Barry Zito’s Cumulative Value After Those Gems

Barry Zito hasn’t been worth the $99 million that the Giants have paid him since he signed his seven-year, $126-million contact in 2007. Obvious, maybe, since the contract is the bogeyman of pitcher contracts. But could you change assumptions about some of his value over the contract so far and make the 34-year-old lefty worth almost as much as nine figures? Especially after his last two postseason starts?

Take his straight wins over replacement value and the best current research we have on how much wins are worth, and it seems impossible that he could have been worth a healthy portion of his contract so far. He has had a 4.47 ERA and 1.4 WHIP in San Francisco, which owns a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s league. Account for the things he has been most in control of while pitching on the new contract — strikeouts (16.1%, ~20% is the league average), walks (10.2%, ~9% is average), and home runs (one per nine, one per nine is average) — and he’s put up seven WAR. With the most recent numbers from Matt Swartz coming in around five million dollars per win this year, he’s woefully short of being worth $99 million.

But the marketplace of public baseball research has other options when it comes to pitcher value. Using other WAR values won’t help Zito, but you could look at our Fielding Dependent Pitching numbers. After all, Zito has a .269 career batting average on play, which is much better than the league average. If you want to give him credit for that as a skill, you could use his RA/9 value. That number approximates what Zito’s actual run allowance was worth, once you factor in league and park (which you have to do or every Padre pitcher ever would just look so sweet). Zito has accrued 9.0 RA/9 wins. Now we’ve got his value up closer to half of his contract.

There are other dollars per win numbers out there, too. Cleveland Team President Mark Shapiro just let the cat out of the bag yesterday: the Indians’ front office valued a 2012 win at $9 million. They thought wins were worth $8 million a year in 2012. Using these numbers as a guidepost, you could say that Zito’s nine RA/9 wins since 2007 have been worth closer to $60 million.

Now here comes the part that might not go over well with you. Well, you should already be pretty uncomfortable with the assumptions we’ve made so far, but this one might be pretty wacky. Barry Zito just pitched the Giants into the World Series, in a way. I mean, the team had to win or go home and Zito pitched a gem in St. Louis. Without that win, the Giants wouldn’t have played game six, at the very least.

Let’s try to give his value a boost by adding the extra revenue the Giants got from his big game five victory.

If you start conservatively — hah — and give him credit for the Giant’s extra revenue they received directly from from his win, then you can only give him game six. Ryan Vogelsong had to pitch them into game seven, after all. That’s one more game the Giants played because Zito pitched well. Maury Brown from the Business of Baseball gives us gate receipts for teams heading into 2009, and we can see that the Giants averaged $1.4m per NLCS game in 2002. But standing room only tickets cost $50 directly from the team in 2010, and in 2012, they cost $175. Sometimes these things escalate quickly. If we’re going to keep being as nice as possible, and compound that $1.4 million at 10% a year, that’s another $3.3 million in estimated 2012 gate receipts you could give Zito in value added.

But the Giants don’t get all of that money. Our Wendy Thurm broke it down for us, but the short answer is that it looks like baseball gets 15% of the game six revenue, and then the two teams split the rest. Even at the end of the series, the Giants would only pull down 42.5% of the gate. So you can really only add about a million and a half dollars of value to Zito’s ledger for game six.

And Barry Zito didn’t win game five all by himself. Including his contributions at the plate — remember that bunt — Zito had a .324 WPA in game five, meaning he improved the Giant’s chances of winning that game by 32.4%. That’s pretty impressive all by himself, but now you have to give a third of that extra value to his teammmates, leaving Zito with about a million of extra value.

But you know, they wouldn’t have played in game seven without Zito’s win either. Or at least four games of the World Series. And if you add in his game one victory (.189 WPA), you can give him credit for a big portion of game five in the World Series.

Let’s be generous and give him two-thirds (game five WPA) of one-half (team’s share of late-series games) of $3.3 million for games six and seven of the NLCS. Then let’s give him two-thirds (game five WPA) of one-quarter (the teams’ portion after the players take their share) of $8.8 million of gate receipts for games one through four of the World Series. (The Giants averaged $3 million per game in 2002 World Series gate.) And for game five of the World Series, let’s give him two-fifths (game one WPA) of one-half (teams’ portion) of $8.8 million. Add all of THAT together, and you get… around nine million dollars.

There’s one last trick you can pull. Winning puts butts in the seats going forward, as this study found. And winning in the postseason has a hangover effect going forward, as more fans come to games when their team is competitive.

