March 7, 2004

Value Over Replacement

I was doing a little writing over the weekend and found myself over at Baseball Prospectus, checking out some Value Over Replacement Position (VORP) totals for 2003.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, VORP measures a player's value in runs over a "replacement level" player at the same position. For instance, Barry Bonds led baseball in VORP last year with 114.6, meaning he was 114.6 runs better than a replacement level left fielder would have been.

The VORP leaders and "trailers" last year looked like this:

HITTERS                  VORP          PITCHERS                 VORP

Barry Bonds 114.6 Esteban Loaiza 74.7
Albert Pujols 97.3 Pedro Martinez 71.9
Alex Rodriguez 86.3 Tim Hudson 69.5
Gary Sheffield 78.9 Jason Schmidt 69.3
Javy Lopez 75.9 Roy Halladay 66.8
Bret Boone 75.8 Mark Prior 64.1
Carlos Delgado 72.2 Kevin Brown 60.2
Manny Ramirez 69.2 Livan Hernandez 57.4
Marcus Giles 64.7 Javier Vazquez 54.7
Edgar Renteria 63.3 Kerry Wood 53.7

Matt Walbeck -13.8 Jay Powell -17.4
Ryan Christenson -13.9 Nick Bierbrodt -17.7
Brad Ausmus -17.9 Glendon Rusch -18.1
Jermaine Dye -20.6 Jeremy Bonderman -18.2
Brandon Phillips -21.2 Shawn Estes -19.8

After studying the numbers from last year and realizing VORP was one of my favorite stats for judging a player's performance, I started thinking about how I could use the theory of "Value Over Replacement" in other ways.

In honor of a new season of The Sopranos debuting on HBO last night, how about Value Over Replacement Show (VORS)?

I think many of us can agree that The Sopranos is the best television show around. That said, it often goes huge stretches of time without new episodes and, even when there is a new season, it only has a limited number of episodes. For instance, this new season will be just 13 shows long.

Then you've also got the re-run factor to consider. The Sopranos provides value even when it's not new, because HBO shows re-runs constantly. Meanwhile, a show like The Simpsons is on during its regular time each week (Sunday night) and then has a minimum of two re-runs shown per day in syndication. All of this has to be considered when trying to come up with a show's VORS.

Let's take a look now at the VORS leaders and trailers for various categories...

COMEDIES                      VORS

Seinfeld 111.4
Curb Your Enthusiasm 109.6
The Simpsons 95.2
Everybody Loves Raymond 82.9
Arrested Development 79.0
Chapelle's Show 75.1
Scrubs 65.4
Friends 60.6
The King of Queens 54.7
Saturday Night Live 49.4

The George Lopez Show -14.0
Hope & Faith -17.9
The Tracy Morgan Show -18.2
Good Morning, Miami -19.7
Whoopi -21.6

Seinfeld has been off the air for a few years now, but it is still providing a ton of value, thanks to never-ending re-runs. Here in Minnesota, it is on a minimum of three times per night and sometimes as many as 5-6 times, depending on how often TBS is running it. For a Seinfeld junkie like myself, that's somewhere between 20-35 episodes every single week, which racks up huge VORS.

Seinfeld baseball comparable: a mix of Babe Ruth and Jesse Orosco.

Curb Your Enthusiasm has the best "rate" stats of any comedy, but it is only on once per week and the seasons aren't very long. HBO does show it in re-runs, but not nearly as often as they show The Sopranos or some of their other shows.

Curb Your Enthusiasm baseball comparable: Pedro Martinez.

The Simpsons is on in re-runs almost as often as Seinfeld, but it's per-episode VORS isn't nearly as high. Also, it has declined quite a bit during recent years, while still remaining good.

The Simpsons baseball comparable: Roger Clemens.

Arrested Development is off to an incredible start and scores a huge per-episode VORS. It's a very new show though, so it remains to be seen if it can keep up the same pace in the future.

Arrested Development baseball comparable: Dontrelle Willis.

Friends was once among the league leaders, but has suffered massive declines in each of the past several seasons. The constant re-runs help bring the VORS total up, but each new episode absolutely destroys the show's overall numbers.

Friends baseball comparable: Ken Griffey Jr.

Once upon a time Saturday Night Live was one of the all-time greats, but it has been dropping like a rock in the past several seasons and is basically just "hanging on" at this point. The only reason it remains on the comedy leaderboard is because it built up such a huge amount of VORS in the show's early days. SNL continues to add small amounts to its career VORS total, but brings down all of its rate stats while doing so.

