Blind Comparisons: May 26th, 2016

Continuing with my “Blind Comparisons” series, today I will compare two different sets of position players, a pair of outfielders and a pair of first baseman. Like before, I will list some select statistics that paint a general picture of each player, followed by a brief analysis of the two. Feel free to decide which player you would prefer; there is no right or wrong answer. I do this exercise simply to demonstrate that there are reasonable alternatives to some of the more household names around the MLB. In name, choosing one over the other may be an easy choice, but based on production, the gap between the two is closed considerably. At the end of this article, I will list the names of the four players along with the teams that they play for.

OUTFIELDERS:

My first comparison will be between two outfielders. One plays primarily in the corners while the other plays most of his games in center. That of course gives a slight edge to the guy in center, as he likely has more athleticism. Other than positions though, the two grade out very similarly at their respective positions in relation to the rest of the league. Below are their stats:

Jones v Calhoun

Looking at career stats, it is clear that Player A, the center fielder, is the all-around more complete player. He averages a few more HR per 162 games over his career, and leads in all categories besides OBP. However, if you put value into on-base percentages, as I do, it would appear that Player B does make up some ground. While Player B has a career batting average that is 10 points lower than Player A, he has managed a higher career OBP. The difference is more evident in career walk rates, where Player A has a 4.4% rate, versus a 7.5% for Player B.

If we look at this season alone, suddenly Player A is not looking so good. The K% for the two players are much closer this season, while both have seen an increase in their BB%. Beyond that, it seems that Player A has not demonstrated the stolen base ability that he has in the past. Before over-exaggerating the struggles of Player A this season though, It should be noted that he currently has a .261 BABIP, well below his career rate of .310. I would fully expect his numbers this season to improve towards his career rates, especially since he is still in the prime of his career at 30 years of age. Likewise, Player B currently has a BABIP of .346, above his career number of .312, therefore, Player B is likely to see a decline in batting average. That being said, based on improvements in both his strikeout and walk rates so far in 2016, and currently playing in his age 28 season, it is reasonable to believe that Player B is coming into his own as a hitter. Overall, while I would rather employ the slightly better, slightly more proven center fielder (Player A), I would be equally as satisfied with Player B, even if he plays in the corners rather than in center.

FIRST BASEMEN:

For the second comparison, I move over to first base, where I will compare two players of similar age, but with vastly different amounts of playing experience in the MLB. Less experience often means less certainty and more risk, but perhaps it is a risk worth taking based on the following numbers:

Trumbo v Bour

Above, you see that the career numbers greatly favor player D. Player D is younger, is better at getting on base, and strikes out less. He has played only about 2/5 of the games that Player C has played, but a sample size of 208 is still significant. Furthermore, while Player D hits fewer HR on average, his power is comparable. Looking at 2016, however, the numbers flip in favor of Player C. While Player D still has a strong advantage in strikeout and walk rates, Player C has been the more productive player, putting up a very strong .886 OPS. Additionally, Player C can play not only 1B, but in the corner outfield spots as well, though he does not grade out well defensively. Of course, there is the argument here that, at the age of 30, Player C will slowly move back towards his career totals, where as Player D seems more capable of maintaining the increased production. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it could be said that Player D has been over-achieving, where as Player C is  There is a bit of risk with Player D, considering he is already 28 and is only playing in his second full season, but generally speaking, I am willing to bet that most people would take him over what Player C has demonstrated throughout his career.

CONTRACTS:

Below, I have provided the contract information of the four players that I have discussed. In some cases it may change one’s opinion, in others it may not.

Contracts

The first point to pay attention to is that Player B, the corner outfielder, is a super-two player, meaning that he has four years of arbitration instead of three. This of course allows for increased earnings potential, as he gets to play for $3.4 million in 2016 as opposed to the league minimum. Assuming he continues his current production over the length of his contract, I would peg his future earnings at somewhere around $8 million, $12.5 million, and $15 million respectively from 2017 through 2019. This gives Player B a slight contract advantage over Player A, as he would be under an additional year of team control at a slightly lower cost. Keep in mind though that Player A is presumably more valuable as a center fielder.

As far as the first base contracts, Player D is far and away the more affordable player. He is only in his second pre-arbitration season, and is under team control for the next four years following 2016. In complete contrast, Player C is in his final arbitration year, making just over $9 million and set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Since I feel that the contract comparison gives an almost unfair advantage to Player D, I will qualify that by saying that I would suspect that Player C could land a free agent contract in the two to three-year range at between $8 million and $12 million per year. The risk of choosing someone with less experience still stands for Player D, but given the numbers and contracts, he would still be my choice in a much easier decision than the Players A and B comparison. Scroll past the references for the names of the four players from this article.

*Stats from FanGraphs.com, contracts from Baseball Prospectus. Both links are available in the site menu.

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Player A – Adam Jones, BAL

Player B – Kole Calhoun, LAA

Player C – Mark Trumbo, BAL

Player D – Justin Bour, MIA

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