Thursday, October 18, 2007

Quick Note On Hunter

Torii Hunter said that he'd be interested in playing for the Nats. As usual, with thise puff FA interviews, it leaves out the second clause, "if the Nats are the highest bidder for my services."

At any rate, here's a quick, non-rigorous analysis.

I've been in love with Runs Created lately as a quick and dirty way of estimating player value.

I averaged his last three years of performance, giving him more credit for last year and the previous year (on a 3/2/1) value. Basically, I multiplied his RC values for last year by 3, '06 by 2 and added in his '05 value. summed it up, then divided by 6.

Doing that, he has an established value of 88 RC while using 442 outs. Note that this is generous to him, giving him more credit for his terrific '07 season, and valuing his previous injury-filled seasons slightly less.

As I explained yesterday, the average NL CF created .181 runs for every out they used. Multiply his 442 outs X .181 means that an average CF would've created 80 runs over the same number of outs. His 88 minus the average 80 means that he's about 8 runs better than an average NL CFer.

If that seems low, it's because you're not considering his low on-base percentage. Over the last three years, it's hovered between .334 and .337, which is low for the typical middle-of-the-order hitter. As a comparison, Grady Sizemore had 98 more plate appearances than Hunter, but only caused 10 more outs. Those extra 80 outs really add up and detract from his value.

So we've got him about 5-10 runs above average offensively.

Defensively, he's lost a step from where he was, which was the best CF in the game. He's battled through leg problems the last few years. You might remember a play from the playoffs two or three years ago, where he looked completely terrible, butchering a ball that fell for an inside-the-park homer. Still, at worst he's league average. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's 5 runs better than an average CFer (even though he's sure to decline more over the next few years).

Add it up and he's a 5-15-run player... 1-2 wins better than average. Good. Not great.

He's already turned down a 3/$45 million offer from the Twins and is supposedly looking for a 5/$70ish offer. There's no way he's worth that. He's asking to be played like an elite player when he's more like Austin Kearns... someone who's above average, but isn't the kind of player who can carry a team.

  • Just for giggles' sake, let's try the same with Church... just to get a comparison.

    Using the same weighting method, we get an established level of 57 RC and 264 outs. That's .216 runs created for every out that Church makes.

    If we give him Torii's playing time (Hunter's 442 outs X Church's rate .216), he would create 95 runs versus Torii's 88 and versus the 80 RC an average CF would create.

    If that doesn't seem kosher to you, consider that last year's disappointing .349 on-base percentage is 12 points higher than Torii's career high and that Church's also disappointing .464 slugging average is just 5 points below Hunter's career mark, despite Church playing in a pitcher's park.

    As crazy as it sounds, Church might actually be a better offensive performer, on the order of 5-10 runs.

    Now, obviously, he gives back some of that on defense. He'd give TONS of it back if this were the Hunter of old -- a player who was probably +20 on defense. Even if you assume he's the Hunter of old, Hunter only comes out about 10 runs better than Church, all things considered.

    Is that worth $75 million?

  • I like Hunter's style, but I also think he's a pretty bad teammate. Here's an example. He's repeatedly ripped Joe Mauer and some of his other teammates for not playing hurt (uhoh...sounds like Guillen!). Meanwhile, check out his games played total. Do we really need that?

  • 16 Comments:

    • Can we get a similar breakdown for Torii Spelling?

      By Blogger Sam, at 10/18/2007 9:52 AM  

    • Chris --

      just curious as to why you compared Torii to Grady Sizemore. Sizemore is a lead-off hitter and would obviously get more plate appearances. Plus, it's the job of a lead-off hitter to take pitches/walk while it's more improtant for someone batting 4th/5th to swing away and try to knock the ball out of the park.

      Most of the AL CFers are lead-off type hitters. Could you instead compare Torii to someone like Gary Matthews, Jr. or Vernon Wells?

