Feb
24

Silver predicts a looming A-Rod decline

By

Nate Silver has been the man about town lately. Famous within baseball circles for his groundbreaking statistical work with Baseball Prospecuts, Silver broke out in a big way when he, on his site FiveThirtyEight, predicted a Barack Obama win to the electoral vote. When he analyzes, people listen.

Yesterday, in a Baseball Prospectus story syndicated on ESPN.com’s Insider, Silver examined the future career of Alex Rodriguez (subscription required). The outcome for Yankee fans is not a positive one.

First, Silver notes that A-Rod is not an easy man to analyze. PEDs or no PEDs, his career numbers to date have been at the top of or off the charts. As Silver notes, though, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Yet, A-Rod has numerous factors in his favor. He’s very athletic; he is playing for $30 million in incentives; and he could end as he began his career with a bang. However, Silver notes that A-Rod also will suffer from age, an injury risk and the fact that, when push comes to shove, he might just not need that extra. His comparables through his current age include Ken Caminiti and Sammy Sosa as well.

The bad news for Yankee fans is this:

I took Rodriguez’s top 20 PECOTA-comparable players and averaged their performances over each remaining season of their careers…Comparables like Frank Robinson, who aged well, have a favorable effect on Rodriguez’s forecast, and players like Caminini just the opposite one.

PECOTA’s best guess is that Rodriguez will finish with 730 lifetime home runs, running out of steam after another three or four seasons and leaving him just shy of the marks established by Aaron and Bonds. Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty in this estimate. If Rodriguez follows the path charted by Aaron or Frank Robinson, he could finish with well in excess of 800 home runs (and possibly as many as 900). On the other hand, if he draws Albert Belle’s ping-pong ball, he might not top 600. Overall, the system puts Rodriguez’s chances of surpassing Aaron at only about four in 10 and of surpassing Bonds closer to three in 10.

One needs to remember the ways Aaron and Bonds finished out their careers were far from typical. At least as common are folks like Jimmie Foxx (before Rodriguez, the fastest player to 500 home runs), who hit just 34 home runs after turning 33. Only about a dozen players have hit 200 or more home runs from their age-33 seasons onward; Bonds and Aaron are the only two to have hit at least 300.

The worse news is Silver’s home run projection for A-Rod.

Season Home Runs Career
2009 33 586
2010 30 616
2011 27 643
2012 25 668
2013 18 686
2014 16 702
2015 12 714
2016 8 722
2017 4 726
2018 3 729
2019 1 730

A-Rod is committed to the Yanks until 2017. Based on Silver’s projections, A-Rod and his contract will be dead weight by the start of 2013, and he’ll still have four more overvalued years left in the Bronx.

Of course, as we all know, baseball isn’t played on computers. Chemically aided or not, A-Rod will have his fair share of opportunities to prove the projections wrong, but history isn’t on his side.

Categories : Analysis
  • pat

    I know nate is regarded as a god, but didnt Ken Caminiti also struggle with drugs and alcohol? He may have a statistical resemblance to arod but IMO thats aboout where the comparison ends. it’s difficult now to say these things but, arod seems like the type of guy who is neurotic about health and fitness, moreso than your average ballplayer. I say it’s difficult because his claim to not know exactly what steroids he took is in direct conflict with my previous statement.
    Oh well, what do I know?. Again, the answer is not much.

    • pat

      Don’t mind the canadian spelling of about, my bad.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Take off, ya hoser!

    • Tom Zig

      Don’t forget Caminiti really didn’t have half the natural talent A-rod has.

    • Ed

      Caminitti had alcohol and cocaine addictions. Then take on the steroid use. He abused his body horribly, and it killed him at 41. As you said, A-Rod seems more like the type who’s neurotic about taking care of his body.

      Of course, A-Rod also recently claimed to be taking steroids without any idea how you’re supposed to use them.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Of course, A-Rod also recently claimed to be taking steroids without any idea how you’re supposed to use them.

        Jorge Posada pees on his hands because he thinks it toughens them up.

        • Ed

          At least Jorge claims to know what he’s doing, however stupid it may be.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Yes, but Jorge has been doing that thing (peeing on his hands) for basically all of his adult life, thinking that it does something that it doesn’t do, and he never explored, investigated, or otherwise tried to test his hypothesis at all. He never once said to himself, “You know, I wonder if this whole pissing on my hands thing is worthwhile at all; I’m a multimillionaire, I could certainly try some Lubriderm or something…”

            Nope, he just kept on obliviously peeing on his hands thinking that it was helping, all evidence to the contrary. For like two DECADES. That’s a counterpoint guys like Michael Kay or Francesa should note when they call bullshit on the idea that ARod put steroids in his body for three years without ever truly knowing if or how much the steroids were helping. Baseball players do dumb shit for long stretches of time without ever investigating how or why or if that shit even works.

