Phils Considered Frontrunners For B.J. Upton

Early Friday morning, Jon Heyman reported that the Phillies were early frontrunners to land B.J. Upton. The former #1 pick is a first-time free agent, and is generally considered the perfect fallback plan for teams that either miss out on, or don’t want to pay the hefty price tags of, Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn.

Upton has spent his entire career with Tampa Bay and combines solid centerfield defense with athletic baserunning ability and 20+ home run power. He is the youngest centerfield free agent, at 28 years old, and is expected to sign for $11-$13 million per season over four or five years. He is a very talented and valuable baseball player in his prime. The Rays made Upton a qualifying offer late Friday afternoon, but he isn’t likely to accept it.

Given how Ruben Amaro tends to operate, if the Phillies are serious about Upton, his signing could be imminent. Amaro’s modus operandi in his brief general managership has involved identifying a target and making the deal happen quickly. He let the market play out with Jimmy Rollins last offseason, but that was an exception, far from the rule.

While I extolled the virtues of one Peter Bourjos yesterday as a legitimate trade target for the Phillies, the situation is starting to have that ‘feel’ that Upton will be our starting centerfielder for the next several seasons. He was always a prime candidate for the Phillies, who love raw athleticism, and if these early reports are any indication Amaro has found his man.

There really isn’t a wrong answer when discussing Upton, Bourjos, Angel Pagan or Shane Victorino for the centerfield post, but Upton represents the best solution among those on the free agent market. His numbers have been deflated by the Trop, he still has untapped potential, and he is worth ~$12 million/yr even without developing further.

The key when evaluating Upton’s offense is that his home stadium in Tampa Bay deflated his general rate stats. Many fans will accept that park factors very obviously play a role in shaping a player’s stats-line and then conveniently ignore that fact when looking at a lower batting average or on-base percentage. Without digging deeper, or incorporating the impact park factors had on Upton’s line the last few seasons, it looks like he has a lower OBP and SLG than is desired for this Phillies lineup. However, as the tone of this paragraph suggests, the actual marks we see on his line are misleading.

From 2010-12, Upton posted a .328 wOBA and 109 wRC+ over 1,883 plate appearances. While wOBA is calculated independent of park or league, wRC+ is adjusted for both to enable accurate comparisons regardless of where someone plays. Upton’s wRC+ indicates he has produced offensively at a rate nine percent above league average. He hit .242/.317/.436 in that span. From 2010-12, Shane Victorino posted a .335 wOBA and 109 wRC+ over 1,900 plate appearances. In that span, he had a .264/.334/.432 line.

It’s important here to note that both Victorino and Upton produced at the same adjusted rate over the last three years. Vic’s slash line can’t just get assigned to Upton, but when thinking about how the latter’s stats might look in a Phillies uniform, Victorino’s line is more telling than Upton’s unadjusted Tampa Bay line. It’s too easy to get caught up in these raw, unadjusted numbers, while simultaneously ignoring or assigning less credit to the data that tells us what the numbers really mean.

In this case, Vic and Upton’s slash lines don’t matter that much. They were both nine percent better than the league offensively. On top of that, Upton’s unadjusted OBP was .317 over the last three seasons. The American League had a .317 OBP over the same span. Offense is declining across the sport — a .317 OBP in today’s junior circuit is perfectly acceptable as league average. Comparisons to the league average need to be stressed more, or we’ll never adjust our mental barometers. We’ll continue to use the 2002-05 averages instilled in our minds to evaluate stats derived in today’s lesser offensive environment.

When evaluating productivity, the context of other available players also matters. The centerfield position is flush with competent players available via trade or free agency. Determining who to pursue or how much that person is worth — in dollars or prospects — is contingent upon everyone else in the group. That makes Amaro’s trends a bit troubling here, as he could up and sign Upton for $60 million over five years next week, only to see Angel Pagan sign for $30 million over three years, or Bourn to have to settle for far less than he originally sought. There is a risk/reward mechanism in play, and such an important position requires the appropriate amount of due diligence. Amaro may have targeted Upton, but how does he compare to other available CFs?

Name PA BB% K% wRC+ Fld BsR WAR
Bourn 2030 9.0% 19.9% 99 35.3 28.6 15.2
Victorino 1900 8.5% 11.7% 109 10.7 18.4 13.0
Young 1686 11.3% 21.5% 103 29.7 8.4 11.9
Upton 1883 9.7% 26.2% 109 0.4 14.5 11.5
Pagan 1824 7.5% 14.0% 105 1.2 21.5 11.1
Span 1584 8.5% 10.9% 95 21.9 7.0 8.6
Bourjos 940 5.6% 22.1% 95 40.0 6.6 8.3
Sizemore 435 6.2% 27.6% 81 -6.9 -0.4 -0.1


Looking first at offense, per wRC+, the most productive players here have been Upton and Victorino. Pagan isn’t too far behind them. When the BsR — Fangraphs’ baserunning metric — is factored in, Bourn’s case grows stronger. However, Upton, Victorino and Pagan also rate very well on the bases. Simply put, Upton is the best offensive player of the bunch, regardless of his strikeouts or low unadjusted slash line.

He also has the 2nd-highest walk rate among anyone in this group. On the flipside, he also has one of the highest strikeout rates. His rate stats have been reduced not because of impatience or a low BABIP, but because he strikes out.

