The Value of Hunter Pence

Over the weekend, the Giants made the first big signing of the off-season, even though it wasn’t technically the off-season yet. Rather than let Hunter Pence get to free agency and potentially start a bidding war for his services, the Giants chose to sign him to a five year, $90 million contract before he got to test the market. I did a very short post in the aftermath of the deal, noting that Pence has pretty similar numbers over the last three years to what Nick Swisher did in his run up to free agency, but that the price to sign the two was pretty different. However, no decision on contract pricing is ever that simple, so let’s take a closer look at what the Giants are paying for in Hunter Pence.

To set some expectations, I looked at every qualified outfielder between ages 28 and 30, and then narrowed the list down to those who had posted a wRC+ between 120 and 130 during that time in their careers. Pence is at 125 over the last three years, so it basically gives us 12 outfielders who were fairly similar in offensive contributions, at least on a rate basis. Swisher shows up here, as do guys like Ryan Ludwick, Nelson Cruz, Jayson Werth, Andre Ethier, and Carlos Beltran. Overall, this feels like a pretty good set of recent comparisons for Pence, at least offensively.

How did those 12 players do from ages 31-35, which are the years that the Giants have signed up for in this new contract? Actually pretty good, as the group posted a 119 wRC+ overall. Except there’s a problem, and it’s called survivorship bias. As the players have gotten older, the worst players in the original group have fallen out of the dataset because they stopped being good enough to continue on in Major League Baseball. Jack Cust, Jason Bay, and Brad Hawpe make up a significantly smaller part of the second sample than they do the first, which becomes dominated by the guys who were good enough to keep playing into their mid-30s.

So, then, instead of saying that the data suggests Pence is going to retain most of his offensive abilities going forward, it’s more like the data suggests that Pence is likely to keep hitting well if he’s one of the players who hits well enough to keep playing regularly. Which, well, yeah. If you set as one of your parameters that a player has to have a minimum performance to show up in your dataset, we shouldn’t be surprised that every player meets or exceeds that minimum.

This is one of the major problems with these kinds of comparative studies, and if you just focus on how players of a certain age do in the big leagues, you’ll tend to overestimate the performance of players as they get older. So, why even bother with those comparisons, if I was just going to point out that the data is somewhat flawed? Because, realistically, their overall performance represent something of a reasonable ceiling, so they do give us an idea of what the best case scenario for Pence might be over the next few years.

If Pence stays healthy and doesn’t see his skills decline dramatically, a 115 to 120 wRC+ over the next five seasons seems within the realm of possibility. That makes him a decent hitter, fitting in somewhere between the 2013 versions of Ben Zobrist and Andre Ethier. He’s more athletic than Ethier, providing more value both as a baserunner and a defender, but the total package still looks like it would project out to around +2 and +3 WAR per season, depending on health and playing time. He’ll probably be on the high side early and the low side late, so maybe you’d expect something along these lines:

2014: +3.5 WAR
2015: +3.0 WAR
2016: +2.5 WAR
2017: +2.0 WAR
2018: +1.5 WAR

Maybe you want to start him a little higher or a little lower, or be a little more aggressive with aging. These aren’t precise estimates, and an injury could throw this whole thing off the tracks at any time. But, something in this realm seems pretty reasonable, meaning that the Giants signed up for something like +12.5 WAR. If you hate Pence and thinks he’s going to age terribly, maybe you think it’s more like +10 WAR. If you love him and think he’s only getting better, maybe you push it to +15 WAR. Let’s go with +12.5 WAR for now.

At $90 million in total, that’s a price $7.2 million per WAR, definitely higher than what we’ve seen teams pay in previous off-seasons. Even if you bump up the projected WAR to an optimistic +15 projection, this grades out to about $6 million per win, still above the norms of the last few winters. So, from that perspective, it’s not that difficult to call this deal an overpay. In terms of production and cost, Pence is unlikely to earn his salary for the entirety of the contract, unless inflation in free agency really takes off again.

But, after an analysis like this, the question often asked is “so what?” If you’re a Giants fan, should you really care that the team “overpaid” to keep a good player? It’s better for the fans to have a bunch of good overpaid players than a roster of terrible players and a huge profit margin for the owners, right? Who wouldn’t prefer to root for the Giants instead of the Marlins? After all, the Giants won two World Series titles with Barry Zito, probably the most overpaid player of the last decade. One overpaid free agent doesn’t cripple a franchise, clearly.

And it’s true. The Giants are better off, as a franchise, investing that $90 million into a $60-$70 million player like Hunter Pence than they are in turning that $90 million into a private plane for team ownership, or stuffing it under the pillows, or however else you want to imagine the money being used on something besides player acquisition. We’re not going to argue the point that a team is better off investing in talent than boosting their profits, at least from a winning baseball perspective.

But, if both sides are willing to stipulate that the Giants could have spent $90 million on other baseball players this winter if they hadn’t signed Hunter Pence, then I think there’s a pretty strong case to be made that they could have done better going in another direction. And that’s why teams should care about the going rate of a win.

Players are, at the end of day, couriers of wins. They deliver packages of different size and shape, but in the end, it all translates into the same currency. There are some gains to be had by diversifying skills and making sure that the roster isn’t too heavily loaded with one particular type of player, but these are gains on the margins, and should be minor concerns rather than major ones. Instead of paying for “right-handed power”, the Giants are paying for an above average corner outfielder, probably worth somewhere around three wins for the next couple of years before some decline makes him average, or worse.

Recent history suggests that a team with $90 million to spend should be able to buy more than a three win player this winter. It’s certainly possible that the Giants know that MLB teams are flush with cash again, and the prices we saw paid last winter are going to pale in comparison to the prices we see this winter, but it’s hard not to look at this contract and see the Ethier deal.

They’re similar players, and it’s a similar sized contract, both of which were negotiated before the players hit free agency following their age-30 season. And the Dodgers just ran away with the NL West in year one of the deal, so again, an overpaid right fielder does not portend certain doom. But, realistically, the Dodgers are in the playoffs because they offset overpaid guys like Ethier with cheap young stars like Yasiel Puig and got a where-on-earth-did-that-come-from performance from Juan Uribe.

Pence’s new deal won’t stop the Giants from winning, so long as they surround him with quality players on undervalue deals, either from their farm system or by finding nifty pieces for cheap in trades or free agency. That’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, though, and now that they’re committed to paying Pence $18 million per year for the next five years, their margin of error just got a little smaller. This isn’t the Ryan Howard contract, or even the Barry Zito contract, but for a team without unlimited resources, spending too many of them on a good-not-great player on the wrong side of 30 could end up looking like a mistake.




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


145 Responses to “The Value of Hunter Pence”

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  1. Mark says:

    Instead of looking at the performance of that 12-player group as a whole, what if you broke it down and just averaged the performance of all players without weighting their wRC+ by PAs? It seems like that would give an estimate of performance less susceptible to survivor bias.

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  2. rogue_actuary says:

    Ryan Howard:

    fWAR since 2010 –> 1.0 + 1.5 – 1.1 + 0.4 = 1.8 WAR.

    Salaries since 2010 –> $19M + $20M + $20M + $20M = $79M.

    That’s nearly $44M/WAR, and with the Phillies on the hook for another $85M over the next three years, it’s not like that situation is going to start looking a lot better anytime soon…

    Along with posting an (almost unbelievably) high $$/WAR, I bet Howard is also the all-time leader in MVP points per WAR.

    Quite impressive.

