The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Much Value Have Full-time Second Baseman Accrued in their Age 30+ Seasons?

Now that I’ve figured out how to use saved reports with Baseball Reference’s Play Index to create more reports I’m having fun goofing around with things like the question in the title.  So first, I ran a query for all the players who got at least 4000 PA through their age 29 seasons and played at least 75% of their games at second base.  I got a list of 39 players.

Through Age 29

Age 30+

Here’s a really basic chart comparing their WAR through age 29 and their WAR from age 30 on.

Player <29 WAR 30+ WAR
Eddie Collins 68.9 49.6
Joe Morgan 44.3 52.8
Charlie Gehringer 25.9 50.7
Rod Carew 39.8 36.8
Lou Whitaker 37.3 34.1
Bobby Grich 38.8 28.5
Ryne Sandberg 36 28.9
Willie Randolph 37.2 25.8
Roberto Alomar 40.9 22
Billy Herman 34.8 17.7
Bobby Doerr 31.2 16.2
Nellie Fox 30 16.3
Tony Lazzeri 34.7 11.5
Johnny Evers 28.8 16.4
Larry Doyle 32.5 10.1
Chuck Knoblauch 38.9 3.1
Red Schoendienst 17.1 21.9
Jim Gilliam 18.2 19.5
Robinson Cano 34.8 0
Bill Mazeroski 26.7 5.6
Tony Cuccinello 25 7
Ray Durham 16.2 14.4
Luis Castillo 20.9 5.9
Dave Cash 23.2 1.2
Steve Sax 18.3 4.6
Delino DeShields 17.5 4.5
Tony Taylor 9.2 10.8
Carlos Baerga 18.3 -1.1
Glenn Hubbard 15 2.1
Felix Millan 11.5 4.4
Juan Samuel 12.2 2.3
Hughie Critz 9.8 3.9
Rennie Stennett 12.5 0.1
Jerry Remy 12.1 0.5
Bucky Harris 11.7 0.3
Rickie Weeks 12 0
Otto Knabe 9.8 -1.7
Bobby Richardson 5.8 0.7
Bill Wambsganss 1.3 -0.8

If we focus on the top 20 in terms of WAR, here’s how that looks.

Player <29 WAR 30+ WAR
Eddie Collins 68.9 49.6
Joe Morgan 44.3 52.8
Roberto Alomar 40.9 22
Rod Carew 39.8 36.8
Chuck Knoblauch 38.9 3.1
Bobby Grich 38.8 28.5
Lou Whitaker 37.3 34.1
Willie Randolph 37.2 25.8
Ryne Sandberg 36 28.9
Billy Herman 34.8 17.7
Robinson Cano 34.8 0
Tony Lazzeri 34.7 11.5
Larry Doyle 32.5 10.1
Bobby Doerr 31.2 16.2
Nellie Fox 30 16.3
Johnny Evers 28.8 16.4
Bill Mazeroski 26.7 5.6
Charlie Gehringer 25.9 50.7
Tony Cuccinello 25 7
Average 36 23

On average, players provided about 37% less WAR from age 30 on.  If Robinson Cano matches a similar pattern, he’d be worth something like 22 WAR over the remainder of his career.

How much is that worth?  I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s not worth 10 years and $250M.


--Posted at 10:11 am by SG / 66 Comments | - (0)


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Is it worth checking to see these guys total WAR post 30? For example, when I saw Knoblauch, I wondered how many of these guys were playing other positions (or DH) towards the end of their 30s. I made me think that the contract could be justified if you envisioned a transition plan for the guy. Basically, he doesn’t continue to have to be a 2B to justify his contract. It helps, but it’s not realistic.

EDIT: Nevermind. I just realized that this is what you did.

Oh, and, Joe Morgan was a beast.

[1] These are the totals.  I checked Carew and he put up 36.8 WAR total after age 30, and almost all of it was at 1B.  Knoblauch just REALLY sucked after turning 30.

I agree with your point though, and I can definitely see Cano transitioning to 3B.  As soon as next year, if the Yankees resign him and one of Adams/CoJo works out.  Especially if ARod continues to get hurt and they transition him more to DH.  Then of course in later years if Cano keeps hitting, 1B (when Teix is gone) or DH are options.

22 WAR for rest of career is probably worth something like 7/$154, give or take.  Probably a little less would be a perfectly “fair” contract, but even with $189MM you could see overpaying a bit, to keep a career Yankee, and potential HOF in Pinstripes.

