Mailbag: Boesch, $200M, Harper, Slash Lines

Cabrera & Posey take home MVP honors
What Went Right: David Phelps

Got five questions for you this week. Make sure you use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at any time.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Mark asks: If the Tigers end up with Torii Hunter, this probably means the end of Brennan Boesch‘s time in Detroit. Any sense taking a flier on him?

Obviously this was sent in before the Tigers signed Hunter. Boesch, 27, hit .283/.341/.458 (117 wRC+) with 16 homers in 472 plate appearances last year before thumb surgery ended his season. I picked him as a breakout candidate this year — manager Jim Leyland said he was going to hit second between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera, and while lineup protection doesn’t exist to the extend usually portrayed, I do believe it’s a factor in the case of elite hitters like Miggy — and he rewarded me by hitting .240/.286/.372 (77 wRC+) with 12 homers in 503 plate appearances. I sorta hate him for that.

With five outfielders now on the roster — Austin Jackson, Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry, Avisail Garcia, and Hunter — there’s talk that the Tigers may non-tender Boesch this winter rather than pay him a projected $2.1M salary next season. I believe he has a minor league option left, so they could just send him down and make him a well-paid Triple-A insurance plan. I do think the Yankees should take a look if Boesch does get non-tendered, especially if they get him on a minor league deal and can stash him in Triple-A for a while. With Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte, and Chris Dickerson still around though, I’m not sure they could let more of these fringy outfield types chew up 40-man spots.

@aradmarkowitz asks: What players in baseball right now, would you take a on a 10/200 contract right now? I say Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw.

Those four are the obvious candidates, though Strasburg wouldn’t be a slam dunk for me given his injury history. It’s not just the Tommy John surgery, he also spent time on the DL with shoulder inflammation in 2010 and had a knee problem way back in college. I’d take the plunge given his age (24), but I feel more comfortable giving it Kershaw. I think the only other guy I’d consider signing for ten years and $200M right now is Buster Posey because he’s still so young (25) and athletic enough to play another position if needed. Plus, you know, he’s awesome. Andrew McCutchen is in this discussion as well, maybe even Giancarlo Stanton.

Drew asks: Do you think that Bryce Harper deserved the ROY? Seems like he was rewarded based on the hype surrounding him, and not on his actual numbers. Frazier had better numbers and he finished 3rd!

Harper: .270/.340/.477 (122 wRC+) with 22 homers and 18 steals in 597 PA
Frazier: .273/.331/.498 (121 wRC+) with 19 homers and three steals in 465 PA

Frazier didn’t have better numbers, if anything they were equal. Harper is also six and a half years younger (!), which I take into consideration. A 19-year-old doing what Harper did is far more impressive to me than a 26-year-old doing what Frazier did. I thought Harper should have won and would have had Wade Miley second on my ballot, but I wouldn’t have argued much if you had the two reversed. Frazier probably would have been third, but I also would have considered Norichika Aoki as well even though I hate that Japanese league veterans are considered rookies. The rules say they are though.

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

Philip asks: Mike how do you think your understanding and analysis of the game has changed/grown since the site started?

It’s both changed and grown exponentially. I used to not be much of a stats guy at all, even back when we started the site in February 2007. I was a total jerk about it too, which I kinda regret. I understood that OBP was important and that pitcher wins and RBI weren’t the best way to evaluate players, but I didn’t take the time to fully grasp things like park effects and DIPS theory and different eras and leveraging relievers, stuff like that. Understanding context was the other big thing and I think it’s still lacking in most baseball writing, especially when dealing with the minor leagues.

Joe and (to a lesser extent) Ben slowly looped me into the world of advanced stats and the problem was that I just didn’t understand them. I didn’t want to early on, so I didn’t make much of an effort. There are some pretty great ways to measure a player’s performance and everyone is welcome to pick their favorites. For example I prefer wRC+ for hitters because it’s one easy to understand number (100 is league average, 120 is 20% better than league average, 80 in 20% worse, etc.) and it’s adjusted for both park and league. Simple, right? The idea of WAR is a good one but the execution isn’t great, mostly because the defensive metrics aren’t completely reliable. I use it directionally (this guy is above-average, this guy is below, etc.) but I don’t take the actual number to heart. The different between a 5.5 WAR player and a 5.0 WAR player is negligible and not worth arguing about. That level of accuracy doesn’t exist within the stat.

