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— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Friday, December 09, 2011

Angels - Sign Pujols

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sign 1B Albert Pujols to a 10 year/ $254 million contract. Other details are not yet available, though there is some form of a no trade clause.

OK, everybody has heard of the guy. I’m going to assume that his official age is his true age—all bets are off if he is in fact older. I think it’s doubtful but not absolutely impossible that he is in fact a few years older.

The real key to this signing is how he’ll age. The awkward thing in terms of figuring this out is that there aren’t that many players who are truly comparable. First of all, there simply aren’t many players who can be sanely compared to him as offensive players. Second, even among elite players he’s got an unusual collection of talents. While it would be silly to call him undisciplined, he walks less than most elite hitters. He’s unusually good at making contact for a power hitter. Among players we have actual swing and miss numbers, only Barry Bonds is comparable among true power hitters.

What this means is that we’re probably stuck with general rules when it comes to how he’ll deal with father time. The first general rule is that elite players age very well. To be specific, absent a major injury there’s no reason to fear age related decline as a hitter for the next 5 years. Seriously. As a group guys who were offensive superstars at 31 and were playing regularly at 37 hit almost as well from age 32 to 37 as they did from age 29 to 31. The gotcha is that more than a few didn’t make it to 37. As a group the overall decline is roughly .37 offensive wins per year and it’s almost totally down to lost playing time.

After that, it’s mostly a health lottery. There’s good reason to expect him to be among the better hitters in the league if healthy through age 39. And the last two years of the contract ... He could play well. He could play regularly. Odds are against both happening. Put it together and I get an estimated 46.5 offensive wins over the balance of the contract. If he has good luck with his health he’ll beat that.

So this looks like an overpay. But it’s worth noting that in a study of revenue I found two points that argue that it might not be. There’s pretty strong evidence that signing elite players functions as strong advertising. At least for this year and as long as Pujols continues to play well, a minimum of 20% of the contract can be expected to be offset by the increased demand that signing Pujols will create.

Second, a huge portion of marginal revenue (that is the revenue generated by team quality) is a function of making the playoffs and winning the World Series. Now clearly adding Pujols does not make the Angels a lock for the playoffs, never mind the World Series, but any year they make the playoffs narrowly and Pujols has played as expected, Pujols will more than pay for himself.

Put it all together and I give the Angels a better than fair chance of thinking they made a smart signing. It’s a risky move to be sure, and I totally understand any team not willing to commit to 10 years to any player, particularly one who is coming off a relative disappointment.

Ron J Posted: December 09, 2011 at 08:26 AM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Ron J Posted: December 09, 2011 at 09:42 AM (#4011258)
Held off waiting for more details on the contract. Decided to try and use the actuarial system I've been talking about. Very much not ready for regular use, but the results were interesting enough even so. Hopefully Dan will chime in too.
   2. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 01:10 PM (#4011274)
Ron J, what revenue study are you referring to?
   3. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 03:10 PM (#4011288)
I also think that this offseason may be Moreno making a play to unseat the Dodgers as the #1 franchise in the market.
   4. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 09, 2011 at 03:16 PM (#4011293)
How are you defining "elite players" and "offensive superstars"?

When you're determining whether this is a good deal for the Angels or not is the calculation something like:

46.5 oWAR for 10 years
- 10 WAR for Defense/Baserunning/Position
36.5 WAR

$254M for 10 years
-20% for Superstar status
$203 M

$203M for 36.5 WAR = $5.6M/WAR

OK I can see that being risky but maybe or maybe not an overpay
   5. AROM Posted: December 09, 2011 at 03:29 PM (#4011302)
But it’s worth noting that in a study of revenue I found two points that argue that it might not be. There’s pretty strong evidence that signing elite players functions as strong advertising.


When Gil Meche signed with the Royals it was said that they had to overpay to get a free agent to come to the team. Same with Magglio Ordonez when he signed with a then-terrible Tiger team. Does having Pujols make the team more attractive to other free agents, and save you some money there? It might have already happened with Wilson. Most people were expecting he'd get a bit more money than the 77 million he signed for.

