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Bargain Shopping: Dollars Per Run

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After recently going through some of the younger Athletics salaries and realizing the production the A's are getting for bargain prices, it got me to thinking about the importance of taking a player's salary situation into account.

Is there some way to figure out just how valuable having a player like Huston Street or Bobby Crosby on your team? Talent that is young, cheap and produces at the major league level. I wondered if there was some metric or way to measure how much of a bargain certain players are.

Since I'm not exactly a mathematician or statistician, I enlisted the help of Richard Brian Wade from the SportsBlog Beyond the Boxscore.

He worked out a calculation using VORP from Baseball Prospectus compared to salary. VORP is described as:

Value Over Replacement Player. The number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. VORP scores do not consider the quality of a player's defense.

So Richard put this equation together to try and figure out who were the best bargains in baseball this year:

( Games Played / 162 * Salary ) / VORP

An example of how it works:

Brian Roberts has a VORP of 51.6, and a salary of $390,000. The Orioles have played 87 games.

( 87 / 162 * 390000 ) / 51.6 = $4,059.00 Per Run

So then, who tops this list so far in 2005?

Here is the Top 20 position players in Dollars Per Run or DPR.

1 Brian Roberts, BAL
2 Miguel Cabrera, FLO
3 Travis Hafner, CLE
4 Jason Bay, PIT
5 Morgan Ensberg, HOU
6 Chase Utley, PHI
7 Felipe Lopez, CIN
8 Jhonny Peralta, CLE
9 Bill Hall, MIL
10 Joe Mauer, MIN
11 David Wright, NYN
12 Grady Sizemore, CLE
13 Kevin Mench, TEX
14 Clint Barmes, COL
15 Jorge Cantu, TBA
16 Ryan Church, WAS
17 Carl Crawford, TBA
18 Bobby Crosby, OAK
19 Chad Tracy, ARI
20 Coco Crisp, CLE

This list obviously includes some of the brightest young stars in the game, including our own Bobby Crosby.

One of the caveats is that it's impossible to calculate all of the players because at least 51 players have salaries that Richard couldn't locate. The first player to show up making a salary over $1 million is Nick Johnson. At some point, we're going to try and get a more comprehensive list. I would also guess that the A's Dan Johnson is probably relatively high on the list as well.

Of course, this system isn't perfect because it doesn't take defense into account, but it gives you a sense of who is producing at a bargain level. Richard also made the point that VORP is marginal runs, but we couldn't do marginal dollars because it would drastically overrate players making the league minimum.

But what makes these players so very valuable is that it allows you to allocate funds in other areas of weakness. If you have a Bobby Crosby, Nick Swisher and Dan Johnson producing at a ridiculously high DPR level, it allows you to maybe overpay a little to keep a talent like Kotsay (not that the A's overpaid for him).

It's possible there is already some measure or process to figure this out (chances are Beane and company already have it, which is why the draft is the most important day of the year for the A's). But it's why getting those 0-3 service year players who can produce immediately like Harden, Haren, Blanton, Dan Johnson, Crosby and Street are absolutely necessary to keep this team alive.