Filed under: Stats & Analysis | Tags: Barry Bonds, Greg Vaughn, Jose Cruz Jr., Mike Winters, Milton Bradley, Reggie Sanders, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Scott Hairston, Terrmel Sledge
So, I went to the Chargers game last night. The game itself was pretty fun; however, the weather made us all miserable. I ended up having to put my camera away; the rain was soaking it (and me) so bad that I couldn’t see anything but fog through the viewfinder.
But you didn’t come here to talk football. Back on task!
Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus and Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors have surmised that Barry Bonds might be a good fit for the Padres in left field. As we all know, Scott Hairston is the incumbent in left field, leaving plenty of room for improvement. As, as we all know, Bonds brings major baggage to a team, including his alleged steroid use and the fact that he’s an asshole. However, the dude just will not go away; he continues to hit at an extremely high level year after year.
The Padres haven’t had a left fielder who hit as well as Bonds since Reggie Sanders was here on a one-year flyer in 1999. Sanders was the bounty in the trade of Greg Vaughn, he of the 50 home runs in 1998. Since Sanders, the Padres have ran out 7 starting left fielders in 8 years, combining for a line of .268/.354/.426.
The 2007 group includes Terrmel Sledge, lauded as the answer in left and in the leadoff spot before the year; we saw him go down in a fiery ball of flames to the tune of .210/.310/.360. Jose Cruz Jr., Sledge’s platoon mate, started hot but faded fast, posting a line of .234/.316/.375 before getting cut on July 31. Milton Bradley took over, and was deadly when healthy, going .313/.414/.590 in 42 games. However, he was hurt twice while in San Diego, playing in only 42 of the 84 games he was on the roster for. He also blew out his ACL trying to lay the smackdown on Mike Winters during the final home game of the season. He’s still a possibility to come back, but that incident made many Padre fans sour on him, so I doubt that the club will consider it. Still, for comparison’s sake, we’ll include him in the discussion here, especially considering that he brought serious personal baggage here and managed to succeed. His case might give us some indication of how Bonds would be handled here.
So, without diving into the debate over moving Kevin Kouzmanoff to left field, we have three candidates for the job: Hairston, Bradley, and Bonds. Let’s take a look at what they’ve done over the past 3 years:
2005 (Arizona) – .100 AVG, .100 OBP, .150 SLG, -36 OPS+, -0.3 WARP1 (15 games)
2006 (Arizona) – .400, .438, .533, 143 OPS+, .3 WARP1 (9 games),
2007 (ARZ/SD) – .243, .313, .452, 94 OPS+, 1.9 WARP1 (107 games)
2005 (Dodgers) – .290, .350, .484, 118 OPS+, 3.9 WARP1 (75 games)
2006 (Oakland) – .276, .370, .447, 114 OPS+, 2.7 WARP1 (96 games)
2007 (OAK/SD) – .306, .402, .545, 153 OPS+, 3.2 WARP1 (61 games)
2005 (Giants) – .286, .404, .667, 174 OPS+, .6 WARP1 (14 games)
2006 (Giants) – .270, .454, .545, 156 OPS+, 5.5 WARP1 (130 games)
2007 (Giants) – .276, .480, .565, 170 OPS+, 5.8 WARP1 (126 games)
OK, so now it gets interesting. WARP takes fielding into account, meaning that even with the putrid defense he plays, Barry added almost 6 wins to the Giants’ total in 2007; ditto 2006. The 4 Padre left fielders last year posted a combined WARP of 7.5; however, that number is a bit misleading, since it includes games played by those players at other positions as well. When I adjust for the number of games each played in left field, the number drops to 5.5. So, as far as that number is concerned, Bonds vs. Crudge/Exploder/Shrek is basically a push.
So, what are the chances the Pads could squeeze a 5.5 WARP out of Hairston or Bradley next year? Hairston’s San Diego line projects to a 5.3 WARP over 150 games in left field. Hairston has never had major injury problems to my knowledge, so the chances of him playing a full season as a starter are pretty good. ZIPS has Hairston at .243/.317/.405 for 2008, which pretty much reflects his 2007 line, so I think we can safely expect him to be right in that neighborhood next year. Hairston’s age comps averaged a .258/.338/.425, so I would guess he’ll end up somewhere between the 2 projections; i.e., he’ll be mediocre to average next year.
As for Bradley, he is a crapshoot. Bradley gave us a small sample size last year, but his line over 42 games projects to a 10.3 WARP over 150 games. Pretty tremendous numbers. Problem is, the chances of Milton playing 150 games are slim to none. In fact, he’s only played over 101 games in a season once over his 8 years in the bigs (2004 with the Dodgers). Whether via injury or temper tantrum, Milton usually finds a way to cut his season short. Thus, he’s definitely a risk to bring back, even if the potential reward is huge if you can keep him healthy. Given the relative familiarity we have with him, he may be the best option, with Hairston as a fall back when (not if) something goes awry.
That brings us to Steroid Boy. We can say with certainty he will not play 150 games; 120 is more reasonable. ZIPS has him at 112, which sounds about right. Still, if he can post a similar line to 2007 in 120 games next year, he would be an improvement over what we had for 162 games in 2007. That in itself makes the idea of bringing him in worth considering.
Considering, in this case, is the key word. Barry brings with him a barrage of distractions: the steroid cloud, his pending indictment, his entourage, his ego…what effect would that have on the rest of the ballclub? Does Buddy have the intestinal fortitude to lay down the line and force Barry to toe it? He did it with Milton this year, but Milton is a teddy bear compared to Bonds.
If the club can find a way to bring Barry in on their terms, not his, it may be able to squeeze the production out of him with minimal effect on the rest of the club. However, the more likely scenario is that Barry is still Barry, meaning that he alienates everybody, creates distractions, and generally upsets whatever clubhouse chemistry the 2007 club may have built. On the face of it, looking only at the numbers, Barry would probably be a good investment. However, if the Padres decide to do the deal, they must be very careful in the way they handle him. He could easily turn the 2008 Padres into a more formidable club, but he could just as easily blow the entire ship to pieces.