Flags Fly Forever Pt. One

The World Baseball Classic will kick off within the next few weeks, and in a few days preliminary rosters are due. At this point ,the United States team has 24 players listed, a few shy of their 2006 roster. Of course 2006’s results weren’t quite what the country had envisioned, and as we approach the second tournament, is the 2009 team better equipped to take home the trophy than in 2006?

2006: Jason Varitek, Michael Barrett, Brian Schneider
2009: Brian McCann, Chris Ianetta

This seems more lopsided than it is. Nowadays Varitek is a shell of his former self, Barrett signed on a minor league deal, and Schneider is nothing special. Meanwhile McCann and Ianetta were two of the best offensive catchers in the National League last season. Using three-years wins values (so, for 2006’s team we’re talking 2003-2005, and for 2009 we’re talking 2006-2008) the 2006 catching staff combines for 8.3 wins on average. 2009’s team is at a bit of a disadvantage at the moment, but nonetheless combines for 6.3 wins. McCann figures to get most of the playing time, and he’s better than any catcher the 2006 American team could offer. Odds are another catcher will be added at some point.

Overall advantage: 2006
Individual advantage: 2009

Corner Infield

2006: Derrek Lee, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Chipper Jones
2009: Kevin Youkilis, Chipper Jones, David Wright

Much like with the catcher situation, the looks of things would suggest 2006 runs away, but not so fast. Again, we’re talking about one less player – although I suppose you could throw Ryan Braun into a reserve role, but whatever. Despite having A-Rod, a young Teixeira, and a fresh off 2005 Lee, the 2006 team only has a three win advantage over the 2009 grouping; 20.5 to 17.1. No player on this year’s team compares to Alex Rodriguez at the time, although David Wright comes closest.

Overall advantage: 2006
Individual advantage: 2006.

Middle Infield

2006: Derek Jeter, Michael Young, Chase Utley
2009: Dustin Pedroia, Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter, Mark DeRosa

I have the sneaking suspicion that Jeter will receive most of the playing time, despite Rollins being the better player at this point. Whether you classify DeRosa as an outfielder, corner infielder, or middle infielder, the 2009 team is still seeing an upgrade up the middle. Jeter has declined by a tenth of a win, Pedroia is a win better than Young, and Rollins is a better player than the young Utley. Throw DeRosa in and the 2009 staff has a 16.4 to 9.6 win.

Overall advantage: 2009
Individual advantage: 2009


2006: Ken Griffey Jr., Matt Holliday, Vernon Wells, Randy Winn, Johnny Damon, Jeff Francoeur
2009: Ryan Braun, Curtis Granderson, Grady Sizemore, Brad Hawpe

The 2006 outfield looks loaded, but yet again looks are deceiving. Sizemore has averaged 6.6 wins, or as many as Griffey Jr., Holliday, and Francoeur combined. Hawpe is an odd choice, and as a bit of a Rays homer, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Carl Crawford/Grady Sizemore/Curtis Granderson outfield at some point with a flyball pitcher on the mound. Despite the difference in size, the 2009 quartet holds up favorably at 15.65 wins, but the 2006 team has the edge for now at 16.8.

Overall advantage: 2006
Individual advantage: 2009

Tomorrow we’ll look at the pitching staffs and reach a conclusion.

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15 Responses to “Flags Fly Forever Pt. One”

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  1. Ryan Glass says:

    Ughh. I understand the Yankees need to parade Jeter around at SS, but why does he have to represent us in the WBC. How good would a Youks, DP, Wright, and Rollins infield look with an outfield of Braun/Crawford, Granderson, Sizemore. Adding up the projected defensive runs from CHONE, and they’d be +42.5 runs. That would be awesome to watch (not to mention pitch in front of).

