Monday, January 11, 2010

Wrapped up in Cuddles

I'll admit - I'm a little taken aback.

Twice in the last week I've been accused of being a bobo for Michael Cuddyer. By two different people, in two different places, for two different reasons. Now there are worse guys that you could be a bobo for, to be sure. But I find this shocking.

It wasn't too long ago that I was on the opposite side of the coin, and the people accusing me of loving him were the ones defending him. He was supposed to be a stud who was victimized by his lack of playing time by the evil Ron Gardenhire. I pointed out that his playing time was reduced when he consistently crapped the bed in April. I'm pretty sure the exact quote I used is "sometimes a guy just isn't who you want him to be."

But right now, Cuddyer is awfully close to what I want him to be. He's a power-laden, right-handed power hitter who seems to be a solid teammate. I've been waiting for this guy since 1988, when the Twins traded away Tom Brunansky. Instead I'm supposed to point out his warts? Now that he's actually hitting? OK, I'm game. Let's point them out:

  • His range makes him a below average corner outfielder, despite his power arm.
  • He's fought injuries throughout his career.
  • The Twins minor leagues are crawling with outfield prospects who could eventually replace him.
  • He's going to soak up almost $19 million worth of payroll over the next two years.
And to these, I'll respond with five points:

1. Nobody ever said he was going to be a great outfielder. That was the knock on him from the day he arrived. It's why he grabbed bench in the final games of the 2002 ALCS. But he uses his arm well, and he's learned to play the wall well. That still makes him below average, but to suggest he's brutal like Vladamir Guerrero or Jermaine Dye is borderline silly.

2. He was injured a LOT early in his career with the Twins. He's also had 623 plate appearances in three of the last four years. The primary problem the missing year was an injured hand, which is hardly a recurring injury like a back or hamstring problem. Don't get me wrong - an injured hand is worth worrying about unless those hands hit 30 home runs the following year. Then I think we can assume they're OK.

3. The outfield prospects that everyone is so excited about are all at least three years away from the majors. None of them has even played in AA ball yet. I'm OK with getting excited about them, but I don't think we need to figure out the Opening Day lineup for 2012 just yet.

4. Cuddyer is a slight bargain at that price, and to confirm it you just need to look at the free agent market this year. Here are the top four outfielders on the market according to the TwinsCentric Offseason GM's Handbook, along with their age and OPS in 2009.

Matt Holliday - 29 - 909 OPS
Jason Bay - 31 - 921 OPS
Bobby Abreu - 35 - 835 OPS
Johnny Damon - 35 - 854 OPS

If you were going to put Cuddyer in that list, he's going to rank 3rd as a 30-year-old who posted a 862 OPS. Now here's the guaranteed money those guys made so far:

Matt Holliday - $120 million/7 years
Jason Bay - $66 million/2 years
Bobby Abreu - $19 million/2 years
Johnny Damon - unsigned, but reportedly turned down $20 million/2 years

It looks to me like Cuddyer could have had a three-year deal, and maybe a four-year deal (he's younger than Bay). And it looks like the minimum he would have commanded in a very tough year for outfielder is $9-10 million. There is almost no chance that a team would be able to sign him at $19 million over two years.

Guys who provide Cuddyer's numbers don't just fall from the sky. Just ask the Braves, who have been shaking the bushes trying to find a right-handed slugger who can play at least a little defense. They aren't out there. Cuddyer couldn't be much farther from "replaceable."

5. The man hit 30 home runs, drove in 94 RBI and hit .276. That makes up for a lot of warts, even if you ignore the fact that he's doing it right-handed in a lineup dominated by left-handed hitters.

You want to maximize Cuddyer's value right now? Just keep him healthy and happy. There is no lineup in which he would be more valuable than the Twins lineup. There is no outfield in which he would be more valuable than the short right field of Target Field.

And maybe there is no better player over whom to act like a bobo. Apparently I'd better hope so.


JW said...

I like Cuddyer but I'm not sure he would really get paid that much on the open market. After 2006, he had a disappointing '07 and then the injury-spoiled '08. The problem isn't so much that he's wildly overpaid... it's more an issue of how many decent players the Twins should fork out $10 million a year for.

