Food Metaphors, Replacement Level Style

When writing my irreverent NotGraphs post on Casey Fossum, an interesting question popped into my head: how could I best explain the concept of a replacement level player using a food metaphor? In other words, is there a “replacement level” food? Not every baseball fan is a math nerd, but ALL sports fans love food. This is an indisputable truth, and means that food metaphors have the potential to be one of the most potent teaching instruments since these amazingly quirky mathematics videos.*

*Also, before you ask, this post is a direct reference to Fire Joe Morgan and their historic “Food Metaphors” tag, possibly the best thing that Ken Tremendous has ever created, ever. And yes, I’m a huge fan of “The Office”.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of finding the perfect food metaphor for replacement level, we need to know what replacement level is. In case you have forgotten (or don’t know), here’s Graham MacAree’s description of replacement level, as taken from our page in the Library:

We can define a replacement level player as one who costs no marginal resources to acquire. This is the type of player who would fill in for the starter in case of injuries, slumps, alien abductions, etc.

These are essentially the Triple-A filler players that can be found in every organization (and in copious amounts on the free agent list) every year. They cost next to nothing to acquire, can be found in massive quantities, and should only be used in case of emergency – at best, they make adequate bench players. They are, in short, the very base of major league baseball’s (triangular) talent distribution.

So with this in mind, what’s the ideal food to capture the essence of a replacement level player? Let’s take to the Twitter!

This answer comes from Matt Bandi from Pirates Prospects, and I like it: rice is cheap, widely available, and by itself it’s about as bland and “meh” as possible. Of course, you can add gravy to it and turn rice into Albert Pujols, but gravy will do that to anything; it’s like the steroids of food.

A similar answer to the rice: instant potatoes are cheap, widely available, and an easy fall-back plan when all your attempts at cooking dinner go up in flames. Also, I just like the idea of envisioning Bartolo Colon as a potato (since he already is one).

I received a couple other ideas that I really like: cereal, toast, Spaghetti-O’s, and gruel. I think you easily could go with any of these when trying to describe the concept to someone, so it’s really a matter of personal preference.

My personal replacement level food of choice would have to be Twinkies. I know, I know…some people actually like Twinkies and think they taste good, but don’t some people also love David Eckstein and Casey Kotchman? Twinkies may look like food and smell like food, but if you ever look at their ingredient list, they’re most certainly not food. And while they may not be everyone’s go-to fall-back option as a snack, if there’s ever a nuclear war and we’re left trying to survive in an apocalyptic hellscape, Twinkies will likely be the only food option remaining. In my eyes, they are the ultimate replacement food.

So next time you’re sitting in a ballpark and the person next to you starts proclaiming that Willie Bloomquist is the bee’s knees, turn to him (or her) and explain how Bloomquist is really the baseball equivalent of a Twinkie. Or a potato. Whichever you choose, I’m sure Ken Tremendous will be smiling somewhere.



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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


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John
Guest
John

Twinkies are the Neifi Perez of foods. I think it might be more useful to start thinking about comparables. Pizza is a solid 5-6 WAR player with Evan Longoria upside. Sushi is the Albert Pujols of the food world.

Replacement level for food does seem to be cereal because it all tastes the same and people eat it indiscriminately in the morning, barely tasting it.

Wade8813
Member
Wade8813

Cereal? No way.

There are a lot of cereals that a lot of people refuse to eat, comparing the taste to cardboard.

A (highly) informal survey of high schoolers revealed that like 75% of them list Lucky Charms as their favorite, and many of them are quite enthusiastic about it.

RMR
Guest
RMR

Twinkies are a particular type of replacement level, say speedy guys who are fun to watch (tasty) but don’t hit for power (aren’t filling) and can’t get on base (no nutrients). I think you could probably do a couple basic archetypes..

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

The implication that Ken Tremendous somehow “created” the Office is an insult to Sergio Giorgini and David Brent.

Jon
Guest
Jon

He wasn’t saying that. Ken was one of the head writers on the show before he did Parks and Rec

Tanbarkie
Guest
Tanbarkie

It has to be white rice. A replacement-level player is, by definition, not good, but neither is he “bad” per se. He’s merely adequate – the bare minimum of production for your stingy buck. Most of the other food options presented are flat-out unhealthy. Twinkies and Spaghetti-Os, especially, both have to be deep in the negative NAR (Nutrition Above Replacement) zone. Eating a diet of either one will leave you in the dietary equivalent of a 120-loss season.

