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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Heyward, Davis, Zobrist: how important is age?

Yesterday on MLB Network a guy was making the case for Jason Heyward being underpaid in his new contract with the Chicago Cubs.  And that the offer that Chris Davis turned down from Baltimore was too much.  It made my teeth hurt.

Why Starlin Castro over Rob Refsnyder? Why Ben Zobrist over Starlin Castro? Sunday, December 13, 2015

March 25, 2016 is about a week before opening day.  It's also the day after Starlin Castro turns 26 years old ...

Starlin Castro is a proven major league shortstop...  In the regular season Castro has played 7,424 innings at shortstop and 258 at second base; Castro was switched to second for the final 38 games of 2015...

Castro is a proven major league hitter: 3,763 PA, .725 OPS...

Castro: December 8, 2015: Traded by the Chicago Cubs to the New York Yankees for Adam Warren and player to be named.

The player to be named later is veteran shortstop Brendan Ryan who can also play second and third...

What does it say about Starlin Castro that the Chicago Cubs would pay Ben Zobrist, his replacement:
201635Chicago Cubs$10,500,000
201736Chicago Cubs$16,500,000
201837Chicago Cubs$16,500,000
201938Chicago Cubs$12,500,000
Earliest Free Agent: 2020
Note the age difference.  Zobrist is nine years older than Castro.  In 5,013 PA, Zobrist has .786 OPS.  OPS+:
Zobrist 117
Castro 97

So Zobrist is a better hitter and bats lefty.  And Zobrist can play multiple positions well, although only one at a time.  But Zobrist was signed as a free agent by the Cubs specifically to replace Castro at second base.  Zobrist has played a total of 9,902 innings in the majors, 4,825 at second, 3,176 in the outfield.  The Cubs prefer Zobrist even though he has played only 48.7% of his major league innings at second base.

What free agent hitters do pitchers fear? Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Three: Chris DavisYoenis CespedesJustin Upton.  And let's not kid ourselves, none is Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.

I'm guessing Davis by far above either Cespedes or Upton.  Yeah, I know, it's no longer cool to want home run hitters.  But do you want to spend a bunch of bucks for a player who's value depends on his speed and quickness?  Guys like corner outfielders Jason Heyward or Alex Gordon?  I don't see outfielders like Gary Sheffield or Matt Holiday floating around in their prime.

Which ages better: power, speed, fielding? Sunday, December 6, 2015

We keep hearing that a big home run, big strike out hitter like Chris Davis does not age well.  Compared to what?  A base stealer who no longer steals bases, like Jacoby Ellsbury?
Photo of Chris Davis
Chris Davis
And what about hot shot fielders?  Jason Heyward supposedly has value because of his fielding, along with decent hitting with moderate power.  Heyward is the big impact non-pitcher among this year's free agents?  Really?

Davis is 6'3", 230.
Heyward is 6'5", 245.

Which one would you want at age 34?

Supposedly Heyward's value lies in his age.  The Cubs would be paying for his prime years, not his declining years.  Birthdays:

Heyward: Aug. 9, 1989
Davis: March 17, 1986
Zobrist: May 26, 1981

So what the heck?  The Cubs paid Zobrist more money for a guy nine years older than the guy they already had.  Then paid tons of money for Heyward ... what because he's eight years younger than Zobrist?

Meanwhile Davis is still out there even though he's the only big bopper of the entire group of free agents, including those who signed recently.

Heyward: PA 3,429, HR 97, TB 1,295, OPS+ 112
Davis: PA 3,512, HR 203, TB 1,582, OPS+ 122

Yeah, I know, Heyward is some sort of acrobat in right field, one who will never tweak a knee.  And the Cubs may switch Heyward to center, a move that many think would greatly reduce his value and increase the possibility that he would wear down.  Really?  These good fielding right fielders played significant time in center:

Al Kaline: OPS+ 134, 19% of OF innings in center
Hank Aaron: OPS+ 155, 10.9% of OF innings in center, 10.5% of OF innings in left

The Cubs have precedent for a center fielder as tall as Heyward: their recently departed incumbent CF to free agency Dexter Fowler, who is also 6'5".  However, Fowler is only 195 pounds, while Heyward is 245.  The only taller CF I found for a season, based on qualifying for batting average leader and playing at least 50% of games in center, was Dave Winfield: 6'6", 220 pounds.

Based on weight, only Marlon Byrd matched Heyward at 245 and played center ... in three different seasons.  Byrd is only six feet tall.

Other CF who weighed at least 230:
Josh Hamilton: 240, 6'4"
Mike Trout: 235, 6'2"
Vernon Wells: 230, 6'1"

So go ahead and pay Heyward gobs of money even though he hit only 13 home runs in 2015.  And ignore Chris Davis even though he hit 47 home runs in 2015.  Yeah, Davis struck out 208 times.  His HR to SO ratio was better in 2013: 50 to 199.

Think of all those catches that Heyward might make if right field ... if only batters would hit the ball in that direction.  Funny how that goes.  Pitchers are required to throw the ball where the batter can hit it under penalty of a base on balls.  Davis had 84 BB in 2015, Heyward 56.

Good luck with Jason, Cubs.  Good luck.

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