Also your contract comparisons are not necessarily apt, because (among other reasons) Cuddyer was not a free agent when the deal was made. He had a year of arbitration remaining, and the deal's timing was quite fortuitous for him (his '08 season being a disaster). After that, the Twins could have re-signed him quite cheaply.

That's hindsight of course, but if they were going to pay the market rate anyway, why not wait until he became a free agent? It's just a very mediocre contract from the Twins perspective, and they need more value for their dollar to compete with the big spenders.

Nick N. said...

The subtle Gomez jab was a low blow, Mr. Bonnes. But if that's how we're playing, let's get to it... :-)

But right now, Cuddyer is awfully close to what I want him to be. He's a power-laden, right-handed power hitter who seems to be a solid teammate. I've been waiting for this guy since 1988, when the Twins traded away Tom Brunansky.

Aren't these the same things people were saying about Cuddyer after the 2006 season? Then he followed it up with an '07 season in which a wrist (or maybe back?) injury sapped his power and followed that with an '08 campaign in which he just couldn't get healthy at all. His health is not just a minor downside to be overlooked, it's more relevant than ever now that he's on the wrong side of 30.

Your post suggests to me that you're still too high on the strong season -- and incredibly strong finish -- that Cuddyer is coming off of. But you're ignoring the rest of his career, in which overall he's been pretty average. And as much as you want to say he's the opposite of replaceable, I don't see much difference between him and someone like Xavier Nady, who remains a free agent and who us TwinsCentric folks projected to get 1 yr/$2M plus incentives.

To be clear, I don't mind having Cuddyer on the team and I certainly don't think they should be dreaming of trading him this offseason. But the Twins are locked in for two more years right now and he's scheduled to make a whole bunch of money during that time despite holding a pretty common skill set.

I think Cuddyer is a good enough fit and a valuable enough clubhouse presence that he's worth the money. But there's certainly nothing wrong with exploring ways that the Twins can maximize their value when he inevitably departs.

rghrbek said...

I agree with John and Nick above me, but would add...

He is not a great baserunner (gets picked off too much), and his arm has seemed to become very inaccurate the last 2 years (which was his only strong suit in the field really).

Still, like Nick said, I am not saying he's terrible, and we do need the right handed bat. I think he is making a bit too much money though, for two years of good production.

If the Twins were able to trade him for a front line SP, I would have no problem with that. I don't know that there would be that kind of interest out there, and the Twins would not trade him, as Gardy loves him deeply it seems.

writerjoel said...

Nice piece on Cuddyer.

Michael, though, is the perfect example of the overpaid homegrown talent. If you put his salary in-line for ALL his years as a Twin, maybe -- just maybe -- he's a bargain. But Cuddyer IS the eprfect example of why arbitration -- as it now stands -- doesn't work. Average playrs command bigger money down-the-line with the home team than they would, quite possibly, on the open market. But, hey, players get "peanuts" in their first three years of service, so what the hey!

If you could trade Michael, now, today, for a third or second baseman, maybe even a top-flight starter, I'd do it in a heatbeat and move Kubel to the outfield and go after Vladmir for $5 mill.

But we are stuck with Cuddy, who did have a 2009 that we can appreciate. He is, afterall, the closest the Twins have marketed as Mr. Twin this side of the real deal Joe Mauer. JH's personable, does do his job, is versatile (who would've played first during the tremendous run the Twins did this past September -- Buscher, Harris, Brock Peterson?

As the youngsters come up, the Twins have to make serious decisions on Kubel, Young and Cuddyer. Who, in the end, will prove to be the cheaper alternative (I think, maybe, Cuddyer -- who can slip in the DH role, 4th outfielder, back-up at first and maybe play 2nd and 3rd in a pinch -- some value there, but at what price). I picture Kubel AND Young costing the Twins more than $10 million a year as they approach Free Agency Year One!

John said...

Ok, so this is what drives me crazy about the Cuddyer debate, and more generally about the sabremetric view of power-laden corner outfielders:

If you're going to say they're replaceable, then tell me the replacements.

There are two in the post above. The first is Vladamir Guerrero, who was signed purely as a designated hitter. He's not a right fielder, he isn't being signed to be a right fielder, and he hasn't played right field in a year and a half.

