Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Jon on Saturday, March 20, 2004

WORTHLESSNESSFEST: VORP Speed, Across the Mendoza Line…!
A Contest – Negative VORP

Throughout baseball there are always a handful of everyday players whose mysterious disappearance would actually benefit their team as a whole. That is, a higher level of production would be seen if the player was replaced by the average bench player. The question arises: can we predict whose VORP will be the most negative? This, sirs and madams, is your task. This is the Worthlessnessfest, a contest of negative VORP.

Baseball Prospectus 2004 defines VORP as "an estimate of total player value, which…incorporates what position that player plays, how many games he played, and what ‘replacement level’ is for his position."

I’ve been contemplating this for a while – something like a fantasy baseball league, but one in which league members choose the players they believe will play the worst. Baseball Prospectus has a similar contest, Hacking Mass, in which contestants pick players they think will retain their jobs while playing poorly. Baseball Prospectus uses a complicated formula in their contest, factoring in pitchers’ innings pitched and hitters’ plate appearances. The Worthlessnessfest, though, will be different.

Simply put, to participate in Worthlessnessfest 2004, you must fill out a thirteen-player roster, choosing the players you predict to have the worst, most negative VORP over the 2004 season. The positions that must be filled are as follows:

1B or DH


So, you will need a roster with on player in each infield position, three outfielders, four starting pitchers, and one reliever – and you want them to be B-A-D, according to VORP. In addition, you want these players to play as often as possible, because most players with a negative VORP will spend more than a few games in the majors.

I repeat, in addition to creating a team horribly deficient in talent, your players should have staying power to reach a strong negative VORP. In addition, if a player you choose receives fewer than 200 plate appearances or pitches in fewer than 100 innings (for starters), a twenty-five point penalty will be assessed to that player.

Once you fill out your roster, send it to us with a subject heading ‘My Worst Roster’, where we’ll file it away safely for the season. At season’s end, we’ll do all the calculations for you, adding up your final VORP totals. All participants will be notified of their results, the winner being crowned King or Queen of Worthlessness. Maybe we’ll even send the winner a Brad Ausmus baseball card. Need a better understanding of the VORP stat? Read on.

Keith Woolner, the father of VORP, or Value Over Replacement Player, writes that for hitters, "VORP is the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement level player would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances," estimating the run contribution of the hitter by measuring the impact of run scoring that a single player has on a league average team, using the Runs Created model. For pitchers, "VORP is defined as the number of runs a pitcher surrenders below what a replacement level pitcher would have given up in the same number of innings. Replacement level is set at +1.00 above the league average RA."

Important VORP notes:
· A player’s VORP can range anywhere from the positive – indicating production over replacement level – to the negative – indicating production below replacement level.
· A VORP of zero is considered replacement level.
· Defense does not play a role in the calculation of VORP.
· The notion of the Replacement Player is universal. That is, although each team has a different level of player available as a replacement, this does not alter a player’s VORP. A player’s VORP is his Value Over Replacement Level in Major League Baseball as a whole.

For further information, check out Keith Woolner’s explanation.

It may sound complicated, but VORP is fairly intuitive. The following players are the 2003 VORP leaders and duds (the best and worst players according to VORP), just to give an idea of VORP values. Remember, we’re asking you to predict whose VORP will be the worst in 2004. For the complete list of 2003 VORP by position, click here. Additional VORP stats are available at Baseball Prospectus’ statistics page.

Javy Lopez, 75.9

Brad Ausmus, -17.9

First Base/Designated Hitter:
Carlos Delgado, 72.2

Dean Palmer, -13.9

Second Base:
Brett Boone, 75.8

Brandon Phillips, -21.2

Third Base:
Bill Mueller, 60.1

Brandon Larson, -13.6

Alex Rodriguez, 86.3

Rey Sanchez, -12.1

Barry Bonds, 114.6
Albert Pujols, 97.3
Gary Sheffield, 78.9

Jermaine Dye, -20.6
Ryan Christianson, -13.9
Pat Burrell, -11.7

Starting Pitcher:
Esteban Loaiza, 74.7
Pedro Martinez, 71.9
Tim Hudson, 69.5
Jason Schmidt, 69.3

Shawn Estes, -19.8
Jeremy Bonderman, -18.2
Glendon Rusch, -18.1
Dewon Brazelton, -17.2

Relief Pitcher:
Guillermo Mota, 41.1

Jaret Wright, -18.2

So fill out your roster now! One player per infield position, three outfielders, four starting pitchers, and a reliever, with penalties for not receiving enough playing time. The team with the lowest VORP at season’s end wins. Send it to talkingbaseball@hotmail.com. Maybe you’ll be crowned King or Queen of Worthlessness.

Nix That

Last season, the Ballpark at Arlington was home to more than one baseball first. Yes, during a visit by the Red Sox, Bill Mueller, surprise batting champion, treated Texas fans to the only two-grand slam game by a switch hitter, with each slam coming from a different side of the plate. But in 2003, Texas fans also witnessed the major league debut of two new names into the baseball encyclopedia: Laynce and Nix. It isn’t his surname that has furrowed many a brow, but his first name. You see, Laynce Nix was born with an irregularly-spelled first name. Where does that extra ‘y’ come from? The name ‘Lance’ is far from common, but why is there a ‘y’? Well, it runs in the family. The twenty-three year-old has a twenty-two year-old brother in the Rockies’ farm system named, accordingly, Jayson. A less uncommon name for sure, but strange nonetheless. I think the parents of these two owe nothing short of an explanaytion.

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