Examining Josh Donaldson’s Trade Value

The fate of Josh Donaldson will be one of the key Blue Jays storylines during the offseason. Donaldson, despite missing over 40 games, he managed to be worth 5 wins above replacement (fWAR). On a Win per plate appearances scale, he would’ve been the ninth most valuable position player (minimum 450 plate appearances). In other words, he’s still one of the best players in the game.

We all know the story. The relatively cheap star who won MVP and has arguably the greatest peak of any Blue Jay. The man who has a very good case for best position player behind Mike Trout.  War Leaders 15-17

Donaldson, however, will be 32 when the season starts, and 33 when his new contract would kick in. The Blue Jays finished with a 76-86 record, the fifth worst in the American League. Both factors make keeping Donaldson for a year tricky business. If you don’t think the Jays have a good shot at the playoffs this year and don’t want to sign him for his services starting at age 33, it would be best to trade him and look to the future.

Offensively, Donaldson was still dynamite with a 149 wRC+, the third best mark of his career. Only 10 hitters had superior park adjusted offence. The biggest red flag was his strikeout rate jumping up to 22.4%. Donaldson hasn’t cracked the 20’s since his limited time in 2012. The big spike occurred in July when he struck out in 29% of plate appearances. The good news is that it’s not an overtly major concern just yet. He posted a swinging strike rate of 10.8% which is slightly above his career average (10.2%). Furthermore, Donaldson’s swing rates at pitches outside the zone remained consistent with his career. It’s something to watch for in 2018. With the bat, Donaldson remains one of the most dangerous sluggers.

donaldson4
Donaldson ranks 10th in fWAR among Blue Jays Position Players in History

Defensively, it’s a different story. Donaldson’s UZR/150 has been falling for four straight years. Over the past three seasons, Donaldson’s UZR/150 ranks fifth among qualified third baseman (17 players). While that’s good, he entered negative territory in regards to UZR this season. Donaldson might still be a capable fielder at third, it’s clear where he’s headed. He’s almost 32 and defence doesn’t get better with age. DRS tells a similar story. A player who saved 11 runs through defence in 2015, Donaldson didn’t get to half of that in 2016 and 2017 combined. The declining defence suggests he will be a below average defender at third and is likely headed to a 1B/DH role in two to three years.

The question to extend Donaldson is a challenging one. But it really comes down to where one sees the team. Challenging the Yankees and Red Sox for the division title seems like a stretch barring a major acquisition. The Wild Card is the most likely scenario if the Jays plan on competing.

Before digging into his future contract, let’s attempt to approximate how much he is worth now and in the future. There are a few of assumptions.

  • Donaldson is projected to be worth 6.3 Wins Above Replacement based on Steamer Projections.
  • Arbitration Award: $20.7M (MLBTR estimate)
  • Donaldson Will Receive a Qualifying Offer. It’s value will be $10M based on past research of draft picks.
  • Cost of War This Season: $9M
  • Cost of War at Trade Deadline: $18M

JD New value

With $46M in surplus value, Donaldson has considerable value. Before looking into the type of haul he could bring, one must assess how much he is worth at the trade deadline. The trade deadline premium is most likely a real thing and the cost per win is roughly double. Donaldson will have about 2 more Wins to contribute and just under $7M left to be paid.Read More »

Advertisements

Stephen Strasburg’s Incredible Streak and His Best Season

There’s always been an aura of disappointment surrounding Stephen Strasburg. The expectations thrust upon him were gigantic. While he hasn’t ever been in the discussion for best pitcher on the planet, he’s managed to rack up an impressive resume. Strasburg is no disappointment. He’s one of the top pitchers in the game.

Since 2012, Strasburg ranks eighth in fWAR (23.9) sandwiched between Zack Greinke and Jon Lester. Among the 68 pitchers who have managed 750 innings since 2012, he ranks fifth in fWAR per innings pitched. Since 2015 he’s 10th in fWAR. All things put together, Strasburg has been an elite starting pitcher for many years now. 2017 has been Strasburg at his peak.

