Posted tagged ‘Robinson Cano’

Adios Robinson Cano

December 6, 2013

This morning Robinson Cano signed a reported 10/$240mil contract with the Seattle Mariners. With all the speculation in the past day I can’t say this is a surprise but I did not think he would sign with Seattle so fast- but I also didn’t think they would go to 10/$240mil so fast.

A month or so ago I wrote about what a potential Robinson Cano contract would look like. In it I surmised that a contract could be worth up to $198mil over ten years but also could be worth up to $240mil depending on the team. I do think Robinson Cano for ten years is worth $240mil- for the New York Yankees. For the Seattle Mariners he is worth closer to $198mil than $240mil so I have to say this a overpay. Not only is it an overpay but it’s an overreach in terms of years. Even if Robinson ages well, one has to imagine that the contract will be dead weight come 2021 and beyond.

If Seattle figures to be a possible playoff team in the near future and Cano is the piece that puts them over the hump then one can see why they would make this deal. As it stands, Seattle won 75 games in 2012. Nick Franklin, who was the expected starter at second for Seattle, is projected to have a 1.5 fWAR by Steamer and 2.6 fWAR by Oliver. Let’s split the difference at 2.0 fWAR. Cano is projected by each at 5.4 and 4.6 so let’s call it 5.0. That is a three win upgrade at the price of $24mil or $8mil per win. And it only jumps Seattle up to a nearly .500 baseball team.

Going forward Seattle could be a playoff team down the road. But by the time this happens, Cano will be in his decline and not as valuable as he currently is. Yet he will still be owed a lot of money could prevent the Mariners from signing players they could sign down the line to contend.

While a large contract made sense for the Yankees, especially in the short run, they did not want to go past seven years- and I can’t blame them for that. Long term contracts of that magnitude rarely turn out well and New York has learned that first hand with contracts they have handed out to Jason Giambi, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez. With the money “saved” they can try to make up for the lost value in others- possibly by signing Masahiro Tanaka, Omar Infante, and Carlos Beltran or Shin-soo Choo. Granted, this will eat up more roster spots than the one spot Cano would have taken, but it could save them money and years.

As for Robinson, I can’t blame him. Yes, I wish he stayed. I wish he chose a plaque at Monument Park over $240mil. I wish he chose to be a Yankee legend over $240mil. But he earned a big payday and he took it as he and other players have every right to. Hopefully when he returns to the Bronx he isn’t greeted with a chorus of boos.

I think it’s also interesting that a Yankee star at the height of his career LEFT the Yankees. For Seattle of all places. Imagine this scenario playing out five years ago? Ten years ago? Even with the signings of Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, it appears as if the Empire is dead.

Finally, Robinson Cano is the one player I can’t help but partial to. Not seeing him in the Yankee lineup everyday is going to hurt. Yet life goes on. Adios Robbie, and good luck in Seattle.

Hopefully this weekend I will put up a post outline what the Yankees should do now.

 

 

 

Yankees Sign Jacoby Ellsbury

December 4, 2013

WOW. I am nearly speechless. Waiting in line for dining hall take out and I got the ESPN text saying the New York Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury. This is huge news with a lot of implications.

The contract is 7/$153mil meaning an AAV of nearly $22mil. Ellsbury will be 30 for most of the 2014 season and will be 37 when the contract is over. Ellsbury has had some fantastic seasons but has also had some maddeningly poor seasons. In 2011 he had a phenomenal 9.1 fWAR season. But that dipped to 1.4 in 2012 as he battled injuries and saw his wOBA drop from .400 to .300. He rebounded in 2013 to post a 5.8 fWAR with a .343 wOBA.

Year

Age

xWAR

$/WAR

Value

Salary

2014

30

3.9

5

19.5

~22

2015

31

3.4

5.25

17.85

~22

2016

32

2.9

5.51

15.98

~22

2017

33

2.4

5.79

13.90

~22

2018

34

1.9

6.08

11.55

~22

2019

35

1.4

6.38

8.93

~22

2020

36

0.9

6.70

6.03

~22

Total

16.8

93.74

153

Steamer projects a 3.9 fWAR for Ellsbury in 2014 and as he ages I decreased his WAR by 0.5 each season while adjusting 5% for inflation each season.

3.9 might be a low forecast for 2014 but I think it’s realistic so that’s what I went with. All things considered it seems like the Yankees have much higher expectations for Ellsbury. And I hope so because this deal looks TERRIBLE even if you factor in the Yankees win curve and other additional factors that go into analyzing the Yankees unique position in the market.

The Yankees will pay Ellsbury $153mil for an estimated $94mil in value- a difference of $59mil! This is why long term contracts are bad. It’s very hard to get full or even good value on a contract that goes over four or five years. It’s even worse when you aren’t even projected to get good value after four or five years.

With the additional news that the Seattle Mariners will pay Robinson Cano $200mil or more it looks like his days as a Yankee will come to an end. My forecasts have Cano being worth about $162mil over seven years. Robinson Cano is the player worth $150mil+ not Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s even more head scratching when New York has a center fielder for cheap already- that player being Brett Gardner who has arguably been just as good as Ellsbury over their past few full seasons.

Maybe New York is going to go past their self-imposed $189mil budget and can still sign Cano. But all indications seem to be that they will now focus on Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka while signing Omar Infante for cheap to play second and/or third. As stated I think the smarter move would be to pony up a little bit more to keep Cano than grossly overpay for Jacoby Ellsbury. Even if you think Ellsbury will be better than I project- which the Yankees seem to be doing- it won’t make up nearly the $60mil difference between value and actual salary.

I think this contract will play out similar to the one Carl Crawford signed after the 2010 season. He was going to enter his age 30 season. He got a 7/$142mil contract from the Red Sox (then under different leadership). He had similar K rates, BB rates, and ISO to Ellsbury. He was also a fantastic defender much like Ellsbury. Crawford has posted 3.0 fWAR in the three seasons since. Granted he has missed time to injuries, but the contract is turning into an albatross. I fear the same will happen to the Yankees.

Crawford is just one example of many. To use him as the sole example would be poor analysis, especially when other speed players have aged well. But it does show how risky a deal of this magnitude can be, especially for a player with similar skill sets (BB, K, ISO, speed, defense).

To conclude. Poorly done New York. I am curious to learn whether Brian Cashman approved of this or whether this idea is that of Randy Levine or Hal Steinbrenner, which would continue to show the lack of structure in New York’s front office. There is a reason why a well-run team, the Boston Red Sox, let go of their starting center fielder. He isn’t worth nine figures. As long as the Yankees continue to operate this way the gap between them and their rival to the north will continue to grow.

EDIT:

This Dave Cameron article looks at the decline of speedy outfielders. He notes that from age 30-36 this pool of comparable players to Jacoby Ellsbury averages 17 WAR, which isn’t bad. That’s right round the forecast I have for Ellsbury. He will age well, don’t get me wrong. But that’s not $153mil well. And THAT is my problem with the contract- not that Ellsbury will be a poor performer. Heck, he’s still worth almost $100mil over seven years!

Moreover, FanGraphs Crowdsourcing, which is pretty accurate, had a real life expectation of 6/$112mil and a fantasy expectation of 5/$83mil. Although older and not as productive, I think at 7/$153mil it would even make more sense to bring back Curtis Granderson at 3 years and a whole lot less money (although I am against that as well).

Robinson Cano’s Fair Market Value

November 10, 2013

Four players in MLB history have signed contracts in excess of $200mil. In 2001 and 2008, Alex Rodriguez signed two $200mil+ contracts, becoming the first player to sign a contract worth $200mil or more. 2011 saw two players top the $200mil mark with the Angels signing of Albert Pujols and Tigers signing of Prince Fielder. This past year saw Joey Votto signed an extension that will pay him north of $200mil. The fifth player to join this club will be Robinson Cano.

During the past season the Yankees offered Robinson Cano an extension worth $165mil over seven years. Cano rejected the offer and his agency instead told the team that Cano could be signed for roughly $300mil over ten years. Such a contract would make Cano the highest paid player in sports- by far.

