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  1. Would be much more interesting to explore how often you see guys go back and forth between good and bad seasons so extremely. We’ve got more than 100 years of data and I’d be interested in seeing what guys actually play nearly full-time and have such wide swings over four consecutive seasons from being top-tier to awful, back to the top and then back to awful again. It seems to be extremely unusual on the face of it, but I haven’t researched it at all.

    On the other hand, exploring 8 games of data about Aubrey Huff seems almost like a waste of time, at least from a “sabermetric” perspective.

    Comment by Gabriel — August 9, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

  2. No way to say for sure but Huff’s (and others’) alternating good and bad seasons may have something to do with the inability to make in-season adjustments to how teams are pitching them. If a hitter has a good season, as Huff did last year, opposing teams study that hitter’s strengths and weaknesses and try to attack those weaknesses. The hitter would then need to adjust his approach, but given his success from the previous year is reluctant or unable to make those changes in his swing or approach during the season in the heat of the battle. It is not until the off season when the hitter has more time, or less pressure, that he is able to get things worked out and is primed for another good season.

    Comment by baseballjunkie — August 9, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  3. Dead cat’s don’t bounce, generally, they just go splat.

    Comment by The Only Nolan — August 9, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

  4. ZIPS says: .261/.331/.431

    Sounds about right.

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  5. Raul Ibanez does the good/bad thing on a monthly basis instead of yearly. Beat that Huff.

    Comment by Nik — August 9, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

  6. It is kind of splitting the difference between good and bad huff though.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 9, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  7. So next year we’ll have good Huff, healthy Posey, skinny Pablo, and hopefully a major league ready Brandon Belt

    good luck phils

    Comment by pbjsandwich — August 9, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  8. Yea, that was the subtext I was shooting for. It’s a little hard to believe that there are two different versions of the guy. Just because his results showed that yoyo action doesn’t convince me that his true talent followed the anything close to that path. Math says we’re bound to find guys exactly like this who have up and down years and LOOK like they are on/off players. I’m just not seeing the true talent swing in his peripherals.

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

  9. Eh, nice narrative. Don’t buy it though.

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  10. What really drives the yoyo in the wOBA graph is this:


    06: %14.6
    07: %8.5
    08: %14.9
    09: %9.1
    10: %14.4
    11: %7.8

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  11. Yes, but what’s weird about that is the fact that he’s also hitting more fly balls those years. So he’s hitting more fly balls AND more of them are leaving the yard. To me, there’s enough on the periphery here to wonder.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 9, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  12. Sorry premature postjaculation –

    A string of HR/FB numbers like that screams good/bad luck to me. Besides his huge uptick in walks last year, everything he does seems pretty stable. His babip had a few bad years, but everyone can say that. I just don’t see a clear version of good/bad huff.

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

  13. 06: %14.6 …FB% 36.4
    07: %8.5 …FB% 37.9
    08: %14.9 …FB% 41.7
    09: %9.1 …FB% 36.4
    10: %14.4 …FB% 37.2
    11: %7.8 …FB% 36.9

    08 is a decent outlier there for sure, but I don’t see it otherwise

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

  14. I think GB/FB is better to use than FB% straight up.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 9, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  15. He is a clear yoyo when looked at through wOBA. This makes us think he is a hot/cold type player. But if I wiped your memory and showed you just his peripherals MINUS his HR/FB numbers, I’m not sure you would think anything was out of the ordinary. Then, if we can agree that his HR/FB is really just a sequence of good/bad luck years, which I’m prepared to say that’s 80% of story (I’m willing to throw the changing teams, workout regimen, new swing thought, injurys, human element, etc narrative 20% of the bone here) then we have a just another victim of the dice roll, and funky outfield walls.

