Angels re-sign Teixeira… sort of

Over the winter, the Angels lost out on a bidding war to retain Mark Teixeira and watched him end up in pinstripes. In order to fill the hole on their offense, they gave their first base job to… Mark Teixeira?

Tex, 2009: .280/.380/.541, .392 wOBA, +4.0 wins
Kendry Morales, 2009: .314/.355/.597, .398 wOBA, +3.8 wins

Morales doesn’t have the same style of production as T-Rex, but in terms of overall value, the Angels have essentially matched what the Yankees got from Teixeira, and they did it with a guy who was viewed as a bust coming into the season. It wasn’t like Morales was a guy with projections all over the map, either – CHONE had him as a .327 wOBA guy, ZIPS at .325.

This is, of course, way out of line with anything Morales had done before. These are better numbers than he put up in Triple-A last year, when he posted a .387 wOBA. The main difference has been the power, where Morales is posting a .287 ISO, tied fort he seventh highest mark in baseball. That’s 120 points higher than the projections had him at, and really the only area where he’s exceeding what we should have expected by any large margin.

Power is one of those things that stabilizes fairly quickly, however, so while there are examples of Brady Anderson style flukes, we have to assume that our previous beliefs about how much thunder exists in Morales’ bat were wrong. It’s really, really hard to luck your way into 69 extra base hits in 506 plate appearances.

ZIPS still projects a pretty heavy regression for Morales going forward, as his rest-of-season projection has his ISO dropping to .202 – 40 points better than the preseason projectoin, but 80 points lower than his current ISO. But the projections have changed enough that, given what we know right now, we can say the Angels certainly made the right choice in letting Teixeira go and replacing him with Morales. Given their relative price and performance, Morales is the clear choice.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


67 Responses to “Angels re-sign Teixeira… sort of”

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  1. balugawhale says:

    I felt deja vu reading this article.

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  2. big baby says:

    they let teixeira go?

    they made an 8 year, 100+ million dollar bid.

    that’s not really “letting go”

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  3. rw23 says:

    Morales’ similar production, + $$$, + draft picks. No brainer in hindsight.

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  4. Joe R says:

    And yet another example to the ridiculousness of Teixeira for MVP.

    He was replaced. Without even leaving the organization.

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  5. CH says:

    Kendry is a perfect example of how sometimes “traditional” scouts actually know what they’re talking about. I think Matt Kemp and Edwin Jackson are other good examples. In any statistical system, there are going to be outliers. Some guys just have the talent to out-perform expectations, regardless of how solid we think the numbers are. Most will fall in line, but some, sooner or later, are going to surprise everybody. That’s what the scouting community gets paid to do, and the Angels got it right on this guy.

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  6. joser says:

    While I’m still dubious about Morales sustaining this offensive production, I certainly agree the Angels made the right choice in not trying to out-bid the Yankees for Teixeira’s services. However, as puzzled as I am by Morales year of new-found ISO, I’m just as puzzled by Teixeira’s year of newly-lost UZR. If Teixeira was fielding 1st for the Yankees the way he did for the Angels and Braves, he’d be worth another win. And unlike ISO, UZR doesn’t stabilize quickly. It’s quite possible that the two aren’t all that comparable if 2009 represents a career high in power for Morales and a career low in D for Teixeira.

    (But yeah, there’s no way Teixeira should be considered the MVP, even on his own team much less the AL)

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    • Joe R says:

      Teixeira’s defense is another classic case of people confusing low error totals for good defense. Can’t make an error on a ball you can’t get to.

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      • Steve says:

        yeah, no it isn’t.

        i think it’s more a classic case of UZR not being the best tool to measure defense for a 1Bman.

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      • Vode says:

        Do you watch Teixeira play every day?

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      • Joe R says:

        Watch Teixeira play every day? That would mean I wouldn’t see any other 1B play every day, which would cause my opinion to be based on pure subjectivity, so don’t even try to pull that card. BTW I am a Sox fan, so I’ve probably seen 15-20 games worth of Teix this season already. He looks like…every other 1B.

        And on 1B defense, sure, UZR is far from perfect, I know this. Better than the eye check, which always turns into the gut check.

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      • Prince Fielder says:

        See Also:

        Ryan Braun

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      • Mr. S says:

        Joe R – pillar of nonpartisanship.

