Aubrey Huff’s Dead Cat Bounce

With the Detroit Tigers in 2009, it looked like Aubrey Huff‘s career might be done. The 32-year-old hit .241/.310/.384 in a much more lively run environment, compiling an ugly 77 wRC+ and -1.8 WAR. It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time a slugger in his 30s just lost his ability to hit for power, nor will it be the last (hello, Adam Dunn?). But then, Huff gave the nation a front row seat to what looked like one of the most fantastic recoveries in recent baseball history. His 26 home runs and .290/.385/.506 line resulted in +5.8 WAR and made him one of the most important pieces on a World Series winning Giants team.

Fast forward to the 2011 All-Star Break. Huff is 25% through a new contract rewarding his services during the Giants’ run to the Commissioner’s Trophy. A full $17 million remains on the 34-year-old’s contract, and much to the dismay of Brian Sabean and the Giants, Huff picked up the new season right where he left off in 2009. In this brave new low-scoring run environment we find ourselves in, Huff’s first half slash line of .238/.291/.370 is an equivalent 77 wRC+ to his awful 2009 season; his -0.9 WAR in 375 PA just under his pace of -1.8 WAR in 597 PA with Detroit and Baltimore.

This odd spike from Huff brings to mind a term used on Wall Street: “dead cat bounce.” This term, at least in one usage, refers to a stock which has a sharp decline off a low, similar to what Huff showed in 2010. As they say, even a dead cat bounces.

That may be, but Huff bounced like a dead cat stuffed with flubber. Particularly given his struggles this year so far, Huff’s fantastic performance in 2010 is baffling. The power came back, and it wasn’t completely luck driven, either. Only 7 of Huff’s 26 home runs were labeled “Just Enough” by the ESPN Home Run Tracker, and AT&T Park isn’t a hitters’ haven by any stretch of the imagination.

Here we are, though, and Huff’s back to the kind of performance we’d expect out of a 34-year-old who couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag as a 32-year-old. Maybe 2010 was just Aubrey Huff’s year, for some reason that I just can’t figure out. But even a dead cat can bounce. Aubrey Huff just bounced as high as possible.

Print This Post

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

43 Responses to “Aubrey Huff’s Dead Cat Bounce”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Mike says:

    I think you can safely say 2010 “was just the Giants year”. Everything went right.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Yirmiyahu says:

    Aubrey Huff has been alternating good and bad seasons since 2004. It’s just that his bad seasons have gotten badder and his good season have gotten gooder. He’s finish this season with a .280 wOBA, but then he’ll bounce back next year with a .450 wOBA.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Dan Out West says:

    It should also be noted that Huff has been more than a little unlucky with regards to his BABIP, both this year (.259, to date) and in 2009 (.260). In both ’08 & ’10, his BABIP was right around league average (.310 & .303, respectively) and he turned in fine seasons.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • EricR says:

      Yeah, but his low BABIP isn’t because of bad luck this year, it’s because of the insane amount of slow rolling ground balls he hits to 2nd and 1st. Those weren’t happening last year.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Bigmouth says:

    My very scientific hypothesis is that it takes Huff about a year in a new town to find a bar and drinking buddies he likes.

    +17 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. jklender says:

    May be a minor note, but he was having merely a poor offensive season in 2009 before the Tigers acquired him in mid-August. From that point on it was an unmitigated disaster.

    Call it small sample, regression, inability to adapt to DH, new environment, or whatever. Didn’t matter, it was a horror show. Detroit, as they often do, took big risks with two fluky players during the crunch of that pennant race and wound up catching the flipside on both.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. RoyaleWithCheese says:

    “in 597 PA with Detroit”

    For what it’s worth, Huff only had 117 PA with Detroit. The rest were with Baltimore.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. It really drives you guys nuts if there is noise in a regression and prediction reduces to a coin flip.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. JohnnyComeLately says:

    I realize that even teams get caught up in the post-World Series hype, but re-signing him to a 2 year deal, especially w/ Brandon Belt on the way, was just crazy. Not that it’s anywhere near Sabean’s worst signing, but the second I heard it I knew it was a mistake.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JohnnyComeLately says:

      Of course, at least they didn’t try to match the Dodgers and give Uribe 3 years at ridiculous money.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • tynandaly says:

      To be fair, nobody thought Brandon Belt would be this good this quickly. Even after his meteoric rise last season, he barely got any swings at AAA. And after he flopped in the majors at the beginning of this season, it’s clear he still needs to improve on his hitting.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • brendan says:

      I’m hoping they call up belt to replace Huff, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be better. he’s totally unproven, and you have to be a darn good hitter just to be average at 1B.

