Yoenis Cespedes for Team MVP

I can haz singles, too

For the majority of the baseball media, both MSM and more saber-friendly, the A's were predicted to be a horrible team. If they didn't have the worst record in baseball, they were going to challenge the Orioles, Astros, Mariners, and Cubs for that dubious title. I, for one, thought that this team would be 70-win team as did several other knowledgeable A's fans. Then, on February 13th, this news came across Twitter from both Tim Brown of Yahoo, then from our own Susan Slusser, that shocked the baseball world:

Source: Yoenis Cespedes has agreed to terms with the Oakland A's.

about to sign Cespedes for for four years, $36 million.

"WHAT?!?" followed by "OMG YESSSSSS" was the reaction of most A's fans. Just when Beane had succeeded in depressing some portion of the fanbase by trading away Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, and Gio Gonzalez, fans were sent in a tizzy for an entirely different reason. Articles were written. ZiPS projections, using Cespedes' Cuban stats, were updated. A certain promotional video was watched again. A former everyday centerfielder was pushed to left field to accommodate our new demigod.

But, what never really happened was any revision of the A's expected performance over the course of the year. The A's were still going to be a 70-win team, competing with the Mariners for the booby prize of 3rd place in the AL West, behind the powerhouse Rangers and Angels.

Fast-forward 29 games into the regular season, and Cespedes has played in all but one game. Here is his triple slash line and other assorted offensive stats:

.245/.319/.434

OPS: .753

wRC+: 113

WAR: 0.1

So, over his potential replacement player (when taking into account his defense), Cespedes is all but the same. Might as well have promoted Matt Carson again, right?

But, let's put aside those stats for a second. How has Cespedes actually affected the outcome of games? One way to do that would be to use another stat, called Win Probability Added (WPA). Put simply, WPA measures the impact an offensive play has on game context based on win expectancy. If a player hits a 2-run single that changes the A's win expectancy from 50% to 80%, then, that player gets credit with that positive change, expressed as a decimal; in this case, that player would receive .30. Similarly, if someone K's with the bases loaded in a key situation and lower his team's win expectancy from 50% to 20%, then he'd be penalized by .30. These numbers are added together and kept track of during the year to arrive at a number.

So, where does Cespedes rank in this metric for batters? Here is the MLB leaderboard for this, through Sunday's games, using only players who have amassed a WPA of >1:

Player

WPA

WPA-

WPA+

Bryan LaHair

2.32

-.0.94

3.26

Matt Kemp

1.98

-1.39

3.37

Carlos Gonzalez

1.8

-1.53

3.33

Andre Eithier

1.64

-1.88

3.52

Paul Konerko

1.61

-1.57

3.19

David Wright

1.46

-1.53

2.99

Joey Votto

1.37

-1.61

2.99

Yoenis Cespedes

1.34

-1.99

3.33

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

1.28

-1.45

2.72

Todd Helton

1.25

-1.7

2.95

Kelly Johnson

1.15

-1.76

2.91

Adam LaRoche

1.1

-2.05

3.15

Derek Jeter

1.1

-1.76

2.86

Josh Willingham

1.07

-1.49

2.56

Carlos Lee

1.04

-1.97

3.01

Adam Jones

1.03

-2.64

3.66

Hanley Ramirez

1.01

-2.08

3.09

Martin Prado

1.01

-1.78

2.78

Ian Desmond

1

-2.49

3.5

As you can see, Cespedes ranks 8th in MLB and 2nd in the AL. So, this means, Cespedes alone has contributed a total of 1.34 of win expectancy over his brief MLB career. Keep in mind that the most one player can contribute to a win, is in theory .95, but more likely to be closer to .5 if he has a big game.

What if we dig deeper, though? What if we imagine that Cespedes is not an Oakland A, but instead still toiling away in Cuba and Coco Crisp is patrolling CF and hitting cleanup (shudder). How many games might the A's have lost had Cespedes not been in the lineup? Here is a breakdown of his highest WPA games (that were A's wins) followed by the plays that most contributed to them:

4/25 vs. CHW, B14th: HR to LCF, +.478

4/25 vs. CHW, B6th: 1B to CF, +.105

Total WPA for day .593

3/29 vs. SEA, B7th: HR to CF, +.484

Total WPA for day .448

4/11 vs. KCR, B2nd: 2B to RF, +.066

4/11 vs. KCR, B2nd, SB (3B), scored on error, +0.074

4/11 vs, KCR, B4th, BB, +0.050

4/11 vs KCR, B11th, 1B to CF, +0.075

Total WPA for day .207

By my count, that's 3 games that the A's probably don't win without him in the lineup. That would also leave the A's at 12-17. Of course, there's SO much uncertainty here. Coco Crisp might have gone bonkers and had a 3SB game with 3 runs scored and a game-tying homerun himself in extra innings. Kurt Suzuki might have not popped up a few balls here and there and grooved one for a homerun. Josh Donaldson might have been good.

Now, is Cespedes going to win the MVP? Almost assuredly not. Will he win AL ROTY? (especially with Matt Moore pitching busy stinking it up for Tampa) Definitely a good chance. Is he the A's MVP through the first 29 games? Absolutely.

Put another way, here are the A's WPA "leaders" through a month.

Cespedes: 1.34

Gomes: 0.83

.

.

.

(lots of negative numbers)

.

.

Weeks: -.098

In my estimation, Cespedes is the ONLY reason the A's are 1 game over .500 today.

Join me later tonight for the Canadian invasion. Free healthcare to the first 10,000 fans if you can stowaway on their charter.

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