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The 2014 Seattle Mariners and their baseball-reference sponsorship costs

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A super-serious investigation into something that really matters.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Howdy, gang. I'm going to start trying something a little different for my Friday posts... something I'll refer to as "Just-For-Fun Fridays", where I'll write about the Mariners but it won't be a particularly serious or SABR-related article. Maybe you can think of this as a way to gear up for a fun-filled weekend? Or a way obtain a bit of levity as you grind through the last few hours of the work week? Or maybe it can be a way to recover from a particularly difficult Mariners-related Sporcle quiz (assuming we start having those again regularly; I hope we do). If these don't go over well, I'll probably revert back to posting only statistics-laden articles with tons o' tables and shiny gifs. We'll see how it goes.

Today, I'm going to discuss the 2014 Mariners in terms of their baseball-reference sponsorship costs. I imagine that since you are currently reading this blog, you've probably visited baseball-reference.com at some point in your life in order to peruse their overwhelmingly wonderful database of baseball stats. If you have, you've likely noticed that each player page can be sponsored (for one whole year!) for a nominal/not-so-nominal fee. Sometimes fans sponsor their favorite players and leave heartfelt messages or a link to their baseball blog. And sometimes evil corporations will swoop in and sponsor a player in an attempt to increase traffic to their website.

The sponsorship costs for different players vary quite considerably; this is almost certainly a function of the number of searches/clicks/views a player's page receives. Of course, just because a player is amazing doesn't necessarily mean that their sponsorship cost is going to be super high (e.g., Michael Brantley had the third highest WAR among batters in 2014 and his page is available for $200). The opposite is also true; bad players on popular teams often have inflated sponsorship costs.

Below is a table of the 44 men who played for the Mariners in 2014 listed beside their current baseball-reference sponsorship costs.

Player career WAR 2015 Steamer projection Current sponsorship cost Career $/WAR 2015 projection $/WAR
Humberto Quintero 2.7 N/A $10.00 $3.70 N/A
Lucas Luetge -0.2 0 $10.00 -$50.00 N/A
Yoervis Medina 0.6 0.2 $15.00 $25.00 $75.00
Blake Beavan 0.6 N/A $20.00 $33.33 N/A
Jesus Sucre -0.1 0.2 $20.00 -$200.00 $100.00
Charlie Furbush 2.2 0.5 $25.00 $11.36 $50.00
Tom Wilhelmsen 2.1 0.3 $25.00 $11.90 $83.33
Carson Smith 0.2 0.1 $30.00 $150.00 $300.00
Danny Farquhar 2.8 0.4 $30.00 $10.71 $75.00
Joe Beimel 0.8 N/A $35.00 $43.75 N/A
Chris Taylor 1.4 1.8 $40.00 $28.57 $22.22
Brandon Maurer 0.5 0.1 $45.00 $90.00 $450.00
Willie Bloomquist 1.5 0.2 $55.00 $36.67 $275.00
Stephen Pryor 0.0 0.0 $65.00 N/A N/A
Cole Gillespie -0.5 N/A $70.00 -$140.00 N/A
Endy Chavez 3.9 N/A $75.00 $19.23 N/A
Hector Noesi 0.1 0.1 $90.00 $900.00 $900.00
Logan Morrison 1.9 1.9 $90.00 $47.37 $47.37
Roenis Elias 1.4 1.2 $95.00 $67.86 $79.17
John Buck 10.5 N/A $100.00 $9.52 N/A
Brad Miller 3.3 2.5 $110.00 $33.33 $44.00
Fernando Rodney 7.3 0.7 $115.00 $15.75 $164.29
Mike Zunino 1.7 2.4 $115.00 $67.65 $47.92
Justin Smoak -0.2 0.5 $120.00 -$600.00 $240.00
James Jones -1.0 0.0 $130.00 -$130.00 N/A
Taijuan Walker 0.9 1.2 $135.00 $150.00 $112.50
Chris Young 11.8 N/A $160.00 $13.56 N/A
Dustin Ackley 6.7 2.0 $165.00 $24.63 $82.50
Jesus Montero -0.2 0.2 $165.00 -$825.00 $825.00
Hisashi Iwakuma 7.7 3.2 $180.00 $23.38 $56.25
Chris Denorfia 9.4 N/A $310.00 $32.98 N/A
Kendrys Morales 4.9 N/A $395.00 $80.61 N/A
Nick Franklin 0.4 0.9 $480.00 $1,200.00 $533.33
Austin Jackson 15.6 2.7 $525.00 $33.65 $194.44
Felix Hernandez 47.2 4.9 $695.00 $14.72 $141.84
Robinson Cano 42.4 5.2 $810.00 $19.10 $155.77
Abraham Almonte 1.1 -0.2 currently sponsored - -
Corey Hart 13.7 N/A currently sponsored - -
Dominic Leone 0.7 0.3 currently sponsored - -
Erasmo Ramirez 0.5 -0.2 currently sponsored - -
James Paxton 1.7 1.9 currently sponsored - -
Kyle Seager 13.5 4.0 currently sponsored - -
Michael Saunders 5.0 2.6 currently sponsored - -
Stefen Romero -1.2 0.1 currently sponsored - -

What a big table!

