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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Red Sox - Signed Lowell

Boston Red Sox - Signed 3B Mike Lowell to a 3-year contract worth $37.5 million.

Lowell’s not really young enough or good enough for this to work out fabulously, but the Red Sox are rich enough that this won’t be a disaster for the team.  While his 2007 season was excellent and he was instrumental in winning the World Series, Lowell had a BABIP some 50 points above his career average and 38 points above his career best .304.

Now the projection, geez.  That’s about as big a departure from established level of play as I think I’ve ever seen from ZiPS with a player not a million years old or moving to a drastically different park (I have his 4-year weighted adjusted to Boston numbers as 288/351/470).  ZiPS sees Mike Lowell in a group with an amazing number of third basemen that crashed the next year or two.  I’ll just say “What the hell?” and move on.

2008 ZiPS Projection - Mike Lowell
———————————————————————————————————-
          AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB   BA   OBP   SLG
———————————————————————————————————-
Projection   552 70 150 40 1 15 87 50 63   1 .272 .333 .429
2009?      511 64 138 35 1 13 80 48 61   1 .270 .334 .419
2010?      476 58 127 33 0 10 72 44 59   1 .267 .330 .399
———————————————————————————————————-
Opt. (15%)  586 87 175 45 2 19 99 60 59   2 .299 .365 .480
Pes. (15%)  388 43   98 23 0   9 50 32 52   0 .253 .309 .381
———————————————————————————————————-
Top Comps:  Tim Wallach, Buddy Bell

Dan Szymborski Posted: November 21, 2007 at 03:16 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. biggs Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:24 AM (#2622200)
Wow. That's bad. What's up with the RBIs?
   2. Darren Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:26 AM (#2622203)
Yowza. Maybe ARod was really worth twice as much as Lowell for 3 times as long.

Ah, to heck with it. What does ZIPS know anyways? ZIPS thought Drew was going to have a big dropoff in 2007.
   3. Juan V Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:28 AM (#2622207)
Any funny effects still remaining from 2005 in the projection?
   4. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:32 AM (#2622217)
I'm going to double-check this - I'm wondering if I messed up something when I adapted ZiPS to do long-term projection.
   5. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:44 AM (#2622238)
He did have that really bad 2005.
   6. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:47 AM (#2622242)
It's not the 2005 doing it - as i said above, including the 2005, I have his weighted numbers, adjusted for AL and Fenway, at 351/470 for 2004-2007.
   7. Darren Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:49 AM (#2622246)
If it's comps-based, I can see why Tim Wallach would bring a guy down in his mid-30s.
   8. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 21, 2007 at 04:54 AM (#2622252)
If it's comps-based, I can see why Tim Wallach would bring a guy down in his mid-30s.

I use pretty large groupings, it's just that the large group didn't fare very well!
   9. Frisco Cali Posted: November 21, 2007 at 05:27 AM (#2622286)
I don't find the projection so surprising. Real quick (don't look), name some good (not superstar) 3rd basemen. Now how good were they at 34 vs. your memory of them?

I would pick Buddy Bell, Tim Wallach, Terry Pendleton, Scott Rolen, Troy Glaus, Graig Nettles.

Okay. I looked. Based on those guys, it seems like 2 of the 3 years could be quite a bit of a dropoff.
   10. Darren Posted: November 21, 2007 at 05:41 AM (#2622294)
I don't find the projection so surprising. Real quick (don't look), name some good (not superstar) 3rd basemen. Now how good were they at 34 vs. your memory of them?


But how good were they at 32 and 33? 34 is not some magical number. Pretty good (not great) players tend to start falling off bigtime in their mid-30s. But I would think that guys who have two of their best years at 32 and 33 are a lot more likely to hold on to their goodness than guys who had their best seasons at age 26-29 and have already dropped quite a bit by 33.
   11. Darren Posted: November 21, 2007 at 05:44 AM (#2622296)
Hard to judge Rolen and Glaus yet, isn't it? Rolen is especially tough because his back problems have slowed him down so badly.
   12. Darren Posted: November 21, 2007 at 05:54 AM (#2622304)
Took a look at BBRef's comps for Lowell just to see if they might point me to someone with a similar career shape.

--Ron Cey, like Lowell, was consistently good for many years and had a very good year at age 33. He returned to being good for 34-36.

--Doug Decinces was starting to fade by 33, but still put up a good age 34 and 35 before dropping to a 95 OPS+ age 36.

