Ryan Howard’s Extension

In the four seasons from 2006-2009, Ryan Howard has accumulated 16 wins, according to http://www.baseballprojection.com/war/h/howar001.htm . If we look at all players born since Babe Ruth, for the same age group as Ryan Howard, that puts him in the top 200 players, along with teammates Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.

Ryan Howard was already signed for the 2010 and 2011 seasons before he signed his latest extension. Therefore, we are looking to see what happens to the great player in the third through seventh seasons following his established performance level. Focusing on the 178 great players born between 1895 and 1971, the list is headed by Willie Mays at 37 wins, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, each at 36 wins. Here’s how these great players aged:

Age 27 to 30: 21 wins
Age 31 to 32: 9 wins
Age 33 to 37: 11 wins
Age 38 onwards: 2 wins

This does not look good for the Phillies. While a win costs about 4 to 5 million dollars today, each win in the 2012-2016 season will cost somewhere around 7 million dollars. Granting a five-year extension, two years out, to a typical star player should be worth around 77 million$, not 125 million dollars.

Perhaps Howard is a special case. We already gave him a special consideration, seeing that the group average was 21 wins at age 27 to 30, while he was at 16. We’ll give him the following two further considerations: let’s set the minimum win level for the previous four seasons at 20 (which brings us down to 87 players), and a minimum win level of 8 wins for the next two seasons (which implies that we expect Ryan Howard to be healthy and very productive for the next two seasons). That leaves us with 61 players, with the following results:

Age 27 to 30: 25 wins
Age 31 to 32: 12 wins
Age 33 to 37: 16 wins
Age 38 onwards: 4 wins

We are being extremely generous to Ryan Howard with our comparables. We’ve got the four prior seasons totalling 25 wins (compared to the 16 for Howard’s last four seasons) and 12 wins for the two upcoming seasons (of which Howard has played only one month so far). And under those very unrestrictive parameters, the expectation is to get 16 wins for the five years that Howard signed. And if we increase the cost of a win to 8 million dollars per win, that’s 128 million dollars for five years.

Therefore, in order to justify this contract, we have to take the most optimistic position we possibly can on every parameter we have considered in order to justify the extension as a fair deal. And when you are that optimistic, you probably have a big chance of it blowing up in your face.

Given that we’ve shown that, on average, this deal was not good, the question remains: what are the odds the deal will turn out to be good? It’s a bad deal to buy a lottery ticket… unless you are the winner. Looking at a more restrictive pool of players (minimum 16 wins in the previous four years, at least 4 wins in the next two years, paying 7 million dollars per win), we have a total of 161 players in our pool (who averaged 22 wins in the 4 previous seasons), of which 20% generated at least 18 wins in the five years that we are focused on. And generating at least 18 wins is worth at least 125 million dollars. The odds are therefore as follows:

50% chance of deal being worth at least 10 wins (for an average of 18 wins)
25% chance of deal being worth 4 to 9 wins (for an average of 7 wins, or a value of 50 million$)
25% chance of deal being worth 3 or fewer wins (losing over 100 million dollars in value)

This means the Phillies have a 50/50 shot of either breaking even or facing an albatross. Ideally, you want a 50/50 shot of having a good deal and 50/50 on a bad deal. And that’s presuming that Ryan Howard was a superstar who averaged 22 wins, not 16.

***

There’s 101 players born since Babe Ruth, limited by the following:
– 2400 or more PA in the 27-30 age group
– at least 16 wins in the 27-30 age group
– at least 4 wins in the 31-32 age group

The totals for these 101:
– 22 wins at age 27-30
– 10 wins at age 31-32
– 11 wins at age 33-37

Here’s everyone born since Mike Schmidt (29 of those 101 players), ordered by best to worst at age 33-37:

27-30   31-32   33-37   Player Name
32	17	34	Schmidt	Mike
27	19	22	Henderson	Rickey
20	10	21	Palmeiro	Rafael
20	11	21	Sosa	Sammy
35	11	20	Boggs	Wade
16	9	18	Butler	Brett
16	14	18	Thome	Jim
27	6	18	Yount	Robin
17	10	17	Gwynn	Tony

19	15	16	Biggio	Craig
21	14	16	Ripken	Cal
28	13	15	Bagwell	Jeff
24	6	12	Murray	Eddie
28	12	10	Giambi	Jason
21	11	10	Hernandez	Keith
22	8	10	Thomas	Frank
21	10	10	Williams	Bernie
22	10	9	Trammell	Alan
18	6	8	McGriff	Fred
16	8	8	White	Devon