            • Chris

              I remember Wade Boggs always ate fried chicken before games. Can you imagine what that was actually doing for him?

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          Peeing on your hands vs. injecting chemicals via a syringe into your body.

          Not very comparable.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Peeing on your hands because you think it makes them tougher (without investigating that it actually makes them softer) vs. injecting chemicals via a syringe into your body because you think it may help you (without noticing that it may not actually be doing jack squat for you) is very comparable.

            I’m not talking about the intent. I’m talking about the disconnect between the intent and the actual results and the perceptions thereof.

            • Sweet Dick Willie

              To my knowledge, there’s no proof that avoiding stepping on the foul line increases individual or team performance, but judging by the number of players that do it, there would appear to be the disconnect between the intent and the actual results that you refer to.

              However, I do not feel that it is analogous to injecting chemicals into one’s body, disconnect notwithstanding.

              • Jim M.

                Peeing on your hands is not against the law. No comnparison.

                • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Thanks for totally missing the point and having a tangential conversation with yourself. I hope it was fun.

  • WhizzoTheWize

    The problem with a projection like this, with a player like AROD, is that the averages used to predict the future are ALWAYS lower than the averages of the player himself.

    Oh, and who is ARod most comparable to at age 32?

    Hammerin’ Hank.

  • NYY22224

    One day he is going to break all the records then as soon as some bs about him doing steroids (which really isnt a big issue since there were no rules against it at the time, and quite frankly you can make the case for just about anything from a personal trainer to a cortisone shot being a performance enhancer so cut the steroids scandal bs and get on with the game) and now he cant break aaron’s mark? please this is a joke, PECOTA is jumping on a bandwagon of haters and its making a poorly handled situation that much worse.

    also unrelated but whatever, why is no one getting on all the people who took amphetemines? are they not as bad as the roids? and really didnt they have a far bigger impact on the performance of individual players day in and day out? i think so. enough is enough with the ped’s and banned substances, congress should get back to more important things, like say the economy or afghanistan and how to deal with iran and north korea. sorry to say it but baseball isnt a big deal in the grand scheme of this country.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      PECOTA is a computer program, so it can’t really jump on anyone’s bandwagon.

      But I would agree with the assessment that A-Rod is an outlier. His career production and physical condition make him unlike Sosa and Caminiti (Sosa started late, bulked up too much to the point his legs and bat got slow while Caminiti had his demons), despite what PECOTA says about their similarities. I’m definitely not smarter than PECOTA, but I feel he’s going to have a few more 30+ homerun years left in him.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Yeah, I remember seeing PECOTA and numerous other projections saying that ARod wouldn’t make it to 755 both before the steroids scandal broke and before Bonds passed Hank and changed the ending point of the number. The statistical chances of ARod hitting 750 + homers has always been somewhere in the 20-45% range of probability, IIRC.

        Not likely (in the strict mathematical sense of the word “likely”), but certainly not impossible. It all comes down to his ability to remain healthy. Most of these PECOTA and other projections are centerd on the rarity of players remaining healthy and productive (and in the league at all) as they advanve in age. Not only is ARod relatively more healthy and athletic than his forerunners, he lives in an era that is healthier and more athletic then previous eras as a whole. Moreover, it has been ARod’s ability to remain healthy and productive that has allowed him to even get this far towards the record in the first place.

        (Possibly because of steroids and HGH, yes, but also because of increased biomedical research, better training and nutrition regimens, greater statistical analysis leading to smarter decision making regarding what keeps athletes healthy, like the Verducci effect and the debunking of the concept that playing every day is a good thing, etc.)

        But yes, nothing is promised and nothing is certain. Just ask ARod’s old runningmate, Ken Griffey Jr.

        • Chris

          “but also because of increased biomedical research,”

          aka steroids and HGH

          “better training and nutrition regimens,”

          aka steroids and HGH

          “greater statistical analysis leading to smarter decision making regarding what keeps athletes healthy,”

          like steroids and HGH

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Heh.