But even here the mitigating factors strip most of Zito’s singular value away. As Vince Gennaro, SABR president, pointed out in part three of his three-parter on the subject, not every team benefits the same from a win boost. The Giants sold 99.5% of their possible home tickets last season (third in baseball). Somehow Boston sold 101.4%… even if you give the Giants a possible boost of 1% of their current attendance, you can only give Zito credit for an extra 30,000 fans next season, and only them once you strip out Zito’s teammate’s contributions to those victories and those extra fans.

We’ve been as nice as we could to a fine guy who’s pitched two gems in this postseason, and we can’t quite push this boulder all the way up the hill. But if you do give him credit for almost all of his team’s runs allowed while he was pitching, and then partial credit for the extra postseason games that his work permitted, and then use the most favorable dollars-per-win numbers, you can squint and see almost $69 million in value, against $99 million in salary. That’s what good health and a few well-timed playoff gems (and the rosiest of glasses) can do for you.

Two thirds of his huge contract in return value is probably a lot more than anybody would have thought possible when Barry Zito was left off the Giants playoff roster in 2010.



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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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Chris from Bothell
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Chris from Bothell
3 years 10 months ago

Considering the success of the Indians over the last 10 years – a barely .500 team much of the time, one postseason appearance, 4 90+ loss seasons – I’d take Shapiro’s valuing a win being worth $9M with a grain of salt. Is Cleveland’s outlook really representative? If you compare to what other teams spent the last couple seasons, does it seem like a lot of other clubs were paying 8 to 9 million per win?

Pirates Hurdles
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Pirates Hurdles
3 years 10 months ago

That number seems like nonsense, it doesn’t pass the smell test at all. An average MLB regular at 2.0 WAR being worth $18 million seems pretty far off (unless you’re Jayson Werth). If that’s the case than #4 SP should rejoice, Maholm you’re about to be a rich man!

LISTEN YOU GUYS
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LISTEN YOU GUYS
3 years 10 months ago

Of course, if he’s using different constructions for wins and replacement level (a safe assumption), it may not be true that 2.0 WAR is average.

Eric R
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Eric R
3 years 10 months ago

In 2012 there were 1130 total fWAR; if we are assuming that Shapiro is similarly valuing players, just with a different replacement level throwing it off–

1130 fWAR x $5M/fWAR = $5652M
$5652M/ ($9M/sWAR) = 628 sWAR

So fWAR has a replacement level team at 43-119 and the Indians at 60-102. I’m not sure I buy it with so many teams well below 60 wins.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
3 years 10 months ago

…he improved the Giant’s chances of winning that game by 32.4%. That’s pretty impressive all by himself, but now you’re giving two thirds of that extra value to his teammmates, leaving Zito with about half a million of extra value.

One-third of the extra value goes to his team-mates. The Giants had a 50% chance of winning the game anyway, before anyone did any WP adding or subtracting.

Anon
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Anon
3 years 10 months ago

This. A .324 WPA by Zito means the Giants only needed .176 WPA more to win the game.

Aaron (UK)
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Aaron (UK)
3 years 10 months ago

Maybe it needs re-fixing – Zito himself still only added 32% chance of a game 6. Though if it were a replacement level pitcher pitching instead of “Game 5 magic Zito” that would up that 32% to nearer 44%.

Not that this really matters that much anyway.

(And I’m not sure you can or should credit him for Game 5 of the World Series yet – what if the Giants sweep? Then it would be “stupid Zito, should have lost like everyone expected”…)

Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo
3 years 10 months ago

What exactly is the point of this article? I’m not being snarky, but Zito not worth his contract is pretty old news. Whatever goodwill he gets for his great Playoff/World series work still doesn’t make up for being massively overpaid. I’m a Giants fan and we are up 1-0 in the world series, I’m happy for Zito too.
The improbable happened and Zito beat the great Verlander, it’s all good.

Jason B
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Jason B
3 years 10 months ago

Not to presume to speak for the author, but I think it was taking a look at the degree to which the contract could be considered a disaster. Sure, *everyone* knows he hasn’t “earned” the $99M paid so far. But has he come close? Is the contract a total, unmitigated disaster or just a moderate overpay? How does the contract look using the most generous valuation metrics possible? I think these are the questions the article is getting at.

