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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Hot stove myths (or not)

From our old friend J.C. Bradbury -- here writing for the Huffington Post -- come four hot-stove myths:

1. GMs can buy low and sell high
"GMs have made mistakes in the past and will make mistakes again, but they're not dumb enough to act on a meaningless hot/cold streak. You can't sell high or buy low and profit financially because all GMs understand these things."

Really? I have a few hundred counter-examples if anyone's interested.

2. The number of free agents at a position affects the price of free agents at a position
"The increased supply of players is canceled out by the increased demand by teams needing replacements."

Absolutely not true. Sure, it's somewhat canceled out. But completely? No way. The Brewers just traded J.J. Hardy. Does that mean they have to turn to the free-agent market to fill their hole at shortstop? Of course not, because they've already got Alcides Escobar. The Dodgers have two free-agent second basemen in Ronnie Belliard and Orlando Hudson. They'll probably re-sign one of them, but if not do they have to venture into the pool of free-agent second basemen? Not necessarily, because they've got young Blake DeWitt at hand. One can't evaluate the price of free agents without also looking at the pool of other available players.

3. Every trade has a winner and a loser
"Swapping resources only takes place if both parties are made better off ... Mistakes happen, but as a general rule, all parties to trades are winners. Who says economists aren't touchy-feely?"

I'm not sure who says that, but a lot of people say that economists often forget that we live in a real world, rather than a theoretical world. Economists like models, but unfortunately models don't work particularly well unless you assume that all actors in your model are "rational" ... so that's what economists do, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that all actors are not rational. Maybe that's why economics is called "the dismal science"?

4. Players peak at 27 and old players are worthless
"Players peak at 29-30. And just because a guy is past his peak doesn't mean he's not valuable."

Reasonable people still disagree about peak ages ... 27, 28, 29, whatever. I just say "late 20s" and figure that's close enough for baseball players and hand grenades. But who exactly is saying that "old players are worthless"? Nobody bothers much with age except analysts, and the analysts absolutely love Mike Cameron (36) and Derek Jeter (35). Granted, I just happened to notice that if you make a list of the best players in the majors right now, nearly all of them are still in their 20s. But a good player is a good player, whether he's 28 or 38.

Maybe I'm not being fair to Bradbury, who's writing for something of a general audience here. General audiences can be a lot smarter than you think, though.