Maybe I should've used bWAR, to pay some sort of homage to baseball-reference, but I just used fWAR because that's what I'm used to.  From this table, we can see that the cost to sponsor a 2014 Mariner ranges from a meager $10 (for Lucas Luetge and Humberto Quintero) all the way up to $810 for everyone's favorite slow-motion second baseman.

Although I'm a little sad about the fact that Felix isn't the top dog in this regard, I suppose a lot of angst-ridden Yankees fans (there are a lot of them this year) have been clicking on Cano's page every day throughout the 2014 season lamenting the fact that the Mariners have a 5-win second baseman while the Yankees were stuck with a run-down version of Brian Roberts. That would certainly drive up his player page visits, thereby increasing his sponsorship cost. In any case, Felix did come in second with a robust $695. (Corey Kluber only costs $255 to sponsor; tally another advantage for Felix in the Cy Young voting race!)

To get a better sense of these numbers, and to see how well a player's skill corresponds to their sponsorship value, I plotted a player's career WAR against their cost.

This is a strong correlation (impacted largely by Cano and Felix being the two best, two most expensive players on the team). Although a player's WAR doesn't directly impact their sponsorship cost, people perusing baseball-reference are probably more likely to spend their time looking up good, established players. This is not surprising. The biggest deviations from the linear fit are Nick Franklin, Kendrys Morales, and Austin Jackson, all of whom appear to be pretty over-valued. (I also checked to see if there was any recency bias, and plotted a player's WAR over the last three years against their cost, but the graph actually ended up being nearly identical to the one shown above.)

Looking forward to next year, we can see who projects to provide the largest expected value (in terms of WAR/sponsorship $, which is a thing that probably nobody cares about).

Chris Taylor comes in as the biggest bargain (by a wide margin). Based on his Steamer projections, he looks quite bullish; if you think he might break out next year, now is definitely the time to invest. You can lock him up for one whole year for the low, low price of only $40! In terms of value, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison round out the top three Mariners. Coincidentally, if the M's are going to continue to improve and compete for the playoffs next year, at least two of those three guys will likely need to put together good seasons in 2015.

On the other end of the spectrum, Nick Franklin projects to yield the smallest bang for your buck. It does boggle my mind a little bit that enough people currently care about Franklin to the point that his sponsorship cost is more than three times Brad Miller+Chris Taylor combined ($480!). Tampa's recent attendance record seems to suggest that maybe it's just two or three people continually refreshing his page over and over. (Unless the sponsorship costs on baseball-reference aren't updated very frequently? I have no idea.)

I also took a quick look at the eight players who currently have their pages sponsored on baseball-reference. Using internet magic (i.e., Wayback Machine), I figured out what their sponsorship costs were at the time of their most recent sponsor.

Player career fWAR Date of sponsorship fWAR at time of sponsorship fWAR since sponsorship
Cost at time of sponsorship
Abraham Almonte 1.1 12/24/13 0.1
0.9
$25
Corey Hart 13.7 12/05/13 14.9
-1.2
$95
Dominic Leone 0.7 04/21/14 0.1
0.5
$65
Erasmo Ramirez 0.5 04/07/14 1.0
-0.5
$30
James Paxton 1.7 12/23/13 0.5
1.3
$30
Kyle Seager 13.5 02/08/14 8.0
5.5
$175
Michael Saunders 5 02/16/14 3.1
1.9
$55
Stefen Romero -1.2 04/25/14 0.0
-1.2
$50

I can understand sponsoring some of these guys, but Almonte? Romero? I guess it is easy to get excited about hot young prospects, but hindsight can be tough. Whoever picked up Kyle Seager is probably quite happy with their investment, whereas Romero's backer is probably sitting in a corner somewhere weeping quietly into a bowl of soup.

Finally, one of the best things that I noticed while compiling/analyzing this data is the fact that the message listed on Erasmo Ramirez's player page says: "He's been hurt, but the best young lefty in all of baseball is back!" Without context, this is quite funny and makes it seem like one of Erasmo's biggest fans has no idea which hand he uses to throw baseballs. Unfortunately, the folks who sponsor Ramirez also sponsor James Paxton. Paxton has the exact same message as Erasmo, so it's almost certainly just some glitch on baseball-reference.

I realize that none of this matters, but I still find it somewhat compelling because it reflects which players on the Mariners are more popular/considered to be more interesting by the folks who use baseball-reference. These numbers could also indicate which players are under-rated/over-rated in terms of the amount of publicity they receive vs. their actual skill levels. In any case, if you wanted to sponsor the whoooole team, it'd probably only cost about 6000 bucks. There are probably worse ways you could spend that money...

Go M's!

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ALSO: If anybody has read any particularly compelling books/poems/articles, listened to any amazing songs, and/or watched any noteworthy movies/videos recently, please share these in the comments below. I'm always amazed by the culture and the diversity in taste that people in this community have demonstrated in the past (when we've discussed different types of media); I don't want to stop sharing these recommendations/experiences just because it's the offseason and we don't have daily game charts/questions. I do intend to repeat this question every Friday, so if you don't have something to share now, maybe you will next week.