Yesterday afternoon, I was reading all about Josh Hamilton’s quotes on Dallas-Fort Worth baseball fans. So it got me thinking: How valuable has he been over the last few years compared to the Cleveland Indians’ most recent free agent splash of an outfielder?
Hamilton, who turns 32 in May, has played 737 very-flashy career MLB games since breaking out with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. He just signed a 5-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels that was pretty highly criticized at the time.
Michael Bourn won’t turn 31 years old until December. He also is relatively youthful in MLB experience for his age — he’s only played 871 games after making his debut in 2006 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He just surprisingly locked up with the Indians for a guaranteed 4 years and $48 million.
So let’s look at their respective last four seasons, since the start of 2009:
Obviously, when you take away health/durability concerns, Hamilton is a likely better WAR player per game. But that’s a huge risk for signing a player with Hamilton’s much-explored history. And, as I’ve discussed in emails with Jon, WAR/162 is intriguing in theory, but doesn’t really add a whole lot to the table.
Then, using the FanGraphs calculation for WAR1, I came up with a statistic of Batting / Non-Replacement RAR (B/NR-RAR). The key here is that I also subtracted away Replacement value — since that’s not affected by a player’s skill, but just a bonus for being average2. I wrote more in-depth about this, Bourn’s value breakdown and “young man” skills last week in The Diff.
So who would you rather have? The more volatile, more injury-prone, more big market/big personality older player who is hugely dependent upon his bat to produce any sort of beneficial value? Or the younger, more consistent quiet player who just happened to recently sign a very cost-effective deal ($77 million less) with the Cleveland baseball team? It’s sort of a rhetorical question.
- Essentially, WAR = RAR / about 10. RAR = Batting + Baserunning + Fielding + Positional Scarcity + Replacement Value. [↩]
- As FanGraphs says, “Replacement Runs set at 20 runs per 600 plate appearances.” So again, this just refers to a bonus for being average in other categories over a certain amount of playing time. [↩]