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  16. Agreed – get rid of LDs. Here are his numbers:

    06: HR/FB…14.6% … GB/FB …1.23
    07: HR/FB…8.5% … GB/FB … 1.21
    08: HR/FB…14.9% … GB/FB … .98
    09: HR/FB…9.1% … GB/FB … 1.32
    10: HR/FB…14.4% … GB/FB … 1.21
    11: HR/FB…7.8% … GB/FB … 1.30

    I still don’t really see anything besides the 08 outlier

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

  17. Remember Richard Hidalgo?

    Comment by Mario Mendoza — August 9, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  18. lol

    Comment by steve — August 9, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  19. (Ignore the part about LDs, me dum)

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

  20. and rowand and zito.

    Comment by david — August 9, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  21. lol it’s not like we’re gonna be relying on them or anything

    Comment by pbjsandwich — August 9, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  22. Isn’t Huff the guy that wore the red thong for most of the season because it gave him good luck?? Didn’t Wade Boggs eat chicken every day he played a game?? I’m thinking this good Huff, bad Huff is purely between the ears. Put forth a good spoon of expectation, sprinkle in some self doubt, pour on and have a tendancy to over think your natural ability and wear a red thong until your butt is chaffed. Isn’t this why we love baseball so much??

    Comment by Hurtlocker — August 9, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  23. Wasn’t there an article not too long ago about this topic, with almost the exact same title?

    Comment by Vin — August 9, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  24. he wore it once and then it became a symbol

    Comment by pbjsandwich — August 9, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  25. If you want to look deeper into a good/bad Huff, why not include defensive analysis patterns as well to see if there might be hidden variables that contribute to an overall yo-yo effect within his game?

    Comment by baty — August 9, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

  26. Good thought, but defensive metrics already come with monster error bars

    Comment by Telo — August 9, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  27. It’s like “good naked” and “bad naked.”

    I’ll be Giants fans are tired of watching Huff try to open that jar of pickles!

    Comment by Jerry — August 9, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  28. Way past tired actually

    Comment by Hurtlocker — August 9, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

  29. Data start and end points.

    If we instead turn Huff’s “seasons” into July ’04 -June ’05, July ’05 – June ’06, etc. we get a very different picture of the player:

    Season 1: 0.176
    Season 2: 0.186
    Season 3: 0.186
    Season 4: 0.203
    Season 5: 0.222
    Season 6: 0.157
    Season 7: 0.173

    Rather than bouncing up and down we see a steady development, followed by a down year, and a rebound in the final season. This is no less a description of Huff’s performance over time than any other delineation, and yet he doesn’t appear to be as “up-and-down” as we have come to expect. My guess is a lot of players show the same career path the Huff does, except they hide it better with the standard start and end points that we use – seasons.

    Comment by James Lewis — August 9, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  30. Jackie Moore alerted me to that article moments after this pubbed, yes, but the ideas were different. He posited that last year was Huff’s bounce and that the true baseline for Huff is closer to Bad Huff. I’m saying that there are two baselines.

    We both used the unfortunate cat analogy.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 9, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  31. Slow clap, seriously. That’s a great eye there. Love. This.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 9, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  32. True, but ideally, it would be important to see, and incomplete to just assume that all players can be divided into isolated hitting, defensive, and base running performances. They may be intangible, but they are certainly meaningful connections between the three.

    Just with basics, if there are uncharacteristic, but similar patterns between BABIP, HR/FB and UZR rates, wouldn’t that speak to driving factors underneath the “luck umbrella” even just a little bit?

    Comment by baty — August 9, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  33. Lance Berkman is an interesting comp.


    04′- 6.3
    05′- 3.5
    06′- 6.2
    07′- 3.0
    08′- 7.9
    09′- 2.9

    Looks like he decided to flip flop it in 2010 (2.1) and 2011 (3.6 and counting).

    The biggest difference between Huff and Berkman: While Huff has been Good Huff/Bad Huff in alternating years, Berkman has been Good Berkman/HoF Level Berkman in his alternating years.

    Comment by jpg — August 9, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  34. Excellent point, and you never know if that partially dislocated finger that is just not bad enough to keep you out of the lineup might just be the difference between good/bad or good/HOF

    Comment by Hurtlocker — August 9, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  35. I will always be grateful to Good Huff for his contributions in leading the Giants to a World Series. To me that brought him enough goodwill to still love Bad Huff.