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    • Juan Gonzalez says:

      Not so fast!

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    • B N says:

      That’s a crazy number. Somebody should do this across the board and see where the worst value big contracts were. Before I saw this, I would have bet on guys like Vernon Wells, Zito, or Hampton. But that’s just atrocious.

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    • B N says:

      I raise you the price that the Angels paid Vernon Wells per win. 0.6 wins over 2 years, at the cost of $67m ($86m salary – $5m cash – $14m from Yankees in later trade). Or, in other words: $112m/WAR. And that’s not even including any surplus value lost from giving away Mike Napoli.

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  3. Daniel says:

    I certainly agree with Dave that this is an overpay, but I’m wondering if there’s any evidence that the Giants are sort of forced to overpay hitters because otherwise no one wants to come hit in AT&T park. I don’t know if that’s the case, but just a thought I had.

    Plus there’s also the element of Hunter Pence becoming a major fan favorite in SF, and I’m wondering if they take into consideration his capacity to put fans in the seats.

    Ultimately though, this could be a huge problem if it means they are not willing to put some money into rebuilding their pitching staff.

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    • RSquared says:

      I don’t think you can underplay the popularity aspect of the extensions the Giants hand out. AT&T has been one big party since ’10; panda and giraffe hats, constant camera shots of the smiling kids and laughing adults, kayaks in McCovey Cove.
      They have shied away from big FA contracts since Rowand and Zito, and gave questionable extensions to the latest hero of a playoff run (Huff, Scutaro, Pagan) to keep them in SF. With a privately financed stadium, they need to pay down their debt.

      What I don’t understand is why Sabean has not tried to find players like Beane has, cheap power such as Reddick, Moss or Murphy. He did it with Burrell and Ross (serendipitously) in ’10. The only player I know who turned him down was Soriano.

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      • John says:

        Pence brings a lot more to the table than just stats; he’s a great teammate and plays the game with passion. Hoping he’ll be more Willie McGee than Aaron Rowand.

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    • Matt says:

      If that’s the case they need to stop spending so much money on pitching.

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    • Baltar says:

      Poor argument. He’ll be popular as long as he continues to help the team win. That won’t happen for long.
      It’s deals like this which may eventually be regarded as comparable to the disastrous Zito and Rowand deals that drove me away from being a Giants fan, even after decades of devotion.
      I’m happier being a Rays fan, even if the Giants often are more succesful, because I can admire management decisions rather than detest them.
      I sincerely hope that the Giants continue to have records like this year’s for many years to come.

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      • Graham says:

        Barry Zito disagrees that Pence will only be popular as long as he continues to help the team win. So, for that matter, does Tim Lincecum. The SF fanbase is pretty loyal. And Pence is one of the most likable guys around — plays 100% every day, in a charmingly goofy way.

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        • B N says:

          Yah, I was SHOCKED by the level of applause Zito got after the final game of the season yesterday. It’s like people had forgotten he was one of the worst value FA signings in history. I initially thought they were cheering ironically, but it went on for far too long or that and I didn’t really hear any boos. Zito’s lucky he didn’t play in Philly. He would have been waving his send-off from an armored car showered with rotten tomatoes.

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        • Bhaakon says:

          Don’t confuse the applause Zito got with the desire for his contract to continue, or even for him to return in any capacity. No one is under any illusions about his lack of performance. You can be glad that his deal is up without being an ass about it.

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        • DH says:

          BN, Zito was instrumental in two world series victories (first half 2010 he was their best pitcher, they won division by 1 game.) Philly has won 2 W.S, is past 33 years, SF in 3. So Philly fans would have showered Zito with Hoagies.
          Baltar, which management decisions do you detest? The ones that have made Giants a model franchise with 2 WS championships in 3 years? If you can drop the Giants like that, then you were never really a fan.
          All’s well that ends well, folks, and Zito, Sabean, and Bochy will gladly let you kiss their rings while you kneel before them.

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      • Ah yes, fanhood through moral victories. I’m somewhat familiar with those. /Padres fan

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      • cs3 says:

        “It’s deals like this which may eventually be regarded as comparable to the disastrous Zito and Rowand deals that drove me away from being a Giants fan, even after decades of devotion.”

        LOL Baltar, they were so disastrous that the Giants only won 2 championships in that time frame.
        Sorry to hear you jumped shipped before the party started.

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      • Hopper says:

        Bandwagon fans like yourself are the worse.

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  4. Evan says:

    I don’t see an Ethier comp at all. Pence has no serious platoon issues, has better defensive value, and better baserunning, not to mention Pence is filling a serious need, while the Dodgers signed Ethier with an impending outfield logjam.

    Without a protected draft pick the Giants weren’t going to be able to be big players in the free agent market, so signing Pence made sense.

    I think the biggest fear is that he’ll become Rowand 2.0, since like Rowand he’s a complete hack who’ll suffer from the smallest decline in bat speed.

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    • chief00 says:

      I agree with this, but I considered it from a different angle. The obvious similarities (RF; tough home park for hitters; contract; etc.) can tend to blur the differences (defense; base running; etc.) but I expect that if both Ethier and Pence were made available right now, the Giants would be able to deal Pence faster and would also get a better return.

      That said, the guy I want off that list isn’t Pence or Ethier. I want Ben Zobrist. He’s the only guy in MLB who could be a plus hitter/defender/base runner if he was the bench coach. Now THAT’S a contract with surplus value.

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      • Sean T says:

        Every team in the world should want Zobrist. When you can play basically 5 positions (two of them above-average defensively) and hit above average at all of them? Zobrist is a rich man’s Daniel Nava. And I think all Sawx fans can join me in saying that’s a very good thing to be.

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  5. Wanda says:

    Uninformed speculation: I think you can avoid survivor bias by simply using, as your comparison group, the group of players who are comparable at baseline. Those who drop out of baseball subsequently are retained in the analysis and given replacement level value for each year out of ball. No?

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    • tz says:

      I think Dave was using players who were comparable at baseline. The survivorship bias comes in because he’s using a ratio stat (wRC+), and players who lost playing time contribute a smaller weight to the post-baseline wRC+.

      Using WAR or some other counting stat would avoid the survivorship bias issue for Pence’s peer group.

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      • Wanda says:

        Makes sense, thanks. Looks like using WAR is a winner.

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        • Graham says:

          I think the biggest problem with the survivorship bias article is that wRC+ has nothing to say about player types. No one in their right mind would ever compare Jack Cust to Hunter Pence in terms of skillset. Jason Bay’s career was derailed by head injuries, which could certainly happen to Pence but isn’t very useful in terms of predictive value. Brad Hawpe was a classic Coors Field mirage. I don’t think wRC+ is at all useful in predicting aging curves.

          While I’m at it, I have another nit to pick with this article. Dave writes that “Recent history suggests that a team with $90 million to spend should be able to buy more than a three win player this winter.” I’m not sure what recent history really has to offer, as by far the most important determinant in what players will get this offseason is the state of the current market. Pence would’ve hit the market as a top OF target in a very weak class this offseason, but might’ve been middle-of-the-pack target in a stronger market.

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  6. Lakeside says:

    For my understanding: survivorship bias is the issue where we analyze results/people who succeded or made it to the end, inflating success? (failures fall out)

    Is the issue then with the fact players who would have declined substantially would have also dropped severely in PA? – The bias.

    Couldn’t you then switch over to WAR, to include the Bay’s of the world?