17	6	7	Salmon	Tim
18	10	6	Puckett	Kirby
22	8	3	Belle	Albert
30	7	3	Griffey	Ken
19	8	2	Cirillo	Jeff
16	5	2	McReynolds	Kevin
19	10	1	Murphy	Dale
16	7	0	Vaughn	Mo
18	6	-1	Barfield	Jesse

So, you have a one-third chance of being Jim Thome, a one-third chance of being Frank Thomas, and a one-third chance of being Mo Vaughn.

Ryan Howard was paid like he had a 100% chance of being Jim Thome.



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Matt B.
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Matt B.
6 years 4 months ago

Are we saying this is a bad deal for the GM/Franchise or just the GM (based on stats/WAR etc)?

Do we not give credence to intangible factors (off the field) in terms of sales, merchandising, tickets, advertising etc.

I don’t think we can pretend we know what goes on behind the scenes (financially) of a major league franchise no?

Eldingo
Member
Eldingo
6 years 4 months ago

No we can’t pretend to know… but based on what we do know… it looks like a terrible deal… so we shouldn’t attempt to justify the deal based on these mysterious intangibles… people who do business based on intangibles are often not in business for very long

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
6 years 3 months ago

This strikes me as a non-starter because the Phillies already had Howard under control for two more years. I get the merchandising value factor, big stars sell a lot of jerseys (and other stuff), and I bet Howard sells as many as any non-Yankee in the game. However, I just don’t see the argument that his merchandising value in three years is worth paying for now.

Also, you can’t just look at mechandising value, you have to look at opportunity costs. Suppose the Phillies pay $4m too much for Howard. That’s basically one win. How much is one win worth? Well, actually, about $4m dollars for a team on the cusp of a play off berth. So the actual value of Howard’s merchandising should be discounted by the opportunity cost of signing him.

3rd Period Points
Guest
3rd Period Points
6 years 4 months ago

Mike Schmidt accumulated 34 WAR playing for the Phillies between the ages 33-37. Ryan Howard will play for the Phillies at ages 33-37. Therefore, Ryan Howard will accumulate 34 WAR, also.

Phaulty Syllogism?

H.W. Plainview
Guest
H.W. Plainview
6 years 4 months ago

You can throw out all the fancy numbers you want, Tango. All I know is Paul Konerko is having an awesome April in the twilight of his career!!!1!

therefore

Ryan Howard is well worth AAV of $25 million 3 years from now!!11!

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

In all your excitement you missed the Shift key a couple times there dude. Take it easy.

I actually think the Brett Butler comp is more apt, given that he’s the reigning speediest first baseman in baseball.

syh
Member
6 years 4 months ago

But using the shift key would have made the sarcasm more apparent. Catch-22 really.

nmh
Member
nmh
6 years 4 months ago

Also, as part of the deal, I believe he received a limited no-trade clause, making the sunniest Jim Thome comp even harder to imagine. Thome played a combined 56 games at 1B after the age of 33.

It was seemingly inevitable that Howard was going to be given a bad contract after being blocked by an aging slugger with no positional versatility until his age 26 season. It just icing on the cake that that slugger ended up being Howard’s upside.

Alireza
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Howard should 10/5 during the deal, so he will have full no trade protection at some point anyway.

D4P
Guest
D4P
6 years 4 months ago

There’s little doubt that Howard won’t be worth what the Phillies will pay him over the remainder of his extension.

However, it’s worth pointing out that, through 2009, the Phillies had paid him roughly $12 million for $89.5 million worth of value.

If we take that to mean that the Phillies started out $77 million ahead prior to the extension, there’s still a very good chance that the Phillies would come out ahead at the end of the extension.

That’s not to say, though, that they “owed” him any money or that they should have given him what they did. But maybe they felt compelled (for whatever reason) to compensate him for what he’s already done (which included being part of a World Championship team).

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

If they felt compelled to make up for the past, then why wouldn’t they just tear up the existing contract and start paying him 25mil this year and next?

DKulich44
Guest
DKulich44
6 years 3 months ago

If this would turn out to be true, that approach to dealing is just as bad as giving him the money because they think he’s worth it, probably worse.