    Comment by Donna — August 9, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  36. So you are saying that in years he was good he struck out less, walked more and homered more? Isn’t that just like saying in the years he was better he was better? Would it not be worth it to try to explore why he has those stats? Does he have a different approach at the plate? How are pitchers pitching to him? Etc..

    Comment by Dan — August 9, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

  37. New to the “WAR” game and I am trying to understand how this works. Could someone please help with an explanation:

    Last year, Wilson Valdez served as a replacement utility player filling in for Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins battling injuries, playing 111 games. Ryan Howard had an injury plagued year, his worst in the majors, but, still batted .276/.353/.505.

    Ryan Howard’s 2010 WAR: 1.3
    Wilson Valdez’s 2010 WAR: 1.0

    Position modifiers, fielding, base running, hitting has already been taken into account in their WAR. As I understand it, a replacement player is the same player playing any position (not a replacement first base man or replacement second baseman).

    Consider the following situation:
    Team A: 2010 Philadelphia Phillies with Valdez as a utility player (1.0) and Howard as a First Baseman (1.3) = 2.3 WAR

    Team B: 2010 Phillies with Wilson Valdez (1.0) as a utility player and a “replacement player” (0) at first base instead of Ryan Howard = 1.0 WAR

    Team C: 2010 Phillies with a “replacement player” (0) as a utility player and Ryan Howard at first base (1.3) = 1.3 WAR

    Is this statistic saying that the Team C (2010 Phillies w/ Ryan Howard w/o Valdez) would finish with nearly the same amount of wins as Team B (2010 Phillies w/ Valdez w/o Howard)?

    Comment by Andrew — August 9, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

  38. Didn’t you guys already write this article in July?

    Comment by marlu — August 9, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

  39. tackled this already above. yes, but. different ideas.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 9, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  40. Yep, about a win and a half less assuming you could replace Howard with a “replacement level first baseman”. Which is basically Garrett Jones or Ty Wigginton at first. Howard is generally the poster child for where advanced stats and traditional measurements don’t see eye to eye. He plays 1B, where everyone can hit like crazy (he’s compared against Pujols, Votto, M. Cabrera, Fielder, AGon, Konerko, Tex, Dunn back when he was good, etc). He also can’t field worth shit, which costs him about 10 runs a year. Lastly, while he has huge power, he doesn’t hit for a high average or walk all that much compared to those guys so his OBP (most important stat) isn’t as great as you’d want.

    To be fair to Howard, he posted WARs of 6.2, 4.7, and a couple of 3 somethings the previous four years (good, though not elite), so last year was really bad for his standards. In the event you’re a Phillies fan, you can at least take solace in the fact that advanced stats LOVE Utley, who is probably still underrated by most.

    Comment by Clarity — August 9, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

  41. Oh, I meant a win and a half less with / without Howard. I didn’t consider Valdez since that 1 WAR isn’t at 1B.

    Comment by Clarity — August 9, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

  42. Had them last season too

    Comment by obsessivegiantscompulsive — August 9, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  43. This dispute can be quantitatively tested. Eno should run the data (i.e., drop some cats).

    Comment by Yirmiyahu — August 9, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  44. Nice analysis, nice post.

    Lewis also made a great comment as well.

    My personal theory, which I have no way to prove, that I can think of, is that, frankly, he wilts under the pressure of being “the man”.

    He’s clearly a very good hitter. His strikeout rate has been good most of his career, though this is the first season he is over 15%, so it appears that age is at minimum creeping in and diminishing him. He has also been pretty good at taking walks.

    Still, a person’s mind can do tricks to the body, no matter how good. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this once about people (particularly athletes) who “choke” (i.e. panic) in key pressure situations. I wonder if the pressure gets to him, I wonder if he’s choking.