That’s part of the package, however, and that downside is made up for by advantages elsewhere. No player is perfect, and fixating on the flaws of any as a concrete reason to avoid them, while assigning less credit to their positive attributes, is silly. A Pros and Cons list is unnecessary, but that would show much more in the positive column for Upton.

Fielding has been a little tricky for Upton as the data is all over the place from various sources. In some areas, he is a plus-defender who may have lost a step. In others, he is still a very good fielder. Scouting reports indicate he is a top-notch fielder as well, but not at the Bourjos or Bourn levels. After all, if was excellent in every single area, he would be in line to make as much as Bourn and Hamilton. He has deficiencies relative to other available centerfielders, but his case can be summed up by saying he is good at just about everything, whereas some others are legitimately bad at certain things. Upton isn’t excellent at any particular area, like Hamilton is with power, Bourjos is with fielding or Bourn is with baserunning, but he is consistent, steady and good at many different production aspects.

One area in which he has a bad reputation is his attitude. I’m not going to ignore that, but I’ll simply say this — it’s hard for me to imagine attitude being a problem on a team with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, etc, etc. The Phillies are a well-respected, highly-professional organization filled with veterans. Deep down, can you really see Upton being a dick — if he really is that way — with these guys around? There is a clear difference between the guys mentioned above and the young nucleus down in Tampa Bay. Attitude isn’t insignificant, it just won’t matter as much with this team.

The offseason is just getting underway and it remains unclear how quickly the Phillies will want to strike. My money is on Amaro making a move soon to get his guy. As we have seen before, even when the market is rich at a certain position, he cares more about identifying the guy he specifically wants and making the deal happen.

If Heyman’s report is an indication that B.J. Upton fits that bill for Amaro, it should surprise nobody if he signs a deal in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, it’s tough to evaluate the terms of a potential deal without seeing what everyone else gets. He may be worth more than $12-$13 million per season, but if he could have been signed for $9 million if the market collapsed, then that obviously makes an impact on a contract evaluation.

Upton combines the best value in multiple areas and is the most attractive free agent candidate for the Phillies. Even if he is a finished product, it’s a pretty darn good product, and I would be a perfectly happy camper to see him roam centerfield for the Phils, wreak havoc on the basepaths, and put up some 20/20 marks over the next several seasons.

Click to comment


  1. Bill

    November 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I completely degree that BJ Upton is a good option for the Phillies. I think they need two outfielders then let the third position be manned by whoever emerges from Domonic Brown, Darrin Ruff, John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, or Nate Schierholtz or a platoon of them.

    For third base I think they should consider trading for Jhonny Peralta. He would give them an inexpensive option and some pop from the right side.

  2. Jaron B

    November 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Go for Upton… park adjusted stats got me hooked. What’s Howard’s career K rate?

  3. MplsPhilsFan

    November 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm


    Excellent analysis, and the table really provides a clear picture on the strengths of each CF candidate. As you said, Upton is expected to receive a contract of between $11-13 million for 4-5 years. In that range, I would sign him, especially with his former hitting coach now in Philly. At what point do you think he becomes too expensive? $14 Million? $15 million? While I do not think that overpaying is likely with this many CF candidates on the market, owners have often not behaved rationally before.

    If Upton’s price tag rises to 5 years $15 million, whom would you say would be the next best option on the free agent market? We can leave trades out of the scenario for right now because while it seems likely that Span and/or Bourjos will become available, there is no definitive proof either way

  4. EricL

    November 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Not sure I agree with the paragraph directly after the chart. Seems to me that Victorino is offensively Upton’s equal and better on both the bases and in the field. As much as there is no player without flaws, Victorino looks like the most complete player available, to be honest. The only real risk is whether this year was the beginning of the end of his career or just an outlier down year.

    If they could sign Victorino for significantly less on a shorter contract, that actually might be a more efficient expenditure, at least in terms of WAR/$.

    • Eric Seidman

      November 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      I’m going to sound like a broken record but, yeah, there’s just not really a wrong answer here aside from grossly overpaying someone. I’d be perfectly happy with Shane on a 2/$22 or something like that. I’d be happy with 4/$52 and a fifth-yr option for Upton, or a 3/$30 for Pagan. My hesitance with Victorino, at least relative to some others, is his production this year and his age. I like the idea of getting a 28-year old guy, unless he becomes too costly.

  5. George

    November 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’m not all that sure that Upton’s positives outweigh that K%. I can see the runners stranded.

    I also wonder where Heyman got his information about the Phillies being the frontrunners. It’s awfully early to be speculating about that.

    Upton does appear to be a decent option. I just hope Amaro doesn’t go crazy with a contract offer, because there’s just not that much separating most of these guys.

  6. Dylan

    November 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Signing Upton will not only cost the Phillies a decent investment but more importantly, the 16th pick in the draft which is extremely valuable. I’d pass.

  7. Psujoe

    November 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Vic on a short inexpensive contract would be nice. He still raked LH Pitching .323/.388/.518.

  8. Lefty

    November 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I still want the 25 year old Bourjos. Look at his # of PA’s compared to Upton, and then check the WAR. Nice graph Eric.