So the question being asked by everyone is: what is Robinson Cano worth? $300mil, $165mil, or somewhere in between? Well, let’s answer that question. First, I will look at his past few seasons as well as his projections for 2014. Then I will project that going forward over the life of a hypothetical contract. After coming up with an estimated figure, I will compare him to similar players and assess other factors that come into play.

Robinson Cano has established himself as the best Yankee on a team that features Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia. In doing so he earned five All-Star selections, five Silver Slugger Awards, two Gold Gloves, a World Series Championship, a World Baseball Classic Championship, and a World Baseball Classic MVP Award. According to FanGraphs, Cano has been worth $162.7mil throughout his career while earning about $56mil, for a value of $106.7mil. So after years outperforming his contract, Robinson wants to finally cash in- and then some.

A lot of times people make the mistake of thinking a player should get paid based of their career. While it’s true a contract is based on how a player has performed, forecasting the future is equally important. So basing a contract off his whole career can have problems- Robinson Cano is a much different player than he was a rookie back in 2005.  However, there is merit in looking at recent history. Here are his numbers from 2010-2013 (Total/Season Average):

Games: 640/160

Hits: 774/193.5

Home runs: 117/29.25

BA: .312

OBP: .373

SLG: .533

wOBA: .386

wRC+: 142

UZR: 8.9/2.225

DRS: 38/9.5

fWAR: 25.4

fWAR/650PA: 6.03

So over the past four years Robinson Cano has been an MVP level player. His offensive numbers are all excellent, his defense is above average, and his WAR value represents that. From 2010-2013 Cano is second to Miguel Cabrera in WAR as well as hits- by one single hit. Moreover, he is second in games played to Prince Fielder. So Cano is an all-around player who can be relied upon to take the field every single game. That is an aspect of player that is often overlooked and something which will help Cano’s free agency case.

Based on the average of his past four seasons Robinson Cano figures to be about a 5.5-6.5 WAR player in 2014. Both CAIRO and Steamer project Robinson to have a 5.6 WAR in 2014. So what does a $/WAR cost? Of late there has been some debate. FanGraphs likes to forecast this value whereas Lewie Pollis has recommended looking at it retrospectively. FanGraphs has $/WAR around $5mil whereas Lewie Pollis has it at $7mil. Personally, I like the way FanGraphs does it, so I will start my analysis with a $/WAR of $5mil and will adjust for inflation each season at 5%. I will also decrease his projected WAR by 0.5 each season.

Year

Age

$/WAR

xWAR

xSalary

Average Salary

2014

31

5.00

5.6

28

28

2015

32

5.25

5.1

26.775

27.388

2016

33

5.51

4.6

25.346

26.707

2017

34

5.79

4.1

23.739

25.965

2018

35

6.08

3.6

21.888

25.150

2019

36

6.38

3.1

19.778

24.254

2020

37

6.70

2.6

17.42

23.278

2021

38

7.04

2.1

14.784

22.216

2022

39

7.39

1.6

11.824

21.062

2023

40

7.76

1.1

8.536

19.809

Total

33.5

198.09

19.809

On face value it appears that over the next ten years the estimated worth of Robinson Cano is about $200mil or $20mil per season. That is a far cry from the $300mil his agency is asking for. Moreover, if you stop at year seven you get a 7/$162.95mil contract. As mentioned earlier, the Yankees offered Cano $165mil for seven years of service. It looks like the Yankees were a lot closer to Cano’s estimated value than CAA.

Now, this is a general fair market value assessment. But each team is not created equal. Robinson Cano will be worth more to a team in the playoff hunt than a bottom of the barrel team. So realistically, we can rule out any non-contenders from signing Cano. If they did want to sign him it would be in their best interests to offer him less money because he isn’t worth as much to them. And doing so would take them out of the market.

One way we can see if a team would have interest in Robinson Cano is by looking at Win Curves, which is explained below by Vince Gennaro:

In order to sort out these effects for each team, we can turn to the regression analyses to estimate the win-curve for each team (discussed in more detail in an earlier chapter). By analyzing historical data that captures fan behavior, we can ultimately assign an estimate of a dollar value for each win. More specifically, the model estimates the change in a team’s revenues at various levels of team regular season wins. For example, the Houston Astros are expected to generate $1.2 million more revenue as an 81-win team versus an 80-win team. That’s equivalent to saying the value of the Houston Astros’ 81st win is $1.2 million. At the extremes, the Pittsburgh Pirates 71st win generates about $300,000 in incremental revenue, versus the $4.2 million that accrues to the Yankees for their 90th win.

Figure 3  $ Value of five wins

TEAM     78-83    86-91

CHC      4.8      15.9

NYM      7.1      18.0

LAD      3.8      15.1

BOS      5.8      13.3

LAA      5.2      11.8

CLE      5.0      12.5

TOR      4.3      12.5

CWS      5.2      14.9

SF       6.2      15.2

ATL      6.1      9.6

 

OAK      3.0      7.7

STL      5.1      13.9

PHI      4.5      14.5

HOU      5.9      12.5

SEA      5.8      16.1

MIL      3.8      8.5

TEX      2.7      11.4

MIN      3.0      6.8

DET      3.4      10.4

AVERAGE: 4.2      11.7

 

SD       3.3      10.8

ARI      3.6      11.3

BAL      3.1      12.3

NYY      5.6      18.4

CIN      2.6      7.5

PIT      2.3      7.3

TB       3.9      9.1

FLA      3.5      9.0

KC       3.6      7.4

The teams that most likely will be in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes are the Yankees, Orioles, and Tigers. Teams that could be in that I ruled out include the Blue Jays, Royals, Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants. Although the Blue Jays could use a second baseman, I don’t see Cano being in their plans. While they have money, the team has finished below .500 the past two seasons. Despite a roster that might compete on paper, I think the team is too well-run to throw nine figures at Cano for a long term contract to get them over the hump. The Royals are an emerging contender but do not have the financial capability to spend on Cano. The Nationals are a playoff contender with money. But they recently filled second base with top prospect Anthony Rendon. Moreover, it appears that Washington would want to save their pocketbook for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg while still dealing with Jayson Werth’s contract. The Cubs could upgrade at second base but are too far away from competing and any upgrade Cano brings will be minimal. He may make the team a .500 team which will bring in less revenue for the club then going from good to great. The Giants are a team that could compete in the NL West, but already have Marco Scutaro at second base. Could they throw him aside for Cano? Sure, but I don’t think that will happen. Finally, the Dodgers were seemingly the favorites to land Cano all season, but signed a Cuban second baseman earlier in the off-season.

So that leaves us with the Yankees, Tigers, and Orioles. Although there are no 2014 forecasts available (that I could find) each of these teams figures to have a shot at the playoffs, in staggered odds. The Tigers should project around 90 wins, the Orioles should project around 85 wins, and the Yankees should project at 80-81 wins. So each team is in the most influential part of the win curve for revenue, but at different stages.

Let’s start with the Yankees. Although it’s a bit optimistic, the Yankees probably will forecast to an 80-81 win team. For them, according to Gennaro’s win curve, that is worth an additional $5mil in revenue. Granted this is seven years later and the Yankees play in a new stadium, are valued more, and their YES Network has gone up in value as well. But either way, moving from 80 wins to 85 or 86 wins won’t have much of an impact on their revenue.  This is because Yankee fans expect a winner every season and being above average won’t cut it. With expensive ticket prices and merchandise, fans are more hesitant to spend money on the Bombers when they are not dominant. This past season is great evidence, as the Yankees won “only” 85 games and a decrease in both attendance and TV ratings. Moreover, with two Wild Card spots, teams should focus on getting to 88-90 to qualify for a spot. With Cano estimated to have a 5.6 WAR in 2014, he alone will not get them to the part of the win curve that will a large uptick in revenue.

However, if the Yankees are able acquire a pitcher such as Tanaka from Japan and get positive contributions from Michael Pineda, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and sign another impact player, the team could then forecast as a 90 win team with Cano. The difference between 85 and 90 wins for the Yankees will be at least $20mil in additional revenues. So depending on certain circumstances, Cano can be worth anywhere from $5-$20mil in additional value for the Bronx Bombers. This means a 10/$220mil contract or 7/$184mil if the team doesn’t want to go as long on years.