Saturday Night Live baseball comparable: Rickey Henderson.

DRAMAS                        VORS

The Sopranos 112.9
NYPD Blue 90.6
E.R. 88.4
Six Feet Under 78.2
The Wire 78.0
CSI 68.6
The O.C. 61.4
Third Watch 56.2
Law & Order 50.1
Las Vegas 40.8

K Street -2.5
JAG -5.1
The Practice -6.0
7th Heaven -15.9
Judging Amy -22.7

The Sopranos laps the field when it comes to per show performance and, fortunately, it picks up plenty of VORS on re-runs too. Whereas many shows have experienced drop-offs in performance after 3-4 seasons, The Sopranos seems to be getting better with age.

The Sopranos baseball comparable: Barry Bonds.

NYPD Blue is no longer at the top of its game, but it's on re-runs often and the new episodes are still solid. Same thing goes for E.R., which isn't as good as it used to be, but is still quite good and is shown a ton in re-runs every week.

NYPD Blue baseball comparable: Jason Giambi.

E.R. baseball comparable: Jim Thome.

Six Feet Under and The Wire are near the top of list on a per-show basis, but they are barely shown in re-runs. Meanwhile, The O.C. ranks 7th among dramas in its very first season.

Six Feet Under baseball comparable: Albert Pujols.

The Wire baseball comparable: Alex Rodriguez.

The O.C. baseball comparable: Brandon Webb.

Law & Order has been around so long that it cracks the top 10 despite not picking up big VORS totals in recent seasons. Various re-runs are on a minimum of 500 times per week and there are about 12 spin-offs of the original show.

Law & Order baseball comparable: Fred McGriff.

TALK SHOWS                    VORS

Tough Crowd w/ Colin Quinn 88.7
Jon Stewart 86.5
David Letterman 82.4
Howard Stern 72.0
Craig Kilborn 41.6
Jimmy Kimmel 40.1
Bill Maher 21.7
Conan O'Brien 11.4
Jerry Springer 1.6
Carson Daly 0.0

Jay Leno -10.5
The View -22.6
Oprah -22.7
Dr. Phil -28.9
Wayne Brady -40.1

Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn is at the top of this category thanks to having five new, quality shows per week. It's usually the best talk show (depending on who the panelists are), plus it's very dependable, plays every day and has plenty of re-runs each week.

Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn baseball comparable: Cal Ripken Jr.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart comes in a close second, thanks to a very high per-show performance and constant airings throughout each day and each week on Comedy Central. The Late Show with David Letterman checks in at #3 with a very strong per-show performance but no re-run VORS.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart baseball comparable: Manny Ramirez.

The Late Show with David Letterman baseball comparable: Jeff Bagwell.

Last Call with Carson Daly checks in at exactly 0.0 VORS, despite being on every night. Daly is, of course, the very definition of a replacement level talk show host, which proves the entire VORS system is working correctly.

Last Call with Carson Daly baseball comparable: Travis Lee.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno checks in at -10.5 VORS, which is probably surprising to most. His new show each night is nearly unwatchable and re-runs of old shows are shown in the wee hours of the morning and remain unwatchable, despite absolutely nothing else being on against them.

Leno loses approximately 0.8 VORS for each time he begins a monologue joke with the phrase "Now, this is a true story..." He is, without a doubt, the most overrated talk show host in the history of mankind. Of course, I already ranted about this subject in some length last year.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno baseball comparable: Joe Carter.

This year's Neifi Award for "An extraordinarily horrendous performance below and within replacement level" (as opposed to "above and beyond") goes to The Wayne Brady Show, which, prior to being canceled, pushed the limits of unwatchability like nothing since the XFL.

In case you're wondering, the early favorite for next year's Neifi Award is ESPN's Dream Job, which almost made me give up watching TV altogether after just one viewing.

VORS is simply the tip of the replacement level iceberg (incidentally, the one that sunk the Titanic is the leader in Value Over Replacement Iceberg, or VORI).

You can apply this same method of determining value for movies, cars, food, women, actors, actresses, bands, songs, pets, stand-up comics, politicians - the possibilities are literally endless.

Heck, you could probably use Value Over Replacement Blog (VORB) to rank all the baseball blogs, although Larry Mahnken's "Replacement Level Yankees Weblog" would surely rank much higher than the name suggests.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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