Obviously I’ve learned a ton since we started RAB and baseball’s one of those things where you just keep learning about every day. It’s like everything else in life, not a day goes by without learning something new. I’ve found that the more I learn about baseball the more I both enjoy and dislike watching it, if that makes sense. It’s neat to understand the value of a stolen base in a particular situation or understand why David Robertson is more valuable to the Yankees in the eighth inning instead of the ninth, but at the same time I can’t watch a sacrifice bunt without rolling my eyes. I’ll take being informed and frustrated at times over just “enjoying the show,” so to speak. My level of appreciation for the game has skyrocketed.

GB asks: Would you rather have a player that hit .350/.350/.350, a player that hit .280/.350/.470, a player that hit .050/.500/.050 or a player that hit .200/.300/.900?

This is a decent follow-up to the last question, no? My preference would be …

  1. .200/.300/.900
  2. .280/.350/.470
  3. .350/.350/.350
  4. .050/.500/.050

I remember reading something this summer that showed SLG actually correlated better to runs scored than OBP over the last five or six or however many years it was. I wish I could find it now. That’s not why my top choice is the .200/.300/.900 guy though, it’s just that the power numbers are so extreme. A .700 ISO? That’s insane. The largest ISO in baseball history is .536 by 2001 Barry Bonds, and no one else is over even .455 since Babe Ruth. If you offered me .200/.300/.600 instead, I probably would have had that guy second.

The #2 and #3 guys have the same OBP, so I’ll happily trade some batting average for more power. More hits are nice, but at some point you need to be able to drive yourself in or get a man home from first base with one swing. Stringing together a bunch of singles to score a run isn’t as easy as many people seem to think it is. The #4 guy has to be like, three feet tall or something. If you can’t hit the ball you won’t get challenged and the walks (and hit-by-pitches) aren’t going keep coming to maintain that OBP.

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Cabrera & Posey take home MVP honors
What Went Right: David Phelps
  • Slugger27

    What does age have to do with who should win the RoY?

    • Mister D

      Its more historically impressive for a 19 year old to put up big numbers than a 25 year old.

      • Slugger27

        ….right. no shit.

        didn’t answer the question.

        • Mister D

          It does unless you’re taking the stance its an non-includable variable.

          • Slugger27

            from what i can gather, age has nothing to do with the voting criteria. and why should it? every google search says the same thing: that its awarded to the rookie deemed to have the best season.

            not saying it wasn’t harper… but mike bringing up age comes across as “i cant think of another good reason why theyre separated so much so ill throw the age thing out there”

            in my opinion, the amount of games and at bats should be the tiebreaker.

            • Mister D

              I don’t think its explicitly included or excluded, the only guidance is the service time, IP and PA limits, so it shouldn’t be invalid reasoning, right? Not universal, but not wrong either.

              • Tom O

                I’d agree, some voters might feel that doing what harper did does indicate he had a better season, by the logic that he played at a better pure level, due to being so young but matching a player like Frazier. I’d happen to agree with that assessment. If it was just a year or two I might feel differently, but Harper is over six years younger, that’s a huge difference.

              • PBFog

                And your post is like, “I want to leave the impression that I grasp grammer, but am too hip to employ capital letters and apostrophes”.

                • Slugger27

                  huh?

    • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Drew

      I should have included in the question, that Frazier’s numbers look better because he put him the same stats in 100+ fewer plate appearances.

      Age factors in, but eh it’s a huge factor at least to me.

      Love Harper, hope he signs with the Yankees someday but I still don’t agree with the NL ROY.

      • Mister D

        Similar to the Trout/Cabrera debate, right? One had the better power numbers, the other had a small OBP lead plus the advantage in position, defensive production and basestealing.