After the Yankees I believe the Tigers should be considered the favorites for Robinson Cano. The Tigers have been a 90+ win team for the past couple seasons and 2014 should be no different. They are returning the key pieces of their starting rotation (Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez) as well as their starting lineup minus a second baseman. Enter Cano. By adding Cano the Tigers can jump from a 90 win team to a 95 win team that should be among the favorites to win the World Series. For the Tigers this jump in wins should bring in an additional $10-$15mil in revenue. Going further, revenue goes up with a World Series win and Cano would increase their World Series odds. So the Tigers could be in a similar situation to the Yankees, where Cano could bring in, at least, an additional $15 or $20mil in value.

Finally, we arrive at the Baltimore Orioles, who I consider a long shot for the All-Star second baseman. Baltimore is a city that reacts well to winning. In 2007, going from 78-83 wins would have only generated an extra $3.1mil of revenue but going from 85-91 wins would have generated $12mil in additional revenue. Again, the amount of revenue generated would be greater than it was in 2007, but the value would be around $12mil. So the Orioles should want to tack on an extra $12-$15mil for a Cano contract offer.

So far I have been looking at Robinson Cano’s performance value and its impact on a potential bidders win curve. There are two other factors to take into account- risk factor and marquee value. Risk factor has two components according to Vince Gennaro, quality and quantity. Quality is a player’s performance (WAR/650 PA) while quantity is games played. Robinson Cano would be a low risk player because his performance quality does not vary according to his playing time quantity. He consistently plays 160 or more games a year. A low risk player has his value adjusted up 10%. Although it’s tough to project how he will age, I will still apply this 10% to the life of his contract. So we have $198.09mil x 10% equals $217,899,000 for a ten year contract. If a team can sign him for seven years, that would be $179,245,000.

Along with risk factor, Cano’s value can go up or down based on his marquee value. Vince Gennaro writes that marquee value has four factors: personal qualities, performance factor, continuity factor, and team brand value. Robinson Cano meets three of the aspects of personal qualities as he has a positive image; he is recognizable being in the top twenty for jersey sales and a strong presence in the Latin community; he is relatively accessible; however, being a native Spanish speaker, his articulate quality takes a dent. The team brand value is 2.5 x the baseline revenue.

Looking at the Yankees, this means that the brand value is $1.425bil (2.5 x $570mil revenue). Taking the above factors into consideration as well, Cano has a marquee value in New York of $5,343,750. This will be different for Detroit and Baltimore because of different revenues and a lack of continuity factor. In Detroit Cano has a marquee value of 1,837,500. In Baltimore Cano has a marquee value of $1,575,000. My revenue figures are from Bloomberg Sports franchise valuations.

So to backtrack: Robinson Cano, over ten years, has a fair market value of $198.09mil. In New York, his value would shoot up to $243,242,750mil. This is from a risk factor of +10%, $20mil in performance value based on the win curve, and $5.34375mil in marquee value. For the Yankees, a fair contract for Cano is 10/$243,242,750mil (~$24.32mil per). Over seven years a fair contract is $204,588,750 (~$29.23mil per).

In Detroit, a fair ten year contract offer is 10/$239,736,500 ($23.97mil per). In Baltimore a ten year contract offer should be 10/$231,147,000.

If Robinson Cano wants to take the money and run, then staying in the Bronx looks to be his best option. Detroit can offer a near identical contract because they are very good with favorable World Series odds. If Cano is the cog that helps them lift the trophy then they will see even more revenue than I accounted for. Despite that, he is still just as valuable if not more valuable to the Yankees. He will keep them a contender in the near future and if the Yankees can re-load over the next couple seasons, then he will still be an impact player when the team is again competing for a shot at the World Series. Moreover, the Yankees have a very unique win curve because of their market and the Yes Network. Keeping the team competitive will net them more revenue than any other team so the Yankees do have incentive, when looking at their bottom line, to spend big to keep Cano in pinstripes. As for the Orioles, they could spend big on Robinson Cano, but to spend as much as Detroit or New York would be a bit of an overpay, especially for a somewhat small market team that might be looking to save some money for a Manny Machado extension.

To recap (Ten year):

Neutral context fair market value: $198.09mil

Yankees Value: ~$243mil

Tigers Value: ~$240mil

Orioles Value: $231mil

Additional Notes:

*According to FanGraphs the average salary of the top five players for the past few seasons has been $24-$25mil. Based on my estimated ten year contract offers, Robinson Cano would be expected to earn about $24mil a year, which falls in line with how the game’s top players have been paid. So Robinson Cano has two options- take the years for a “discounted” per year price, or take a contract with shorter years but get paid more per year because he will be paid greatly for his prime seasons. By asking for 10/$300mil he wants to have a cake and eat it too (although I’m sure it’s a negotiating tactic).

If I was a team, I would prefer the option of paying more per year if it means a shorter contract. Super long contracts are very risky because anything can happen. Either way the team will still be paying a ton of money so I would tack on a few million more if it means my long term commitment is shortened.

**Remember, a lot of the number crunching in this is based off estimations. I started his WAR values at 5.6 in 2014 and decreased it by 0.5 each season. If you want to start him higher or lower that will make a difference. If you want to increase his decline phase by more than 0.5 WAR each season that will make a difference. If you want to adjust for inflation differently that will make a difference. This is how I see it and one can easily see it a different way.

***According to FanGraphs crowd sourcing, fans think Robinson Cano will sign for 8/$196.2mil at $24.5mil per year.

****Robinson Cano has accumulated 37.1 fWAR from 2005-2013. Based off my estimates, he will accumulate another 33.5 fWAR through the 2013 season. That would give him a career total of 70.6. Every second baseman with a WAR over 70 has been selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Most recently, Roberto Alomar was elected with a 63.9 fWAR. If things hold up, Robinson Cano could very well be a Hall of Fame inductee and prime candidate to have his number retired, if he does stay in the Bronx.

*****I would like to analyze his future performance value with comparisons to similar players. At the moment, I do not have the capability to do so. I would compare him to current second baseman as well other past second baseman with similar numbers and body types.

ASG Rosters fixed: AL Edition

July 8, 2011

Post by Treker. Enjoy.

Following the rules in place that is every team is represented. 34 players on each roster including a DH for each team and at least one back up for each position player. I will ignore the fan vote because although it wasn’t awful this year it needed some fixing. Before the two of you who read this get up in arms, the game is meant to introduce and market its best players to the fans. So if two guys are close and one is a star who might have missed some time or had a not so good first half they’re getting the edge over the guy playing way over his head. If I really mess up the rosters based on this tell me, but I doubt I will.

AL:

Starters:

C- Alex Avilla
1B – Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Pedroia (If you back out the half season of defensive metrics which is something one might want to do since it’s still a small sample you end up with 3-4 guys who could be here but because Pedroia has a history of being a great defender he gets the benefit of the doubt and the start).
3B – Alex Rodriguez
SS – Peralta (Really close but we can all agree this is one that is very wrong on the real roster)
OF – Bautista, Granderson, Ellsbury (These three made this really easy, sorry Hamilton you were hurt way to long)
DH – David Ortiz

Bench:

C- Carlos Santana
1B – Miguel Cabrera , Paul Konerko
2B – Cano
2B – Kendrick , Zobrist**
3B – Youk (Sorry Beltre, take your .318 OBP and have a 3 day vacation)
SS – A. Cabrera
OF – Alex Gordon, Matt Joyce, Cuddeyer (Span might be more deserving but he can’t play 22 less games and make it).

Pitchers:

Verlander, Weaver, Sabathia, Gio Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Beckett, Price, David Robertson, Rivera, Papelbon, Zach Britton (fits the Oriole need and the rising star that people should know), Sergio Santos, CJ Wilson, Jordon Walden

**Zobrist is denoted as the guy who can re-enter the game because he can literally play any position on the field.

That’s my AL team.

Robbie Cano knows BOOM!

November 28, 2010

After a stellar MVP-esque season from the New York Yankees star second baseman, Robinson Cano, I am obligated to reflect upon his monster season and look ahead to what we can expect from him in 2011, being that he’s my boy and all.

To many, 2010 was a coming out party for Robbie Cano. While Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter slumped for much of the season, Robbie put the team on his back- especially in the first half- posting a line of .319/.381/.534/.389/145 with a 6.4 fWAR over the span of 160 games and 696 PA. His bWAR was 6.1, giving him an aWAR (average WAR) of 6.3 (after you round up). He set career bests in OBP, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, HR, BB%, and WAR. When award season rolled around, Robbie swept the Gold Glove/Silver Slugger awards, implying he was the best second baseman in baseball this season, and finished third in AL MVP voting. It was quite the season for a kid who not too long ago had a pathetic 0.2 fWAR during a season in which he was benched for a lack of effort.

But was 2010 really a coming out party for Cano? In 2006, his second season in the majors, he posted a 2.9 fWAR in a shortened season, but his WAR/700 was 4.0 on the nose. In 2007 he posted a 4.7 fWAR and in 2009 he had a 4.4 fWAR. So before 2010, he already had great seasons before his 27th birthday. Thus, his 2010 really shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was simply developing. Granted, there was some luck involved, as is always the case when someone has a really good or really bad season. But as he is approaching his theoretical peak years, his true talent level is rising. Which is why with a little fortune on his side, he should have been expected to improve upon his 4-5 WAR seasons.

Moreover, the UZR scale that fangraphs uses hurts him. If one were to look at his bWAR, his career WAR total would jump from 18.7 to 23.9. His WAR totals from 2005-2009 would all increase. In fact, in the three seasons I highlighted in the previous paragraphs, his WAR, in order, would jump to 4.1, 5.6, and 5.1. That’s two near MVP level seasons instead of “simply” great seasons. The reason being defense.

UZR has Cano has a -36.8 fielder over the life of his career. Rally has him as a +31 fielder. I prefer UZR so I put more stock in those numbers, but DSR has him at -3 for his career. They say UZR needs to be paired with your eyes and the last two years, according to the FSR, he has been +13. UZR has him at -3.4 over the past two years and DSR has him at +14. I think it’s safe to say that Robbie has been and is an average-above average fielder, NOT the terrible fielder that UZR thinks he is. So his fWAR actually undermines Robbie’s defensive value, and thus, his overall value. If you to replace UZR with DSR, Robbie’s career WAR would climb from 18.7 to around 22.0. So yeah, Cano is probably even a little better than you would think by looking at his fWAR alone and not analyzing what comprises it. I mean, he has a career 18.7 fWAR which says his defensive value has been -36.8 runs. BUT, 21.5 of those runs are from his rookie season alone, when he was a terrible defender. I’m not saying those defensive runs allowed shouldn’t count, but they greatly skew his current totals, which conceals the fact that Robbie is actually decent fielder now.

That’s enough of a rant for now though. Let’s take a look at how Robbie put together his amazing season. The first thing I want to mention is PLATE DISCIPLINE. While it’s not a high mark, Robbie had a BB% of 8.2%, which was above his career 4.2% BB% entering the season. In fact, of his 186 career BB, 31% are from his 2010 season alone. What’s interesting though is that he didn’t actually seem to improve upon his plate discipline peripherals. His O-Swing% was a career high 36.5% while the rest of his peripherals are in line with his career averages. So this begs the question- what can we expect from Robbie in 2011?

Well, prior to the 2010 season, Robbie mentioned that A-Rod told him to take more “A-swings” in order to really drive the ball. Kevin Long also worked a ton with Robbie doing the “home-run drill” to help him pull the ball and develop, well, home-run power. The result was a career high ISO and SLG. In previous seasons, Robbie would show glimpses of greatness, but was often inconsistent because he would lose focus- whether it be defensively or offensively. That is not to be confused with work ethic. Whenever he slumped, the MSM would claim he was being lazy because of his laid back on-field demeanor. To me though, that’s lazy journalism. Anyone who follows the Yankees knows that, in large part due to Alex Rodriguez and Larry Bowa, Robbie is arguably the hardest working Yankee. He ALWAYS shows up for the optional BP. He gets to the park early, works his butt off in the off-season, and worked on his fielding so much that he went from TERRIBLE to above average with the glove in just a couple seasons.

2010 was the culmination of all his hard work. He finally had a consistent season where he suffered few lapses- defensively and offensively. In past years with the glove, he would go four months without an error and then commit three in a week. That cold stretch never happened this past season. His future success will depend on consistency. Can he keep the focus for another 162 straight games? If so, then we’re looking at an annual MVP candidate who will provide reliable defense and maintain an average BB rate. If not, then we’re looking at a guy who is unpredictable- great defense and hot hitting for weeks or months at a time, but also long stretches of some terrible performance.

Cano’s salary will be $10mil in 2011 and then climb to $14mil in 2012 and $15mil in 2013 if his options are picked up. So he will no longer be a “cheap” player for the Yankees. Considering the rising average age of the team and what that average age will be in 2012-2013, the Yankees need Robinson Cano to maintain his focus and continue to get better. If so, he could emerge as the best player on baseball’s most recognizable team. Hell, he could supplant Chase Utley as the premiere second baseman of baseball. On the other hand, he could become another overpriced good-but-not-great Bronx Bomber.

2011 will be a pivotal year for Robinson Cano if he wants to truly prove his worth. Here’s hoping he goes BOOM.

AL Gold Glove winners announced

November 9, 2010

And the players/managers did better than normal.

The obvious complaint is Derek Jeter. We all know that. There cannot be one person who seriously thinks he is better than Alexei Ramirez or Cliff Pennington or Elvis Andrus.

But at least Franklin Guitierrez got some recognition and Tori Hunter was finally dropped. I think F-Guit was recognized more for past years performances and Hunter was only dropped because he moved to right field, a clue to the voters he isn’t that great, but it’s a moot point.

Evan Longoria beating out Adrian Beltre at third is another vote to take note of.

I would have had Brett Gardner in the outfield, but you can’t complain with who was chosen and it makes up for the Yankees having Jeter selected, undeservedly, again.

And my boy Robbie Cano finally wins a Gold Glove. Maybe undeserved, but he was solid defensively and it’s a choice you can’t complain about, like you can with Jeter.

MLB award winners

November 7, 2010

Sorry for the delayed post on this topic, but without further ado here are my picks for the 2010 MLB awards.

AL MVP- Josh Hamilton (.359/.411/.633/.447/182, 571 PA, 7.0 aWAR)

Hamilton was just too dominant. I concentrated on WAR to figure out my MVP, along with several other factors. Since there are two versions of WAR, I got the average of rWAR and fWAR, which is what Tom Tango recommends. On here I pretty much use only fWAR, but for better analysis, I found the average of two versions this time around. While Hamilton didn’t look at hot with rWAR as he did with fWAR, his average was still the best and I put more stock in fWAR. Granted he missed a month, a month in which he could have slumped. But it also could have been his best month. He put up an insane .447 wOBA with positive defensive value playing center field. That’s an MVP to me.

Runner-ups: 2) Evan Longoria 3)Adrian Beltre 4) Robinson Cano 5) Miguel Cabrera

NL MVP- Joey Votto (.324/.424/.600/.439/177, 648 PA, 6.8 aWAR)

Offensively, Votto was nearly the Josh Hamilton of the NL. He absolutely killed the ball en route to leading the Reds to the NL Central division. Now, while his fWAR bested Albert Pujols, his rWAR was a full win behind Pujols, giving Pujols a better aWAR. However, the difference was due to difference in defensive metrics. According to fWAR, Votto was a slightly better hitter and they were equal defenders. According to rWAR,they were equal offensively, but Pujols was much better defensively.With SSS issues of defensive metrics and the difference in defensive metrics used in each version of WAR, I feel more comfortable saying Votto had the better year.

Runner-ups: 2) Albert Pujols 3) Ryan Zimmerman 4) Matt Holliday 5) Troy Tulowitzki

AL Cy Young- Felix Hernandez (249 IP, 3.04 FIP, 3.26 xFIP, 6.1 aWAR)

For most of the season I had Francisco Liriano as my Cy Young winner. But he got kind of ill in September and faltered a little bit while Felix picked up steam. I feel bad knocking Liriano for that, but he made the starts and wasn’t his usual self. So be it. Hernandez was a boss, leading the league in innings and excelling in all the things a pitcher can control- K, BB, HR allowed.

Runner Ups- 2) Cliff Lee 3) Francisco Liriano 4) Jered Weaver 5) Jon Lester

NL Cy Young- Roy Halladay (250 IP, 3.01 FIP, 2.92 xFIP, 6.9 aWAR)

This one is not even a contest. Halladay arguably had his best season as a professional, leading the league in innings and WAR. Looking at all his full seasons, he posted the best K/9 of his career and tied his best BB/9 at 1.08 walks per nine. He absolutely destroyed the National League.

Runner-ups- 2) Josh Johnson 3) Ubaldo Jiminez 4) Adam Wainwright 5) Roy Oswalt

AL Rookie of the Year- Austin Jackson (.293/.345/.400/.333/108, 675 PA, 3.1 aWAR)

While some people  might pick Neftali Feliz, I think Austin Jackson is a no-brainer. He played a more valuable position, was an above-average hitter and played superb defense. Putting up a 3.7 fWAR as a rookie is impressive. Jackson will be a solid player for Detroit for a long time. Also, if he didn’t get hurt, Caros Santana probably would have won the award. But he was called up late, and then missed a lot of time because of his injury. I put him at #5 anyway just to recognize him.

Runner-ups- 2) Brian Matusz 3) Neftali Feliz 4) John Jaso 5) Carlos Santana

NL Rookie of the Year- Jason Heyward (.277/.393/.456/.376/138, 623 PA, 4.7 aWAR)

Jason. Heyward. Is. A. Beast. I mean for real. He was twenty years and almost put up a .400 OBP in a full season. He had 91 BB despite spending some time on the DL. The dood can hit- and field. It was tempting to pick Posey, especially after watching his postseason, but Heyward had nearly 200 more PA in the regular season and was amazing in his own right. The NL rookie class had to have been one of the best ever.

Runner-ups- 2) Buster Posey 3) Jaime Garcia 4) Mike Stanton 5) Stephen Strasburg

AL Comeback Player of the Year- Colby Lewis (201 IP, 3.55 FIP, 3.93 xFIP, 4.0 aWAR)

In a tightly contested race, Lewis just edges Francisco Liriano. Yes, Liriano had a better season. BUT I find Lewis’ comeback more amazing- and he still had a fantastic season. Sure Liriano hasn’t been relevant since 2006, but Lewis pitched in JAPAN for the past two seasons. At least Liriano was hurt and fiddling around in America.

Runner-ups- 2) Francisco Liriano 3) Vernon Wells 4) Paul Konerko 5) Alex Rios

NL Comeback Player of the Year- Aubrey Huff (.290/.385/.506/.388/145, 668 PA, 5.8 aWAR)

Call this the Year of the Comeback. Much like the AL, there was an abundance of comeback players to choose from. Of all  my picks, this one was one of the toughest. But Huff had the best years of the players I narrowed it down to, and he had the worst performance of anyway in 2009. So he slides in perfectly as the winner.

Runner-ups- 2) Brett Myers 3) Anibal Sanchez 4) Kelly Johnson 5) Rickie Weeks

AL Most Improved/Breakout Player of the Year- Jose Bautista (.260/.378/.617/.422/169, 683 PA, 6.3 aWAR)

I think this one is a no-doubter. Jose Bautista went from a utility-role player to mashing 54 home runs. His WAR reached MVP level. Using fWAR, he bested his previous WAR high of 1.9 by five wins. Wowzers.

Runner-ups- 2) Daric Barton 3) Brett Gardner 4) CJ Wilson 5) David Price

NL Most Improved/Breakout Player of the Year- Andres Torres (.268/.343/.479/.363/128, 570 PA, 5.3 aWAR)

There were a ton of breakout players, but Andres Torres had the biggest breakout. He debuted in 2002 from 2002 through 2005 he never posted a fWAR above 0. Then he went to the minors from 2006 through 2008. He posted a 2.0 WAR last year in 75 games, but really broke out this season with a 6.0 fWAR. He hit well and was a monster of a fielder. Three players I want to mention for improving, but who didn’t even make my top five are Chris Young, Martin Prado, and Omar Infante.

Runner-ups- 2) Jay Bruce 3) Angel Pagan 4) Stephen Drew 5) Chase Headley

AL Relief Pitcher of the Year- Joakim Soria (65 IP, 2.53 FIP, 2.99 xFIP, 2.1 WAR, 2.18 pLI)

Joakim Soria did his best Mariano Rivera performance this season. Not only was he among the leaders in FIP, xFIP, and WAR, but he had the highest leverage index of the players I narrowed my search down to, meaning he performed like a beast in tougher situations than the other candidates for the award. He simply was the best reliever in the AL.

Runner-ups- 2) Matt Thornton 3) Mariano Rivera 4) Neftali Feliz 5) Rafael Soriano

NL Relief Pitcher of the Year- Carlos Marmol (77 IP, 2.01 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, 3.1 WAR, 2.04 pLI)

There were a ton of great relievers in the NL this season. Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Matt Belisle, etc. But Marmol was the most dominant. His K/9 was 15.99. You read that right. 15.99. Sure, he walked more than five batters per nine, but chances are he would strike out the side before he would walk in a run. His K-BB was a +86. Brian Wilson had 93 STRIKEOUTS. And Marmol’s K-BB was 86. Simply amazing. Plus, he was among the leaders in pLI.

Runner-ups- 2) Brian Wilson 3) Heath Bell 4) John Axford 5) Matt Belisle

AL Silver Slugger Awards-

C- Joe Mauer (.327/.402/.469/.373/136)

1B- Miguel Cabrera (.328/.420/.622/.429/172)

2B- Robinson Cano (.319/.381/.534/.389/145)

3B- Adrian Beltre (.321/.365/.553/.390/143)

SS- Alexei Ramirez (.282/.313/.431/.322/97)

OF- Josh Hamilton (.359/.411/.633/.447/183)*

OF- Jose Bautista (.260/.378/.617/.422/169)

OF- Shin-soo Choo (.300/.401/.384/.388/147)

DH- Luke Scott (.284/.368/.535/.387/143)

* AL Offensive Player of the Year

NL Silver Slugger Awards-

C- Brian McCann (.269/.375/.453/.361/128)

1B- Joey Votto (.324/.424/.600/.439/177)*

2B- Dan Uggla (.287/.369/.508/.381/140)

3B- Ryan Zimmerman (.307/.388/.510/.389/146)

SS- Troy Tulowitzki (.315./.381/.568/.408/150)

OF- Carlos Gonzalez (.336/.376/.598/.416/155)

OF- Jayson Werth (.296/.388/.532/.397/150)

OF- Matt Holliday (.312/.390/.532/.396/153)

P- Yovanni Gallardo (.254/.329/.508/.363/130)

* NL Offensive Player of the Year

AL Gold Glove Awards-

C- Matt Weiters (1060 innings/5 DRS/13 FSR)

1B- Daric Barton (1331 innings/20 DRS/5 FSR/12.1 UZR)

2B- Robinson Cano (1393 innings/7 DRS/10 FSR/-0.6 UZR)

3B- Evan Longoria (1330 innings/15 DRS/20 FSR/11.1 UZR)

SS- Alexei Ramirez (1376 innings/16 DRS/12 FSR/10.8 UZR)

OF- Brett Gardner (1211 innings/16 DRS/12 FSR/21.9 UZR)

OF- Carl Crawford (1260 innings/14 DRS/15 FSR/18.5 UZR)

OF- Ichiro Suzuki (1411 innings/12 DRS/15 FSR/14.8 UZR)

P- Mark Buehrle

NL Gold Glove Awards-

C- Yadier Molina (1138 innings/6 DRS/19 FSR)

1B- Ike Davis (1263 innings/13 DRS/3 FSR/10.1 UZR)

2B- Brandon Phillips (1311 innings/0 DRS/18 FSR/9.7 UZR)

3B- Ryan Zimmerman (1189 innings/20 DRS/16 FSR/13.9 UZR)

SS- Brendan Ryan (1127 innings/27 DSR/11 FSR/11.5 UZR)

OF- Andres Torres (1120 innings/12 DRS/10 FSR/21.2 UZR)

OF- Jay Bruce (1199 innings/17 DRS/9 FSR/20.2 UZR)

OF- Michael Bourn (1189 innings/16 DRS/8 FSR/17.6 UZR)

P- Tim Hudson

Click here to see how we did on our pre-season award predictions!



Buster Olney breaks down the awards races

August 21, 2010

In a recent ESPN article, Buster Olney handicapped the AL/NL MVP and Cy Young races. The piece was interesting enough to draw my attention. I will go through each piece of the article to share my thoughts.

There are six weeks of baseball remaining, a quarter of a season, in which a lot can change. In 2004, Vladimir Guerrero mashed his way to the American League MVP Award by hitting .363 in September and hoisting the Angels onto his back: He generated 11 homers and 25 RBIs in that late push.

There is a lot more baseball to play in 2010. But as of today, here’s how we’d handicap the races for the two major awards in each league.


AL MVP

Cabrera
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. He leads the majors in OPS and RBIs and is tied for second in the AL in homers, all the while playing half his games in a pitchers’ park.

So far I have no complaints. While I believe Josh Hamilton is the MVP, I wouldn’t complain if Miguel Cabrera won the award. I know and you know OPS and RBI are junk stats, but in this case Olney is still picking a solid candidate to win the award.

2. Josh Hamilton, Rangers. He’s hitting .375 since the All-Star break, and .396 overall in home games.

No problems here. Although, saying he has hit .396 at home hurts his argument that Hamilton has been really good. Considering his BA is in the .350 range, it shows his home park has inflated his BA. Considering Olney takes a players home park into consideration- he did so with Cabrera- then Olney did not make a convincing case for Hamilton. My argument wouldn’t hinge on a stat like BA at all.

3. Robinson Cano, Yankees. The most important player in this lineup in 2010, and he has been excellent defensively.

That’s fine.

Others in the conversation: Delmon Young, Twins; Adrian Beltre, Boston; Evan Longoria, Rays; Paul Konerko, White Sox. But to be clear, there is an enormous gap between the top two candidates and the rest of the field.

Really Olney? Really? Delmon Young is in the conversation? What conversation? Young has finally put together a solid year offensively , but his defense continues to suck. His 2.0 WAR is average. Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome, and Denard Span are all Twins players with a better WAR. That’s 5/9 of the Twins starting lineup alone. Young is not in the MVP conversation.

Paul Konerko is not in the conversation either. He has been good, not great. The worst part is that while Konerko is mentioned, a player on a better team who has had a much better season is not mentioned at all- Carl Crawford. That is a poor oversight by Olney.

NL MVP

Votto
1. Joey Votto, Reds. His numbers are basically running neck-and-neck with those of Albert Pujols — and Votto’s team is in first place, which will count for something in the voting.

Agreed.

2. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres. Numbers do not fully reflect what he means to San Diego’s success, between his defense and what teammates perceive to be an extraordinarily unselfish approach

Stoopid, just stoopid. Olney thinks he is the second most valuable player in the league, when is “only” the fourth most valuable player- at all first base alone! He’s having a fine season, but it doesn’t compare to Albert Pujols or Votto. The entire pitching staff, defense, and lady luck are the MVP’s of San Diego because they are winning due to those three things. Even with A-Gonz, the Padres offense is anemic.

3. Pujols, Cardinals. He’s having another great season.

Good analysis!

Others in the conversation: Aubrey Huff, Giants; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; and the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, who will get a lot of top 10 votes. Again, there is a major gap between the top tier of candidates — Votto, Gonzalez and Pujols — and the rest of the field.

I will give kudos to Olney. He mentioned Zimmerman, a top three MVP candidate, which I was not expecting since he is on a last place team and gets a lot of value from defense. So I will excuse him for saying there is a gap between Zimmerman and Votto or Pujols, when Zimmerman might have the best case of the three.

AL Cy Young Award

Lee
1. Cliff Lee, Mariners/Rangers. His WHIP is a major league best 0.95.

Here’s one barometer of just how good Lee has been, from Daniel Braunstein of ESPN Stats & Information:

The lowest percentage of pitches thrown on 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1 counts:

Pct. K/BB
Cliff Lee 3.53 14.50
Roy Halladay 4.21 7.20
Ricky Nolasco 4.72 4.90
Scott Baker 4.92 3.90
Kevin Slowey 4.99 3.92
Phil Hughes 5.00 3.05
Carl Pavano 5.14 3.45
Josh Johnson 5.14 4.26
Roy Oswalt 5.20 3.36
Dan Haren 5.25 4.94
For the sake of comparison, the highest percentage of pitches thrown on 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1:

Pct. K/BB
Gio Gonzalez 9.93 1.81
Tim Lincecum 9.38 2.73
Wade LeBlanc 9.15 2.11
Derek Lowe 9.07 1.87
C.J. Wilson 8.81 1.80
Joe Saunders 8.66 1.62
Jaime Garcia 8.50 1.94
Brandon Morrow 8.44 2.55
Trevor Cahill 8.43 .95
CC Sabathia 8.37 2.34

Well, Olney took a weird route to his final answer, but at least he picked this one correctly. Lee is having his best season and arguably the best season since Pedro in 2000 (or Zack Greinke in 2009).

2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners. He’s been absolutely dominant in the second half, with a 1.93 ERA.

Felix has had a great second half, but he should not be second in this race. Francisco Liriano has been filthy this season, but Carl Pavano is getting all the attention in Minny. Who does Liriano need to jerk off to get some respect?

3. David Price, Rays. Fifth in ERA and tied for second in wins with 15

We know better than to use ERA and wins, but Olney doesn’t. So it’s hard to criticize him for this pick. But what about other great lefties instead of Price? Like, lets say, Jon Lester?

3a. Trevor Cahill, Athletics

No, just no. King Luck should not be considered. I like Cahill and he does a nice job garnering ground balls. But he relies on BABIP too much. He doesn’t strike many people out. So balls are put in play a ton against him. By getting ground balls he does a good job to help himself from giving up too many base runners via hits, but a .213 BABIP is absurd. That is not his talent level at all, which is why he should not be in the Cy Young running.

Others in the conversation: CC Sabathia, Yankees; Clay Buchholz, Red Sox; Jered Weaver, Angels.

JON FUCKING LESTAH!

NL Cy Young Award

Wainwright
1. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals. He has gotten better and better and better as the season has progressed.

No qualms here, although it should be Doc Halladay or Josh Johnson.

2. Tim Hudson, Braves. Having an incredible bounce-back season.

No. See Cahill, Trevor.

3. Roy Halladay, Phillies. He has a shot at 20 wins in his first season with the Phillies.

Open your eyes and look at the numbers, Buster. Halladay, a future HOF’er at this point in time, is having his best season. He should be 1 or 2 (if you like J-Johnson). Not three. Poor effort here.

Again, who does J-Johnson need to jerk off? 5.6 WAR, 2.27 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 3.16 xFIP. Yeah, nbd I guess.

Handicapping the Awards – AL MVP Version

July 12, 2010

The first half of the 2010 season has come and gone, and the American League MVP race is starting to heat up. So far there are only a handful of contenders, but the race is WIDE OPEN. The battle for AL MVP might just be as hotly contested as the NL Cy Young race. Among WAR leaders for positional players, the top four all hail from the AL- and are separated by just six runs. The second half should be exciting as the contenders scrap it out down the stretch for new hardware on their trophy shelves.