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      • Anthony says:

        Well, if you watched him play every day…wouldn’t you also watch 162 games’ worth of other 1B? Unless you turn the TV off when your team is batting, of course

        and I think you’re taking that statement overly literally in order to pull the cliched subjectivity argument. yes, it’s a strong argument, but if someone’s on this site then they’re more than familiar with it

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    • Michael says:

      Oh no, not this again.

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    • B says:

      Sample size, people, sample size.

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      • Joe R says:

        His career UZR is pretty average. His season UZR is pretty average. He’s a very good hitting, average fielding 1B.

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      • B says:

        Just trying to remind people the role sample size plays in the amount of data they’re looking at. My understanding is the standard error over Teixiera’s 2009 season is about +/- 10 runs or so…

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      • Joe R says:

        He’s pretty much had one big UZR season (2008). Outside of that, right down the middle.

        He’s probably a slightly above average defensive 1B. And really, there’s no real difference in 1B. Difference between the best defensive 1B of 2009 (Kotchman) and the worst (Johnson) is 11.7 runs. Last season total, if you factor out the one major outlier (Jacobs, -13.6), the difference from top (Teix) and bottom (Fielder) was 19.1. With that low a variance, is it even really worth arguing a 1B’s defensive value? Good ones hit, bad ones don’t. Teixeira’s a good one. The “see him play everyday” card is tired and subjective and used by stubborn old men who get their world rocked if you dare suggest something like Jim Rice not deserving the Hall.

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      • Vode says:

        I am neither stubborn nor old, but perhaps it irritates you when somebody has an opinion that differs from your own. Seems to be a theme around here.

        If you did “see him play everyday” it would mean you were doing more than relying on a single number to give you an understanding of the nuances that are not captured by the calculator.

        “He must be average because the number says so.” Thanks. What exactly does that add to the conversation?

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      • B says:

        Vode, the problem with this is the human mind is extremely biased, and does not really have the ability to seperate small differences out from fielders over a large sample size. Even assuming someone watching Teix knows baseball, being able to give us an accurate evaluation of how much his defense does or doesn’t help his team is impossible. Defensive stats certainly have some flaws and aren’t perfect, but some smart people have put a lot of effort into designing them and they’ve given us a pretty decent product. I’m not suggesting we stop watching baseball to evaluate defense, you just have to realize the limits we have in processing information, which are pretty significant.

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      • Joe R says:

        Exactly, all we remember are the spectacular (on either end). And like I said before, if you watch a guy “every day”, then how else do you base your opinion? You’re inevitably going to be biased one way or another, depending on his overall production, and you’re not giving anyone else a fair shake.

        UZR is far from perfect, I even kind of consider it glorified Range Factor. It’s better than the eye test, though. And truthfully, in large groups, the eye test USUALLY does tell the story. Everyone thinks Dunn is a crappy LF, and they would be right. Betancourt’s UZR went down right with his public opinion. Nyjer Morgan makes plays look effortless, his fielding #’s are awesome. Jeter’s known among many in the sabermetric community as someone with sure hands but limited range, sure enough, UZR shows that. Dismissing intelligent research because of weird sample sizes or because results don’t please you is dumb, plain and simple. If you think Teix’s 2008 is his true figure and that he’s a golden god with the glove at 1st, fine. But the data says he’s good not great. It’s that simple.

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    • Tommy says:

      Yeah I also have to agree that UZR is less effective for 1B than other positions. First base is fielded differently than most of the other positions; I still believe it’s difficult to quantify defensive prowess, but I accept UZR as a reasonable reference for most positions. I just don’t think it represents true value as a first baseman.

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  7. Tyler says:

    Even if you watch him play every day, you dont notice every single play, and you dont remember every single play from every game all season. That is why we have stats.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/seeing-and-uzr-and-teixeira/

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  8. Maddoniz says:

    I watch Tex play almost every game, UZR is a broke tool that clearly can’t gauge a 1st baseman’s value. Really, so you’d rather have Kendry Morales than Mark Teixeria? Good luck with that, I know typically the Halos have the Yanks number, this year big Tex will be the difference maker, he’s an eltlie defender and lethal with the bat. The best is yet to come!

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    • B says:

      “UZR is a broke tool that clearly can’t gauge a 1st baseman’s value.”