    • Eric Seidman

      November 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      In the interest of full disclosure, my #1 choice at the end of the season was Chris Young, who was on a one-year deal around $10 mil, with a 2nd-yr option at around $10 mil. And seeing what was given up to actually get him made me angry, since the Phils easily could have topped that. I felt like Young was the most patient hitter, a good baserunner, 20+ HR power, and a terrific fielder. Plus, he’s 29 years old and signed to a very team-friendly deal. Health was his risk, but I wanted him. I wrote 1,400 words on it and before I got home to type the actual article, Corey texted me to say he was traded to the As.

      • Lefty

        November 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm

        I thought that was a curious move by Beane. He had a nice thing going there with Crisp, Cespedes and Gomes. I guess Gomes will be let go?

      • Lefty

        November 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm

        Oops, Meant Crisp, Reddick Cespedes and Gomes with one being DH

      • Eric Seidman

        November 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm

        I liked the move for the Athletics in any year other than this one. Getting Young means that you have two legit starting CFs signed to team-friendly deals in him and Crisp. Since CF is a premium position, one of them could have been dealt to help them in other areas. But this year there are a lot of solid CFs freely available, without having to trade anything, so we’ll see what they do. I don’t think Gomes is back there. I think they might keep Crisp as an insurance policy on Young given his health issues the last couple of seasons.

      • Lefty

        November 3, 2012 at 6:26 pm

        I just read an article that said Crisp and Cespedes combined to miss a total of 75 games last year, I guess he’s hedging, or knows something we don’t.

      • EricL

        November 3, 2012 at 10:47 pm

        As the A’s did a really good job at maximizing platoon splits last season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Crisp get a lot more playing time against RHP while Young gets more ABs versus lefties.

        Not sure how much value they’d be giving up by keeping them off the field if they pursue a strategy like that, but I think it’s a possibility considering the platoons splits of those players and the recent strategy employed by the club.

  9. Psujoe

    November 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Bourjos is going to start if they don’t resign hunter?

    • Eric Seidman

      November 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      The current plan is Trout in CF, Trumbo in LF, and then X. Now, X could end up being a platoon of Bourjos and Vernon Wells, with Bourjos supposedly playing CF and Trout moving to RF in those games. However, Torii wants to come back to LAA and would take less money, and from what I’ve read/heard/seen, the Angels would legitimately consider bringing him back. If they do, I would think they trade Bourjos, or seriously shop him.


    November 3, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Bourjos would be my first option. He’ll have a higher batting average than Upton, hit as many homers, cost less and is three years younger than Upton. He also is an outstanding fielder and base runner.

    • schmenkman

      November 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      Agree on all but the average and home runs.

      Last 3 years: Upton .242, Bourjos .247

      Upton 69 HRs (26 per 700 PAs)
      Bourjos 21 HRs (16 per 700)

      As Eric’s table shows, Upton has been the better hitter (9% better than the league, vs. Bourjos 5% below the league average).

  11. bobby b

    November 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Upton could notch 30 home runs playing in any hitter friendly park.

    • schmenkman

      November 3, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      The Trop is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, whereas CBP is neutral, so Upton should certainly hit better overall here.

      But in terms of home runs specifically, while CBP helps lefties and the Trop hurts them, right-handed batters hit about the same number at both CBP and the Trop.

  12. Malcolm

    November 3, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    I don’t know. It would be nice to have some right handed power, but I don’t want to set my hopes for anyone. Centerfield is deep right now, Ruben has options. It’s nice to see some offseason rumors proclaiming the Phillies frontrunners, but we all know that anything can happen. For Upton, he can run the count, and he works with hitter’s counts, but I think he is best suited as a #2 hitter. I agree Bobby B, he could go yard 30 times with a change in scenery. We’ll see. I know we have to get Dom Brown in there at some point.

    • EricL

      November 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Hopefully 2012 was just a down year (although the trends aren’t particularly encouraging), but I’d be really hesitant to slot a guy with a sub .300 OBP and a ton of strikeouts in the number two slot.*

      *Normal “batting order doesn’t really matter” caveats apply, of course.

      • Malcolm

        November 4, 2012 at 12:24 am

        Well, Upton has hit better out of the two spot than any other number in the lineup over his career. And yes, you’re right about his declining on-base percentage, but we have to also realize that the Rays have moved him up and down their lineup for years. This season, he hit .30 points higher in the 2 hole than when he led off, however, he shows much more patience with bases empty than with men on base. That shows his 8 walks to his 10 strikeouts in the leadoff position compared to 24:91 in the two hole. I think that there is a way he can bring this all together. The Phillies line-up, even though Charlie likes to make some changes every once and a while, is based on regulars. Jimmy can move around, but he’s our leadoff man. Chase and Ryan are 3-4. Chooch can slip into 5. This would give any centerfielder a little more consistency in a line-up as far as batting order.

        I would be excited to have Youkilis if he came at a reasonable price. Pagan, Swisher, Upton.. any one of those would be great.

  13. psujoe

    November 4, 2012 at 12:07 am

    With all the options available I believe RAJ should be patient. No sense out bidding yourself. Phils have a good bit of money, but no need to spend it all right away.

  14. Bob in Bucks

    November 4, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Upton over Vic because of AGE. Upton is a solid player but not a breakthrough for the Phils. Need more.

    • psujoe

      November 4, 2012 at 1:48 am

      I’m sure most agree so why pay 4/$50 if you can pay 2/$22 and then go with Gillies or another option?

      • George

        November 4, 2012 at 8:18 am

        I’d go with “another option.” Gillies has certified talent, but he never seems to be on the field.

