Friday, September 16, 2011

In Defense of Ed Wade attempt to revive the blog didn't work. My bad. Maybe I'll follow up with a post about my experiment later. That's besides the point.

Rany Jazayerli over at Grantland wrote an article this week about the demise of the Houston Astros. Prominent in that piece was Ed Wade, easily the worst GM in baseball. As a Phillies fan, I suffered through Wade for far too long. I could go on about all of his shortcomings, but I won't. I, along with all other Phillies fans, am in a far better place now. Instead, I'm going to do something I never thought I'd do: defend Ed Wade.

In a line that is only tangentially related to the point of his story, Jazayerli writes, “Wade's tenure in Philadelphia was most notable for his apparent fetish for relievers. Of his several bullpen acquisitions, the most regrettable came in 2005, when he traded starting second baseman Placido Polanco for Ugueth Urbina.” I completely disagree with this statement; this was one of the few defensible trades Wade made in his tenure as Phillies GM. What follows is a very surface-level evaluation of the trade involving data on WAR. I'm not a sabremetrician, so go easy on me if you feel I overlooked or misinterpreted the stats.

This trade wasn't really about just acquiring Urbina - it was about opening up 2B for Chase Utley to be the full time starter. The Phillies weren't expecting to even have Polanco in 2005 - they offered him arbitration in hopes of getting draft picks, but he accepted it unexpectedly. He was a free agent after 2005, as was Urbina. The Phils weren't going to sign him - Chase was the 2B of the future, and they clearly were sticking with David Bell at 3B (that was the real failing of Ed Wade. He should have dropped Bell and moved Polanco to 3B a long time before). You can't evaluate the trade by noting how good Polanco was in later years with Detroit because that was on a 4 year extension he never would have signed with the Phils. Same goes for Urbina. He was a free agent after 2005 anyway, so the fact that he went and hacked someone up with a machete and went to jail is irrelevant. The trade was essentially 4 months of Polanco for 4 months of Urbina and Utley.

It's hard to exactly compare because doesn't break WAR down by months for individual years (at least that I can see) but Polanco put up 4.3 WAR in 2005, 1.7 with the Phils and 2.6 with the Tigers. Urbina put up a whopping 0.1 WAR in his time with the Phils. Utley had 6.2 WAR that year. Since I can't find a month by month breakdown for him, let's just prorate it, so he had about 4 WAR after Polanco was traded. 4 + 0.1 > 2.6. Yea, Urbina didn't perform, but the hope was that he would be able to duplicate his 2003 success after being traded to the Marlins at the deadline. He put up 1.9 WAR in half a season and was a big part of their World Series (for perspectives sake, Ryan Madson has never put up a 1.9 in an entire season, and Brad Lidge's perfect 2008 was worth 2.8). So considering the fact that the trade itself was based on a bad decision (David Bell had -0.5 WAR in 2005), Ed Wade probably acquitted himself as well as he possibly could have.