I loved Vlad. I lobbied for the Twins to sign Vlad in 2004. But he can't play right field now, no matter how little you pay him.

The other is Xavier Nady? Nick, you probably should have read the rest of that paragraph on Nady beyond the salary estimate......

"Last year he broke out but this year he broke down. He underwent a second Tommy John surgery in July, and the fact that it’s his second is bad news, because the odds for full recovery are quite a bit worse. At the very least, he’s
likely not available for most of next year.
At just 30 years old, we’ll wish him luck and check
in again in 2011.
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $2M plus incentives

If the Twins were to try and replace Cuddyer with Nady they would AND SHOULD face a crowd with pitchforks. Nady?!?

If you think that Cuddyer is replaceable, bring me more than nebulous statements about how he's expensive, or corner outfielders are cheap. Bring me names. And I don't mean names of guys that "kind of" replace Cuddyer. The Twins aren't trying to be a .500 team or get an award for most wins per dollar spent. They should be looking to win as many games as possible, and that requires talent, not reasonably price replacements.

P.S. I couldn't be more delighted Nick that you found that Gomez jab. I'll admit - I totally included it for your benefit. :-)

Nick N. said...

If the Twins were to try and replace Cuddyer with Nady they would AND SHOULD face a crowd with pitchforks. Nady?!?

I don't really remember who wrote that Nady blurb (I think it was you actually) but I don't agree with it. Nady already missed most of 2009 due to TJ surgery; why exactly would an outfielder need to miss two years to recover from that procedure? Indications that I've heard are that Nady expects to be ready for spring training this year, and while there's some risk in signing a guy coming off elbow surgery, it's not like he's a pitcher.

In any event, I said in my comment that I don't believe the Twins should be looking to move Cuddyer at this point in time. The fact is that looking past our personal connections with him, he's just not irreplaceable. Marlon Byrd was available until a couple weeks ago, and he'll be making $3M next season. Jack Cust was non-tendered and re-signed, but is making next to nothing in Oakland. Reed Johnson is an adequate righty-hitting outfielder still sitting out in FA. Are these guys as good as Cuddyer? Probably not, but they're not necessarily huge downgrades either and they're much cheaper.

To reiterate, I have no problem with Cuddyer on the team and I'm not a person who advocates for the team to be shopping him around, nor do I think there's really any chance the Twins will do it. I just don't get nearly as offended as you when people suggest it might be something to remain open to now that they've got $19M committed to him over the next couple years and there are a boatload of other financial obligations to consider.

John said...

Byrd? Reed Johnson? Jack Cust?

I don't think I understand the word "replacement" the way everyone else does. I don't mean someone who can play right field without embarassing themselves.

(And speaking of embarassing himself, have you ever seen Jack Cust play a corner outfield spot? Wasn't he the guy who was infamously described as playing the outfield like a one-legged penguin?)

How are these guys replacements?

Marlon Byrd is two years older than Cuddyer and has 60 home runs in eight major league seasons.

And Reed Johnson? The same Reed Johnson with 52 home runs in his seven league career? That Reed Johnson? Or is there another one? Are you sure you didn't mean Rick Reed? He at least gave up home runs.

Listen, I'm not offended by people suggesting they can find crappier corner outfielders than Cuddyer for less money. But if we stats guys want their opinions to be taken seriously, we have to quit insisting on saying stupid things. And suggesting that Cuddyer isn't a great fit for the Twins, or that his performance or contract is hurting the Twins, makes us look like we're more interestd in mathematical masturbation than real life analysis.

Nick N. said...

They were just the first three I stumbled across in a five-minute search. But, to be clear, here are the OPS+ numbers for those four players over the past three years:

Cuddyer: 113
Byrd: 112
Cust: 125
Johnson: 85

Johnson is obviously the worst of the bunch from an offensive standpoint, but he's been hurt in two of the past three years and has proven to be essentially an average offensive contributor when healthy. (In truth he probably wasn't even worth bringing up since he's not a power hitter by any means, I just felt like mentioning him because he's available and he mashes lefties.)

You continue to act like Cuddyer is some reliable 30-HR/yr beast but the guy has topped 16 only twice in an eight-year career.