      As for Huff’s WAR, he has -8.6 UZR in the OF this season (amazing, in only 113 innings!). If he had been at 1B the whole time, he’d be a lot closer to replacement level – Ha!

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Robbie G. says:

      The one big downside to winning the World Series last season for Giants fans is that Brian Sabean presumably bought himself another 4-5 years as GM for the organization. Somebody in that organization does seem to know a thing or two about drafting and developing pitchers, though, that’s for sure.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. zhongyko says:

    surprise web: == www jordanforworld com====

    very good web,believe you will love it.

    FREE SHIPPING,accept pyapal

    discount including evisu jeans,watches shirts,bags,hat and the decorations and so on

    trust me!

    Opportunity knocks but once


    ?????? ”,,’,.’,”’,,’,.”


    -51 Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Antonio Bananas says:

    I like that you used a wallstreet term. Next semester I’m taking a sports economics class, a big part of that is a paper you write that has anything to do with sports/economics. I was thinking about a paper explaining stock principles using baseball to explain it. Like a stock rising or diving outside it’s bollinger bands being the equivelant of a team winning like 8 in a row when on paper it doesn’t look right. You know it’s going to tank. Or like how cold the Red Sox were to begin the season. Stuff like that. I really think there are a lot of commonalities you can use.

    As for the actual article you wrote. I liked it. I finally have fast enough internet that I can watch out of market games on the net.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Obsessivegiantscompulsive says:

    Good timing. David Pinto of Baseball just recently analyzed Huff and found that he has fallen into the habit of Chasing sinkers again, like in 2009. Meanwhile he is still crushing pitches higher in the zone. He wrote that Huff needs to stop swinging, and missing, the sinkers, which more pitchers are throwing him. That would force them to throw him more pitches up in the zone that he loves to hit, and can still hit.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. adam smith says:

    I was confused for a minute with your explination that a dead cat bounce was a “sharp decline off of a low” until i realised that you probably meant a sharp INCLINE off a low. Or am I still confused?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. andy says:

    most of his negative war is do to his time in right field where he compiled something like -9 runs in 90 or so innings. remove that and he’s about replacement level, not great but not as bad as it seems

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Templeton1979 says:

    Off topic a bit, but here’s some NL news about some great offensive contributions by pitchers this season, especially lately:

    Daniel Hudson, in 44 plate appearances this season:

    .333 avg
    .351 obp
    7 sac hits while grounding into only 1 double play
    9 rbis

    Great contributions! Love to see pitchers having success at the plate, and there’s plenty of that this season:

    Kershaw 8 runs scored in 48 plate appearance despite having a weak all-around offense,

    Zambrano .303 average.

    Billingsley .467 slugging% in 37 plate appearances.

    Zach Duke 2hrs and 5 rbis in just 17 plate appearances with a .286 average!

    Tim Hudson has had 2 great starts lately in which he was dominant both on the mound and at the plate (one against the Blue Jays during Interleague play in which he shut them down in 8 innings and also hit a huge home run which drove in most of Atlanta’s rbis. Also went 2-3 with an rbi single, a double, and a run scored in the Braves’ 10,000th win on Friday.)

    John Lannan went 2-3 with a 2rbi single to help secure the win last night for the Nationals.

    Kyle Kendrick was 2-2 with a run scored today

    AND not to mention Cliff Lee drove in more rbis at the plate in a month than he allowed on the mound during that period. Talk about production! First time a pitcher has done that since Doc Gooden in ’85! Go National League!!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. James M. says:

    Your Daniel Hudson figures are pre-ASB. After Sunday his line looks like this: .359/.375/.513 with 1 HR and 12 RBI! He now has as many RBI as the 2 pitchers tied for 2nd combined.

    Vote -1 Vote +1