    For example, he flopped totally with Detroit when they traded for him, and he flopped his first season with Baltimore on that contract, and he’s been flopping this season. Also, people don’t remember, but Huff struggled initially last season. A couple of days before Burrell signed, he was batting .269/.352/.423/.775, then he went on a tear for the next month or so, .315/.406/.604/1.010. He continued on a tear the rest of the season once Posey became the offensive leader, hitting .291/.393/.513/.907.

    I looked at his OPS vs. the leading OPS on his team other than him, and typically, the leader (who played most of the season, not missing large parts) had an up and down seasonal pattern as well. This season fits in when you consider that Sandoval missed a big chunk of the season, then Posey was taken out.

    And I don’t know the exact timing of your stats (and no time to check), but from what you noted, it appears that Huff’s season, per your SSS, has changed for the better around or after Beltran joined the lineup (and per my theory, took the pressure of being “the man” off his shoulder, though that could also be because that was around when Bochy moved Huff down regularly to the 7th spot in the lineup).

    No proof, but I still wonder if Huff will have his typical up year next season, once Posey returns to the lineup and takes the heat of being “the man” in the offense.

    And I’ve been wondering (hoping, really) that the acquisition of Beltran has a exponential factor on the offense, not only adding a potent bat to the lineup, but also freeing up Huff’s mind so that the lineup, in essence, added two good hitters to the lineup via the acquisition of Beltran..

    Comment by obsessivegiantscompulsive — August 9, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

  45. Maybe this is more for Mythbusters than FanGraphs, but shouldn’t we do a study to see if dead cats actually bounce?

    Comment by Tommy Lasordas Pasta — August 9, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

  46. I’m unproud to report that I got two separate confirmations on twitter from people who have tried it and found no bounce.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 9, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

  47. Nice bit of data and not statistical legerdemain on Huff’s year to year problems. The more interesting question is why and not what in my mind.

    Comment by channelclemente — August 9, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

  48. You should read this and maybe reformulate the question.

    Comment by channelclemente — August 9, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

  49. Actual d-a-t-a.

    Comment by channelclemente — August 9, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  50. HR/FB is not a luck stat for hitters like it is for pitchers. It usually just means you’re hitting the ball harder. An increase in HR/FB with no difference in average HR distance might shed some light, though.

    Comment by Oscar — August 9, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

  51. Mabe after he has a good season he spends the offseason celebrating. Put that into the computer.

    Comment by Walter Guest — August 9, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  52. Dead cats can bounce if they hit a bomb tied to a balloon or a trampoline.

    Comment by chris — August 9, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

  53. Too small of a sample size. Continue the testing!

    Comment by James — August 9, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

  54. Do live cats bounce? I mean you have to compensate for the landing on the feet thing by putting them in a kitty-straightjacket or something, but my expectation is that the coefficient of restitution of cat guts don’t change all that much after dying (at least until rigor mortis sets in, where I’d think there might even be more of a bounce.)

    As far as the title thing goes, if you’d posted the question that two Fangraph writers used the exact same title of Aubrey Huff – dead cat bounce and the second one was completely unaware of the first, you receive 100% of the guesses that the second was Mr. Sarris.

    Comment by Nate — August 9, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

  55. Hey! Jackie Moore didn’t link it to the player page. Otherwise I would have seen it. I read, like, most of FG, NotG and RG since I write on all of em. Jeez.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — August 10, 2011 @ 12:02 am

  56. “Replacement-level” depends on the position. e.g. A replacement 1B is better than a replacement SS on offence, because 1B is a position filled with sluggers and MVPs, while SS is…not.

    Comment by Bluebomb — August 10, 2011 @ 12:23 am

  57. Hey, Nate, live cats don’t bounce any better than you would.

    Comment by Juancho — August 10, 2011 @ 5:35 am

  58. Agree!!

    Comment by Hurtlocker — August 10, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  59. I wouldn’t expect a bounce or a splat – I would expect just a…hit. Like dropping a book.

