What’s Wrong with Vernon Wells?

To be fair, it’s not like people really expected Vernon Wells to be that good this season. The Angels’ decision to bring in Wells and his colossal contract was universally panned. But even though Wells wasn’t going to be worth $23 million in a season, he did show signs of life in 2010, posting a .362 wOBA and 3.8 WAR for the Blue Jays. The Angels thought they were at least getting a solid, if overpriced, player in Wells. Instead, Wells has posted a .214 wOBA so far. What gives?

First, let’s take a look at just what powered Wells’s 2010 season: power. Wells hit 31 homers and 44 doubles en route to a .242 ISO, his highest mark since posting a .239 in 2006 and well above his career .193 rate. In the three years prior to 2010, Wells’s ISOs were .158, .197, and .140, respectively, which leads us to an obvious question: was 2010 a true turnaround, or just noise distracting us from the signal of the previous three years? Unfortunately, one year’s worth of power numbers don’t tell us as much as we’d like: it takes 550 plate appearances for ISO to stabilize, and even then there’s still a significant amount of regression necessary before we can identify true talent.

A move to Anaheim certainly doesn’t help. Toronto is one of the best places for right-handed batters to hit home runs. Just ask Aaron Hill. According to StatCorner, the park factor on home runs for righties at the Rogers Centre is a robust 117, and a 103 park factor on doubles doesn’t hurt either. Anaheim is a much different story. Although it doesn’t have much of a reputation as a pitchers’ park, Anaheim suppresses power. For right-handed batters, the park factor on doubles is 94, and on home runs it’s a rather modest 93.

Of course, part of Wells’s issues are just luck and random variation. He won’t maintain a .194 BABIP, although Wells’s .286 career BABIP means we can’t expect as much regression as we would from most hitters. His power numbers also won’t get anywhere near last year’s; he’s probably a league-average power hitter. However, his plate-discipline skills appear to be deteriorating as well: his walk rate has fallen below 5% and his K rate has risen above 15%, each for the first time in the last four years — yet another poor sign for Angels fans.

Even if the Angels couldn’t expect Wells to play at the MVP level his contract calls for, they thought they were at least bringing in a useful player. Right now, it just doesn’t seem that way: ZiPS only projects a .311 wOBA for the rest of the season. At this point in time, Wells basically defines replacement level, and it’s hard to imagine anything more from the Angels’ $86 million man.



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tyler
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tyler
5 years 4 months ago

What’s wrong with Vernon Wells?

He isn’t good.

/article

Logan
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Logan
5 years 4 months ago

Lame comment. The article starts by acknowledging he isn’t as good as his contract would indicate. The issue is he’s playing worse than even his projections pegged him for.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 4 months ago

Take the contract out of the equation, he still sucks. Over *five years*, he’s hit .262/.316/.441/.757 with -29.2 runs fielding. A win-and-a-half per 600 PA’s.

He’s a fourth outfielder.

tyler
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tyler
5 years 4 months ago

everyone he knows he’s been subpar for the last 4 years. we don’t need an article that investigates his deficiencies.

Rally
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Rally
5 years 4 months ago

“He’s a fourth outfielder.”

And one who’s going to make Gary Matthews Jr. look like a cheap 4th outfielder by comparison.

Harold Reynolds
Guest
Harold Reynolds
5 years 4 months ago

Do you guys go on Google Maps and write comments like, “duh, of course Ocean Ave intersects Broadway, I’ve been there?”

Not everyone has spent the time with Vernon Wells’ player card that you have. We want directions.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 4 months ago

My very first inclination was to post Tyler’s exact comment, before scrolling down and seeing someone beat me to it.

(Of course I know there’s more to the story than that, but yeah he’s…just not particularly good. Last year notwithstanding.)

SC2GG
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

So how much longer do they go with this Vernon Wells plan of action before drastically shaking things up and trading him to the Angels? Oh wait…

What I really meant is, what’s the solution to this problem?

After all, the Angels backup plan of having Weaver go 35-0 this year has also failed.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 4 months ago

The solution to Vernon Wells is currently in AA.

The Angels are a better team, and the organization in a better situation, than this site gives them credit for.

Lewis
Guest
Lewis
5 years 4 months ago

Generally speaking yes but when you make one move so egregious it tends to cancel out much of the good you have done. Rightfully so I will add.