      Or you simply do not understand UZR. We’ve been over this multiple times very recently. Teixiera could be having a very good defensive year while UZR tells us he is not, and that does not mean UZR is broken. It may just mean our sample size is too small.

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      • Torgen says:

        Small sample size doesn’t make observations wrong, it just reduces their ability to predict the future.

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      • B says:

        “Small sample size doesn’t make observations wrong, it just reduces their ability to predict the future.”

        It doesn’t make your observation wrong, but it makes your prediction as to the underlying mean, based on your sample, more likely to be wrong (or more likely to be farther away from the population mean, or as we refer to it in baseball, the true talent).

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      • B says:

        Actually, thinking about it a little more, it can make your observation wrong, at least regarding defense. UZR has measurement issues, and the smaller the sample, the bigger a problem these are.

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      • Torgen says:

        If the system has measurement issues that underrate one kind of play, and a specific player makes that kind of play often, then the system will systematically underrate that player.

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      • B says:

        That is true, and something I wouldn’t rule out from happening. The problem is figuring out when it occurs, and doing so objectively (instead of only claiming this issue when it happens to a guy you’re promoting). And it still means Teix, in this case, has to make that play much more than other 1B, because it likely will be underrated across the spectrum of 1B.

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    • Joe R says:

      And with the money the Halos saved on giving Teixeira a huge deal that will likely blow through his prime and pose a risk on the franchise, they were able to acquire other good players like Abreu, which makes their team better. This is fun.

      Never did I specifically say Morales > Teixeira. Teixeira’s better. It’s obvious. But this deitizing is stupid. If the Yankees win the WS, trust me, Teixeira is a sizeable piece of it, but he won’t be the only one.

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  9. Sam says:

    Must we go through this every time Teixeira is mentioned?

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    • Michael says:

      Apparently we have to. There’s a sizable group of people who use this site and don’t trust UZR with regards to Tex. I think it’s best we never mention Teixeira anymore on FanGraphs. At the very least, let’s not mention Teixeira and UZR in the same sentence.

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      • Joe R says:

        Teix is just the posterchild of bad MVP candidates this season, the typical high-RBI slugger on a top team who people will ascribe some real craziness to.

        Great player, not the MVP though, and my brain for some reason loves to point it out.

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      • Steve says:

        Teixeira is NOT going to win the MVP. Mauer will probably win, and if he doesn’t, Jeter will. Mauer is the best candidate, but Jeter is a worthy candidate based on the “rules” that have evolved (unfortunately).

        I know that everyone here likes to prove how smart they are and how “dumb” Mr. Average Baseball Writer is, but maybe we should wait until Teixeira actually wins the MVP before we complain about it?

        He’s not going to win, relax.

        Oh noes, a NY based reporter wrote something declaring Teixeira is the MVP!! The award is as good as his!

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      • Xavier says:

        The number ONE stated criteria for the MVP is “games played”.

        Is it the most important? Nah. But it is quite clearly supposed to be taken into account.

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  10. Charles says:

    Kendry Morales hasn’t MATCHED Teixeira’s numbers. Kendry Morales has SURPASSED Teixeira’s numbers. Why is everyone overlooking the fact that Teixiera has about 80 more TPA than Morales. Let’s see what Morales numbers are after another 80 TPA, and see who has better numbers after the same number of TPA.

    By the way, Teixeira has been hitting in Yankee Stadium, too.

    FACT IS, Morales has OUT-HIT Teixeira this year!

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    • rw23 says:

      If you put any weight into ZIPS and other forecasting tools another 80 TPA, while aiding his counting stats, will likely regress Morales’ power output compared to his current level.

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  11. Matt B. says:

    I already mentioned this so hate to rehash. But in terms of ‘sample size’ in comparing why Pedroia has such a huge advantage in UZR over A.Hill. There “sample” is nearly identical. Anybody have any thoughts here? I am still a bit stumped.

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    • Torgen says:

      One thing I can think of is that the Jays play the shift a lot, and some of Hill’s in-zone plays may be turning into OOZ plays for Scutaro because of that. Also, Overbay plays pretty far off the line with nobody on base, so he might be stealing plays from Hill.