The Comeback Kid aka The Favorite

Josh Hamilton – OF – Texas Rangers (4.4 WAR)

Leading the pack is Josh Hamilton, everyone’s favorite comeback player. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know his past, so I’ll spare you the details. But it would be quite the story if he could cement his legacy with a MVP award. Hamilton was always a greater hitter with tremendous power, but this year he has taken things to a whole new level. Check out his stat line- .346/.390/.625/.435/172. Amazing. He is first in BA, second in SLG, and third in wOBA. His 4.4 WAR is also tied for the third best mark in the league. So why is he the favorite despite not topping the WAR leader board? He has a 4.29 WPA which is second best in all of baseball. The next closest to him in the AL is Shin-soo Choo and it’s not even close. His 0.81 clutch score is in the top ten for the AL and he hits even better in medium and high leverage situations than he does in low leverage spots (203 wRC+ in 197 medium and high leverage PA or 54% of his total PA). Hamilton has been a top three hitter the league, arguably the most “clutch player”, and has provided solid defense in left field and center field. With Texas atop the AL West standings, Hamilton truly has been the most valuable player in the American League.

FG rest of season projection: 233 PA, .308/.363/.533/.390

FG updated final season numbers: 599 PA, .332/.379/.589/.419

The second tier

Justin Morneau – 1b – Minnesota Twins (5.0 WAR)

In 2006 Justin Morneau was the recipient of a very undeserving AL MVP award. In 2010 Justin Morneau is a legitimate contender for the AL MVP award. Back in 2006 he won the hardware with a 4.3 WAR for the season- not exactly up to MVP standards. In 2010 he has a 5.0 WAR at the All-Star break, which is already a career high for the Twins first baseman. Morneau is hitting .345/.437/.618/.447/184. Dayumn. If you thought Hamilton was killing the ball, just take a look at Morneau. He is having the best season of his career by far- defensively as well. Through the SSS of a half season, Morneau’s UZR is one of the best marks of his career. Justin has a 2.69 WPA which is amongst the AL leaders, but he has hit better in low leverage situations than high leverage situations (194 wRC+ compared to 144 wRC+). Yes, the sample size of the high leverage situation PA pool is small, but it’s something to look at when choosing between candidates for the MVP award. Moreover, Morneau has an extremely high .385 BABIP compared to his career average of .295. Granted, his LD% and FB% are well above his career norms, which can explain his high average and power. But it should come down somewhat in the second half. For those last couple reasons, I have Josh Hamilton edging him out for the MVP.

FG rest of season projection: 294 PA, .304/.389/.541/.403

FG updated final season numbers: 640 PA, .325/.415/.582/.429

Carl Crawford – LF – Tampa Bay Rays (4.8 WAR)

Free agent to be Carl Crawford just seems to keep getting better and better. Last season he compiled a 5.5 WAR season, which was the best WAR of his career. He could top that by August. Crawford is a perfect blend of offense, defense, and base running which will earn him a ton of cheddar in the upcoming off-season. Arguably the game’s most complete package, Crawford has a line of .321/.380/.521/.399/151. Some fantastic numbers, but compared to the first two guys talked about, you might be asking yourselves how is in contention with them. The answer- defense. Always one of the games best outfielders, Crawford has been his usual self in 2010. In 686 innings his UZR is 15.2, which is right in line with his three year average. The same can be said of his DRS, which is currently +13. The dood can flat out field. He can also flat out fly. He has 31 stolen bases- second best in the AL- at a 78% success rate. He is in the top ten for WPA at 2.19, so he been valuable in that regard as well. His LD% isn’t spectacular, so his BABIP might drop somewhat, so expect some second half regression, but his BABIP isn’t too far above his career average so he shouldn’t suffer that much. As long as he doesn’t forget to field, he will remain a contender in the race all the way to the end of the season.

FG rest of season projection: 283 PA, .303/.354/.467/.368

FG updated final season numbers: 646 PA, .313/.369/.497/.386

Robinson Cano – 2b- New York Yankees (4.4 WAR)

While Robinson Cano has been one of the best second baseman in all of baseball since his debut in 2005, he hasn’t received national recognition until his hot start this season, which is unusual considering he plays for the most recognized team in baseball. But I guess people will start to take notice when you hit .336/.389/.556/.401/152 and lead a team full of superstars to the best record in baseball. With a new approach at the plate, “RC’ has raised his BB% to 7.1%, which is above his career average, in an attempt to recognize and drive better pitches. The result has been an increase in stats across the board as he is getting on base more and slugging more as he is driving the ball with authority, rather than chasing pitches and simply taking a base hit to left field. Many members of the media are also praising his defense, which was once his biggest flaw. Although he may not quite be the Gold Glove defender many broadcasters believe he is, Cano has worked hard to become a solid defender. Through 759 innings, he has a 5.6 UZR and +16 DRS. When it comes to “clutch” value, RC has the best WPA of his career at 2.01, a positive clutch score, and has hit well in all leverage situations. RC is considered a second half hitter, but struggled coming into the All-Star break, due to a tender back and what appeared to be a general fatigue from playing in all but one game in the first half. RC should be good to go, but if fatigue creeps up on him, he could fade out of contention.

FG rest of season projection: 302 PA, .309/.352/.496/.366

FG updated final season numbers: 676 PA, .324/.372/.529/.389

Hitting his way to the MVP

Miguel Cabrera – 1b- Detroit Tigers (3.7 WAR)

Who am I to leave out a potential Triple Crown winner? Miguel Cabrera has been the best hitter in the league and could end up hitting himself into the award. He is hitting .346/.423/.651/.448/183. Miggy has been one of the best hitters in baseball for a while now, but this is an unusually great season even with his standards. But what makes him a candidate is his “clutch” value this season. Not only has he been the best hitter, period, but he’s raised his game in the most pressure filled situations more than anyone else. His 5.00 WPA leads all of baseball by a fair margin. His clutch score is also in top the three, at 1.30 and is well above the clutch score of any contenders for the MVP award. His WPA is already better than the league leader’s in 2009 and 2007, and it could be the best mark in the AL since David Ortiz and his 8.21 WPA in 2005. If he keeps hitting and hitting in the game’s biggest moments, he may just be your American League MVP.

FG rest of season projection: 319 PA, .318/.393/.572/416

FG updated final season numbers: 675 PA, .333/.409/.613/.436

Predictions:

Personally, I see RC and Justin Morneau fading. Crawford will stay in the race, but only because of his defense. That leaves the trophy race between Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera. While traditional voters may see Miguel Cabrera as a potential Triple Crown winner, I don’t think he gets it. If he doesn’t, Hamilton will win. His traditional numbers stack up well, and SABR-heads love him just as much. The fact Texas will win the division helps his case as well. For me, Hamilton is the MVP. He can hit, hit in big situations, and play a little defense.

Clearing the Bases: New York Yankees

March 3, 2010

The New York Yankees are the most storied franchise in sports history. Yankee Stadium is home to forty pennants, thirty-nine Hall of Famers, twenty-seven World Championships, twenty-two MVP’s, seventeen retired numbers, and five Cy Young’s. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez are among the countless number of legends that have donned the pinstripes. Going position by position, the Yankees have an all-time player at each spot. Catcher? Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey. First base? Lou Gehrig. Third base? A-Rod. Shortstop? Derek Jeter? Left field? Rickey Henderson, Charlie Keller. Center field? Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio. Right field? Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson. Hmmm…am I missing a position? What’s that- second base? Oh snap.

Despite all those championships, Hall of Famer’s, and MVP’s, the Yankees have no major standout at second base. Sure, Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon are both Hall of Famer’s, but neither player is considered an “all-time” player. Going further, both players got into the Hall of Fame by way of the Veteran’s Committe. It took Lazzeri fifty-one years to finally get inducted and it took Gordon fifty-eight years to be inducted. Lazzeri played for twelve seasons during the live ball era, overshadowed by Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. Gordon played just seven seasons in pinstripes, losing two seasons to WWII. It’s amazing an organization that was home to so many legends, is so weak at a particular position. Once Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera have their numbers retired, the Yankees will have a retired number at every spot except second base (Billy Martin  is more renown for his managerial career). Actually, scratch that. Jackie Robinson’s number 42 is retired. Make that one Dodger second baseman with their number retired by the Yankees.

So with that in mind, just who is the best second baseman in Yankees history?

Although second base has lacked superstars, there have been decent (but mainly sub-par) players throughout the years such as Snuffy Stirnweiss, Bobby Richardson, Chuck Knoblach, and Alfonso Soriano. To narrow down the search for the best second baseman in team history, the minimum number of games at second base in Yankee pinstripes to qualify is 1000. Sorry Gil McDougald. That leaves us with three candidates: Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, and Willie Randolph. Let’s get crackin’!