Of course, what if Cano is more like Grich or Sandberg, say 29 WAR?  Up to 8/176?  Yep.  I think there’s a great chance he could (at least) equal those two.  And if he’s in the Whitaker/Carew area (~35 WAR)?  Well, at $6MM/win, that’s $210MM.  At 7 it’s $245MM.  So…boy that’s tough isn’t it?  You could give him maybe 9/198 w/ a 10th year option worth $22MM and a $2MM buyout.  That’s probably paying for something like 32 wins, and on the off-chance he’s still worth 3 wins in 2023, maybe worth picking up the option even.  So I think that’s the absolute highest I would go (10/220); you can make arguments he’ll age like Whitaker/Carew and then be “worth” that deal.  Tough to argue higher though.

UJD’s film with a nice mention first page today’s NYT Arts section.

Yeah, I should have clarified that the WAR totals are combined for all positions.  I just used the selection criteria to pick players who were primarily 2B through age 29 since the conventional wisdom is that 2B don’t age well relative to many other positions.

[5] I think that - typically speaking - up the middle positions are speed (other than catcher) and defense positions.  They derive value from defense (that’s why they’re up the middle) and speed related skills (SB, lots of doubles and triples, high BABIP).  Once the speed and quickness start to go, they lose a lot of their value; they can’t stay at the up-the-middle positions b/c of the defense and lose a lot of their value there.  When they start to lose the triples and (some of) the doubles, they lose a lot of their slugging, and when their BABIP comes back down towards .300 they lose a lot of OBP also. 

Now, SS usually have plenty of arm to still move to 3rd, and 3rd still has positional scarcity.  So if they can be average defensively they can still provide value even with the weaker offense.  Maybe not still be a 4+ win player, but 2+ wins is good, and allows a graceful decline.  CF usually have enough arm to move to RF, and though they lose 10 runs in the positional adjustment, they can probably handle the position defensively.  Again, now maybe they are 1.5+ win players; full time starters on 2nd division teams, regular players on 1st division.  Age graceful.  But 2B…since they didn’t have the arm for SS, they can’t move to 3rd.  Or RF.  So the ones who maintain enough speed move to LF (Knoblauch) and can maybe be 1.5 wins IF they adjust well from IF to OF.  The others have 1B or DH.  That’s a 15+ run gap.  Now they’re maybe a 1 win player or worse.  Bench, or retire.

So…Cano doesn’t fit the description of most 2B.  He’s got the defense, but that’s been earned, and partly is because of his arm, which most 2B don’t have.  So he can move to 3rd, where the arm is more important than the range, and hopefully not have much of a loss in defense (and no loss in positional adjustment).  His higher BABIP is due to LD, not beating out hits.  He doesn’t get many triples, his power comes from hitting HR and LD to the gap.  So, I feel good about him maintaining more value than your average 2B over the long run.  Again, more the Carew type than the Alomar type.

I just took a look at Cano’s age 29 comps on BPRO.

Of the eight retired players on the list, about half went on to be productive well into their thirties.

Red flags:Baerga,Garciaparra,Fryman.
In between;Doerr,Torre

[6]  Well, he certainly has mad hits like Rod Carew.

[4] bebop, thanks for that, I’ll check it out.

So he can move to 3rd, where the arm is more important than the range, and hopefully not have much of a loss in defense (and no loss in positional adjustment).

Isn’t reaction time probably more important than arm at third?  I wonder how Cano would rate in that area?

That being said, I do agree, I think the Yankees ought to consider him at third eventually, especially if Adams and/or Joseph make some noise this year in AAA.

Torre will be unhappy to hear about the rules for the “classic”:

Pitchers will be limited to 65 pitches per game in the first round, 80 in the second round and 95 in the semifinals and finals, according to a source with knowledge of the changes. For the most recent tournament, in 2009, the caps were set at 70, 85 and 100 pitches, respectively.

We and Pettitte, on the other hand, may be slightly farther from the verge of a nervous breakdown.

[7] Garciapparra and I think Fryman both had major injury problems.  I don’t think that makes them red flags for Cano beyond the normal issues with signing a player to a contract that takes them into their late-30’s.

[8] Reaction time is a big deal as well, definitely.  I would think Cano rates OK in that area, but that’s just me guessing.  I think his arm could help there as well…he can play back another step since he should have the arm to make up for the ball taking a split second longer to get to him.  He may never be a good defensive 3B, but I don’t think he would be a poor one for some time at least.  If he keeps putting up wRC+ numbers north of 120, I think we can live with him as a -5 defender at 3rd.