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

I think the timing of the deal is almost as big an error… the presumed (?) logic on doing it now was to avoid Pujols setting the market (or possibly AGonz if he’s traded and does an extension). However as both are better (going forward), it’s not like they’d be setting a floor and Albert is so far ahead it’d be tough to use his contract as a benchmark.

In the odd event you upset Howard by not doing the extension and he decides to hold out to FA to see what he can get, there will be other (good) options on the market and first base is typically not a difficult position to fill if you have money to spend (unless you’re the Mets). There will also be a limited market of big spenders to compete against.

If nothing else the Phils should have waited until next year and at least have one more yearly data point before taking a leap of faith.

Linuxit
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Linuxit
6 years 4 months ago

In ’06, Howard earned just 400k but gave a $ 25M performance. In general, contracts are based on past performance. Players usually get rewarded for how much value they gave in the past.

’06 400k – $25M
’07 900k – $17.1
’08 10M – $14.7
’09 15M – $22
Tot- $36.3 M – $78.8

Howard gave Philly $42.5M of surplus value. He deserves to get that money one way or another and he just did.

kokushishin
Member
kokushishin
6 years 4 months ago

You’d think teams would look for more surplus, not ways to offset it.

Linuxit
Guest
Linuxit
6 years 3 months ago

I guess you haven’t been paying attention for the last 110 years.

quincy0191
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quincy0191
6 years 3 months ago

Rewarding players for past performance instead of considering both past performance and potential future value is how high-revenue teams stink. See: Sabean, Brian; Minaya, Omar.

Besides, saying that the Phillies got $42.5M in surplus value for Howard – a prospect they developed because he would provide surplus value (that’s the whole point of developing prospects) – so they should give him that money now, is ridiculous; if you had to pay market rate to young players AND shoulder the risk that they won’t turn out well, where’s the incentive to develop kids? How much money did they spend on guys who ended up being duds?

And let’s not forget the fact that Howard “only” made $36.3M over the course of four flippin’ years. He may have “lost” $42.5M as well, but if we call that the “Christ You Make A Lot Of Money For Doing A Relatively Simple Job” fee, I think it all works out.

hk
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hk
6 years 3 months ago

The surplus value argument is only valid if Adam Eaton is paying $24M (the deficit value) towards Howard’s contract.

James
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James
6 years 3 months ago

I agree – from the player perspective, especially Howard who has been fascinated by the dollar sign, you refuse an extension and forego the free market unless you feel you are being adequately compensated for your past performance.

Without accurate value information, it’s hard to judge the deal. We don’t know the value of a win to the Phillies (taking into account the packed stadium + postseason revenue)… I assume the Phillies have above average revenue/profit, so not knowing the particulars of the Fangraphs value calculation, the value information presented above may underestimate the value he has provided to the Phillies. Also, I believe you have to consider the value information (such as that listed above) is biased towards non-star players… For example, Pedro Feliz’s value is roughly 1/3 of Howard’s, but Howard’s impact on the lineup and at the gate are probably greater than 3x Feliz’s. So the deal might not be that unreasonable from the Phillies front office perspective.

That being said, I wouldn’t have made him that offer, but good for Howard that he got it.

Dave S.
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Dave S.
6 years 4 months ago

It’s also possible that the Phillies are considering Howard’s value as being greater than his pure baseball value. I have no idea how the marketing arm of the FO might influence a signing, but it’s possible that the Phils researched their fan base and found that Howard has $X branding value for the franchise…they’re obviously intertwined – what makes for a more successful franchise than winning? – but I wonder if teams break their payroll down to baseball and marketing interests.

A conspiracy theorist might posit that the Phils were hoping to destroy any chance that the Cardinals might have to re-land Pujols by pricing him in the stratosphere.

arbeck
Member
arbeck
6 years 4 months ago

The only part I disagree with is the lottery ticket line. Sometimes the lottery does reach a value, where the expected value of a ticket is higher than the actual cost. Your odds of winning are still extremely poor, but if you have a 1 in 150 million chance of winning 300 million and a ticket costs a dollar, I wouldn’t call it stupid to buy the ticket.

Tom B
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Tom B
6 years 4 months ago

That is only determined by your perceived value of that $1.

If it was your last dollar, buying a lotto ticket would be stupid.

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

As an aside the lottery ticket (for a $1 ticket) has an expected value <$1. It's not like states setup a lottery system to give away money, it's used as another source of income for the states (which means it pays out less than it takes in). The odds on a state run lottery is far, far worse than virtually any game you could play in Vegas or betting on a sporting event.