        A two year contract might not be enough to get any of these center fielders, and it also might not be a long enough period to allow internal options to develop.

        I, too, prefer shorter contracts, though.

  15. detriot ronny

    November 4, 2012 at 1:11 am

    im a tigers fan. alan trammel was my guy. now it’s verlander, what can i say. we’ve got a lot of bullpen issues. i was looking at ryan madson, and i think the tigers are too. so, i got hooked up with this site- expecting the phillies to have some interest in bringing him back. i guess i just wanted to gauge early interest. i wasn’t surprised to see upton’s name here. i have my reservations about him, but then again, when i thought about it, i have reservations about all of them- even though there are a lot of good players out there. i’m reading that his strikeouts are an issue here. i agree, def. but- look at austin jackson. he’s really found a place here, but he strikes out a lot for a leadoff man. hopefully he will develop more patience– but i think he’s young and has that potential. that’s what it comes down to– potential. and after initially being skeptical on upton, i think that might be your best acquisition to make. we both have bullpen issues, so i’m sure the tigers and phillies will look at some of the same guys. you guys have a real nice site here. kudos. sad to see polanco go too. i knew it was coming, you guys must have been wishing for it. but he was a great player in his prime, and i hope he can find a role on a good team this year.

  16. bacardipr

    November 4, 2012 at 1:31 am

    Thank you George for pointing out why Upton is a bad idea. High K guy low OBP on a team that has OB issues….I think i will pass…..

    • hk

      November 4, 2012 at 6:47 am

      I suspect that Eric Seidman can provide more information on the correlation between teams’ (batting) K’s and runs scored, but I am pretty sure the correlation is low. The Phils’ hitters had the 4th fewest K’s in 2012 and the 6th lowest K%, yet they were 19th in runs scored. In fact, the 4 teams that struck out the fewest times in the past season were all in the bottom half of runs scored in MLB.

      I do know that the correlation between OBP and runs scored is greater than the one between K’s and runs scored, but I am pretty sure that the correlation is even higher between (’s) wOBA and OPS and runs scored than it is between OBP and runs scored. Of the free agent CF’s, Upton’s wOBA and OPS (over the past 3 seasons and for their careers) are both worse than Hamilton’s and Victorino’s, but better than Pagan’s and Bourn’s.

      To only concentrate on K’s and OBP ignores the one area of Upton’s offensive profile in which he has a significant advantage over all of the other free agent CF’s other than Hamilton, namely his power. And, as the 2012 Phillies showed, power (or lack thereof) matters.

      • George

        November 4, 2012 at 8:56 am

        Decent enough arguments.

        The correlation may be low, but there is surely some correlation, and that’s important. Also, it should be obvious that a team with a high OBP will score more runs: you rarely score when no one gets on base. Ks don’t advance runners and they don’t drive anyone in, and they’re sometimes a big part of why a player obtains a low OBP. Upton’s 26.2 K % is a red flag (IMO) for anyone who isn’t a pure power hitter, like a Ryan Howard or a Price Fielder. Upton just doesn’t have that kind of power.

        And as for the Phil’s power shortage last year, please bear in mind that their biggest power guy missed half the season, one of their other lesser power guys was traded midway through, and their eventual team HR leader didn’t hit a home run until way into the season.

        I’ve never said that Upton is the wrong guy, if you’ve read my comments correctly. I’ve only said that “I’m not sure” that K rate is overcome by his supposed advantages, that most of these CFers are not very different, and that Amaro shouldn’t go crazy trying to sign him.

      • hk

        November 4, 2012 at 10:12 am


        I was responding to bacardipr, who called it a bad idea solely because of K% and OBP.

        Of course, OBP correlates highly to runs scored, but it’s not like Upton’s OBP is so much worse than the OBP’s of the other options. Over the past 3 seasons, his OBP was .317, which is below the .346 that Bourn produced and also the .334 that both Pagan and Victorino produced. My point is just that his power relative to those other CF’s largely offsets the lower OBP.

        I understand why the team’s HR’s were down last year. That doesn’t reduce my desire to see them hit more HR’s. It will be great to have Howard back. I think it will be better to have Howard back and Upton batting behind him in the lineup. I’m from the school that believes the more HR’s the merrier. Upton has hit 18, 23 and 28 HR’s over the past 3 – playing 1/2 his games in a pitcher’s park – and is at an age where players are typically still on the upswing.

        I agree that Amaro should not go crazy trying to sign Upton, but I don’t think he should go crazy trying to sign any CF or any free agent at any position for that matter. The CF marketplace is flush with options and not necessarily so flush with teams who need a CF, so the patient GM’s will most likely be the ones that get the best values. The consensus seems to be that Hamilton and Bourn will get the biggest deals, so I am on board with Upton as long as the deal is reasonable.

      • Eric Seidman

        November 4, 2012 at 10:14 am

        From 2008-12, here are the correlations you called for:

        Runs Scored to K/PA = -0.33
        Runs Scored to OBP = 0.92
        Runs Scored to wOBA = 0.98

  17. GMOPRO

    November 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Upton hits for a low avg. There will be better free agents avail next yr.

  18. GMOPRO

    November 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I do like Upton’s speed and power, but dont we need good baseball players that know how to work the pitcher and hit for avg. That is what the Giants did. They had one player that hit more than 13 homers and they won a World Series. We need baseball players, not just athletic guys.

