Ramirez and Tejada

Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada. The parallels that can be drawn between the two are endless. Both AL East stars. Both disgruntled. Both asking for a trade. Both with big contracts that few teams could take on. The list goes on and on. So is it any wonder that the latest trade rumors coming out of baseball have the two being exchanged for each other, whether it be straight up or with a third or fourth team in the mix?

The latest big rumor has Ramirez going to the Mets, Tejada to the Red Sox and an assortment of prospects and lesser names (Danys Baez, Matt Clement, Joey Gathright) being swapped among the Orioles, Devil Rays, Mets, and Red Sox. But the root of every deal—the players every rumor has been centered around—is Tejada and Ramirez. And from the perspective of a Red Sox fan such as myself, that’s all that matters anyways. So why not compare the two?

I’m going to use a method in this article that I have used a few times before. It’s sort of PECOTA-like, and fun. Here’s what I’ve done: Using Baseball Reference’s comparison tool, I looked at how Ramirez’s and Tejada’s 10 most similar players through their respective ages did over the next three and four years of their career, respectively (as Ramirez is signed for three more years, and Tejada four). I eliminated every player who did not play at ages 34-36 for Ramirez and 30-33 for Tejada. That should get rid of some of the criticisms I encountered the last time I did this exercise.

Anyway, I was left with six players similar to Ramirez—Willie Mays, Jeff Bagwell, Duke Snider, Frank Robinson, Frank Thomas, and Barry Bonds (that’s quite a list, by the way, huh?)—and eight players similar to Tejada—Vern Stephens, Cal Ripken, Joe Torre, Bobby Doerr, Travis Fryman, Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Carter, and Ernie Banks. This is the basis of my comparison.

Ramirez’s comparable players averaged 393 games and a .282/.391/.550 line between ages 34-36. That would be our projection for Ramirez. Because some don’t like projecting games played, here are his per 150 games averages (the batting line is slightly different due to rounding):

Ramirez           G    AB   H    2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   SB   CS   LW  RAR
Sum              393 1330  374   66    6   93  236  250 .281 .390 .550   16    5   99  144
Average          131  443  125   22    2   31   79   83 .282 .391 .551    5    2   33   48
Per 150 Games    150  507  143   25    2   35   90   95 .282 .390 .546    6    2   37   54
Per 450 Games    450 1521  429   75    6  105  270  285 .282 .390 .546   18    6  112  163

That sounds pretty reasonable. There’s certainly some decline for Ramirez, but the numbers seem reasonable to me. The column labeled “LW” is linear weights, counted using the weights given by Tangotiger for a 5 run per game environment. I’ve adjusted down the weight for an out to -.279 and -.290 for a strike out to better match the 2005 American League run environment. Linear weights, for those that don’t know, were invented by Pete Palmer and denote runs above average. Last year, for example, Ramirez was 45 batting runs above average. “RAR” stands for runs above replacement. I used a replacement level of -17 runs above average per 150 games. The reason I use RAR is because in my opinion, replacement level is better to use in terms of salary analysis, which is what I want to do here.

Moving on to Tejada. Again, I used the same process for him as for Ramirez. Tejada was projected to average 133 games per year with a .284/.349/.459 line. Again, here are his per 150 game averages:

Tejada            G    AB   H    2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   SB   CS   LW  RAR
Sum              532 1984  564   98   13   74  196  250 .284 .349 .459   10    7   43  103
Average          133  496  141   25    3   19   49   63 .284 .349 .462    3    2   11   26
Per 150 Games    150  559  159   28    3   21   55   71 .284 .349 .458    3    2   12   29
Per 600 Games    600 2236  636  112   12   84  220  284 .284 .349 .458   12    8   48  116

While 29 batting runs above replacement is very good, especially for a shortstop, it’s nowhere near Ramirez’s 54. The difference of 25 runs is worth about two-and-a-half wins, worth almost $10 million on today’s free agent market. So at first it seems that Ramirez is worth way more than Tejada, even given his inflated contract. In fact, even though the Red Sox would get one more year of Tejada, Ramirez would be still be worth $18 million more over three years than Tejada over four. Tejada has $50 million remaining on his contract; Ramirez $57 million. So Manny’s contract seems to be $11 million better.