            • mike

              He will succeed, as unlike most older guys ( and just like Mr. Aaron did himseld) he will be blessed wih the DH role for the backside of his career

        • Count Zero

          Give the man a cigar. Projecting based on historic performance across a multitude of players and eras is nice as a guideline, but fundamentally flawed as anyone who breaks Bonds’ mark will by definition be a statistical outlier against the history of MLB.

          I don’t disagree with the 40% overall number — there are all kinds of bad things that can happen on the way to the forum. But if those bad things don’t happen, I see a comparatively healthy A-Rod hitting a lot more HRs than that between now and 2017.

    • Ed

      One day he is going to break all the records then as soon as some bs about him doing steroids (which really isnt a big issue since there were no rules against it at the time,

      How can people be this ignorant?

      There’s a law called the Controlled Substances Act. It makes steroid possession and use a felony. Baseball couldn’t make steroid use legal if they wanted to.

      If federal law bans it, it’s illegal in baseball as well. Or do you think baseball allows you to, say, pull out a gun and shoot your opponents? The baseball rulebook doesn’t ban murder, so that would be a great way to gain an advantage for your team.

      • jsbrendog

        the 86 mets did more coke than scarface. does this mean that their title is revoked?

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        There are rules against jaywalking. However, you can jaywalk right in front of a cop and they won’t arrest or ticket you. Because they jaywalk too. Moreover, a serial jaywalker does not forfeit his moral standing in the community. Because jaywalking is not a serious offense, and it’s not serious because it’s not perceived as deleterious to the community and it’s pervasive, widespread, and commonplace. The authority figures in charge of enforcing the rules mock the existence of this very rule itself, although they never question it’s validity or attempt to decriminalize the process. That’s a stark dichotomy that calls into question the moral absolutism of rules itself.

        An unenforced rule is not the same thing as an enforced rule.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

          Jaywalking is my second favorite crime.

          • jsbrendog

            and your favorite???

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

              Dude, do you really need to ask that?

              • UNION YES.

                smoke on the waterrrrrrrr

                • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

                  Frank zappa and the mothers
                  Were at the best place around
                  But some stupid with a flare gun
                  Burned the place to the ground

              • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                “I’ll kill a snitch, okay? I’m not saying I have, I’m not saying I haven’t.”

        • Ed

          If you got caught taking illegal drugs in baseball, you got suspended. Ask Steve Howe.

          Cocaine addicts were the ones usually caught, as it’s much harder to high a cocaine addiction than it is to hide steroid use.

          If you walked in Selig’s office 10 years ago, pulled down your pants, and stuck a syringe full of steroids in your ass, you would’ve gotten suspended. It’s not as simple as your jaywalking comparison.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            But this only reinforces my point: Howe and others getting suspended for cocaine while steroid abusers weren’t pursued, tested, or punished only reinforces the implied legality and acceptance of steroids. The fact that the drug policy was enforced more harshly against those using non-steroid drugs made steroids seem more permissible in comparison.

            • Ed

              Cocaine users got caught by the police, then punished by baseball in response.

              Steroid users didn’t get caught, hence the lack of punishment.

              There’s no implied acceptance there, just limited means to enforce it.

        • Jimmy

          One of the strangest things I have ever seen was these Scooter Cops setting Jaywalking traps in Pasadena. I swear, we sat there and watched as they ticketed well over ten pedestrians in under 1/2 hour. That was when I knew I had to return to NY.

      • steve (different one)

        If federal law bans it, it’s illegal in baseball as well.

        i agree with your overall point, but this analogy isn’t really correct.

        in baseball, you are allowed to bowl over the catcher on a play at the plate.

        in society, this is called “assault”.

        so no, not everything that is illegal is against the rules of baseball.

        • Ed

          If I walk up to you and say “Can I punch you in the face?”, and you say “Yes”, it’s not assault.

          There’s a level of understanding that if a player stands in the path of a baserunner, there will be a collision.

          • steve (different one)

            hmmm, good point. i have to stop saying Yes all the time.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Steve likes it rough.

      • Jimmy

        Ed is 100% right on this. To add to his point I would like to quote the Mitchell Report again,

        “Many have asserted that steroids and other performance enhancing substances were not banned in Major League Baseball before the 2002 Basic Agreement. This is not accurate. Beginning in 1971 and continuing today, Major League Baseball’s drug policy has prohibited the use of any prescription medication without a valid prescription. By implication, this prohibition applied to steroids even before 1991, when Commissioner Fay Vincent first expressly included steroids in baseball’s drug policy. Steroids have been listed as a prohibited substance under the Major League Baseball drug policy since then, although no player was disciplined for steroid use before the prohibition was added to the collective bargaining agreement in 2002.”

