After Adam: The Leftover 1B/DHs

As Dave noted yesterday, Adam LaRoche‘s recent deal with the Diamondbacks puts the remaining first base/DH types still on the market on notice: there aren’t many spots left, and the contracts aren’t going to get any bigger. It’s not the most “scientific” method out there, but let’s use LaRoche’s contract and projected value as a baseline for some of the 1B/DH types remaining on the market. It might be illuminating in its own way, particularly given the ambiguity in the free agent market in general this offseason.

For offensive projections, I’ll use CHONE’s context-neutral linear weights per 150 games. For defensive, I’ll use Jeff Z.’s (Jack’s long-lost cousin) UZR projections.

Starting with our “baseline”: LaRoche’s contract is reportedly $4.5 million with a $1.5 million buyout for 2011, so six million dollars guaranteed. CHONE has LaRoche as a +7/150 hitter for 2010, and defensively Jeff has him at -1/150. +7 hitter, -1 defender, -12 prorated positional adjustment for 1B, + 20 replacement level = 1.4 WAR player. Both CHONE and the Fans project LaRoche for almost 150 games. Dividing the six million guaranteed dollars by 1.4, we get about four million dollars a win.

So who are the rest of our contestants on the first base/designated hitter game of musical chairs? [To avoid repetition, simply assume -12 position and +20 replacement for each player.]

Russell Branyan: +15 hitting, average defense. Of course, if Branyan was likely to play 150 games, he would have been signed for pretty big money by now. Fan Projections have him playing 118 games; CHONE is less optimistic, projecting 103. Splitting the difference, let’s call it 110, which would mean about 1.7 WAR — the best player here. Given our “LaRochian baseline,” 1.7 WAR would cost about 1/$6.8M or one year. He might make sense for the Mets if they are serious about contention this year. They have the money and could get Branyan for one year — even 100 games of Branyan is probably worth one marginal win over Daniel Murphy at first, and with Carlos Beltran missing the first month of the season or so, the Mets will need every win they can get. I wonder what he turned down from Seattle?

Jason Giambi: +8 hitting, -6 fielding = 1 WAR, but the fans project him for 80 games, and CHONE for only 100, so he’s closer to 0.5 WAR. I’d be surprised if anyone gave him two million dollars guaranteed. His fielding stats imply that he’s better off as a DH. How many platoon DH spots are there?

Jim Thome: +11 hitting, no defense (DH-only -17), 1.4 WAR. Closer to 1 WAR after adjusting for playing time. Thome is better than Giambi, but won’t play first under any circumstances. He’s definitely near the end of the line, but I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more talk about him. If he’s willing to take a big pay cut (to around $4 million), Thome might actually make sense for the White Sox, unless they really think Andruw Jones is going to hit enough to DH full-time (or play in the outfield full-time while Carlos Quentin DHs, which seems unlikely).

Ryan Garko: +8 hitting, -3 fielding = 1.3 WAR. CHONE projects him for 130 games, so 1.1 WAR. LaRoche’s contract implies 4 million dollars. We’ve been over the Giants’ foolish decision to non-tender Garko before. No, Garko isn’t a star, but he’s at least a decent stopgap. At 29, he’s probably not going to fall off of a cliff. If you are surprised he projects as a better hitter than LaRoche, keep in mind that Garko has spent most of his time facing the superior pitching of the American League, while LaRoche has been (aside from a few weeks in Boston) an NL guy. Given that Garko was just going into arbitration for the first time this off-season, the team acquiring him would also have him under control for the following season. Once that is factored in, Garko might end up being the best “value deal” left on this list, and could fit into plans for a variety of teams.

Carlos Delgado: +1 hitting, -2 fielding = 0.7 WAR. Over 120 games, 0.6 WAR. I’ve always liked Delgado, but given his age and injuries, I’m not sure he’s worth it at this point unless he’s willing to take a minor league deal. Some team will probably pay him for his “veteran presence.”

Hank Blalock: -3 hitting, -2 fielding = 0.3 WAR. Do you really think Blalock’s going to play 150? Six years ago, it seemed like he and Mark Teixeira would be torching the AL West for years to come. Tex is a superstar in pinstripes, while Blalock looks like he’s done. I’d say he’ll be lucky to get a major-league deal, but you never know.

Fernando Tatis: -3 hitting, +1 fielding (TotalZone) = 0.6 WAR. Over 120 games, 0.5 WAR. Tatis has also played left field, so might be closer to a 1 WAR player. He fit on a team that needs a right-handed bench bat that can play 1B and some OF, and has been mentioned in connection with Seattle.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

18 Responses to “After Adam: The Leftover 1B/DHs”

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  1. JayCee says:

    Garko +8, LaRoche +7

    Yeah right.

    Giambi +8?

    You guys have it in for LaRoche, don’t you?

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    • joser says:

      Yeah, it’s a big conspiracy. Every year fangraphs picks one player and one team to hate arbitrarily. Congratulations, you’ve figured it out and so win the easter egg.