      By Anonymous e, at 10/18/2007 10:27 AM  

    • Something to keep in mind about Church, though--it's obvious he's not used to (or maybe even capable of) playing 150 games in a season. The more limited his playing time, the better his numbers seem to be. I'd like to see a curve on his stats that shows how they hold up with continued starts. I may be way off, because this is based simply on observation, but I imagine you see a dip the more he plays. Whereas in limited, 4th-outfielder-type action like he saw in September, he excels. Other than the injury bug, Hunter doesn't seem to wear down like this, so this comparison might be a little apples to oranges.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/18/2007 10:30 AM  

    • I picked Sizemore because his name was right there on the list. I was trying to emphasize the importance of on-base percentage and why Hunter's perceived value isn't actually as high as it is in terms of the runs he generates because of all those outs he makes.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/18/2007 10:31 AM  

    • anonymous -- that's possible, I suppose. But it could also just be a fluke in performance. In-season, players fluctuate and have hot and cold streaks, and I'm not sure that we can correlate his hot performance at the beginning and end of the year with his playing time.

      It's possible, sure. But it's too hard to tell.

      Here, for example, is a 48-game stretch from last year where he basically played every day and smacked the hell out of the ball.

      It's just too hard to draw firm conclusions one way or another.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/18/2007 10:34 AM  

    • Make it even worse for Torii.

      Get Ryan a platoon partner in center so he doesn't have to look foolish trying to hit lefties anymore.

      Church+platoon partner >>>>> Hunter.

      By Anonymous Earl Weaver, at 10/18/2007 11:48 AM  

    • Well, as long as we are dreaming, I suppose A-Rod would play for the Nats too if Stan the Man was willing to pay him a half of a billion for 10 years. This team does not need Tori Hunter or a washed up Andruw Jones. It needs starting pitching. CF is not the problem and Ryan Church is more than adequate in CF.

      By Anonymous phil dunn, at 10/18/2007 12:54 PM  

    • As the trade deadline was approaching there were numerous stories, almost every town he played in, quoting Hunter about how much he would love to play in that town. So I wouldn’t read a whole lot into Hunter’s quotes about how he’d love to play in DC and it’s certainly in any FAs best interest to always make it sound that he’s interested in playing in any town just to maintain the perception of demand to help boost the bidding. Supposedly Rowand wants 6/84 Hunter around 5/75. That’s just too much for those players and to have them become the defacto Face ot the team replacing Z-man. There was almost no difference between Church’s and Rowand’s away stats. At this point I’d be content to see an OF of Pena, Church, and Kearns and see how that plays out in the new stadium. Should Pena or Church stumble they may be able to bring up Maxwell by midseason or start of next year. But at least there are some potential options in the OF. To me the bigger hole is at SS. I’m not interested at all in seeing what can be salvaged from Guzman anymore, just write it off. Next would be a top of line starter. There aren’t a lot of options there at the ML level or in the farm system for a number of years unless Desmond’s late season push was for real and I certainly wouldn’t bet my 401K on that.

      By Anonymous Tulsa Fan, at 10/18/2007 1:02 PM  

    • Torii Hunter or just about any big-name free agent position player would be a huge mistake for the Nats at this point in time. No matter how well their players develop over the off-season, they still aren't going to be fully competitive with teams like the Mets and Phillies unless Jimbo manages to work some miracle short of the second coming. The only really justifiable free agent purchase would be a young, under 30 pitchers like Dontrelle Willis, for instance, as well as a bunch of trade pieces and veteran retreads who can give the Nats some pieces to move in restocking their farm. Paying an over 30 Torii Hunter megabucks to decline in DC would only show a commitment to mediocrity, not success. Plug Church in CF, keep Kearns in Right, Willy Mo in Left, and focus on piling up prospects and pitching.

      By Blogger Michael, at 10/18/2007 9:46 PM  

    • You're right in that one player isn't going to win us the world series, but the team is going to have millions of dollars in extra revenue next year that's just going to otherwise line the owner's pockets.