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    • B N says:

      This. Which is roughly equivalent to just taking something like the wRC+ multiplied by the PA (which was suggested in the first comment), so long as you only care about offensive performance (which, for some odd reason, is how the article was structured).

      I’m definitely at a loss for why a rate stat would make sense for evaluating a FA contract. Especially if one didn’t weight for PA. By that measure, a guy signed for 8 years, hit 2 HR on opening day, and then suffered a career-ending injury would look like the most awesome player in the world (and completely disbalance the stats). That’s why you want the “average performance” (Total # Events/Total # Opportunities) not the “average of the performances” (Avg. of Player # Events /Player # Opportunities) when dealing with rate stats.

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  7. Choo says:

    This contract is bad news for teams who were already willing to overpay for an OF upgrade this winter.

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  8. Shankbone says:

    The Giants won two world series with 2 bad contracts, not one. I’m surprised Aaron Rowand wasn’t brought up. Rowand wasn’t too keen on keeping in tip top shape, preferring mountain bike rides in the summer. Pence’s drive appears to be a little better that that.

    The FA market is about overpaying most of the time though. You can sit around and wait, players do fall through the cracks. Was Nick Swisher awarded his contract because of draft pick compensation damage or the fact not many teams had need for a RF who’s really a 1B? Most of the time there is an overbid to secure the player, because most of the premium talent is locked up early.

    Giants have a hard time getting FA hitters to PacBell, and they have the added bonus of seeing Pence play there for over a year. One thing that surprises is how bad Pence’s fielding ratings are, both here and on B/R. The Giants might have something up their sleeve on that front, they do have their proprietary system they aren’t discussing.

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    • Terence says:

      You’re surprised at how bad of a defender Pence is? Have you watched him play?

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      • Shankbone says:

        He’s not a bad defender, he just throws like a girl and runs weird. I’d take him over all the other guys on that list except for Beltran in his prime.

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      • Graham says:

        I’d grade him as above average after watching him consistently for a year and a half in one of the league’s tougher right fields. Great arm and very good speed, which helps make up for some bad routes. Plus Roberto Kelly and the Giants do a very good job with defensive positioning (maybe part of that proprietary defensive system the G’s have).

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      • Lefty says:

        Tim Lincecum had a no-hitter this year because of that bad defender. Just saying.

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        • Jason B says:

          Well that single anecdote clears up any and all questions about his defense!

          Also Derek Jeter is the best defender ever – remember that one time he tumbled over the rail and made that catch?!

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    • Baltar says:

      The Giants happened to win 2 World Series. They didn’t win poop for many years before, or for the one year in-between and after. They were far, far from the best team (or even one of the best teams) in baseball in the 2 years they won, and way below average since Bonds has been gone.
      They also have one of the highest payrolls in baseball. With that kind of payroll, teams like the Rays and A’s would be by far the top teams in the game.

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      • B N says:

        “way below average since Bonds has been gone.”

        Seriously? That sounds like some awful revisionist history. Bonds last few years with the team were pretty terrible. Not because Bonds was terrible, but because after Jeff Kent left the Giants had such a weak lineup you’d have to be an idiot to pitch to Bonds under most circumstances.

        To give an idea of how bad those lineups were: all but one of those teams had a combined OPS+ under 100, despite Bonds’ OPS+ of 206 being included in that figure. The only year over 100? 104, driven by Bonds’ all-time-great 2004 season. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love J.T. Snow, Ray Durham, and late-career Moises Alou as much as the next guy but you’d better believe I’d take the 2010-2012 squads over those teams. And that’s not even considering the fact that the Giants pitching was significantly better since Bonds left, overall.

        Or, for a WAR summary:
        2008-2013 (6 Years):
        – WAR/Year: 38.75
        – Batting WAR/Year: 20.65
        – Pitching WAR/Year: 14.9
        – Fielding WAR/Year: 3.2 (123.9 Batting + 89.2 Pitching, 19.2 UZR)
        – Expected # of Wins: ~86

        2003-2007 (5 years) WAR/Year: 19.35 (96.7 + 70 Pitching, 12.3 UZR)
        – WAR/Year: 35.81
        – Batting WAR/Year: 19.35
        – Pitching WAR/Year: 14
        – Fielding WAR/Year: 2.46
        – Expected # of Wins: ~ 83

        So, yah. Other than the team being better IN EVERY SINGLE WAY compared to the last 5 years when Bonds was around, they’ve been complete bums. It is also clear that 86 expected wins is “way below average,” since it is mathematically possible for the average team to have a higher win percentage than 0.530. QED, indeed.

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        • B N says:

          Which is not to say that the Giants have been wise about using their deep pockets. But they were spending plenty of money while Bonds was around, with a lot less to show for it. A difference of 3 wins/year for 5 years is not chump change.

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  9. The Stranger says:

    Given the obvious survivor bias, why use wRC+ (or any rate stat) to compare to the 12-player group? Why not just average the WAR of the group instead, especially since you switch to $$/WAR for evaluating the contract in the second half of the article?

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  10. elgato7664 says:

    One problem with the comparison is that many of the compared players haven’t reached the age of 35 yet.

    For chutes & giggles, I did a of players since 1980 who accumulated 10.8 to 12.0 WAR from age 28-30 (Pence 11.4) (excluding N.Cruz & M.Bourn). The average age 31-35 production of those 13 players is 8.4 WAR:

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  11. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Jeez, One year of Zito at $18 million or one year of Pence at $18 Million???
    Not even close.

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  12. Shankbone says:

    So the question becomes – who should the Giants have signed, spending their 90MM “better” – given their obvious needs in the OF? And obvious needs for HR Power in a park that suppresses it. Where are the other 3 Win players? I look around the list, especially position players, and see a big fat wasteland personally. Or guys who are more expensive than Pence AND cost the draft pick.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Agreed. I think this contract has to be evaluated in context.

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      • Catoblepas says:

        I think you can get really caught up in context, though, trying to craft a team that has the right number of singles hitters and base stealers and, and, and… and end up overpaying for a bunch of middling players. The point Dave made in the article about focusing on maximum talent I think is a good one. When teams pay this much for guys like Hunter Pence, I think it’s often because they see him fitting their team somehow, which seems like a pretty unsuccessful way to make a team.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Pence isn’t middling though. He’s tied for 6th for OFs in HRs, 13th in OPS and 16th in SBs. Not elite, but not middling.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          but since 2011 he’s only 16th in total HR by OF’s, among qualified OF’s he’s 36th in ISO, 26th in wOBA, and 33rd by UZR/150.

          That’s hardly elite. Add to it that SF didn’t make a QO and see how the market played out and it’s easy to speculate that they over payed, and even easier to think that they weren’t trying to save money to use elsewhere.

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        • Shankbone says:

          On the easy to speculate front, the Mets with a protected pick as well as the Phils with a protected pick would be likely bidders with limited damage from the CBA/QO rules. With so few FAs on the market, supply and demand is what determines the salaries. We’ll never know what Pence would have received. Most likely we’ll get to see what Choo gets now because the Reds have their big guys and can’t go again. Whether Pence sets the market or not, and the effect of the QO, that’ll be part of the story.

          In the 3 year window, how many of the leaders above Pence in ISO, wOBA what have you are FAs?

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          ISO: Morse, Beltran, Cruz, Hart, Ibanez, Granderson, and Kubel.

          wOBA: Beltran, Hart, Choo, Granderson, and Ellsbury

          Swisher also beat him in both categories, and you cant discount potential trade candidates like Willingham, Fowler, Trumbo, Cuddyer, and Rasmus.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          if you want to go by wRC+ then you have: Beltran, Choo Hart, and Granderson.

