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Entries in contract extension (12)

Tuesday
Jun122012

Dodgers Extend Ethier

The Dodgers are reportedly close to announcing a five-year, $85 million contract extension with outfielder Andre Ethier with a vesting option that could push the deal's total worth to $100 million. Fully healed from a right knee injury that required season-ending surgery last September, Ethier is enjoying a resurgent season at the plate. He sits just one home run shy of his 2011 total (11), and his slugging percentage has climbed from .421 to .509. But while Ethier has bounced back by bashing breaking and off-speed stuff this year, this deal could turn into a boondoggle before long.

Ethier's comeback year has been fueled by a major improvement against "soft" pitches -- curveballs, sliders and changeups. Take a look at his slugging percentage by location against soft stuff during his down 2011, and then this season. Ethier didn't make loud contact against breaking and off-speed pitches last year unless the pitcher left it right down the middle of the plate. This year, he's killing anything in the zone:

Ethier's slugging percentage by location vs. soft stuff, 2011

 

Ethier's slugging percentage by location vs. soft stuff, 2012

Ethier slugged .366 against soft stuff in 2011, well below the .391 average for qualified hitters. In 2012, however, his .560 slugging percentage versus soft stuff ranks in the top 20 among MLB hitters:

Highest slugging percentage against soft stuff, 2012

BatterSlugging Pct.
Josh Hamilton .712
Matt Holliday .643
Mark Trumbo .630
Joey Votto .625
Mike Stanton .620
Ryan Braun .602
Michael Cuddyer .602
Carlos Gonzalez .592
Adam Jones .591
Dayan Viciedo .591
Bryan LaHair .589
Josh Reddick .588
Kyle Seager .576
Prince Fielder .574
A. J. Pierzynski .571
Robinson Cano .570
Andre Ethier .560
Jed Lowrie .553
Mark Teixeira .549
Matt Wieters .547

 

While Ethier's power has returned following a tepid 2011 season, recent history suggests that the Dodgers might end up paying their right fielder superstar money for mediocre offensive production. 

Ethier has a 129 OPS+ in 1,388 plate appearances from age 28 to 30 so far. Per Baseball-Reference, seven other corner outfielders (Shawn Green, Trot Nixon, Brad Hawpe, Pat Burrell, Ryan Ludwick, Jayson Werth, Luke Scott) put up similar lines to Ethier at the same age over the past decade, with an age 28-30 OPS+ between 125 and 135.

Their collective OPS+ at age 31 was 117. It dropped to 103 at age 32 and 99 at age 33. Green, Nixon and Burrell retired before age 35. And while Hawpe, Ludwick, Werth and Scott are still active, Werth looks like the only guy assured a roster spot by his mid-30s.Considering that Ethier derives all of his value from his bat (he has been five runs below average per 150 defensive games played in the outfield, according to Ultimate Zone Rating), that list of comps is troubling.

L.A. has deeper coffers with Magic and company now in the owner's box, but the Dodgers might have been better served by using the cash infusion to chase other free agent outfielders like B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn or Shane Victorino (if not Josh Hamilton), going after an ace like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke, or locking up their own ace, Clayton Kershaw, for the long term. Ethier's deal might not preclude such spending, but he'll have to buck history to avoid become a drag on the payroll.

Wednesday
Apr042012

Votto's All-Fields Slugging

The 12-year, $251.5 million guarantee that the Reds have given first baseman Joey Votto through his age-39 season has baseball pundits divided. One one hand, Cincinnati is not a huge market, Votto's salary could take up a quarter of the club's expenditures without a payroll boost, and the Reds don't currently have a mega TV contract bringing in big bucks. On the other, Votto's best historical comps among first basemen have aged rather gracefully, Cincy will share in the higher revenue streams from MLB's national TV deals (and perhaps an overall increase in franchise values in the wake of the Dodgers sale), and they're in a better position to get a big local cable TV deal in 2016 with Votto than without him.

Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, one thing's for sure: Votto can clear it. The lefty is one of the game's true all-fields sluggers. Check out the location of Votto's home runs over the 2009-11 seasons:

 

Votto hit 39 homers to left field, 24 to center and 28 to the pull side. Overall, he has put the ball in play more to the opposite (33.8 percent) and middle (38.4 percent) fields than to right field (27.8 percent) over the past three years.

When it comes to going oppo, Votto is topped only by Ryan Howard among lefty hitters:

Highest slugging percentage to the opposite field by LHB, 2009-11

HitterSLUG
Ryan Howard .870
Joey Votto .805
Adrian Gonzalez .782
Lance Berkman .733
Brad Hawpe .695
Joe Mauer .678
Adam Dunn .669
Mark Teahen .660
Shin-Soo Choo .648
David Ortiz .622
AVG LHB .430

 

To center, Votto is also comfortably in the top 10:

Highest slugging percentage to the middle field by LHB, 2009-11

HitterSLUG
Ryan Howard .731
David Ortiz .687
Jack Cust .684
Carlos Gonzalez .655
Josh Hamilton .612
Joey Votto .600
Jim Thome .599
Prince Fielder .598
Russell Branyan .590
Adam Dunn .586
AVG LHB .437

 

Votto doesn't stand out quite as much to the pull side, but we're talking in relative terms here.  His .808 slugging percentage to right field is about 60 points above the big league average for lefties.

Left, center or right -- Votto makes loud contact in all directions. Pretty appropriate for a guy who could now buy his own chain of islands.

Monday
Jan092012

Kendrick Killing 'Em Softly

After doling out a combined $330 million to free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels have reportedly re-upped a home-grown stud by signing second baseman Howie Kendrick to a four-year, $33.5 million deal. The pact, pending a physical, buys out Kendrick's last year of arbitration eligibility and three years of potential free agency.

Kendrick is fresh off a career year at the plate, establishing new personal bests in home runs (18), slugging percentage (.464) and adjusted on-base-plus slugging percentage (125 OPS+). The 28-year-old improved his power production by punching more breaking and off-speed pitches into the gaps and over the fence.

From 2008-2010, Kendrick slugged .352 against curveballs, sliders and changeups. While not terrible, that was 22 points below the league average for position players over that period. Kendrick cracked mistake pitches left over the meaty part of the plate, but he rarely did damage on soft stuff otherwise:

Kendrick's in-play slugging percentage vs. soft stuff, 2008-2010

Average in-play slugging percentage vs. soft stuff, 2008-2010

In 2011, however, Kendrick upped his slugging percentage against sliders, curves and changeups to .479, even with the league average dropping five points. Most of that slugging came against lefties who dared toss him slow stuff on the inner half of the plate:

Kendrick's in-play slugging percentage vs. soft stuff, 2011

With more pop against slow stuff, Kendrick's OPS+ trailed just that of Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano among second basemen who qualified for the batting title.

It looks like the Angels locked up their second baseman to a contract with relatively little risk and a good deal of upside. Kendrick figured to earn around $5 million through arbitration in 2012. Assuming that a win costs around $5 million on the free agent market and there is five percent salary inflation per year, the Angels are only playing Kendrick during his free agent years as if he's slightly less than a 2 Win Above Replacement level player. He has averaged about 2.3 Baseball-Reference WAR during his career to this point, and he was worth 4.3 WAR in 2011.

If Kendrick reverts back to being the sort of player he was from 2006-2010, then the Angels are paying Kendrick what he's worth, or slightly less. But if he retains some of the offensive gains he made in 2011, then L.A. gets a real bargain here.

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