--Todd Zeile was pretty good at 33, stayed good at 34, then dropped to blah for 35 and 36 (similar to the projection above).
   13. Phil Coorey is a T-Shirt Salesman Posted: November 21, 2007 at 06:04 AM (#2622308)
Here's hoping the drop off from Lowell is picked up by JD and Lugo
   14. dr. bleachers Posted: November 21, 2007 at 06:10 AM (#2622316)
Rolen was just a "good, not great" third baseman?
   15. Frisco Cali Posted: November 21, 2007 at 06:14 AM (#2622319)
Hard to judge Rolen and Glaus yet

I don't know how hard it is to judge them. Impossible to judge their age 34 year.
Just guessing though, their 34-36 seasons won't be worth a whole lot. Probably one good season for Glaus, none for Rolen unless he can get healthy.
   16. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 21, 2007 at 06:18 AM (#2622322)
Well, bookmark this thread for a year from now. Unless Lowell slugs .600 in which case i hope the BTF Archive Beast eats it.
   17. kg Posted: November 21, 2007 at 05:33 PM (#2622651)
Is it possible that Lowell's elevated BABIP wasn't due to randomness/luck? Take a look at his hit chart (turn on 2b/3b/HR).

http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_hitting_chart.jsp?c_id=mlb&playerID=136780&statType=1

Hopefully that link works. If not, it shows that 28 of his 30 XBH in 2007 IN FENWAY were to left field. That seems remarkable. Browsing his hit chart for other AL parks shows a similar pattern.

I would guess that a player who:
- is a dominant pull-hitter &
- is right handed &
- has some power &
- plays in Fenway park ...

... could exhibit an ability to out-perform his expected hit rate. Maybe he won't regress to a normal hit rate now that he's staying in Fenway.
   18. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 21, 2007 at 06:06 PM (#2622704)
Perhaps, but Lowell was also a huge pull-hitter, righthanded, with some power, and playing in Fenway Park in 2006 and he had his usual .291 BABIP then. He also had the lowest LD% of his career (that we have data for). It's also not the first stadium Lowell's played in with a big wall in left, either.
   19. Kyle S Posted: November 21, 2007 at 06:52 PM (#2622760)
who else remembers sox fans imposing coco crisp's hit chart onto fenway park? how'd that turn out?

if pressed to choose, i'd take the over on this number, but i have faith in zips. it can churn out some strange looking numbers for individuals, but it seems to do pretty d@mn well overall.

i'd say rolen was "good, not great" as a 3b when you consider offense only (outside of 2004). add in defense and he became "great." "great" hitting third basemen are a small group: eddie matthews, chipper jones, mike schmidt, george brett, wade boggs, maybe ron santo in his 23-27 years, and now alex rodriguez, miguel cabrera, and david wright.

rolen's back troubles should absolutely be taken into account when thinking about whether lowell's comparable group ran into trouble in their mid 30s. declining performance is caused by both injuries and skill erosion, which are inextricably linked. lowell's expected declining performance incorporates both the chances that he will not hit (as happened in 2005) because his bat slows down and the chances that some injury saps his ability to perform.
   20. Darren Posted: November 21, 2007 at 09:01 PM (#2622909)
I don't know how hard it is to judge them. Impossible to judge their age 34 year.
Just guessing though, their 34-36 seasons won't be worth a whole lot. Probably one good season for Glaus, none for Rolen unless he can get healthy.


But if they're already toast by their early 30s, they're not good comps for Lowell at all. He's still good at 33.

who else remembers sox fans imposing coco crisp's hit chart onto fenway park? how'd that turn out?


It turned out as a broken hand. Still not a perfect method of course.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: November 22, 2007 at 01:47 AM (#2623101)
Get out of my head Szymborski!

Really, it's like ZIPS is reading my mind. First Cabrera, now this. Granted, in whatever Lowell thread that was, I didn't project him this badly but figured his career averages minus aging ... and an OPS+ in the 100-105 range. ZIPS is a little lighter on the SLG.

Those numbers really don't look that out of line to me. A 3% drop compared to his career BA ... and interestingly enough, 273 was his career BA through age 32 ... and a HR prediction that's just about in line with a Marcel with an age adjustment.

Expanding that "career year" logic, before this year, his career marks were 273/339/463. Granted that was mostly in a pitcher's park. So having this projection two years later is, if anything, "optimistic." So seems like ZIPS is letting his comps and career through age 32 outweigh his career year. Seems reasonable -- maybe not correct, but reasonable.