The Wells deal is the definition of a franchise crippler.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 4 months ago

“The Angels are a better team, and the organization in a better situation, than this site gives them credit for.”

Regardless of the state of the organization, they have a 4-year, 80-million dollar millstone around their necks. That’s not good for any organization from the mighty Yanks to the spendthrift Royals. Those dollars could have been put to someone…I dunno, useful?

Steve Balboni
Guest
Steve Balboni
5 years 4 months ago

The Angels went through this before when they buried Juan Rivera’s prime years so Gary Matthews’ contract could play. (I know JR isn’t great, but he was greatly better than Sarge Jr during that period).

BJsWorld
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BJsWorld
5 years 4 months ago

So depressing to read. We all knew he wasn’t going to repeat 2010 but at least there was some hope. Maybe he finally did kick the injury bug and 2010 represented a close approximation for what the Angels received. Alas … no such luck. He’s been the worst hitter on a very offensively challenged team to date.

Garrett Gualberto
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Garrett Gualberto
5 years 4 months ago

And that’s why AA is the man. He couldn’t have predicted such failure but it was obvious vernon was out of his prime. Good Luck Anaheim.

Matt M
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Makes you wonder if the Angels will stop dealing with the Blue Jays, just to avoid future embarassment.

Walt
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Walt
5 years 4 months ago

Word has it Toronto sent wheelbarrows full of money along in the trade.

Tom Pinzone
Member
5 years 4 months ago

@Walt they sent five million.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

It would take a lot of wheelbarrows to convey 50,000 c-notes.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 4 months ago

Having counted a bank’s vault cash and ordered and counted large cash orders, it would take approximately one (1) wheelbarrow to cover it. Money’s not as big as you think. :)

(Hence all those briefcases full of it in movies!)

Lewis
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Lewis
5 years 4 months ago

@Tom Pinzone

This was reported by John Heyman and John Heyman only. It was verified by nobody. Both GMs denied any cash was exchanged in the deal.

Guy
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Guy
5 years 4 months ago

What’s wrong with Yovani Gallardo next please. He’s on my fantasy team and it’s stressing me out.

Justin
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Justin
5 years 4 months ago

As a Blue Jays fan, a) this doesn’t shock me, but b) it doesn’t please me in the least either.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 4 months ago

could’ve been worse – they could have signed Crawford.

SKob
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Hey! The Angels knew he sucked going into this. Crawford was supposed to be good!

Lewis
Guest
Lewis
5 years 4 months ago

Crawford >> Wells

It’s not close.

descender
Member
descender
5 years 4 months ago

Was, but crawfords value was also tied directly to running around in a spacious outfield. He’ll lose quite a bit of value no matter how he bats this year.

Much more likely that Wells repeats his past than Crawford.

shamus
Guest
shamus
5 years 4 months ago

Wells repeating his recent past is the problem

descender
Member
descender
5 years 4 months ago

What’s wrong with Vernon Wells?

He didn’t get his random testing done in March this year.

designated quitter
Guest
designated quitter
5 years 4 months ago

Nothing is wrong with Wells. The problem is his contract. If he were making three million dollars we would say he was a bargain last year and okay every other year since 2006.

Jason B
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Jason B
5 years 4 months ago

There’s some truth to that, but his numbers are lame for a punch-and-judy fifth outfielder this year.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
5 years 4 months ago

I recall reading that they could have had Beltran instead, but they thought Wells was a better player and a better fit for their team. That’s a pretty bad calculation!

Also, along the ‘pet peeve’ line, has there been more research to say that 550 plate appearances are necessary for ISO to stabilize? I see this more in comments than the articles themselves, but it seems like people state things as fact even though there was just one study for something. I think the linked article is very good – but has anyone else proven it?

Stringer Bell
Guest
Stringer Bell
5 years 4 months ago

Not really sure I understand why you said that the .242 ISO was his best mark since his .239 ISO, as opposed to just saying it was the highest of his career.

exxrox
Member
exxrox
5 years 4 months ago

I wondered this as well

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

Perhaps because .242 and .239 are essentially the same ISO, and the author wanted to convey Wells had once demonstrated a similar level of power?

gnomez
Member
gnomez
5 years 4 months ago

What’s wrong with Magglio Ordonez?

