14 December 2015

Justin Upton Is A Safer Choice Than Chris Davis

A couple weeks back, I put together a comp model for Chris Davis with consideration for his skill set and late blooming performance.  The model suggested that Davis should be paid about 6/99 up to 8/190 if you really believed in his skills with respective to his historical comps.  It appears over the past week, that the Orioles were unable to get Davis to bite on a 7/150 contract and that the contract offered may have been pulled off the table with the club now focused on other targets.  One such target is Justin Upton.  In this post, I applied the same comp model approach.

For Upton's model, I based the comp model on isolated power, walk rate, and home runs for players aged 25-27 who played left and/or right field from 1981-2004.  Those players were:

Player WAR/pos
Jesse Barfield 19.1
Shawn Green 13.4
Jermaine Dye 11.9
Magglio Ordonez 11.8
David Justice 11.6
Greg Vaughn 11.2
Jack Clark 10.9
Brad Wilkerson 9.6
Trot Nixon 9.1
Bobby Higginson 9
Ryan Klesko 6.8
Pat Burrell 6.7
Danny Tartabull 6.1
Kal Daniels 5.9
Rob Deer 5.5

This population was used to project from age 28 through age 37, a ten year period.  No one, to date, expects Justin Upton can earn a ten year deal, but I think projecting to that point gives us a fuller view of the potential player.  As you go through the list, you see a variety of player whose game was similar to Upton's.  Largely, power mixed in with a good deal of athleticism.  Of course, that combination can manifest in several ways.  It can produce someone like Rob Deer or someone like Jesse Barfield.  For your reference, Upton had a WAR of 10.3 during his last three seasons, which would drop him in right between Jack Clark and Brad Wilkerson.

Upton's projection adjusted to the current offensive environment:

Year
Age
PA
HR
AVG
OBP
SLG
WAR
$
2016
28
514
22
.269
.355
.483
3.4
24.1
2017
29
513
23
.259
.358
.476
3.4
25.0
2018
30
463
20
.252
.349
.462
2.7
20.6
2019
31
479
21
.262
.354
.472
3.0
24.3
2020
32
510
20
.249
.335
.438
2.2
19.1
2021
33
497
19
.250
.344
.439
2.4
21.6
2022
34
465
18
.242
.328
.425
1.7
15.8
2023
35
465
15
.219
.304
.373
0.4
4.2
2024
36
414
11
.205
.286
.342
-0.4
-3.8
2025
37
433
12
.190
.267
.321
-1.1
-11.7

 Coincidentally, Justin Upton's projected worth over seven years is 150.5 MM, which is effectively what the Orioles offered Chris Davis.  Personally, I would prefer to tailor that deal to six years and 134.7 MM.  That would likely be beneficial to both the club and Upton.  He would hit free agency after what should be a relatively solid age 33 campaign.  If pushed maybe a 6/130 deal with a 2/50 option (10 MM buyout).  Anyway, that is just rolling the numbers around.

Second question is what are the likely floors and ceilings?

Year
Low
Mean
High
2016
3.0
3.4
3.7
2017
3.5
3.4
2.9
2018
2.7
2.7
2.5
2019
2.4
3.0
3.2
2020
0.5
2.2
3.6
2021
1.0
2.4
3.4
2022
-0.1
1.7
3.1
2023
-0.7
0.4
1.3
2024
-1.2
-0.4
0.2
2025
-1.8
-1.1
-0.5

This table looks quite different from the Chris Davis table.  For Davis, the low end projection suggested that he would never be an average starting first baseman.  The low end for Upton is four years of solid play, plus the second highest WAR for these three populations.  Second, the mean projection has six above average years while Davis had four.  The high end projection for Davis delivered five above average seasons, while  Upton's goes to seven.  It is hard not to look at this table and scratch your head why Davis is being valued so greatly.  It could be because historical comps poorly describe what Davis is or it could be that conventional wisdom loves home runs and overlooks age and position constraints.

Finally, here is the value outlay:

Length
Low
Mean
High
1
21
24
26
2
47
49
48
3
68
70
67
4
88
94
92
5
92
113
123
6
101
135
153
7
100
151
182
8
93
155
195
9
81
151
197
10
61
139
191

Upton's floor is projected here to be worth about double what Davis' floor was worth.  The mean outlay appears to be on target for what the Orioles are willing to spend and is significantly above Davis' mean.  Davis and Upton essentially have the same high projection.  In other words, Davis and Upton both have the same ceiling value, but Upton is a much safer choice for getting value in return for the cost.

Now, comp models are not ideal.  Each player is a beautiful snowflake and this approach mashes them all into a snowball.  That said, I feel far more comfortable with Upton's comps than I am comfortable with Davis' comps.  To me, if the choice is between these two players, then the choice is rather clear.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now this is a comparison and discussion I can really get behind. And I am a big Davis proponent. This should have been part of the roster discussions a month ago. So many advantages to a pursuit of J. Upt. One being to place pressure on Boras/Davis to see that there are other possibilities to accomplish the same thing. Second, a combination of Upton/Trumbo really solves 1B and RF or LF. Third is that Upton brings power and speed. The only detraction I see is DD/BS desire for LH hitter with power. I also see Upton's market being depressed unreasonably because I think people have in the back of their minds that he could turn into BJ. He may be available for market price rather than over-market. He has also been playing in distinct pitchers' parks for the last three years further depressing his statistical value which could be more Arizona-like in OPCY. I'd like to see someone here do a dual comparison of say Upton/Trumbo vs. Davis/Pearce or Davis/Parra or even Davis/Markakis and see how it grades out. I bet Upton/Trumbo is not too bad especially if Trumbo can bring 25-30 HR. For purely HR, only Davis/Pearce will bring 50+ to go along with Upton/Trumbo's 50+. Id Upton a better fielder in the outfield than Davis? Probably as much as Trumbo is worse than Davis at 1B...... I get that Davis/Trumbo brings more power but Upton brings speed.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention that the Uptons' home is in Virginia.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yes, Upton is a better outfielder than Chris Davis. I also wouldn't say Trumbo is worse at first base than Davis. Probably a little better, though it's been a little while since he's played there consistently.

Camden R. said...

How did you get to the conclusion that Chris Davis is worse player than Upton ? I've seen how both of them are play and Davis is by far faster and better oriented during the game.

Jon Shepherd said...

Numbers, eyes, logic.
I wrote a column about it.

Gary Bell said...

I don't dispute your conclusions and would like to see the Orioles go after Upton. The main reason I see the O's being more willing to offer Davis a big contract rather than Upton is that Davis puts more fans in the seats to see his titanic blasts than Upton would.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

There's no doubt that fans like Davis. But fans like winning more. Winning puts more fans in the seats than any single player.