        • steve (different one)

          what’s the practical difference between:

          1. not against the rules.

          2. against the rules but no punishment.

          • Ed

            If you got caught using steroids, you would have been punished. The problem is unless they’re stupid, it’s hard to catch someone without their cooperation.

            • steve (different one)

              If you got caught using steroids, you would have been punished.

              A-Rod just got caught using steroids during the time when there were no punishments. he will not be punished specifically because there were no punishments in place.

              • steve (different one)

                and yes, i understand your argument, and you make valid points.

                i guess i should amend my statement:

                “what’s the practical difference between:

                1. not against the rules.

                2. against the rules but no absolutely no effort to find out who is breaking said rules and therefore no chance of being punished”

                practically, they have the same effect.

              • Ed

                A-Rod just got caught using steroids during the time when there were no punishments. he will not be punished specifically because there were no punishments in place.

                No, he’s not being punished because players only agreed to participate in the 2003 testing if the league agreed not to punish for it.

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Let me requite your quote, adding in my emphasis.

          “Many have asserted that steroids and other performance enhancing substances were not banned in Major League Baseball before the 2002 Basic Agreement. This is not accurate. Beginning in 1971 and continuing today, Major League Baseball’s drug policy has prohibited the use of any prescription medication without a valid prescription. By implication, this prohibition applied to steroids even before 1991, when Commissioner Fay Vincent first expressly included steroids in baseball’s drug policy. Steroids have been listed as a prohibited substance under the Major League Baseball drug policy since then, although no player was disciplined for steroid use before the prohibition was added to the collective bargaining agreement in 2002.”

          So:

          Before 1971, steroids were not in any way considered against the rules (in baseball).
          From 1971-1991, it was implied but not expressly stated that steroids were against the rules, if you considered steroids “medication”.
          From 1991-2002, steroids were expressly considered against the rules, but nobody was disciplined for breaking that rule.

          My comparison: Steroids is like the “neighborhood” of second base in turning the double play. It’s in the rule book that the shortstop or second baseman has to actually tag the bag while making the relay to first, but if the ball leaves his hand a little early or he doesn’t quite get his foot on the bag but just gets in “near” the bag, the umpire looks the other way and still records the double play.

          That’s what steroids were. A rule in the rulebook that everybody broke and nobody seemed to ever get in a big fuss about.

          • Chris

            The 1991 to 2002 period is more cloudy because they were “against the rules”, but those rules were not included in the collective bargaining agreement. This could be considered a situation akin to collusion if management unilaterally implemented this ban without going through the collective bargaining process.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Good point.

            • Ed

              Not using illegal drugs is part of the standard player contract, which is agreed to by the union and MLB.

              • Chris

                What exactly is the language used? I haven’t read the standard player contract, so I don’t know, but there is potentially a difference between the term ‘illicit drugs’ and ‘prescription drugs for which you don’t have a prescription’.

                • Ed

                  I don’t know the exact wording, but back when the Yankees were looking into voiding Giambi’s contract, Cashman kept saying the standard contract banned the use of “illegal substances.”

                  And for those who forget, the reason they didn’t try to void contract was because they didn’t have strong enough proof he used steroids.

                • Jimmy

                  Also from the Mitchell Report,
                  “Anabolic steroids are listed as controlled substances under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Since 2004, the dietary supplement androstenedione and other steroid precursors have been as well. That means that it is illegal to use or possess steroids or steroid precursors without a valid physician’s prescription. Violations of this law carry penalties similar to those applicable to the illegal use or possession of narcotics.”

                  It may be worth reading for anybody interested in steroid use in baseball. An interestingfact is that HGH use doesn’t carry the same legal punishment. In fact, I believe it is legal to use HGH, but distributing it without medical reasoning is illegal. Also from the Mitchell Report, “Human growth hormone was not included with steroids as a Schedule III controlled substance, however, meaning that under current federal law, there is no criminal penalty for simple possession of HGH.

                  I’m sure this fact, along with the inability to test for it in urine has players still trying it. But the Mitchell Report also states, “A number of studies have shown that use of human growth hormone does not
                  increase muscle strength in healthy subjects or well-trained athletes. Athletes who have tried human growth hormone as a training aid have reached the same conclusion. The author of one book targeted at steroid abusers observed that “[t]he most curious aspect of the whole situation is that I’ve never encountered any athlete using HGH to benefit from it, and all the athletes who admit to having used it will usually agree: it didn’t/doesn’t work for them.” The primary attraction of human growth hormone for athletes seeking performance enhancing effects appears to be that it is not detectable in any currently available drug test. In addition, because human growth hormone stimulates growth in most body tissues, athletes use it to promote tissue repair and to recover from injury.”