          Ellsbury’s wRC+ is 123 to Pence’s 125, and trade candidates Willingham and Cuddyer scored 124 and 123 respectively.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Thanks for the reply and the info. So Ellsbury, Choo and Granderson are definitely costing the draft pick. Maybe Beltran as well, depending on how the Cards view him. Hart has stated he wants to return to MIL on a prove it deal, he’s really a 1B at this point. I don’t see Cuddyer as a trade candidate inter-division, and Willingham has a pretty checkered defensive rep, and that’s in LF. I could see Trumbo being sort of a hot commodity this offseason, for teams looking to avoid draft pick cost needing power at 1B.

          It’ll be interesting to see what Granderson gets coming off the injuries. And how teams view Ellsbury, a premium position guy who hasn’t averaged 100 games in the past 3 years but has clear impact potential. I still think the Giants did well to grab their guy before bidding started, and they don’t have to worry about losing their draft pool money. Maybe.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          The idea wasn’t that they pick up another OF, but that the market was small enough, and there were enough players available who could play RF that Pence after declining a QO would have seen his price drop significantly.

          With all of those guys available and three of them guaranteed to cost a draft pick, I can’t help but imagine that teams like the Phillies or the Mets would have been better served either buying the top talent (not Pence) or trading for a player with similar performance (Pence is no stud in RF). Then you take into consideration that a guy like Cruz is going to see his price tag basically shrivel up and die because of the PED suspension (see Melky Cabrera) and I think that there is an incredibly strong case for the Giants to have seen how the market would have played out instead of handing over a 5/90 contract.

          We’ve also seen in the past (see Andre Ethier) that preemptive extensions to free agents right before the markets open can be more costly than watching how the market shapes up and then making your offers. The Giants may have easily been able to save themselves 10-15 million on this deal by letting Pence hit free agency (also, if I remember right, the Phillies weren’t exactly enamored with Pence when they traded him to SF).

          This isn’t about whether or not Pence is a good player, it’s a matter of how populated the market looked to be at the time of the signing and how we saw the markets for players tank after they rejected QO’s. Pence had a strong desire to return, meaning that SF may have had the opportunity to match a contract offer and have the advantage when it came to resigning him in free agency. Should that not have worked out though, there are quite a few other players available that could have replaced Pence without much of a drop off and left the team with additional money to sign other players to help increase the depth and quality of the roster.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Its a debate who the top talent is. They all have strengths and weaknesses. My general sense is that Ellsbury is going to hang out demanding 120-130MM until Boras folds his cards. Meaning he’ll be the last guy done. Choo… is rep’d by Boras as well. The immediate quote is 100MM. Do these look like quick developing markets? If the Giants let Pence get to market, what’s to say some team doesn’t come in hot/heavy for what he wants? Which was reported to be right around Ethier’s deal.

          Pence supplies more power than the other two guys. I get the sense that power is the premium tool that gets the money. Ellsbury will be interesting with his injury history (no matter how accidental and freak it is) and the sense that speed guys fade their skill set. I’m not convinced that teams would shun Pence as the runt of the litter personally, he may not be the best at some things but he is pretty well rounded. And if he isn’t a stud, he’s at least in the area.

          Winning 10-15MM versus the chance of losing your guy and having a huge hole? And the other alternatives punching a hole in your draft and development. Get the bird in the hand immediately.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          I’m not sure how I missed this, but the Mets don’t have a protected pick and they’ve been quoted as saying that Choo is the only bat on the market that they’d give up a pick for, and even then they weren’t going to go past four years for him. So right there we can assume that Pence wasn’t one of their options that they were kicking around, which takes another team off the board.

          As for Choo also being a Boras client, so was Bourn, and look what happened to him. I really believe that the QO would have sunk Pence’s value and that teams would look for other options via trade to fill in their holes which would tank his market even further (which was the entire point listing comparable players that are potentially available). If Pence had signed a deal just like Ethier’s the Giants still would have saved 10 million.

          It’s not about individual player value, it’s about maximizing the value of your dollars spent so that you can build the best team that you can. The Giants clearly didn’t do that here, nor did they attempt too. And don’t forget that Pence was TERRIBLE not that long ago, which IMO, would give teams more reason to be concerned. The Giants should have resigned him, but they should have given him a QO and let him test the market for anything over 5/80 instead of giving him 5/90.

          You just don’t pay a premium for a career year for a player that is 30 years old, especially when he’s never had anything close to the year that he just put up in the past.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Mets pick 10th, its protected. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/09/2014-mlb-draft-order.html

          I’d be careful about Mets rumors on who they might want, rumors go fast and furious. They do have some big money to spend this offseason and their OF has been very terrible, with the surprise exception of Byrd, who is now departed.

          Hunter Pence plays almost every game. There is so much huge value in that fact, its not in the WAR score directly, its a big time bonus. There is extreme value in that. Jeff Kent was absolutely underrated as a player because he just showed up to work every day.

          I’m trying to introduce new subject matter, not just rehash the same ol. The fact is the Giants have plenty of money, they can buy anything they want. There is a lot of evidence that the operations people were actually at 4/60MM (I called that the “Modified Rowand”) maybe ranging up to 70MM for the bonus. Then ownership got involved, and there you go. Is this an overpay? In strict WAR scores, sure. But the difference between 5/90MM and 5/80MM isn’t enough to justify the risk of losing him to the FA process and not using your exclusive window to get it done.

          Bourn doesn’t have the bat skills that the other guys have this year. But Boras does overplay his hand from time to time. I’d point out that Jayson Werth, who might be mentioned more in comps to Pence along with Ethier, went way over anything anybody expected. It only takes one team.

          Interesting points you bring up, thanks for being civil.

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        • So the squabbling about the deal is about an extra $2M per season? That’s what $10M over a 5 year deal works out to.

          People always forget that it is fine and good to focus on the minutiae of not being super efficient at pricing the re-signing of potential free agents without considering the consequences if he ends up leaving the team.

          For example, it worked out for the Giants, but Uribe left the Giants over an extra $1M for a three year contract. So you need to look at the consequences if you play the “save a little money” game and lose at it.

          The Giants are already offensively deficient, particularly in the power department. If they lose Pence, for whatever reason, they most likely are not replacing him because they are unwilling to give up their first round draft picks anymore to sign free agents. The lineup then loses a quarter of its homeruns, with Kieschnick being the most likely replacement, unless they find another Huff-like deal in the off-season.

          Then the team is left with Posey (who did not hit for much in second half), Sandoval (who has been injured and unproductive for 3 straight seasons and been overweight while doing it), and Belt (who has resisted changes to his batting, and thus suffered periods of very poor hitting when he’s not right mechanically).

          So OK, the Giants overpaid for him, but it was not like they overpaid $5-10M per year for him, like they did for Zito or Rowand. $2M per year is pocketchange for large revenue teams.

          And $6M per WAR is roughly market rate over the period of the contract, it is currently $5M per WAR growing roughly 10% per year, and that roughly puts us at $6M per WAR over the period. So by that measure, he’s roughly market rate.

          And I don’t get sabers sometime (and I consider myself to be a saber). People point out his bad season in 2012, but never consider that some player have a bad BABIP season, much like pitchers do sometimes. Sure, if that had happened before he became a free agent, then a team will factor that in. But because he had another good season instead, you should view that as an outlier, compared to his other seasons, and not factor that in as much.

