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  1. how come Jeff Francoeur’s WAR in 2006 was 0.9, was everyone roiding so ther replacement was just as good as him? i think frenchies WAR in 2006 was at least as good as jheys rookie year, is it a system failure or typo-o pls look into it.

    Comment by johngomes — May 13, 2011 @ 9:06 am

  2. Well, it took all of 10 seconds for me to look into it, and he posted a sub .300 OBP that season, so mystery solved.

    Comment by eckmuhl — May 13, 2011 @ 9:12 am

  3. It’s neither — Francoeur benefited from a .450 SLG and plus defense. But he had a sub-.300 OBP.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 13, 2011 @ 9:13 am

  4. The constant wave of Frenchy defenders continues to humor and surprise me.

    Comment by Louis — May 13, 2011 @ 9:19 am

  5. He didn’t have as many web gems that year. The most important component of WAR.

    Comment by Ory — May 13, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  6. thnx ory

    Comment by johngomes — May 13, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  7. Good article. I especially like that Rance Mulliniks made the list — great random 80s infielder. Jim Gantner was cool too.

    Comment by DJG — May 13, 2011 @ 9:58 am

  8. I’d be interested to see how cost effective this strategy has actually been for teams, considering at the current value of 1 marginal win (between $4-5 million), a team just to break even in this strategy should never pay more than about $1MM* to any of these players for one year of service. Salary information is probably scarce for a lot of the sample, so it might not be possible to do this analysis, but I’d still love to see it.

    If a lot of these players were getting minor league deals in their age 27 seasons, then this strategy was certainly cost effective, but I don’t know if that is what happened. I would think teams probably overpaid due to the allure of the top prospect aura, but I don’t know.

    *0.06 x 3 WAR x $5MM = $900K
    **I understand that historically a marginal win was not $5MM, so the actual threshold would have been much lower than $900K

    Comment by Michael — May 13, 2011 @ 9:59 am


    yay his cannon arm is sexy. hes playing the gm “RIGHT” hah

    Comment by johngomes — May 13, 2011 @ 10:02 am

  10. It’s May 13th and Frenchy is still hitting .303/.350/.563. That seems worth defending to me.

    Comment by Daniel — May 13, 2011 @ 10:02 am

  11. Forgot to add in the value of the 61% (207/340) of players who were still marginally successful, which should be (assuming the rest of the sample 33% was almost worthless).

    0.61 * 0.8 WAR * $5MM = $2.44MM

    Looks like the strategy actually does make sense up to about $3.5MM per year. Unless I did the math wrong again, which is entirely possible.

    Comment by Michael — May 13, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  12. Really like the article… 6% seems like a reasonable success rate for a turnaround.

    Comment by eric_con — May 13, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  13. Very cool stuff, Michael. I did an article along the lines of what you suggest in a SABR Baseball Research Journal, looking at low-risk pitcher signings from 2002-09 (it was published in 2009). The results were similar in that the % of time the players were actually low-risk/high-reward (as opposed to medium reward or low reward), was very small, but that the teams who got these players were able to pay a very, very low $/win rate.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 13, 2011 @ 10:06 am

  14. Hell, Ben Petrick’s numbers aren’t THAT terrible… .322/.401/.466 in 2000 was BABIP aided, but the .221 ISO in 01 is solid for a catcher.

    Comment by Eric Farris — May 13, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  15. It would be interesting to compare this success rate to the success rate for AAAA players who are given major league jobs in their late 20′s. I wouldn’t be surprised if their success rate is higher than 6%.

    Comment by CJ — May 13, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  16. Brandon Phillips isnt one of the 21? He doesn’t pass the Brandon Phillips filter?

    Comment by PGS — May 13, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  17. Petrick also contracted Parkinson’s disease in 1999. He now coaches at his high school in Oregon.

    Comment by IMFink's Pa — May 13, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  18. No because he was better than the 1.6 WAR filter in one or more of his age 23-26 seasons.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 13, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  19. But THIS time it’s different!!!1!

    Comment by Jason B — May 13, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  20. “I understand that historically a marginal win was not $5MM”

    It’s not now either, there’s just been a widespread enough acceptance of an errant convention to make it so in a lot of the SABR writings.

    Comment by Jason B — May 13, 2011 @ 11:14 am

  21. Just wondering but Eric Karros debuted in 1991, as either a 24 or 25 year old. Unless I’m reading this wrong, I thought the original pool of players was 23 or younger.

    Comment by MJ Recanati — May 13, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  22. Your “baseball age” is how old you are on July 1 of the year. Karros was born in November 1967, which meant on 7/1/1991 he was still 23 years old.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 13, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  23. Gotcha. Thanks.

    Comment by MJ Recanati — May 13, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  24. I would guess that 5 or 6% of any group of players at any age, after meeting your criteria for 4 straight years, would show similar numbers for the next 3 years. If that is true, then the fact that these guys were presumably good prospects has nothing to do with what you found. Of course, a player who has done poorly for 4 years is most likely to do well subsequently during his peak years (27-29). Also, you have a self-selected sample since all of your players had to play in each of the subsequent 3 years (age 27-29) further increasing the chances that they will have had very good age 27-29 seasons. Frankly I am surprised at the 6% number. I would have thought it would be higher (given that the sample is self-selected and that you are looking at peak years). Heck, the aging curve alone plus the self-selection is enough to almost guarantee decent years at ages 27-29…

    Comment by MGL — May 13, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

  25. Rick Dempsey? By the time I was around he was already a solid contributor to some very good teams. Funny to think of him as at one time being a busted prospect. Of course, it took him until age 41 to make his pitching debut…

    I also wonder if the age range ought to be tweaked a bit for catchers since it takes them longer, as a group, to emerge from the fog of prospectdom.

    Comment by bookbook — May 13, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

  26. Interesting that Jose Bautista misses the final list only because he had a 0 WAR in his 27 yr season.

    Comment by siggian — May 13, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  27. Actually, the self-sampling you described wouldn’t be in play. The first step was gathering everyone’s information for the four-year stretch. The subsequent 3 yrs (27-29) had nothing at all to do with that. Only after I found those players were the 3 subsequent years introduced, and that’s why the sample dropped from 340 to 207 –133 of the guys didn’t play in all of the next three seasons.

    I’m onboard with everything else though.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 13, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  28. Looking at the list of “successes” I think the best that can be said is that a busted prospect has a chance to become a good, not great baseball player.

    Comment by Blue — May 13, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  29. Question for Eric: Did you consider using any other criteria for determining who was a top prospect? Perhaps using some top 100 prospect list(s)? I realize this would limit the sample to players from the last few years or so, but I don’t think setting the standard at players that made their first appearance by age 23 is necessarily reflective of which players were perceived as top talents…

    Comment by Bgaw — May 13, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  30. Yeah, definitely considered, but I didn’t want to limit the sample as you pointed out, and I felt it was more likely than not that a player debuting before 23 yrs old would be touted by the org. Sure, guys like Kyle Kendrick are also brought up early, but it seemed plausible that the majority were guys WORTH bringing up at the young age. Plus I wanted to find a way to keep age as a constant as opposed to using strictly the lists of others to fuel the sample. Your idea is def intriguing though.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 13, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  31. I am convinced that the writers on this site have some bizarre and unhealthy fixation on Jeff Franceour – have you noticed that these guys out of their way to mention him in almost every single article?

    Comment by Random Gay — May 13, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

  32. No.

    Comment by Conrad — May 13, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  33. no

    Comment by rob norton — May 13, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  34. Um, Josh Hamilton was a totally busted prospect who became MVP later, I’d say that’s pretty great.

    Comment by Sun king — May 13, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  35. Sure if you ignore the fact he never even got a chance to play in the majors. If he never had drug problems, he never would have even had a busted prospect label. That’s different from being a bust due to just not playing baseball well. Busted prospectus due to extenuating circumstances can become anything including stars such as Josh.

    Comment by Merli — May 14, 2011 @ 1:43 am

  36. Huh.

    I’d be interested to see a “later bloomers” version of this — instead of limiting to the three years after 26 years old, limit to players from the initial set who later put up three consecutive years in the majors with a WAR greater than 1.6.

    I think that achieves the same aim, but allows for players who put up such years at 28-30 or 29-31 (etc.) instead of 27-29.

    Comment by jorgath — May 14, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  37. I think this is a really questionable assumption. Intuitively, it doesn’t strike me as true at all — particularly if we’re focusing on highly touted prospects instead of just those considered potential regulars.

    All this tells us is that sometimes, players struggle in their early 20s and then break out in their late 20s. I don’t think it in any way tells us that the players who do that were necessarily highly touted prospects.

    Comment by AF — May 14, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  38. AF you do not get to come up unless you destroyed the minors. Destroying in th minors when your 20 or 21 will make you a top prospect.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — May 14, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

  39. yes

    Comment by DownLowenstein — May 14, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

  40. I don;t get this article at all. You’re looking at only the players who “stuck around” (presumably by not being that terrible) and then saying that yep, those guys who stuck around weren’t that terrible. Where is the information here? It’s the definition of selection bias.

    Comment by evo34 — May 17, 2011 @ 5:09 am

  41. How do you operate the machine you used to send this message?

    Comment by Paul — May 17, 2011 @ 5:35 am

  42. Rance Mullinks hit the first foul ball I ever caught. I love Rance sightings…or in this case, citings.

    Comment by TribeFanInNC — May 18, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

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