      • Ted Nelson

        “Frazier’s numbers look better because he put him the same stats in 100+ fewer plate appearances.”

        I would say the opposite. wRC+ is not a “counting stat.” It’s more impressive to put up the same wRC+ over more PAs. His HRs are more impressive, but that’s just one component of power… and not a park adjusted one.

  • Mister D

    Wouldn’t SLG logically correlate more closely with runs than OBP because it contains like 75% of OBP inside of it?

    $200MM/10Y game …

    Agree Yes: Trout, Harper, McCutchen, Posey (next Biggio), Stanton
    New Yes: Heyward, Machado
    Maybe: Longoria, Kershaw (hips are now scary)
    Pending: Profar (want to see him a bit more)
    No: Strasburg (injuries)

    • Mister D

      (Followup on the 1st part. Last season, OBP had a .787 correlation with runs per game, isoP had a .745, so its still ok to say getting on base is slightly more important than power.)

      • Rivera Venue Blues

        What isoD vs. isoP?

        • Mister D

          I did BB% instead (isoD gets all weird denominator-y). Almost no correlation, .044. 6 of the top 10 teams in runs per game ranked in the bottom 1/3 of the league in BB%.

          (Fun bonus correlations and nonsense: SBs have a slightly negative correlation to RS, -0.06, while SB% is positive at 0.15. SH are -0.11. SO% is -0.35 BUT SO% has a 0.26 correlation with HR% so its really striking out without HR offsets that are bad. And only one player in the top 65 in SO had single digit HRs. Michael Bourn.)

    • mitch

      you would give 200 million dollars to manny machado?

      • Mister D

        I am of the belief he’s the closest thing to A-Rod since A-Rod. To be non-staty for just a second, he simply looks different and better than most guys on the field.

      • Mister D

        (Also, I was taking this as a speak-now-or-forever-be-without exercise. I would bet very hard on Machado having a great career.)

  • a realist

    “I can’t watch a sacrifice bunt without rolling me eyes”

    I appreciate the effort and information, Mike. what you do is not easy and you do it very well. I just can’t read that sentence without slapping my forehead.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Thanks for your counter argument. Really opened my eyes to your side of the discussion.

    • pat

      Axisa has earned the right to talk like a pirate ye scurvy dog.

  • Pat D

    …even though I hate that Japanese league veterans are considered rookies. The rules say they are though.

    This is one of the reasons that I had strong dislike for Ichiro Suzuki for the longest time. He comes in and wins ROY (not mention MVP), and Kaz Sasaki had won it the year before, and no one says anything. Hideo Nomo had won several years earlier, too.

    Then all of a sudden Hideki Matsui shows up, but he plays for the Yankees and not somebody else. So a couple of voters decide to blatantly ignore the rules and don’t even consider Matsui. Then they both issued statements trying to defend their positions. They played the roles of “activist voters.”

    So that always pissed me off.

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Sounds like an ok reason to be annoyed by the people drawing the distinctions, but not the guy innocently affected by the whole thing. Ichiro didn’t write the rules or do the voting.

      • Pat D

        Oh, of course not. It was irrational. I just always thought that everyone treated Ichiro like he was the second coming and I always thought he was overrated.

        • Mister D

          Ummm … yeah. Pretty sure you’re not allowed to admit personal irrationality (or any fault) on a message board.

          • Pat D

            I don’t conform.

        • JonS

          Wait what? You thought a player with 10 consecutive 10+ hit seasons and 10 consecutive gold gloves was overrated? How many other players in history have down that?

          • Mister D

            Greg Maddux and Jim Kaat?

            • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Drew

              +1

  • Sayid

    The “I have to vote for Aoki because he’s a rookie” sort of goes against your “Harper is a much better rookie than Frazier because he’s so much younger.” If a rookie is a rookie, why does age matter? The award is for most the impressive player in that season out of players who are competing in their first season in the MLB, not most impressive young player with the brightest future.

    That said, I have no problem with Harper winning, though Frazier and Miley would’ve made fine choices as well, I just don’t necessarily buy the logic and agree with Drew’s “hype” assessment regarding the voting.

