Signing Ben Sheets: Factors the Astros should consider

Following Stephen's lead, I wanted to weigh in with my two cents about whether or not it would be a good decision for the Astros to bring in Ben Sheets this off season. Obviously, there are a number of factors that go up when a team considers signing a player like Sheets: his age, injury history and willingness/ability to pitch through pain are just a few of them. Keep in mind, those are just the factors about Sheets as an individual player an organization must contemplate. The Astros' front office must also consider his impact on the team's win total for 2009 and beyond, as well as things like whether or not he'll improve home attendance. Put another way, how many marginal wins will Ben Sheets add to the Astros over the course of his contract, and how much marginal revenue can the Astros expect to earn as a result?

How do we even begin to value a player? What metric is the best to use? One way to do it, and the one that I plan to use not only for this article but for off-season stories as well, is Wins Above Replacement Player, or WARP. Put another way, how many more wins can we expect to get from Ben Sheets as compared to a AAA type pitcher like Jack Cassel. I presented the facts and my analysis of the Ben Sheets situation in an article I wrote in August, so before you vote in Stephen's poll, you can go to that article and help yourself to some more thoughts about whether or not it would be a good idea to pony up some dough for Sheets.

Getting back to Sheets' dollar impact on the Astros next season, I can speculate with a little more certainty as to what Ben Sheets would mean to the 2009 Astros. An 86 win season is not out of the question, and would put us within striking distance of the 90 win total that gives teams just about a 50/50 shot of making the post season. So, if you think those 86 or so wins aren't due to luck or the planets aligning or anything else baseball related, then Sheets is a near must-sign. If you're of the opinion that a regression from our veteran players is imminent, and even the emergence of Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence, Felipe Paulino and others won't be able to offset it, then perhaps Drayton should keep his checkbook in his hip pocket.

So, we can trace Sheets' impact from his signing to the Astros' on field performance level. We're also able to get a pretty accurate assessment of what he'll mean to the Astros organization in a marginal revenue. In 2006, a player whose WARP equaled five was worth $10.5 million to an Astros team that won 89 games. For comparison's sake, Wandy Rodriguez's performance this year has resulted in a WARP value of about 5. To the chagrin of those who like to see free agents signings, Sheets' maxed out WARP for the 2009 season most likely will not be any higher than 6. (Source: Baseball Prospectus). I don't want to go too far into the analysis now because we don't know the severity of Sheets' injury, how many wins the Astros will earn this season and the actual interest level in signing Ben Sheets. What I can say with a great deal of certainty is that a player whose WARP is 6, and who plays on a team that is within five games of a playoff spot, their value skyrockets. It makes sense- not only will those six wins go to improving their win total, but the fans will support the team that much more if their reward for diligent ticket buying and popcorn consumption is playoff baseball. We can see that how a team performs in any given season has a lot to do with how a player is valued, in terms of dollars and wins. Ben Sheets would be a nice addition to the Astros, especially so if the team around him is already a solid contender for a post season spot. So, when deciding Ben's worth, the final decision may be just as much a question about Lance, Roy, Darin and Wandy, as it is about Mr. Sheets himself.

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