Anyway, I don't want this to turn into one of those arguments where we're trying to parse out the definition of "replaceable" and compare Cuddyer to all these other bargain-bin guys who carry significant risks and flaws. Cuddyer's a homegrown guy coming off a good season, so right now he's very appealing. And in truth I wouldn't want any of the guys I mentioned over him, even considering the money difference.

But the basic fact is that Cuddyer's skill set is undeniably a common one. And the notion that guys in that mold are generally available at a lesser price isn't a myth. Cuddyer is past 30 and under contract for two more years, so the Twins will have a decision to make on him in the relatively near future. Regardless of your confidence that he'll be a Type A free agent, he currently ranks as a low-end Type B. While that has a lot to do with his dreadful 2008 campaign, there's simply no assurance the same thing won't happen again in 2010 or 2011, and even if it doesn't, it's not easy to make the Type A range in that 1B/DH/OF category.

I think we can all agree that giving Cuddyer another lucrative contract that takes him into his mid-30s would probably be a mistake. So the question that Wade was posing in his article that set you off is how the Twins should prepare for the end of his current deal. Maybe the answer is just to let him play out his contract and walk. Maybe he'll re-sign for much cheaper and that is an avenue worth exploring. Or maybe an scenario will emerge that makes trading him next winter to restock another area and free up a bunch of salary a viable option. Much obviously depends on how the OF prospect crop develops.

But now is not a bad time to start considering these matters.

TT said...

There were nine players in all of baseball who hit more home runs than Cuddyer last year. Hitting 30+ home runs, even once, is not a "common skill set" among major league players.

I don't think comparing players annual salaries tells us very much. Some players take less money to get a longer contract and other players want more money for a longer contract. It depends on where they are in their careers.

In addition, I doubt teams budget that way. Annual budgets are set taking into account existing commitments and future commitments with a goal toward averaging out at that 50% of revenue level the Twins keep siting. With multi-year contracts they are looking at the whole contract, not one year.

Was Cuddyer worth his contract. H*ll yes. Without Cuddyer the Twins wouldn't have been in the playoffs last year. That alone pays his salary.

TT said...

I guess it was nine in the AL, but it doesn't change the point.

Mike C said...

I have to admit that I've been on both sides, hating and loving, Cuddy. I think I've turned to a more reasonable thought which is he's a pretty good player. Not great, but pretty good.

Cack Just said...

The Cust comp isn't getting it's due. Though Cuddy certainly has the better defensive history, they both managed an UZR/150 around -22 last year. Cust has had the more consistent (though declining) offensive history, while also being a higher OBP guy. (His career low of .356 last season matches Cuddy's second-best year.) Notably, Cuddy had the better year last year.

Long story short, they've both topped out with career years of about 3 WAR and have had non-career years of 1 WAR (and, in Cuddy's case, below). They are the same age and both project to be around 2 WAR guys in 2010.

To dismiss the Cust comparison as "saying stupid things" is...well...saying stupid things. You'd be hard pressed to find a better free agent comp this year, and the fact is that, projection-wise, Oakland is getting the same overall production from their 1-year $3M contract guy as the Twins are from their 2 year $20M contract guy, which does indeed suggest that Cuddles is overpaid.

Even if you want to allow that Cuddy is a better defender than he showed last year, is he $7M a year better than Cust? That's a hell of a lot of defense. I don't see it.

Damon may have turned down 2/20, but you can be sure that at this point he's not going to end up signing for that much. Being that he's been consistently better than Cuddy, he'll likely end up as another comparison showing the Cuddy wouldn't get 2/20 on the open market.

None of which makes a mockery the position that Cuddy is a great fit for this particular Twins team at this particular time and that it was reasonable to pick up the option. He is and it was, and that few million bucks over the market isn't going to sink us.

It just looked to me that Nick was challenged to provide an example and proceeded to provide one that was nearly perfect, and then was outright dismissed based on the Custian defensive legends. Geek, it probably wasn't the best timing to choose that comment to chide someone else for not doing a serious analysis.

John said...

Cust? Again Cust?

I dismissed him because he was the easiest to dismiss. Calling Cust and outfielder is like calling Tim McCarver a comedian. Sure, he makes us laugh, but that's not what he's supposedly there for.