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        • B N says:

          Playing Every Day: “its not in the WAR score directly”

          Erm… WAR is a counting stat. So, if you’re producing non-zero value, it IS in the WAR score directly, I’m fairly sure.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          Shank: The updated it since I read the article on the 29th, at which time they were slated for the 12th pick, but they ended up tying the Brewers’ record to get the 10th pick.

          Shank and Obsessive: 10-15 mil is my conservative estimate, using comparables like Bourn and Swisher for his contract and present FA market, I would have hoped that that would have been understood since both were looking for 5/100+ contracts but ended up settling for just about half or less in large part because of the QO’s they declined and the draft compensation. I used the 10-15 figure because I am uncertain if teams will be as hesitant to relinquish their picks as they were last year since it was the first year that this has happened this way.

          Obsessive: No club has infinite resources, not even the Dodgers. To potentially squander your resources because you don’t want to see how the market would play out when there are plenty of comparable players available that wont cost a draft pick (and though they may not be as good, you can supplement by signing players to upgrade your bench/bullpen with the money that you save) or there are quite a few that are potentially available in a trade.

          The point is that the Giants, according to the both of you (whether it was ownership or the FO doesn’t matter), allowed their fear to cloud their judgement and possibly caused them to make a poor business decision. They still have to reap a profit from him over the course of his contract, and with the money that he is receiving, that means that they need to make repeated runs at the post season. While they may still make it, and they did need to get/retain a power bat, it’s worrisome that the Giants’ vaunted pitching staff struggled this year but that they are tying up so much money into one player who only help fulfill one need (power) when power is available on the market for less (if Pence was a decent defender then he’d have helped in two areas). They still have a $20 million per year lease on their stadium that is basically another FA star.

          Yes, they put butts in seats in SF, but if they continue to miss the post season how many will Pence himself help bring in to mitigate the loss of fans who are only interested in coming out to see a winner? The fact is that they could have managed their money better and still have gotten Pence (or a suitable sub) and had money left over to get other pieces that the club needs.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Stuck in a slump – I don’t think it was fear as much as they looked at all the alternatives and stuck with their guy. At this point I think you have to name names if you want to say there were alternatives in the market. I don’t see them personally. Pence seems to be very undersold in these pages. He’s a five tool player with some warts, he is a good defender, he has power and speed, and he goes about his business in a, ahem, unique way. But he’s delivered very solid stats throughout his career, and shows up every day to do that with some pretty interesting intangibles.

          Giants ownership group has always had a very public budget discussion, and it sometimes gets fans heated. The stadium has been paid off and refinanced so they can develop some of their parking lots into multi use facilities. Money is simply not an issue, especially the 20MM service on the mortgage, which was scheduled to run out in 2017 anyways. The ownership group has more than enough money to spend.

          The thing about the Giants lineup, as was said below by Big Six, they have above average production all over the infield. They actually have 3 top 30 offensive players in the NL: Posey, Belt and Pence. Retaining that core and then trying to find something for LF is where its at for the club. There just are not that many players on the market, so you pay that inflated market rate cheerfully to retain your talent.

          They definitely need to rebuild their pitching staff in order to compete.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          I did name some names, again, they’re not perfect, but they are decent alternatives and guys like Granderson and Beltran may or may not cost a draft pick. Pence’s defense by UZR/150 ranks 33rd since 2011 which doesn’t include his time in CF for the Astros. Even Ethier (who has been rumored to be available) has posted better defensive numbers over that time period.

          and you’re kind of making my point for me when you bring up the Giants offense, the only NL teams with better offense (by wRC+) are the Cardinals, Dodgers and Braves. Given that they have a top four offense and that their pitching staff has struggled as of late, that should give them more incentive to look at cheaper alternatives that may be a little more one dimensional. Morse would have been a dirt cheap option, not come with draft pick compensation and the saved money could have been used to pick up pitchers. The Giants are slightly handicapped by the stadium payments and when competing against the likes of the massive payroll Dodgers, they need to spend wisely. (http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/09/nl-west-notes-.html)

          When it comes to spending, the Giants should be trying to emulate a more wealthy A’s organization and pick up parts that can be interchangeable and provide maximum value. Like I said several times before: no team has infinite resources. The Giants are no exception. They already had $136 million dollars in payroll this year, and sure, Zito is coming off of the books, but they have several players in arbitration that are due significant raises. Unless they are willing to push the luxury tax threshold they need to begin spending more wisely and looking for ways to cut costs rather than over spending for a guy that could have cost them around 50-60 mil if the markets play out like they did last year, or 75-80 mil if they don’t.

          They already had most of the pieces that they needed, but they are squandering resources best spent elsewhere by giving Pence 18.5 mil from 2015-2018. This is even more significant when you factor in that the Giants are locked into a 25 year deal with their TV contract. Should the rating go down after a couple of disappointing seasons, their share (roughly 30%) will drop which makes spending even more difficult for them in the future. So instead of getting a guy who is above average for almost 20 mil a year, they should have been looking to find a discount on him or they should have looked elsewhere. But with Pence’s repeated statements of desire to return, I doubt that he would have gone to a team like the Phillies or the Mets if SF offered a similar contract to what those teams offered.

          The Giants misplayed the market for Pence.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Granderson will cost the draft pick. Beltran will most likely, but you have the added factor that there is no mutual interest because of the history. Morse isn’t even a LF much less a RF, he’s an injury prone 1B. And they might go after him anyways, that wouldn’t be the worst short term move in the world.

          We’ll never know how it would have played out. You’re giving the 50MM example, but there are also examples such as Werth or Carl Crawford (old CBA, different rules but still costing draft picks) that go above 100MM. I do think that there is value in retaining your own players that you know well and are comfortable with. The Giants have actually been at the top in most defensive metrics, this year was a pretty abnormal hickup. I’m quite sure they are comfortable with Pence’s UZR scores.

          So I don’t agree that the Giants misplayed the market. You want to retain your offense and then improve it, not go fishing around trying to rebuild it. The Giants are now in position to go after cheaper pieces as well, but they have plenty of good track record just like Oakland with cheap and interchangable.

          Giants are at 100MM with Pence, and they need two SPs and a LF. They may go above their self imposed budget of 140MM, they may not, but they will be nowhere near the luxury tax regardless.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          By signing Morse they could have moved Belt to LF and Blanco to RF. They don’t specifically need a 1B and there has been a good bit of talk about them going after 1B and moving Belt just like I mentioned.

          Werth and Crawford cost picks, but the most important factor that has changed is that there is now a cap on the Rule IV draft spending based on where you pick. Before, teams could overspend without consequences (although the Indians were blocked from giving Lincecum, a mid 20th round pick, a $1 million dollar signing bonus) so it didn’t matter if you lost the pick, because you could always try to draft a guy with signability issues late in the draft and pay way over slot to get them. Now with the money from the lost draft pick coming off of your books, you lose a lot of flexibility in how you can draft/sign players which is a significant handicap. That is why FA’s like Werth and Crawford were still given major contracts while guys like Swisher got just over half of what he was seeking.

          If this was 2011 I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with this, but it’s not. The rules for draft pick compensation are different now and teams have more to lose by signing top FA talent, so to continue to compare those two to Pence’s situation is only creates a false impression of his worth.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          They don’t specifically need a RF (or OF). Sorry for the error

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        • Shankbone says:

          Hey signing Morse would be a nice cheap gamble. Most likely a one year 6MM shot, maybe a little less based off a bad offensive year or maybe a bit more to get it done. The Giants can definitely make that happen. Not sure how the defense would play, they could move Belt or maybe just keep Morse in LF and then sub in Blanco or Perez in the late innings like they did with Huff/Burrell in 2010.

