The Abreu Impact

The Angels spent most of the winter declaring that 2009 was the season when they were finally going to give their young kids a real shot, and used that as an explanation for why they weren’t active in replacing Mark Teixeira after he headed to the Yankees and told Garret Anderson to enjoy the rest of his career elsewhere. However, with the price for Bobby Abreu crashing through the floor, they couldn’t pass up a deal when they saw one, and have reportedly signed him to a one year, $5 million-ish deal.

From a pure dollars per win standpoint, this is obviously a good move. Even with Abreu’s defensive decline, he’s still something like a +2 to +2.5 win player, so the Angels are paying just a couple of million per win in this deal. If he puts them over the top and helps them win the AL West, the return on those dollars could be in the 500% range. It’s money well spent.

However, it creates some interesting questions in LA. They already re-signed Juan Rivera to a three year contract earlier this winter, and obviously Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero are going to play when healthy. Plus, there’s guys like Gary Matthews Jr and Reggie Willits hanging around as reserve outfielders already on the roster. There had also been talk of moving Chone Figgins to the OF to make room for Brandon Wood, one of the young kids who the Angels had been saying was going to get a real chance to prove himself in the majors this year. So, how do they sort all this out?

Let’s take a look at the five positions that are related here – LF, CF, RF, 3B, and DH. Between those five spots, the Angels have something like 3,500 plate appearances to hand out. 2,500 or so will be against RHP, with the other 1,000 coming against LHP, assuming a 70/30 split. Let’s start filling up those PA totals with one potential option.

RF – Guerrero, 375 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
RF – Abreu, 125 PA vs RHP, 50 vs LHP

CF – Hunter, 450 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
CF – Matthews, 50 PA vs RHP, 50 PA vs LHP

LF – Abreu, 250 PA vs RHP, 75 PA vs LHP
LF – Rivera, 125 PA vs RHP, 100 PA vs LHP
LF – Matthews, 125 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP

DH – Rivera, 200 PA vs RHP, 100 PA vs LHP
DH – Abreu, 125 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP
DH – Figgins, 75 PA vs RHP, 25 vs LHP
DH – Guerrero, 50 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP
DH – Wood, 50 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP

3B – Figgins, 400 PA vs RHP, 125 PA vs LHP
3B – Wood, 100 PA vs RHP, 75 PA vs LHP

Total by Player:

Guerrero: 425 PA vs RHP, 175 PA vs LHP
Hunter: 450 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
Abreu: 500 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
Rivera: 325 PA vs RHP, 200 PA vs LHP
Figgins: 475 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
Matthews: 175 PA vs RHP, 75 PA vs LHP
Wood: 150 PA vs RHP, 100 PA vs LHP

That’s one way that the Angels could potentially distribute the 3,500 PA they’ll get from those five positions. As you can see, the regular line-up would include Guerrero, Hunter, Abreu, Rivera, and Figgins, with Matthews and Wood relegated to backup duties.

The problem, however, is that if you’re consistently starting Guerrero, Rivera, and Abreu, two of those three have to play the outfield. That’s just not going to be a pretty sight to watch, and the pitching staff will take a hit with that kind of outfield defense behind them.

Abreu will help the Angels offense – that’s not in question. However, there are roster issues here that need to be worked out. In reality, the at-bats Abreu is going to get are coming from Gary Matthews (which downgrades the defense) and from Brandon Wood (which stalls his development, again). The marginal impact of Abreu’s presence on the team, while taking playing time from those two, is probably in the +1 win range.

This is a good move for the Angels. Adding a +2 win player, who is about +1 win better than your current alternatives, for $5 million in a season where you’re expecting to contend is a move that you should make. But this isn’t a huge upgrade for the Angels – it’s a marginal improvement, and one that could potentially cause some other issues.




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


56 Responses to “The Abreu Impact”

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  1. Jones says:

    Did you really just say Abreu is only +1 win better than GMJ/Wood?

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Yep.

      CHONE has that pair at about -9 runs per 600 PA offensively and Abreu at +10 runs per 600 PA offensively. The difference with the bats is about two wins.

      Defensively, Abreu’s not as good as Matthews. The gap in true talent per full season is probably in the +1 win range. However, Abreu won’t play OF full time, and Matthews won’t be banished completely from the OF, so we’ll cut that in half. So, the defensive downgrade is probably about -.5 wins.

