All players have pretty variable performance, sometimes they get hot or get lucky on balls in play or squeakers over the fence, or whatever. Some players are riskier than others. “Duh”, right? Everyone knows that. But it does have extra implications. Our mean forecast for 2011 probably includes something like 400 plate appearances for Magglio Ordonez. That’s not because he’s especially likely to miss 1/3 of the season, its that he has about a 30% chance of missing most of the season. If he stays healthy, he’ll beat his ‘expected’ contribution handily. But, he’s old and we’re gambling on him and we know that.
When a team adds riskier players rather than more predictable ones (and look at the numbers over the past 4 years or so on Adam Dunn and Jayson Werth to see what those might look like) we’re making it less likely that we wind up close to our 84-win EV and more likely that we wind up either way above or way below. The 2008 Tigers give us a pretty clear idea of what it looks like when the risks go mostly awry. The Twins will win the division if everything goes according to plan. A team like that ought to be risk averse, they want to cover their bases (as much as possible) to mitigate the impact of bad luck. They ought to focus on depth, among other things. That kind of a strategy won’t work for us.
The gist of it is this: just hitting our projection isn’t likely to be good enough. To win the division we need things to go right, and we need the possibility that things might go very right. We need a lot of risk, because that’s the only way we can get a lot of return. Young guys give you that, so do old ones, and guys with injury histories and past inconsistency. Jhonny Peralta, for example, isn’t a bad bet to fall over or under his projection by a full 2 WAR. More risk, for us, means a greater chance that we’ll wind up far enough beyond our EV to come our on top of the division. We should love risk right now (though maybe not as much as they should in Cleveland). I definitely think we’ve made some big gambles the past few offseasons and the question is: are we gambling enough?