[10] I don’t think Torre’s problem was leaving the starters in too long.  It seemed to me that Torre was usually a 100-pitch and he’d start itching to go to the bullpen.  Leaving relievers in too long and - in particular - using them too often in a short stretch of time, was the problem.

[12] Which will be an even bigger problem with the starters limited to fewer pitches.  None of our relievers are going, are they?

[13] Agreed.  I think the answer is no.  I think Robertson is a possibility, but hopefully he saw Torre is managing and is hiding.

Soriano to Nats. Yankees will gain 32nd pick in the draft.

Man, I won’t doubt Boras again.

Hooray, draft pick!

Hopefully they’re scouting the next Cito Culver as we speak.

Clearly they need to be drafting more Andrew Brackmans. ML deals for raw players who need arm surgery. Can’t get enough of ‘em.

[22]  CJ Henry was the centerpiece of the Abreu deal.  So I’d say that actually worked out.

Wasn’t the centerpiece of the Abreu deal was the fat sum of money the Yankees paid?

No it’s not about Boras’s skill as an agent.  It’s about his unconscionable deceit.  All he does is prey on dying men’s wish to achieve immortality.  I’m reminded of those law school cases about how contracts can be invalidated because of undue influence, such as when some twenty-two year old hussy blinds her 90-year-old jillionaire husband with her pussy to change his will so she gets everything.

Eric Duncan
Ruben Rivera

Rivera was Intl guy so he doesn’t count. How about Hensley Muelens, he was too.  I was trying to remember the name of the can’t miss guy (starts with an M) who’s folks were killed on the highway in Flordia. He was a can’t miss with light tower power.

Jackson Melian

Melian was also an international signing.

John Ford-Griffin, David Parrish, David Walling, Jon Poterson.  Those are the kinds of guys we have to hope they strive for.

Joe Morgan benefited going from the Astros and the Astrodome to the Big Red Machine and Riverfront Stadium is my guess as to his being on the plus side after age 30. Don’t remember how old he was when the Reds made that coup. The stats of all those 2nd basemen proves my belief that giving Cano big money and many years is a likely disaster and should be avoided. Trade him I say, as I said last year. The more top tier prospects, more likely that a few will pan out.

Add in the pick from Soriano, and they could have a nice group of young talent in a few years.

Jackson Melian was wrecked when he witnessed his mom and dad killed in a car accident as they followed the minor league team bus around one year. He was never the same. Very sad all around.

(29) I think that kind of drafting performance is well within the grasp of Yanks brain trust.
(30) that is very sad. I’d like to think Yanks management reached out to him beyond the signing bonus after the accident, but who knows.

(25) There you go again, Mel, denigrating the good name of cats.

I’m finding it impossible to digest the following paragraph:

The books stated the marketing report said: ‘’(W)omen are definitely more drawn to the `soap opera’ and `reality-TV’ aspects of the game ... They are interested in good-looking stars and sex symbols’’ - a reference to All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

I’d like to think Yanks management reached out to him beyond the signing bonus after the accident, but who knows.

George did.

[33]  Sex symbol…Pedroia…brain…melting…

[33, 35] Apparently baseball players are held to lower standards than the general population.

At least they didn’t pick Youkilis

fgas, I’m loving this season. Stefan, Kristin, and Shelden all seem really cool.

yankz, are you talking about Top Chef?  Glad you like, but I’m not on it any more.

John-Ford Griffin.

Damn SG beat me to it.

Old Hoss Radbourn flips a bird:

[35] The only way to explain that comment is that Pedroia was being offered as evidence that things needed to change, desperately.

Hey, the Yankees get another one of those great Nationals draft picks! Who’s the next Harper?

[25] This is a core class in law schools, which are being counted on to train the next generation of 90-year-old jillionaires.

Oh, I didn’t know that. Now I’ll never have dinner with Gail :(

[43] Don’t the Nats lose the pick, as in it disappears? The Yankees get a sandwich (mmmmmmmmmmm! sandwich) pick? Am I wrong here.

Besides, if the Nats were picking in the top 15 the pick wouldn’t revert. So it would not be a Harper-type.

Where would contract law be without greedy relatives and twenty-two year old hussys?

[46] They get the 32nd pick of the draft (not sure if that changes when Lohse and Bourn sign).

Also, I totally missed the fact that you still lose a pick if you sign someone who got a qualifying offer, since I thought that removing the draft penalty for signing players was the entire point of the change. Another reason to dislike that CBA.

[45]  I’ll go back there if it means that much to you.

I’m a little vague on what exactly happens—the Nats lose the 29th pick, but the Yanks get the 32nd pick.  Huh?