If the Phils are treating this as a lottery ticket, it would mean that they see a chance of a significantly larger payout vs the baseline payout or why would you play the lottery? Is there really that large an upside beyond 23-25mil per year for Howard in his mid-30's? Is there a chance at 35mil? 30mil?

Zac
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Zac
6 years 4 months ago

As people have noted, that’s true except in jackpot games where the jackpot continues to increase until there’s a winner. There will come a point where the increased jackpot makes the expected value greater than $1.
For instance, the non jackpot prizes in the Power Ball have an expected value of $.17 per ticket.
If the jackpot has an expected value of at least $.83 per ticket, then the ticket is worth purchasing. Odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 195,249,054, so simple math shows that a jackpot of $161 million is the break even point.
You should really adjust for the post-tax value of the jackpot, and also adjust for the fact that you only get the full jackpot if you take it over 30 years, and any economist or lawyer will tell you the better course is to take the cash value (which is 49% of the jackpot total). But you get the idea.

Tom B
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Tom B
6 years 4 months ago

In the words of Thomas J – You don’t know any of this, it’s just your opinion.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

Llewdor
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Llewdor
6 years 4 months ago

I am so glad you work for the Mariners.

Scott
Member
Member
Scott
6 years 4 months ago

And the Jays! :) Too bad it wasn’t before the Jays gave Vernon that contract…

bflaff
Guest
bflaff
6 years 4 months ago

Although it’s amusing to bring on the LOL cat pile on and assume the Phillies have no clue what they’re doing, it might add more value to pretend to think the Phillies are run by rational actors and then try to work out the logic. I might get more out of these articles if they did something like that.

Tom B
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Tom B
6 years 4 months ago

I’m pretty sure every columnist and blogger in the baseball world has been trying to figure out what the Phillies thought they were accomplishing. That there are no such successful arguments (that I have found yet anyway) only shows how ridiculous this move truly is.

If it smells like shit and tastes like shit… don’t believe the man that sold you chocolate.

3rd Period Points
Guest
3rd Period Points
6 years 4 months ago

“…it might add more value to pretend to think the Phillies are run by rational actors and then try to work out the *defective* logic.”

/fixed

Reuben
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

This is bad and backwards logic. People trying to suss out a conclusion should start from point 0, not by assuming a conclusion and trying to figure out how to make it fit.

bflaff
Guest
bflaff
6 years 4 months ago

Assuming that the decisionmakers are rational actors *is* something you do at step zero. It’s not a conclusion. If anyone has Ruben on tape obsessing about bodily fluids, or negotiating contract numbers by throwing darts at a dartboard with years and dollar figures on it, then maybe we can ditch that assumption, but otherwise an assumption about rationality should serve as a starting point.

3rd Period Points
Guest
3rd Period Points
6 years 4 months ago

Assuming the decision makers are rational actors is not the same, in this instance, as assuming they acted rationally. This, I think, is Tom’s point. They could have been blinded by their proximity to the situation. Excess information, in many cases, has been shown to cloud the human intellect and hinder decision making. Rational actors, in real world scenarios, fall victim to optimism bias, confirmation bias, and a bevy of other biases that lead to incorrect conclusions.

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Not quite, because we don’t have to start at square one. We know something about the Phillies already – that they are A) a multimillion dollar major league franchise run by a lot of really smart guys and B) they are one of the most successful franchises in the majors.

That should raise our prior to the point where we have to prove that this is a stupid deal rather than just kinda get at it.

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

(apologies for the resubmission)
Let’s say the FO thinks he’s worth $15-20M per year to the Phillies based on aging curves and his comparables, as well as their projection of how he will do relative to those comps given what they know about his personality, work ethic, etc.

Now, you have a personable star, the most popular player on the team. What is that worth in merchandising, high-end ticket sales, etc., compared to a possible replacement (let’s say Adam Dunn)?

Also, what if you want to:
– set the market price before Fielder/AGon/Pujols set it for them
– establish some cost certainty to plan around for upcoming negotiations
– demonstrate a commitment to keeping the core together through the current window, which may induce other players to want to play in Philly

The analyses I’ve seen are based on comps and aging curves, because that’s what we have data on. And we make the assumption, I guess, that any marketing value is proportional to WAR. It seems like a fairly big assumption.

