Aside from pedigree, why do we think batters will perform better as they move from their fledgling opportunity into and through their prime? Well the easiest way to think of this is the following chart:
Over time players become smarter as they pick up on more and more of the nuances of the game. What you can get away with and what you can’t, but Father Time is still undefeated. As a player gets older they lose their physical superiority to younger players. The boxed area represents the idea of prime where a player has enough mental and physical ability to be one of the best players in the game. Prior to this period they can get by on physical gifts and post they can get by on savvy veteran guile, but within the box is when they’re best positioned to be all that they can be. This isn’t just a baseball thing, but all sports or contests which require physicality or even dating follow this same principle.
I generally don’t like to talk about minor league guys that I haven’t seen, but couching this post with a blanket caveat that this is strictly based on this year’s numbers in the minors should keep the critics off my back, I think. This is going to be a heavy numbers post so let me give an idea as to how I arrived at these rankings. All statistics current through the All-Star Break.
First off, I used the truly excellent Minor League Central to grab virtually every play in the minors this year. I removed a few players that played for two different teams within a league, but that’s minor, and I set some age limits to keep the oldest of the older players out of our pool:
International League <= 30 YO
Southern League <= 28 YO
Florida State League <= 26 YO
Midwest League <= 25 YO
NYP <= 24 YO
You’ll also notice that I’ve only drawn players from leagues that the Rays play in so sorry PCL/CAL/Texas/Mars leagues.
After establishing the pool of players I then used Baseball America’s Park Factors to adjust wOBA (wOBA*) for batters and ERA/FIP (ERA*/FIP*) for pitchers. These are the only park adjusted statistics so keep that in mind, but I think it helps put everyone on an even keel.
The next step for each league was to create weighted averages (including age) and standard deviations for the following statistics for each league:
Recently, known opinionist Dave Cameron released his Trade Value rankings which are completely based on his gut and have no basis in reality. Longoria was ranked out of the top-5 (9th) for the first time since he has been in baseball. There’s a couple of reasons for this. 1) Evan isn’t as good as he used to be and 2) he’s going to start getting paid real money. Those that think Evan Longoria is a 6-7 WAR player making peanuts need to wake up and smell the motel room floor. Here’s a look at his contract through the lens of net present value which adjusts for inflation to league $/WAR and the fact that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow:
Evan is on pace for a 4.5 WAR season this year and is clearly entrenched in his decline phase so we should feel comfortable knocking off half a win a year going forward. We’re using a 5% inflation/discount rate here which is a little conservative, but should guide us nicely and we’re beginning at a league $/WAR of $5.5M for next year.
You can see that, yes, Evan should be a net positive here from the angle of NPV as he’s going to be paid $95M in 2014 dollars over the life of the contract and should provide something like $111M in production. This makes for a surplus of around $16M. If you’re the kind of cat that wants to use Future Values because you never took an intro banking course, believe inflation is a myth, or have never left your basement then you’ll point to the actual dollar figure of what he’s about to get paid as being higher than the production he will provide by around $10M.
Evan is still likely to be a reasonable value going forward, but it’s time to stop thinking of him as one of the best players in the game on one of the best contracts out there. It’s likely that he’s going to be worth his pay going forward, but he certainly shouldn’t be expected to bring back a top tier prospect, let alone two. If you can find a dumb GM out there willing to give you a few good pieces for this guy while his name is still good then the team should absolutely do it.
“Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.” – Branch Rickey
Coming up on the All Star Break is always a nice opportunity to look back and reflect on long term trends throughout the season. Even if it isn’t a speed sign mile marker (percent ending in 5 or 0) it’s a stopping point that has been ingrained in fans since time immemorial. I’m going to park-adjust a couple of key statistics using this method and the 2013 Fangraphs Park Factors.
You can download the excel file by following the link, clicking on file, and then clicking on download from within that dropdown. I’d recommend it if you want to follow along throughout this. The initial data download from Fangraphs can be found on the “Raw” tab, while the park-adjusted figures are on the “Adjusted” tab.
Z-scores are a handy tool because they take into account how many standard deviations the player is from the mean within a population. The player pool here is all non-pitcher batters with >0 PA. This pool yields the following summary statistics for each of our relevant categories:
Talk about burying the lede. This past June saw the Rays record the most strikeouts in any month in the history of Major League Baseball. They even managed to do it in the second shortest month on the calendar! The final stroke was a Brad Boxxxberger strikeout in the last inning of the last day of the month. It’s fitting that Boxxxy clinched the record while locking down the game, because he has been straight fiyahhh this month striking out more than 45% of all batters faced!!
Naturally, when a great feat is accomplished the thinking man seeks to gather more information in the name of knowledge. Here are some nuggs that I have gleaned from the impeccable, super sexxxy, and downright free Baseball Savant:
(Please click to enlarge if you don’t feel like reaching for your cheaters)
Few words, lots of charts, no time to waste time, follow me if you want to live: