Last week I looked at the AL, so it is time to talk about the Senior Circuit depth. After that I will discuss the limitations that I think exist in both my approach and Jeff’s, part of which could be a new form of MVP debates. What is depth?
Again, I started with a rough look at front line versus second for the teams:
I had to adjust my method of using the multiple of using front divided by second line a little bit to account for the Reds and Phillies who have negative second line projections by using absolute values. The National League is structured in a more stars and scrubs way this year versus the American League where there are no teams that you point at and think they will be horrible. In Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Arizona things are looking pretty grim on the front lines though I could argue that Atlanta has some upside relative to how much Steamer seems to hate their outfield and starting pitching.
This changed how my depth ranking compared to Jeff’s by making the Diamondbacks and Mets look pretty good depth-wise only due to a combination of okay backups mixed with pretty low overall front line WAR. This is a limitation of the multiples I use as shrinking the numerator can make for a lower multiple if a bad team has a couple of decent bench players. I will come back to the discussion of what is depth in a second.
Only one other team was ranked far away from Jeff, the Pirates, and they look a lot like the Yankees did in the AL. In Pittsburgh, they have good players all over the front lines, but the team is going to depend on those guys a lot according to the projection. Jeff is giving them credit for guys like Sean Rodriguez who could be capable fill-ins according to the projections, not a sentiment I necessarily disagree with and is something recommending the way he approached it. So what is depth?
I think you can argue several different approached to depth. Jeff is looking at total number of theoretically useful players, I am looking at a ratio of front line to second line performance to see how much the team is expected to lean on it’s front line, but I also think you could look at two approaches similar to these. How many capable fill-ins and back-ups are there, Jeff’s number of players minus the number of starters in it would be a simple possible approach to look at how many holes are behind the first group. Another would be total WAR drop from group 1 to 2 as a percent of front-line, or in other words how much worse is the second group in percent terms. I could keep going as I have at least three other possibilities, but hopefully you get the point that depth is not a concrete concept just like what does valuable mean in MVP.
What I think might be the best statistical approach to this sort of problem is to have multiple independent people do what I and Jeff have already done and then aggregate the rankings. Then our approaches can be biased by whatever version of depth we lean toward and let the problems with any given system of measurement be offset by the others. This isn’t necessary to evaluate all teams, the Reds depth is bad period, but if you look at teams like the Yankees who I think are a little harder to project this year it could be useful. Since I am a hobbyist who nearly no one knows or cares about, you can now disregard that pipe-dream, though I think over time a system like that would help in understanding how valuable depth is.