    • schmenkman

      November 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Hitters who work the count tend to strike out more because they into more two strike counts. B.J. Upton has seen more pitches than average every year as a starter except this year.

      As for your last sentence, if you mean we need good players, I agree.

  19. bacardipr

    November 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Upton and Howard batting behind each other. What will be the nickname the twin towers of strikeouts.

    • hk

      November 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      Who cares? Did you read Eric’s comment about a team’s K/PA has a negative correlation to its runs scored?

      • George

        November 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        Part of the reason for the lack of correlation between runs scored and strikeouts is because pure power hitters generally strike out the most, but also drive in the most runs due to more extra base hits and home runs.

        I just don’t think BJ Upton is that much of a power threat to totally negate those extra Ks. His power will help, but to my reading, he just isn’t that much more productive, if any, than most of the other guys who aren’t striking out in one-quarter of their at-bats. Once again, I’m not saying he’s the wrong guy, but I’m not completely sold on him and think Amaro should not make him the exclusive target for center field.

      • c schreiber

        November 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm

        Here, here George.

      • hk

        November 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm

        Ryan Howard, who is clearly in the decline phase of his career, averaged 32 HR’s per season in an average of 632 PA’s in 2010 and 2011 while playing 1/2 his games in an extreme LH power hitters park.

        BJ Upton, who is at an age when players typically improve and improve their power, hit 28 HR’s last season while playing in a park that suppresses HR’s.

        If they both play in Philadelphia next year, how many more HR’s do you project that Howard will hit? Also, when assessing a player’s production, whether it’s OPS or wOBA, why do you care whether the outs that the player made were strikeouts as compared to other kinds of outs (including double plays)?

      • schmenkman

        November 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm

        True, Upton’s HR totals will probably increase over the next few years no matter where he plays.

        True, CBP favors lefty HR hitters but hurts righties.

        In any case, neither Howard nor Upton appears to have been impacted by their home parks so far.

        Howard has 300 home runs: 150 at home, 150 on the road
        Upton has 118 home runs: 60 at home, 58 on the road

      • Lefty

        November 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm

        Of the 150 home runs Howard hit at CBP, I’d bet 2/3 were not pulled. He pulls ground balls and line drives, the big flies go everywhere. Upton pulls a very high % of his long balls, but CBP’s left field is still not AT&T, Petco or Safeco.

        In fact with the exception of dead center, CBP’s dimensions are all slightly longer than the Trop.

        Of course the wind never “blows out” in that place. (unless I go and eat one too many hot dogs)

      • EricL

        November 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

        I’d take that bet, Lefty.

        I’d be willing to guess that more than 1/3 of his homers have been pulled. Probably a lot more.

      • schmenkman

        November 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm

        According to B-R, most of Howard’s HRs have been to center:

        pulled: 63 (21%)
        up the middle: 164 (55%)
        opposite field: 73 (24%)

      • Lefty

        November 4, 2012 at 11:19 pm

        EricL, you owe me a Hatfield dollar dog. The sprays are interesting, there is a reason they play a shift with the infield, but leave the OF’s straight away.

      • EricL

        November 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm

        hahah whoops.

        Well, if nothing else it proved that I didn’t cheat and look up the numbers before foolishly taking that deal.

  20. Psujoe

    November 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    So when do we think the dominos will start to fall?

  21. Lefty

    November 4, 2012 at 8:13 pm

  22. schmenkman

    November 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Upton does strike out a lot, but there are a couple of arguments for why K’s aren’t that important.

    The simple one is this:

    If you analyze every play over several years, and calculate how each type of play impacts the number of runs scored, on average, a strikeout doesn’t hurt a team’s run scoring any more than a ground ball or fly out. More here:

    There are situations of course when a strikeout hurts: runner on third, less than two out, for example. But these are balanced by the much more numerous situations where a strikeout is preferable. Runner on 1st with nobody out, for example, where it’s better than a double play.

    A second argument is more involved, and that’s that the “productive outs” that strikeouts cost you are really very few. tracks the number of “productive out” opportunities and % of those that were successful. Productive outs are defined as:
    – advancing a runner with none out
    – driving in a runner with one out
    – pitcher’s sacrifice with one out

    On average, a full season has ~60 opportunities for productive outs, and 32% (19) are successful. Also, the average MLB strikeout rate is 20%, so out of 60 opportunities, on average 12 are strikeouts, meaning that 19 of the 48 non-Ks are successful (40%).

    The average K rate of 20% translates into 131 Ks per 650 plate appearances. How would a much lower or higher K rate impact the successful productive outs?

    Looking at the 60 productive out opportunities in particular:

    With a 10% rate, there would be 6 fewer Ks per 60 PAs, and 40% of those would be successful, resulting in 2.4 more productive outs in a full season.

    At the other end, with a 30% rate, there would be 6 more Ks per 60 PAs, and with a 40% success rate it wold result in 2.4 FEWER productive outs in a full season.

    So in terms of productive outs, including getting a runner home from 3rd with one out, the diference between a very low K rate and a very high one is a total of about 5 productive outs in a full season.

    • hk

      November 5, 2012 at 6:10 am

      Does this analysis take GIDP’s into consideration? In 956 PA’s with a man on 1st and less than 2 outs, Ryan Howard has grounded into 82 double plays. I suspect after many of them, I said to myself, “why couldn’t he have just struck out there?”

