Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Historical Draft Review - Introduction

The June Draft is now nine days away, and a lot of the focus is towards the future. Who will the Tigers get with the 21st pick? Will they once again go well over slot to get premier talents in the draft? Will they draft a catcher in the high rounds to fill a pressing organizational need? Which late round picks have bargain potential? As compelling as those questions are, I don't have the answers. Instead, I was prompted by some of the premature hype around last year's draft to try and find the Tigers' best draft ever. In the process, I wanted to find out the benchmark of a succesful draft. I wanted to figure out when it is safe to start evaluating the results of a draft. Most importantly, I wanted to find out more about the history of the draft and rank every one of the Tigers' drafts based on the results the draft produced.

Before going into the methodology, I wanted to look at the history of the MLB First Year Player Draft. Started in 1965, the draft replaced the largely unsuccesful Bonus Rule. The Bonus Rule, in place from 1947 to 1965 to prevent teams like the Yankees from loading up on talent, stated that any player signed to at least a $4,000 contract needed to be on the 40-man roster their first two professional seasons. This explains why players like Al Kaline went straight to the Major Leagues. Anytime anybody points to players like Kaline who didn't play in the Minor Leagues as justification for rushing another player, kindly tell them that the rules in place between 1947 and 1965 made it difficult to send top prospects to the minor leagues. Also, if the person complains that players are signed for too much money these days, you cand also kindly point out that this was always the case and is the reason that players like Kaline went straight to the Majors. Before the Bonus Rule, there was essentially a free for all, similar to the international market today. If you found a player and could sign him, he was yours. The draft was implemented to give everybody a shot at all players after the Bonus Rule proved futile.

The MLB Draft wasn't always as it is today. During the first two years, there were three drafts held. The June Draft has always been held, but there was the August Draft for players who played in Summer Leagues, and the January Draft for winter graduates. The August Draft was abandoned after 1966. For the next several seasons, there were four phases of the draft: the regular phase of both the June and January Drafts, and a secondary phase for players who had already been drafted by a team but were not signed. Finally in 1986, the other phases of the draft were done away with, leaving only the regular phase of the June Draft, which was shortened to 50 rounds in 1998.

When starting this project, I was unaware of the numerous phases of the draft before 1986. It created somewhat of a dilemma. Should I ignore everything except the regular phase of the June Drafts? If I don't, toward which draft will the January phases count? At first, I ignored all phases except for the regular phase of the June Draft. Upon doing this, I noticed that drafts since 1986 tended to rank much better than drafts before. This made sense, as I was ignoring several eligible players who had been drafted by the Tigers and would have been otherwise drafted in June. To remove that bias, I decided to include all drafts, counting the January Draft with the same year's June Draft.

I rated the drafts using a system similar to the Trade Reviews I did earlier.
  • I used WARP1 from BaseballProspectus for each player. It was either WARP1 or Win Shares, and I have access to everybody's WARP1 totals.
  • Only players signed in the draft count toward the draft. If a player was drafted multiple times by the Tigers, he counts toward the draft in which he was signed.
  • Players are credited only for their time with the Tigers, and I stop totaling their numbers the moment they are traded, released, declare free agency, lost on waivers, or taken in the Rule 5 or Expansion Drafts. If a player is a free agent and re-signs with the Tigers, I am assuming that the player could have signed anywhere during that time and any value he provides is not a result of his draft selection.
  • If a player is traded, the players recieved in return count towards his draft pick. The same goes for free agents who net compensation.
  • A player traded as part of a package only accumulate a percentage of the value of the players recieved. This percentage is based on the value the player provided the team they were traded to compared to the rest of the package. Player who had a WARP of 0 or less for the opposing team will have a percentage of 0 unless the rest of the players also had a WARP of 0 or less. In this case, the players each have an equal percentage. I came across two trades which aren't final, and I assigned estimated percentages to each player. Humberto Sanchez (50), Kevin Whelan (25), and Anthony Claggett (25) each will be credited with Gary Sheffield's production. Cameron Maybin (35), Andrew Miller (33), Burke Badenhop (8), Dallas Trahern (8), Mike Rabelo (8), and Eulogio De La Cruz (8) each will split Miguel Cabera and Dontrelle Willis' production. This will be easy to modify once the results of these trades start to become clear.
  • I did not count the production of free agents who cost draft picks.

I will post the results in the coming days leading up to the draft. Here are some of the results I plan to cover.

  • What is the result of a succesful draft?
  • When can a draft be fairly evaluated?
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #5
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #4
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #3
  • Best Tigers Drafts: #2
  • The Best Tigers Draft Ever

1 comment:

Brett said...

I look forward to your analysis...Linked here from DetroitTigersWebLog.