          Blanco is a very nice 4th OF with some nice defense, good speed and a good OBP profile. But he gets exposed being a full time player. That is one of the problems with Pagan going down this year, it forced Torres and Blanco out of a platoon. The Giants need a solid OF they can depend on. Maybe they still platoon in LF, but going for both a LF and RF platoon is asking for trouble.

          Again, using Nick Swisher as a baseline for the “bargain” part of a possible Hunter Pence contract is flawed. He has good points – consistency, good obp, good pop, but he also has some bad ones – low BA, bad fielding, not an OF in his 30s. Teams adjusted to that more than the QO. I don’t think you have made much of a case that Pence’s market would be crippled. Yes, the new CBA has an artificial draft budget that is much different than the old one, but teams still gave up their best shot at draft picks to get Werth/Crawford. Its not completely dissimilar.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          You’re wrong about Pence v. Swisher though. Comparing their last three seasons before their FA years show them as decent comps.

          Swisher 2010-2012: .274/.366/.478 wRC+ 129 WAR 11.4 UZR/150 5.6
          Pence 2011-2013: .283/.342/.470 wRC+ 125 WAR 11.4 UZR/150 -0.5

          The two are extremely similar in the three years leading to their free agency. My search for Swisher’s defensive numbers came from qualified OF’s so it didn’t factor his time at 1B.

          I think it’s clear that the new CBA really hurt Swisher’s value as he was slightly better in most categories.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Run, field and throw. In the real world of baseball, that’s important, and you need to put stats into context. Swisher is a station to station 1B guy, and real GMs know this, and adjusted their offers and interest accordingly. Swisher is for whatever reason a saber favorite, I’ll give him credit for being durable but I wouldn’t want him on my team. He’s a year older than Pence when hitting FA and playing 1B will definitely put pressure on his bat, which is dipping. You can throw the UZR stats up, they are there, I have watched plenty of Swisher and Pence, and I know which one I’m taking and it isn’t even close.

          Nice chatting, I’m moving on here.

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      • Rick says:

        The context of this signing is that it was made by a man you just said if he had to do it all over again, he would still pay Zito $100 mil more than he’s produced, and ~40 mil more than anyone else.
        Seriously, the decision maker for the Giants just publicly stated he was stupid, in a manner of speaking.

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        • AF says:

          That’s why the team never wins anything, and fails to draw fans.

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        • Shankbone says:

          And has players calling their fans out for not filling the stadium up… Wait s second…

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        • Catoblepas says:

          results don’t justify bad decision making — if you don’t get that, you might want to find another website to frequent.

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        • AF says:

          Beg the question much Catoblepas?

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        • AF says:

          And incidentally, what Sabean said about the Zito contract had everything to do with the way Sabean likes to talk, and nothing to do with what he actually would do if he had it all to do over again. A better indicator of that would be the number of long-term free agents contracts the Giants have signed in the last few years.

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        • EricR says:

          That’s just Sabean allowing Zito to leave with a little dignity. Clearly it was a bad deal. Everybody knows it was a bad deal. Sabean himself has spent the last 7 years washing his hands of the deal, saying he had no say in the matter and it was all Peter MacGowan’s doing. But it would have been pointless for Sabean to go, “Oh god I know right!? What a horrific deal!” There’s being stupid, and then there’s politely refraining from beating a dead horse.

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        • PT415 says:

          Sabean was instrumental in bringing Jeter, Petitte, Rivera, and Posada to the Yankees. I think that is all that needs to be said.

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        • Catoblepas says:

          well by your logic, any signing made by the dodgers must be genius, since they get tons of fans and made it to the postseason. josh beckett’s extension will surely be announced as soon as the postseason is over. where would they be without matt kemp? without a ton of fans, and probably without a lot of wins.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Trying to shoehorn your local watering hole’s dogma into decision making and calling everything else stupid, in a manner of speaking, results in ranking a Front Office #27th in baseball the year they win the world series. WAR analysis is one piece of the puzzle, and the Giants have plenty, and I mean plenty, of big win WAR scores. Gregor Blanco, Ryan Vogelsong, Juan Uribe, not to mention the farmhand Brandons Belt & Crawford, not to mention the trades such as Pagan, Melky and Scutaro, not to mention the free pickups Ross and Burrell.

          Sabean talking about Zito, which was clearly ownership, is absolutely meaningless, just giving him a pat on the back on the way out.

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        • wally says:

          It doesn’t take the smartest FO to win a world series, Shankbone. Sabian has a good budget and got a bit lucky with a hot team. In 2012, the Giants ranked 19th in Pitcher WAR and 5th in batting. That was good team that didn’t have much competition in their division and got hot in the playoffs. Great for them, but not exactly something the FO should get a ton of credit for.

          The 2010 team was bit of different story. The Giants got a ridiculous performance from Torres, who put up 6.5 WAR, and has only 2 other times in his carrier been over 2. They got the last gasp of Huff, which they should get credit for to some extent. He’s exactly the kind of player to give another shot, but his 5.9 WAR was a career high at WAR at age 33? That too was way over the top of any even optimistic expectation. Those are two major reason the Giants won in 2010, and its pretty hard to see how the FO could have expected them to preform anything like that at the time they were acquired.

          27th might have been a touch harsh, but only a touch. They have had some good fortune and while they don’t have Yankee money, at the 6th highest payroll in the league this year, they do have enough money to hide some of the really stupid choices that would break other teams.

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        • Shankbone says:

          wally – Huff and Torres, thanks for the reminder, more WAR score wins. The Giants built their post-Bonds team around pitching. Then filled in the hitting. If you’re going to call the wins luck, might as well get all the luck in you can – lucky to get Lincecum, lucky to get Posey, lucky to get Bumgarner. 2011 the pitching staff had a great WAR score, and they couldn’t get the hitting together with the injuries. 2012 was indeed a bad WAR score for pitching, and the Giants more than anybody else knew exactly what they had – a receding Lincecum.

          The plan is pitching, and patiently assembling a lineup. The same guys build the team from 1997, with similar winning ways. The “stupid choices” are usually the same 3 re-treads. Here they are: the AJ/Nathan/Liriano trade; the Zito/Rowand contracts; and the latest: the Wheeler/Beltran deal. That was the gist of the 27th ranked FO hackjob article. Completely overlooking their discipline on years on contract (short term while they rebuilt); their advanced analytic capability (Shelley and Goldfarb plus their proprietary video/defense system); and their old school scouting ability, which has actually been the best drafting in baseball since 2006.

          Before that, you had ownership dictated cheaping out on development for a win with Barry strategy. Now you mention the payroll, which is indeed top 10. As is their front office, which I never said was the bestestest smartestest in the land, just very good and completely underrated by snarky sabers.

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        • wally says:

          Shankbone,

          Luck happens, but it happens equally to the 27th best team as the best. There is no “win” there when rating the FO talent.

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        • Shankbone says:

          Wally – you don’t luck into two world series victories. You don’t luck into great drafting and development. You don’t luck into a track record of reclamation projects. If you want to list out any “stupid moves” besides the 3 I listed up above, I’ll be happy to match them with “savvy ones”.

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    • Baltar says:

      Who says the Giants would have had to pay that $90M for one player? How about several average to good players?