Stringer Bell
Guest
Stringer Bell
5 years 4 months ago

He’s old, slow, and has too many injuries hampering him. I can say that Vernon and Dunn will bounce back, but Magglio is absolutely done.

Andre
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Wait a minute — it is an ‘odd’ year this year. Look out for s Vernon Wells bounce back, in 2012!

Of course, by then uber-prospect Mike Trout will be ready.

Then again, Bobby Abreu should be off the books by then, creating some OF/DH room.

Then again, with Kendrys Morales still out this year, Abreu might get enough PAs for his 2012 option to vest, negating said room.

Then again….I dunno.

marshen
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marshen
5 years 4 months ago

Wells isn’t hitting any better on the road with the Angels this year either. So much for park factors.

Duncan McElroy
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Duncan McElroy
5 years 4 months ago

It’s funny how so many point to Vernon Wells and not living up to his contract, yet look the other way when it comes to the atrocious numbers that Carl Crawford has been putting up. Only seven more years to go Boston.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 4 months ago

Vernon Wells has 2500 PA’s of terribleness over 5 years. Crawford has been terrible for 100 PA’s over 1 month. The first sample size makes for a bad player, the second sample size makes for a bad slump.

Vernon Wells’ contract was bad from the day it was signed, and everyone knew it. Crawford’s contract was praised as being pretty reasonable (coming on the heels of the Jayson Werth contract).

descender
Member
descender
5 years 4 months ago

Vernon Wells contact was not bad the day it was signed… it was only bad after he never repeated the level of performance that got him the contract. No one saw that coming.

Crawford enters his contract trying to duplicate a level of performance he can not possibly achieve in Boston. Left field in Fenway will just not allow it. 5 years down the road the Crawford contract will be spoken of in the same light as this Wells contact is now.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
5 years 4 months ago

We must have different opinions on what’s funny. Having a bad month on a 7-year contract isn’t nearly as bad as being awful for the first several years of the contract.

dangnewt
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dangnewt
5 years 4 months ago

No one is looking the other way. And no one, especially Crawford himself, is happy at his start. But, most folks in Boston think that Carl Crawford will finish the year closer to his career averages than Vernon Wells will to his. Wells is 32 and it appears that he might be declining. Are you suggesting that Crawford has started his decline in his age 29 season?

Andre
Guest
Andre
5 years 4 months ago

“Are you suggesting that Crawford has started his decline in his age 29 season?”

Sometimes this site is funny. I’m not saying that Crawford is done, but the evidence (so far) might suggest that Crawford IS declining “in his age 29 season”. You can’t take average ages of decline for granted, that’s not how averages work. You should be a little more careful. Do I think Crawford is declining? Maybe… but he shouldn’t be, given his body type. We can only know after this year, although it’s not like we can even know for certain then.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

No, actually, the evidence isn’t anything of the sort. The evidence is that a 29 y.o. player is having a bad month. We make judgments on guys like Wells and Jeter declining because A) they’re older, and B) this fits a much longer pattern.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 4 months ago

oh oh! I love evidence too!

Career:

Wells (32.4): .343woba, 7.3uzr/150 (as LF)
Crawford (29.8): .345woba, 14.7uzr/150 (as LF)

2011:

Wells (32.4): .220woba, 7.3uzr/150 (as LF)
Crawford (29.8): .236woba, -1.2uzr/150 (as LF)

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

Shockingly, weighting the early and more recent parts of a career equally leads to bad conclusions. Crawford was bad early in his career and awesome in recent years. Wells was pretty good earlier in his career and sucked in recent years.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 4 months ago

and one was healthy in recent years, the other was injured.

hmm.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

Vernon Wells’ WAR total from ’07-’10 was equal to Carl Crawford’s last year alone. But yeah, what they did in the early part of last decade totally equals that out!

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 4 months ago

Of course, the vast majority of that WAR came from from defensive numbers, which were accumulated by Crawford at one of the easiest defensive positions, and accumulated by Wells at one of the toughest.

As expected by most, that defensive difference has so far dissappeared with Wells’ move to LF, and Crawford’s move to the smallest LF in baseball.

But why mention that little detail? that surely couldn’t be relevant to your WAR numbers.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

You understand how WAR is calculated, right? You know there’s a positional adjustment to correct for the fact that LF has a lower standard of defense than CF? That Wells starts off with a 4-WAR advantage just because of the position he plays?