Stras ERA - updated

A quick note on ERA- and FIP-. Both are league and park adjusted making it easier to compare pitchers season by season. It is scaled to 100, like wRC+. Each point above or below is 1% better or worse than average. Strasburg has generally been near the 80 ERA- range making him 20% better than the league average pitcher. This mark is similar to Chris Sale, Jacob DeGrom, and Carlos Martinez over the past three seasons. His FIP- has been similar to fellow teammate Max Scherzer and Cleveland ace Corey Kluber.

Stras FIP- Plot

Strasburg hasn’t allowed a run in 34 innings! Despite not being close to Orel Hershiser’s record of 59 innings, it is incredible. Strasburg will likely never have a run this good ever again in his career. We are witnessing Strasburg at his peak. He’s been absolutely terrorizing batters.

The big thing going for Stephen this year is his home run rate. Strasburg’s strikeout and walk rates are excellent and consistent with his career. His batted ball profile remains much the same with a slightly better line drive rate. In seasons where he pitched at least 100 innings, Strasburg has given up a career low 0.75 home run per nine innings (he did have 0.79 in 2013). Historically speaking, Strasburg’s slider has been somewhat homer prone having a 22.2% HR/FB%. His changeup comes in at second (14.5%). Strasburg reduced usage of his slider to help with injury issues. And the change has always been a tough pitch to square up. It’s been absolutely incredible posting a -8 wRC+. Yes you read that right. Negative wRC+!

Stephen Strasburg has the best changeup in baseball. Opposing batters have hit .176 against it in the past three years, the best mark among those who hav

Here it is in slow motion courtesy of The PitcherList.

Read More »

Understanding Liam Hendriks Struggles and How He May Improve

After being traded to the Oakland Athletics for Jesse Chavez in the 2015 offseason, some felt Hendricks had an ability to be a very good reliever. He came off a season where he pitched to the tune of a 2.92 ERA and a 2.14 FIP. Hendriks K-BB% was excellent (23%) and almost the same as the one that belonged to Wade Davis (23.1%) that year. There was a chance Hendriks could end up as a relief ace and possibly a good closer. In his two years as a member of the Oakland A’s, Hendriks is struggling with consistency. The elite reliever still lurks however, a positive sign for his future in 2018.

K + BB Since 2015
Hendriks Has A Good K-BB Since 2015

Read More »

Christian Yelich, Flyballs, and a New Hope

Christian Yelich is a very good baseball player. Since becoming a full time major leaguer in 2014, Yelich has accumulated 13.8 Wins Above Replacement, good for 35th among qualified hitters. Yelich owns a career 120 wRC+ showing he’s a fine hitter. Yet there has always been a lingering question: Can his bat be even better?

Yelich hits the ball hard. Since 2016, only 10 players have a greater average exit velocity (minimum 2500 pitches seen). More importantly, his 94.3 MPH exit velocity off of flyballs is 25th from the same group. If we add in line drives with flyballs, Yelich, 95.7 MPH exit velocity ranks 17th, sandwiched in between Manny Machado and Yasmany Tomas. Exit velocity is only part of the story though. His launch angle is not ideal. Despite hitting the ball more than a mile harder than sluggers such as Bryce Harper, Michael Conforto, and Anthony Rizzo, Yelich has routinely chosen a groundball based approach. Since the all-star break, we might have gotten another indication of a possible transformation. The prospects are tantalizing. Have always been tantalizing.

Last season Yelich saw his wRC+ rise to 130, the best of his career. This was partly related to him increasing his power level as shown by a .185 ISO, the highest of his career. No doubt like every other batter he was aided by a mysterious force (most likely the ball), but he also had a slight approach change. Yelich hit more flyballs, and so far in 2017, he’s expanded on that. Yelich has the 35th highest (122 players) difference between his 2016 flyball rate and 2017 flyball rate (minimum 350 plate appearances in both seasons). Slowly, Yelich might just be embracing the flyball revolution. This is also seen in his launch angle. In 2016, Yelich’s average launch angle was 2.5 degrees. In 2017, it’s 4.9 degrees, nearly double (more on this later).