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      • Big Six says:

        There are only 25 roster spots on a team. Nearly half of those spots are occupied by bench players and relievers. Past a point, you have to consolidate value somewhere and pay a premium for all-star talent. This is doubly true when you consider opportunity cost to replace players on payroll that would be difficult to move (example: Marco Scutaro).

        The Giants are usually a team that tends towards distributed risk by having several pretty good players than a couple really good players (at least since the Rowand contract), but where are you going to find those upgrades. They have league-average or better players at every position on the infield and in CF. They have a lot of money invested in the bullpen. And players who can produce a lot of value for you off the bench can usually find starting jobs elsewhere. That leaves the starting pitching and the outfield corners as the places where you have the most room for a major upgrade. Thus, Hunter Pence.

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  13. Marcus A. says:

    I think there’s a problem with everyone suggesting the use of WAR as opposed to wRC+ and that is that different skills age differently.

    Comparing Pence to Michael Bourn doesn’t really make sense, even if there WAR was comparable because baserunning and defense age differently than does hitting. Further, if you start with wRC+ to get comps and then switch to WAR, your results will be flawed as well. Jack Cust would never produce as much WAR as Pence because he couldn’t defend any position, so even if their offense is comparable, their overall value is not.

    I don’t know that I have a better suggestion, just pointing out a potential problem in using WAR to solve the survivorship bias.

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  14. Guest says:

    What you call a $1 million dollar per WAR overpay, the Giants organization and his teammates call value for Hunter Pence’s leadership, motivation, and likability to media and fans. Not everything in life and sport can be quantified.

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    • Kevin Towers says:

      Don’t forget about how GRITTY he is!

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    • GMH says:

      The moment a player who makes $18 million a year stops producing, the player’s qualities for leadership, motivation and likeability transform to “overpaid bum.”

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    • Richie says:

      Of course everything can be quantified, just as everything can be put into English, or sign language. Just a matter of accuracy or lack thereof in doing so. Any time you pay an employee whatever, you’re quantifying all their contributions as worth that sum or more to you.

      The Giants quantified Pence’s statistical contributions, added in what they figured his ‘soft’ qualities were worth, and came out at $90 mill. Historical analysis shows that paying much for ‘soft’ contributions has generally worked poorly in baseball. Now we’ll see in this case.

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      • AF says:

        Why wouldn’t teams pay a premium for popular players? The premium is paid in dollars, after all, and popular players tend to bring in dollars.

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        • Paul says:

          But WAR dollars are different than “real” dollars. And of course, the value of WAR dollars is actually the “real” value of dollars. Don’t ask. If you haven’t figured it out by now, you’re not smart enough.

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        • Baltar says:

          Wins bring in dollars, not popularity.
          “Nice guys finish last.”

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        • AF says:

          Baltar, your last comment is manifestly untrue. Popularity brings in dollars. Wins often lead to popularity and therefore dollars but the correlation is hardly one to one. As any Rays fan should know.

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    • Catoblepas says:

      TWTW

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    • Baltar says:

      And he has the Will to Win.

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  15. channelclemente says:

    In the context of your premise Dave, you do see the irony of mentioning Uribe performance in an article criticizing the Giants for overpaying for Pence, because he didn’t fit the narrative.

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  16. Nathan says:

    They deliver packages of different size and shape, but in the end, it all translates into the same currency.

    The currency of sex. Mmm.

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  17. Skore says:

    I don’t understand why we are assuming Pence is a three-win player going forward when he just posted a 5.5 WAR season, hitting for power in a graveyard park, with a history of other 4.5 win seasons, with this one being with less babip-related success. Also, Pence profiles as a far better defender than the rest of this years comparable field (Choo) and last (Swisher), and this year was an excellent baserunner. He also comes with the advantage (which we underestimate) of being familiar to the team and has a strong track record of health. How would the Giants spend the 90 million on a better player? How would you evaluate the draft pick it would cost? Not having to bid against others?
    The deal is obviously not a bargain, but putting a dollar amount based on these pessimistic projections which give almost no weight to what was an excellent season is not only erroneous, but also paints a picture in which the team will be paralized by this 18 million albatross for a player who has earned 24.5 War in 7 years. Giving 1 win a value of 6 million, he has been worth 147 million in those years, so why, coming off of his best season, would he be uncapable of producing 14 war and 84 million over the next 5 seasons?

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    • Iron says:

      Choo is a much better defender than Pence. Should Choo be a CF? No, of course not. But to compare him unfavorably to career -19.4 DEF right fielder like Pence is silly.

      As for assuming his WAR will go down with age, see also: every other player ever. He does not have ‘a history of 4.5 win seasons’. Other than his career year this year, he has a history of 3.6, 3.1, 3.8, 2.7, 4.3, 1.6 WAR seasons. I look at that list and say that 3.5 is not a reasonable projection for next year, with gradual tailing off.

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      • Big Six says:

        Choo is most assuredly not a better defender than Pence. Choo is average at best in the corners an outright disaster in CF. Pence rates as about +4 per season by UZR, or +2 by DRS, better than Choo in by both metrics.

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        • Drew says:

          Let’s try sticking to the most recent 3-year samples:

          2011-2013 Pence: -15 DRS, -3.0 UZR
          2011-2013 Choo: -27 DRS, -27.4 UZR

          Both bad defenders, though Choo would come up a little bit not playing in CF obviously.

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    • Shankbone says:

      I agree with this. Its one thing to look for declining stats or ability. Timmy’s velocity definitely belongs in that “lookout” category. But just like with Marco Scutaro (the toughest guy to strike out in 2012) getting signed up, where is the declining signs for Hunter Pence? What’s to say he’s not breaking through to a new ceiling for a couple more years?

      When the bat speed goes, it goes. Teams would pay a lot of money to be able to find that answer. Pence’s will go, just like everybody else, but knowing when is the key.

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  18. jwise224 says:

    We assume too many things when we react to a deal like this. We assume that teams are completely rational. We assume that we know the market value of players. We assume that teams are only paying for performance. We assume we know and understand a front office’s thought process.

    What we can analyze are trends, but front offices, fan bases, and players themselves are all unique. Trends are the best starting point, but there’s a little variance from there for each team depending on a countless number of characteristics and considerations. Is 5/90 too much for Pence? Probably, but we only know what the team paid for his on-field performance. Right or wrong, they may be paying for other things, too. Plus, this might be a bit of hedge on their declining pitching staff. Who knows? Lots of things to consider here and far too many to make a definitive statement.

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    • AF says:

      I agree, particularly the point about the assumption that teams pay only for performance. Revenue is not directly correlated with wins, after all, so why should salaries be directly correlated to WAR? To me, the main issue that statistical analysis can help with is assessing the player’s present and projected on-field value. Price is a business decision, of which projected value is only one aspect.

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    • B N says:

      I assume that Cleveland got a good deal on Nick Swisher, making it a strange comparison for other deals. Honestly, last year, there was a lot to like for OF FA values: Cody Ross at $26m/3, Melky at $16m/2, Ludwick at $15m/2yr, Pagan at $40m/4, Bourn at $48m/4. Risky, high reward guys went at reasonable values and many didn’t quite pan out. Fairly safe, moderate reward guys largely earned their contracts (which is uncommon in the FA market).

      People act like FA contracts are a fair value if they give you a market-value WAR/$. But that’s not the case: FA contracts, by definition, are going to give an aggregate WAR/$ lower than the overall market WAR/$. Why? Because the other half of the market consists of pre-arb players, arbitration-controlled contracts, and foreign players signed below market rate. Unless one of these other venues for spending money starts to cost more than FA (which would be crazy), an “even money” FA contract will always be worse than the overall market WAR/$.

