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The Reasoning Behind My Breakouts (Part 2)

September 15th, 2011 by in General Guidance, Player Discussion, Team Analysis, Uncategorized

Last week, I looked at a couple of my players that have outpeformed most people's expectations this season and why I drafted them.  Last time I looked at Mike Napoli and Mark Reynolds.  Today, I'm going to look at Alex Gordon and Curtis Granderson.

Alex Gordon | KC | OF | $15 | $30

My Gordon pick was widely criticized, both publicly and privately.  Eric seemed to think it was basically the worst thing in the world, telling me so on numerous occasions.  In the public poll at the CR site, the pick came in second place in the voting for “the worst buy of the draft,” second only to the pretty obvious overpay for Jesus Montero.  While I didn’t think this was the steal of the draft or anything, I didn’t mind the pick, thinking I got him around fair value with plenty of room for upside.  There were several factors that led to my selecting Gordon.

1)      My unadjusted projection for Gordon had him at about $15.  550 AB, .257 average, 19 HR, 7 SB, 78 RBI, 80 R.  I recently mentioned this to Eric, and he agreed about the pricing of that line, but he didn’t think Gordon would get 550 AB.  I disagreed, since I think it was far more likely that Melky or Francouer sucked and gave way to a guy like Lorenzo Cain.  Aside from him, the team really only had Jarrod Dyson (and scrubs like Mitch Maier and Gregor Blanco) but had said they didn’t believe he was ready.

2)      I thought Gordon had a very good chance of outperforming that (completely computer-driven) projection for several reasons:

1)      Pedigree.  Gordon was once the second pick in the amateur draft and the top prospect in all of baseball.  Some preliminary research I’d conducted showed these former prospect types to breakout at higher rates than non-top prospects, even after they’d been in the majors for a few years.  While I’ve yet to publish most of the research and am still fine-tuning it, Jeremy Greenhouse conducted his own study on pedigree at The Baseball Analysts that would have shown Gordon to be a better bet than a standard projection system would have him down for.

2)      Mechanics.  At Baseball Prospectus’s SABR Day in New York this off-season, Alex Gordon’s name came up for discussions.  From I’ve been told by someone in attendance, BP’s Kevin Goldstein mentioned that part of Gordon’s problem was mechanical, that his swing/plate approach was the same as it was in Nebraska and that he'd never adjusted.  He also thought he remembered Goldstein saying Gordon had a problem with the inside pitch.  Since he was rushed to the majors, he never had a chance to really learn how to hit the pitch or tailor his swing to be able to hit the pitch since he never needed to—college and lower minor league pitchers don’t throw inside very often—among other things.  This off-season, Gordon worked with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer on some mechanical adjustments to shorten his swing and allow the ball to travel deeper into the zone—adjustments that could help with such a problem.

3)      At the time of the pick, Gordon was the only outfielder left who I had projected for more than $10.

Given the situation of my team at the time, the money I had remaining, and the pedigree/mechanical upside that wasn’t built into my $15 projection, pushing on Gordon seemed like the right move.  That Gordon doubled his value was, in large part, luck, though I certainly thought there was plenty of upside with the pick.  And at that point in the draft, when the good players were gone and the draft was starting to wind down, a guy with great upside and who I still thought could produce mid-teens value even if that upside didn’t hit made a lot of sense.  Anyone who says they completely predicted a breakout of Gordon’s magnitude is lying, but when you do your diligence and play the percentages enough, you’ll eventually be rewarded when your number comes in.
 

Curtis Granderson | NYY | OF | $23 | $53

Granderson has probably turned the greatest profit of anyone in the AL this season—$30 according to Bill’s calculations.  Obviously I didn’t see this coming, but I did think Grandy could be in for a big season, mostly because I thought he was unlucky in 2010.  Additionally, his 2010 numbers looked depressed because of a stint on the DL and far too many random days off that figured to go away in 2011 if he performed as I expected him to.

Like with Gordon, I thought I’d bought Granderson around even value, but I thought there was a lot of upside here, some of which wasn’t built into my projection (as this was my first draft of the year and at the beginning of March, I didn’t spend as much time altering projections as I might normally have, especially since I had LABR a couple of days later with the entire National League to study as well).  The biggest thing that I thought Grandy could explode with was his power.  The park factor I was using for Yankee Stadium before the season said that the park should boost lefty home runs by 45 percent.  After hitting 30 home runs in Detroit in 2009 (a park that deflates homers by 9 percent for lefties), Granderson hit just 22 last year with the Yanks.  While that would still likely leave him with a projection of nearly 30 home runs once you park-adjusted his Detroit data (39 park-adjusted HRs in 2009), I thought he could do even better than that.  I thought his Yankee HR total should actually have been higher, which would push that projection much higher as a result.

What I thought was telling was that Granderson’s raw power hadn’t diminished; he was hitting the ball just as far as he’d used to.  His long home runs were there, but his short home runs were noticeably missing.  This always sends up a red flag for me, since if a player is capable of hitting long home runs, he’s capable of hitting short ones.  In many cases, when a hitter doesn’t do so, it’s because an uneven number are getting caught on the wrong side of the wall.  Since a ball hit to the warning track is basically a 50/50 proposition to clear the fence, a hitter who deviates from that is likely to regress going forward.  That’s what I expected of Granderson, and that’s basically what’s happened.  After just 13% of his homers were short in 2010, 24% have been short in 2011.  While many would have scoffed at someone projecting Granderson for 40+ home runs this year, it’s not something I’m all that surprised to see.  That wouldn’t have been my 50th percentile projection, but I thought over 30 was pretty likely.  Paying even value for a toolsy player with a lot of upside seemed pretty good to me.