Yelich Rolling GB:FB

Read More »

The Incredible Cody Bellinger

If you’ve been following baseball, chances are you know of the NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner. The son of former baseball player Clay Bellinger (183 games), Cody Bellinger has more than 2.5 times as many home runs his father did in less than half the games. Bellinger has been worth 3 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) in only 91 games, putting him at a 5.3 WAR pace over a full season.

Bellinger tore up the minor leagues showcasing his prodigious power, consistently posting Isolated Power ratings above .220. Realistically, he won’t keep up an ISO over .300 but the mid-high 200s is within his capabilities. Last night his power was on full display as he cranked out his 32nd of the year.

Read More »

Dan Straily’s Getting Better With His Flyball Approach

There are 94 pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched over the past two years. Dan Straily ranks 34th in ERA. He also has the 19th worst FIP, 11th worst xFIP, and 24th worst SIERA. Only Ervin Santana has a bigger gap between his ERA and FIP.

With the Cincinatti Reds in 2016, Straily performed well from a results perspective. There was good reason to think he got lucky considering his 3.76 ERA came with a .239 BABIP and a left on base percentage over 80. Straily’s strikeout rate was average and his walk rate was bad. With the Marlins this season, Straily’s been better. His ERA is nearly identical but his FIP and other peripherals have been better. His BABIP is up to .272, higher than his career .258 BABIP. Through 569 career innings, Straily might just be pitching in a way that leads to depressed BABIPs. He’s a flyball pitcher with a penchant for popups. Like Marco Estrada before him, we might just have another FIP breaker.

Straily has a three pitch mix relying on his 4-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. Straily’s fastball has below average velocity, ticking in at 90.8 MPH on average. However, there are few pitchers who are able to make their fourseam fastball “rise” as much as Straily. Straily, Pitcher Velo, Mov, UsageThis is what helps give his fastball above average swinging strike rate and an elite pop-up rate. Only 4 pitchers with at least 200 fastballs thrown have a greater infield flyball percentage than Straily.

Read More »

The Maple Leafs Marleau Mistake

It’s exciting to have Patrick Marleau. Over 1000 points in nearly 1500 games, Marleau’s blend of speed, shooting ability, have always been a nice mix. He’s had a great career and his Hall of Fame candidacy will no doubt be dissected after his retirement. He and Jumbo Joe were always two players I enjoyed watching. The Maple Leafs big free agent splash was a mistake however, and will likely be a net negative contract.

Marleau is a good fit for the Maple Leafs. Despite being 38 in a couple of months, Marleau has good speed to keep up with the Leafs. Furthermore, the left wing position is noticeably weaker than the right wing. After JVR (who might be on his way out), Leo Komarov (might not be back), Josh Leivo, Zack Hyman, and Matt Martin round out the individuals who can play in that position. Faceoffs are an added bonus which he’s fine at on his strong side. The problem with Marleau is the cap hit compared to what he provides.

There is plenty of data to suggest Marleau is a middle six winger as opposed to a top line winger. Guess which one he gets paid like? Marleau certainly had a good 2016-2017 season with 27 goals and 46 points. Those 27 goals, however, came with a shooting percentage of 14.2%, a mark he hasn’t reached since 2009-2010. Given his age, this is something that will be lower this season. Players lose accuracy and strength in their shot as they age.

marleau skater card
Patrick Marleau Skater Card

The picture above, courtesy of HockeyViz, shows Marleau produces at a third line rate while given top line minutes. Over the past three years, Marleau has a decent 50.69 CF% but a -1.03 relative CF%. He hasn’t been a play driver nor does he score at rates like he is being paid. Read More »