      But, then, we also have to consider that Abreu stops the team from being able to DH Vlad as often, so there’s some lost defensive value there, as well as increased injury risk to the team’s best player. How much is the flexibility of being able to rotate Vlad through DH more often worth? Maybe not half a win, but it’s not zero either.

      So, Abreu is +1 to +1.5 wins for the Angels, compared to Matthews/Wood, depending on how much he plays the OF. Still a good move to make, but probably not the big improvement that most people expect.

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      • alskor says:

        That’s what i would have guessed. Its a decent move because of the price, but its a pretty marginal upgrade. Still worth doing.

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      • Jones says:

        This is assuming Wood doesn’t stink up the joint again and Matthews doesn’t continue to succumb to injuries. I’m not confident that will be the case.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        It’s also assuming that Abreu doesn’t stink up the joint or succumb to injuries.

        This is why we have projections – they give us real expectations based on the wide range of possible outcomes for all players. Yes, Matthews and Wood could suck. So could Abreu. The question isn’t possibility, but probability.

        The probability is that Abreu will be better, probably +1 to +1.5 wins better. And that’s what you make decisions on.

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      • Jones says:

        Apples to oranges. Abreu is proven and has a long track record of success. Wood does not. Wood was overmatched in the majors. I’m not confident that he will suddenly do a respectable job. Not until he gives us a reason.

        Matthews? Already injured and not expected back until May. Injuries+Aging mid-30s OFer = not a good combination.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        Proven track records don’t mean anything. If you judge all players by their major league performance, you’re going to misjudge a lot of decisions.

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      • Geez says:

        Dave, I think he’s saying there’s a much better chance of Abreu performing to expectations than Wood performing to expectations (in terms of the CHONE projection, that is) We know what Abreu is capable of and what he is likely going to do this season. The same can’t be said for Wood.

        He makes a good point. Wood was a complete disaster in the majors. I think he’ll do a much better job this year, but we can’t just dismiss his major league performance. That plate discipline was something else.

        And it’s true…Wood hasn’t shown ANYTHING in the majors (small sample, I know) that would make us think he’ll hit what CHONE projects him to. The only thing we can do is go by his minor league numbers, but it doesn’t always translate and it might take some time before it does. So…

        Matthews is a mess. He was injured last year and is already expected to miss the first month of the season.

        Anyway, I’m not arguing with you. If Wood and GMJ perform, then Abreu isn’t that much of an improvement. If they don’t, then he is a big improvement.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        Essentially, your argument boils down to this: CHONE is reliable for major leaguers and not for minor leaguers.

        Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that this is true. None. These projection systems have been heavily studied, and their accuracy isn’t significantly different in projecting players based of MLB or MILB numbers.

        If you accept CHONE’s projection for Abreu, you have to accept it for Wood and Matthews. You can’t pick and choose.

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      • Geez says:

        I don’t think that’s true. There’s a big difference between projecting major leaguers and minor leaguers.

        Do all players hit instantly when they reach the majors? Some do, some don’t. Some players need time to adjust, some don’t. Some even do better in the majors than minors. Some do the same. Some do as expected. Some just don’t perform at all. Then, you have to consider that not everyone is a finished product in the minors. Players improve, too.

        Sorry, Dave….but minor leaguers are unpredictable.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        Some major leaguers fall on their face. Some don’t. Everything you just said about minor leaguers can be applied to major leaguers too.

        The data is there for you. We can project performance based on minor league data. If you don’t think that’s true, you either need to educate yourself about the reliability of the various projection systems or present evidence that the data on the issue is wrong.

        If you really believe what you’re saying, you need to prove it. The data is against you.

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      • Geez says:

        Dave, that is not what I am saying. At all. I know we can project performance based on minor league data. I’m just saying you can’t confidently expect Wood to do a decent job. Keyword: confidently.

        Yes, it could happen. Yes, I want it to happen. But that doesn’t mean it will. And given the unpredictable nature of minor leaguers, we just don’t know what to expect.

        The point is, it’s much easier to project what Abreu will do than what Wood will do.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        That point is wrong, though. That’s what I’m telling you.

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      • Geez says:

        OK, Dave. It’s good to know you’re as confident in projecting Wood’s numbers as you are with Abreu’s.