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    • B says:

      Having equal samples doesn’t negate sample size issues. UZR has a pretty high amount of variance over one season, they could be much closer than UZR suggests (but then again, they could also be even farther)…

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    • lincolndude says:

      Flip a coin a hundred times and count the heads. Do that 10 times. Then take the sample that’s around 55 heads and compare it to the one that’s around 45 heads.

      They came from the same coin and the same sample size. That doesn’t mean your way of measuring is wrong. There is sampling error no matter the sample size. It gets relatively smaller as samples get bigger.

      This was drilled home about 500 hundred times in a post last week.

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    • alskor says:

      How bout this: Pedroia is an elite defender and Hill isnt that good.

      That’s pretty much the conventional wisdom and the scouting take as well.

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      • Matt B, says:

        You must have heard from ESPN.

        Hill has NEVER been regarded as anything other than a solid defender. He started his career at SS just like the little nugget Pedroia.

        Hill has outpaced Pedroia in every possible defensive stat other than the subjective ones.

        I like the idea of the Jays playing the shift as a possible factor, not your well thought out (ESPN oriented) subjective BS!

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      • Joe R says:

        They pretty much have the exact same UZR/150 at 2B.
        Strangely baseball prospectus has Hill as an average 2B, which as said, could be attributed to Scutaro hogging up some of Hill’s balls via the shift.

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      • Matt B, says:

        So even a small factor like that could drastically affect a players WAR in the end?

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      • Joe R says:

        Not 100% sure, but I believe it could. Not by a ton, but I could see like 1/2 a win lost, maybe? No idea.

        WAR’s meant to be taken w/ a grain of salt anyway.

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      • B says:

        Given a 10 run or so margin of error for UZR (I think that’s about what it is over a full season), you’re looking at up to a 1 win error in WAR.

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  12. snapper says:

    UZR does not fully capture 1B defense. It doesn’t deal at all with receiving throws (a huge part of 1B). IIRC it also doesn’t handle foul pop-ups well.

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    • Michael says:

      There’s been plenty of work done on that, and the range from what I can recall is pretty small, definitely within +/- 5 runs from the average between the best and worst first baseman at scooping. Is that actually going to significantly show the difference in defensive quality of first basemen?

      I really dislike this argument, Joser should never have mentioned Tex and UZR.

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  13. minesweeper says:

    Dave, a few days ago RJ argued that Matsui’s great season was luck-based largely because his HR/FB% was 18%, far higher than anything he’s ever had before. He used it to explain Matsui’s career high ISO. Well, Morales doesn’t seem to be much different, and, unlike Matsui, his BABIP is actually over .300. His HR/FB is 18.3%…that and BABIP suggest that he’s certainly benefited from the Right Side of Variance.

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  14. kevinM says:

    Call me crazy, but I can’t be overwhelmed by a player having his first season of this type of production in comparison to another player doing it for the 6th time.

    Isn’t the intelligent thing to do to wait for Morales to have sustained success first before a “winner” is proclaimed?

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    • Jeff says:

      I agree.

      What you are paying for is the reduced risk factor. Coming in, no projections had Morales batting so well. (While the opposite is true for Teix)

      If the Angels actually predicted that Morales would hit so well, then I applaud their scouting department.

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  15. Andrew says:

    I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted Morales would’ve had such an absolutely insane season. The Angels made a ginormous offer to Texiera…and the Yankees made a slightly more ginormous one.

    Texiera has had an excellent career and received the highest draft bonus ever for a position player. He was drafted in the first two rounds in every fantasy league this year, whereas Kendry went undrafted and if you picked him up on the waiver wire you’re probably winning your league. Players have flukey seasons all the time and I don’t think this is anywhere close to his true talent level.

    I have money on Teixera not finishing in the top 2 of MVP voting, and yes, I watch him play everyday. It’s also worth pointing out that he was absolutely miserable at the plate before A-Rod came back. Since then, I imagine his numbers are better than Morales’

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  16. Rob says:

    This is like saying the Rangers made a great contract with Micheal Young because they knew somehow he would hit again this year.

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  17. Joe R says:

    And BTW, since any post with the letters “UZR” in it tends to spark a war over a player, could we possibly get a more in depth post about Jacoby Ellsbury. I know for a fact many of my fellow Sox fans highly overrate him on defense, but -14.6 is terrible, and -10 range. I’d love to see how he’s gone from a great corner OF to a miserable CF.