      Spending some of that to improve the on-field product, even marginally, isn't going to affect the long-term fortunes of the franchise, and may help the short-term.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/18/2007 9:49 PM  

    • You're most certainly right there, but at the same time, the team needs to avoid purchasing free agents just for the sake of trying to show that it's doing something. I mean yeah, I like to watch a good show as much as anyone, but they can do it on the cheap w/out picking up Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones just by getting rid of a few negative VORP guys (FLop anyone?) and stabilizing their pitching. This free agent crop unfortunately breaks down into two categories: entering decline-phase of career (e.g. Hunter, Posada, Rivera, etc.) or fixer-upper (A. Jones, Willis, etc.). We really need to accept the fact that the game has changed dramatically in the past few years w/revenue-sharing and sabermetrics to the point where farm systems and scouting have become the end all and be all. Splurging on aging free agents (unless you have 300m to spend like the cubs) just makes you a poor impersonation of the Yankees. What they should try to do is to acquire a nice number of veteran retread pieces on the cheap like they did Dmitri, then actually show a willingness to trade them (perish the thought!) or let them file for free agency (netting a compensatory draft pick) so they can restock the farm system. Free agents work when you've already got a good team and need that extra little bit on the margins to make it all fit. A great example is Detroit--they had a good core of pitchers and position players from the farm, and then brought in a couple of veteran free agents to pull the whole thing together. We don't have the core yet and we especially don't have the pitching.

      By Blogger Michael, at 10/19/2007 12:49 AM  

    • Typical nice job, Chris.

      We don't have to worry about Hunter's coming to D.C. because he's not a Cincy Red.

      Yes, we need an ace at shortsop, but finding one is going to be a very tough job. It is a gap that will have to be filled before the Nats are serious contenders, and there's no indication of whether/when that will happen.

      Also, what's wrong with the Lerners' "pocketing millions?" That's why they got into the baseball business--one more opportunity to make money. They're on the take, as it were, courtesy of D.C. taxpayers. Kasten's there to get his share and cover their tracks. I assume that's why so many of Kasten's comments are vague and contradictory--such as his comments about hiring free agents.

      I could be wrong--maybe the Nats will be the next iteration of the Rockies. But with Jim Bowden and Kasten and a measly payroll? Color me skeptical.

      By Anonymous JohnR(Va), at 10/19/2007 9:04 AM  

    • I'm skeptical about signing an older player. Hunter will be 33 next season and will demand several years in contract.

      If an older player gets in a slump, is it just a slump or cuz he is moving past his prime years?

      The Lerners may just do something like this to create excitement for the new park. The Dmitri deal has the Lerners' fingerprints all over it, not Kasten/Bowden's. It is an Angelos-type move.

      I would rather see a deal for a younger guy, like Coco Crisp, a guy who has been unproductive in the Boston pressure cooker but who had back-to-back .300 years in Cleveland. Or if not him, some other young CF and SS, guys in their 20s who can grow with the Nats. Guys you don't give up draft picks for.

      By Anonymous EdDC, at 10/19/2007 10:14 AM  

    • Hunter hit 28 homers, drove in 108, stole 18, scored 94, and plays great center field. Does it make sense for the Nationals to go after him and see if he will take a four year offer less than $65 million, yes. Should we expect him for 2008, no. Would anti-depressants help many of you function more effectively in the normative world, yes.

      By Anonymous Toad Slime, at 10/20/2007 1:40 PM  

    • This may be an asinine comment from a UK Nats fan, but do we really need to spend $$$m on a CF when we can get Livan and Weaver/Jennings for the same amount?

      Surely starting pitching is what we need. If we go Livan, Hill, Chico, Bergmann, Lannan/Patterson/Redding wouldn't we have a decent shot of going .500?

      I'm not convinced a high-priced 'big bat' is the panacea. It would smack of making a (Dread word here) 'statement' like Pitt did when trading for Matt Morris.

      By Anonymous Neil, at 10/22/2007 4:42 PM  

    • By Blogger wwwwww, at 10/26/2009 8:56 PM  

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