    • Jim Is Bored

      It depends, if you consider the Japanese league to be equivalent to the Minors, then yeah it’s logically inconsistent.

  • stu phillips

    Are the yankees finish next yr ?

    • jjyank

      No, but your English lessons clearly are.

    • I Live In My Mom’s Basement

      Estonian, perhaps.

  • Bob Buttons

    Possibly not by a coincidence, the ranking for the four players are ranking in accordance to OPS.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      That’s a coincidence, I didn’t even notice.

  • greg

    Mike Morse, do you guys think we can get him and what do you think we would have to give up. Im just thinking cause hes a year away from free agency and they have moore behind him on the depth chart. right handed outfielder with pop seems like a good fit, for us at least

    • Mister D

      If you go outside and throw a ball at your house or apartment or whatever, that building’s odds of catching the ball rather than having it bounce off are about equal to Morse.

      • Dave in VA

        Just be careful that the section of building you choose to throw against isn’t covered in ivy or something. I remember Thomas Boswell’s stories about the baseball-eating wall.

  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

    I hate that Japanese league veterans are considered rookies. The rules say they are though.

    Except when they’re playing for the Yankees, then all of a sudden he’s not a true rookie. (am I the only one who still holds a grudge against the BWAA for that one?)

  • Tom O

    Can you even have a .900 SLG with a .200 batting average? I may be making a silly mistake here, but if you hit .200 (lets say 20 hits in 100 at bats), and each hit is a home run, you would get credit for four bases for each hit, which would give you a .800 SLG:

    20 hits/100 AB = .200 batting average
    ((0 1B)+(0 2B)+(0 3B)+(20 HR))/100 AB = .800 SLG

    So the maximum SLG is four times your batting average, the same way that a 1.000 batting average has a maximum 4.000 SLG, in the case of a line like 1-1 with 1 HR (1.000/1.000/4.000).

    • Tom O

      So to clarify, the maximum SLG for a .200 BA would be .800. Any higher, and you’d somehow have to get more than four bases on some of your hits.

      • I Live In My Mom’s Basement

        You are correct.

        • Mister D

          Then I’d definitely take the .200/.300/.900 guy just to see how he did it.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

      A five-base homer

      #mathishard.com

      • KeithK

        He hits the ball so far that after he rounds the bases and scores they let him keep going to first base.

    • Bob Buttons

      Don’t see any flaw in your logic there.

  • Bubba

    “I remember reading something this summer that showed SLG actually correlated better to runs scored than OBP over the last five or six or however many years it was.”

    That would make sense since a walk rarely drives in a run while I’d imagine a XBH has a pretty good chance to.

    • Ted Nelson

      A hit counts towards OBP the same as a walk… If no one gets on base, the only xbh driving in a run in a HR.

  • Steve nj

    Sign Brennan boesch cheap for the pay roll plan coming up, think he a decent replacement for swisher

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      Boesch was pretty horrible last year-well below average defensively in RF, putrid .286 OBP and .288 wOBA, a well below average 77 wRC+. You gotta get much more than that from a corner outfielder.

      He was decent in 2011 so maybe as a 4th outfielder but you usually want that player to be able to run or play good defense and he does neither so I think I’d pass on him.

      • Now Batting

        Sounds just like Swish when we traded for him.

        • Mister D

          If you ignore Swisher’s track record prior to his down year in Chicago, absolutely. If you don’t, nope.

          • Now Batting

            Boesch had a 117 wrc in 2011 and is younger. Not saying you could replace him with Swisher and not miss a beat, but I don’t think you can write him off either.

      • Mister D

        A decent sized portion of our fanbase seems to really, really underrate Swisher’s contributions. He’s not a star, but he’s the next tier and he’s consistent about it. > 600 PAs every year as a Yankee, never outside of the 75th percentile in wOBA. Brennan Boesch does not replace that.

        • Ted Nelson

          Totally agree that he doesn’t replace Swisher, but could be an interesting buy-low candidate.