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  19. TheGrandslamwich says:

    At first I was very critical of the signing, but the more I look at it, the better I like it right now since the Giants finished tied for the 12th worst record. Their 1st round pick is one of the earlier unprotected picks, so I think there would be very little chance that they will be in on any of the free agents who will see QO’s this offseason. They still have plenty of incentives in their large market to keep a competitive team on the field, and this certainly is a step towards that.

    Overall, I do think was a slight overpay, but I like the idea of keeping the core of their offense in tact and trying to bargain hunt to fill holes on the pitching staff than spending big on the staff and looking for bargain hitters. Especially since they play in such a pitchers park.

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  20. Eric says:

    My post has nothing to do with stats… Pence if probably an overpay…

    but he’s the most loved Giant… I was just at the game on Sun and he was getting the biggest ovations… putting butts in the seats is what baseball is all about

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    • Kevin Towers says:

      Winning is what baseball is all about. Winning also puts butts in the seats…

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      • AF says:

        If it’s all about winning, then the only question is whether Pence contributes to winning, which everyone agrees he does, being a 3-win player. If you want to talk about money, let’s talk about money.

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      • Reade King says:

        “Winning also puts butts in the seats…”

        Try telling that to the Oakland A’s (a team that I am a fan of), Cleveland Indians, or Tampa Bay Rays, who rank 23rd, 28th, and 30th, respectively! Yep, that’s right, the Tampa Bay Rays, who are the embodiment of a savvy, statistics-oriented FO with a savvy, “who cares about the rules” manager, rank dead LAST in attendance, behind BOTH teams who intentionally tanked 2013 (Marlins, Astros)!

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  21. DrBGiantsfan says:

    Yawn! Another contract that Dave deems to be an overpay. After awhile, if all of them are overpays, maybe that becomes the new Market Price?

    Maybe we could just stipulate here that:

    1. The Giants are one of the most poorly run organizations in baseball. #27, right?

    2. Brian Sabean is a buffoon who is completely ignorant of modern statistical anaylsis.

    We can then dispense with these posts since the point has already been established and agreed to by everybody.

    BTW, how is the #6 organization in baseball coming along, Dave?

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  22. walt526 says:

    For me, the issue isn’t the $18M/yr as much as it is the 5 year length of the contract. For the sake of argument, say Dave’s WAR projection is correct. If it were a 3 or even 4 year deal, then $54M/3yr (for 9 WAR) or $72/4yr (for 11 WAR) would have worked out to $6M/WAR and ~$6.5M/WAR, respectively. High, but closer to the ballpark.

    But in my mind, Dave’s projections are pretty conservative at the front end and potentially generous on the back end (if Pence completely falls apart, it will most likely be in the 4th or 5th year). So a 3 or 4 year deal at $18M/yr would have been prudent–particularly since the “extra” 2.5 WAR (12.5 over 5yrs versus 15 WAR over 5yrs) would almost certainly be accumulated in the early years of the contract.

    There’s a good chance that Pence will be earning $18M/year for a year or two at the end of the contract when he’s not the Giants’ best option for the corner outfield. But the Giants can shoulder a bad contract for a season or two.

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    • Baltar says:

      ” But the Giants can shoulder a bad contract for a season or two.”
      The reasoning that bad teams are made of — Blue Jays, Angels, Giants.

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      • B N says:

        Eh, this contract is not great, but not one that would stop the Giants from grabbing other guys they’re interested in. While it’s not a great contract, they could move Pence at the trade deadline in 2014 easily by eating a fairly small amount of salary if they wanted to. By comparison, I have zero idea how the Jays ever managed to offload any of Vernon Wells’ obligations. Jedi mind-trick is the only possible explanation.

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      • walt526 says:

        The Giants? They won two World Series with both Rowand and Zito on the books.

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  23. baycommuter says:

    When the front office did the analysis, if you assume the you would have to sign an outfielder who would get a QA to get equal value, shouldn’t you subtract the estimated value of the Giants’ #14 first round draft choice from the total paid to Pence? I don’t remember the stats exactly, but it’s not much less than $10 million.

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  24. DH says:

    The Giants use stats, but not in isolation from other factors like putting butts in the seats, team chemistry, and what the scouts see. I realize FG is all about stats and sabermetrics (do they even call it that anymore), but everyone including the D Cameron ought to be able to see that there are other ways to make decisions, and front offices use them. If you picked the Giants to be the best team in baseball at the start of the 2010 or 2012 season, raise your hand. (Assuming you think a wildly successful franchise, and winning W.S. 2x in three years, is a decent measure of best team. And if you don’t — how far east of the Rockies do you live? Or are you an A’s fan?) Everyone else, add a grain of salt to that beaker of stats. Sometimes you have to have a little magic and luck. (Come to think of it, that seems to be what the A’s have lately.)

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    • TheGrandslamwich says:

      Or, as all Giants fans bragged about before this year after bringing back almost all players form their 2012 season and thought Fangraphs was underrating them as an organization: “They just know how to win!” Oh yeah! That worked out great!

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  25. Marcus Von Appleberg says:

    I just love all the amateur GM’s. This isn’t fantasy Baseball.

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  26. MrKnowNothing says:

    Glad Dave went to all the trouble to write so much when his analysis – as always – ends up being, “Let’s assume everyone’s performance drops half a win per year going forward and that a win is worth $5mm.”

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  27. Drew says:

    I know it’s silly to bet on speed late in a guy’s career, but why isn’t anyone making mention of it? Pence finished with the 12th highest BsR among qualified players and went 22/25 in SB. I still think $90/5 is an overpay, but if Pence can be an above-average with the bat, below-average in the field, and a boon on the basepaths, I think he can give the Giants close to 18 fWAR over the life of the contract.

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  28. David L says:

    I think they slightly overpaid Pence and didn’t use their qualifying offer leverage. The Giants also shot themselves in the foot by winning during the last week of the season; they could have run out more no names and put themselves into a much stronger position in the draft next year and for signing free agents. But the Giants have never been a shrewd team when it comes to baseball business.

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  29. Pete says:

    One thing I don’t understand:

    1. The Giants have to overpay for hitters to come to this ballpark.
    2. Baseball is a zero-sum game (in terms of Pitchers vs Batters)

    3. Therefore, pitchers should be begging to come here, even willing to take a slight discount. So why aren’t they? What am I missing?

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  30. Giant fan in CO says:

    The reality is a big time hitter will not come to SF other than through trade. We have tried to sign others and failed because they look at A T&T as a place for their personal numbers to decline. I like Pence and to have someone with some power want to play here is something that is rare. So we overpaid but this guy comes to play everyday and leaves it all out on the field. I find this refreshing in an age where we have players that show boat and refuse to run out ground balls.

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  31. jakejarmel says:

    This is the most ridiculous article I’ve ever read.

    “Pence has pretty similar numbers over the last three years to what Nick Swisher did in his run up to free agency”

    Uh…yeah cause 1-2 stolen bases is EXACTLY the same value as 16-20 SB a year.

    What a joke. Not to mention Pence had 27 home runs playing half of his games in the hardest hitting ballpark in the majors, and Swisher has hit 20-25 in ballparks like Yankee stadium? LOL the comparison was a complete joke. Bad insight, Matt.

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  32. Woodyalien says:

    Guess this contract is working out?

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