Tom B
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Tom B
6 years 4 months ago

The marketing value of any front line 1B stud would be roughly the same. I don’t think Howard is demonstrably more marketable than Fielder/AGon/Pujols. It would be the first contract in the history of baseball to take this into account.

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

I wasn’t comparing Howard’s marketability to those 3, but rather to a “cheaper” alternative. I’ve always assumed that EVERY contract takes marketability into account, since baseball is a business after all.

Tom B
Guest
Tom B
6 years 4 months ago

I’m sure teams consider a players marketability when they are choosing “who” to sign, but I doubt they are “paying the player back” for the extra money he is making them. Someone like A-rod/jeter/Mauer/Pujols would command way way more money if that was the case.

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

Players that will (and should) make more than Howard don’t set the market price… If Pujols gets 30mil/year that says nothing about how Howard should be paid, in fact if anything it will work the other way – if Pujols or AGonz were to get a contract at say 25mil that caps what Howard should get paid. That would seem like good information for the FO to have Also it’s pretty clear that Fielder is going to free agency given the Brewers’ owner comments.

As for cost certainty? Really? Why do an option year at the end… might as well make that certain too :) They could have established cost certainty at 20mil year, too or a deal that was front loaded?

As to demonstrating a commitment to the core, what will that do if/when Werth walks at the end of the year… outside of aging free agent, do you really think many free agents are going to take a discount to play for the Phils? Given how the market has cratered the value of aging veterans in recent years, players in their prime are more likely to try to max out, knowing baseball has shifted away from paying aging free agents.

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

– Pujols would provide a ceiling.
– Fielder: what are the chances he’ll be on the autograph circuit by Howard’s option year?
– Gonzales: very good player, and he’ll be better away from Petco. How much better I don’t know, since he has exactly the same road wOBA as Howard.

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

Pujols will provide a ceiling…that would be a GOOD thing for the front office and a reason to wait. Unless he signs for 50mil a year how exactly would his contract HURT the Phillies negotiating position… if anything it would only help them.

Howard vs AGon:

Lastly year’s road wOBA
Howard .391
Gonzalez .431

In 2008, Gonzalez was about 50points better than Howard on road wOBA

I know you’re trying to defend the contract at all costs, but do you really need to make up the stats? This doesn’t even seem remotely close to the “same” road wOBA. When add to that consideration of age, I think it’s really hard to argue they have the same value going forward.

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

I think I was looking at career wOBA – did you check that? And yes, I was conceding that Pujols would provide a ceiling and that’s a good thing for the Phillies.

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

They both have a career .391 wOBA in Away games. AGon had his year 27 season last year, chances are good that was his peak.

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

Why would I check career OBA? The Gonzalez #’s are horribly influenced by his first 2 years (age ~23). Is his performance at age 23 a critical part of how he hits today and predictive of how he will hit going forward?

If you are go through the trouble to look at road wOBA, wouldn’t you rather look at it in their prime to determine value going forward? If you choose to average in one or 2 points from AGon at an early age to make the #’s appear to be the same, you’re technically correct, but I’d say the usefulness of doing that is very sketchy and it is highly misleading

I’d suggest taking a look at the excellent graphs that Fangraphs has and look at the yearly plot of Home/Road wOBA for the two players and I think you will see things a bit differently.

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

As requested:

Road wOBA by age:

25: Howard .371, Gonzales .389
26: Howard .437, Gonzales .395
27: Howard .402, Gonzales .431
28: Howard .347
29: Howard .397

Ages 25-27 are overall almost exactly the same.

Again, Gonzales may have already peaked. Do you see a big difference between the two?

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

Yes, I see a huge difference – there’s 2 missing data points because Gonzalez is 2 years younger…. THAT ALONE make him more valuable even if you project them to fall off at the same rate with age.

So assuming they fall off by age, I’d much rather have Gonzalez’ next 7 years as opposed to Howard’s next seven. Unless you think Gonzalez falls off faster than Howard, how can you not see this?

Also road wOBA does have some problems with unbalanced schedules. Look at the pitching over the last 3 years and I think an NL East schedule is probably a bit more favorable than an NL West schedule (except for maybe the extra games at Coors field benefit)

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

Okay, so you’re no longer arguing that Gonzales has the better road wOBA, you’re just saying that due to their 2-year age difference, AGon would be worth more than Howard. Correct?