It has to be white rice. Sure, it’s bland and lacking in many critical nutrients. You won’t live nearly as long on an all-rice diet as if you ate balanced meals. But you’re not going to die young, either.

Gary Graul
Guest
Gary Graul

White bread with margarine.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21

Fondant? Textured vegetable protein? I’m looking for the food that comes closest to the connotations of “filler,” which is a term frequently applied to replacement-level players.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

I disagree with Twinkies. They have their place, but you wouldn’t want a full meal of them. But as something on the side, they’re quite nice. I think Twinkie better fits something like a nice piece in the bullpen or a slow footed power hitter.

The plain white rice is a nice analogy, but I’ll try to be a little more creative… Salt? Sure, you can’t eat it on its own, and overdoing it completely ruins the meal. But in a small dose, it’s actually healthy (payroll).

Aaron Whitehead
Guest

Macaroni & Cheese. It costs, what, 75 cents a box? It’s not really bland — it tastes quite good, but anyone looking to make a meal out of it will pay for it later.

Mike Savino
Guest
Mike Savino

Okay, here’s my offering and here’s why:

Replacement level must be readily available and pretty frigging crappy. I’ve been in college for a long time and I’ve got to tell you, plain white rice sounds pretty good some nights. Here’s my ultimate replacement level food:

The 7-11 hot dog. Always available. You got nothing in your house and its 3 AM? Sevies is open and willing to sell you the most terrible, least basically edible food offering in the world. It’ll get you by tonight, its like 2 for a buck, there’s a 7-11 on every corner. The very definition of nothing else available except for this craptastic food makes it replacement level.

Shouldn’t cost you very many resources? Check. Readily available? Check. Get you through the season? Check. Make you feel quite ill that you had to reduce yourself to that level? Checkity checkity roo!

yceberg
Member
yceberg

Campbell’s soup. It is cheap, readily available and can sustain you even through nuclear winter. Sometimes it has a low calorie count, sometimes high, but it is not necessarily bad for you. It can help you when you are down and almost out such as when you are sick or when your first baseman is Day to Day with a hang nail. Sometimes it is quite tasty, when it gets a key hit to keep a rally alive. Other times not so much, when it has a throwing error on a routine 6-3. It is inconsistent like a replacement level ball player, if you are constantly changing varieties. But it will do the job until a real meal comes along…

EdwardM
Member
EdwardM

If “filler” is what we’re trying to convey then bread crumbs might be appropriate. They are cheap but essential. You don’t notice them until they’re missing from your otherwise tasty meat loaf.

paris
Guest
paris

Ramen noodles. No one seeks out ramen noodles. It’s what you eat when there’s nothing else in the pantry and you need something right now, or if you are a really poor student (ie the royals).

Shoot–the last comment was three months ago. Why did this show up on my browser? How did I wander here? Damn you fangraphs for having so much interesting content!

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Member

It would be nice if the Library has something regarding Replacement Value, how it is defined and calculated here on Fangraphs, maybe how other methodologies do it, plus what are the pluses and minuses of each methodology.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Member

Nevermind, sorry, just found that WAR has a menu that describes Replacement Value. Thanks for the great resource!

bronzillo
Guest
bronzillo

Ramen is the best answer. I hiked across the country one summer (App trail) and man, they are the definition of a replacement meal. They get the job done, but barely. They are never ever your first choice but they are cheap, light (hiking relevant) and temporarily filling.

CodenameDuchess
Guest
CodenameDuchess

Canned tuna. While in the same biological family, David Eckstein (canned tuna) is no Chase Utley (sushi grade ahi).

dinapinkoluosies
Guest

i think maybe twinkies are really a bad choice but spahetti and m,eat balls are great :)

dinapinkoluosies
Guest

hey has can anybody contrast spaghetti and macaroni by it smell and taste please respond:)))))
i need alot info about food”(

JKB
Guest
JKB

Tecate six pack, cans. If you have lime, salt, and an ice box you are the Rays. If you are drinking it warm out of the trunk of your car you are the Astros.