooks considers these varieties of the same pitch, though the two pitches PitchInfo sees are substantially different in velocity and break). With the PITCHf/x data gathered from last night, let's throw some comps on those pitches.

Pitch Count Velocity HMov VMov Most comparable pitcher
Four-seam 41 93.1 -6.2 9.6 Anthony DeSclafani (93.5, -5.6, 9.7)
Two-seam 16 91.9 -8.1 6.6 Adam Warren (92.6, -8.1, 6.3)
Changeup 24 83.8 -8.2 2.7 Kyle Gibson (84.6, -8.3, 3.2)

I'm not going to do the exercise for the curveball and slider because he only threw 13 of them combined. The above samples aren't big enough to draw any firm conclusions either, but I think there's a difference between a fun exercise and a total farce. I'm trying to stay on the right side of that line.

There's a commonality here between Brooks and the three pitchers named in the table:

Pitcher Pitches Four-seam velo. 2015 DRA 2015 cFIP Career IP Career ERA-
DeSclafani 4s, 2s, sl, ch 93.6 3.91 108 153 114
Warren 4s, sl, ch, 2s, cu 93.4 3.57 110 255 86
Gibson 2s, sl, ch, fs 92.9 3.54 104 361 112

DRA is Baseball Prospectus' pitching metric, and it's expressed on the runs allowed (not earned runs) per nine scale. The league's RA/9 this season is 4.16, for the sake of comparison. cFIP is also a Baseball Prospectus statistic, a sort of adjusted version of FIP expressed on the "minus" scale, i.e. below 100 is better for a pitcher. ERA- is also on that scale.

If Brooks' arsenal is measured by his start yesterday, he has less breadth than the other three pitchers, as he was essentially a fastball-changeup guy; the others all have a slider they throw at least 20 percent of the time. Of course, we can't necessarily measure the arsenal by yesterday's start because the fastball and changeup were working so well that Brooks had no need to dip into the breaking ball(s) more than occasionally. (For what it's worth, if you include Brooks' prior major-league work, his slider usage jumps all the way to 12 percent.)

Overall, you could find ways to comp all three of the above pitchers' arsenals to Brooks', putting aside the issue of the breaking balls, but we can also nitpick those comps at a variety of levels:

  • DeScalafani's fastballs and changeup are probably the most similar to Brooks' on velocity and movement, but his changeup is a distant fourth place in terms of usage and comes in nearly 3 mph faster than Brooks'; given that their fastballs are essentially the same, that's 3 mph less separation between the fastball and changeup. There's no hard-and-fast rule about whether more or less separation between fastball and change is more effective (see Felix Hernandez, 4 mph gap, on one end and Johnny Cueto, 9 mph gap, on the other) -- Harry Pavlidis has found that big-gap changeups induce more whiffs and small-gap changeups more grounders -- but the gap is a key characteristic in a pitcher's arsenal that helps undermine a comparison.
  • Warren's sinker and changeup are quite similar to Brooks', but his four-seam fastball, his most-used pitch, has about half the horizontal movement of Brooks', a full three inches less.
  • Gibson's pitches are probably the best comp for Brooks', though he also has two inches less horizontal movement on his four-seam fastball; more importantly, his four-seam/sinker usage is essentially a mirror image of Brooks': 16.5%/42.5% vs. 43.6%/17.0%.

I'd say there are two takeaways here:

  1. Every player is different. Comps are impossible.
  2. Brooks probably has fourth/fifth starter upside.

  1. He also got me because it turns out I'd misremembered Laxton entirely. I thought he came to the A's with some more notable Royal in one of the A's many trades with Kansas City, but it turns out the opposite: Oakland drafted and developed him, then sent him to Missouri straight up for Jeremy Giambi.