Center of Attention in So. Cal
One year after committing big money to centerfield, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels have committed big money to, uh, centerfield.
On its own, I am not against this. If a team determines a given player to be an improvement and it makes sense financially to acquire the player regardless of positional incumbents, more power to them. Frankly, in the Dodgers case, ignoring the disaster that is Juan Pierre would be crazy. Unfortunately, I fear they may do something crazier; move Pierre to left.
But let's look with some historical perspective to try and deduce the likelihood that the Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones transactions work out.
Hunter has a career OPS+ of 104 and a figure of 112 since the 2004 campaign. He will be 33 years-old for the 2008 season. He was signed to a five year contract, so let's have a look at how some other center fielders have fared in their 33-37 campaigns.
Centerfielders with an OPS+ above 104 in their 33-37 Seasons
Years OPS+ W. Mays '64-'68 158 J. Edmonds '03-'07 137 B. Butler '90-'94 120 B. Williams '02-'06 110 R. Yount '89-'93 110 B. Anderson '97-'01 109 S. Finley '98-'02 106 **Minimum of 600 games played
As you can see, since 1957 only three centerfielders in their 33-37 seasons have matched or bettered Hunter's 112 OPS+ that he put up from 2004 to 2007. Just seven have even managed to reach his 104 career mark during these years.
Jones will be 31 for the 2008 season and he is coming off a year in which he posted an 88 OPS+. He signed a two-year deal with the Dodgers. Since 1957, nineteen centerfielders who have managed to play at least 225 games in their 31 and 32 campaigns have equaled or bettered Andruw's 116 OPS+ that he notched from 2004 to 2007. Just three managed the feat coming off of a sub-100 OPS+ year in their 30 year-old season while just one had an OPS+ below 90 as Jones did.
Season OPS+ B. Anderson 1994 96 D. Henderson 1989 98 W. McGee 1989 76
There are those out there crediting the Dodgers because they did not make a long-term commitment to Jones. I am not sure I agree with this, however. $18 million is a lot of money tied up in one player for a given season, and there is no guarantee that Jones bounces back to his old form. If history is any guide whatsoever (hint; it tends to be) Jones will have a tough time becoming the player he was before 2007.
Finally, and this applies to both players, it should go without saying that their respective defensive value figures to plummet as they get on in years. Jones may retain a good chunk of his skill but as Hunter approaches his mid-30's it's hard not to imagine a very painful decline phase that the Angels will have to endure.
I think both signings were a mistake.
- Patrick Sullivan, 12/8/2007, 5:22 PM EST
For my upcoming article on Monday, I used a metric (SLGSWING) that measures the value of a swing based on total bases per swing. While I don't really go in depth with the metric in the article, I think it's pretty neat, so here are the top and bottom 10 for the stat, which is just total bases/total swings taken. The top of the list is mostly populated by the usual good hitting suspects, especially guys who don't swing and miss too much, while the bottom is also pretty typical.
Name SLGSWING Swings Moises Alou 0.252 559 Alex Rodriguez 0.251 1188 Albert Pujols 0.245 1032 Chipper Jones 0.244 972 Barry Bonds 0.243 630 Jeff Keppinger 0.241 390 Hanley Ramirez 0.239 1154 James Loney 0.239 624 Jorge Posada 0.238 902 Scott Hatteberg 0.236 568 ================================ Chris Woodward 0.118 272 Ryan Langerhans 0.117 426 Joe Borchard 0.117 392 Carlos Quentin 0.116 508 Paul Bako 0.115 305 Jerry Hairston 0.114 325 Jason Phillips 0.111 297 Andy Gonzalez 0.109 359 Adam Melhuse 0.107 206 Jason LaRue 0.082 404
A hitter has three major jobs when he is at-bat. He has to recognize if the pitch is a ball or strike, make contact with the strikes he swings at, and drive the pitches he makes contact with. I think that this stat gives a more granular picture of both bat control and strike zone judgment than other metrics because it's based on the individual swings rather than at-bats. Players scoring well with this measurement are getting the most out of each individual swing they take. I think somehow incorporating called strikes and balls into the value would give a better indicator of batting eye.
There's one odd name at the top, and I might be late to the party on this one, but I've never heard of Jeff Keppinger. Maybe he's near the top of this list because MLB pitchers haven't figured out how to pitch to him yet, but for a utility infielder with his minor league track record, it seems like he would warrent a consistent spot on an MLB roster somewhere.
- Joe Sheehan, 12/8/2007, 6:30 PM EST