        • Andy

          You forget, ARod got the “boli” over the counter…

          • Jimmy

            Actually, he didn’t. It was not legal to purchase “boli” over the counter or with a prescription in DR from 2001 – 2003, same as in US. “Boli” was only available through the black market, but it has been reported that it was very easily attainable if desired, just not at a Pharmacy like ARod stated. That must have been the testosterone that he tested positive for and has still not addressed.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Unless the pharmacy in question was a black market pharmacy that was known to put shit on the counter that was illegal.

  • zack

    This projection also STARTS A-Rod at his lowest HR level since, well, 1997s. I would say that is an EXTREMELY conservative mark. Its not like this is his year 36 season, he’s going to be 33, which is still pretty far off from a reasonable decline. Furthermore, I don’t see (and granted I don’t have insider) why the justification for such a steep decline (3 hrs a year is pretty sharp for a player like A-Rod). Its not like he has shown a history of injury, or any dramatic drops offs. His weaker seasons are still HUGE.

    Sure, its possible that the analysis above could work out. But I think this is a worst case scenario rather than a probable one. Everything in A-Rod’s history points to a much longer productive career.

  • Expired Milk

    Theres no way he doesn’t have at least 2 more 40+ hr seasons.By those projections were in for a horrible contract.

  • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

    This seems horribly conservative…

    CHONE has these HR totals for the next six years for Rodriguez (these are park and league neutral so remember that):

    39 (537 ABs)
    36 (510 ABs)
    34 (483 ABs)
    31 (459)
    29 (435)
    27 (414)

    Now, I don’t think A-Rod will get that sharp a decline in ABs, so let’s look at his AB/HR rate:

    Except for the year w/29 homers, it stays pretty constant. I think PECOTA is being way, way too conservative here.

  • Chip

    The biggest problem with this whole projection system is that A-Rod’s most comparable players in the samples he uses are simply guys who had comparable seasons at his age rather than compare guys with careers similar to his. I mean his most comparable through age 32 guys are a list of who’s who in the hall of fame. You can’t compare the decline to a once in a generation talent like A-Rod to flashes in the pan like Caminiti

  • Yankees 4ever

    It did not take a genius to forecast that Obama was going to win the election.

    The one thing to realize is that anyone can create and support any argument using statistics. Looking at enough stats, I could create an argument that A-Rod will hit 40+ home runs every year for the next 9 years.

    Remember, statistics never lie, statisticians do.

    • steve (different one)

      It did not take a genius to forecast that Obama was going to win the election.

      this is a complete oversimplication of what Silver did with predicting the election.

      he didn’t just predict “Obama will win”.

      he predicted state by state results, margins of victory, etc.

      • Andy

        who cares? what does predicting the outcome of an election have to do with predicting an athlete’s performance? the two are apples and oranges…

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          The point is that his models of statistical analysis are very rigorous and tend to be rather accurate. Apples to apples. That’s not a tough point to grasp.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      “Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Mark Twain

      emphasis mine

  • radnom
    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      The gem of the quote is at the bottom (by jeff):

      “Any system that relies on comparables, like PECOTA, is going to underproject the truly elite players because they have no comparables.”

      Silver said as much himself by saying that “One needs to remember the ways Aaron and Bonds finished out their careers were far from typical.”

      He’s not saying that ARod breaking the record is impossible, just atypical, which is to say unlikely. But ARod himself is atypical and unlikely. I’d guess PECOTA wouldn’t have forecasted Bonds hitting 762 or Aaron hitting 755 or even Ruth hitting 714.

      Outliers are unpredictable. Regression analysis specifically analyzes against outliers. This doesn’t mean statistical analysis is flawed, it means that outliers are outliers and that the rare and unique can’t be predicted because it is precisely that: rare and unique.

  • steve (different one)

    and i’m going to take the over on those HR totals.

    the problem with PECOTA is that it is based on comparables, and A-Rod is an outlier.

    others have said the same thing up thread, but that’s the gist of it.

  • YankeeScribe

    Barring major injuries, ARod should have atleast 3 great seasons left in him before he begins to decline. Ken Caminiti did a lot of things off the field that shortened his career.