        The data is there, but I’m not seeing the results. Share the data right now. Show me the results. Show me how minor league projections are as accurate as major league projections. Right now.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        Go to insidethebook.com/ee. Then, search for projections. Read.

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      • Geez says:

        Just send me the link of the actual data. I’m not going to search through an entire website. Present the data. Show me the results. Show me how CHONE’s accuracy isn’t significantly different in projecting players based of MLB or MILB numbers.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        If you can’t be bothered to do a google search, then you’re not worth having a conversation with.

        Educate yourself. Don’t expect the world to spoon feed you.

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      • Geez says:

        When you make an argument, present the data. Don’t expect people to do that for you, Dave.

        I’m telling you minor league projections are not as accurate or useful as major league projections. You’re telling me they are. Show me the data, then.

        If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly admit it. I’m not seeing you post any data that proves me wrong.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        I’m making an argument that has already been established. You’re making an argument that has been established by… your opinion.

        The burden of proof is on you. I have no interest in continuing this conversation until you show an ounce of willingness to learn something. Go read about the issue and then we’ll talk.

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      • Geez says:

        Then prove it. You know what, if there was actual data out there that shows CHONE’s minor league projections are as accurate and useful as major league projections…you would’ve posted it by now.

        It hasn’t been established. I remember reading from CHONE Smith himself about how his minor league projections were way off when compared to his major league projections. He posted a few articles about this.

        I’ll read about it once you direct me a link. I’ll be waiting, Dave. Please prove me wrong. All you have to do is post a link.

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      • kensai says:

        Can’t seem to find a copy of CHONE’s 2008 projections. Been searching.

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      • Matt B. says:

        I was skeptical about CHONE for Justin Upton last year, but they nailed it pretty good. Dave, maybe you still have the CHONE projection for 2008, I can’t seem to find it for him. Upton was essentially a career minor leaguer to that point…

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      • BoSox Dog says:

        I think Dave is wrong. Count me in as a non-believer until shown otherwise.

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      • Geez says:

        *Crickets*

        Educate yourself, Dave. Minor leaguers are unpredictable. Minor league projections are not as useful or accurate as major league projections. You can’t project minor leaguers as easily as you can major leaguers. You can very easily just prove me wrong on this, but you can’t. And you won’t.

        What you say and think just isn’t always accurate. Maybe if you got off your high horse, you would realize you’re not nearly as clever and smart as you think you are.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        The last time I’ll talk to you in this thread.

        The burden of proof is on you. I have no interest in continuing this conversation until you show an ounce of willingness to learn something. Go read about the issue and then we’ll talk.

        I’m right. Go educate yourself.

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      • Geez says:

        No, no…it isn’t. And you’re not. If what you say is true, you would’ve provided a link that supports your claim. Anyone can see that. The fact that you haven’t speaks volumes. All you have to do is post a link, Dave. That is all. Enough clever talk. Put up or shut up. I’ll gladly admit I was wrong if you can prove yourself right. Unfortunately, you won’t do that because you can’t. Which means I am right. A link ends this.

        You will never find a link that shows CHONE’s minor league projections are as accurate and useful as major league projections. You will never find data that supports your claim. Because it just isn’t true.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        At 5 million for 1 year, it is a good move.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        I was replying to the first post

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  2. Joe says:

    Good signing. When you say he is worth 2.5 wins, where can I find the 2008 leaders in that statistic? Is it “WPA?” “Win Values?”

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      I’m quoting his projected Win Value. Being able to DH occasionally, along with regression to the mean (as noted below, it’s unlikely he’s really a -25 defender) will somewhat limit the harm of his defensive issues, and his bat should be about two wins above an average hitter. All told, he’s a +2 to +2.5 win player for ’09.

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  3. Dan says:

    So you don’t think any of their OF/DH types will make a transfer to 1B?

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  4. Xeifrank says:

    Abreu’s WAR per FanGraphs.
    2002: 6.8
    2003: 6.1
    2004: 5.7
    2005: 4.2
    2006: 3.4
    2007: 2.8
    2008: 1.3

    and he was something like -25 runs on defense with the Yankees last year. Most forecast systems have him hitting about the same this year as last. To get to 2 wins, he’s going to either have to hit better or field better than he did last year.
    vr, Xei

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    • Geez says:

      The problem is…

      Abreu’s UZR
      2004: -11.3
      2005: -6.5
      2006: -15.6
      2007: -4.2
      2008: -25.2

      Do you really think he’s -25.2 bad? Naw. Nobody uses one-year samples to gauge defensive value. These things aren’t perfect and you have to consider sample size.