      • schmenkman

        November 5, 2012 at 7:14 am

        Right, it doesn’t. Any additional GIDPs resulting from striking out less would reduce the benefit of those 5 extra productive outs.

      • George

        November 5, 2012 at 8:27 am

        Just because a DP is less productive than a K, doesn’t mean that a K is a good thing. They ere both unproductive outs. I’ve also seen too many instances of the batter striking out on a hit-and-run play, which actually produce DPs (runner thrown out at second). GIDP doesn’t include that situation.

        I know I’m nitpicking, but in my opinion, some of this discussion is getting into that area.

        Of course, baseball is a “game of inches,” as they say. So maybe those 5 extra productive outs per year are more important than we think, and picking the proverbial nit is, too.

    • Lefty

      November 5, 2012 at 6:27 am

      Interesting points Schmenkman, I see where you are going, the overall point being that there are few situations where K’s are worse than other outs. I’m good with that, DP’s are the killer outs.
      – but I think in your explanation, you’re missing ten outs.

      “On average, a full season has ~60 opportunities for productive outs, and 32% (19) are successful. Also, the average MLB strikeout rate is 20%, so out of 60 opportunities, on average 12 are strikeouts, meaning that 19 of the 48 non-Ks are successful (40%).”

      I’m not a strong in math, but from the approximate 60- 32% and 40% can’t both be 19. And 19+12+19=50.

      I don’t have enough knowledge to know how much this skews the rest of your argument, or if it does at all, but I suspect it’s minimal.

      • schmenkman

        November 5, 2012 at 7:05 am

        Lefty, I was trying to estimate the impact of K’s on productive outs by working out what % of non-K opportunities are successful.

        We know that out of 60 opportunities a typical player has in a season, 32% (i.e. 19) are successful. But on average 20% (i.e. 12) of those 60 opportunities end in a strike out, so when NOT striking out, 40% of the opportunities (19 out of 48) are successful.

      • schmenkman

        November 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

        Rereading that, it sounds alarmingly like Leonard Hofstadter.

      • Lefty

        November 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm

        @Schmenkman- Haha Leonard! – and it leaves me no less confused but that is easy to do.

        But it doesn’t matter, I totally agree with the general premise. During draft day last spring in one of my late rounds I chose Adam Dunn. As you can imagine, everyone chided me about his strikeouts and BA, without taking into account OBP and power. I took the crap from everyone-but the guy won a lot of games for me. I think we mentioned this before but he led the league in both K’s and walks, producing a .204/.333/.468/.800 line- .789 OPS w RISP. He cost me nothing as a late rounder and produced when I used him. Yes he made a lot of untimely strike outs, but it’s hard to expect more than .789 w RISP from my 22nd or 23rd pick.

    • George

      November 5, 2012 at 8:14 am

      Why isn’t advancing a runner with one out not productive? It can move him into scoring position and there’d still be a chance the next batter could drive him in.

      Why isn’t driving in a runner with no outs not productive?

      And why must a pitcher wait one out before his sacrifice becomes productive?

      Have you left out those situations, or has Baseball Reference?

      • schmenkman

        November 5, 2012 at 8:41 am

        It’s B-R’s definition, and I agree it seems more restrictive than it needs to. B-R is copying the definition used by ESPN and Elias:

        “A Productive Out, as defined and developed by ESPN The Magazine and the Elias Sports Bureau: when a fly ball, grounder or bunt advances a runner with nobody out; when a pitcher bunts to advance a runner with one out (maximizing the effectiveness of the pitcher’s at-bat), or when a grounder or fly ball scores a run with one out.”

      • schmenkman

        November 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

        Along these lines, this might be interesting. Someone analyzed Adam Dunn’s first 69 games this year (in which he struck out 109 times). Conclusion:

        “Over the course of 69 games and 109 strikeouts, I have found exactly one situation in which a productive out could have actually made the difference in a game. In my opinion, that’s not a very good reason to criticize Dunn for his high strikeout totals. His .225 batting average really isn’t any worse than any other .225 batting average. Trying to force him to alter his swing to cut down on his strikeouts probably has more downside risk (fewer homers) than upside opportunity.”

      • hk

        November 5, 2012 at 9:58 am


        In 57% of BJ Upton’s career PA’s, the bases have been empty. In another 16% of his career PA’s, there have been two outs and men on base. Therefore, in 73% of his career PA’s, there has been no difference between a K and any other type of out. That leaves us with 27% of his career PA’s in which it was even possible for him to produce a “good out” while some of that 27% presented him with the possibility of producing 2 outs. Upton strikes out in 25% of his PA’s, which according to the machine named schmenkman, is 5% above league average. Therefore, Upton’s high K% has cost him the chance at a good out in ~1.35% of his career PA’s. When you consider that some of the other kinds of outs could have been worse than K’s (GIDP’s) or the same as K’s (fielder’s choice ground outs and pop-outs), the impact of his high K rate on his team has most likely been just about nil.

      • Lefty

        November 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm

        Oh man, I hadn’t even read this far down yet before commenting above. Just a coincidence.

      • George

        November 5, 2012 at 3:28 pm


        1.35% in a game of inces, as I said earlier, could still have an effect. It’s also nitpicking, which I also indicated earlier.

        I’ve also never said that Upton wasn’t a good option. I’ve only said he wasn’t the only option.