    (These are the discussions that really set FanGraphs apart…)

    Comment by Jason B — August 10, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  60. What other 68-year-old no-hit middle infielders do you think will be brought in? Orlando Cabrera fit the Tejada-Renteria-Hall mold perfectly, it was a masterful signing. Mark Ellis maybe? Craig Counsell? Omar Vizquel returns to the fold? I’m curious to see Sabean’s next move…

    Comment by Jason B — August 10, 2011 @ 11:20 am

  61. I did read that article already, but good point, perhaps they are tied together.

    Maybe when pressured, he’s fishing for pitches down low that he should not be trying for, stretching his strike zone for lower pitches when he’s pressured to do well, whereas when he’s loosey-goosey, he lets the pitches come to him up higher where he can do more with it.

    Comment by obsessivegiantscompulsive — August 10, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

  62. That is the problem when you outsource for capabilities that your team has deemed to not be core competencies, you are at the mercy of the marketplace in terms of what you can reasonably pick up. It is not like you can pick up a young SS who is good without giving up something of value, and the Giants have, for the most part for years, not given up any prospect they consider of value. And time will tell on Wheeler.

    People like to beat like a dead horse, to steal another overused cliche, that they have no offense, but the reality is that current saber research finds that teams gain competitive advantage in the playoffs by having great pitching, fielding, and closer. Offense provides zero competitive advantage. Both BP and THT came to the same conclusion, from different methodologies, that offense does not matter but pitching and fielding does, in doing deep into the playoffs.

    Meanwhile, current management theory says that an organization should focus their finite resources on core competencies while outsourcing for the other skills. Putting the two together, it means in best practice, teams should ideally focus on pitching and fielding with their finite player development resources, while outsourcing what they cannot fulfill internally, which is mostly offense.

    The Giants and Sabean have done that. They have put together, mostly internally, the best rotation and closer combo in the majors, while outsourcing much of their offense and filling gaps, via free agency and judicious trades where they gave up on players they did not view as keepers. They have also tried to mix great defensive players with adequate defensive players on the field. Then finally an offense just good enough to win with the pitching and fielding.

    As I’ve shown on my blog, in a business plan, when you have the best defense (pitching and fielding, but mostly pitching) in the majors, you can still win 90 games with a very sub-par offense. That is the beauty of the Giants strategy, when you have the best pitching around, you can mix and match spare offensive parts from all over to scratch out wins with just enough offense.

    That they also look to have a good offense to go with the good pitching over the next 2-3 years, with Sandoval, Posey, and Belt in the middle of the lineup and hopefully Brown and Panik 1-2, they can afford to have Schierholtz in RF and Crawford at SS, plus someone in LF batting 6-7, is just the cherry on top. And maybe it’ll be Susac catching and Posey taking LF, should Susac sign and develop quickly.

    Comment by obsessivegiantscompulsive — August 10, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  63. According to media reports, he actually wore the thong for every game he said he would (where he predicted a 20-10 record or something like that and they did end up with that), then continued to wear that during the playoffs.

    So it was not a one time thing, Bochy noted that he had to look away a lot during that stretch, because that was not a thing of beauty to behold.

    He also got a box of them which he shared with everyone, but there were no reports of anyone joining him in this practice.

    Who knows, maybe he’s wearing it again with no fanfare, and that got him hitting again, kind of a placebo effect.

    Comment by obsessivegiantscompulsive — August 10, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

  64. “the reality is that current saber research finds that teams gain competitive advantage in the playoffs by having great pitching, fielding, and closer. Offense provides zero competitive advantage.”

    I dunno…scientific research also indicates we form our conclusions based on what we want to be true, then look for evidence to support the conclusions we’ve already reached and discount or totally disregard any evidence to the contrary. This sounds like one of those instances – i.e., our offense kinda blows, so we’ll downplay or diminish the importance of offense. :)

    But you’re absolutely right, developing young arms and/or reclaiming veteran pitchers off the trash heap and making them useful again seems to be their strong suit right now, particularly with that stadium, and they’ve built a contender using that model…may as well stick with what works!

    Comment by Jason B — August 10, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

  65. Game related:

    Comment by Bryz — August 10, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

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