"They got Pujols? I wanna pitch for that team!"
   6. Mike Webber Posted: December 09, 2011 at 03:53 PM (#4011315)
Hey Dan, can we get a career zips year by year?
   7. phredbird Posted: December 09, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#4011347)
I also think that this offseason may be Moreno making a play to unseat the Dodgers as the #1 franchise in the market.


this would be the time to go for it.
   8. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 04:40 PM (#4011355)
Is it unusual that he's had 11 years all between 150 and 190 OPS+? Particularly that despite being _that_ good he hasn't had an insane 220 OPS+ season or such? I would think that if his normal talent level is 170 OPS+, then just by normal variance he'd bounce up to 210 or 220 OPS+ a time or two.
   9. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 09, 2011 at 04:54 PM (#4011369)
Is it unusual that he's had 11 years all between 150 and 190 OPS+? Particularly that despite being _that_ good he hasn't had an insane 220 OPS+ season or such? I would think that if his normal talent level is 170 OPS+, then just by normal variance he'd bounce up to 210 or 220 OPS+ a time or two.


From ages 21-31, Hank Aaron averaged 161 OPS+, with a high of 181 and a low of 141. From ages 21-39, he averaged the same 161, with a high of 194, and a low of 141.
   10. Shredder Posted: December 09, 2011 at 04:58 PM (#4011376)
And this is without factoring in the lineup protection he'll be getting from Vernon Wells.
   11. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:03 PM (#4011379)
I would think his relative down year in 2011 would give a team pause. Maybe it did end up costing him $30 mil or so.

What is the evidence that he's older than his stated age? (In looking at his career progression I wouldn't be shocked.)

Great players do tend to age well. Though I think the first half of Frank Thomas's career is a pretty good match for the first half of Pujols's career:

Thomas from 22-31: 1371 games, 169 OPS+
Pujols from 21-31: 1705 games, 170 OPS+


Then:

Frank Thomas from 32-40: 951 games, 136 OPS+

Now, Thomas was still a good player, but he was oft-injured and had no defensive value.

Injury is probably the biggest thing that could take Pujols down.
   12. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:05 PM (#4011383)
Willie Mays was just as consistent. From ages 23 (after he got out of the Army) through 35 (his last great year), he averaged 165, with highs and lows of 184 and 146.

Musial a little less so. From 21-37, 167 average, high 200, low 134. From 28-33, average 171, high 183, low 167.
   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:07 PM (#4011386)
Thanks, Misirlou.
   14. Ron J Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:10 PM (#4011390)
#2 For shame, you didn't get a copy of BBBA (2001 edition IIRC)?

Here's a thread where we discussed the study on RSB.



Here

Worth noting that several guys (including Voros and Roger Moore -- both guys worth listening to) objected to the inclusion of opening day payroll in a study on revenue (of comfort though, a Professor of Economics was fine with the approach)

Subsequent fine tuning led me to come up with the estimate based on the signing of superstars.
   15. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:14 PM (#4011392)
Interesting coincidences here.

Pujols average 170, high is 20 points higher, low is 20 points lower.

Aaron (from 21-31) average 161, high is 20 points higher, low is 20 points lower.

Mays (from 23-35) average 165, high is 19 points higher, low is 19 points lower.

Musial (from 21-37) average 167, high is 33 points higher, low is 33 points lower.
   16. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:14 PM (#4011394)
Do we expect the change to the AL to affect Pujols? I wouldn't.

To be more specific:

1. Has there in fact been a difference in quality between the AL and NL in recent years?
2. If so, was this anything more than a Yankees-Red Sox thing?
3. If so, is there still a difference in quality?

Also, has the NL Central been particularly weak among NL teams in the past decade? If so, that may affect Pujols.
   17. Ron J Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:25 PM (#4011406)
Ray, he has been unusually consistent. No idea if that means anything going forward. Nor do I think Thomas is all that valuable as a comp going forward. Though you can't be too picky when it comes to Pujols. The guy has to be able to hit! and that limits the number of guys available.

EDIT: It's just a guess, but I think it's a positive that Pujols hasn't maxed out his walk totals. Leaves room for a possible working change in style if he can't sustain his current style as his bat slows down that little bit. Every great player that ages well had to fine tune his approach as he got older.
   18. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:25 PM (#4011407)
Do we expect the change to the AL to affect Pujols? I wouldn't.