        Ks are not productive. Even a K with the bases empty, in case you didn’t realize it when citing all those numbers, is also not productive. It’s just a big fat out. The guy who doesn’t whiff has a better chance of getting on base, becuase fielders sometimes kick grounders, throw the ball down the line. get the sun in their eyes, or have a ball take a bad bounce. How many times does a batter K and have the ball escape the catcher?

        Right now, I’m disgusted with the entire discussion. The numbers presented by others all seem to say that I’m correct. It’s nitpicking, for sure, but even if the K rate only tilts the performance .0000000001% to the negative, it’s still a difference.

        I’ll also say this: If Upton does man center for the Phils, when he strikes out with RISP, he’ll be bashed as much or more than Jayson Werth was in his final year in Philly, or as much as Ryan Howard always is.

        Finally, please get it through your head (and I’m not singling you out, HK) that I’m only pointing out why I think other players should also be considered. There’s not much difference in any of them (and I’ve pointed that out several times), but Upton’s K rate is one of those differences and should be considered. I personally am not sure (note, I’ve never once said I’m absolutely certain of it) his other positives completely overcome that difference.

      • schmenkman

        November 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm

        George, those are very valid points, but let me see if I can reconcile the different views:

        Once you know that a plate appearance has resulted in an out, it can make some difference (and I know we can debate how much) whether it’s a strikeout or other type of out.

        However, and what you’re rightly referring to, before you know it’s an out, what you do know is that:
        – a K will be an out ~100% of the time, whereas
        – a ball in play will be an out only ~70% of the time, since BABIP varies between .250 and .350 depending on where and how well the ball is hit, the speed of the runner, the quality of the defense, etc.

        But let’s say you’re comparing two players who have similar overall stats, but different K rates. For example:
        1) Victorino: 109 wRC+, 11.9% K/PA
        2) B.J. Upton: 109 wRC+, 26.2% K/PA

        The fact that Victorino benefits from a lower K rate is already included in his 109 wRC+ (or OPS+, or wOBA, or whatever comprehensive stat you choose). So I don’t believe there is any reason to penalize Upton for having the higher K rate. You can say that Upton could be a much better hitter than Victorino if he lowered his K’s (all else being equal), but I don’t think it’s correct to say that Upton is somehow a better hitter given their stats as they stand today.

      • George

        November 6, 2012 at 9:39 am

        I’d have to look at how that wRC figure is calculated. Some of the more arcane stats, I’ve found, try to do too much and have a tendency to compere apples and oranges and arbitralily decide that a pop-up that drops isn’t as good as a grounder that sneaks through.

        I could find that it’s fine, or I could also decide it’s missed something vital, like maybe how a batter does when his pinkie finger is twitching. (That twitching pinkie might actaully be one batter’s trigger, but might cause another to lose his grip on the bat.)

        Baseball is a game of quirks, odd personallities, inconsistencies, and strange bounces. It’s a game that epitomozes the second guess. I’m all for statistics, but there are times when gut feelings can be just as accurrate. My gut feeling says to hold off a bit on a high strikeout guy until you truly know he’s the best option as far as age, price, attitude, and ability.

      • schmenkman

        November 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

        wRC+ is to wOBA as OPS+ is to OPS (i.e. it normalizes wOBA for the league and park).

        Background on wOBA can be found here:

      • Lefty

        November 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

        @George- according to the table, 5 of them (Bourn, Upton, Young, Bourjos and Sizemore) are all pretty much “high strikeout guys” at rates between 1 out of every 4 to 5 AB’s. Victorino, Span and Pagan are the only ones in the 1 out of every 8 to 10 range.

        But there are so many other factors to look at, and it just seems like you are focused in on the one stat, K rate. Upton for instance, also has the second highest BB% of anyone on the list. Another example is that Bourjos has 3/4 the WAR Upton has in half as many AB’s.

        But I totally agree with you on the quirks, inconsistencies, and strange bounces etc. There simply isn’t a stat for everything, they’re humans. Well, except Papelbon, not quite sure what he is yet. 🙂

      • George

        November 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        Lefty, once again, all I’m saying saying is “hold off.” There are other things to look at, but when they are all so similar, one has to focus on something.

        If it helps clarify anything, I’d also make a case of the high rates of those others (Bourn, Bourjos, etc.) but Eric has his article a case for Upton being the best all around. He hasn’t focused on any of the others players, so I am not either.

        If you want my further opinion, I’d scratch Sizemore, Bourjos and Span right off the list, because Sizemore is a injury about to happen, Span would cost a player, and Bourjos will cost a player, has that high K rate I don’t like, and isn’t productive enough at the plate. It’s clearly between Upton, Bourn, Victorino, and Pagan, and none of them are the kind of player you have to have instead of the other. If it’s Upton, so be it. At least I’ll have someone to boo when he strikes out too many times in crucial situations.

        By the way, I’m not sure what Papelbon is , either.

      • Lefty

        November 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm

        Oh wow, you know what George? You are absolutely right, we got so deeply involved in all matter of subjects that I nearly, well actually did, forget that this was Eric’s posting about the Phils being considered frontrunners for BJ Upton! So, quite right, point taken.

