Friday, November 26, 2010

The Bears vs Michael Vick

This Sunday, the Bears take on Michael Vick and the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles -- or is it the red-hot Vick? Either way, the Bears have nothing short of a monumental task in stopping the Eagles offense. Since his public shaming of the Redskins a few weeks ago, the narrative around Michael Vick has changed from feel-good story of redemption, to "this is not the same Vick."

The Philadelphia Eagles are a very good team. Football Outsiders Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) statistic currently ranks the Eagles offense #2, and the defense #7 -- just behind the Bears at #6. Combined, that makes them the top team going into Week 12. On top of that, Michael Vick has always been an electric player. There is a reason he signed that record-breaking contract in 2005 -- the dude was good. But, at the same time, he really seemed more like a halfback imitating a quarterback.

Now, under the offensive mastermind that is Andy Reid, Vick seems to be imitating nothing. He's instead carving out a new legacy for himself.

So, yeah, Vick is great, the Eagles are great -- what chance to the Bears stand? Well, maybe a good chance.

I hold to the theory that Vick struggles against fast defenses. I first began believing this a few years back when Vick (before his incarceration) was about to play the Colts. I theorized ol' Vick struggles against fast defenses -- namely, Tampa Two-style defenses. Tony Dungy's general defensive scheme is super simple, but relies heavily on ultra-quick defenders. As a result, scrambling QBs lose a facet of their game and a degree of their effectiveness.

In his career, Vick sports sub-par traditional numbers against the Bucs, Colts, and Bears. And though Carolina does not employ the Cover 2 defense per se, they did employ a particular defensive end, Mr. Julius Peppers, as well as a slew of super-fast defenders.

Vick has averaged about 40 rushing yards per game in his career, so these defenses did not stop Vick's running, but they did force him to alter his game enough to render him offensively ineffective.

In his career, Vick has typically fared better passer-wise when his legs are working too. There are only three exceptions, as hi-lighted below, but that allows us to make this logical assertion: When Vick runs well, he throws well too (plays break down and receivers open up); but when Vick has no time or targets, he can run and only run.

So, if we ignore those three games -- which may or may not be wise -- we can see Michael Vick has a general, though loose, positive relationship between rushing yards and passer rating.

If the Chicago Bears want to beat Vick on Sunday, they need to either keep him under 50 yards or over 130 yards rushing, and consistently flush him out of the pocket to the right (where, as a lefty, it's hard for him to throw).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More Thoughts on Kosuke Fukudome

The Kosuke Fukudome discussion has continued over the last few days, seeing some really great insights from Rooftop View's Jack Nugent and Another Cubs Blog's mb21.

In reassessing Kosuke's, mb21 took us on a brilliant stroll through the recent history. He rightly observes Fukudome has not only been decently valuable, but also that 'Dome was signed on the precipice of the Great Recession:
Fukudome was signed following the 2007 season and the value of the win was $4.1 million that season. At that time it was expected that the value would increase by 10% each year. However, that's not what happened. The economy finally caught up to baseball in some regards. The value of the win only increased by 7% to $4.5 million in 2008. It was then $4.4 million in 2008, 2009 and then again in 2010. The value of the win has not increased in recent years as it was expected to. That matters because Fukudome was signed with the thinking that it would indeed continue to increase.
Ultimately, he concludes we got almost what we paid for:
Fukudome's career OPS is .778. He was paid to be roughly an .800 OPS hitter. He hasn't reached that, but is it really worth all the bitching and moaning that the fans have been doing? I guess the fans feel ripped off. They looked at his numbers and thought they'd carry over to MLB. Nobody in their right mind actually thought that would happen though.
Meanwhile, Jack took some time to engage the normative process, asking: "What should we do?" He asserts it's best to trade 'Dome:
Unless the Cubs instead sell the Padres on a package including Marlon Byrd for Adrian Gonzalez, effectively freeing up centerfield in the process, I think the Cubs have no choice but to try and find a taker for Fukudome. The fact is, the potential savings mean more to this team than his performance would, and while he has his uses, the other big contracts the Cubs have on the books right now are essentially immovable objects. And since Tyler Colvin has to play pretty much all the time at this point in his career, there just doesn’t appear to be room for [Kosuke Fukudome] on the roster right now.
Though it may seem contradictory to my previous post, I tend to agree with Jack's perspective. I would definitely prefer trading Marlon Byrd for Adrian Gonzalez, but I find that less likely than finding a buyer for Kosuke.

At the same time, I don't want to see Kosuke leave for just peanuts. That would be lame. The purpose of my previous post was -- more than anything -- to assert Kosuke Fukudome had some good value. I worry too many people, namely fans, forget that fact.

A big thanks to mb21 and Jack for joining in the discussion in the comments section and on their blogs! Keep the good stuff coming, guys!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kosuke Fukudome: Everyday Starter?

In a previous post, we examined the trade potential with Kosuke Fukudome. In short, he's not a top candidate. We'd be lucky to get a quad-A player or two (a quad-A guy is someone who excels in AAA, yet for whatever reason, cannot stick in the majors -- Quad-As are usually older too, 28+).

As the outfielder market settles (the settling has already begun with the Yankees bowing out of the Carl Crawford race), the Cubs are likely see Kosuke remain in a Cubs uni. So how should we use Kosuke? What can we expect from him in 2011?