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      • JayCee says:

        Well, I’m trying to figure out another way any sane person could claim Giambi and Garko are better hitters today than LaRoche.

        LaRoche’s OPS, production and production per AB are much higher than Garko’s. Giambi hasn’t put up better numbers in 3 years, a meaningful notion given Giami’s age.

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      • JayCee, et. al:

        As the commetator below (Jon) says, these are not my personal opinions, but CHONE projections ( He isn’t throwing these numbers out there — he has done a lot of research on aging curves for each component, park factors, league difference, body types, speed etc., and applies the same principles in a program for all players. I won’t speak for him.

        My own (much simpler) projection system has LaRoche ahead of Giambi as a hitter, but not by much:+9/150 vs. +7/150. That might seem crazy, but without getting into the necessity for a weighted average, regression to the mean, aging adjustments, the AL’s superior pitching (CHONE’s lwts numbers are context-neutral), let’s just look at the last three seasons hitting stats for each player:

        From 2007-2009 LaRoche had 1815 PA, for a .353 wOBA (117 wRC+). He created 37.9 (park adjusted) batting runs above average during those seasons — per 630 PAs, that’s 13 runs above average.

        As for Giambi, from 2007-2009, over 1227 PAs, Giambi had a .355 wOBA (118 wRC+). He created 27.6 rusn above average, but in far few PA, so his batting runs per 630 PAs is slighlty higher than LaRoche’s during hte same period — +14/630.

        That’s not all that’s involved in projection (and the league differences are probably a big factor in Rally’s projections), but I think we can all agree that one should look at more than one seasons of data — and once one does that, it doesn’t seem so ridiculous.

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      • pounded clown says:

        When a middle of the pack talent over values themselves and so turns down 17 mill. for 2yrs. from a decent team in a nice city, the snarky script writes itself. If fangraphs has it in for him, then I tip my cap to them. He deserves the MLB equivalent of a Darwin Award.

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  2. Dave says:

    I knew it !@ Man i wanted that easter egg. Next year !

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  3. Nate says:

    It was the royals last year wasn’t it

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  4. Mark says:

    When Delgado did play last year, he was the one guy that actually hit in Citi Field. I think the Mets should bring him back if he was willing to take a reduced deal.

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  5. Bronnt says:

    What, no Ryan Klesko?

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  6. Jon says:

    @JayCee: Matt is using CHONE’s predictions, not any FanGraphs prediction. I personally don’t like CHONE and I feel that some hitters predicted to do strangely bad using CHONE (Holliday, LaRoche).

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    • In the case of LaRoche’s projections as currently displayed on FanGraphs, I think they are the league and park neutralized versions from before LaRoche was signed. If you look on CHONE’s page where he has LaRoche’s line adjusted for ARI and the NL [], you’ll see that the three-slash is much more generous to account for him being in the NL as opposed to a “neutral” leaguye, and also to account for Arizona’s hitters park. The context-neutral linear weights are the same.

      It also might be worth reading up on regression to the mean:

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      • JayCee says:

        There is something wrong with the algorithm if it can essentially overlook Giambi’s age and the fact he is now 3 full season removed from an OPS higher than LaRoche’s, and further that that long-ago season was in a Yankees Stadium which was, at least in the real world, itself favorable to left-handed batters. I’m a fan of Giambi’s, but this algorithm wants me to somehow ignore approximately 5 years or so.

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      • Again, JayCee, I don’t know exactly how CHONE doesn’t things (I wish Sean was here), but I can promise you this: it is NOT overlooking Giambi’s age. There are other factors.

        Maybe the problem is that you’re focusing on OPS. Well, CHONE actually does project LaRoche for a higher OPS than Giambi in 2010. However, as you probably know, OPS isn’t a great run estimator in itself because it underweights OBP. That’s why FanGraphs and elsewhere uses wOBA, which properly weights each event. Giambi’s superiority in getting on-base (reflected in the numbers I cite above, which show Giambi as the superior hitter the last three years combined) is the difference.

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    • MBD says:

      I mentioned this in the LaRoche thread: 30-year-old who has averaged +15 offense over the last 4 years (and 14.5 the past 2) is suddenly good for only 7 runs? It does seem strange. Bill James has him at +17.

      And Delgado seems like a guy who can contribute more than 1 run of offense if he plays 2/3 of the season, as CHONE estimates. Career wRC+ of 138; 126 as recently as 2008, when he was +22. I know injuries and age take their toll, but why should he fall off a cliff? In limited action last year, he didn’t look like he couldn’t hack it.

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      • joser says:

        See, this is a far better criticism — and far more worthy of respect — that just a random empty-headed assertion that Fangraphs “has it in” for some arbitrary player.

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  7. gnomez says:

    Can Tatis still play third at all?

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    • Felonius_Monk says:

      Yes. He’s not terribly good but he’d probably be adequate enough as a corner infield/OF backup guy. I’m not sure i’d want him there fulltime (or for more than a couple of hundred innings), though.

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