I'd expect it to be negligible at best. Marginal and mid-tier players might benefit or suffer from league differences, but players like Pujols are going to rake as long as they're healthy. As an example, Adrian Gonzalez posted OPS+ of 162 and 152 his last two years in San Diego, then posted a 155 in Boston last year. I don't see where Pujols should be expected to take a hit due to the very minor differencesin league or division quality.

The NL Central did usually have the weaker sister teams in the NL - the Pirates, more recently the Astros. Of course, the Astros are following Pujols to the AL West next year, so he'll not lose the opportunity to brutalize BBC's fragile psyche regardless.
   19. Ron J Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:28 PM (#4011410)
#16 I think there's still a qualitative difference. I believe Sean and Clay Davenport still adjust for it. But I don't expect it to be a huge factor.
   20. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:29 PM (#4011415)
the Astros are following Pujols to the AL West next year,


Whoa. Did I miss a memo? I thought this was merely being discussed/floated, and for a couple years down the line.
   21. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:38 PM (#4011425)

Pujols average 170, high is 20 points higher, low is 20 points lower.

Aaron (from 21-31) average 161, high is 20 points higher, low is 20 points lower.

Mays (from 23-35) average 165, high is 19 points higher, low is 19 points lower.

Musial (from 21-37) average 167, high is 33 points higher, low is 33 points lower.


That is *really* awesome. Albert's probably worth it to the Angels if he gives them 4-5 years of prime Pujols and a World Series.

Does anybody think he has a shot at 700? How does Angels Stadium suit him as a batter? I just realized I have no real conception of how it plays. The NL Central had plenty of hitter's parks (Wrigley, Enron/MinuteMaid, Great American) and no really severe pitcher's parks. The AL West has Oakland and Seattle, both of which suppress offense, and only the two Texas parks to balance that out. I think this could make a difference, on the margins.
   22. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#4011430)
Whoa. Did I miss a memo? I thought this was merely being discussed/floated, and for a couple years down the line.


I missed the year - it's actually happening in 2013 but it's a done deal as part of the sale to Jim Crane.
   23. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:47 PM (#4011435)
That is *really* awesome.


Ted Williams *just* misses.

1941-1957 Average 200, high 234, low 167. Not counting the two trivial seasons during the Korean War.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:53 PM (#4011448)
Ted Williams *just* misses.

1941-1957 Average 200, high 234, low 167. Not counting the two trivial seasons during the Korean War.


What's the conversion factor for air combat kills to WAR?
   25. Swoboda is freedom Posted: December 09, 2011 at 05:55 PM (#4011449)
Do we expect the change to the AL to affect Pujols? I wouldn't.

He will get to DH a few games a year, which might help some of the nagging injuries. In 5-7 years, he is mostly a DH.
   26. Ron J Posted: December 09, 2011 at 06:01 PM (#4011457)
#25. I thought about that. Thing is I'm doubtful that this adds much if anything to his value. Most guys who are DHing because of a nagging injury don't hit well.
   27. PreservedFish Posted: December 09, 2011 at 06:07 PM (#4011467)
In 5-7 years, he is mostly a DH.


I am not sure about this. Pujols is huge, and he's slowing down, but he's still a terrific fielder, with superior instincts and all that. I think he might be playing first for the length of the contract.

Also, how many "mostly" DHs are there? Managers like to give players regular positions.
   28. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 06:22 PM (#4011502)
Ray, he has been unusually consistent. No idea if that means anything going forward. Nor do I think Thomas is all that valuable as a comp going forward. Though you can't be too picky when it comes to Pujols. The guy has to be able to hit! and that limits the number of guys available.


I was kind of surprised that Thomas doesn't show up in any of Pujols's comps lists -- either the overall list, the through-age-31 list, or the most-similar-by-age list.

Ron, I too was thinking about how Pujols's patience might affect him going forward. He averages 93 walks per 162 games, with 24 of those being intentional. So, an average of 69 unintentional walks per 162 games (had he been pitched to in those PAs it would have added a few walks, so figure a true average of 75 or so). As you say, very good but not great. So there's some room for a change in approach there.