      Also, PMR had Abreu at -11.45.

      Abreu is probably a poor defender, but not -25.2 bad. No way. He’s more like -10.

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      • Xeifrank says:

        I agree he is probably not -25 bad (present value), but may have been -25 bad last year. I don’t know much about UZR, does it regress to the mean based on sample sizes, or does it just output the raw performance values?
        vr, Xei

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  5. Jacob Jackson says:

    Teixeira v. Abreu v. Giambi

    Isn’t it kind of surprising that these three left-handed hitters entered the market this offseason, and one of them got a $180M contract, while the other two combined for less than $10 million?

    It’s interesting how the top of the market was completely unaffected, and how much the middle and even upper-middle tier has dropped.

    I mean, all three of those guys are good left-handed hitters who play at the lower rungs of the defensive spectrum. And it’s not impossible that Tex will have an .820 OPS next year and Giambi and Abreu out-perform him at the plate.

    (I realize that’s an overly simplistic analysis, but it for me it highlights the amazing disparity in their contracts).

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      One signed with the Yankees, the other two didn’t.

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      • Isaac A says:

        Tex also was worth +11.7 runs with the glove last year, although this seems like a fluke, given that he has not played positive defense since 2004 before last year.

        The best reason, though, is Dave’s.

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    • joser says:

      And one signed relatively early. Ibanez got a crazy contract by the standards we now have for this offseason. It looked like Philly was overpaying at the time, of course, and was obviously slow to catch on to the new appreciation for defense, but in retrospect — with the economic news and the sobering affect it seems to be having on teams — it’s absolutely insane. Raul’s agent gets the prize this offseason, I think.

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    • Mike says:

      Teixeira switch hits…

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  6. centris says:

    You are right this really creates a crunch for those PAs in the OF, 3B and DH. Your break down doesn’t give any to Willits, who might be just as good as Abreu in the corner (http://www.lookoutlanding.com/2009/2/10/755720/today-s-fun-fact).

    If they do go with a really poor defensive outfield it could really make their pitchers look a lot worse than they are. Sort of the opposite of how the Mariner’s new outfield might make Washburn look a lot better than he is.

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  7. MFG says:

    perhaps Vlad’s health is worse than the team is letting on?

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  8. Christo P. Ney says:

    Scioscia talked of using Napoli at the DH spot this year to get him 500 abs.

    Something to maybe factor in, though this move seems to put that to rest.

    It’s a good, yet odd move. Makes me think another move is in the works, maybe for a fifth starter. Aybar had a good winter. He could take over the leadoff spot with the newly-reupped Izturis as a backup, making Figgins expendable and giving Wood a shot. If Wood tanks (entirely possible with all those holes in his swing), they can slide Izturis over as a stopgap and not miss Figgins much. Sean Rodriguez backs up both. Not an ideal situation but…

    And heck, with this economy, it’s not like teams won’t be willing to shed third basemen come June/July.

    But yeah, this move, as well, seems to be some sort of insurance against the possibility that Guerrero’s contract negotiations stall.

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  9. Joe says:

    So according to you guys at fangraphs, what would be the best statistic to look at to evaluate 2008 performance? Something in the mold of WARP, Win Shares, that takes into account offense and defense.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Context Neutral Performance? Win Values.

      Base-Out Context Included? Win Values with WPA/LI substituted for wRAA.

      All Context Included? Win Values with WPA substituted for wRAA.

      Depending on what you want to measure, pick your metric. All three are available here on the site.

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  10. Xeifrank says:

    Maybe the Angels will try to trade somebody at some point during the season.
    vr, Xei

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  11. Geez says:

    No, no…it isn’t. And you’re not. If what you say is true, you would’ve provided a link that supports your claim. Anyone can see that. The fact that you haven’t speaks volumes. All you have to do is post a link, Dave. That is all. Enough clever talk. Put up or shut up. I’ll gladly admit I was wrong if you can prove yourself right. Unfortunately, you won’t do that because you can’t. Which means I am right. A link ends this.

