2008 Diamondbacks MVP: Conor Jackson

The votes are in, and the 2008 'Pittie for the Diamondbacks Most Valuable Player goes to... Conor Jackson, who pipped the winner the past couple of years, Brandon Webb, in a close-fought race by an overall margin of 36%-34%. Stephen Drew came in third, with a respectable 22% of the vote. Some objective evidence to back up this result comes from Fangraphs, who are continuing their efforts to add even more data to their already quite splendid site. They've added a 'value' page for each position player, which sums up the contributions of a player.

This includes at the plate and with the glove, adjusted for all positions at which the player appears, and also an addition for a replacement player [since Batting and Fielding are measured compared to a replacement level baseline]. This then sums to a total of runs, which can be converted to a number of value wins. Analysis has shown that the average cost of a value win is $4.5m, so you can work out the salary a player 'should' have received, based on his actual performance. Here's a quick summary; see here for more details.

Batting - wRAA (Runs Above Average) with a park adjustment.
Fielding - The sum of a player’s UZR.
Repl - The replacement level adjustment set at 20 Runs / 600 PA.
Pos - The positional adjustment set using Tangotiger’s values (see this link)
Value Runs - The sum of Batting, Fielding, Replacement, and Positional.
Value Wins - Value Runs converted to a wins scale.
Dollars - Value Wins converted at $4.5m/win.

Name Pos Batting Fielding Repl Pos Value Runs Value Wins Value ($m)
Jackson 1B/OF 17.2 6.6 20.4 -8.8 35.5 3.5 $15.90
Drew SS 12.6 -12.7 22.1 7.0 29.0 2.9 $13.00
Snyder C 5.3   13.5 8.9 27.6 2.8 $12.40
Young OF -0.6 1.0 23.3 2.5 26.1 2.6 $11.70
Reynolds 3B 5.1 -2.6 20.4 2.3 25.2 2.5 $11.30
Hudson 2B 10.6 -6.1 15.2 1.5 21.2 2.1 $9.50
Montero C -0.1   6.9 5.4 12.2 1.2 $5.50
Upton OF 5.8 -2.8 13.9 -5.0 11.9 1.2 $5.30
Ojeda 2B/3B -7.4 7.0 9.1 2.4 11.1 1.1 $5.00
Dunn 1B/OF 8.5 -10.0 6.2 -2.5 2.2 0.2 $1.00
Burke 2B/OF -11.3 5.2 6.6 -2.3 -1.7 -0.2 -$0.80
Salazar OF -3.9 -0.8 5.1 -3.7 -3.3 -0.3 -$1.50
Tracy 1B -4.2 -3.0 9.7 -6.8 -4.2 -0.4 -$1.90
Byrnes OF -9.6 -3.3 7.5 -2.3 -7.8 -0.8 -$3.50
Romero OF -7.8 -3.2 4.7 -3.4 -9.7 -1.0 -$4.30

The top five players on the list all represented great value, given they all earned little more than league minimum in 2008, with the exception of Snyder. He was still a bargain at $1.875m, and this method also likely underrates catchers, since they don't get any credit for their defense. Indeed, you can go all the way down to Augie Ojeda and get a good deal of value, whose glove and ability to play the toughest positions, made him worth a lot more than he was paid. [For the record, the most valuable player in the majors was Albert Pujols, who added nine value wins to the Cardinals: that's over $40m worth. The least valuable? The staggering failure of Jeff Francoeur in Atlanta, at -$7m]

Beyond Augie, however, we begin to get into questionable territory. It looks like dropping Burke and Salazar were sensible decisions, and Dunn's defense almost wiped out the benefits he brought to us at the plate. We really need Tracy or Byrnes - and ideally, both - to turn it around for the team in 2009, and at the very least replace the minus with a plus. They are scheduled to earn $4.75m and $11m next year, and it would be nice to see performances from them that match this kind of cost. To put that into some kind of context, the outfielders worth closest to $11m this season were Torii Hunter and Skip Schumaker, while the 1B nearest Tracy's cost were James Loney and Casey Kotchman. Oh, and Felipe Lopez comes in with a value of $4.7m based on his 2008 production, making the contract we signed him to, a slight discount.

At the moment, pitchers are not yet available - a shame, since I'd love to see the value of Haren, Webb and the rest of our arms on this scale. Maybe the closest we can get are the WARP [Wins Above Replacement Players] numbers out of Baseball Prospectus - in particular, WARP2, which is WARP adjusted for difficulty. Here are the stats for all the Diamondbacks who had 100 AB or 50 IP last season. The columns to the left of the WARP2 stat are the Batting, Fielding and Pitching Runs Above Replacement respectively.

Brandon Webb -6 6 93 9.1
Dan Haren -3 2 89 8.6
Chris Young 21 42
Chris Snyder 18 38
Conor Jackson 35 21
Orlando Hudson 24 30
Stephen Drew 34 20
Randy Johnson -5 0 61 5.1
Chad Qualls 0 0 44 4.7
Doug Davis -6 3 40 3.4
Brandon Lyon 0 1 26 2.8
Mark Reynolds 24 1
Justin Upton 19 3
Juan Cruz 0 -1 22 2.3
Tony Pena 0 2 18 2.1
Micah Owings 2 1 18 2.0
Augie Ojeda 1 16
Miguel Montero 6 10
Adam Dunn 14 1
Max Scherzer -3 0 18 1.6
Yusmeiro Petit -3 0 19 1.6
Chris Burke -2 14
Chad Tracy 5 6
Eric Byrnes -2 5
Jeff Salazar 1 0
Alex Romero -3 -1

On this scale, Webb and Haren were clearly the most valuable players for the team this season, and Chris Young's fielding also gets him a boost, to the point where he is the most valuable position player. However, this doesn't really cover the 'intangible' value of Jackson's willingness to switch from 1B to LF, a move deserving of much praise. Chad Qualls led out of the bullpen, but note that this chart concurs with the Fangraphs assessment, that Augie Ojeda and his glove were more valuable to the Diamondbacks in 2008 than Adam Dunn.

Enough of the number-crunching! Nick Piecoro has a new blog entry up, covering the extension to Snyder, what this may mean for Miguel Montero, and the strong performance of Juan Gutierrez in the Venezuelan league this winter. "In 12 starts for Caracas, Gutierrez is 5-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 62 2/3 innings with 53 strikeouts. He has allowed just one home run. Montero said Gutierrez got hurt last season shortly after spring training and his velocity dropped into the 80s. But Montero said that Gutierrez lately has been in the 90s and dominant, with a good breaking ball and change-up." Nick still seems to think he's a long shot to make the rotation this year, but he'll likely be in the bullpen. Might be an interesting replacement for Juan Cruz, if he is as good as these reports indicate.

Appropriately enough, the official website talks to our new MVP about the holiday season, both past and present. Seems like he's a last-minuter Larry as far as buying gifts goes, an approach to which I can relate - I firmly believe that desperation is the mother of invention in this area. Steve Gilbert also looks back at the Diamondbacks' 2008 - if I were you, I'd probably stop reading after April, as it pretty much goes downhill from there. And with that. off to an evening in front of the TV. Work let me out early, so we swept past the Redbox DVD kiosk and are looking forward to Wall-E and Indiana Jones and the Probably Overlong Title. Should be fun.

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