Cust has played outfield in just 217 of his 491 career games. His UZR's EVERY YEAR look like a series of record lows in Warroad: -22.5, -22.1, -19.2. He's as close to being an outfielder as he is to being a second baseman. (Maybe we should sign him to play 2b?)

That's not replaceable, no matter what Cuddy's UZR was last year. (And I'll admit, I'm writing off a lot of the UZR thing because I think RF in the Metrodome is judged unfairly by UZR.)

But the basic fact is that Cuddyer's skill set is undeniably a common one. And the notion that guys in that mold are generally available at a lesser price isn't a myth.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. This quote. If it's common, find it. Show me how easy it is to find. Not to trade for, not as a concept. Find me these guys.


Cack Just said...

I think the issue is not that you aren't being shown these guys, it's that when you are you just write the name with a question mark after it and make wise (and who doesn't love a McCarver joke?) en route to dismissing the suggestion. Maybe if I just write the name with an exclamation point that'll work, too:

Cust! Yes, Cust!

No dice? Shucks.

In all seriousness, I think you got to the crux of the matter when you said you had a different definition of replacement. So, um ... what's yours, exactly? Does the player have to like to do magic tricks and look good in a hard hat, too? Perhaps he has to have Cuddy's social security number. I honestly don't know. We keep giving you guys who project to make the same overall contribution at the same position and you keep rejecting them.

Nobody's arguing that Cust is as good on D as Cuddy (well, except for UZR last year, but we don't need to go down that rabbit hole). The argument is that Cust's better offensive history and higher OBP make him a better bet offensively than Cuddy, which is why, even given his defensive shortcomings, the 2010 WAR projections for both of them average out at 1.8. (CHONE likes Cust better, the fans like Cuddy.)

What is a replacement, then, if not a player of the same age likely to produce the same WAR? 'Cause that's *exactly* how I'd define it.

How about Mike Cameron? Better defense and worse offense. (And also right handed.) Never been below 2 WAR and has a number of 4 WAR years. He's old. He signed for 2/15.5. Damon's going to end up cheaper than Cuddy and has better projections all around. Byrd's WAR projection is right in line here, too. That makes it four guys we've identified. (I can't go Reed Johnson, and I think you've successfully argued against Nady.)

Unless you clarify your criteria, or tell us how many guys it will take, I think the challenge has been met.

TT said...

Cust is also not remotely Cuddyer's equivalent as a hitter either. He actually puts the ball in play in a littl over half his plate appearances. And if you compare his RBI's with runners on base or in scoring position to Cuddyer's you can see one of the results of that inability to make contact. And, for all those walks, he scored less often than Cuddyer as well. Cust is a classic case of Excel formulas distorting judgment.

I am not a great fan of Cuddyer's, but Geek is right, the Cust comparison IS absurd.

Nick N. said...

John, how can you expect anyone to give you examples if you're just going to dismiss each one off-hand without giving them any apparent thought?

Yes, you lose some defense with Jack Cust but he's a better offensive player than Cuddyer. If he's sitting between Mauer and Morneau, hitting 30 homers and drawing 100 walks at a fraction of the price, I think I can live with the defensive downgrade, particularly considering that as you said yourself the Metrodome and Target Field both have right fields small enough to help cover up for fielders with limited range. Your hyperbolic reaction to the notion of Cust as an outfielder makes it tough to take your argument seriously; I doubt the people running the A's are a bunch of morons who know nothing about baseball, and they've given Cust 190 starts in a spacious outfield over the past three years. Also, you can always alternate Cust in at DH and let Kubel get some time in the outfield, or sign a better defensive fourth OF (Reed Johnson?) to help alleviate the defensive pain.

Xavier Nady had been almost the same player as Cuddyer prior to this past season when he got hurt. Yes, you take on some risk in that he's coming off elbow surgery, but you have to live with risks and flaws when you're spending significantly less money. He's had a year to recover. He'd be a solid, cheap bet.

