Filed under: Stats & Analysis | Tags: Aaron Rowand, Adrian Gonzalez, Andruw Jones, Brian Giles, Chunichi Dragons, Dave Roberts, Hideki Matsui, Kenny Lofton, Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Cameron, San Diego Padres, Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
A little late, I know, but here’s a look at the possible free agent targets for center field in 2008. I’ll have something on the potential trade candidates later tonight.
Rowand was healthy for all of 2007 after a nasty collision with the center field fence in Citizens Bank Park cost him about 60 games in 2006. He responded with a breakout year, going .309/.374/.515, including 45 doubles and 27 home runs. All this computes to a 123 OPS+ and a 7.8 WARP1; basically, Rowand had a stellar season by any standard you want to measure with. However, Rowand’s career numbers tell a somewhat jumbled story. His career line is .286/.343/.462 with an OPS+ of 106. When you look at the four years he’s been a full-time player, though, he’s really had 2 outstanding years and 2 mediocre years. Here are Rowand’s numbers over the last 4 years:
Year Team AVG OBP SLG OPS+ WARP1
2004 CWS .310 .361 .544 130 5.3
2005 CWS .270 .329 .407 93 4.1
2006 PHI .262 .321 .425 86 3.0
2007 PHI .309 .374 .515 123 7.8
So, was Rowand lucky in ’04 and ’07, or unlucky in ’05 and ’06? BABIP tells us the answer is the former; from 2004 to 2007, he posted BABIPs of .341, .318, .297 and .350. As noted in earlier posts, league average is about .290. Though not definitive, these numbers suggest that Rowand’s natural talent level is closer to his ’05/’06 numbers. As a point of comparison, ZIPS has Rowand at .276/.339/.444 next year, although those numbers are adjusted for playing 81 games in Citizens Bank Park. Qualitatively, he’s not a great OBP guy unless he’s hitting over .300, his power comes in fits and spurts, and his defense may be a bit overrated (just my opinion). In that case, at the 5 year/$60M price tag indicated by Randy Miller of PhillyBurbs (hat tip MLBTR), I will pass.
Tom Krasovic noted a few weeks ago that the Pads might make a one year offer to the esteemed Mr. Jones, he of the .222 average in 2007. The Pads would offer Jones about $17M; a huge price for any player, especially when you consider that this is the Padres talking. In prior years, Jones was a rather productive hitter hampered by a mediocre batting average and a high strikeout rate.
Talking to my brother a few weeks ago, I called Jones “Mike Cameron with more power.” Is that a fair statement? That depends on whether you can call Jones’ 2007 a fluke. I think, to a point, you can characterize Jones’ 2007 season as a string of bad luck; his BABIP was just .248, well below the league average. Adjusted for a league-average BABIP, Jones would have hit .259, right in line with his career numbers. However, his power dropped substantially last year as well, his slugging percentage falling a full 80 points below his career average. Whether this is related to luck or other factors, such as a withdrawal from performance enhancers, is a matter of conjecture. I would lean towards the former; he’s only posted an OPS below the league average once outside of last year and his peripherals indicate that there were other factors affecting him in 2007. For perspective, PECOTA’s 10th percentile projection for Jones in 2007 was .243/.323/.451, indicating that there was less than a 10% chance Jones would be as bad as he was last year.
“Mike Cameron with more power?” That’s probably unfair to Jones. However, is Jones really twice the player Cameron is? If the Pads were to pay Jones over double what they paid Cameron, that is essentially what the club would be saying. I don’t think I would go that far, but given the market and the need for another bat to protect Adrian Gonzalez in the order, it might be worth overpaying to get him in here.
Here’s a name no one seems to be talking about. Lofton hit .296/.367/.414 for Texas and Cleveland last year, very close to his career line of .299/.372/.423. Lofton is very much a singles hitter, while still exhibiting good speed (23 steals in ’07) and decent range (with a terrible arm) in center. Wow, it’s like Dave Roberts came back to life with 30 extra points of batting average! He’d certainly be a hell of a lot cheaper than Jones/Rowand/et al., and he does some things that help the club win games. According to Baseball Prospectus’ MORP formula, Lofton’s 2007 was worth about $5.4M. If the Padres fail to land one of the big fishes, Lofton might be a nice fallback option, but I wouldn’t make him our #1 target. There are better names out there, whether they come via free agency or trade.