  • Chris

    The projection gives him a roughly 1/3 chance of passing Bonds for the home run title. While I would take issue with the projected HR totals for each year, I think that the 1/3 projection is probably pretty accurate. This is about the age that injuries can completely derail a career – just look at Griffey. It doesn’t take many injuries to end a chance at setting the HR record.

    • Drew

      I don’t have insider, so I haven’t read the article. That said, your take is quite similar to mine: 1/3 chance of breaking the record, while perhaps a little bit low, seems about right. The problem with the HR totals comes in the averaging.

      There are lots of career paths that he can follow, some completely derailed by injury, most with the gradual decline of aging. Averaging all of these and making them the projection is what makes this analysis seem iffy. Sure, Arod could hit 33 HR’s this year, but if I had to bet on the ranges [0-25] (catastrophic injury) [26-35] (mediocre performance for Arod) or [36-60], I’d have to say that the first and third are both more likely than the middle. But the average lands us in the middle category.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Nate Silver did an amazing job on the election. fivethirtyeight was a site i checked multiple times a day throughout.

    he didn’t do as well a job on the Oscars. :)

    I think the number is rather conservative as well. There’s going to be a decline, at some point, and we’re not going to be liking the final years of the contract. I think we can say that about any absurdly long-term contract, whether that may be A-Rod, Tex, C.C., or anyone else. You take the good with the bad when you sign those deals.

    When do those declines begin for A-Rod? I would hope he can perform at an amazing level until 37 or 38, then drop off to merely good.

    It’s food for thought. I’m sure if you were to grill Nate further on this, he wouldn’t even tell you it’s set in stone and that he did it for conversational purposes.

  • mike

    I personally see him more like Schmidt, where as he gets older Arod will become a more selective hitter, and perhaps an even more dangerous hitter, than he is currently.

    As I remember Schmidt always put a ton of pressure upon himself, and even though he was always thought to be an all-time great, it wasn’t until his mid- 30’s where he began to relax and became a more well-rounded hitter while still having considerable power numbers.

    Lets hope Arod offers a similar career track

    • Chris

      Mike Schmidt took greenies, so all of his career stats should be thrown out.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        And Mike Schmidt has said that if he’d have been in ARod’s shoes in Texas, he probably would have been shooting up a testosterone and primobolan cocktail himself.

        The temptation to cheat, when it’s everywhere and virtually condoned and there’s no real threat of repercussion, is great. And hypercompetitive athletes constantly look for an edge.

        • MattG

          I think there’s even more to it–the players are doing stuff already anyway. They are taking legal supplements, working with trainers, and crossing the line for greenies.

          It’s not the same as adding vaseline to a ball. It doesn’t have an immediate positive result, and its not entirely different from what you’re already doing. Yesterday I injected some B12 because I was feeling a little weak and my teammate told me it would help. Today, my trainer told me Winstrol would help even more.

          I think all the talk about competitiveness, edges, and money are off-base. There are guys in the regular neighborhood gym juicing for nothing more than vanity. If your life is trading, you will someday come across information you can’t legally use. If you life is politics, you will eventually come across someone offering a bribe.

          If your life is athletics, you will come across steroids–and it won’t look all that different than what you’re already doing.

  • robert skollar

    So A-Rod only has 2 more years of 30 or more HRs…and no 40 HR seasons?

    Where can I place my bet?

  • Expired Milk

    Arod cant do anything right it seems.Even if he hits 730 hrs it will be a disappointing career.

  • Michael

    That a star player whose career has been highlighted by unprecedented home run production would spend the last 4 years of his career hitting 8, 4, 3, and 1 home runs respectively is ridiculous.

    Look at someone like Griffey Jr., who though not as impressive as A-Rod, had astounding home run production of his own, at least through his first season in Cincinnati at age 30. Griffey has obviously had a difficult time staying healthy over the last 8 years, but even during his least productive year – a season in which he managed less than 200 ABs – he still hit 8 home runs. Not to mention he has averaged over 27 homers a year from ages 35-38. Silver has A-Rod hitting about 21 over the same age span… seemingly due to injury and decline. What comparable player of the modern era was more robbed of his potential through injury than Ken Griffey? A-Rod, who has shown to be significantly more durable at least 3 years past Griffey, is somehow going to be irreversibly robbed of his power over the next few seasons??