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 4 months ago

Over the last 3 years, Gonzalez has had a better road wOBA…period… you cannot dispute this, you cannot refute this fact.

Your comparing these guys by age… I’m saying over the last 3 years Gonzalez has been better (the numbers bear this out)… you can’t shift the ages around and choose to ignore Howard 2008 and 2009 seasons.

So right now Gonzalez is at a higher road wOBA (again based on 2007-2009), and as Howard is older – he will start his decline before Gonzalez and will be starting it a from a level that already is lower than where Gonzalez is. (again the implict assumption is they age similarly)

Unless for some reason you think Howard will decline so much less slowly than Gonzalez that he’ll make up for 2 years of Gonzalez in his prime, the value is actually not that close if you’re looking at a 5 or 7 year period. You’re talking about 2 years of prime performance… … your matching up the ages virtually proves it if you are saying there peaks are essentially the same (and I don’t even know if that’s true as Gonzalez’ #’s have not plateaued yet)

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

Let’s see if I can put a bow on this. If you’re arguing that AGon is worth some more because he’s younger, that makes sense.

If you’re arguing that AGon is a better player because his past 3 year’s road wOBA is higher, then I disagree. The past 3 years don’t include Howard’s best, and does include Howard’s worst. If you either compare their career wOBAs, or compare them at the same ages, they are even.

DKulich44
Guest
DKulich44
6 years 3 months ago

His point is that they are not the same ages. That has to factor in to your analysis if you’re going to compare them. He also shows that Howard has been much much less valuable than Gonzalez has been over the last 3 years, and basically the same if you include Howard’s peak and Gonzalez’s early low wOBA’s. Howard is obviously in his decline phase, as showed by your year by year wOBA’s, and Gonzalez is at his peak now, or in the most pessimistic view, just beginning to hit his decline phase. Even if that’s true, he’s still two years ahead of Howard’s aging curve just based on when he was born. This makes Gonzalez the more valuable asset.

schmenkman
Member
schmenkman
6 years 3 months ago

Right. That’s what my first sentence was meant to convey.

Jeremy
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Jeremy
6 years 4 months ago

A lot of this logic falls away when you take the timing and amount of the extension into account. The Phillies had the chance to wait almost two full seasons before re-signing Howard. They could have used this time to develop a better understanding of how he would perform in his mid-to-late thirties. If they let him hit free agency, I find it very unlikely that he would have commanded more than 5/$125 on the open market.

As for his popularity, Howard is popular because he’s hitting bombs and driving in runs. If he gets hurt or declines significantly, he won’t be very popular anymore, and neither will ownership. Ortiz is an extreme example but a valid one nonetheless. Ortiz is one of the most beloved Red Sox players of all time, but I doubt many Red Sox fans are clamoring to re-sign him. Ortiz is not a good baseball player today, so fans don’t think of him as a necessary component to the team anymore.

I understand that a player’s value can transcend his on-field performance. But once on-field performance falls away, “intangible” value disappears in a heartbeat. I can’t think of a single player who is considered “a personable star” or “the most popular player on the team” who isn’t also really good at baseball. If Howard’s strikeouts get out of control or he can no longer play an adequate 1B, Phillie fans won’t give a crap about his personality.

aladou
Guest
aladou
6 years 4 months ago

Agreed about the fact that the on-field performance has to be there. A lot of this comes down to how gracefully he will age. I happen to think he will age well and with salary inflation the contract won’t be an albatross. But my fingers are crossed.

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
6 years 4 months ago

“This means the Phillies have a 50/50 shot of either breaking even or facing an albatross.”

That is almost exactly my take on it. I’d make it more like 35/65 (with 65 for the albatross).

I must admit that I am mystified why the Phillies could not have structured their finances so they could have kept Cliff Lee rather than extending Howard.

Chris
Guest
Chris
6 years 4 months ago

tango ftw. any time you can get him to reply to the comments of an article, my day gets a lil better and a baby smiles.

3rd Period Points
Guest
3rd Period Points
6 years 4 months ago

ditto

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy
6 years 3 months ago

One of my favorite things about Fangraphs is that the writers will respond to comments. It makes it seem as if it is a real community, rather than a bunch of people simply watching other people work and think.

MGL
Guest
MGL
6 years 3 months ago

To do an analysis like Tango has done or that many other analysts/bloggers/writers have done, does not require any assumption about the rationality of the actors on the Phillies, although at some point, it might imply an “a priori” probability which can be used in the (Bayesian) analysis.