Well, after nearly catching a rookie of the year trophy in 2008, Kosuke Fukudome has really lost his perception as a threating bat. In Japan, Fukudome was a Hideki Matsui -like power monster, but in the MLB, he's been just a good on-base guy. For his career, Fukudome has an above average OBP and an average power (SLG):

OBP: .368
SLG: .410

However, when we examine his number more closely, we find Kosuke has improved every year! Looking at wRC+, we realize Fukudome's rookie campaign was easily his weakest.

Increasingly, managers have used Fukudome as a platoon player, starting him only when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound. Further study of his splits shows this may be a mistake:

In 2009, he was awful against lefties. But why? Well, when we look at his batting average of balls in play -- a metric that correlates strongly with luck -- we see his 2009 season proved outrageously unlucky against lefties (.229 BABIP):

So what does this mean for the Cubs? Well, going by these statistics, Kosuke Fukudome deserves some everyday play. He's going to be 34 this coming season, but he still should be the best right fielder on our roster.

Bill James expects Fukudome to repeat his 2010 success, and hit around a .350 wOBA. Like wRC+, wOBA is an all-encompassing batting statistic. If Fukudome his ~.350 wOBA or 116 wRC+ in 2011, that would put him in some good company. Over the last 3 years, these players have sported 116 wRC+:

116 wRC+: Matt Kemp
116 wRC+: Geovany Soto
116 wRC+: Adam LaRoche
116 wRC+: Derek Jeter

After we add Kosuke's above average defense and base running, I think it's a no-brainer: Kosule deserves 600 PAs. We can shift Tyler Colvin to first (116 wRC+ in 2010, by the way) and then pray he learns how to coax walk. Or, we could even bring Alfonso Soriano in from left to first, but his UZR indicates he defends better than the fans think -- making such a move nearly useless.

No matter how we sort it, Fukudome aught to be under the ivy in right.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Michael Jordan Rookie Card - A Worthy Investment? Or an Illusion?

I met with some friends last night for dinner and during our conversation, the topic of investments briefly came up. My friend, Jon and I can talk for hours about business, investments, the markets, et al but this particular investment conversation focused around the usual things but then transitioned into something else:

the Fleer 1986-87 Michael Jordan Rookie Card.

Look. At. It.

Jordan rising above the competition, arm stretched, tongue out - it is the rookie card that measures all other rookie cards. I don't think anyone has such a perfect rookie card (ok, maybe Joe Montana has a good one). The irony is that Jordan was already two years into his NBA career yet, the Fleer Michael Jordan RC is the standard.

But from an investor's point of view, I want to know that I'm going to receive a return. Sure, there's sentimental value of buying this card but what I think its worth may not be what another person thinks it's worth.

Therein lays the problem. There's no real way to perform valuation on a Michael Jordan rookie card. It doesn't pay derivatives, it doesn't have returns, you can’t reasonably forecast what the card will be worth in 5,10 or 20 years. I can’t track the price of the card over the past 20 years to even estimate what type of return it would bring. Another problem is; I don't know where to start. This isn't like stocks which I can compare to an index, review financial statements, perform value investing algorithms.

This is something different.

My mind started to think about this (insert Wayne's World Dream sequence here)...

  • We’ve reached the peak of Jordan's rookie card value - he's already in the hall of fame. He has his championships, endorsements, shoes, brand, etc.
  • I won’t be able to sell it (I would have to list it on ebay, Craigslist or attend Card Collector Conventions and although all of these markets are relatively easy to enter, the most important factors in markets is buyers and sellers and in tough economic times, the card will NOT sell)
  • It’s a bubble

To cater my assumptions, I hit-up a local card shop on South Wacker during my work-break (that’s how dedicated I am). This small, 15 foot by 15 foot room was tucked away in Jeweler’s Row. The nice man hovers over his collection case mixed with coins, autographs, magazines and cards. He’s wearing a black sport coat and is wearing a gold rolex (which I noticed immediately). As I talked to the nice man about the Jordan RC, he distinctly tells me three things:

  1. The Jordan RC is overpriced. So much so that he does not even carry one (yes, I asked). And even if he did, he wouldn’t be able to sell it (see; Financial Crisis of 2007-2010).
  2. Jordan’s card peaked a couple years ago and it has nowhere else to go but down.
  3. Because of the lack of demand, the stringent authentication process, the declining value, the flooded market of fakes, the Jordan RC is worth essentially…nothing.

(I was quite surprised by the man’s forthright honesty. I mean, he didn’t have to tell me anything. After all, I bought nothing. He didn’t have to answer my questions but yet he did…this says a lot about a person’s character)

Like all assets, there MUST be buyers and sellers. And when there’s no buyers, your asset sits and depreciates…to nothing. The Jordan rookie card is no different. Even in Chi-City, Jordan can’t outplay the recession.

Do I think Jordan’s RC is worth $1500? After this excursion, absolutely not. But it’s still priced around that range. That leads me to believe that people’s sentimental and emotional attachment of the greatest player of all time could be having an effect on the price.

The lesson in all of this is to leave your emotional and sentimental feelings at the door.

This is money.

Real dollars.

But sometimes it’s hard to walk away. Hell, even MJ thought so.