    Not to mention the absurdity of A-Rod even continuing to play if he is putting up single digit home run numbers… how many at bats does PETCOTA project him having during these seasons? Even guys like Ruth and Aaron, who arguably dragged on their careers a little bit at the end, only combined for ONE season with single digit home runs. Is he going to be pinch hitting or something? Get real.

    • steve (different one)

      in fairness to Nate, i don’t think those last few years are the important part of his analysis.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Yeah. If ARod is only hitting 16 and 12 home runs in 2014-2015, I think those last four years on the chart may well be 0, 0, 0, and 0. A regression that steep would probably have ARod considering retirement instead.

        In any event, I doubt ARod signs another deal after this one expires in 2017. Unless he’s still absolutely mashing it, we’ve won 7 more titles, and the idiot NYC fans who use to boo him have all done a 180 and he, and LeBron James, are the beloved co-kings of New York. (Which isn’t impossible.)

        • Chris

          If he’s around 750 HR after this contract, I would expect the Yankees to keep him around to pass Bonds record, the same way the Giants kept Bonds around until after he passed Aaron’s record.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Probably right.

            But, PECOTA notwithstanding, I think he passes Bonds long before the contract is over. If you’re giving me three scenarios where

            A) ARod passes Bonds somewhere between 2013 and 2015 and ends the contract in the vicinity of 800+ homers
            B) ARod breaks down and regresses badly and ends the contract well short of 762, like say, in the vicinity of 670 homers
            C) ARod regresses slowly and ends the contract within shouting distance of the record, like maybe 750 homers

            I’d say C is probably the least likely of the scenarios. I still think ARod motors along at his high-30’s low-40’s homer clip for at least the next four years, which would put him (conservatively) at about 700 homers by the start of the 2013 season, giving him a full 4 years (the seasons where he turns 38, 39, 40, and 41) to hit those last 63 homers. And, by then, he’ll be a DH, lessening the wear and tear on his body.

      • Chris

        but those last 3-4 years are what will make all the difference in the chances that A-Rod will break the record. Even if he averages just 12 home runs a year over the last 4 years of his contract, then his chances of passing Bonds go from ~33% to over 50%.

      • Michael

        I have to respectfully disagree…

        While you’d be right that the exact numbers A-Rod hits in his last 4 years might not be determinative of whether he passes Bonds, Nate’s analysis does depend on the reliability of PECOTA projections. And I would suggest that the fact that PECOTA “predicts” that A-Rod will spend the last 4 years of his career with such paltry production illustrates the fact that it is not a worthwhile predictor of future baseball performance.

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          And I would suggest that the fact that PECOTA “predicts” that A-Rod will spend the last 4 years of his career with such paltry production illustrates the fact that it is not a worthwhile predictor of future baseball performance.

          … for guys like ARod, who are clear statistical outliers.

          PECOTA does just fine for projecting most players. Most players aren’t freaks of nature who hit 36 home runs as a rookie shortstop

  • MattG

    I have Caminiti’s and Rodriguez’s stats open side by side. Aside from both of them using Arabic numerals, they are not similar in the slightest. No. Way. Similar.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Are you using BA/SLG/OBP/HR/RBI or neutral stats like EqA? I’m guessing the former.

  • MattG

    Here are a list of players I would expect to compare closely to Rodriguez, in no particular order:

    Infielders
    ————
    Frank Robinson
    Mike Schmidt
    Ernie Banks
    Cal Ripken
    Honus Wagner
    Rogers Hornsby

    Outfielders
    ————
    Willie Mays
    Mickey Mantle
    Henry Aaron
    Ken Griffey, Jr.

    As soon as you see the name ‘Ken Caminiti’ pop up, you have to immediately scrap what you are doing and figure out what is wrong with your modeling logic.

    • MattG

      I’m sorry, obviously FR needs to be in the OF list…

    • Andy

      Absolutely. ARod was a top prospect practically from birth, broke in at 18, absurdly young. Caminiti came up at 24, didn’t have his first season with an OPS over .700 until he was 29, and hit over 29 HRs once, his 40 HR output in his MVP year, and only had over 20 HR in 3 of his 10 full years. The fact that he used Caminiti as a comparable is laughable, and if not totally, signicantly disqualifies his analysis in my book.

  • GG

    this is coming from the same Pecota that thinks the Yanks wont win the division despite adding two allstar caliber aces at the front end of the rotation???? Yea, forget about Pecota. It may be a computer program, but it may also have some beantown bias. I would say after the Yanks clinch the division with weeks left in the year, we all get together and blog about Pecota and what a a joke it is. A-Rod breaks all records.

