Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lost for Weeks

I've been trying to estimate in my head the impact of losing Rickie Weeks for the rest of the season. Spinning around the radio dial yesterday I heard the words "horrible" and "devastating loss." Clearly, losing Weeks is not good news for the Brewers. He was having an All-Star season and his improved play has obviously played a part in the Brewers success. On the other hand, losing Weeks does not all of the sudden turn the Brewers into the Washington Nationals. So what is the impact really?

I know there are formulas that turn every last statistic into wins and losses, and one could use those to calculate how many wins Rickie would generate over a replacement level player. That's not what I'm trying to do. I am trying to figure it out using only logic and common sense - sort of a cocktail napkin calculation. Suppose then that to start the discussion you say that losing Rickie Weeks will cost the Brewers five games in the standings this year. Is that a fair estimate?

Suppose that with a healthy and productive Rickie Weeks, the Brewers are a 90-win team. Suppose also that the Washington Nationals are a 60-win team. Forget for now that the Nationals have Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. Let's just think for them as a team of replacement level players, because even with Zimmerman and Dunn, that's basically what they are. That means that with a healthy and productive Weeks, the Brewers are 30 games better than the Nationals. To whom then do you attribute those 30 wins?

Well, if you say that Weeks is worth five, don't you have to say that Braun and Fielder are worth at least seven each? Trevor Hoffman and Yovanni Gallardo would also have to be worth seven. Right there with those five players we're up to 33 wins - without giving any credit at all to anyone else. It's safe to say then that the impact of losing Rickie Weeks is something less than five games in the standings. It's probably less than four because you run into the same math problems with that number too. In the end, I think three would be a good guess - that Rickie Weeks represents about one-tenth of the difference between the Brewers and the Washington Nationals.

I think we tend to overestimate the impact of any one player on a team. We look at the Brewers' record since Trevor Hoffman is off the DL and attribute all of that success to him. While some of it is, there have been a lot of other things happening May that weren't happening in April. It's not all Trevor Hoffman. Neither has it been all Rickie Weeks.

Now, the three games that the Brewers lose with Weeks may well mean the difference between making the playoffs or not. But with Weeks out, maybe Mat Gamel will come along and chip in a win or two. Maybe Manny Parra will chip in one. And of course maybe a lot of other bad things could happen too. The point is that if the Brewers fail to make the playoffs this year it will not be only because they lost Ricke Weeks.

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