Not sure how much role his patience has had in his consistent season-to-season performances.
   29. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 09, 2011 at 06:26 PM (#4011509)
So this looks like an overpay. But it’s worth noting that in a study of revenue I found two points that argue that it might not be. There’s pretty strong evidence that signing elite players functions as strong advertising. At least for this year and as long as Pujols continues to play well, a minimum of 20% of the contract can be expected to be offset by the increased demand that signing Pujols will create.

It's probably not a coincidence that the Angels spent big at a time that the Dodgers are still struggling due to ownership problems. The Angels have a chance to solidify (and enhance) their standing in the Southern California market that could pay dividends for a long time, even if the win totals toward the end of Pujols' contract are less than hoped for.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: December 09, 2011 at 06:39 PM (#4011527)
He averages 93 walks per 162 games, with 24 of those being intentional. So, an average of 69 unintentional walks per 162 games (had he been pitched to in those PAs it would have added a few walks, so figure a true average of 75 or so). As you say, very good but not great. So there's some room for a change in approach there.


To me this would seem like a good thing. It's that old players' vs young players' skills thing again. Pujols might be able to adjust to a loss of bat speed better than a hitter that's already got a take-it-and-rake-it approach.
   31. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: December 09, 2011 at 07:00 PM (#4011571)
Albert tormented the NL Central equally so I doubt he will miss any one of his particular division rivals more than the other. One exception may be the Pirates where he hit .376 with 29 homers at PNC. But that is likely a function of the opposing pitching versus the ballpark itself.

He had a season's worth of plate appearances in inter-league play and hit .348/.438/.632. Again, the qualifier is that the Royals comprised about a third of those appearances and he hit .379 against KC wtih all the fixings.

I just don't see him losing a lot in changing leagues due to the league itself.

And I don't buy that Albert is slow. Albert was in 'don't aggravate anything and go on the DL' mode, likely on the orders of Tony. when he needed to take a base he took it.
   32. Willie Mayspedester Posted: December 09, 2011 at 07:06 PM (#4011582)
I thought that there was a law in California limiting contracts to 7 years which begs the question...

Is this even legal???
   33.   Posted: December 09, 2011 at 07:33 PM (#4011622)
I think that only applies to marriages.
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 09, 2011 at 07:40 PM (#4011630)
I think that only applies to marriages.

Nah the limit on marriages in Cali is 18 months.
   35. Walt Davis Posted: December 10, 2011 at 01:55 AM (#4012068)
I think Edgar is a not bad comp for what we can expect from Pujols. There's no reason to think Pujols is a good bet to age worse than Edgar did nor good reason to think he'd be more fragile. From ages 32-41, Edgar had over 6000 PA with a 153 OPS+.

Of course Edgar is arguably top 5 all-time for ages 32-41 (Mays and Aaron have 154 OPS+ but 300-500 fewer PA ... Bonds, Ruth, Williams smoke him on OPS+ but none match his PA).

Wow, OK, Edgar is actually a model of durability among players aged 32-41 and it's unlikely Pujols will match that playing time. Other comps from the 32-41 list: Stargell (4200, 153), Robinson (4100, 149), Musial (5600, 147), Schmidt (4500, 146), Jones (4100, 141 through 39), Thome (4400, 141 through 40). You do have the negatives of Thomas and McCovey and they certainly didn't suck.

And Mr. Trumbo better be working really hard on his 3B defense! :-)
   36. Walt Davis Posted: December 10, 2011 at 01:57 AM (#4012071)
And what a great start to a GM's career -- trade Mathis, sign Wilson, sign Pujols. It might all go to crap but he can't say he wasn't given the bullets.
   37. Walt Davis Posted: December 10, 2011 at 02:01 AM (#4012078)
And I'm not worried about Pujols's patience -- I am worried about that strange dive it took this season but not overall. Anyway, BAs and OBPs, 32-41:

Aaron 288/374
Mays 290/381
Stargell 287/374
Musial 317/405

Those are in line with Pujols 328/420 career to date -- granted too lazy to see how they look when IBB are tossed out.
   38. puck Posted: December 10, 2011 at 02:23 AM (#4012089)
And this is without factoring in the lineup protection he'll be getting from Vernon Wells.