Put most simply, ZIPS is saying he'll return to the same player he was through age 32 with less HR power.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: November 22, 2007 at 01:56 AM (#2623107)
But I would think that guys who have two of their best years at 32 and 33 are a lot more likely to hold on to their goodness than guys who had their best seasons at age 26-29 and have already dropped quite a bit by 33.

Maybe (and reasonable), but Lowell wasn't particularly good at 32. That was an OPS+ of 104 and with a drop in HRs despite moving to an HR hitters park. And this year he had 1 more HR but 10 fewer doubles -- his higher numbers are all singles (BABIP). (Note, unless he's drilling a lot of singles off the Green Monster, there's no reason to think the park is helping him hit singles is there?)

Drop his BA 40-50 points from this year and he looks a lot more like Lowell through age 32 and like the ZIPS projection.

Or maybe Dan forget to add the 2007 data. :-)
   23. bibigon Posted: November 22, 2007 at 02:04 AM (#2623112)
That was an OPS+ of 104 and with a drop in HRs despite moving to an HR hitters park.


Last I saw, Fenway suppressed HRs tremendously - one of the worst HR parks in MLB.
   24. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 22, 2007 at 02:15 AM (#2623117)
I should note that individual comps in themselves, have a very limited affect on my projections. When I'm finding comps for Lowell, I'm looking for a large group of mid-power, slow, right-handed, doublin', good BA 3B around the same age, so it's not a huge deal that Wallach and Bell are the first two, I just post the best two on the list for purposes of interest - guys like Pinky Higgins, Todd Zeile, and Ken Caminiti pop up and are just as important.

ZiPS doesn't include Ron Cey or Doug DeCinces in the group - everything's park and league neutralized some Cey comes out a little too good and DeCinces not quite the right shape.
   25. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 22, 2007 at 02:24 AM (#2623120)
Last I saw, Fenway suppressed HRs tremendously - one of the worst HR parks in MLB.

Yup. In fact, it's the worst AL park the last 3 years, but still a net hitter's park of 108 thanks to the best park for singles and doubles in the league. I get a 2B factor of 134 for Boston weighted the last 3 years, which is like 18 points more than the next park.

This is actually the first time ZiPS hasn't been bully on Lowell - ZiPS loved Lowell going into Fenway and I was damn worried about it projecting a guy who hit 236/298/360 leading the AL in doubles with 49.
   26. Eric M. Van Posted: November 22, 2007 at 02:31 AM (#2623125)
The BABIP spike that Lowell had was completely from game 90 onwards. Through 89 games, his season was pretty much identical to '06: 873 OPS both years, .304 vs. .299 BABIP. In '06 he had his characteristic collapse, 735 OPS and .262 BABIP starting game 90. That's actually a milder drop-off than 2002-2004 when he averaged a 195 OPS point fade (932 to 737).

Last year, instead of maintaining his HR / Contact and having a BABIP collapse in the second half, he had a 43% drop in the former and a 27% boost in the latter, to .380. His OPS actually went up to 886, the best figure in his career from game 90 on. If you watched the games, you saw him using the whole field more. And if you were reading the papers all year, you read that he was doing extra work in the weight room to try and fend off the second-half blues.

Make of all this what you will.
   27. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: November 22, 2007 at 03:30 AM (#2623142)
Yup. In fact, it's the worst AL park the last 3 years, but still a net hitter's park of 108 thanks to the best park for singles and doubles in the league.

That makes Ortiz's HR surge in 2006 even more impressive.
   28. Walt Davis Posted: November 22, 2007 at 04:24 AM (#2623171)
Yes, but the HR suppression factor for Fenway is all CF and RF isn't it?
I suck at google.

I've been poking around trying to find good ones by handedness or field and all I've dug up so far is this one at HT ... and it gives Fenway a LF factor of 105 and LCF factor of 106. CF is a staggering 57! RCF and especially RF are well below-averge too, dragging its overall HR park factor quite low. But I'm reasonably certain Mr. Lowell is hitting most of his HR to LF/LCF.

However, it uses a "new method" for calculating the PFs anyway so who knows about those numbers

Still, in my years of watching baseball, while I've seen some 20-ft high line drives bonk off the Monster, I've seen a lot more deep but lazy fly balls to left end up in the net. But I will bow to the wisdom of the actual numbers if anyone can provide them.

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