  • GG

    Oh…and Pecota also came out today and said that Pedroia will win the next two AL-MVP’s and batting crowns in case any of you didnt see that story

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      PECOTA was developed by Silver, who was born in Michigan (and now lives in Chicago) and is a Tigers fan. I don’t see the pro-Sox bias you think is somehow “in” the system.

      If PECOTA said that Brandon Inge was going to win the AL MVP and that Denny McLain was the best pitcher ever, then maybe I’d buy it.

      • GG

        I was exaggerating obviously, but I dont see how any system could come out with those results for the division and I wonder how much of this “computer system” is manipulated by human variables. The A-Rod thing seems almost equally ridiculous. Would anyone come out with nine years left in Michael Jordan’s career and say heres what guys comparable to him have done from that point on and here is what MJ will do? It would have been foolish, shortsighted, and in the end wrong. Arod like MJ is an alltime great and an athletic freak. How Arod trains and what he sets as his goals will dictate how many more homeruns he hits not some computer system…If Arod had hit 50 this year or if we go back and do this same nonsense after ’07 I bet its a totally different result. That wouldnt make sense either as some things you just can’t formulate and A-Rod’s HR total is one of them. The division on the other hand…I’d like to see how they came up with that because I could be wrong but I think that would require every guy on the RedSox having a career year.

  • Memo

    Wake me in 2017

  • Mike Pop

    I doubt these numbers will be correct. A-Rod is in tip-top shape. The dude mashes, I know history is not on his sided but this seems to downplay A-Rod’s talent. Am I worried about A-Rod declining? Yes, but am I worried bout him declining this much? No, not at all but I could be wrong.

  • Drew

    Give me a break, He’s shown no indication of faltering.

  • Drew
  • pat

    By 2017 we ‘ll be cheering for the New York Robo-Yankees because by then the machines will have taken over-Agent_Smith14

  • http://highandtight.blogspot.com Mr. Faded Glory

    As Silver notes, though, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

    This is without question. It’s not a “guarantee.” It’s a pretty darned good indicator, though.

  • DocBooch

    So this genius predicts the current president in a year where the incumbents approval rating was the lowest for a presedient EVER. And all of a sudden we need to listen to his drivel on baseball predictions? PLEASE, did anyone read his HR predictions? what a joke.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      You obviously don’t get it. He predicted a state-by-state breakdown to the electoral vote and the popular vote margin of victory to a few tenths of a percent of a percentage point. It was by any indication a damn fine result, and if you can’t appreciate it, you have no clue about statistical analysis.

      This also isn’t “all of a sudden.” Silver has been analyzing baseball for far loner than he has been politics. Anyway, this is just his most likely projection. It’s a percentile based upon a simulation being run a few thousand times. In many simulations, A-Rod breaks the record; in many, he doesn’t. That’s fairly obvious really. Silver’s point is that the most likely outcome is that he doesn’t break the record.

  • Zack

    12hrs? 8hrs? 4 hrs? Yeah okay.

    He’ll lose bat speed and his average will drop of course, but hes still going to hit for power. Look at Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, Sheffield, guys can hit for power as they age

  • deadrody

    Can I just say that the table showing Alex’s projected home runs is patently ridiculous ?

    Zack is 100% right.

    And, BTW, did you really need a crystal ball to foresee an Obama victory ? Certainly there was a solid contingent that didn’t want to believe he was going to win, and at that point he was quite the speculator, but after the fact, when basically every poll was saying the exact same thing, it really wasn’t much of a prediction.

    • Jack

      And, BTW, did you really need a crystal ball to foresee an Obama victory ?

      Read it again. He didn’t just predict the winner, he predicted by how much.

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  • Jay

    Bulls eye! How do you make Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols or any other MLB player have a negative value? Simple — you overpay ’em, or give ’em a contract that’s way too long.

    That’s something that the Red Sox understand and the Yankees don’t. And that’s why the Red Sox will still be beating the Yankees’ brains out with a much lower payroll late into the next decade. While the Red Sox are getting hometown discounts from player after player, the Yankees will still be carrying around A-Fraud’s contract. Brilliant…

    I gather that Cashman gets it. But until the Steinbrenners get it, too, they’re doomed to a fate of continued mediocrity.

    And hopefully that will provide me with the kick in the ass I need to stop rooting for dim-witted Goliath — I mean the Yankees.

    • Zack

      Yeah that small market ball club up in Boston nevers overpays for free agents

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