*Right click tables and hit view table to see larger image*

Tony Lazzeri (1926-1937, 1456 games)


Tony “Poosh ‘Em Up” Lazzeri was the first good Yankee second baseman in team history (and one of the first good Italian Yankee players), playing from 1926-1937. Born in 1903 in San Francisco, Lazzeri was twenty-two when he made his Yankees debut. That rookie season he went on to hit .275/.338/.462 with a 117 wRC+ and by 1928 he broke out with a 154 wRC+. He was a key piece of the famed Murderer’s Row, but his legacy loomed in the shadows of Ruth and Gehrig. He won five World Series, was an All-Star in 1933, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991 by the Veteran’s Committee.

Tony "Poosh 'Em Up" Lazzeri

His numbers might have been inflated due to the live ball era, but he was still a right handed batter in Yankee Stadium and still put up numbers quite a bit better than the league average, as indicated by his wRAA/600 PA. For a second baseman, he put up solid power numbers, but his better attribute was getting on base. During his stay with the Yankees, his wOBA never went below .350 and topped the .400 mark three times, with a career high of .437 in 1929. Lazzeri wasn’t the best fielder, but he held his own. He was a solid hitter with a decent glove. He peaked from 1927-1929, putting up WAR’s of 5.8, 4.7, and 7.8 respectively, and he had several solid seasons thereafter. By 1937 he was slowing down, however, and retired with a career Yankee WAR/150 of 4.2. That’s a good number, but is it enough to be considered the best Yankee second baseman of all-time?

Joe Gordon (1938-1946, 1000 games)

Born in 1915 in Los Angeles, Joe “Flash” Gordon took over the second base gig from Lazzeri in 1938. He hit the ground running posting a 4.1 WAR in his rookie season, which turned out to be his lowest single season Yankee WAR until 1946, his last season in the Bronx. His WAR hovered in the 4-6 range, finally peaking in 1942 with an 8.4 WAR. Looking purely at OBP, it may not appear Gordon was as good at getting on base as Lazzeri, but the numbers are somewhat skewed by a low BA. When it comes to drawing a walk, Gordon had a better BB rate and better BB%.  Despite a barely lower wRC+, it surely was due to a horrible campaign in 1946. Not to mention he missed two years because of war obligations. Had he been able to play in 1944 and 1945, his age 29 and 30 season no less, his numbers could have been even better.

Gordon won four World Series in the Bronx, appeared in six All-Star games, and won the AL MVP in 1942. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 via the Veteran’s Committee.

Willie Randolph (1976-1988, 1693 games)

Born in 1954 in South Carolina, the next good Yankee second baseman since Gordon left in 1946 played his first game in pinstripes thirty years later, in 1976. After his playing days, Willie became a bench coach for the Yankees for thirteen seasons, becoming a fan favorite. He also managed the Mets and is currently the Milwaukee Brewers bench coach. He won two World Series with the Yankees as a player and was a five time All-Star during his stay in “The City That Never Sleeps”. He won a Silver Slugger Award and was the team captain from 1986 until 1988.

Willie Randolph

Unlike the other two second basemen discussed so far, Randolph is not a Hall of Famer. However, Randolph is one of the more underrated players in baseball and Yankee history. Many think of him as a coach or the Yankee captain, but in reality he is a borderline Hall of Famer (but falls short in my book). With the Yankees he was not a slugger by any means. His Yankee SLG of .357 is putrid, but even more so when comapred to the SLG of Lazzeri and Gordon. He made up for that with his OBP skills. Randolph was adept at walking and getting on base. His lowest BB% as a Yankee was 10.3%, with his career high being 18.5%(!) in 1980. While he wasn’t an exceptional hitter, he was above average and had several quality seasons at the dish from 1978-1980 and 1985-1987. What he was really good at though, was defense. In thirteen seasons he compiled a Total Zone of 70 and had several seasons where he saved 10+ runs. His three year peak from 1978-1980 is comparable to the best peaks of Lazzeri and Gordon. After that, Randolph continued to be a solid 3-4 WAR for the Bronx Bombers. 1981 and 1982 were down years for Willie, where he posted WAR’s of 2.9 and 2.4 respectively. To be honest, those year’s might have cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame. Had he been able to just put 4+ WAR seasons like he had been doing thus far in New York, his career WAR would have been in the mid-sixties. 1981 and 1982 may have cost him a chance at the Hall, but will it cost him the title of best Yankee second baseman?

After comparing the players head to head, you realize just how close they are to each other. It was tough to separate them, but here is how they rank:

1.) Joe Gordon

2.) Tony Lazzeri

2a.) Willie Randolph

Despite being a Yankee for just seven seasons and meeting the minimum requirement of games played dead on, he did enough to establish himself as the best in team history. Offensively, he was just as good as Lazzeri, if not better. While Lazzeri did have a better wRC+, Gordon had the best wRAA/600 PA of the three players, he was a great defender (much superior to Lazzeri), and his WAR/150 was a full win better than Lazzeri and Randolph. Imagine if he had the chance to play in 1944 and 1945 to pad his stats? If not for WWII, this question might have been settled already.

Joe Gordon, best second baseman in Yankee history

As  for second place, Lazzeri and Randolph were indistinguishable despite being opposites.  Lazzeri was the big hitter with an average glove. Randolph was the big time fielder, who was above average at the dish. Lazzeri has a 4.2 WAR/150. Randolph has a 4.3 WAR/150. In the end though, I give a slight, slight edge to Lazzeri. He was just a plain out better hitter, regardless of era. And despite the fact that Randolph was a much better fielder, Lazzeri was decent enough with the glove to hold off Randolph. Randolph got a lot of his WAR value from TZ, but I don’t trust TZ too much. So in a close contest like this, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the better hitter.

Currently in the Bronx, there is a twenty-seven year old second baseman who has been making a name for himself. His name is Robinson Cano. Although he figures to have a long ways to go before he can challenge Gordon, Lazzeri, and Randolph, how does he stack up right now? And what will he need to do in the future to become a contender for best second baseman in Yankees history?

Robinson Cano (2005-2009, 734 games)

Right away you can tell Robbie’s career stats are the victim of a terrible 2008. As a result, his first five seasons do not compare at all to the first five season’s of Lazzeri, Gordon, and Randolph. RC is going to need a sustained peak to make up ground. There are positive signs though for Cano. He is just twenty-seven and figures to have about five more solid to great seasons in his projected prime. There is no reason to think he can’t improve, as he’s already had two seasons of 5+ WAR in his low and mid twenties. (One small note on that though- his TZ ratings view him as a solid fielder. UZR disagrees big time. For the sake of consistency in comparing to past players, I used TZ). Moreover, longevity can be on his side. Assuming he stays with New York through his option years, he’ll have four more years in pinstripes.

How do I see it? Robbie will need a long, sustained peak in pinstripes. Like all things with Cano though, offensive success will depend on his “luck” with BABIP. Defensively, he’s flashed signs of brilliance so he just needs to bring that talent to the field on an everyday basis. If he can prove himself to be an average fielder with a good bat, Cano will add a couple more 5+ WAR seasons to his belt. In the end, I see Robbie matching Lazzeri. He will never match Gordon’s defense, but Cano can be a good offense, average defense player, much like “Poosh ‘Em Up” Tony. However, he still has a long, long way to go.

Can Robinson Cano become the best second baseman in Yankees history?

If RC ends up a lifelong Yankee though, he will be the best Yankee second baseman in team history. While his rate stats may not compare to Gordon by that point, the longevity factor will have to be taken into account, especially if the stats are still comparable and Cano has several major accomplishments under his belt, such as 3000 career hits.

So there you have it. For a weak position in a franchise of strength and depth, legends and history, Joe Gordon is the best second baseman in team history, followed by Tony Lazzeri and Willie Randolph.

Who do you consider the best second baseman in Yankees history? And where do you see Robbie Cano compared to the second base “Big Three” when his career his over?

Sources:

http://www.fangraphs.com/

http://baseballprojection.com/

http://www.baseball-reference.com/