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    • B says:

      I wouldn’t have guessed Ellsbury would be one of the worst defensive CF’s in the league, either, and he’s probably much better than those numbers. However, there should be a big difference between corner OF and CF UZR simply because of the talent level of his peers he’s being compared to, so a big drop is expected.

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      • Joe R says:

        Talking 30 runs, though. And it’s not just UZR. FRAA has him at -15, so essentially the same thing. Last year, his FRAA was +21.

        Some SSS’s coming up, but his individual rates are:
        LF: 122 (+22 RAA per 100 DG for who doesn’t know)
        CF: 94 (-6 RAA per 100 Def. Games)
        RF: 134 (+34 RAA / 100 DG, albeit very SSS here)

        I think it’s definitely reasonable for a Sox fan who’s seen what appears to be an above average range guy w/ a meh arm have that kind of difference. I definitely think defensive stats are better than an eye test, but I’d love to know what’s going on w/ Ellsbury.

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  18. Justin says:

    Teixeira is +1 in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) this season. Ranks 11th among first baseman. In 2008, he was +17 DRS. That ranked first. He’s ranked first in DRS twice since it was charted beginning in 2004. He’s ranked worse than 15th just once, which occurred in 2007. Since 2004, Teixeira has been +33 in DRS. He’s no Pujols (+88), but he’s damn good.

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  19. steve says:

    anybody check this guys rear end for needle marks. as far as a “brady anderson fluke” ya think maybe he was on steriods too?

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  20. Adrian Beltre's Crushed Nut says:

    Oh, did your expertly prepared statistics do you wrong again Dave? Especially when you are writing about an Angel player, what a shame, what a sham.

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  21. Kyle says:

    Projections are exactly that…projections…it irritates me when somebody says “because ZIPS says this…it is inevitable”…The guy (rw23) who said that if you give 80 more PA he would actually regress because ZIPS says he would unfortunately has forgotten that the game is played by humans who grow, mature, enhance their skill set, and develop…and also has never watched an Angels game…Statistics are a wonderful thing, many of the “new statistics” have contributed to the understanding of the game greatly…but we should not confuse statistics on what HAS happened with projection systems that are merely statistical analyses of what COULD possibly happen. People outperform what they are SUPPOSED to do in all aspects of life, not just baseball.

    I know Im getting a tad philosophical here but I seriously have an issue with the idea that 80 additional PA would somehow prove he isnt that good because a projection model said so…in fact it disgusts me that we would refer to a preseason projection system rather than what he HAS accomplished thus far into the season in order to determine what he most likely will do

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    • B says:

      Kyle, the projections take what he has accomplished thus far into account. The point of the projections is to give you a baseline probability for what should happen, that is, the historical precedent many, many others have set says Morales is likely to regress. The actual projection number is unlikely to be right, but it gives us a baseline to expect some amount of regression because that’s what usually happens in this situation. You just have to use the projection for what it is – a good way to set your expectations. Expect him to regress to some degree, but that doesn’t mean your expectations will be met. Maybe he keeps it up, maybe not, that’s why we watch the game.

      If you think about it like gambling (because the point of projections is to give you odds on what will happen in the future), we have enough information to know the odds of Morales keeping it up are not good. You could play those odds, and you could certainly win, but the better bet is to put your money on regression, because the odds for that are higher.

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  22. Alireza says:

    I did an analysis on just how much more valuable, dollar for dollar, Morales is than Teixiera on my blog.

    As for the whole UZR thing, it is a useful, but flawed system. That said, looking at both UZR and Plus/Minus, it does seem like Teixiera does turn the defense on and off and is definitely not elite as advertised.

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  23. Chim says:

    Keep in mind that Morales may actually be only 26 years old, and the guy missed a ton of baseball time when the Cuban government caught him trying to leave Cuba EIGHT TIMES before he finally succeeded.

    His minor league numbers don’t reflect just how dominant he was in his youth in Cuba. He was playing in the Cuban high minors as a teenager. The level of competition was definitely higher than the average American high school, and no projection system can account for his true talent level at this point.

    Will he ever have another month where he hits .385 with 10 HR and 33 RBI? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean he automatically regresses to Erick Aybar numbers either.

    If he hits .280 with 25 HR and 30 doubles for the next 5 years, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

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