Why We Need A-Rod, Despite What Nate Silver Says

In his blog entry for Baseball Prospectus yesterday, Nate Silver makes the case for why the Dodgers should not target Alex Rodriguez. It comes down to the idea that the Dodgers can take that money, spend it on Aaron Rowand and Curt Schilling, and come out ahead. Silver breaks down the analysis like so:

A-Rod: 70 VORP
Pierre: 10
Loaiza: 5
Total: 85

Versus

LaRoche: 25 VORP
Rowand: 40
Schilling: 40
Totals: 105

This analysis has several problems with it. The first is that he just sort of disappears Juan Pierre. There's almost zero chance of that happening. Ned has no reason to be dissatisfied with Pierre, he had his expected year with the bat and had the best stolen base percentage of his career. If Rowand comes to the team, I have to believe that Pierre would take Ethier's spot in left. Since VORP is adjusted for position, Pierre would probably be at best replacement level in the corner, and you end up losing the 15-20 VORP that Ethier would supply.

The second problem is that he over estimates Rowand and Schilling. Sure, Rowand had a 52 VORP this year, but since 2003, he's put up VORPs of   6.5, 43.2, 14.9, and 8.8. Is Rowand capable of a 40 VORP? Sure, but it seems a bit optimistic to pencil him in for one. I think 25 is a much better estimate. Schilling, meanwhile, has only posted a VORP above 40 once in the last three years and will be 41 in 2008. I think expecting an improvement out of him next year is being a little unreasonable. VORP should already account for park factors and league difficulty, so that wouldn't account for the difference. 30 seems like a more realistic projection. Meanwhile, he has A-Rod dropping 23 points from his VORP this year, I do agree with that assessment, but it doesn't help Silver's case when he makes optimistic projections for his players, and pessimistic ones for the ones on the other side of the fence. Makes it seem like he's just jiggling the numbers around to get it to work.

The third problem is that he doesn't consider what we would do with LaRoche. I have to believe that if we get A-Rod, LaRoche is gone. I love LaRoche more than almost any other person, but I'd have no problem with this. Say LaRoche was dealt for starter Kevin Slowey of the Twins. I think this is a perfectly reasonable trade since the Twins have a gigantic hole at third base, and could be the only team in baseball with a surplus of young pitching. As a conservative estimate, I'd pencil him in for 20 VORP next year, and move Loaiza to the bullpen.

I also realize that something would probably happen to Ethier if we go with Pierre in left, but he'd bring less in a trade than LaRoche, and if you already have Schilling, whoever you acquire wouldn't make a dent in the rotation.

Once you take these changes into account, the break down looks something like this:

A-Rod: 70 VORP
Ethier: 15
Pierre: 10
Slowey: 20
Total: 115

Versus

LaRoche: 25 VORP
Rowand: 25
Pierre: 0
Schilling: 30
Total: 85

So, using this type of analysis, the Dodgers come out about three wins ahead if the acquire A-Rod than if they didn't. Heck, even if you use Silver's projected VORPs for Schilling and Rowand, the A-Rod plan still comes out ahead by one win. Granted, my analysis requires that the Dodgers actually make a deal, which pushes it far more into the realm of the hypothetical, but I'd like to think that my offer was perfectly reasonable. If the Dodgers can afford A-Rod next year, he will make the team better than almost any other combination of moves would. With the makeup of the current Dodger team, the only way that we can make huge improvements is if we acquire superstar talent. A-Rod is the only person anywhere near that this offseason.

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