Carl Crawford had 94.4 batting runs from ’06-’10 (we’re now including Wells’ two good seasons, dragging up his atrocious ’07-’09). Wells had 39.5. Totally comparable, though. I’m sure that had everything to do with position.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

I apologize, that was a little unclear. I meant that Wells had a one WAR/year advantage, which added up to 4 WAR over ’07-’10. I then expanded the parameters to include ’06. Still, the fact that Crawford played left and Wells played center helped Wells, not Crawford.

Slats
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Slats
5 years 4 months ago

He is overpaid LOL.

BoDean
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

The saddest part for the Halos is that Wells’ contract makes it even less likely they’ll be able to retain Jered Weaver when he becomes a free agent after 2012…

Jason B
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Jason B
5 years 4 months ago

Precisely. Awful contracts are not easily erased and reduce resources that could have been better put to more productive uses. Granted, teams with $150MM payrolls are less affected by these types of mistakes compared to teams with payrolls a third that size, but it affects them all.

Erik
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Erik
5 years 4 months ago

Angels should have had a look at his splits. Career OPS .531 at Angel Stadium. Last year, aka, his good year. Away .227/.301/.407 (at angel stadium: .235/.316/.412 ) versus home .321/.363/.628. Over 20 at bats last year at Oakland or Safeco he had 2 hits.

YouthofToday
Guest
YouthofToday
5 years 4 months ago

Wells’ BABIP won’t get much higher. Dude has 0 plate discipline, he was 2nd to last in regards to pitches per AB as of 2-3 days ago. Tough to get hits when you swing and make horrible contact.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 4 months ago

@ Jason, that was my big question about the Wells acquisition. Not his contract or performance, but that they don’t need him and Trout in 2012 (or 2011).

They got him as if they desperately needed him and I don’t/didn’t see it.

I don’t think the contract cripples the Angels, but it’s a completely unnecessary anchor to drag around. And it is a rather large anchor.

The only thing I can think of was that maybe they viewed Bourjos as the 1-year placeholder … which I don’t agree with.

If the Wells contract means they cannot extend Weaver, then I retract my statement. It could be a crippler.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
5 years 4 months ago

One thing I will say for the Angels is that they always seem to do an excellent job of keeping their long-term commitments manageable. Every time I think of all the dumb and excessive contracts they’ve handed out (or in Wells’ case, acquired), I look at Cot’s and see they actually don’t have that much tied up long term. Right now, they have $30.5 million committed to their 2013 payroll (Weaver’s first FA year), the vast majority of which is owed to Vernon Wells. Presumably they pick up their club options on Haren and Santana, that runs them up to $54.5 million, but Hunter, Abreu, Kazmir, Pineiro, and Rodney are all off the books then. Trumbo, Conger, Bourjos and Trout will all be making the minimum, and Kendrys Morales will still be in arbitration (assuming they don’t deal him and give Trumbo his spot). Even if we eyeball Weaver at $20 million/year (Boras magic and all), I still think the Angels should be able to keep him around if they keep Weaver in mind and don’t go nuts next offseason. Wells’ $21 million is still money the Halos can’t spend elsewhere to improve the team, but I don’t think it necessarily costs them Weaver.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the comments, Kevin.

Very informative.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony
5 years 4 months ago

Wells has the 2nd lowest Line Drive % over the last 3 years only behind Hunter Pence, and the lowest LD% going to the opposite field.

What do hitting coaches say when you’re slumping……..let the ball get deeper, see it longer, drive it the other way.

csawce
Guest
csawce
5 years 4 months ago

If I were a close friend of Wells I would be highly suggesting a voluntary pay cut. What do you really have to lose? $$? Yes but VW knows what he is worth and I don’t know if he wants to go down with any sort of title that I would give him right now. Lets meet in the middle of assumed worth … $10M … nm still overpaid.

Ian R.
Guest
Ian R.
5 years 4 months ago

First of all, why would Wells turn down tens of millions of dollars he’s guaranteed? Second of all, the players’ union would never allow someone to take a voluntary pay cut. He could defer some salary, I suppose, but there’s no way he can give it up entirely.

csawce
Guest
csawce
5 years 4 months ago

After watching years of Blue Jays baseball in the land of the north, I can honestly say I have swapped over $400 worth of bets on VW infiled/foul/shallow popouts. I wont say whether I am ahead or behind at this point.

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