Marlon Byrd is a better fielder than Cuddyer and has posted an OPS over 800 in each of the past three seasons. You dismissed him because he's two years older then Cuddyer (a silly rebuttal; he's 32 and nobody's looking at him as a long-term answer) and didn't have much power early in his career. Again, I'm wondering how you expect anyone to engage in a legitimate debate with you on the topic when you're rattling off retorts like that.

I'm sure your response to this is going to be "BYRD? CUST??? NADY!!!?!?!?!?!?" but I don't think these reactions are helping move anyone to your point of view. Like it or not, the plodding right field slugger is a common breed in the game of baseball. It's not the type of player the Twins generally target because they like speed and defense so you're not used to seeing them around here much, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

TT said...

"How about Mike Cameron?"

How about Mike Cameron? Anyone think the Twins would have been in the playoffs last year with Mike Cameron batting cleanup? Cameron had 22 fewer plate appearances than Cuddyer last year and 26 fewer hits. Cameron is a better hitter than Cust, but not by much.

"What is a replacement, then, if not a player of the same age likely to produce the same WAR? 'Cause that's *exactly* how I'd define it."

Right - just fire up the spreadsheet and there is no need to use the brain cells.

Cack Just said...

TT: Ahh, the old "spreasheets lie" canard.

It looks to me like a.) you're cherry picking Cuddy's best season(s) against Cust's worst and b.) not accounting for the lineups in which they hit.

Would it be fair to use the stat wRC (which would remove bias due to lineups) and the 2010 projections (which are generated using more than just last season as inputs)? If we do that Cust averages out to about 85, and Cuddy about 80. Absurd?

Cack Just said...

TT: Re: Mike Cameron and cleanup.

Well, I don't think you'd bat him cleanup, that's just silly. That said, a lineup featuring him instead of Cuddy would have performed similarly, taking both offense and defense into account. What he loses on offense he gains on defense ... in fact, he probably gains more because you shift Span to RF and get better defense out of both positions. I think we do make the playoffs. We might do it without a game 163.

But if you want to play this game, let's play it fair: what if we'd had Cameron instead of Cuddy in 2008? If you are going to analyze things that way, you might want to look at more than just last season.

The funny thing here: I like Cuddy. He's easy to root for and a good fit for the team, and picking up the option wasn't near as horrible as many other Smith decisions.

TT said...

"hitting 30 homers and drawing 100 walks "

And striking out 185+ times while getting very few other hits. Just what we need hitting behind Mauer and Morneau, a guy like Cust who makes contact barely 50% of the time and gets a hit barely 20% of the time, even less when there are runners on base.

The original claim was that players with Cuddyer's skill set were common. None of the players named meets that test.

Nick N. said...

And striking out 185+ times while getting very few other hits. Just what we need hitting behind Mauer and Morneau, a guy like Cust who makes contact barely 50% of the time and gets a hit barely 20% of the time, even less when there are runners on base.

Cust makes outs less often than Cuddyer, whether or not there are runners on base. You're accusing Cust of being the rally-killer?

TT said...

"It looks to me like a.) you're cherry picking Cuddy's best season(s) against Cust's worst"

No, I am just looking at what they actually did last year. Was that Cust's worst? So a 30 year old who just had his "worst" year is comparable to a 30 year old who just had his "best" year? Frankly it doesn't matter, Cust has never been able to make contact. He strikes out, he walks and he occasionally hits a home run.

"Well, I don't think you'd bat him cleanup, that's just silly. "

I agree, but that is where Cuddyer batted at the end of last year. So if Cameron has the same skill set he ought to be in the same spot. No one has said Cuddyer has a bunch of unique skills that no other major league player has. But a right handed hitter who can hit 30+ home runs while making reasonable contact and with decent defensive skills in right field is not a common skill set.

"TT: Ahh, the old "spreasheets lie" canard."

The problem isn't the spreadsheets.

"the 2010 projections"

HA HAHA HAHA. When was the last time those "projections" were right? The answer is never. They are pure inventions, forgotten after the season in the rush to create next year's projections.

TT said...

"Cust makes outs less often than Cuddyer"

Cust gets a hit a lot less often than Cuddyer, moves runners over less often and drives in fewer runs when he has the opportunity. And he is not a good enough base runner for his walks to result in many runs scored either.