The key word is seems, because there are two things I have yet to adjust for: defense and position. The latter is simple and straightforward: It’s easier to find a left fielder who will give you average (or replacement level or whatever) hitting than it is to find a shortstop who will hit at that level, given the relative toughness and value of playing defense at shortstop as compared to left field. Defensively, it’s obviously easier to play left field than it is to play shortstop, so Tejada would have better defensive numbers if he went to left field, and Ramirez would have worse defensive numbers if he went to short (I would NOT want to see what that experiment would look like). Anyway, the adjustment here is simple: Tejada gets an extra 6 runs per 150 games, and Ramirez loses 1.

In regards to defense, I’ve tried my best, though I’m sure I’ll get an onslaught of angry e-mails anyways. Mitchel Lichtman, the creator of UZR, has been kind enough to provide me with full UZR ratings for 2004 and 2005 (don’t ask me for them; I can’t share, and certainly don’t bother Mitchel for them … his job keeps him from giving them away). UZR is the best measure of player value; it measures exactly what happens on the field. My metric, Range, is good, but if you have UZR, you want to use it. So using a weighting of 6/4/5 for 2005/2004/Average (which is 0, obviously), I projected each player’s future UZR. I also allowed for a decline of 2 runs per season, a number Mitchel recently shared as the average decline rate. Tejada came out to an average of +3 runs above average per 150 games; Ramirez was -28.

That’s a huge difference; even greater than the difference between the Ramirez’s and Tejada’s bats. You might see where my conclusion is headed, but I’ll go on anyway. My final step was creating an “all-around” runs above replacement, and converting that to monetary value. As replacement-level hitters are about average fielders, simply adding my projected UZR to batting runs above replacement works well. I’m also adding the positional adjustment here.

To determine value, I’ve multiplied the average value of a marginal run (that is, a run above replacement) on the free agent market by the players’ projected “all-around” marginal runs. Based on Dave Studman’s spectacular analysis, a marginal run is worth about $390,000 on the free agent market. A replacement player gets paid $316,000, the major league minimum. The rest is simply third-grade math. And so here is the final comparison, with a few things added.

Ramirez           G    AB   H   2B  3B  HR   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   SB   CS   LW  RAR All    $
Sum              393 1330  374  66   6  93  236  250 .281 .390 .550   16    5   99  144  68 27.5
Average          131  443  125  22   2  31   79   83 .282 .391 .551    5    2   33   48  23  9.3
Per 150 Games    150  507  143  25   2  35   90   95 .282 .390 .546    6    2   37   54  25 10.1
Per 450 Games    450 1521  429  75   6 105  270  285 .282 .390 .546   18    6  112  163  26 30.6
 
Tejada            G    AB   H   2B  3B  HR   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG   SB   CS   LW  RAR All    $
Sum              532 1984  564  98  13  74  196  250 .284 .349 .459   10    7   43  103 139 55.6
Average          133  496  141  25   3  19   49   63 .284 .349 .462    3    2   11   26  35 14.0
Per 150 Games    150  559  159  28   3  21   55   71 .284 .349 .458    3    2   12   29  39 15.6
Per 600 Games    600 2236  636 112  12  84  220  284 .284 .349 .458   12    8   48  116 156 62.2

Each line should be pretty self-explanatory. Again, any differences between the lines are due to rounding. It’s not a big deal. But here’s what is: Ramirez will be overpaid by almost $30 million, according to my projection; Tejada will be underpaid by almost $15 million.

There are many parallels between the two, but they’re not endless. Tejada is the better player by far, and with a much more manageable contract.

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