    You will never find a link that shows CHONE’s minor league projections are as accurate and useful as major league projections. You will never find data that supports your claim. Because it just isn’t true.

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    • Nick says:

      Geez, are you being serious? It’s the same system, and you’re saying that it works for some players better than others, even though it’s the same system? I’m definitely missing your logic. I understand when you say that minor league numbers don’t always translate to big league numbers; but there are reasons why, and those reasons are taken into account when CHONE is projecting for the future.

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  12. Geez says:

    Nick, you’re totally misinterpreting my posts. I’m saying minor league projections aren’t as accurate or useful as major league projections.

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  13. TK says:

    Not that this changes things a ton, but isn’t there some non-zero chance that Wood sees some time at shortstop this year? I know they made a big show of moving him to 3B but he did play SS down the stretch in the MLB last season.

    Maybe that presents all kinds of other issues, like Wood being a defensive downgrade from Aybar…but…I thought it was worth raising.

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  14. Gotowarmissagnes says:

    http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/community_forecast_2007_preliminary_results/#29

    Seems to me Tango’s results indicate Chone was:

    4-5 OPS points off for long-term major leagues
    3-4 OPS points off for major league players with moderate experience
    10-13 OPS points for part-timers, bench players and players with 2 or fewer years of experience
    And 56 OPS points off for players making their debut.

    If I understand the results correctly.

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  15. rdj3video says:

    I like the breakdown, but I’ve got to believe those 75 PA for Wood at DH and some of Rivera’s DH PAs will end up in the hands of Guerrero and Napoli. Rivera could log a few innings in right for Vlad, if Vlad needs to DH. Wood could win some more PA at 3B if he produces.

    If Kendry Morales isn’t able to hold down 1st base, I would hate the thought of the Angels even thinking about letting Juan Rivera field balls on the right hand side of the diamond. He played 1st for just 2 innings last season for the first time in his career. This scenario is one of those things Rex Hudler conjures up during a broadcast.

    It’s unfortunate Gary Matthews performance has reduced him to a very expensive defensive replacement in LF that will give Hunter a day off once every 10 games.

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  16. ineedanap says:

    All I know is Rivera, Guerrero, Abreu > Anderson, Guerrero, Matthews (especially when Matthews is the DH.

    Plus, is Matthews that much better defensively than Abreu to make up the difference in their offensive production?

    Anyway, I like the signing. It gives the young guys a chance to develop by having two productive veterans in the lineup. Plus the Angels need offensive production more than they need defense at this point. A left side of Figgins (LF), Wood (3B), and Aybar (SS) would be awesome defensively, but with so many young players its important to have some stabiltity on the offensive side of things as not to have to rely on them for production.

    Its not like Wood didn’t get any playing time last year and he was buried under both Izturis and Aybar. With the injuries the Angels always seem to suffer its not a bad idea to have a ton of depth.

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  17. Jay in BMore says:

    Big ups to Gotowarmissagnes (love the name) for posting the link to Tango’s evaluation of the forecasting systems. Following up on GTWMA’s summary, indeed two clear conclusions emerge: negligible difference in overall accuracy between the forecasting systems (including Marcel, Chone, PECOTA et. al.) and a noticeable difference in accuracy when comparing projections for players with MLB experience vs those without. Clearly in support of Geez’ position on this thread and concordant with what common sense would tell us, i.e. it is more reliable to base a prognostication of future performance on prior MLB performance than MiLB (or college) performance.

    Just based on an initial read of this thread, Dave Cameron’s steadfast refusal to accept the common sense reality here had completely undermined his credibility. Looking at the Tango evaluation only cemented that perspective. Further, Cameron’s shrill assaults on Geez’ requests for supporting data intimate that Cameron either knows no such data exists or has never taken the time to determine if such data exists. Both of these results are inexcusable and determining which is true would not only be a an exercise in futility, but would only prove a moot point: Cameron’s posts/articles are only worth reading for entertainment value.

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  18. Garrett says:

    Yeah Geez is right based on current data. There’s been a few looks at projection systems, and even the projection creators themselves have readily admitted that minor league predictions are MUCH more complicated and tough than those for reliable big league AB’s.

    Not sure what Dave’s talking about. The “I’m right, you’re wrong, period” arguement is one I see too often in the stat community, when people do not understand that there’s more than one way of looking at the numbers and coming up with them. Don’t enjoy seeing it here.

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