Hoping for a Smarter Future
There have been a number of signings to avoid salary arbitration over the past week, most notably David Bush (1/$4M), Jorge Cantu (1/$3.5M), Jack Cust (1/$2.8M), Chone Figgins (1/$5.775M), Mike Gonzalez (1/$3.45M), Kevin Gregg (1/$4.2M), Cole Hamels (3/$20.5M), J.J. Hardy (1/$4.65M), Jeremy Hermida (1/$2.25M), Felix Hernandez (1/$3.8M), Bobby Jenks (1/$5.6M), Ryan Madson (3/$12M), Nick Markakis (6/$66M), Darren Oliver (1/$3.665M), Fernando Rodney (1/$2.7M), Huston Street (1/$4.5M), Jose Valverde (1/$8M), Todd Wellemeyer (1/$4.05M), and Kevin Youkilis (4/$41.25M).
The multi-year deals always intrigue me the most as the single-season contracts are usually just compromises between what figures the team and agent submit to the commissioner's office. The latter signings don't really reflect anything more than how much. The multi-year agreements, on the other hand, are all about buying out arbitration years and, in some cases, free-agent years as well. Clubs lock up players at a discount to what they might get in the free market while players potentially forfeit money for the sake of security. More often than not, these deals are "win, win" for both sides.
Hamels, Madson, Markakis, and Youkilis all signed longer-term contracts with the position players giving up at least a couple of years of free agency as an offset to the length and certainty of their deals. I read an article or two on each of these signings and stumbled across the following on ESPN in "Sources: O's, Markakis reach deal."
His best season was in 2007, when he batted .300 with 23 homers and 112 RBIs in 161 games.
Say what? Markakis had higher batting, on-base, and slugging averages in 2008 than in 2007. In fact, the former first-round draft pick set career highs in all three rate stats (.306/.406/.491), OPS (.897), and OPS+ (134). Not surprisingly, he also posted career highs in GPA (.302) and wOBA (.389).
YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ 2006 .291 .351 .448 .799 106 2007 .300 .362 .485 .847 121 2008 .306 .406 .491 .897 134
A quick view of the basic rate stats is pretty revealing. Markakis has been getting better every year. But, just for good measure, Markakis scored more runs (106), hit more doubles (48), and drew more walks (99) in 2008 than in 2007 or 2006. He also posted career bests in Runs Created Above Average (41), Win Shares (25), and WARP (8.1). If the foregoing weren't enough, he led all outfielders with 17 assists. The bottom line is that Markakis had, by far, the most productive season of his three-year career in 2008.
So who was responsible for such a gross misstatement? I'm not sure because there is no byline attached to the story. I hope it wasn't Buster Olney, whose name was listed at the bottom of the article. In Olney's (possible) defense, "Information from The Associated Press was used in this report."
On this day of hope, let's give the benefit of the doubt to Olney and assume it was a junior reporter who came up with the conclusion that Markakis had his "best season in 2007" due to the fact that he had more home runs and RBI that year than in any other campaign. One would hope that we could look beyond those "Triple Crown" stats as a primary measure of production in this day and age when there are so many other, more meaningful metrics that are readily available and sortable.
Until the time comes when the vast majority of those responsible for reporting the news; broadcasting games; adding color commentary; voting for All-Star games; naming MVP, Cy Young, and Gold Glove award winners; and bestowing baseball's ultimate honor of the Hall of Fame are writing and talking about and analyzing the right set of numbers, we will need to discount heavily any and all conclusions made by the uninformed.