Rally killer? No, just dead weight a lot of the time. I think it is important to remember two thirds of the time the guy who gets an at bat because you "extended the rally" just makes an out. Walks by themselves don't score many runs, as Custs RBI's and R's demonstrate.

There is a reason baseball stopped counting walks as hits back in the 19th century.

Cack Just said...

Okay. Got it. So only last year counts, and instead of using projections that apply some methodology, it's best when valuing players to assume that all players will repeat the previous year.

I take that to meant that if we were having this conversation in, say, Jan of 09, you'd agree %100 with the notion that Cust is a vastly superior player? Somehow I don't think so.

Sure, projections are always wrong. Not quite as wrong as using last year's stats in a vacuum, however. What system do you propose we used to value likely contribution in 2010?

I also present you the same challenge as I did Geek: define this unique skillset. Exactly how similar does a player need to be? Same exact defense and offense stats? Give or take 10 points of OPS and 5 of UZR? Same height, weight, age? Same haircut? Take a shot. You've suggested no mechanism for this comparison we're undertaking.

By your ever-fluid criteria, it seems you'd have to also argue that, say, Harris has no comparison because no other player has that *exact* combination of age and UZR and at-bats and contact %, etc. How should we, then, determine a market for a player and assess his value?

Nick N. said...

Cust gets a hit a lot less often than Cuddyer, moves runners over less often and drives in fewer runs when he has the opportunity. And he is not a good enough base runner for his walks to result in many runs scored either.

Ah yes, the old "base-clogger" argument. I'm not even going to get into that one.

There is a reason baseball stopped counting walks as hits back in the 19th century.

There's also a reason most people have begun to view OBP as a more valuable measure than batting average as modern baseball analysis has grown more nuanced. Hits are more valuable than walks, to be sure, but ultimately the way you score runs and win games is by getting on base and extending rallies. Oh, and Cust's home runs don't hurt, either.

Anonymous said...

I'll try and tread lightly here. I agree wholeheartedly with the Geek here, and would add this:

When Cuddyer signed the contract, there were no viable looking prospects in the system. Things have changed drastically on that front, to be sure.

Moreover, if you were to trade a popular teammate coming off a career year who had agreed to a partially backloaded contract, what type of message would that be sending future players considering hometown discounts? In the Stat Vacuum you just trade and sign various people and plug a new team in every year, but in the real world, decisions have to be made that span several years.

Finally, Span, Cameron, and Gomez would've made a fantastic outfield, but in the real world that was, it would've left Buscher at first.

TT said...

"Ah yes, the old "base-clogger" argument. "

Ah no. While getting on base is necessary to score, it is not sufficient. And the variation in how often a runner scores, once on base, is greater than the variation in how often they get on base. Its kind of basic - the goal it to score, not get on base, and Cust's numbers aren't all that great when you look at the runs he produces. That is not a surprise given how rarely he makes contact.

"There's also a reason most people have begun to view OBP as a more valuable measure than batting average"

Which is both untrue (anyone hear how many catchers have won the OBP title) and irrelevant to this discussion since no one has compared their batting averages.

"Hits are more valuable than walks, to be sure"

And on base percentage makes no distinction between the two. So, when someone like Cust manufactures a high OBP by getting on base with an unusual percentage of walks, you need to consider that fact when evaluating its meaning.

"ultimately the way you score runs and win games is by getting on base and extending rallies."

No, the way you score runs is by advancing four bases. And that is not just a matter of getting on base and extending rallies. How one gets on base and extends a rally is at least as important. And, in some cases not getting on base or extending the rally will score more runs than drawing a walk which does both. That is the reason there are both intentional and semi-intentional walks.

TT said...

"Not quite as wrong as using last year's stats in a vacuum, however"

No one is using them in a vacuum.
I certainly am not. Cust has never been a very good player. What he does is strike out, draw walks and hits home runs.

Cuddyer was injured for a couple of his prime years.

"You've suggested no mechanism for this comparison we're undertaking."

Uh, you are the ones that keep claiming his skill set is common. So we have a guy who can play right field and first base. Who is a right-handed batter who hits for both average and power with 30+ home runs.

Cust's skill set is similar in only one dimension - he has hit 30+ home runs. He isn't even right handed.