J.D.
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J.D.
3 years 10 months ago

I’d pay Zito 126 million dollars over 7 years if it meant my team winning the World Series once, with another great chance this year. Of course, take that with a grain of salt, considering he wasn’t even on the roster in 2010 and obviously isn’t the sole reason they are where they are.

Phils_Goodman
Member
Phils_Goodman
3 years 10 months ago

That comment doesn’t even come close to making sense in terms of cause and effect.

Matthias
Member
Member
3 years 10 months ago

I sent this exact line (in reference to Zito) to a friend not 10 minutes before I saw this article.

“It would be interesting to look at the financial value of a World Series game win vs. a regular season win, and then re-evaluate player contracts.”

Count me as one that was quite interested in the article. Thank you, Eno.

joser
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joser
3 years 10 months ago

Agree with you (and Jason B above). Hurtlockertwo may not see the point of the article, but it goes quite a way (and a lot further than I’d be willing to go on my own) to answering a question I actually wondered about during the game. Not everybody wonders the same things, but it appears at least some of us were wondering this. Thanks to the author for actually getting up and being creative in an attempt to approximate an answer.

RMD
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RMD
3 years 10 months ago

SF had a lot more to gain by winning their first World Series in 2010 than they do now if they win it all. Attendance steadily went down the the first years of his contract (Barry Bonds being gone certainly affected that). They went from 7th overall in attendance in 2009 to a healthy 5th in 2010 when they were in contention all year. After their World Series win they went to 2nd overall for two consecutive years, which is very impressive. There is a huge jump going from 7th (pretty good) to 2nd (elite). That jump to elite status (and elite revenue) came via the World Series win that Zito didn’t contribute a pitch to during the playoffs.

Zito made his team a lot of money with his last two starts, but the potential for a huge jump in earnings has already happened.

Matt P
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Matt P
3 years 10 months ago

Shapiro stated that a FREE AGENT WIN is worth 9 million. Obviously, given that free agents are more expensive than players under team control, one should expect it to cost more to get wins in free agency rather than via prospects. Just because one should expect to pay 9 million per win via free agency, it doesn’t mean that a win itself would cost more than 5 million and therefore those two numbers don’t contradict each other.

It probably means that Zito’s wins should be valued at $9 million each because teams expect to pay more for wins via FA. Presumably teams know what they’re getting into when they offer free agents contracts and understand that free agents are more expensive than prospects.

Matthias
Member
Member
3 years 10 months ago

I think the research from Swartz values specifically free agent wins. If any win above replacement cost $5M, then a bad team’s payroll (60 wins, 17 WAR) would be about $85M. An average team (81 Wins, 38 WAR) would cost $190M. There’s only one team that costs that much.

This assumes that 0 WAR = 43 team wins…I never remember the baseline, but the point remains. $5M can’t be the cost of any win, and it’s hard to imagine that a free agent win really costs $9M. Unless fWAR is completely undervaluing some players.

JWR
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JWR
3 years 10 months ago

Lets say Zito blows his next start in Detroit. That loss could actually gain another SF home game…..

Slats
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Slats
3 years 10 months ago

Zito has more RBI this postseason than A-Rod.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 10 months ago

And just 1 less hit. And he’s paid way less than A-Rod! Boom, value!

Benjo
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Benjo
3 years 10 months ago

You’re leaving out merchandise sales from those additional postseason games. Come on, we can do this. We can make Barry Zito worth his contract.

TKDC
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TKDC
3 years 10 months ago

I think the boost in attendance could be thought of differently. What winning in the post season does is drive up demand. If they sold 99.5% of tickets in 2012, that means that supply (at 2012 prices) probably did not meet demand, as there were surely many fans that wanted to go to many games that were sold out. If the Giants win, they get a big boost in demand going forward (who wouldn’t want to go see a “dynasty”?). This could pay off in one of two ways. First, the Giants could probably jack up ticket prices more without selling any fewer tickets, as the fans who don’t buy because they have a price-point below the increase would not prevent sellouts or near-sellouts of every game. Second, if the demand goes well beyond the supply, when that bump inevitably corrects itself, it will be a longer way down. Take Boston. Even as demand must have been plummeting this year, they were still selling every ticket (leaving shinanagins aside for this point).

All that said, I think it is simplistic to look at a team with at or near 100% attendance and not believe that winning games and winning championships does not have a huge impact on future revenue, either from the ability to increase ticket prices or continuing to sell out most games even as demand goes down.