13 Responses to “The Reasoning Behind My Breakouts (Part 2)”

  1. Eric Kesselman says:

     

    he biggest reason I stayed away from Granderson were the split stats. He's a career .226 .289 .394 hitter vs lefties with 265 ks in 956 abs, and that includes this season where he's just mashing them (953 ops). I had a hard time seeing a breakout improvement without being able to hit lefties, and I didn't see that likely to change due to ballpark effects.

    My point about Gordon was that even if you're right about the projection assuming he got 550 abs, there are a lot of paths to get there that aren't pretty. If too much of his production would fal in the second half, and he hits .230 in the first half, he could easily lose his job. Yes, they might not have a ton of depth, but then again they don't generally have a problem giving at bats to Mitch Maier either. I think you have to dock him a few bucks for the job risk. Maybe they can't send him down again, and are more likely to trade him if they give up, but you never know with the Royals.

    • Derek Carty says:

      Most people treat L/R splits incorrectly, and yours is an example of it, Eric.  We can't simply look at a hitters career vs lefties, see that it's poor in a relatively small sample, and conclude that he can't hit lefties.  A proper vs LHP projection for Granderson prior to this season probably wouldn't have looked all that bad.
      Yes, it's possible, and sure you could dock him a few bucks for the PT risk (if you believe it was there; I don't think it was too extreme), but then you also have to add back those bucks (and probably more) for the pedigree and mechanics.

      • Novi says:

        Amen, everybody shluod. A bunt artist who can place where the third baseman has be a hero to get him makes for exciting baseball, and if he can bounce it past the pitcher towards second, they will lose some composure.I mean, what, b-b-bunt? The next thing they’ll be trying to steal home, and mess up that beautiful homer swing. Pshaw!

    • Sukanya says:

      Thanks for the sensible cirtique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such great info being shared freely out there.

  2. Eric Kesselman says:

    I wouldnt mind hearing more about that.  How big a sample do we need to say something meaningful? I guess he has close to 1k abs at this point, but less than 800 to start the year. 

    • Derek Carty says:

      If I recall correctly, I believe Tom Tango estimated it to be roughly 1000 plate appearances for LHB vs. LHP wOBA before we can predict half of the future variation in the hitter's platoon split, though the complicated way to do it would see that number change a bit for every player.  Before this season, Grandy was 777, meaning that our platoon split projection for him would be roughly 56% league average, 44% Granderson.  And that's if we're not doing any sort of weighting, if we're treating his numbers from 2004 the same as we are for 2010, which is a big assumption to make.

  3. Eric Kesselman says:

    Does that mean to come up with a projection for lefties vs Granderson I'd take 56% of the league average of lhb vs lhp and 44% of granderson's career stats?

    Still seems like a pretty  awful projection no?

    As for the weighting he was pretty bad recently, 2010 yes, and 2009 was freaking ugly- like an Adam Dunn ab where he forgot to bring his bat out of the dugout and is trying to ward off Strasburg fastballs with his bare hands ugly.

    • Derek Carty says:

      Yes, that's what it means.  But that's for his platoon split ratio.  The average lefty has a platoon split of about 1.20.  Granderson's career platoon split coming into the year was 1.38.  Regressing that, we get a projected platoon split of 1.28.  That's really not very far off from league average.  And because Granderson is very good overall (career .352 wOBA coming), his vsL performance really isn't going to be all that bad.

      This is a good article talking about platoon splits: http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/is_ryan_howard_really_that_bad_versus_lhp/.  They go into even more detail in The Book.

      What I meant by weighting is that we're saying that it takes 1000 PA to regress LHB Platoon Split by 50%.  We're also saying that Granderson has 858 career PA (the 777 from before was actually AB), giving us a split of 54/46.  But we're giving every PA the same weight, and an AB from 2005 is not the same as one from 2010.  If we were to weight them, we might only end up with 500 effective PA and a split of 67/33.

      • Peter Kreutzer says:

        Platoon splits are subject to lots of sample size variance, and they may be (I don't know) subject to more than usual skills progression through a career. Certainly the worst platoonists are selected out of their weakest at bats.
        The point is that a guy who can handle righties, like Granderson, is at worst going to lose empty at bats out of his stats, and is at best going to figure out how to adjust to get more more or less solid at bats. At a moderate prize, which Granderson had last year, that was a good bet.
         

        • Peter Kreutzer says:

          Oops. prize = price

        • Derek Carty says:

          Yes, my point exactly, Peter.  There's so much variance in platoon splits that perception of a hitter's ability to hit same-handed pitchers is, more often than not, more extreme than where his actual ability lies.

    • Meech says:

      Ya know, one could make a good argument for keeinpg Granderson and letting Cano walk Not that it would ever happen, but if it did, I wouldn’t be that disappointed. I’d rather have an aging, power hitting outfielder than an aging 2nd baseman who gets by on his speed.

  4. Chris Hill says:

    Having bought two closers for two much and Hughes and Lackey as staff aces, my 2011 was bound to be a fiasco. But failing to go that last dollar on Gordon (and let's face it, Derek didn't have another dollar in him) and trading Francouer for the "safer" stolen base projection from Gutierrez were by far my greatest regrets.
    At the time Derek made the bid, he was stretching his envelope. I was too, but I am old and my envelope was a buck less flexible. We will see what this year brings.

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