ETA:  So it seems Don is right about the sandwich pick.  But hell, wasn’t Hughes a sandwich pick?  Look how that worked out.

50 I’ve been boycotting the show since you left.  Spoiler request does the blind woman win?

PM or email that to him! (Who’s the blind woman?)

Do you mind that I still love the show…

Christina Ha has defeated the odds and won a cooking competition as a blind woman, the first vision impaired woman to do this in reality TV history.  Different show Master Chef?

[49] It’s better than it was and the players that cost picks make more sense now. It still needs to be improved, but it’s a step in the right direction.

[53]  Of course I don’t mind.

[54] If it’s Master Chef, yes that’s a different show.

[53] This is the New Testament or Thelema UJD.

Hughes was the Astros pick. We got it when they signed Pettitte.

My question:

Who is Bill Wambsganns and how did he accrue 4000 PAs through his age 29 season with that WAR?  Great field, no hit?


59:  Unassisted triple play in the World Series.  Was that before or after age 30?

My understanding of new rules with draft pick compensation:

* Top 10 picks are still protected, but picks 11-15 are no longer protected.
* Yes, if you sign a player who was qualified, you lose YOUR pick, and the qualifying team gets a sandwich pick. 
  *I *think* that the order of the sandwich picks is based on the team that loses the pick.  So pretty sure the Yankees can’t get better than the 32 pick.  However, the pick they got for the Indians signing Swisher, I’m pretty sure can still improve by up to 2 places.

The old system if you signed a Type A FA you lost your 1st round pick (unless it was protected), or your 2nd round pick (if 1st was protected or you already lost your 1st), or 3rd, etc.  There were lots of type A FA each year, sometimes a few dozen.  So, lots of draft picks were lost, often for signing mediocre players.  So the new system is “better” in that there are only a handful of type-A FA.  Also, the qualifying offer is more straight-forward than the old arb-system.  With the qualifying offer, you know exactly how much it will cost you - and the player knows exactly how much he is giving up.  However, in some ways it’s worse.  Since there are so few players you lose picks for, they are more at a disadvantage.  That is, there are a few no-brainer players who cost a pick and are worth it (Grienke), and a few who cost a pick and aren’t horribly dissimilar from many who don’t.  So those, are less desireable.

IMHO, they should go more to an NFL style system.  That is, allow teams to make qualifying offers in tiered amounts.  Say 3 tiers (3rd round sandwich picks still have some value over later rounds).  So maybe Grienke gets Type A qualification ($14MM or something) and gets a 1st round sandwich pick.  Maybe Bourn and Lohse get Type B qualification (say $9MM), and maybe a few other guys who were on the bubble (Hunter?) also get qualified at that level.  Nets the team a 2nd round sandwich.  Finally, a Type C qualification is like $6MM.  Guys like Martin get that.  Team gets a 3rd round sandwich.  Anything under that in compensation isn’t worth it.  Signing team does *not* lose a pick; I could see arguing they lose a pick in the same round as the qualification type though.

So essentially, putting numbers out there where it’s low enough that the team is willing to risk the player accepting, but high enough that the player would be tempted to take it.  Maybe my numbers are too low; Martin got $6.5M/year, maybe 1/7 is a number he’d be on the bubble about.  Also, don’t depress player value for not taking an offer that would normally be (slightly) below their actual value.  If teams only lost a player in the round they qualified though, may not depress value much; I don’t think many teams would not sign Lohse b/c of a 2nd round pick.  I think this does a better job of compensating teams like Tampa who can’t risk non-elite FA accepting the qualifying offer, but also can rarely afford to sign them.  It also doesn’t depress the value of guys near the bottom of the top-level of FA.

[59] Doesn’t look like he was particularly good at ANYTHING.  But he played during the deadball era.  I think that both evaluating talent, AND the talent pool were much smaller back then.  So you’ll notice that a LOT of teams often had very poor players playing significant roles.  Not to denigrate the superstars, but that’s one of the reasons that they put up such gaudy numbers.

Fangraphs is a little more generous to him, giving him 9 WAR in about 6000 PAs. It goes up to 15 if you call him an average fielder.

A high average low OBP player would tend to be even more overvalued by ancient FOs than modern (haven’t actually looked at his relative stats).

[64] Not necessarily, I’ve read that some of those long-ago baseball folk were aware of the value of OBP, but that guy who came up with the box score though BA was more important and that kind of codified the thinking.  More recently though still long ago, Branch Rickey knew the value of a walk.

Batting average was a disaster. There should have been nothing more small ball than staring into a pitcher’s soul and daring him to throw three strikes.

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