Brett G
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Brett G
3 years 10 months ago

Mark Shapiro is not the General Manager of the Cleveland Indians. He is the Team President.
Chris Antonetti has been in his role as GM for two years now. You can be better than the average cleveland.com commenter who doesn’t know the difference, Eno.

cody k
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cody k
3 years 10 months ago

Like you said, Zito isn’t going to be the main one responsible for next season’s ticket sales but with that said, I think there is probably more of an effect of gaining 30,000 tickets sold if the Giants win the World Series

I am going out on a limb but I am pretty sure that a team will be able to sucessfully raise ticket prices more if they win the WS… A bump in ticket prices could also greatly increase revenue

Evan
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Evan
3 years 10 months ago

If Zito doesn’t suck in 2007, the Giants don’t draft Buster Posey.

Zito’s been worth it for years. QED.

joser
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joser
3 years 10 months ago

This was the Nationals’ strategy, and before that the Rays. Clearly it is losses that is the real undervalued asset. Unless you’re the Mariners.

Anon
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Anon
3 years 10 months ago

even if you give the Giants a possible boost of 1% of their current attendance, you can only give Zito credit for an extra 30,000 fans next season

In addition to game attendance, ticket prices and season ticket sales would be positive factors in this analysis.

Would it be better to find Zito’s contribution toward a World Series win and take that amount of the increased revenue? Add that to Zito’s portion of this year’s postseason revenue to get a more accurate figure.

Slade
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Slade
3 years 10 months ago

What I find to be pretty funny – maybe even ironic (I’ve never understood the definition of irony) – is that 2012 Barry Zito was a worse pitcher than 2010 Barry Zito, yet it is 2010 Barry Zito that was left off the playoff roster and 2012 Barry Zito that is being praised for his performances in the playoffs.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 10 months ago

You’re right. You don’t know the definition of irony. Here let me help you:

i·ron·y2 ? ?/?a??rni/ Show Spelled[ahy-er-nee] Show IPA
adjective
consisting of, containing, or resembling iron.

Bobcmartin
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Bobcmartin
3 years 10 months ago

Obviously, this is a great feel good story with a bitter aftertaste due to the bad contract. Zito has seemingly also handled the terrible situation with some class as his teammates and coaches seem to be not only appreciative, but super happy for him as a person for his timely success. And the key is that it was really, really timely and thus perhaps lends itself to “analysis.”

Nobody likes to have to eat a sunk cost, so it’s nice to be able to add some honey to this bitter pill. It’s still a bitter pill, but not as bad as we would have judged it say in June of this year. Think about it, nobody would argue Linceceum’s contract, but in the 2nd half of the season and now playoffs Zito’s performance was like adding a Grienke or CC Sabathia down the stretch which would have been REALLY expensive.

So, as Eno said on twitter last night, maybe his contract went from terrible, terrible to just one terrible or just a bad contract. Either way, making a sunk cost more palatable is a great thing.

joeiq
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joeiq
3 years 10 months ago

The attendance boost from wins was already factored in when you counted up his WAR, or his RA/9, so you can’t add that in twice.

But the bigger problem is, if he is worth all the money given all these extra credits, you have to give them to his competition too, and he’s still one of the worst FA signings. Meaning he cost them the ability to get someone much better with the money. Maybe they could have got Cliff Lee instead for example, or some hitter, then they wouldn’t be resorting to Hunter Pence in the 5 spot right now.

Shankbone
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Shankbone
3 years 10 months ago

Looking ahead a little bit, the Giants might have an interesting dilemma that no fans thought possible. Yes, picking up Zito’s option. Now stop laughing. Stopped? 7MM buyout on an 18MM option, 11MM spread. If Shapiro is valuing a win at 9MM, and Zito has found his zen to being a league average or slightly better with this new pitch backwards/zen/junk thrower… Coupled with Vogelsong and Timmy both being free agents as well… That option, and the control it brings, is something that might come into play. If Zito continues his resurrection. Which violates the first principle of Barry Zito: Never Trust Barry Zito. Still, might become a consideration, you never know.

jirish
Guest
jirish
3 years 10 months ago

Eh, so it’s a less bad contract after last night.

Am I the only one that remembers that part of the reason the Giant signed Zito was because of the other Barry? Zito was a Cy Young winner and a celebrity in the Bay Area at the time plus the Giants wanted (and needed) someone or something to take the heat off of Barry Bonds. So they massively overpaid the pitching Barry for reasons that weren’t totally about pitching.

Or maybe I’m misremembering here.

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