Speaking of “a priori probabilities” and speaking in English, here is what I wrote (among other things) in The Book Blog about “The Deal” and about the Phillies, and other teams’ presumed (in my opinion) rationality:

Someone made this comment:

“Although I DO agree with your point that given the sums of money at stake we have to assume there is some logic behind the extension.”

and I replied:

The “logic” is that there is absolutely NO WAY that anyone in the Phillies organization thinks that Howard is the 57th best player in baseball right now, as Rally’s projection database suggests. And I am pretty sure that Oliver, me, Pecota, etc., has him NOT in the top 25 if not the top 50. If you told ANYONE in the Phillies organization that Howard was not a top 25 player, they would laugh you out of the room. If you told them that he was not a top 50 player, they would have you committed.

THAT is the logic of the signing!

When I first joined the Carinals in 2004, they were a fairly progressive and open-minded organization, although they did not yet have a foray into sabermetrics. Everyone in the upper echelons of management other than the owner thought I was a laughing stock.

Obviously we are 6 years later and many more teams are using sabermetric analysis for all kinds of things. But basically, that is the way many baseball teams still operate. Anything that is not in their comfort zone is considered a joke. I have not heard anything about the Phillies that suggests that they are a sabermetric-leaning organization in any way, shape, or form.

It is a GIVEN, a guaranteed a priori probability that they would heavily overvalue a player like Howard, just like HOU, another non-sabermetric organization, heavily overvalued a player like Carlos Lee. You have the classic case of a player being overvalued. A first baseman, because non-sabermetric teams do not understand positional adjustments, an older player, because some teams do not understand aging curves, and in no way, shape or form, think that players peak at 27 or so, a popular player both in and out of the clubhouse, because some teams put too much weight on chemistry, a high HR and RBI guy – I don’t have to explain that I hope – and a relatively low OBA guy, because some teams still undervalue OBA.

I can’t believe that there is any argument that, “The Phillies must know what they are doing and analysts are missing something.” There are not too many things that I am certain of. That that statement is patently false is one of them.

And I am not talking about knowing something about his character and work ethic or believing that he has extra value because of the his popularity with the fans. I’ll give him .5 win per year for that, and we can then do the analysis. Of course once you do that, you better not change Tango’s analysis since he already gives Howard 22 future wins rather than 16, which presumably takes into account the fact that Philly might know that Howard is going to age well (and again, I don’t buy that thesis in the first place).

MGL
Guest
MGL
6 years 3 months ago

That should be 16 historical wins, I think, rather than 22. And for the record, I have Howard with the 133rd best projection in baseball this year, which probably makes my projections a laughing stock with 85% of the readers on FG. Of course I’ll gladly take take an unlimited wager with anyone who does think that my projections are a laughing stock if they want to pit their projections against mine…

hk
Guest
hk
6 years 3 months ago

Since taking over for Pat Gillick following the 2008 season, Ruben Amaro has consistently overpaid free agents (in $, years or both). His short history as GM shows him misreading the market by giving then 45 year old Jamie Moyer a two year deal, giving Raul Ibanez 3 years and giving 3 years to Placido Polanco. Therefore, when they announced the Howard deal, I was unfazed by both the $ and years by which they are overpaying.

While Amaro made a great trade to get Cliff Lee from Cleveland, his other moves have me fearing that he will slowly erode the great situation that Pat Gillick left for him (best talent in the NL and a top 10 farm system). The real damage of Ibanez’s 3rd year and/or Howard’s extension will be felt sooner rather than later if those moves prevent the team from re-signing Jayson Werth.

Nate
Guest
Nate
6 years 3 months ago

He even gave Ross Gload 2yr/6M.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
6 years 3 months ago

Dont forget questionable 2nd years to Baez and Schneider.

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Yeah, that Ibanez deal has been terrible so far. And pretty much everyone at FanGraphs hated the Polanco one as well.

hk
Guest
hk
6 years 3 months ago

Viva,

My problem with signing Ibanez (and Polanco for that matter) was the unnecessary addition of the third season, especially when considering the market over the last two years. The third year for Ibanez could be particularly damaging since it may prevent the Phillies from re-signing Jayson Werth.