Shredder's been on a roll since this signing was announced.
   39. Something Other Posted: December 10, 2011 at 06:59 AM (#4012308)
Musial had a 170 OPS+, extremely similar to Pujols' career number, through their age 31 seasons. From age 32 on Stan had 5966 PAs in 11 seasons (I'll bet the Angels are glad they added the option year!) with a comparatively modest OPS+ of 144. Not a bad comp at all for Pujols, and it's what I think we can reasonably expect from him. The first ten years of Stanley's middle and old age were worth around 44 bOWAR. That shouldn't be too disappointing to the Angels if that's what they get from Pujols, though the last half of the deal might hurt (11.1 WAR from Musial for his age 37-41 seasons, and almost one-third of that in his age 41 season).
   40. shoewizard Posted: December 10, 2011 at 07:25 AM (#4012326)
I am extremely skeptical his health will hold up. Too many different serious injuries. Sooner or later they will catch up to him.

And I completely agree with the "Arte takes over L.A." theory as to why they did this. Timing is perfect to become the premier baseball franchise in Southern California. The Dodgers franchise legacy has been severely damaged. 50 Years from now people might look back at this time and see a demarcation line.
   41. greenback calls it soccer Posted: December 10, 2011 at 08:02 PM (#4012587)
And I'm not worried about Pujols's patience -- I am worried about that strange dive it took this season but not overall.

As a Cardinals fan, in 2011 it sure looked like Pujols was more interested in maintaining his .300 BA streak than following his usual somewhat patient hitting approach. No idea whether that impression means anything for 2012. He will expand the zone beyond what's optimal, and if Vernon Wells really is batting behind him, then that could be a problem.

As he's gotten older, he's also developed the habit of trying to yank everything. Lots of long foul balls that should've been line drives in the gap. He doesn't strike out much, so he'll always have nice BAs, but I don't see how Pujols maintains the higher BABIPs. If Vernon Wells isn't batting in front of him, Pujols could set some career records for 5-4-3 double plays.

Cardinals fans will disagree with me, but to my eye, Pujols's defense has slipped from excellent to great to merely above average. For a 1b that's not particularly noteworthy. His baserunning, once simply "aggressive", has become an abomination.

He's obviously had a fantastic career, and this hurts for the next five years. But part of me is relieved that the potential "Willie Mays isn't what my dad says he was" decline will happen in games started at 10pm eastern time.
   42. Walt Davis Posted: December 11, 2011 at 05:32 AM (#4013080)
Too many different serious injuries.

Serious? The man has missed 20 games over the last 3 years. He has 2051 PA over the last 3 years which ties him for 7th in that time frame. (Interestingly, Fielder, Tex and Gonzo are all ahead of him. Needless to say, Markakis leads the pack. :-)

"Willie Mays isn't what my dad says he was" decline will happen in games started at 10pm eastern time.

Mays 23-31: 164 OPS+, 229 SB, +112 rfield
Mays 32-40: 155 OPS+, 93 SB, +59 rfield
Mays 37-41: 143 OPS+, -3 rfield

It's true, by the time he was in his late 30s, Mays was probably only the 2nd best CF in baseball.* What a cliff dive!

Mays 32-41 was 63-72. From 1963-1972, Mays put up 67.7 WAR, 2nd only to Aaron's 68.4 WAR -- a trivial difference.

Mays 37-41 does fall to 23.3 WAR (4.6 WAR per season) good for (only!) 18th best in baseball. That was largely due to playing time though -- give him 3000 PA at that rate (still less than almost everybody ahead of him) and he's right there with Aaron and Jackson at #5 with 29 WAR. So it wasn't the quality of his play but just the quantity.**

Mays was everything your dad said he was, you missed it.

* OK, a mini-golden era for CF as you have Wynn, Smith and Jackson playing mostly CF in those years. But equalize playing time and Mays was as good as any of them.
**Only 14 players beat that 23.3 WAR from 2007-11; only one beats the pro-rated 29 WAR, that being Pujols of course.
   43. shoewizard Posted: December 11, 2011 at 11:12 AM (#4013191)
Serious? The man has missed 20 games over the last 3 years


Serious by mere mortal standards, and serious enough that almost any other player in the game would have missed a lot more time.

I just have a hunch that he isn't going to dodge the next bullet. Or some of the injuries he's had, (elbow, heel, etc) will come back to him again in an even more serious form.

AND.... I just don't believe his age....so I think the injury risk is higher than his recent history suggests.

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