As a Japanese player, Fukudome is a bit of an enigma; we don’t really know how he’ll do against players in this league. Fukudome suffered an elbow injury in the middle of the 2007 season; prior to that he hit .294/.443/.520 with Chunichi. For his career, he’s a .305/.397/.543 player; look here for his NPB statistics. A good comparison might be Hideki Matsui, who hit .304/.413/.582 in Japan (NPB stats here) before coming to the Yankees. Matsui has hit .295/.371/.485 since coming to the States in 2003. If Fukudome can come close to those numbers, he’ll be worth at least the $12M per year that he’s expected to fetch. Problem is, it looks like he’ll be no better in center than Brian Giles, and he might be worse. According to Mike Plugh (via MLBTR), Fukudome’s best defensive position is right, which may create a defensive problem for the Friars. However, if he hits anywhere close to the way Matsui did when he came over, it would likely be worth the defensive headaches we may experience with one of these guys in center.
Filed under: Stats & Analysis | Tags: Brian Giles, Cedric Hunter, Geoff Jenkins, Jason Lane, Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Cameron, San Diego Padres
Well, with Mike Cameron a free agent and Cedric Hunter still a few years away, center field might be the biggest hole the Pads need to fill before the start of next season. As it stands now, assuming no moves between now and opening day, it will be Brian Giles or Jason Lane in center on March 31. It’s very likely the Pads will look outside for help, so let’s run down the candidates for the position in ’08. Today I’ll look at the in-house candidates; over the next few days, I’ll also comment on the free agent and trade possibilities. Finally, I’ll make my recommendation for who the Pads should use in center in 2008.
The 2006 Gold Glove winner took a step back in 2007, his average dropping from .268 to .242 while posting his second highest strikeout total of his career. His on base percentage dropped 30 points from 2006, while his slugging percentage dropped 50. He still managed to post an OPS+ over the league average, although his 2007 number was down 18 points from 2006 (121 to 103). Though his defense is still well regarded, he struggled through the first few months of the season, losing multiple balls in the dusk at home. All this certainly hurt his value on the free agent market; now that his 25-game amphetamine suspension will cut out a part of his 2008 season, his value has dropped even further. He could still be had cheap; in spite of everything, he was also one of the Pads’ more valuable players overall last year, garnering 22 win shares (3rd on the club) and a 5.1 WARP1. However, given the stigma associated with his suspension, in addition to his lackluster 2007 season, signs point to Cameron having a new home for the 2008 season.
I know, Giles is the incumbent in right, but the possibility still remains that the Friars could sign a quality right fielder, i.e. Kosuke Fukudome or Geoff Jenkins, and move Gilly to center. Giles has played center in the past, posting 301 games in central over his career. However, only 18 of those games have come with the Pads, and only 1 in the last 2 years. Even so, he still shows good range in the outfield, as well as a decent arm. Giles’ offensive profile certainly fits better in center than it does in right, given his high OBP and loss of power in recent years. By all accounts Giles is not the player he once was; still, he managed to post a respectable OPS+ of 109 as well as a decent 3.2 WARP1. If the Pads can bring in a right fielder who can do better than Cameron’s 2007 line, it might be worth it to consider Giles in center, since he still presents a viable defensive option as well as lots of aptitude with the stick.
Don’t forget about Jason Lane, either. Picked up during the last week of the season after the catastrophic injuries to Cameron and Milton Bradley, Lane only posted 2 at bats with the Friars, going hitless. With Houston, he was a disaster, hitting just .178 over 169 at-bats. Hold on a second there, professor. As noted by many scribes, KT likes to use a statistic called BABIP (batting average on balls in play) to measure how lucky or unlucky a player was in a given season; it can help indicate how far off of a player’s natural talent level a given statistical line is. Looking at Lane’s 2006 and 2007, he hit .201 and .178, respectively. However, he had a BABIP of .217 in 2006 and .168 in 2007. According to Fan Interference, league average is about .290. This indicates that Lane has been terrificly unlucky over the past 2 years. This does not mean that we can automatically expect Lane to perform to his potential in 2008; however, I definitely would not sleep on him having a big year given the chance to play everyday. Defensively, I don’t know a lot about Lane; he’s posted a 106 Rate2 in center over his career (100 is average). TangoTiger’s Fan Scouting Report puts Lane at a 56, which is about average. This is definitely a KT kind of move: buy low on a player who may have been unlucky, put him in San Diego with a supportive team behind him, and let him go to work. Lane is definitely a player I will have my eye on next year as a potential bounce-back guy.
OK, enough for today. Tomorrow: the free agent guys. Saturday: the trade candidates. Sunday: my recommendation.