        On your opinions on the others my only disagreement is with Bourjos, who, for reasons I can’t totally explain, I value high enough to give up a decent player. I don’t know why, other than to say that my eyes see promise there that others maybe don’t. It’s the curse of having the MLB package, I’m hopelessly addicted. I watch too much, I see good ball players, and catch myself thinking, man there’s a guy I’d like to see in a Phillie uniform. I began thinking that about Bourjos (and Chase Headley) watching late night west coast games a couple of seasons ago.
        I seriously doubt anyone in the Phillies front office gives a rats a$$ about what any of us think anyway, I guess it’s just fun to have something to talk about during the dark cold months.

      • Eric Seidman

        November 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

        Yeah — I only focused on Upton since Heyman mentioned the Phils as frontrunners. Corey has done a great job profiling ALL outfield candidates at CSNPhilly, and I frankly didn’t want to write five articles here that all concluded with “this guy is similar to other guys, sign the best value” since I’ve repeated that plenty of times in other posts this offseason. This was about Upton, and to discuss adjusted metrics for those who maybe haven’t considered them. Obviously, the best move right now is to wait, and sign the guy who provides the most bang for the buck. However, Amaro doesn’t operate that way, and I’m explaining here why, if push came to shove, it wouldn’t be a repeat of the Ibanez deal if he overpaid Upton a bit early on in the offseason.

      • George

        November 7, 2012 at 9:50 am

        Lefty: You are entitled to your opinion on Bourjos probably more so than I am. You’ve obviously seen him more.

        I’ve always preferred the eye test, and have actually been pretty good about picking up on who had a future. Even so, TV is not the best place to see a player in action. I often wish I had the means to see more games live, from good seats. I once sat right behind the plate at a single A game with Danial Bard on the mound. You could see the action on his pitches quite clearly, and when he tossed a wild pitch, the noise it made against the backstop (after bouncing in the dirt first!) made half the stadium jump. You don’t get that on the tube.

  23. psujoe

    November 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Kudos to the Billy Beans on the site. The numbers are very interesting and difficult to keep up with even for a guy with a college mathematics degree.

    • EricL

      November 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Don’t fell bad, schmenkman is a robot.

      • psujoe

        November 4, 2012 at 10:33 pm

        He is ‘a machine’.

        I’d like to know how he feels about this comparison:

        The 16th Pick and $52/4 for BJ Upton: LuxTax hit $13 or

        Brown/Va;;e or Joseph/Asche or Franco/Biddle or May and Nix/schierholtz Lux Tax hit of $8.33 over 3 years.

  24. Joecatz

    November 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Im in the upton camp for sure but one thing that needs to be said here is that if they sign upton they forfeit the 16th pick. In years past when we had the 30th pick, not as big a deal. However, just a few names that have gone within 3 picks of 16 over the past 10 years?

    Hamels, swisher, Brett lawrie, jayson Heyward, drew storen Chris sale just to name a few.

    Lucas giolito fell to 16 last year. With the new CBA and draft rules it’s a much bigger deal than ever, especially when you factor in the signing slot figures.

  25. psujoe

    November 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    What’s the deadline for exclusive negotiating rights for FA’s? Thanks in advance.

    • psujoe

      November 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      •Immediately after World Series – Eligible players hit free agency
      •Three days after World Series – Option decisions due
      •Five days after World Series – Qualifying offers due
      •Six days after World Series – Free agents can sign contracts with teams other than their former clubs
      •12 days after World Series – Players must accept or reject qualifying offers
      •November 7th – 9th – GM Meetings
      •November 20th – Deadline for setting 40-man roster in advance of Rule 5 Draft
      •November 30th – Deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players
      •December 3rd – 6th – Winter Meetings
      •December 6th – Rule 5 Draft takes place at Winter Meetings
      •January – Teams, players exchange arbitration figures
      •February – Arbitration hearings take place

  26. Psujoe

    November 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    How does pagan compare to upton with all these specialized stats?

    • schmenkman

      November 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Their 2010-2012 stats are in Eric’s table. Unless you mean some other stats.

      • psujoe

        November 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

        Went back and reviewed the table. I’d honestly sign the guy the Phils could get for the least amount of years with the second parameter being the least salary. I’d take a serious look at Hunter since he may fit those parameters. Span is a nice idea, but the last thing the Phils need is another lefty. Glad RAJ has been patient so far.

    • hk

      November 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Over the past 3 years, when you factor in hitting, fielding and base running, Pagan has pretty much been equal to Upton. However, you also have to consider that Pagan will turn 32 next season while Upton will turn 29. I would sooner see the Phils give Pagan $33M for 3 years than give Upton $75M for 5 years.

      • Lefty

        November 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm

        I agree, but from what I gather, it sounds like Upton’s familiarity with the new hitting coach Henderson and new special assistant to RA Jr. Bart Braun, gives him the upper hand right now.

      • Eric Seidman

        November 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm

        Exactly — I would say that Upton and Pagan are practically equals right now, but that some teams will pay a premium for Upton’s potential. Whereas Pagan is a finished product, Upton might get better over the next couple of years, and even if he doesn’t, is still quite good. Now, the difference isn’t worth two guaranteed years and $42 million more, but then I don’t think either player will get those deals. I think some team is going to give Pagan a 4/$48, and that Upton will get 5/$65 tops. Maybe the difference between the two is worth a $17 million guaranteed season of Upton, maybe not. But I don’t think it’s going to be 3/$33 vs. 5/$75.

      • hk

        November 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm

        At those prices, I would prefer Upton.

  27. Pingback: Around The Horn: Phillies Offseason Targets for 2013 « fightinon

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