I’m not sure what your point is about Polanco. I’d say it is too early to judge that contract, especially when the greatest concern is about the third year. Even so, in his 1month for the Phillies, he’s produced a .283 / .313 / .402 line while playing at a traditional power position. Are you saying he’s outplaying his contract so far?

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 3 months ago

If Tango’s positional adjustments are to be believed, the standard for offense is the same at third as it is at second and center.

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

I am saying he was signed to a 3 year 18 million dollar contract, which necessitates an average of about 1.5 WAR over the life of the deal. He’s been WAAAAAY better than that according to FanGraphs and fit’s the sabermetric profile as well (good OBP, good defense).

thomas
Guest
thomas
6 years 3 months ago

Everyone needs to cool it on the popularity argument. He is not Derek Jeter and the Phillies are not the Yankee’s. Jeter will be wildly overpaid for what he is worth. But to a team like the Yankees, they can absorb bad contract. No other team can.

Mark
Guest
Mark
6 years 3 months ago

From 02-09 Jeter was paid 141M and earned 142.8M in value. So he’s actually not overpaid.

Coby DuBose
Guest
Coby DuBose
6 years 3 months ago

Mark misses the key words “will be” in Thomas’s post.

Murgatroid
Guest
Murgatroid
6 years 3 months ago

While I love this site and enjoy the information sabermetrics brings to the table, I find that sometimes these arguments tend to be too absolute. While evaluating a deal based solely on stats is better than using conventional baseball wisdom (which is little better than blind guesswork), we do not have to rely purely on statistics to evaluate this deal. A player’s future is not based purely on probability. Some players were helped by steroids later in their careers, some were hurt by freak injuries or injuries aided by prior steroid use. Work ethic plays a part too. While there isn’t a whole lot we can really know about how these factors will affect Howard, the Phillies organization has at least some idea. If Howard has demonstrated a good work ethic and a commitment to stay in good physical shape, the Phillies organization wouldn’t be wrong to believe that he is more likely to succeed than the numbers indicate. For this reason, I don’t think the deal was necessarily as bad as everyone has claimed.

That said, the deal was still unnecessary and excessive and Tom Tango’s assessment is probably the most objective I’ve seen. As a Phillies fan, I’m not looking forward to have a roster full of aging and overpaid players in a few year.

Tickkid
Guest
Tickkid
6 years 3 months ago

Well the problem with your first statement is that the game of baseball is really old. And so things can be projected based on the cycles of all the players that came before. And this projection is as favorable to Howard as any I’ve seen, and it basically puts this deal in a VERY narrow window of success. It is pretty safe to say that if you make this kind of deal and you have so many uncertain factors – a baseball deal that means this dude is getting paid even if he ends up hitting like Mario Mendoza. You always assume some risk when making any contract in baseball, but when you are dealing with millions of dollars, you should be trying to balance future worth against future loss and lower that risk as much as you can while still trying to get a return. By any value that both the community and the Phillies balance that against – this doesn’t do that.

Reuben
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Something that I don’t think has been accounted for (although will only make the contract look slightly better) is that like the Yankees and Red Sox, being at the top of the pyramid means that the Phillies should pay more per win than other teams. It’s in their best advantage, and they can do so. Of course in 4 years the Phillies might not be competitive and will have to cut way back in their roster.

I know that the market rate for wins is set with several contracts in order to get a decent average for the whole league, but has anyone considered having cost of win figures that are tiered? I.e. a cost of a win for a large market team for a mid market team and for a small market team? Is that silly?

thephaithful
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Since Howard started out as an awful defender, I expect his defense to improve over the years compared to what it was when he first started.

I see his defensive value as more of a bell curve where he is still on the upslope, which is opposite of what is offensive value looks like – as just a straight/declining line since his 2006 was such a monster year.

I wonder how much more value he is projected to give with the assumption that his defensive value is still increasing. If you actually watch Howard last year and this year, he has been above averagefor the league not just his own standards) in my opinion.

Also, aren’t their aspects of your game that benefit from experience moreso than age? As a 5th year player in 2010, wouldn’t his plate discipline and pitch recognition still be considered on the upslope as well?

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 3 months ago

Except… he’s been swinging at more pitches out of the zone every season he’s been in the majors. It hasn’t been a massive increase, but it would be utterly false to state that his pitch selection is improving.

STEALTH
Guest
STEALTH
6 years 3 months ago

As a Brewers fan who would like to (but now realizes it will be impossible to) sign Prince Fielder to an extension, I strongly object to this deal.

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