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Are coaches underpaid? (And how much was Davey Lopes worth to the Phillies?)

Nov 4, 2010, 10:48 AM EDT


I’ve been thinking about the value of coaches lately, in part because the Cardinals only had to shell out $750,000 per season to make Dave Duncan the highest-paid pitching coach in baseball and in part because the Phillies let first base coach Davey Lopes go over failed contract talks that probably involved a difference of $100,000 or less.

If someone like Duncan who’s considered one of the best pitching coaches in baseball history is only worth $750,000 per season and someone like Lopes who’s been praised constantly for his huge impact on the Phillies’ historically great stolen base numbers leaves over an extra $100,000 … well, do teams really value coaches very much?

After all, the average utility infielder makes more per season than both Duncan and Lopes combined.

It’s a tough question to answer, largely because it’s tough to evaluate coaches in anything resembling the way we evaluate players. There are enough statistics and metrics and tools for me to opine with a decent level of confidence that, say, Albert Pujols is usually worth about 85 runs per season above a replacement-level first baseman. But how much is Lopez worth above a replacement-level first base coach?

I have no idea, but Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley crunched some numbers in an effort to find out and what he found is pretty interesting. I won’t spoil the conclusion because you really should read the whole article, but I will say that like me he agrees the Phillies letting Lopes go over $100,000 would be a mistake. And unlike me he has actual data to support that opinion. Check out Baer’s analysis and also read the comments section for an interesting look at the value of top-notch coaches.

  1. Jonny 5 - Nov 4, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    Aaron Thank you. I’ve been wondering this exact same thing since Lopes was let go. Now it’s time to be honest with everyone, maybe you have already let people know, but what’s your rooting interest in baseball? Now I’m off to see the numbers crunching…. Like yourself my gut instinct tells me, coaches are undervalued, and underpaid, and letting Lopes go was a huge mistake.

  2. cshearing - Nov 4, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    Seems exceptionally silly to upset working team chemistry like that over such a (relatively) small amount of dollars. These teams might need some perspective. Saving $100k means little when you are spending millions on bench/utility guys, who seem much more replaceable than a good and respected coach.

  3. hep3 - Nov 4, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    Remember the same type of people that would let go or fire a top notch coach over as little as $100,000 are the same people who fired and laid off $25,000 per year baseball scouts because teams couldn’t afford them in the nuclear winter of 1994-95.

  4. willmose - Nov 4, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Steve Carlton and Jerry Ruess were given away (I mean traded) over $5000 difference.

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