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  2. Jeff Akston says:

    Have you done any research on the fantasy impact of the WBC? I seem to remember people hating on the WBC in ’06 because a few of the high profile guys had down years (I remember Peavy, specifically)

    Here’s the dataset of MLB players who were in the WBC:


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    • I haven’t, but I do recall Nate Silver (I believe) looking at the performances of the WBC pitchers. Both expected and actual, following the tourney. If you’re interested I can look for that article.

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      • Jeff Akston says:

        I would be interested. I just did a quick excel query of the batters in the WBC in ’06 and compared their ’05 and ’06 OPS+ (just did a sumproduct so it’s not 100% accurate)

        ’05 OPS+ 115.41
        ’06 OPS+ 112.67

        Under 27 during ’06
        ’05 OPS+ 110.98
        ’06 OPS+ 118.46

        Between 27-32 during ’06
        ’05 OPS+ 118.67
        ’06 OPS+ 114.03

        33 and Over during ’06
        ’05 OPS+ 110.71
        ’06 OPS+ 102.92

        Chang in AB was pretty unremarkable for the group. Up 11% those under 27. Unchanged for those 27-32. Down 7% for those over 33

        Looks like the guys in their prime would be the easiest sample to remove the factor of aging. Guys between 27-32 who improved their OPS+ more than 15%:
        Juan Rivera, Vernon Wells, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano

        Guys who declined more than 15%:
        Michael Young, Placido Polanco, Juan Encarnacion, Derrek Lee, Arod, Randy Winn

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  3. Russell says:

    I’m waiting for the forth installment about pitching value with bated (it took me 5 minutes to look up that spelling…) breath! I saw maybe a dozen college games last season! I go to Marlins games!!

    I hate the idea of the World Baseball Classic… I find myself routing for Canada, or Mexico, or praying that none of my team’s players get hurt….

    Baseball isn’t supposed to be Nationalistic… Grr

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  4. Matt B. says:

    Any tournament that a guy like Stubby Clapp can excel I am all for! Actually, it is a pretty big waste of time given the pitchers aren’t stretched out, the hitters have no timing and only a handful of countries take it serious…

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  5. mkd says:

    I dig the WBC because it pits STYLES against each other. The fluid, slap-happy Japanese game against the flamboyant, smiley Dominican game against the clearly roided Cuban game against the indifferent, sluggardly American game*. Mostly though, I just love Japanese baseball and will embrace anything that puts it on TV.

    *do I sound like an 1890s race theorist? I do don’t I? Dangit.

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  6. Russell says:

    Maybe we should sort our players into a “Negro” and an “American” team? To level the playing field.

    Oh wait, that’s horribly offensive.

    Oh wait…

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  7. Nathan says:

    I’m wondering how the +12.5 positional adjustment for catchers was derived. Because of both the lack of UZR at the position and the small sample size of catchers changing positions, it would seem to be very different from the other positions. I assume it isn’t arbitrary, but I’m stumped.

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  8. Jason T says:

    I love watching Japanese baseball too. I guess it makes me think of what maybe the Negro Leagues might have been like (playing style wise).

    While I’m not a big fan of the WBC, I’m always happy for more baseball.

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  9. Aaron Schell says:

    I’m new to your website and absolutely love it. Thanks for the great work.
    As far as the WBC goes I hear a lot of fantasy owners and american fans in general throwing it under the rug. I think the WBC offers a chance for baseball to grow in other countries and to other fans that don’t for whatever reason get into MLB baseball, maybe because they live in a city that doesn’t have a home team. It gives them a chance to cheer for the american team or cheer against the american team, I don’t thhink it matters as much that the players aren’t up to there midseason form its what jersey they put on. Besides as much as I hear us fantasy guys complaining MLB knows we aren’t going anywhere and we’ll be fans as long as we play this game and at the same time grow the sport of baseball for the better.

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  10. lookatthosetwins says:

    I don’t really get how comparing the total win value of 4 guys vs 3, or 7 vs. 4 really helps us decide who the better team is. The 2009 outfield is much better than the 2006.

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